BOOK OF THE MONTH – COLLODI (CARLO LORENZINI’S “PINNOCHIO”

BLOG #39, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #34
COLLODI (CARLO LORENZINI’S) PINOCCHIO

September 24, 2014

Scan_Pic0115

Pinocchio, the film, is greater than Pinocchio, the book. Nevertheless, it is well worth while to experience both. Little is known of Carlo Lorenzini other than his authorship of this one book. He was born in 1826 in Italy and died in 1890. The book was published under the penname Carlo Collodi, as Le avventure di Pinnochio in 1882.

I personally held off reading this book until only recently. Even in translation the text is simplistic and lacking any kind of narrative beauty. Just simple Anglo-Saxon sentences telling the story in plain words any child could understand.

The print story would be plenty scary to a child, but the film is one of the most terrifying films (to a child) ever made. According to Disney scholar, Christopher Finch, Pinnochio is probably Disney’s greatest film.

After the incredible world-wide success of Snow White, Disney had a lion by the tail: he not only had to keep all his raw talent busy and happy but also figure out how he was going to pay them all. Over 750 artists, 80 musicians, 1,500 shades of color, and one-million drawings were involved in bringing Pinnochio to life.

Back in the Depression years [released in 1940] when it was created, the film cost $2,600,000; today its cost would be staggering. To give you an example, just the multiplane scene where the camera zooms down on the village with school bells ringing and pigeons gradually circling down to houses—only a few seconds worth—cost $45,000!

The plot: how a little wooden puppet must prove himself worthy of becoming a real boy. The film itself is characterized by action,  Scan_Pic0116excitement, and terror rather than humor. As a case in point, William K. Everson considers the scene where Lampwick turns into a donkey (it all starts, almost as a joke, with long ears; he begs Pinocchio to help him as his hands turn into hoofs. As he becomes more frantic, the music grows louder and more discordant. Finally, with the metamorphosis almost complete, he screams “Mama!!,” his cry turning into a loud bray as we see the finishing touches of his shadow on the wall) to be one of the screen’s supreme moments of horror.

The Monstro (whale) sequence is another of the film’s highlights. And Stromboli is generally considered to be one of Disney’s greatest villains. One of the film’s most amazing pieces of animation, from a technical standpoint, occurs when Pinocchio is trapped in a cage inside Stromboli’s wagon. The wagon is moving and Pinocchio is inside the swinging cage, while lightning flashes outside cause changes in color and shadow!

In Pinocchio, Disney reached not only the height of his powers but the apex of what critics consider the realm of the animated cartoon.

Strangely enough, in spite of its magnificent animation, it was the music that garnered the Academy Awards: “Best Original Musical Score” and “Best Song” (“When You Wish Upon a Star”), which has since become Disney’s most symbolic song.

So in conclusion, you should both read the book and experience the movie. The book was published in 1927 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Many reprints have followed.

Advertisements

CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART 23 NOW AVAILABLE

BLOG #38, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 23

September 17, 2014

N E W S R E L E A S E

Just out is this, our 89th book, and 74th story anthology!

Scan_Pic0114

Hard to believe but, after 23 long years, Christmas in My Heart® is still alive! Clearly God’s plans for the series are not yet complete. As long-time readers of the series know, there is no resting on laurels where this series is concerned: for an entire year I winnow the stories down to a pure gold fifteen to nineteen stories; hundreds may be rejected for every one that makes it in. It normally takes me ten to fifteen prayerful winnowings before I feel the slate is perfect. I take special care in creating kind of a roller-coaster trajectory between laughter and tears, long and short, child and adult, love stories and stories with some other appeal. I make no apologies for the love stories since God created love, and love and Christmas are inextricably woven together. Indeed, I’ve come to the conclusion that, judging by our mail, the romance element is one key reason why the series is still alive today.

