Monday, November 9, 2015
The beloved author of children’s classics, who would be ninety-nine this year if he was still alive, got into writing in a roundabout way. A British Royal Air Force fighter pilot in WWII, the Welsh-born Dahl had a chance meeting with author C.S. Forester that changed his life. Forester encouraged him to write a story, perhaps detailing his experience being shot down over the Libyan Desert, assuring Dahl he could get it published in The Saturday Evening Post. Dahl wrote the piece and was paid a thousand dollars.
Twenty years later, he wrote his first children’s book, James and the Giant Peach. A long succession of children’s books followed in Dahl’s varied career, most notably Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was the first of his stories to be put into film and is the only one to be filmed twice—until next year’s release of The Big Friendly Giant.
To date, eight primary features top the list of Dahl’s many film credits. Most of the movies reflect the spirit of books marked by wild imagination and wicked humor. In addition to penning darker material, such as stories for TV’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he also wrote the screenplay for his friend Ian Fleming’s James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice, having himself served not only as a pilot, but, like Fleming, also as an actual spy.
1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) – The classic stars Gene Wilder as the eccentric confectioner. Studio deviations from the story, including changing the title, left Dahl disappointed.
2. The BFG (1989) – Decent animated movie about a big friendly giant who takes a kid from an orphanage off to Giant Country.
3. Danny, the Champion of the World (1989) – Jeremy Irons as a mechanic who won’t give in to a developer trying to buy him out, and Samuel Irons as Danny, the mechanic’s young son.
4. The Witches (1990) – This excellent adaptation of one of Dahl’s best books features Angelica Huston as the leader of witches at a conference accidentally witnessed by a little boy.
5. James and the Giant Peach (1996) – A feast of stop-motion animation featuring an orphan, beleaguered by rotten ants, who has an amazing adventure traveling by giant peach and makes friends with the giant critters inside.
6. Matilda (1996) – A girl with telekinetic powers has ridiculous parents and a principal whose “idea for a perfect school is one in which there are no children at all.” Kind of a Carrie for kids.
7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) – Johnny Depp stars as Willy Wonka in this faithful and terrific adaptation from director Tim Burton.
8. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – Superlative stop-motion animation featuring George Clooney as the voice of Mr. Fox, who breaks his promise to his wife (voice of Meryl Streep) by raiding the farms of neighboring humans, then has to help his fellow critters survive the farmers’ wrath.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Do you remember when you first met Squirrel Girl?
You had been working on various formulas in the field of flying paint, which of course you called Flaint. The idea that a child could be responsible for inventing stuff which made flying carpets and flying broomsticks available for everyone seemed a far-fetched idea at the time. Most people thought you were merely playing when you said you were making a substance that when painted on an object would allow it to fly. Most thought you were only kidding.
Kidding perhaps like the day I woke up shorthanded. Another one of your spells you practiced on me. I don’t see why you always have to make your dad your guinea pig. All I could do was fumble at the door handle with my still temporarily shrunken hands and go, “Wabes! You made me shorthanded! Wabes! The dogs are barking outside!”
You were downstairs in the Witch’s Room, as you call your laboratory. “Settle down, Dad,” you assured, “you’ll be all back to normal soon, and I’m coming up to get the dogs in a second.”
“One,” I said. “Okay, it’s been a second. Wabes! What are you doing down there?”
“Dad, have you had anything to eat this morning?”
“Well, just some baby corn. It’s all I could hold. QUIET, DOGS! Hurry Wabes, they’re being awful and my little hands can’t turn the handle.”
“Hold on,” you said, “I’ve been working on something extremely special and I’m almost done.”
Outside, Gomez and Morticia showed frantic interest in something up the maple tree. They were standing on the bench below the tree and looking up leaning with their paws against it barking and barking. It seemed like a long time to me, but in reality it was probably only about another forty or fifty seconds of waiting.
You opened the door to call in the dogs. “Gomez, Morticia, let’s go!”
Slobbering like idiots, the dogs bounded inside. “Good job,” you told them, shutting the door. Nails ticking on the floor, they blundered into the kitchen, tails knocking table legs.
