Fri, 21 December 2007
Since there are evergreen trees everywhere this time of year, even here in sweltering Florida (if they're store-bought), we thought it appropriate to present "Why the Evergreen Tree is Ever Green", a fable that probably originated in Canada and illustrates the rewards of being kind to others in need -- an important thing to remember all year long, though it receives special attention at this time of year.
It's our holiday podcast from Orlando, Florida, where the weather hasn't been exactly North Pole-ish lately, so we decided to seek chillier climes on the inside. Namely, at "Ice" the special exhibit of magnificent ice sculptures on display at the Gaylord Palms Hotel Convention Center through Jan. 3. This exhibit is now in its fourth consecutive year (at holiday time, only, of course) and is carved from 400-lb. blocks of ice -- some frozen quickly to give it a milky hue, some frozen slowly to make it clear, and some colored with food dye and sculpted into delectable shapes to make Hansel and Gretel salivate. There are deer, there are polar bears, there's a train, there's Santa's sleigh, and of course the obligatory nativity scene. All of it kept at a refreshing 9 degrees Fahrenheit. But we were issued parkas to keep us not quite frozen solid. One of the most fun things about the exhibit is a big slide that kids of all ages can slide down -- and like everything else in the place, it's constructed entirely of ice.
The sculptures are created every year by artisans (a fancy word for wizards, it appears) brought over from China, where such ice festivals are a really big deal -- and have been since at least 400 years ago, when the tradition began with lanterns made of ice in Harbin.
And, in keeping with the holiday spirit of charitable giving, part of the proceeds from this event go to Give Kids the World Village, a resort for kids afflicted with life-threatening illness.
May you have a Cheery Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, a Quality Kwanzaa, a Cool Yule, a Fabulous First, and an all-around unforgettable 2008!
Dennis (Narrator, Oak Tree, Old Man winter), Kimberly (Bird, Fir Tree) and Zephyr (Birch Tree, Jack Frost)
Thu, 6 December 2007
It's Jack Sparrow getting into trouble big time. No, we don't mean Johnny Depp (although Zephyr gives a big nod to him in his performance of the character); the folks at Disney have a habit of borrowing from older sources, and it's quite likely that the name Jack Sparrow came from this African-American tale related by noted author Joel Chandler Harris. A simple fable about the dangers of gossiping and meddling in other peoples' affairs, this story is included among Harris' writings about the fictional character Uncle Remus, a sort of African-American version of Aesop. An accomplished folklorist who heard these charming animal yarns from slaves when he was a teenager working on a plantation, Harris has come under fire in more recent times for the racist overtones in his heavy usage of southern black dialect and also for the very name Uncle Remus -- "uncle" was a demeaning term sometimes applied to slaves by their owners. But hey, he lived in racist times; and in view of that, his tone was perhaps far less insulting than it might have been.
Harris was born in 1848 in Eatonton, GA., which we just happened to pass through on a Sunday morning in December, so we couldn't pass up the Uncle Remus Museum, with its statue of Brother Rabbit ("Br'er" Rabbit) in the yard. The museum, which features mementos from the life, times and work of Harris, is housed in a building comprised of two former slave cabins joined together. (You can see the seams on the sides.) It's on the property once occupied by the family of Joseph Sidney Turner, the "Little Boy" in the "Tales of Uncle Remus".
We also dropped in at the Laurel and Hardy Museum in the hometown of Norvell "Oliver" Hardy, Harlem, GA. This town is so proud of its celebrated native son that the water tower sports a picture of him and his skinny partner, Stanley Jefferson -- who gave himself the shorter name of Stan Laurel so it would fit on signs better. This pair of comedy titans made over 100 films together of varying lengths over a period of about 30 years, and were also the best of friends. And they had a major influence on virtually every comic performer to come afterward -- including, no doubt, us.
Dennis (Narrator and Fox), Kimberly (Rabbit) and Zephyr (Jack Sparrow, natch)