Sunday, November 9, 2008

Christmas 2008

Okay, I realize this post is very early and I really had not planned to release it for several weeks but the world is getting depressed over economic issues and rightly so. I have friends whose retirement benefits have evaporated and lost their job. My allocation for local travel and food is greatly diminished. [No, Oxford will be well-supplied.] I also wish to express sympathy and concern for a colleague in London whose mother is soon to expire. Maybe just the thoughts of Christmas will alleviate sorrow...mankind does retain hope and charity.

Sir Seymour Hick
Ebenezer Scrooge

"Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice."--A Christmas Carol


Henry Edwards


A review from IMDb:

Because of the overwhelming popularity of Alistair Sim's portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge this trimmer, older version may be overlooked as a matter of course. To some it may appear creaky and old fashioned, and yet after watching Sir Seymour Hick's performance it is difficult to disagree with the claim that his is the best rendition of the miser so far given. What this particular telling of Dickens' classic tale has going for it, is the time spent with the first part of the story, which focuses on the cruel & despicable Ebenezer. Hicks, with scant make-up cannot be outdone as the embodiment of a person who is to be avoided at all costs. The problem with the other films is that they spend too little time with the first 3rd of the story. One of the most important details has to be the transformation of Scrooge, and if not enough time in proportion is given in the beginning, the end result doesn't come off as strong. And as with most people who grew up watching, say, Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes personified, well then, if you viewed Hicks before Sims, you would no doubt cast your vote for Hicks, who had in fact played the part before. In the acting department the other actors do a very fine job as well. As for special effects, you'll be best forewarned not to expect any.

Scrooge's Cryptic Carol: Visions of Energy, Time, and Quantum Nature


Robert Gilmore

ISBN-10: 0387948007
ISBN-13: 978-0387948003

Publisher Comments:

When the destination sign on Scrooge's train reads "HEAT DEATH" instead of "HEATHROW," when his dead partner Marley's face appears inexplicably as a talking head in a department store tv, and when the street lights outside his luxurious London flat begin acting strangely, it's a sign of a bad night to come. Like his famous ancestor, the modern Scrooge--who hews tightly to the credo "it Is enough for a man to understand his own business and look to his own advantage"--is about to be visited by ghosts. But it's not his hard heart that needs opening this time; it's his closed mind. The wisdom these ghosts bring is not love and charity but Science. Physicist Robert Gilmore, author of the popular Alice in Quantumland, here presents a delightful takeoff on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, where the three visitations represent Science Past (the Spirits of Energy and Entropy, who explain the laws of thermodynamics, equilibrium and that troublesome HEAT DEATH sign), Science Present (the Spirit of Time, who tells him of inconstancy, of change and also of creation), and Science Future (the surreal world of quantum uncertainty, where it is the observer or measurement that creates a unique reality). For everyone who wants a playful, painless yet surprisingly sophisticated introduction to the ideas of modern physics, this is a brilliant tour de force and a charming read.

A Chritmas Carol [book]

A Christmas Carol [audio book]

And few know that Charles Dickens wasn't finished with ghosts as represented by The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain [1848]...a tale of Mr. Redlaw a professor of chemistry.

The Last of Dickens's Five Christmas Books: The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain (19 December 1848)

The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain [book]

Scene One of an X Files Christmas episode...

"How the Ghosts Stole Christmas"

December 1998




(Night. Outside a spooky old mansion. Car radio is playing Christmas songs. We hear Bing Crosby's version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". We see that it is MULDER's radio. SCULLY drives up beside him. They both roll down their power windows.)

BING CROSBY: Have yourself a merry little Christmas let yourself be light From now on, our troubles will be out of sight....

MULDER: (happy to see her) I almost gave up on you.

SCULLY: Sorry. Checkout lines were worse than rush hour on the 95. If I heard "Silent Night" one more time I was going to start taking hostages. What are we doing here?

MULDER: Stakeout.

SCULLY: On Christmas Eve?

MULDER: It's an important date.

SCULLY: No kidding.

MULDER: Important to why we're here. Why don't you turn off your car and I'll fill you in on the details.

SCULLY: Mulder, I've got wrapping to do. It's the night before Christmas.

BING CROSBY: Here we are...

