The First Duel Fought in Hot Air Balloons

British Newspaper Archive Blog » The First Duel Fought in Hot Air Balloons – Paris, 1808.

 

hot air balloon duel

Fairy Tale Christmas Comforts

The Christmas tide is very near and things may seem very stressful.  That means it is once again time to keep things in perspective by noticing all the ways in which your holiday festivities will probably NOT resemble a fairy tale:

 

1. Even if you don’t get around to sending everyone their Christmas cards, you won’t have to worry about your children being cursed in retaliation.

2. The delivery people for your balls, toys, and treasures will not ask to share your bed as a reward.

3. If, instead of buying, you are spinning raw materials into gifting gold, you can rest assured that even big mistakes or delays will not result in you losing your head. (Or your baby.)

4. Any unwelcome visitors who trick their way into your house will likely settle for Christmas dinner, or perhaps even Christmas cookies, so your flesh is pretty safe.

5. The gingerbread men will not insult anyone.

6. No matter how sick you get of Christmas carols, even the awful ones will not have the power to lure your loved ones away from you.

7. At least you weren’t asked to build a jeweled palace overnight for anyone’s gift.

8. Even if you don’t have someone’s gift ready on time, you will not have to make up for it by giving up “the first thing you see” or “the first one who greets you” upon your arrival home.

9. Even if your family doesn’t allow you to sleep on Christmas Eve, at least you don’t have to face the big day with no sleep AND exhausted feet.

10. Reveling in your new possessions will not land you in hell or cause you to lose control of your limbs, even if those new things are red shoes.

11. No matter how mechanized the new toys are, none of them will carry your children off into the sky (even if you would like them to).

12. Don’t worry if a gift exchange seems uneven-even the presents that seem like small beans can show just how much magic there is in your relationship.

13. Even if you received a living thing, you won’t lose it if you don’t pick out the right name right away.

14. Even if a gift starts to fall apart, just remember: it has no control on anyone in your household’s looks, love, or ability to handle cutlery.

 

Happy 200th anniversary of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Merry Christmas!  Just remember, it could be worse-it could be a fairy tale.

There are 14 reasons today because the Grimms’ anniversary demanded 10 all their own, and there were a few non-Grimm fairy tale references I could not resist adding.  25 Points for every fairy tale reference.  55 for every new one added.

Lord of the Rock Operas

What the world needs now is a Lord of the Rings rock opera.  Here’s how it breaks down:

 

-The human heroes like Aragorn and Bormir are the rock gods.

-Rohan, home of the drum lords!

-Grima Flute Tongue!

-The orcs dance Bollywood (everything could use a little Bollywood).

-Wizards play keytar.

-The Mines of Morrhythm is inhabited by a bal-rap!

-The dwarves are like Stomp.

-Elves are the singers.

-The Eye of Sauron is the great silence, where there is suddenly no music whatsoever.  Because it is evil.

 

Musical interludes could include:

During the Council of Elrond:

One does not simply ROCK into Mordor!

In the land of Sauron

our hopes will be far gone,

The armies of Mordor

have orcs that are hardcore!

 

Not 10,000 men

could beard Sauron’s den-

One cannot simply rock into Mordor

We’re on the clock-let’s roll to Gondor!

(*expansive arm gesture as Boromir backs to his chair*)

And the guitar war between Aragorn and Boromir continues.

 

I see Gollum as having one simple theme music whose verses continue to change to such things as:

 

Tricksy precious sneaks!

Spies out what we seeks!

So beautiful, so bright!

The precious shall be mine-

Ours, my love!

 

Master I can se-erve!

Even the hobbit with cur-rves!

We don’t need you here anymore!

Good Smeagol helps now

So-run!  So, run!

 

They are tricksy, false, liars!

Stupid hobbitses-stupid shires!

The precious is mine!  My own!

We can takes it-us alone!

Our own, my love!

 

We can commit murd-er,

Herd them up to he-er,

We can survive, sure as sure,

Just trust your precious

Gollum!  Gollum!

 

Yes? No? Precious?

The Once and Future Mermaid

 

“The Once and Future Mermaid”

 

 

The girl is getting up, feeling taller as she stands,

But the steps are few and tentative-the legs are not her own.