During the last two years, there has been a run on complete sets. Today, as more and more publishing houses fold their doors or are bought out by a bigger company, out-of-print books have swelled into epidemic figures. Not surprisingly, most of our now 89 books are today out-of-print. Consequently, if you or someone you love is a Christmasaholic—there are so many of us terminal cases out there!—, you might wish to take this occasion to take advantage of our Christmas sale 40% discount (close to our cost) for the complete set!  Scan_Pic0113

So let’s look at the line-up of what’s in the new collection. First of all, all 23 covers have timeless, Currier & Ives artwork on the covers, a veritable art gallery if you are lucky enough to own them all.

Secondly, most of the stories are illustrated with a timeless woodcut, most at least a hundred years old; thus contributing to the heirloom look. Since most of our stories don’t come with illustrations we can use, I usually pour through tens of thousands of pages in old magazines or books in search of those few unique ones that seem born to illustrate certain stories.

I also vary the time-frame story-wise: a story may date back to Bible times or hundreds of years ago; or it may have been set in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. Or written during the last year or two. What matters is whether the story remains relevant today.

Nor does the name of a given author mean much to me. I believe I am one of the very few story anthologists who are convicted that the power of a given story alone ought to determine whether it makes it in the collection or not.

Now for the Gold list of the stories that did make it in:

•      Introduction: “Psst! I’m Giving Away All My Secrets” – Joseph Leininger Wheeler. In it, I pass along many of my anthologizing secrets so that when I pass off the stage of life, perhaps someone else will be ready to take my place.
•      “Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War” –Edward Hulse and Wilfred Ewart. I’ve been saving this powerful story until 2014, the 100th anniversary of an unbelievable Christmas Day truce in the World War I trenches of France. It had to be the lead story this Christmas.
•      “Santa for Certain” – Earl Reed Silvers. Earl Reed Silvers is one of the most beloved of all writers of stories for young people. This is his second inclusion in our series.
•      “The Gift” – Bruce R. Coston. A little girl who longed for a kitten, and parents who definitely did not.
•      “Father Carter and the Herd of Elelphants” – Pat Thornborough. Had to go clear to England to land this very special story.
•      “The Crinoline Lady of March Manor” – Irma Hegel. Whoever heard of falling in love with an old painting?
•      “Flight of the Second Section” – Edward S. Marshall. Just imagine flying an airliner that had an altitude ceiling at barely 8,000 feet—and in a Christmas storm at that!
•      “The Children Who Played with the Manger” – Iones Haynes Keene. Manger animals are to be looked at, not to be played with; well, doesn’t that make sense?
•      “The Return of Christmas” – Marlene Chase. The unadulterated nerve of her sister Lexi: trying to foist off on her a thirteen-year-old going on twenty-three girl at Christmas. This is Marlene Chase’s fourth inclusion.
•      “The Christmas Doll” – Jeanne Bottroff. A poor little girl who had not realized she was cold—read it and find out why.
•      “Christmas at Bethlehem” – Anna Brownell Dunaway. What could be worse than being marooned in a one-horse town in a rickety old hotel at Christmas? This is Dunaway’s second appearance.
•      “Sweet Singing in the Choir” – Deborah Siepmann. You’ll never again be able to listen to a boys’ choir the same after you read this poignant story from England.
•      “Twenty Acres for Christmas” – F. McKinnon Morton. What if you are sitting on valuable land you’ve long considered your own, but discover someone else owns it? But if you don’t say anything about it, it’s most unlikely anyone else will ever find out about it.
•      “The Monkey Manufacturing Company” – Harold D. Robinson. The boys were out of business—or were they?
•      “Personal Delivery” – Gail Courtney Rittgers. Marcia stopped Kent from reaching for his checkbook. Why?
•      “A Christmas Triumph” – Frances Lewis. Father never participated in Christmas. Said he couldn’t afford it.
•      “Because of Christmas” – Phyllis Naylor. What to do with leftovers at Christmas—find out!
•      “The Tides of Life” – Joseph Leininger Wheeler. She never wanted to see him again—not unless, a very unlikely “unless”. But she got on a cruise ship anyhow.