(MULDER looks in the back of SCULLY's car. It is completely filled with bags of packages.)


BING CROSBY: Happy golden days of yore...

(SCULLY rolls up her window, gets out of her car and joins MULDER in his car.)

SCULLY: Let's hear it. Give me the details.

MULDER: Look, if you've got Christmas stuff to do I don't want to... you know...

SCULLY: Mulder, I drove all the way out here. I might as well know why. Right?

MULDER: I just thought you'd be more... curious.

SCULLY: Who lives in the house?

MULDER: No one.

SCULLY: Then who are we staking out?

MULDER: The former occupants.

SCULLY: They've come back?

MULDER: That's the story.

SCULLY: I see. The dark, gothic manor the, uh, omnipresent low fog hugging the thicket of overgrowth. Wait-- is that a hound I hear baying out on the moors?

MULDER: No. Actually that was a left cheek sneak.

SCULLY: Mulder, tell me you didn't call me out here on Christmas Eve to go ghost busting with you.

MULDER: Technically speaking they're called apparitions.

SCULLY: Mulder, call it what you want. I've got holiday cheer to spread. I've got a family roll call under the tree at 6:00 a.m.

(MULDER locks her door.)

MULDER: I'll make it fast. I'll just give you the details.


MULDER: (mysteriously) Christmas, 1917. It was a time of dark, dark despair. American soldiers were dying at an ungodly rate in a war-torn Europe while at home, a deadly strain of the flu virus attacked young and old alike. Tragedy was a visitor on every doorstep while a creeping hopelessness set in with every man, woman and child. It was a time of dark, dark despair.

SCULLY: (not impressed) You said that.

MULDER: But here at 1501 Larkspur Lane for a pair of star-crossed lovers tragedy came not from war or pestilence-- not by the boot heel or the bombardier-- but by their own innocent hand.

SCULLY: Go on.

MULDER: His name was Maurice. He was a... a brooding but heroic young man beloved of Lyda, a sublime beauty with a light that seemed to follow her wherever she went. They were likened to two angels descended from heaven whom the gods could not protect from the horrors being visited upon this cold, grey earth.

SCULLY: And what happened to them?

MULDER: Driven by a tragic fear of separation they forged a lovers' pact so that they might spend eternity together and not spend one precious Christmas apart.

SCULLY: They killed themselves?

MULDER: And their ghosts haunt this house every Christmas Eve.

(SCULLY laughs.)

MULDER: I just gave myself chills.

SCULLY: It's a good story, Mulder... And very well told but I don't believe it.

MULDER: You don't believe in ghosts?

SCULLY: That surprises you?

MULDER: Well... Yeah. I thought everybody believed in ghosts.

SCULLY: Mulder, if it were any other night I might let you talk me into it but the halls are decked and I got to go.

(SCULLY gets out of the car and heads for her car. MULDER also gets out and heads for the house.)

MULDER: My best to the family.

SCULLY: What are you doing? Mulder, don't you have somewhere to be?

MULDER: I'm just going to take a look.

SCULLY: (alone, to herself) I'm not going to do it. My New Year's resolution.

(SCULLY checks her pockets. No keys. She looks in MULDER's car. No keys. She looks in her car. No keys.)

(Sound of door creaking as MULDER enters the house. He turns on his flashlight and shines it around the foyer. Thunder rumbles as SCULLY follows him into the house.)

SCULLY: Mulder!

MULDER: Change your mind?

SCULLY: Did you take my car keys?


SCULLY: Come on, Mulder. Don't kid around.

MULDER: Why would I take your car keys?

SCULLY: Maybe you, uh... Maybe you grabbed them by mistake.

MULDER: Maybe it was a ghost.

(They both look up at the knocking sound above them, then over at the clock chiming in the foyer. Note the name on the clock: J. Cameron. Cute "Titanic" ref. Sound of wind blowing.)

MULDER: That's a cold wind.

SCULLY: There must be a window open upstairs. You know, the weather report said that there was an 80 percent chance of rain maybe even a... maybe even a white Christmas.

(Sound of thunder crashing. Front door slams shut. SCULLY runs to try to open them. They do not budge.)

The rest of the episode...

And what about "ghosts"? Maybe you see them and maybe you don't. Kind of difficult to quantify and explain.

