Before we stray too far from the holidays, here’s an article about Dickens and food. Not just the Cratchit Christmas table, Oliver asking for more, or how Magwich’s hunger may have influenced his temperament, but also bits about the life of the author after his father was sent to debtor’s prison when Charles Dickens was only twelve years old. No wonder his writings about poverty were so authentic feeling. He was an ultimate example of the words that have long urged writers to write what we know. Though that idea is debated as much as it’s​ adhered to, Dickens is an alarming example of where such practice may lead. 

His type of experiences were common in harder times even in our own century, and even still in the small dark corners of modern day poverty. When my grandfather was killed in a car crash in a time when cars themselves were in their adolescence, my father had to leave school at twelve years old and shoulder responsibility for his mother, sister, and young niece. His sacrifice made it possible for his family to carry on much as they had before. Without a father to run the farm, but left with a man grown up out of time to provide for them. Hardship​ was and is common in the rural south, though lacking in one thing that made Victorian England stand out as a stark example of poverty​ and injustice…the class system.

While there will always be harsh instances of have and have not, the Victorians across the pond made a life’s work of it. Many of the very wealthy would have stepped over a starving child lying in the gutter…if they ever stepped close to a gutter in their entire life. Even in their own insulated world of high society, they lived lives of pampered excess. To the starving guttersnipe the clean, beautifully dressed people who lived physically nearby would have been as alien to them as if they’d landed from Mars. 

Food was a vivid demarcation line between classes. This wonderful Guardian article gives intriguing examples, the very reading of which leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those fortunate to be only reading about such a harsh way of life.

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​I’m a bit burned out on sequels, prequels, and in the case of The Huntsman, Winters War…prequel/sequel/whattheheck? However, certain names will pull me out of mega franchise fatigue. The big one, of course, is Anthony Hopkins. 

I saw the pictures of him roaring along the London cityscape in the lowslung sportscar of carlovers’ dreams. Intrigued, I looked forward to the movie. Not forward enough, unfortunately, to remember that if I waited until Black Friday I could probably get it way cheaper than the full price I paid for the DVD + Digital version the week it came out. Turned out it was worth the extra $7.99. It was also worth the leap back into the Transformer franchise.

I’d actually skipped the reboot, so everything  but some of the Transformers that hold it all together was new to me. That’s actually a good thing. The sense of unfamiliarity added a freshness that I didn’t see coming. I ended up really liking the new normal of a manipulated Optimus Prime, who agressively clambered his way through the film, like he was hopped up on a robotic version of ‘roid rage. Mark Wahlberg is a welcome addition. His character brings the heft of grit and pluck necessary to face off against Transformageddon.

Sometimes, when a movie reminds the viewer of another movie, it’s annoying. Other times it’s cool and endearing. I found this one to be the latter. Squeeks has R2-D2ish cuteness, while Cogman is like a wilder, less prissy C-Threepio…who has taken up Olympic level athletics. There are also moments reminiscent of Star Trek, Tomb Raider, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Even a touch of Downtonesque charm. Yet, all of these elements generate enough uniqueness and originality to keep it fresh.

Anthony Hopkins’ Sir Edmund is great fun, made even moreso by his metal sidekick in the form of faithful manservant, Cogman. I could watch both or either of those two all day, as that aspect strikes me squarely in the quirky, off from center Anglophile funnybone. That the movie can also carry off the gravity of WWI and the misty moments of Camelot makes it extra enjoyable.

An aging franchise rebooting itself into something fresh and fun is a great idea, when it works. Transformers: The Last Knight has done it with fun, coolness, and a dash of panasche.

Transformers: The Last Knight Official Trailer

I’ve been sick for most of the past month. Thus the neglected Purple Koala. I’m starting to feel better, but for the moment I thought I’d drag a few posts I’m particularly fond of to the present. Ranging from the recent to the way, way back, slices of what was on my mind at different times 

Stories From My Mother–Flying High

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Will Our Future Be Worth Knob Fearful?