The hand-tasseled bookmark is worth $5.00 by itself!

ORDERING INFORMATION

Publisher: Pacific Press Publishing.

Binding: Trade Paper

Pages: 128

Price: $13.99

Shipping: $4.50

Personally inscribed by Joe Wheeler, if requested, at no extra cost. You may secure your copies from us, so give us a call, or email, or letter, and we’ll fill your orders for you.

Mail your request to: Joe Wheeler, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433.

Or Phone us at: 303-838-2333.

Or send an email to: mountainauthor@gmail.com.

COMPLETE SET OF 23 BOOKS

Available this Christmas at only $170 (a 40% discount), plus shipping. Inscribed too, if specifically requested.

CHILDREN WHO DISPOSSESS THEIR PARENTS

BLOG #37, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHILDREN WHO DISPOSSESS THEIR PARENTS

September 10, 2014

Such cruelty has always been with us, but never, at least to my knowledge, has it been as wide-scale as it is today. Just in my own circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, the following examples have either recently taken place or are taking place as I write this:

A son and his wife are so eager to get the aged mother’s money that they gradually take more and more of it until they reach the point where they even begrudge her continuing to enjoy her health. They move her into assisted living, then openly talk in front of her about how much she is costing them, and tell her that she should hurry up and die! Which she, broken-hearted, proceeds to do.

A multimillionaire begins to fail some in terms of his mental-edge; fortunately, he has a wife who loves him and cares for his needs. The children, however, cannot wait for their father’s life to run its course. They force their father to divorce his wife so they can evict both of them from their home, put him in a “rest home,” where he’s dying with very few people who even come to visit him.

A multimillionaire begins to fail in his mid-nineties; he has plenty of money to pay for care-takers, and plans to eventually die in the home he’s lived in for most of his life. Not content with this, his children fire the caretakers and evict their father, in order to be in position to liquidate his property and use that money for themselves now rather than later.

These are just a few cases to illustrate my point. It used to be the norm that the aged were revered, admired, and looked up to in society. In many societies that is still true today. But in America, all too often, greed trumps relationships, and violates the commandment to honor their father and mother.

I can’t help wondering if the trashing of traditional marriage, epidemic of live-in relationships as the new norm, and skyrocketing divorce-rate, is not resulting in a new House of Horrors for the aged. Some of the cases I’m referring to don’t fall within the disintegration of the home category, but I’d venture to say that most of them do. Since 99% of children pattern their own behavior on that of their parents, if their parents live me-first, my gratification-first, lives, it should not surprise us to discover that life has a way of coming full-circle: as we dish out to others–think children–, so it will be eventually dished back to us.

I haven’t even mentioned another all-too-sad reality: the greed-related animosity and hatred that results when one sibling is perceived to have received more from a parental estate than did another. My father, who was a minister, often told us how monetary value of an item is bad enough by itself, but when you stir in sentimental value, a twenty-five-cent item can result in driving a permanent wedge between two siblings. That’s why my parents kept urging us to choose ahead of time which items we wanted from their possessions while they were still alive so that there would be no relationship-wrecking among us after they passed away. We are doing the same with our children.

I don’t have any answers for all this–only sorrow that it is happening on such a wide scale in America today.

What Was the World Like 100 Years Ago?

BLOG #36, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
WHAT WAS THE WORLD LIKE
100 YEARS AGO?

September 3, 2014

In a nutshell, it was a different world from the one we live in today. In many ways, changed very little from what it had been for more than a millennium. As 1914 approached, so many things seemed to be going right for the nobility, princes and princesses, kings and queens and emperors.

Ever since Darwin, there had been the perception that the world was rapidly becoming a better place. According to evolutionary theory, it was assumed we could expect global peace in the future. As Emile Coeu famously put it, “Every day, in every way, I’m becoming better and better.” It was then easy to believe in the goodness of God: God would no longer permit mankind to do terrible things to each other.

