Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gargamel vs. the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak

Via "The English Blog"

Via "The Strawberry Shortcake Wiki"

Question of the day: Who is your favorite of these two beloved villains from '80s cartoons - Gargamel or the Peculiar Purple Pieman? A little bit of trivia and a little cartoon magic for both.

From Wikipedia: "When Gargamel first appeared in Le Voleur de schtroumpf ("The Smurfnapper"), published in 1959, he captured a smurf which he needed as an ingredient for a potion to make gold in accordance with the famed alchemic legend of the Philosopher's Stone. The other smurfs rallied against him, freed the kidnapped smurf and the sorcerer was defeated and humiliated. Gargamel swore revenge: from now on the conflict would be personal.
Sometimes, he wants to eat the Smurfs, while other times, he wants to use them to make gold, and still other times, he has even more bizarre uses for them (in one instance, he is so enraged by his loss that he yells "I don't want to eat them, I don't want to turn them into gold, all I want now is to DESTROY THEM!"). Though he often catches Smurfs who wander by his home or which he happens across in the forest, he does not know the location of the hidden Smurf village, a fact which continually frustrates him.
On some occasions, he has discovered the location of the village, but sooner or later, gets led away from it due to either a magic spell put on him by Papa Smurf or because of some other bizarre factor. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of his being led away from the village while chasing the Smurfs, losing them and then being unable to find his way back.
On one occasion, his obsessive search led him to explore the deepest caves, the muddiest marshlands and even going far out to sea. He was just about to give up and go home when, quite by chance, he did finally find the village — but, as always, circumstances were against him.[2]
There were a few times in the series that Gargamel was on the same side as the Smurfs. In "Fountain of Smurf", Papa Smurf becomes a smurfling and the only way the Smurfs can get him back to normal is with Gargamel's help.
To try and cause trouble to the Smurfs, Gargamel has created other Smurfs, most notably Smurfette. Smurfette was adopted by the Smurfs, but Sassette the smurfling, who the other smurflings created, was made from the same clay that Gargamel used for Smurfette. Sassette refers to Gargamel as "Pappy Gargamel" and she is the only one in Smurf village who wishes to see some good in him." 

From the Villians Wiki: "The Purple Pieman was introduced in Strawberry Shortcake's first adventure,The World of Strawberry Shortcake, where he succeeded in flooding Strawberryland and stealing all the berries in the valley. This was the closest the Pieman ever came to a decisive victory over Strawberry Shortcake. Later episodes show the Purple Pieman harassing the residents of Strawberryland. InStrawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City it is said that he has an 'evil conscience,' but he rarely does anything that is more than "mildly mischievous." He is known for doing a tap dance while saying, 'Yah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah, tah-tah-tah-tah! Cha!' The Purple Pieman has a flock of Berry Birds, which he uses to steal berries and eavesdrop on the denizens of Strawberryland. The largest Berry Bird was originally called Captain Cackle.
In the 1980s series, the Purple Pieman is shown living in a ramshackle tower of cookware dubbed The Pie Tin Palace, situated high atop Strawberryland on Porcupine Peak. In his tower, he had a wealth of baking supplies, such as ovens, pans, and dough. The Pieman also possessed a magic pie tin, which he sometimes used to spy on the residents of Strawberryland. While he was a clever liar and cheat, and a convincing master of disguise, he was an admittedly poor baker in the '80s specials. The Purple Pieman frequently referred to himself in the third person, and always performed a quick jig after doing so. In the 2006 film Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweet Dreams Movie he even signs his name with fanfare written in. He dislikes snakes and Sour Grapes' singing, but hates Strawberry Shortcake's 'Berry Talk' (that is, to substitute 'berry' for any word that rhymes) above all else. Mr. Sun describes him as a 'misanthropic fathead with a skinny physique' in Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City." 
I have to say, the Purple Pieman takes the cake for me. He he he ... ~Alice

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Walking on the Dead ...

Ghost tours, in my opinion, have to be taken with a grain of salt. The goal of said tours is to scare you, to construct a haunted history for the urban landscape that will give you the chills. The tour guides are a contemporary version of the ancient storyteller, spinning their yarns out of ready threads. In Savannah, there are many threads, sad and deplorable ones, to spin from.

There is something voyeuristic about paranormal tourism. As we walk along behind the guide, listening to the tales he or she weaves, we are titillated by these stories; the pleasure in the chills, the thrills, is deeply rooted in that thing called schadenfreude, that feeling that, thankfully, we modern-day American citizens are not situated in that barbarous past (ignoring the fact that the present is often nearly as barbarous). The stories spun for us on this particular February evening, a slight dampness and chill in the air, spoke of stupid duels, wronged lovers, Irish child-brides, vengeful slaves, "root" magic, unmarked graves.