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Door To Another Time

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Random Images — Wuthering Heights

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​I saw an article about several tour companies ceasing to offer elephant rides as part of tours overseas. This is such good news for animal lovers…and of course the elephants in question. Apparently incredible cruelties are used to make elephants docile and submissive enough for tourists to ride them, as well as other ways they are used for entertainment. Though I didn’t know anything about methods used to make elephants suitable for human “enjoyment” until I recently read a little about the subject in passing, I formed strong feelings about elephants in captivity a long time ago.

It was a typical American zoo. Many fascinating exhibits showcasing animals most of us would never see in person, if these exhibits didn’t exist. The animals seemed well cared for and content.

Except for one.

There was one special place that was a magnet for the eager and adventurous zoo goer. Elephant Rides! A relatively large enclosure was set up in a dry, dusty area. It reminded me of the horse riding rings many small towns had when I was a child. People would trailer their horses in, so they could ride around and around a churned dirt field, essentially showing off their horsemanship to anyone interested enough to sit on bleachers in the hot sun, eating popcorn and drinking sweating cups of what was colloquially known as “co’ dranks”. The horse riding rings were enclosed in fences made up of posts and rough planks. The elephant riding dust pit was ringed by a fence made of metal poles and bars.

Like many people I love animals and want to be as close to them as possible. So I went with eagerness, excitement, and a modicum of fear to check out the elephant ride area. Several people waited in line, as a woman who looked like she couldn’t decide whether to laugh or throw up was assisted in mounting the very large lone elephant who waited to be humiliated yet again.

Yes, humiliated. Elephants have very expressive faces, oddly since their features aren’t as mobile as ours. As this female elephant, who might have been a proud matriarch in another time and place, stood stoically waiting for the signal to move, I was drawn to her eyes. They were the saddest eyes imaginable. I didn’t notice how she was handled or treated. It was as if I had fallen into a deep, sucking well of quiet dispair. She looked my way and I felt guilty for even standing near her static torture. I wanted to hug her. To whisper in her great, flopping ear that she was loved. Respected. A subject of awe. 

All I could do for her, as she was urged into motion, her passenger gaining the thrill of a lifetime at the expense of a lifetime of captivity, was make absolutely sure that she would carry one less person on her regal back that day. Very near tears, I turned and walked away. 

Obviously, the memory of that brief encounter has never left me. I had loved zoos and wildlife parks up until that day. Honestly, I still do to an extent. However much I dislike even the idea of wild animals in captivity, I also recognize the value of often rare opportunities to see living, breathing gorgeous-even-if-they’re-ugly creatures in habitats as close to their natural environments as possible. I don’t know how many people actually appreciate and understand the privilege of seeing an elephant’s eyelashes sweep across the orb of its gaze, a baby giraffe’s delicate spotted neck, or the rippling muscles beneath a zebra’s stripes, but if even one in a thousand zoo goers left a conservateur it would be one more person who understands the sense of responsibility and respect that needs to accompany admiration, even adoration of wildlife.

Some might say I think too much. I say many don’t think enough. Elephants are intelligent creatures, loving and loyal with their families and friends. They mourn their dead and sacrifice for the greater good. I will always remember the nobility of that gaze, the dignity of her stance, and compare her visible innate qualities so favorably against the conduct and demeanor of her passenger. There is no doubt which one I’d rather have for a friend.

Being rather fond of koalas, purple or not, I just had to share this People article about a koala that accidentally took a car trip in Australia. In a wheel well. Clinging to an axel. I love the Mad Max headline. It was the picture that caught my attention. The poor thing looked singed and stunned, but still adorable. Made me want to hug it, though I learned at Featherdale Wildlife Park in the Blue Mountains that you need to be kind of wary of them. They get eucalyptus oil on their claws, which can be bad for us nonfurry types if they scratch our skin. Thus the way they were handed over to eager huggers perched on a pillow they clung to instead of their human admirers. Apparently, they can have a bad day like we do. A popular one wasn’t allowed into the public area when I was there, because it was cranky. On the upside they smell slightly of eucalyptus and are generally just as sleepy, sweet, and adorable as they look in pictures. Sometimes I think the best life possible would be to live in New South Wales and have a tree full of koalas in the back yard. As long as you check your wheel wells before driving off. 

http://people.com/pets/mad-max-marsupial-koala-goes-on-wild-ride-through-australia-after-crawling-into-car/

Today would have been my mom’s 98th birthday. To commemorate the occasion I have one of her stories that makes me smile.