Back then, England ruled the world, thus, ruling over one quarter of the globe, it was said, “The sun never sets over the British Empire.” At the height of Queen Victoria’s reign, her sway extended over half of North America, slices of Central and South America, a vast part of Africa, a whole continent in Australia, some of the richest lands in Asia (including India), plus other island possessions spread clear across the globe. It was the British sea-power that enabled it to rule over the ocean, and Britain’s merchant fleet that made Britain the greatest of all trading nations.

On the European continent, the Hohenzollern Kaisers had gradually forged such a powerful military power that the German army was perceived as being almost invincible. And now, vain, impulsive Kaiser Wilhelm II worshiped the art of war. A huge naval shipbuilding program had begun in order to challenge Britain’s supremacy over the seas.

France had mostly recovered from its 1870 defeat at the hands of Germany. France now had a world-wide empire, second in size only to the British.

East was the vast land called Russia, composed of one-eighth of the land mass of the world. A proud and imperialistic nation ruled by the Romanoff czars, now Nicholas II. Nicholas, a narrow-minded aristocrat who wholeheartedly believed in the divine right of kings and was totally oblivious to the plight of his people, was incapable of handling the forces sweeping across the steppes of the empire. Politically inept, he was dependent on his strong-willed czarina, Alexandra, who was herself manipulated by the Svengalian mystic, Rasputin.

Dominating Central Europe was the far-flung Austro-Hungarian Empire, ruled by its beloved emperor, Franz Joseph, last of the great Hapsburg monarchs. The empire shouldn’t even have existed, yet somehow did, composed as it was of 12,000,000 Germans, 10,000,000 Magyars [Hungarians], 6,000,000 Czechs, 5,000,000 Poles, 4,000,000 Ukrainians, 3,700,000 Serbs and Croats, 3,300,000 Rumanians, 2,500,000 Slovaks, 1,300,000 Slovenes, and 800,000 Italians. But all those diverse peoples remained a unit mainly because of the respect they had for the emperor. In reality, it was just one big powder keg waiting to explode. And Franz Joseph was old.

Then there was the increasingly formidable Japanese Empire. To the north, Japan annexed the Kuriles; to the south and east, the Ryukyus, the Bonins, the Volcanoes, and Marcus Island. After its victorious war against China in 1894-95, the Japanese annexed Taiwan and the Pescadores; and Korea became a vassal. In 1904, Japan had an epic showdown with Russia, and won. Nicholas II never recovered from that ignominious disaster. So now, Japan was spoiling for a fight in order to acquire even more territory.

Thus the western world was ruled from five great cities: London, Berlin, Moscow, Vienna, and Paris. Most all the European royal houses had intermarried to the extent that they were all cousins.

It is fascinating to read eighteenth and nineteenth century fiction. The protagonists, the heroes and heroines of that age were invariably royal, among the nobility, or aristocratic. In America, it seemed every girl yearned to marry a prince, duke, earl, count, or lord. And many did just that. Reason being that the European aristocracy and nobility, due to their frivolous and lavish lifestyles, were almost always in debt: desperately needing money. Since there were plenty of rich Americans who had lots of money, and would gladly pawn off their daughters to the highest bidder, Americans bought their way into European high society. That most of those marriages had nothing to do with love, yoking title to money, more often than not, they proved disastrous.

It would not be until the end of World War I, and the resulting doom of royal supremacy, that fictional heroes and heroines shifted away in the direction of media, entertainers, and sports protagonists, such as we see today.

The tragedy of 1914 was that, in reality, no one deep down really wanted war. Times were good. Sidewalk cafes were full. Monarchies were becoming ever more democratic, the middle class was increasingly prosperous, education was becoming more and more accessible to all, European tours were something more and more people wanted to take. In most cases the populace would rather have the ruler they had (the devil they knew) than the ruler they didn’t know (the devil they didn’t know).

Then came June 28, 1914, when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, in Sarajevo, Serbia, on a state visit, was assassinated.

And the world exploded into war . . . and has never been the same since.

References: The Five Worlds of Our Lives (New York: Newsweek, Inc., 1961).