Ghosts 'all in the mind'

Michael Shermer on Skeptics and the Supernatural [lecture]

From a colleague is a mention of Babes In Toyland [1934] staring Laurel and Hardy. I thought the film was available online, but it wasn' here is the original trailer and a note that the film is available on DVD--colorized. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not. Charlotte Henry is featured and you may remember her from Alice In Wonderland [1933].

Yes, there really is a Christmas Island...way out in the Indian Ocean and now owned by Australia. It certainly be a great place to visit during these hard economic times and seasonal weather.

Christmas Island

Christmas Island National Park

Now this is most interesting and related to the Christmas feeling via Charles Dickens whereby Dickens petitioned Michael Faraday to send copies of his popular science lectures [quaintly at that time called "domestic philosophy"] to be published in Dickens' Household Words. The entry at The Victorian Web relates the story in detail:

"Michael Faraday's Popular Science Lectures, Percival Leigh, and Charles Dickens: Science for the Masses in Household Words (1850-51)"


Philip V. Allingham

Contributing Editor

Victorian Web

Between 27 April and 1 June 1850 the great Victorian expounder of scientific principles, Professor Michael Faraday (1791-1867), formerly the gifted pupil of Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829), gave six Friday Evening Discourses or lectures at the Royal Institute, London; the topics on "domestic philosophy" (or, as we would say, "popular science") included "a fire, a candle, a lamp, a chimney, a kettle, ashes" (A. E. Jeffreys, Michael Faraday. A List of His Lectures and Public Writings, 1960, no. 382, cited in Storey et al., 106). In fact, between his appointment of Director of the Laboratory in 1825 (added to which in 1827 he succeeded to Davy's chair of chemistry) and his retirement in 1862, as a science propagandist in the Davy tradition Faraday gave one hundred such lectures, attended not only by the general public but but such luminaries as novelist George Eliot, whose works (especially the mammoth Middlemarch reveal a great interest in scientific and medical topics. Faraday's lectures and courses put the Royal Institute "on a sound financial footing" (Storey et al., 105), and made the new experimental sciences, as well as the applied sciences of engineering and medicine, intelligible to the general public.

Not long after launching his major venture into weekly journalism, Household Words, on 27 March 1850, editor (or, as he preferred to be called "conductor") Charles Dickens wrote to the great scientist on 28 May to ask permission to re-print the first of his six lectures in the latest series. Although there is no record of Dickens ever having attended any of these lectures, he must certainly have felt "On The Chemical History of a Candle" newsworthy, and its author's "a star name who would credibility to [the] coverage of scientific issues" (Hamilton 346) in Household Words. Undoubtedly flattered to be invited to contribute to the latest popular organ conducted by Britain's leading man of letters, Faraday actually sent Dickens as requested his own hand-written notes for these lectures, and moreover a novelist whose works he had so enjoyed. James Hamilton in A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday, Giant of the Scientific Revolution (2002), having read the scant correspondence between the writer and the scientist that survives, reasonably speculates that Dickens did not intend to publish Faraday's lectures verbatim, but rather to transform the technical talks into a series of less formal, "popular science" articles in "the light-hearted, demotic style that his magazine was adopting" (346).

Rather than effect the transformation himself, Dickens called upon one of his recently hired staff-writers, the humorist, writer on Irish affairs, and physician Dr. Percival Leigh (1813-1889), author of such highly readable but practical works The Comic Latin Grammar; a New and Facetious Introduction to the Latin Tongue (London: Charles Tilt, 1840) and the Punch parody of The Diary of Samuel Pepys entitled "Mr. Pips his Diary" in Richard Doyle's illustrated series Ye Manners and Customs of ye Engyshe (17 March through 29 December 1849). What Dickens required for the Faraday project was a scientifically literate journalist with a knack for making dry reading entertaining-a writer with a comic style not unlike his own. A contributor to such well-known London periodicals as Bentley's Miscellany, which Dickens himself had edited from 1837 through 1839, and a participant in Dickens's amateur theatricals in 1845, Dr. Percival Leigh, although not a friend, was certainly known to Dickens prior to his joining the staff of Household Words in 1850. Just weeks before its launch in response to the editor's direct request, Leigh came on board, his first contributions being "A Tale of the Good Old Times" (27 April, which accorded precisely with Dickens's progressive view of history) and "A Sample of the Old School. By an Old Boy" (18 May). After riding with some success the Dickens hobby-horse of the abuses of the undertaking trade (22 June), Leigh turned his attention to the hand-written drafts of Faraday's lectures that Dickens had borrowed.

