Posts Tagged ‘ELF’

Dickens December: The Christmas Truce of 1914

December 24, 2010


They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him.

(A Christmas Carol. The Second Stave: The Ghost of Christmas Present.)

Though Dickens is writing of seamen in this passage, thinking of soldiers stationed far from home over the holidays put me in mind of the Christmas Truce of 1914, when Great War soldiers on both sides of the front called for a ceasefire and crossed no-man’s-land to celebrate Christmas. I realized I wasn’t quite sure of the details, particularly what was true and what was not about that story, so I did some digging. I found this terrific article by Simon Rees on First World War that I’d like to share.


The meeting of enemies as friends in no-man’s land was experienced by hundreds, if not thousands, of men on the Western Front during Christmas 1914. … The event is seen as a shining episode of sanity from among the bloody chapters of World War One — a spontaneous effort by the lower ranks to create a peace that could have blossomed were it not for the interference of generals and politicians.

The reality of the Christmas Truce, however, is a slightly less romantic and a more down to earth story. It was an organic affair that in some spots hardly registered a mention and in others left a profound impact upon those who took part. … The true story is still striking precisely because of its rag-tagged nature: it is more ‘human’ and therefore all the more potent.

A lot of soldiers on both sides had received Christmas packages from home and, in some cases, special rations. So some good cheer was already dawning.

With their morale boosted by messages of thanks and their bellies fuller than normal, and with still so much Christmas booty to hand, the season of goodwill entered the trenches. A British Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote that on one part of the line the Germans had managed to slip a chocolate cake into British trenches.



It was accompanied with a message asking for a ceasefire later that evening so they could celebrate the festive season and their Captain’s birthday. They proposed a concert at 7.30pm when candles, the British were told, would be placed on the parapets of their trenches.


The British accepted the invitation and offered some tobacco as a return present. That evening, at the stated time, German heads suddenly popped up and started to sing. … The Germans then asked the British to join in.


On many stretches of the Front the crack of rifles and the dull thud of shells ploughing into the ground continued, but at a far lighter level than normal. In other sectors there was an unnerving silence that was broken by the singing and shouting drifting over, in the main, from the German trenches.


Along many parts of the line the Truce was spurred on with the arrival in the German trenches of miniature Christmas trees — Tannenbaum. The sight [of] these small pines, decorated with candles and strung along the German parapets, captured the Tommies’ imagination, as well as the men of the Indian corps who were reminded of the sacred Hindu festival of light.


It was the perfect excuse for the opponents to start shouting to one another, to start singing and, in some areas, to pluck up the courage to meet one another in no-man’s land.


Christmas day began quietly but once the sun was up the fraternisation began. Again songs were sung and rations thrown to one another. It was not long before troops and officers started to take matters into their own hands and ventured forth. No-man’s land became something of a playground.


Men exchanged gifts and buttons. In one or two places soldiers who had been barbers in civilian times gave free haircuts. One German, a juggler and a showman, gave an impromptu, and, given the circumstances, somewhat surreal performance of his routine in the centre of no-man’s land.


Captain Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards, in his famous account [a letter to his mother which was later widely published in newspapers], remembered the approach of four unarmed Germans at 08.30. He went out to meet them with one of his ensigns. ‘Their spokesmen,’ Hulse wrote, ‘started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a happy Christmas, and trusted us implicitly to keep the truce. He came from Suffolk where he had left his best girl and a 3 ½ h.p. motor-bike!’


‘Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged addresses given and received, photos of families shown, etc. One of our fellows offered a German a cigarette; the German said, “Virginian?” Our fellow said, “Aye, straight-cut”, the German said “No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!”… It gave us all a good laugh.’


Today, pragmatists read the Truce as nothing more than a ‘blip’ – a temporary lull induced by the season of goodwill, but willingly exploited by both sides to better their defences and eye out one another’s positions.

Romantics assert that the Truce was an effort by normal men to bring about an end to the slaughter.

I am in the latter camp. Pax et bonum.


In the public’s mind the facts have become irrevocably mythologized, and perhaps this is the most important legacy of the Christmas Truce today. In our age of uncertainty, it’s comforting to believe, regardless of the real reasoning and motives, that soldiers and officers told to hate, loathe and kill, could still lower their guns and extend the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer.

(Simon Rees. “The Christmas Truce.” August 22, 2009. FirstWorldWar.com)

12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: Elf

December 17, 2010


Actually, I tolerate this movie at a rate of only medium, rather than “highly,” but I picked it over Gremlins because I had more to say about it, I’d seen it more recently, and I had found better screencaps. Plus there is Zooey Deschanel as a blonde. Singing. In the shower.

Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003).

After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity.

(the imdb)


Please answer the phone that way at least once this week. I plan to but, then, I almost always answer the phone weird, so I won’t have that element of surprise that you will. (My new favorite? Ask the person who’s calling you if they’re there instead of saying hello. Example: it comes up on caller I.D. as “Joe Brown.” Answer the phone, “Is Joe there? Can I speak with Joe Brown, please? Mr. Brown? You’re probably wondering why I’ve called …”)


That’s another thing. (sigh) Buddy, you should know that your father — he’s on the Naughty List.

