The January Debatable proved a lively round of arguing. Mike Allegra appointed Jilanne Hoffmann as his proxy while he trotted off to a fellowship for work on his newest creative endeavor. Niggling wonderment if the fellowship is just a guise not to lose another round of Debatables traisped across my pathway of reason for not participating. I mean, I teach, grade essays, and contribute to my blog on a weekly basis… Y’know–just wondering.
This month’s topic of contention for readers to decide: Which scene is more ominous–Edward from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe meeting the White Witch in the winter woods of Narnia or Scrooge meeting up with the ghost of Marley one dark night in A Christmas Carol?
How could anyone not see the ominous aspect of this scene? That is one creepy lady. Beware, Edmund! Beware!
Jilanne proved to be a formidable debate partner. Even with sound logic and a solid grasp of what ominous really means from readers such CharlesBakerHarris , Chelsea Owens, and Courtney Wright, Edmund could not nudge past the last minute flurry of voting for Scrooge’s encounter with Marley. Even Mr. Allegra went the way of ghost protocol. [Really, Mike?]
Jilanne wins the January round, and she added her own style of quippery to the verbal sparring.
I know–doesn’t impress me as ominous, either.
If you missed out, you can backtrack and read our exchange here. You can even still vote–as long as it’s for Edmund, and as long as you know it’s only to make me feel better.
The usual monthly Debatable format shall be slightly different this month. Mike Allegra, that talented, and becoming increasingly prolific writer, is off on a month-long fellowship diligently working on his book. This means he does not have the time, nor can he spare the creative pundit, to dabble in quibbling and debating. In his stead, he has asked Jilanne Hoffman, a capable author in her own right, to quibble and debate upon a chosen topic. He likened it to her being a tribute. I promise no life-threatening survivalist tactics will be forthcoming. Instead, I offer a warm welcome for Jilanne. Please feel free to trot over and check out her blog. I suggest signing up her updates and such while you are there. She has a fascinating bio: Jilanne Hoffmann has been a zoo train engineer and a “real” engineer, but switched to freelance writing 20+ years ago and now enjoys writing stories for kids and adults. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, has read at Listen to Your Mother – San Francisco, and is an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Rutgers One-on-One Conference. One of her stories is included in a forthcoming anthology (Feb 2019), “She’s Got This: Essays on Standing Strong and Moving On.” She is currently at work on a new adult novel and many, many picture books.
Today’s Topic: What is the most ominous winter scene from a juvie book?
I have selected the passage from the C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, where Edmund meets the White Witchupon his entry into Narnia.
Jilanne has decided upon the scene where Scrooge meets up with Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
The same guidelines apply: we each have 300ish words to state our case, and then another 150 to counter argue.
Let the quibbling begin!
First off, a definition of ominous is needed:
om·i·nous/ˈämənəs/adjective:giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen; threatening; inauspicious.
For those not familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, the first book introduces readers to the Pevensie children: Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan. Lucy finds her way into the enchanted land of Narnia, yet her siblings disbelieve her.
In chapters three and four Edmund follows Lucy into a wardrobe during a game of hide and seek, and unexpectedly enters Narnia, where it is winter. His paradigm has definitely shifted. A stranger in a strange land, he decides “he did not much like this place.” Tension builds. He can’t find Lucy, he is freezing cold, and wonders how to get home. Desolation increases–that feeling of”something bad or unpleasant is going to happen” is about to happen.
In the distance a sound of bells. They come nearer. What can be approaching? A threat forms. Suddenly a sledge drawn by reindeer driven by a bearded dwarf appears. This is not promising. What’s really startling is the formidable woman seated in the sledge, who holds a wand and wears a crown. Her severe manner startles Edmund into stuttering out his name. She demands information from him. The interview’s only bright spot is the Turkish Delight she provides. But wait! Readers are informed that the candy is tainted with her evilness, creating a craving for more, to the point of Edmund promises to turn over his brother and sisters to this imposing woman to satisfy his craving.
Minutes later, Lucy and Edmund reunite and Edmund discovers he’s been fraternizing with a witch, the dreaded White Witch. Edmund is sick with his realization (not to mention the overindulgence of Turkish Delight).
This scene is truly frightening: a lost child, cold, made more miserable upon understanding how badly he’s messed up. Lewis knows how to capture the fears of childhood, and creates an absolute memorable ominous scene.
I nominate Jacob Marley’s chilling scene from A Christmas Carol. It has always terrified me. Scrooge feels a “strange, inexplicable dread” as bells clamor in his gloomy house and then stop, followed by “a clanking noise, deep down below, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine merchant’s cellar….the cellar door flew open with a booming sound…the noise much louder on the floors below, then coming up the stairs, then coming straight towards his door.” I cowered behind my mother as she read, my head under the covers, hoping this ghost would take only her and let me live.