She’s letting another support her, hold her up like a rod or spell

-It’s not all her doing that there’s now imprints in the sands.

 

Her decision had been murky, made under tons of weight.

He had been unhappy, her funds depleted to a shell.

Comfort stripped down to debris, she agreed to this great loan.

She’s moving forward now, but her mind crashes on the bait.

 

She needs approval now; it’s all that can change her world.

Mark her steps into her own dance; place her feet firm without pain.

Now the tension’s wrapping round her, the fear and frustration swirled.

Her joy is lost in oceans deep; her inner critic clips her brain.

 

Unfamiliar nerves make each step seem off, sharp, and hard.

The pressure pushes her true voice down, as if another owns it.

Her pride and beauty snip away as the worry and silence stone it.

She tries to smile, to get what she wants, but seems to only draw one card.

 

The girl is walking tall, looks at home inside the walls.

She’s in the right place, but can’t seem to leave the halls.

Time is ending, her debt is large, and she knows not what to do.

She came with dreams and suffered with hope, but it may or may not come true.

 

The steps are leading up…

Perhaps these will take her through.

Elijah Wood on Classy

This photo from the September issue of Vogue is marvelous!  It purports to be from a movie concerning Henry James and Edith Wharton, but it’s clear what is really happening here.  These guys got together over their insistence that the new version of “classiness” has existed in all classes in the past and decided to get a custom photo done for that purpose, as preparation for launching their acapella quartet called “Class Half  Full”.  Their signature thing is that every song intro involves these puppies barking: their names are Camella and Maximillien.  However, as they were setting up a “bypasser” named Dominic Monaghan informed Elijah that it wasn’t classy to just leave a middle button undone like that.  Elijah was not amused, especially as Dom was wearing his leather cuffs, rainbow-painted nails, and scruffiest outfit for the day.  Also, his trademark smirk.  Elijah here is about to respond with an incredulous, scornful remark.  The guy on the far right is also insulted and ready to back Elijah up.  The guy on the far left just wants to get the picture taken so he can go home and figure out if it’s still worth it to go into the band with these rowdy guys, who might actually be nothing but riffraff.  The girl is enjoying the spectacle and getting a tad turned on.  By the end of this incident, there will be naked mud wrestling.  Maybe even in a classy way.

Horse, Flower, Bird

Horse, Flower, Bird

By: Kate Bernheimer

(http://www.katebernheimer.com/)

Coffee House Press 2010

A fairy tale anthology review

Horse, Flower, Bird contains eight original fairy tales for adults by Kate Bernheimer.  Through birds, dolls, flowers, and even Star Wars, Bernheimer discusses humanity in artful curves and colors.  These tales are like the hilt of a knife-hidden behind brightness and intent, but revealed when the deed is done.  They connect the danger of the future with motivations from the past and give the present a thrill.  Above all, they show the hidden edges and fickleness of the things we hold onto.  No matter what is lost-imaginary friends, caretakers, or poems, they leave a story for our minds to cling to, to keep up with who we are in life’s shifting sands.  Like older fairy tales, Bernheimer’s illustrate the importance of these tales we live, with all their beauty and perils.

Horse, Flower, Bird speaks of people as if there is no normal and of ordinary things as if all their meanings are true.  Two sisters playing a game can be as poignant as a woman in a cage.  A secret petting zoo can show human depths as deftly as a woman melding her mind to a room in the woods.  This book is short, the tales eager to be read and easy to come back to.  Like all true fairy tales, these can haunt, soothe, or invite cogitation.  When you feel up for a mysterious journey, this is a good book to turn to and a good work to return to.  I highly recommend it for lovers of older, darker fairy tales.

Face the (Pied Piper’s) Music

I find The Pied Piper a disturbing tale-the consequences are so dire and the blame so confused.  The following is my explanation.

 

“Blame it on the Rats”

Once, there was a small town where everyone argued.  They yelled, and they jabbed, and they jabbered until everyone was hoarse and no one had been heard.  Still, one could hardly blame them, some would say, for their town was infested with rats.  Big rats, small rats, fuzzy rats, stringy rats, each and every manner and description of rat had fallen upon them, and their numbers seemed trebled each night.  No wonder their tempers were short, each man said.  It’s a marvel we’re talking at all, it’s so depressing.  And we’ve nothing good to eat or to drink.  In their noise and their misery, not one villager had a kind thought to spare, but someone was listening, and took pity on them.