An appropriately full moon.
Savannah cultivates a subculture of supernatural amusement, the whole city becoming a carnivalish funhouse after dark. One hotel, 1790, supposedly haunted by a poltergeist energized by the anger of a wronged child-bride, has positioned a mannequin with dark hair in one of the upstairs windows. Another, the Kehoe House, invites visitors with open doors, playing up its past as a funeral home.

In Savannah, you can even partake in this paranormal party beer in hand, since there is no open container law.
I can't say that I abstained;).  Clearly.

The Kehoe House.
When I'm on a ghost tour, I can't help but feel as though I am walking on the dead. As any good student of graveyard folklore knows, walking on the dead is a very unwise act. The dead don't particularly care for being trod upon. They probably don't care for people riding around in modified hearses peering into their windows, groups of people huddling around their former homes, salivating over their suffering. I hope none of them followed me home. ~Alice

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A good house is hard to find (Inside Flannery O'Connor's childhood home)

There's something about our childhood homes that scores our psyches. As we grow into adulthood, these rivulets remain, allowing time to run backward into memory. Up until I was about eight years old, for example, I lived in a house that butted up against railroad tracks (the train literally ran about 15 feet from our back door). I can remember looking down on the cars racing by from my second-story bedroom, their bellies laden with coal, snaking their way along the river valley that we called home. But what I remember most of all are the strange dreams I had when I was a kid about the letter "A." In these dreams, the letter would start off really small, get humongous (and loud), and then fade again into the distance: a...a...a....a...a...A...A...A...A...A..a...a...a...a... It wasn't until I stayed at my dad's when I was about 25 after living away from home for several years that I figured out that these As were tracing the path and sound of the train, growing as the train grew closer, fading as it faded into the distance.

While in Savannah, I was able to visit Flannery O'Connor's childhood home. So, I figured why not give you a virtual tour of the house, letting the early influences on her imagination speak for themselves (with a few captions to guide you along).

O'Connor and her mother from the mantle in the family room. 

O'Connor's "Rolls Royce" of prams, a gift from her generous Aunt, complete with initials "MFOC" (Mary Flannery O'Connor, the Mary dropped later because, according to our tour guide, she didn't think anyone would want to read the writing of an "Irish washerwoman.") 

O'Connor's childhood books. She would rate each book in the frontispiece, and was often not very kind. She called Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, apparently, "the worst book ever." For shame, Mary Flannery. For shame.

Here's a good example of such an assessment: "Not a very good book. M.F.OC."

The view from the back kitchen window. 

The crackled glass of the home's original front door (the door was moved to the back of the house sometime after O'Connor lived there). 

The super-tight upstairs hallway, spanning about two-and-a-half feet, that connected Mary Flannery's room to her parents' (their rooms were also connected by a door between the two rooms). 

O'Connor's childhood bedroom set, complete with two beds even though she was an only child. The bed is on wheels, allowing her to roll the bed up against the windows for fresh air, much to her mother's chagrin.

A photograph of the young girl reading, one of my favorite things in the entire house. First of all, I love her haircut;). Second of all, the look of fierce concentration that warns others they better not bother her. 

One of her childhood dolls. 

O'Connor's crib, complete with mesh to guard against mosquitoes. The crib was placed under the windows looking upward onto the spires of the cathedral across the way (see below). 

O'Connor's parents' bed, her mother's ghostly body suggested in her wedding nightgown. 

My other favorite thing in the house: the fact that Grimm's fairy tales is "bathroom reading." According to our tour guide's conversations with O'Connor's childhood "friends" (whom she really didn't care for very much), she would invite her "playmates" into the upstairs bathroom for reading sessions, reading to them from the Grimm's (see below). She also apparently had a weird tradition of decorating the toilet with flowers for her guest's. 

Exiting the new(er) front door. 

The plaque marking the home, along with a view of the square "cattywampus" to the house. 

Outside. We weren't able to see the third floor, sadly, because it is now home to the curator of the house. 
A place most definitely worth a visit, if you are ever in that neck of the woods. Tomorrow, we'll continue the Savannah Chronicles with a tour of the city's haunted spots. Until then. ~Alice

Monday, February 25, 2013

What Lies Beneath: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Cemeteries reveal a lot about the communities in which they are located. Whether unkempt and forlorn or ornate and groomed, the rows of stones and the spaces between them form a sort of parallel to the social dynamics of the city or town; they seem to mirror, from the ground-up, the health of the civilization hustling above. This past week, I had the opportunity to visit Savannah, GA for the first time, attending the American Literature Association Symposium on the Gothic. While I was struck by the sullen beauty of the city, nothing impressed me more than the ruinous cemetery that lies at the center of town.