Jacob Marley, a “bristling” specter drapedwith the miserly chains of cash boxes, ledgers, and purses he forged in life,has “death-cold eyes” and a handkerchief wound round his head like a bandage.Although he sits still, his “hair and skirts and tassels were still agitated asby the hot vapor from an oven.” When Scrooge doubts his vision, Marley removesthe bandage, releasing his lower jaw onto his breast. Aghhhh! Dives below theblankets yet again, and stays there.
Marley hears “sounds of lamentations and regret, wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory” outside the window. He joins in “the mournful dirge” before floating “out upon the bleak, dark night.” Scrooge peers out the window and sees “phantoms wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went.” Each wore chains like Marley’s ghost. This scene could turn anyone but Voldemort into a philanthropist.
Ah, even in Mike’s absence, quibbling is still a part of the format. So—
Cricket’s Rebuttal: Quibble point #1: Yes, ghosts are scary. Yet, does winter really play into this scene? Ghosts can appear any time of the year. Marley’s ghost is not even associated with Christmas specifically; he’s just the forerunner of other visitors. And is Scrooge actually intimidated? He is doubtful and doesn’t become a philanthropist at that point. A scary scene, but not really ominous.
Quibble point #2: Did Dickens write this for children? Wasn’t he actually trying to soften the hard hearts of adults?
Main point: The cold, foreboding setting of the perennial winter forest creates an unpropitious mood. Add in that austere White Witch and her toxic Turkish Delight, and a menacing winter scene designed just for children is created. Lewis imbues an impactful lesson: taking treats from wicked witches can lead to all sorts a serious trouble beyond tummy aches–becoming a traitor is indeed ominous.
Winter plays a HUGE role. Scrooge’s rooms are bitterly cold and dark, like his heart, a stark contrast to generosity and warmth. PLUS Scrooge does fall to his knees, asking for mercy when Marley raises “a frightful cry.”
Ditch authorial intent. It’s like asking Maurice Sendak if he really wrote for children. By the time kids reach the age of reason (seven), they know this story and its meaning: be generous and compassionate toward those less fortunate.
My quibble for you:
Edmund’s not scared. He’s cold and in a strange place, but he spies a bearded dwarf (Santa!), a sleigh, and reindeer. Fun! The queen’s just a brittle genealogist seeking to identify Edmund’s siblings. Plus the promise of a title! Who doesn’t want to be a prince and eat sweets, bellyache notwithstanding? Marley’s ominous promise, OTOH, led me to save my quarters for charity before I was five years old!
And there we have it–two scenes that should elicit feelings of something threatening or bad about to happen.
Readers: as a child reader, which is more ominous to you?
Let the voting begin–and, of course, comments are always encouraged.
I really like the time around New Year’s. Turning the calendar page, fresh start, anticipating what’s ahead, knowing that the midpoint of the school year has arrived and I’m ready to return for second semester.
It’s also a time I feel the need to tidy up: closets, projects, pantry, and my email gets a sound once over. This month’s feature of Word Nerd gets an extra dose of cleaning up. Some of these words have been lingering in the queue for over two years. Time to dust them off and send them out in the bright new year of 2019.
*This became the word one year in my AP Lit class. It found its way merrily into many an essay.
*I do so like this one. However, I feel a bit snooty when I insert it in a sentence.
*A personal favorite. I do so cringe when people say “a small, little”–it’s small or little. And don’t say “very unique” around me either. Yes, real estate blurbs are the worst offenders.
*footle and gleek must be pals
*As a child I remember a comic strip called “The Katzenjammer Kid’s”–they were naughty little trouble makers. Ah, they obviously caused their parents distress.
This word is supposedly obsolete, yet I think it could catch on once again. Bumper sticker stuff: Experience Esperance.
Well, my word closet is a bit less crowded. I hope you picked up a couple or a few new words to carry you into the new year.
Any favorites from the list? As for the usual challenge of creating a sentence with all the words (20!)? Only if you are up for it.
At school we hurry through the last unit, hoping to complete it before
a)an unexpected snow day hits
b)the current bout of flu doesn’t empty out the classes
c)too many of my students leave for early vacation.
At home it’s a flurry of hurry as I shop, package, insert, check lists, pull down boxes, search and find–that is, when I am not grading those last minute assignments.
The wait part is counting down days to Christmas Break. We voted to make 12/21 the exit day in order to have an extra week at the end of break, instead of at the beginning. Fumes of distinctive burn out permeated the hallways on Friday. Everyone was tired. I know waiting so long for the break to begin will mean I enjoy that much more–right?
I did a happy dance in the kitchen on Saturday 12/22. Walked around in the brisk, sunny, pre-snowstorm. Definitely appreciated the Christmas weekend. Love being on break.