One bright morning a new sound was heard amongst the screeching, and the squabbling, and the squeaking of the rats.  A stranger had appeared.  He wore a bright coat of bright golds like the dawn and soft greens like the woods.  And his voice spoke warm and gently, “I shall kill your rats for you.”  The village grew quiet, the sharp tongues began to blunt, and the mayor could hear himself talk.

“How could you rid us of rats?”

“With the right blessing, any problem can be solved.”

“A priest!” ran the cry.  “He’s a priest!”  “A savior sent by his Holiness!”  “Or by God, Himself!”

“What price do you ask for the killing of rats?”  His hoarse voice reached even the farthest man.

“I ask for a tithe, one man’s foot wide, and just as equally deep.”

Now whispers went up, and the town’s ears opened wide, and the clinking of coins could be heard.  “It’s a tall price to pay, but if the rats go away, your feet of gold coins you shall have.”  The town’s folk held their breath.

A curt nod the man gave, and he turned away, bringing a wood flute to his lips.  Notes much softer, and tones far sweeter, than even the stranger’s words fell on their ears.  The wooden flute piped and the rats ran, as the piper walked for the lake.  With jaws hung open and hopes held high, the village watched as each rat followed after.  When the water was reached, the piper stepped on a boat, and floated away as he played.  The rats scrambled for him, each rat ear adored him, but none of them lived through the lake.

When every rat had drowned, that loud village made no sound.  From noises loud and rude and proud, now only the stranger was heard as he rowed his boat ashore.  He bowed to the mayor, he bowed to the town’s folk, and he held out his hands for his due.

“We won’t pay you,” the mayor’s rasp broke through the stillness.  “Only a heathen who consorts with devils and vermin could have worked that trick.  You’re no savior or blessing!”

“The rats are no more, and that is no blessing?” chided the piper.

“Blessings aren’t worked by heathens!  We need no pagan spells or lies!”  A new cry rose, a loud and ugly shout, and the village railed against the stranger.

Then the piper spoke with a new voice, as strong as their shouts and as hot as blazing fire, “Either I am a priest and shall be paid, or I’m a pagan who can do spells and tricks that you must fear.  Which shall you have?”

“HEATHEN!  HEATHEN!  TRICKSTER!” cried the people.

“So shall it be.”  The piper gave one curt nod and turned away, bringing the wood flute to his lips.  With luring notes and teasing tones, the piper walked for the woods.  As his tune flew through the air, each child’s feet flew through the streets, until all the youngsters were there.  As the piper met the trees, each child followed free, dancing quick to the call of the pipe.  And when the song ended, no matter where they wended, no child could ever be found, only green young trees and thick small ferns.  Only Liza, whose leg wouldn’t hold her, stayed firm and real upon her bed.

As for the village, it ended that day, in one great yelling crash to the ground.  “It’s a sign!” they half said, “Remember what he said!  He’s a pagan who came to claim us back!”

“That’s what we get for believing anyone a priest!  We must find the true church, and beg Christ.”

“We must return to the old ways!  The old gods wish to save us!  In the forest, our kids are just trees.”

“We’ve forgot loving Christ, and forsaken his church-we must find a true priest and be saved!”

“But we all saw Pan show our children the way, if we follow Pan might release them from leaves.”

“That lying priest took our kids back to earth as our punishment; only repentance can win them again!”

Soon, every person and family left, to find Pan or to seek Christ, and each of them after the children.  Each of them saw the same piper that day, but not one of their listeners knew it.

“The pagan way is the one true path, that wonderful god Pan came to prove it.”

“Christ’s holy church is the only safe way-that horrible false priest, well he proved it!”

Only Liza never mentioned the piper.  She said, “People belong together.  One day I shall prove it.”  Most would say she did, for when she was grown Liza returned to that town where she’d been born, and founded an orphanage there.  A new village grew and revived the old town, now surrounding her fort full of children.  And in that new town, they spoke warm and soft, always talking and working together.  As everyone helped to solve bickers or snags, they needed no one to their blame troubles upon, so no rats appeared to be blamed.