Panting from the exertion of her barking, Morticia waited for a turn at the water bowl while hogboy Gomez shoved his way over and loudly slurped. That was when you noticed. Something was stuck on the back of Morticia’s collar.
It was a tiny little person. Barely two inches tall.
Perceiving she was spotted, the little person suddenly jumped up from Morticia’s collar, took a few steps in the springy fur and spectacularly leaped toward the chair in the corner with your coat left on it. There was a tiny “oof” as she landed against the spongy surface and slid down the draped sleeve, lost from our sight behind the chair in a tangle of toys.
You may recall with what anguish I lamented the disorder. “Dang it Wabes, I’m certain I gave you specific instructions that these toys were not to be left in a tangle. Now look, she got away!”
“Good,” you said. “You’re scaring her.”
“What? I just want to shake hands.”
“Then you should ask.”
“Don’t be impertinent,” I said. “Hey down there. All right now, come on out, you.”
“No,” came the tiny reply. “You come down here.”
“Sure,” I said, “that’s easily done.” So I got down on the floor. I had to use my elbows on the hard surface to keep from crushing my hands. “Well, here I am,” I said. “Anybody ever see Trilogy of Te—NO!”
The tiny little person had leaped out in a proficient-appearing martial arts stance!
“You want to shake hands?” she said. “Let’s shake hands.”
“Alrighty,” I said, leaning down. But it was a trick, because as soon as we started shaking hands, she twisted and threw me over her shoulder so that I came down on the kitchen floor like the giant at the bottom of the beanstalk.
I remember looking at the ceiling. I think you said you had a talk with her after that. “This is Squirrel Girl,” you said. “She was raised by squirrels.” You asked if I would read to you and Squirrel Girl from the stack of Dorrie books we had picked up the day before from the library. My hands were all better by then, so turning the pages was easy.
You had given Ichabod a few drops from a vial what seemed like forever ago and so he was there with his fuzzy black kitty body spread out on the pile of books next to us asking questions about the story and wanting to inspect each page with sniffing.
"Is this one by Rudyard Kipling?" Ichabod said.
"No," you said. "This one's by Patricia Coombs."
"Oh," said Ichabod, his kitty mouth making a little circle.
Squirrel Girl peeked out from behind Icky's ear. "You're much fuzzier and squishier than a squirrel," she said. "Plus you don't stink as bad as the dogs."
"Thank you! I eat a lot of kibble. Would you like some kitty kibble?"
"Not just yet, thanks," Squirrel Girl said.
"There's already some in my bowl over there. You can have a piece."
"Ichabod," you said, "you shouldn't offer kibble that has your spit on it."
"Because it is."
"I don't mind," Squirrel Girl said. "You should see some of the stuff I eat!"
Unfortunately, all of this chatter impeded my oration, and I had to set the book face down and wait for you, Squirrel Girl and Ichabod to finish your conversation. But then you didn't stop very quickly so I said, "Ah, excuse me, Squirrel Girl, if I happen to be interrupting you—”
"Oh, you are."
"Yes well, Squirrel Girl, I understand you're used to hanging out in trees with squirrels, and so you're probably accustomed to a great deal of chatter—”
"And how! I love to talk! Sometimes I wake up already talking about interesting things and all kinds of stuff!"
"Indeed. My point being—”
"Why, I remember one time I woke up with a whole crazy song in my head and everything!"
So I put my hand under my chin and listened while Squirrel Girl launched into the song which she kept messing up and starting over. Again and again.
"It's okay, Dad," you said. "This is a good time to take a break. According to my calculations, my extremely special experiment should be just about ready."
Ichabod looked up. "Out of everyone in The Jungle Book," he said, "who's your favorite?"
"I dunno," I said.
"Mine's Bagheera. I think Bagheera's best."
"I bet you do."
"Ohhhhh, I'm the mightiest warrior of the trees! No, wait. Ohhhhhh, I'm the—”
“All right, everybody,” you called upstairs, for you had returned to the Witch’s Room in order to put the finishing touches on your experiment, “you can come on down now and have a, heh-heh, look at what I’ve done.”