One day when she’s a little girl, she follows her mother around the house, helping with chores as much as she can. They hear a clatter from outside, and Grandmother sighs wearily. A peek around the curtains reveals the last thing a tired housewife wants to see. Honest John, a traveling salesman with a route that brings him to Miss Georgie’s door more often than she’d like. With a house full of children and a tight budget, temptation can be a curse. Even in the form of a walking store.

In no mood to be forced into roles as both hostess and reluctant shopper, this always (almost) sweet and welcoming housewife turns to her little daughter, bends low so as not to be misunderstood, and whispers into the small ear. “It’s Honest John! C’mon, Sarah. Let’s hide!”

A little shocked and a lot thrilled, by the unexpected game, Sarah takes her mother’s outstretched hand and creeps quietly with her across the big stretches of floor, until they reach the kitchen. They carefully pull out chairs and sit at the big wooden table where the family shares meals, celebrations and, apparently, sudden impromptu clandestine adventures.

The thing about impromptu clandestine adventures is that, not being well thought out, they they tend to fail. 

Not for lack of trying. 

Miss Georgie holds a finger to her lips, Little Sarah suppresses a stray giggle, and they relax, certain their unwanted visitor will soon leave. 

A knock at the front door.

Silence.

A second, more insistent knock.

“Miss Georgie?”

Breath-holding quiet blankets the house.

The conspirators share a smile. Surely, he’s halfway down the road, now that he’s given up….

“Good afternoon, Miss Georgie!”

Miss Georgie and Little Sarah nearly jump out of their chairs.

There stands Honest John, at the kitchen window, grinning at them through the screen. 

Of course, he is graciously invited in and most likely soon clutches a welcome glass of iced tea. He carries his wares on his circuit in a large case, which he opens and begins his well practiced presentation. 

Miss Georgie, of course, must buy something, as she knew would be the case, so Honest John’s persistence is rewarded with quenched thirst and the sale of a thimble.

Little Sarah is rewarded with a charming memory, complete with a suppressed giggle, that still carries a smile after almost a century has passed.

(An aside: My mom was a very mischievous child. Her older sister wanted to take a nice picture of just her mother, but my mom was determined to be in it too and kept sneaking in. No matter how many times she was chased away. She eventually achieved perfect timing, which resulted in my favorite picture of them together.)

Until recently I didn’t know Art Glass lamps existed. Probably a good thing for my pocketbook. I saw this one at Pier 1 months ago, but $100 was more than I was comfortable paying. Especially for something I could easily drop in the store parking lot and shatter into Art Glass particles.

A few days ago I went in and there it glowed, beckoning me closer. Beckoning even more strongly, like a static blinking neon sign, was the clearance price tag.

In keeping with most glass, it looks different in different light. Which makes it extremely decorative, as well as functional.

Sold!

An unexpected bonus I didn’t realize until I got it home is that its colors go perfectly with the purples and blues of the upholstery of my greatgrandmother’s Victorian Fainting Bed that just happens to be conveniently near the lamp table set to be its new home. 

Serendipity.

Sometimes my Art Glass obsession threatens to get me into trouble. Like when I covet a pricey piece of too fragile beauty. But then, when all my shopping stars align just right, my love of bargain hunting intervenes. So, now my living room will be brightened not just by the turn of a switch, but also the kind of accessible beauty that transforms an otherwise simple lamp into an extraordinary work of art.