Guarded by the watchful eyes of the D.A.R., this graveyard, at first glance, appears to be sparsely populated by the dead. A few tombstones huddled together here; a few crypts, their sealed cornices in the ground, there.

Initially, it seemed to me a forlorn, forgotten place, eaten away by time. A melancholic maw, with its few remaining teeth rotting out of its head. On our ghost tour later that evening, however, I learned more about the cemetery's history. According to our guide, much of Sherman's army, after marching into town 70,000 strong, took up residence amongst the tombs. The soldiers, bored young men who had just fought a hard and heavy war, desecrated these Southern graves, knocking over and breaking the gravemarkers, destroying entire crypts stone by stone. As you walk through the cemetery's grounds, you can actually trace with your feet their borders, treading on the houses of the dead. As you skirt the perimeter, you can read the tombstones that have been rearranged on the brick walls, a testament to the fact that the earth here is actually dense with fallen ancestors, some buried in mass graves during the height of the Yellow Fever.

Desecrated seems to me to be the key term here. This ruinous place, its melancholic loveliness deeply rooted in its very ruin, reflects the character of the city. Savannah appears to the Northern outsider to be a town that is both obsessed with and embarrassed by the past. It promotes, on the one hand, a dream vision of itself, one reliant on a sense that the South was affronted by the North, attacked, destroyed by the grubby hands of Northerners that didn't recognize its values, a vision that could lull the tourist with its romantic aura of the underdog. On the other, it ghoulishly buries much of its darker history beneath a shallow surface.

What lies beneath seethes. This city, after all, played a major role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade throughout much of its early history, a trade that turned people into things, humans into profit.

Most of the "heroes" recognized with statues, monuments, and iron plaques around town had a direct hand in human trafficking, little of which is recognized on said statues, monuments, and plaques.

A perfect example of Savannah's "bundle of contradictions"/layering of historical temporalities is the former Savannah Cotton Exchange, now a Masonic Lodge. On the plaque marking the Savannah Cotton Exchange, the slavery system on which this very building depended is but a whisper. 

The traces of a society precariously built on the power of slave labor are palpable, just visible. In the alleyways, behind the pomp and circumstance of the museum houses, some slave quarters are preserved. When I walked into these spaces, the aura I experienced was suffocating. The sadness seemed to reach out through time and lay a finger across my lips.

Exiting this land of the dead, I couldn't help but feel that the desecration of Colonial Park Cemetery was frozen in time in order to record Savannah's anger at a disrupted idyll, as a record of Northern aggression in the "uncivil" "war between the states" (both of these words/phrases were used by our tour guide as we glided through the eerie city that night). The ghosts buried beneath the streets of Savannah, nonetheless, speak loudly in the silences there.  ~Alice

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Old Tales, New Takes...

Today is another redirect, partly because it has been a really sh!$!y day (pun intended, plumbing issues in the new house:(((), partly because I love these prints oh-so-much. From BrainPickings (" a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn't know you were interested in - until you are"), these "hyper-minimalist takes on beloved children's classics," by the artist Christian Jackson. A few of my favorites, and the link to BrainPickings (which is generally fabulous).

I'll be gone for a few days, but when I come back, I promise some really great ghostly goodness. Promise. ~Alice

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Haunted Houses (Haunted Brains) ...

“I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny little movements inside.” ― Shirley JacksonThe Haunting of Hill House
This week, in my Imaginative Literature and Critical Writing class, my students are writing papers comparing Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." Both of these twisted tales take the houses that lie at their centers and turn them into living, breathing organisms. In Hill House, the manse seems to leer at the protagonist, its cornices eyebrows, its windows eyes, its veranda a belt, its front door a mouth. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," there is something lurking behind the paper on the walls, creeping, shaking the pattern, staring.

In Jackson's novel, the main character, a young woman named Eleanor, aptly muses, "Am I walking toward something I should be running away from?" This quote seems to sum up the appeal of such places for us oddballs who find the frightening space so appealing. We walk toward that which we should run away from. The question is why? What is the appeal of the haunted house? Why do we want to walk into its yawning jaws and explore its innards? What do we hope to find in these abandoned spaces, where we might literally lose our heads (or at the very least, our minds)?

On that note, a few of my favorite spooky-looking houses for you to explore. Leave a trail of silver pennies so that you can find your way out. ~Alice

A Victorian manor, near Bois de Boulogne, Paris, France
photo © Maurice
The Winchester House , San Jose, CA
Bowman's Castle, Brownsville, PA
The Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, MO