The first of these articles,"The Chemistry of a Candle" (text) is based on "On The Chemical History of the Candle," a lecture that Faraday had delivered at Christmas 1848; Dickens in fact in his letter to Faraday seems to have been thinking of the scientist's "late lectures on the breakfast-table, and of those [he] addressed, last year [i. e., at the end of 1848], to children" Letters 6: 106). Leigh's adaptation appeared in Household Words on 3 August 1850, the humourist having added the rhetorical context of the prosperous middle-class Wilkinson family, living apparently somewhere in London, and having been paid four pounds four shillings for this initial adaptation. His creation of a witty mouthpiece for the erudite Professor Faraday in the person of the precocious Master Harry Wilkinson and his well-meaning but bumbling interlocutors Uncle Bagges, bumptious brother Tom, and kind-hearted Mrs. Wilkinson, is inspired. Master Harry emerges as a Faraday disciple who has the uncanny ability to recall every word that his idol has delivered in his lectures at the Royal Institution, to which by 7 September's "The Laboratory in the Chest" the enthusiastic uncle (perhaps inspired by the notion of getting a leg up intellectually on his brilliant nephew) has had himself elected. Since it would not have been appropriate for a mere youngster, no matter how intellectually gifted, to expound on the chemistry of beers and ales, for the fourth Household Words piece, "The Chemistry of a Pint of Beer" (15 February 1851), Leigh had to invent another persona entirely and dispense with the format of the lively dialogue that had worked so effectively in the previous three. Instead of the sprightly and scientifically-minded Harry Wilkinson, Leigh speaks to his readers through the persona of a "Mr. James Saunders, practical plumber and glazier, amateur chemist and natural philosopher." Percival Leigh might have derived more humorous domestic science articles from Faraday's lecture-notes had he been able to retain possession of them a little longer, but a letter from Dickens to the scientist implies that by February Dickens must have been feeling as if he should return the valuable notes. On 11 December 1850 he had written Michael Faraday to thank him for "generously lending . . . your valuable notes. Concerning which, let me say that I have them in safe keeping, and will shortly return them. The gentleman [i. e., Percival Leigh] who has them to refer to, still tells me when I ask if he has done with them, 'that they are not so easily exhausted, and that they suggest something else" (Letters 6, 230). What they had suggested immediately was the science of brewing, amusingly but not brilliantly expounded but an experienced tippler of the Dr. Marigold variety, a raconteur of the brewery, Mr. James Saunders, amateur chemist.


Hamilton, James. A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday, Giant of the Scientific Revolution. New York: Random House, 2002.

Leigh, Percival. "The Chemistry of a Candle." Household Words No. 19 (3 August 1850): 439-444.

Leigh, Percival. "The Chemistry of a Pint of Beer." Household Words No. 47 (15 February 1851): 498-502.

Leigh, Percival. "The Laboratory in the Chest." Household Words No. 24 (7 September 1850): 565-569.

Leigh, Percival. "The Mysteries of a Tea-Kettle." Household Words No. 34 (16 November 1850): 176-181.

Lohrli, Anne. Household Words: A Weekly Journal 1850-1859 Conducted by Charles Dickens: Table of Contents, List of Contributors and Their Contributions based on the Household Words Office Book in the Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists in the Princeton University Library. Toronto: U. of Toronto Press, 1973.

Storey, Graham, Kathleen Tillotson, and Nina Burgis. The Letters of Charles Dickens, The Pilgrim Edition. Vol. 6 (1850-1852). Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

And now for something completely different...Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" on the Glass Armonica...a most unusual instrument.

Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" on the Glass Armonica by William Zeitler

Glass Armonica

William Zeitler

Now to sit back with a single malt and a warm feline on the lap listening to the Jeremy Monteiro Trio with Belinda Moody on bass and Shawn Kelley on drums recorded December 23rd, 2005.

Jeremy Monteiro Trio

Last years Christmas offering...

Things of Christmas


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