Greeley's Rancho Arcana
OK--As I promised: You've been good, so let's go over to Wes Clark's house and play with his cool TOYS OF THE SIXTIES!
I have to stay around here and clean up; I'll catch up with you later.
Say hi to Wes and be sure to meet his folks.
Chapter 1 Essay Intro
Me and Santa, 1966: Taken at JC Penney in Santa Monica, California. I was one happy kid. Thankfully, they didn't hang the number around my neck.
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The Mari Lwyd: If you want to get an up close and personal view, try this link at "Here Be Giants." Bet you'd scream, too, if we showed up at your door on Christmas Eve.
--Here's a detailed review of the custom, plus the efforts of one brave group to keep the custom alive. Wish I could visit.
--Here's a link to a collection of artistic interpretations. Nice.
--Data Wales has a brief description of both the Mari Lwyd and the "Calennig," an object that somewhat resembles a UFO reportedly seen near Soccorro, New Mexico back in 1964 (evidence, perhaps, that extraterrestrials visited the Welsh long ago? No, not really. And don't get the idea that I care for such tomfoolery, just because I mentioned it. Life on earth is interesting enough. Look around. Who needs little green men when we have politicians?)
--Finally, for a nice broadband presentation on the Mari Lwyd, visit World Wide Wales TV (if it doesn't load automatically, select "22. Welsh Culture" in step 1 and "Mari Lwyd" in step 2. Then play movie).
The audio download (marilwyd.mp3): I put that together using audio freeware, on-line audio samples of Japanese, a dash of "Whiskey Train" by Los Lobos, and a snippet of a Welsh Choir singing "Men of Harlech":
" ...Men of Harlech, on to glory!
This shall ever be your story.
Keep these fighting words before ye:
'Welshmen will not yield!' "
It's hard not to be proud of the Welsh. Anyone who thinks otherwise has never heard them sing ...especially while lofting a skull on a pole. There's a message there, you know. My kind of people.
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"...we all have the same funny stories to tell about screwing up the turkey, gifts gone wrong, working as an elf at Macy's--geez, what else is there to say?"
I kinda lied about that last item. It only seems that everyone's worked as an elf at Macy's; those in the know, know that actually David Sedaris holds that singular storytelling honor. Read, or better yet listen to "The Santaland Diaries," should you get the chance. You'll find the audio on "This American Life," episode 47, Christmas and Commerce, broadcast December 20, 1996.
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"...Did you know that there are maybe 9000 different Christian sects that lay some claim on December 25th? ..."
Actually, the number may be far higher. Read of the author who took a shot at counting who believes what, worldwide.
BTW: before I start getting nasty letters for my diversion into the minefield of religion; one may consider that perhaps I was trying to demonstrate how difficult it is for one to speak of religion in objective terms without eventually professing adherence to, or denying, one article of faith or another.
The problem with such conversations is they quickly become a contest between "Faith or Logic;" a contest in which neither side speaks with the same intent or hears the same thing. Typically, this leads to "All or Nothing;" a game where one's position is more important than the subject at hand. Each question and each answer at this stage threatens to kick the legs out from under someone else's faith table or logic chair. Makes one wonder about the quality of the furniture.
Chapter 2 1960 - 1970: "America, The Future is Now..."
What did TV tell us about America and the space-age? Check out this example, a 1960 commercial for Cheerios at the Prelinger Archives, an on-line collection of ephemeral films and other works numbering in the thousands. Don't go here unless you've got a lot of time on your hands and a broadband connection. Just remember to come back to GRA when you're done, OK? OK!
Special thanks goes out to Bill Nelson over at Bill's Antique Christmas Light Site for gracious permission to quote his site and borrow a few photos of color wheels. Be sure to check out his collection of Aluminum Christmas Trees. He also has a few Christmas lights on display.
Chapter 3 Toys and Holiday Justice: Reward & Punishment
I mentioned Wes Clark's toy box. Here it is again. Here's the link to the whole Avocado Memories site. Very much worth a browse if you grew up in the 1960s, especially in the greater Los Angeles area.
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Bad Boys: I have a theory. We know now that back then the US government secretly experimented on its citizens. We don't know who, exactly, was the subject of these experiments, or what the experiments might have entailed, but I bet all my peers can name at least one candidate from their old neighborhood.
Bad Girls: I never met any bad girls. Striking, isn't it? It may have had something to do with the toys they got, though I know the debate still rages on over nature vs nurture. Still, girl's toys were totally different from the boys in one very significant way often overlooked in the debate. They were the kind of things that you would give to a child that you liked and wanted to see grow up. Intact. This may also explain why it's so hard to find personal websites dealing with girl toys. Nothing exciting to write about? If you know of one, let me know and I'll add the link here.
Product Safety: Though I didn't get into detail about toy product safety in the 1960s, I'd like to share my belief that Matt Groening must have grown up in my neighborhood. Just where do you think gets all his lethal toy ideas for the Simpsons? Do you think he's making it all up? Surprise. He's not.
Tossed Interview: Toys and Holiday Justice: Is Santa Asleep at the Reins?
For the record, Terry Gross of WHYY's Fresh Air did not interview Franklin Booth for GRA (note that I said she was invited--it's an old verbal slight-of-hand). For one thing, Terry Gross is a real person and Franklin Booth is, hopefully, not. The piece was inspired by an actual interview between Terry Gross and actor Dennis Hopper, who played a jocund fellow named Frank Booth in David Lynch's disturbing (or disturbed) masterpiece "Blue Velvet." I just hope they don't get upset. I really admire their work. Please don't sue me. It's Christmas. I got kids...
Chapter 4 Pass the Turkey, Pass the Peas, Please
Check out the Gallery of Regrettable Food, part of The Institute of Official Cheer over at James Lileks site. Do it after dinner.
Chapter 5 Christmas Pop: The Sounds of the Season
"Boss Radio" Los Angeles: Didn't grow up in LA in the 1960s? Born after 1975? Think AM is just the first half of the day? No matter: you can listen to the top 40 radio days of yore by tuning your dial to www.reelradio.com for access to the most remarkable collection of radio 'air checks' (recordings of broadcasts) on the planet. The site features air checks from all over the country and other parts of the world. A true labor of love, Uncle Ricky has been delivering this service for free since 1996 (donations are accepted). For Los Angeles, check out the Don Kent Collection and The Real Don Steele Collection. Highly recommended for those who remember and enjoyed top 40 AM radio.
Goyishe (goya-shuh) Yiddish, n.
Chazerai (khah-zuh-rye) Yiddish, n. The crap you win at the fairground when you pop the balloon, ring the bell, guess your weight, etc. [ see Tri-City Jewish Community Center --Yiddish Dictionary ]
Chapter 6 The Tale
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