Walking single-file into the basement seemed to take forever because whereas Ichabod was smart and raced ahead, I was polite and got stuck behind Squirrel Girl, who went extra slow “just to be safe” going down the stairs. Passing Gomez and Morticia’s comfy crates, shelves of books and shelves of food, we eventually made it into the room, Squirrel Girl marveling at the profuse array of esoteric items looming over chalk drawings on the stone floor. Masks, hats, microscopes, encyclopedias, beakers and a Bunsen burner, crystals, magnets, weird roots, devices with dials and levers, apparatus with knobs and antennae, candles and divining rods. Using the ladder-like grooves of a wooden chess board leaning against a wall, Squirrel Girl rose to the top edge and perched, looking at the various vials of colored liquid arranged on a wooden bureau by a lumpy green recliner covered in black cat hair.
“Where are you?” I said.
You stood up from where you’d been crouching out of view behind the recliner. Wearing a hat, and shades, and wrapped in bandages, you looked creepy. The department store raven affixed to the edge of the candy bowl skull (from the same store) contributed to the general atmosphere. Selecting a piece of caramel candy and slipping it between the folds of the wrappings below the novelty nose you said, “Behold…Invisikid! Yes, Invisikid: first kid to master the secrets of invisibility. Seeing how no one else my age was seriously pursuing invisibility, I looked into it.”
Removing both hat and shades in a fluid motion startled even Gomez and Morticia peering in the doorway. The bandages didn’t cover the top of your head, we now saw, and where we expected to see your eyes, instead all we could see were empty parts in the wrapping. Then you removed the plastic nose. Gross! Nothing there! We could see the chewing motion of your mouth on the caramel until you unwound the bandages completely.
“The fools!” you said. “Ha ha! I’ve done it! Not wanting to catch a chill, I decided not to bother with taking a serum, and opted instead for a liquid solution of my own device which makes not only me invisible, but also my gi that I soaked it in, too. Plus my shoes.”
Sure enough, you’d done it. I could only shake my head in amazement. “Invisikid, you are a wonder,” I said.
“Thanks!” came the unseen reply.
“What are you going to do now, Invisikid?”
“Well, I’ve got some Flaint left. I’m planning on a mission.”
“I can tell you’re pretty serious about this.”
“What are you going to do on your mission?”
“I will use my powers to help the people.”
“That’s good. The people need that.”
“Yes. Thank you. Do you want to be part of this mission?”
“It would be an honor.”
“Yes,” you agreed, at which point we proceeded back upstairs to draw up our plans and have some snacks. You brought the bottle of Flaint upstairs with you. One tiny drop on a pencil and Squirrel Girl rode it like a broomstick all around the table, knocking over the pepper shaker and laughing hysterically.
"I'm really proud of you for what you're doing here," I said as I set down a plate of healthy snacks. "I also think that since I get to be your sidekick I should have a name. How about Dad-Man?"
"I don't know about that," you said.
"Do you want dessert?" I replied.
"Probably. What is it?"
"Mint chocolate chip."
"Then yes, Dad-Man, I do want dessert."
"Hot dog! So what's the plan, Invisikid?"
"Well, you know the donut shop?"
"Oh yes. How could I forget?"
"We should start our patrols there, make sure everything's fine."
"Right. We wouldn't want anything bad to happen to those donuts. I like their maple bars. We need to check up on the safety of those for sure."
"What's a donut?" said Squirrel Girl, sliding down the channel of a stalk of celery.
Ichabod jumped up on the table. "If you get to be Dad-Man, I get to be Cat-Man," he said.
"No," I said starting to get flustered, "it's not the same. Everybody settle down. Donuts are yummy...you can be Icky-Boy. Wabes, why are you going straight to the ice cream?"
"What's a yummy?"
"Invisikid, did you have any celery?"
"What's a yummy?"
"I'll be Cat-Man, you be Dad-Boy."
"What's a yummy?"
"No! Invisikid, celery?"
"I don't want any, thanks."
"Because Squirrel Girl used it as a slide?" You didn't nod yes but I knew that's what it was. I was getting so frustrated. It felt like things were falling apart. Madness everywhere. Something had to happen. I could feel the power growing within me. True parental power.