Alice in Independence Land

The blue caterpillar with red stripes blew white smoke shaped like stars over the girl’s head.  “Recite!” he commanded.

“How doth the little crocodile..”

“That is not correct.”  The caterpillar spoke:

“How doth the little patriots

Improve their shining works!

And pour light in glimmering watts

Into the sky to lurk!

How cheerfully they eat and grin,

How heartily work their jaws,

And cheer on their country’s win

With explosions and guffaws!”

“I’ve never heard it that way!” protested Alice.

“Obviously, you’ve never come here on the 4th of July,” drawled the caterpillar.  He blew his fiftieth white star.  Immediately the caterpillar burst up and apart-filling the sky with red and blue sparks.

“Hm-curiouser and curiouser,” Alice remarked.  “How loud and beautiful he was.”  She turned and headed off into Independence Land, unknowingly traveling towards the twins’ great grilling.  Today they were called Twethepeopledum and Twethepeopledee.

Snow White and Prince Rufus

With all the Snow White tales floating in the air from the media lately, I’ve decided to add a flake of my own.  The older Snow White tales are the ones I find the most creepy.  They are filled with princes who find supposedly dead, yet fresh-looking, young women and decide to take them home.  Or ones who never bury their first wife, even after they marry a second.  My favorite has the second wife awakening Snow white (by removing a poisoned comb) and then they form a threesome.  These guys are creepy.  I find it highly ironic that of all the Disney princes to be simply known as “Prince Charming”, Snow White’s prince is the one.  (Yes, also Cinderella, but at least he dances charmingly.)

The following is my attempt to create a version of this prince who is not creepy, while adhering to the formula where Snow White is already out cold before they meet.  One who is even likeable, though not necessarily “charming.”  I give you: “Prince Rufus”

Prince Rufus sulked atop his horse.  When his elder brother took his year of pilgrimage, to see their lands and learn of life and wonders, his missives and tokens numbered dozens of marvelous treasures and unheard of wonders.  Now, his turn was proving miserably disappointing.

 

“Dwarves!”  The entourage of guards prepared for an attack by the Wood Dwarves, but it proved to be nothing but a small mourning party of Valley Dwarves.

 

Rufus proffered condolences.  “How long ago did you lose her?”

 

“A year ago last week, your highness,” the dwarves babbled together.  Puzzled, the prince took a real look at the girl in the coffin.  “…but she always looks so fresh.”

 

“I’ve found the girl who defeated death!” cried Rufus.  His natural vanity and sibling jealousy rejoiced at finding this wonder.

———————————————————————————————-

 

On returning home prince Rufus was shocked to discover his parents had construed the mention of a girl as news of his betrothal.  The court was thrumming with celebrations and preparations for his nuptials.  Too loyal to cause his family embarrassment, and used to feeling a fool (so long as it’s private), he married the Girl Who Defeated Death.

 

“It’s not so bad, really,” he explained to his captain.  “I would’ve had to marry anyway, and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to spending all my time meeting or courting girls.  I never have a thing to say to them, anyway.  With Snow White I don’t need to worry about that!  And you know my wife’s a beauty!”

 

The captain sighed.  All the soldiers loved Prince Rufus for his bravery and tenacity on the field, but his captains held him in special regard.  While brilliant in the moment, Rufus had no gift for planning ahead and, amazingly enough, he knew it.  He never tried to lord over the captains, and always adhered strictly to their advice.  Staunchly loyal as a brother, good-natured as a friend, and a proud enough prince to command the love and respect of every man in the kingdom, was their Prince Rufus.  If only he could think of himself alone once in awhile.  Not as part of the royal family, not as a fighter among many, but as his own man.  Long had Rufus’ friends hoped their prince would realize himself through the eyes of a girl-loving or mocking, it didn’t matter so long as he found her thoughts directed at him alone.  Now even that possibility was gone.  Snow White’s eyes held nothing.

 

“A beauty,” he repeated.  And nothing else. 