Nooooo!

I remember thinking when this came out how odd it was that Jon Favreau directed it, but Buddy’s father Walter Hobbs, as interpreted by James Caan, is certainly what I would think of as a Favreauvian creation: a nasty, singleminded piece of work who needs the familiar but lonely high ground of distance from others, and congruent distance from the emotions intimacy might entail, above all else.

(Psst, it is Amy Sedaris. Woo-hoo!)

I think we should call security.

Good idea.

I like to whisper too!

Buddy is a nuisance to his own father not only because of his inconvenient bumblings, but also because he is a deviation from the norm. To confront a person who won’t let you push them away is to confront yourself, and people like Walter Hobbs seek to avoid that at all costs. I believe Favreau is a genius at whipping up these mean little slaves to the system, as an actor and as a director.

That said about a keen and critical eye for slaves to the system, the product placement in this film is almost beyond belief. One of the most blatant things I’ve seen since E.T. I do not count the scene in Wayne’s World II because they did that on purpose (albeit they got paid).



Zooey Deschanel: I don’t know about elves. I didn’t think much about elves because I was trying to think about the man in charge, the one that was going to bring me presents. I believed in Santa Claus until I was, like, 14. [I believed] if my parents think I do, then they’ll give me two sets of presents. And if Santa Claus really does exist, then he’ll appreciate my support.

(“Zooey Deschanel talks about Elf.” Rebecca Murray. 2003. About.com)


Make work your favorite. That’s your new “favorite.”

When the threads of this project were spun out of the distaff of Hollywood nothingness in 1993, Jim Carrey was originally attached to star as Buddy the Elf. I truly love the guy but I am pretty glad he didn’t get it. He’s got far too much pathos in his eyes and the film would have flopped. Will Ferrell gives Buddy an unblinking, irascible cheerfulness that you get the sense would not flag in the face of finding himself engulfed in flames, like a grip of Terminator robots grimly marching across the ocean floor in pursuit of John Connor. Oh, hey, marriage-made-in-heaven sequel idea? “Come wit’ me if yoo be-leaf in Santa!”


Now what can I get you for Christmas?

Don’t tell him what you want, he’s a liar.

Let the kid talk.

You disgust me! How can you live with yourself?

Just cool it, Zippy.

You sit on a throne of lies!

See? I told you Zooey Deschanel showers in this movie. She also eats top ramen. Tell a friend.

Yeah, pretty much. Where this film succeeds for me is in its treatment of the redemption of characters peripheral to Buddy the Elf: namely, his father, Walter, and Jovie, his would-be girlfriend. Grating as he is, if Buddy had changed to accept the new world in to which he thrusts himself, it would have been a cheap and deflating transformation à la Enchanted.*

To see people rise above themselves and protect a dumb, innocent guy is at least affirming. Buddy doesn’t have to change, because the world will always have burpy rays of sunshine: we need to change enough to take care of them, to share their optimism and deserve their devotion. I can hang with that.

Extra-tolerable bonus: Buddy’s supervisor at the North Pole is Peter Billingsley, of A Christmas Story. “You’re not a cotton-headed ninny-muggins, Buddy. You’re just … different.” Aw. Super-cool!





*Enchanted had nice music but, really, Giselle goes from being a full-throated maiden of the forest to Chi-ironing her hair and operating a dress shop in Manhattan. Conform, little girl! For all the posturing at positioning a new kind of feminist anti-hero that that script threw at us, in the end, it pandered to the same “princess-demographic” ideals it was purporting to rebel against. But, dang, that Amy Adams is cute as a button, yes?

Daily Batman: The Importance of Being Ivy

January 11, 2010

Dr. Pamela Isley goes green.

These businesses are destroying the planet. Pollution, deforestation, overharvesting — and all for the one thing they already have too much of to begin with. Money.



“Daring Do.” Bowles, Hamish. Photographed for the Costume Institute Gala by Craig McDean, Vogue (U.S. edition), May 2008.

Click here to view Newsweek‘s 2009 ranking of Greenest Companies in America. If a company in your town, from whom you buy a majority of your products, or in whose product you are interested is not on the list, consider writing to them and politely explaining why you would like to see them begin environmentally-friendly practices in order to keep your business. We can’t all just poison the bad guys like the good green doctor, here, but you can still do your part.

It’s more honorable and in keeping with the theme of the issue to keep it clean in your fight, anyway. No ELF-style bombing baloney, which is dangerous and eliminates jobs from the humanitarian standpoint, and only plays in to the hands of the opposition from the strictly political and pragmatic end of the argument. When it comes to corporations and their interactions with politics and the environment, you definitely catch more flies with honey than with vinegar — ask any venus trap.