I got up from the table and stood in the center of the kitchen. "Somebody, quick, ask me who I am. No wait, don't bother, I'll tell you. I'M DAD-MAN! Everybody settle down! You: I'll wash off the celery and you'll eat it. You: don't you ever ruin celery again, and you'll see what donuts are later, if you behave. And you: you can't be Cat-Man because you're a kitty-boy."
"Then I want to be Gusto."
"Because I am fast. Fast like the wind."
"Okay, well that works. Invisikid, hand me the celery, please. You like how I handled all that? Busted open a can of Dad-Man is what I did. I hope you have some extra Flaint so I can fly. Do you?"
"That depends. Start scoopin'," you said, kindly advising I was going to need a bigger spoon...
Friday, November 6, 2015
Some dads raise their kids,
And some dads do not.
My dad is a vampire,
And that counts for a lot.
He's careful to see that my soup's not too hot.
He changes my diaper right on the dot.
He reads me stories, sometimes with no plot.
He takes me sailing on my own private yacht.
He catches the throws that seem can't be caught.
He helps me to see what's good, not what's not.
He even replenishes pumpkins that rot.
We share things together that just can't be bought.
He helped me construct my pet dragon's cot.
He guides me through danger where danger is fraught.
We talk about movies, ones yet to be shot.
He gets all the letters I slip through the slot.
He taught me about the Gordian Knot.
He does all the things that a vampire ought.
Quite frankly, he's the only dad that I've got.
He's bats for me...because I'm his tot!
Some dads raise their kids,
And some dads do not.
My dad is a vampire,
And that counts for a lot.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Monday, November 2, 2015
WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE THEY SPRAYING?
Directed by Paul Wittenberger
In this fascinating 2010 documentary available free on YouTube, several TV meteorologists acknowledge in sundry clips “small bits of aluminum” being dropped into the atmosphere by military aircraft. One meteorologist explains to viewers that what they’re seeing on the weather map is actually “small glass fibers that are coated in aluminum, and what the Air Force does is they dump these out of the aircraft, they fall into the atmosphere, and some take as much as a day to fall down.”
The fact that massive spraying occurs is not in dispute. Online one can easily find Al Gore talking on the subject of chemtrails with Ellen Degeneres. One can also find Dr. Rosalind Peterson addressing the United Nations representing the Agriculture Defense Coalition. “International corporations are modifying our weather all the time,” she states, “and they’re modifying it in ways that cover thousands and thousands of square miles. Most of it is chemically altered.”
In terms of filmmaking, What in the World Are They Spraying? has a generally inferior look and dumps information like tons of aluminum chaff. An Inconvenient Truth it ain’t. But filmmaking isn’t the issue.
According to solar expert Dane Wittington, “My goal is to alert the public that there is a mountain of toxic material falling on us.”
Because of multiple application possibilities, precisely why the aluminum is dumped is not always clearly known. But the danger of rising aluminum levels is transparent. “A snow sample off of Mount Shasta,” Wittington says, “tested sixty-one thousand parts per billion.”
USDA Biologist Francis Mangels, a soil specialist, says of the dramatic increase of aluminum and barium in the soil, “There’s something that’s definitely wrong here.”
G. Edward Griffin, one of the documentary’s producers, says that contrails are vaporized moisture which effervesce and disappear. “The plane goes along, and the little white line follows right behind it, usually about ten or twenty lengths of the plane, and then it’s gone. These other things we’re talking about are not the same phenomena at all.”
Extensively included throughout the film are plenty of shots of chemtrails crisscrossing the sky from horizon to horizon and remaining for long stretches.
Among the sundry sources to research along chemtrail lines online, Kristen Meghan, who originally scoffed at the subject before she looked into it, then left the military as a geoengineering whistleblower. Also, Dr. Nick Begich is an authority on the subject whose lecture “Technology to Control the Weather” explains how massive radio waves from the HAARP base in Alaska heat the grids of aluminum particles to affect the weather and much more.
“I think we should be focusing on taking more of these toxins out of our environment instead of adding these toxins in,” says Dr. Tammy L. Burn. “It’s very concerning.”
Stewart Kirby writes for