 

Mermaids, messages, and musings on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

After seeing it again recently, I have been considering the mermaids in Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides.  I have come up with two points.

1) This franchise continues to be obsessed with kisses.  I noted in the third movie how everyone who kissed Keira Knightley without her permission was pretty much about to die.  If she kissed them they survived.  Stranger Tides seems to have a similar thing going on with the mermaid host.  The sailors lure them by singing about abandoning everything for love.  When the first mermaid arrives she sings some of it back and asks a sailor if he’ll be her “jolly sailor bold.”  However, then the sailor goes on a rant about how he’ll have a kiss from a real, goddamn mermaid!  Clearly, in his head he wants his kiss to be something of his to possess, to control, and does not care for the consent or thoughts of the mermaid.  Therefore, when his kiss occurs it is immediately taken out of his control, drawing his blood and costing him his life.  This seems to be what the mermaids expect-to be taken as objects of lust, in which case they turn the tables (and the boats) on the sailor swains.  You do not kiss a woman without her consent in these films if you want to live.  Philip, of course, has no thoughts of gaining pleasures of the flesh from the encounter.  Hence, a mermaid finds his life worth saving.

2) Philip is actually a foil for Angelica.  Syrena is one for Blackbeard.  Angelica is constantly trying to control her father’s actions in an attempt to save his soul.  Even though she can’t materially change him, Angelica continues to try and turn Blackbeard into a different man through artificial means, hoping that it will take and make him the ‘safe’ father she wants.  Likewise, Philip is constantly taking control of Syrena when she’s on land, in order to turn her into simply what he wants her to be.  Physically, he literally takes charge of her body.  He pronounces judgement over her multiple times-first as a deadly mermaid who attacked him, then as a pure mermaid, and lastly as “surely one of God’s own creations.”   All of this is without the mermaid’s permission.  Because if he wants to love her, then of course she “must be” what he thinks he should love.  She must be ‘safe.’   He even gives her the name “Syrena”, for crying out loud.  Both Syrena and Blackbeard go along with their self-appointed helpers for reasons never fully plumbed.  On the surface, both are getting something out of it.  Blackbeard has someone to get him to the Fountain of Youth and Syrena has an ally among her captors.

At about the same time in the story, the two relationships gain complications in different ways.  Angelica realizes her father might not hold her as dear to his heart as she’d like.  One could argue that since she holds Blackbeard’s soul more dear to her than Blackbeard actually is, he is justified.  On the other hand, Philip realizes there is real affection in his relationship with Syrena.  Since Philip’s been fairly assuming with her, this just shows Syrena’s inner beauty and tolerance.  Both these instances show the real personality of the heretofore subordinate character coming out.  Blackbeard’s lack of heart directly mirrors Syrena’s emotional strength.  Both Angelica and Philip find themselves taken aback, less sure of where they stand in their relationships.

These couples’ endings also reflect one another.  Both Syrena and Blackbeard rise to complete power in these partnerships at the end of the movie.  However, while Blackbeard uses that power to try and manipulate Angelica into giving him what he wants, pretending it’s the way to get what she wants for him, Syrena offers Philip ‘salvation.’  Angelica allows herself to be tricked-by Blackbeard and Sparrow, and winds up alone and unhappy.  Philip, on the other hand, acknowledges that Syrena is now the one with true power, instead of lying to himself the way Angelica does.  Because he is willing to give in to that power and let Syrena take the lead in their partnership, he is awarded with a kiss…and a new world.  Given the Pirates of the Caribbean‘s rules of kissing, I believe that Philip lives.  After all, she kisses him.

 

If you try to force your perceptions of someone onto them, you will wind up at the mercy of their world.  Angelica can’t admit this and had a near miss.  She will need therapy about her family.  If you are willing to change your perceptions, to truly accept that other person, however…what mysteries might you uncover?  Philip makes the change.  As the ultimate message of On Stranger Tides, I like it.  After all, you cannot simply love yourself-even if you do get the opportunity to kiss someone dressed just like you.  But can you truly tolerate someone else’s differences?  Or will you simply refuse to see them?  The real Stranger Tides here are the personalities of people we want to love.  You have to be willing to sail them.

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