It’s Wednesday. Umm, how long before we go back to school?
It’s true: You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.
So far I’ve read two books, answered a dozen Quora requests, watched three movies, straightened up my Hamlet unit, polished my Merchant of Venice lesson plan, finished a puzzle, made a batch of cookies, tried out my new walking poles (thanks, Hon), slept in (6 am!). Now what?
Sheesh–I better figure out something about down time. I’ve got about four years to retirement.
Each month, Mike Allegra and I take on debating mostly meritable topics concerning children’s literature. We each state our initial argument in about 250 words and then add on a 150ish counter argument. You then, dear readers, vote accordingly and add in commentary. Mike and I look forward to the votes, and truly relish your comments.
Our December Debatable focused on Christmas specials based on books. I offered the perennial classic: Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, based on the song, which is based on the Montgomery Ward coloring book. The book lasted longer than the store, sadly.
Mike, suggested his usual underdog, a relative newcomer to the seasonal menu: A Wish for Wings That Work based on the title by adult/children’s writer Berkeley Breathed, known for his Bloom County comics.
This month proved, well, ummm, different. Lots of likes and visits. Few commitments. Mike edged the voting outcome by one vote–two, if you go by what Mike says. Anyway, quibbling aside, Mike is the winner. The score is now *gasp* EVEN! We are now 3-3.
Stay tuned for January’s Debatable. A winter theme? Open to suggestions. Leave your comments and certainly your suggestions for new Debatable topics.
Yes, ’tis the season. It used to come right after Thanksgiving, as in the Friday after, but now XMas Retail–totally different than Christmas (a post for maybe Mitch Teemley to muse upon?) is upon us. And with it comes all the holiday hoopla: decorations, music, food, commercials, events, and specials.
Mike Allegra and I are taking on Christmas specials based on children’s books in this month’s issue of Debatables. Last month we discussed which children’s lit character deserves to be a Macy’s Day Parade balloon. Mike won that round. See all the glorious discussion and scrabbling here.
If you are not familiar with Debatables–Welcome!
If you are–Welcome back!
Each month, Mike Allegra and I take on debating mostly meritable topics concerning children’s literature. We each state our initial argument in about 250 words and then add on a 150ish counter argument. You then, dear readers, vote accordingly and add in commentary. Mike and I look forward to the votes, and truly relish your comments. Mike says the score is now 3-2. I lead. This could be an important session.
I am offering the perennial classic: Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, based on the song, which is based on the Montgomery Ward coloring book. You probably didn’t know that, did you?
Mike, that gregarious children’s author who is rocking the publishing world with ninja cows and princes of regard, is suggesting a relative newcomer to the seasonal menu: A Wish for Wings That Work based on the title by adult/children’s writer Berkeley Breathed, known for his Bloom County comics.
Mike’s Opening Argument:
Few creatures, (even in Christmas specials) match the inimitable, innocent, guileless sweetness of Opus the Penguin. His personality stands in stark contrast to his id-inclinedBloom Countycomic strip cohorts. This big-shnozzled little fella always puts others’ needs before his own.
So it seems only fair that as Christmas approaches Opus should take a little time to consider his own wants. And Opus wants to fly. Heneedsto fly.
A Wish for Wings That Workwas published after Berkeley Breathed suddenly (and heartbreakingly) discontinued theBloom Countycomic strip. It’s arrival was like a breath of fresh air. Opus was back! And he was in a wonderful story, pursuing a passionate goal—a goal he achieves just by being his old penguin-y self.
The cartoon (presented here in full) remains true to the book while expanding upon it, drawing in old favorite Bill the Cat as well as introducing new characters from Breathed’s then-recently christened Sunday-only strip,Outland. It’s a cartoon that works on just about every level, even if you aren’t familiar withBloom County(but especially if you are). Much likeBloom County, the special mixes the sweet and the salty, kid humor with adult humor. And it rewards people who pay attention; some of the best jokes linger unobtrusively in the background.
And, best of all, there’s that ending! It gives me happy chills every time I see it. Do yourself a favor. Watch the cartoon; you’ll see what I mean.Click on the link below for Opus in action:
We might think of it just being the ubiquitous song that everyone at every age knows, but Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is pretty special, as in seasonal special. This song came out in 1949 based on the coloring book story created for Montgomery Wards. Although the Rankin special deviated tremendously from the original story it’s become a classic in it’s own right:
Burl Ives sings some snappy tunes
Memorable characters like Hermey the wannabe dentist
The Island of Misfit Toys
How about the Abominable Snow Monster?
And of course the famous Rankin/Bass stop motion animation
It’s a crowd pleaser about how non-conformists are contributors to society, and are, in fact, heroes in their own right. Click on the link below for cute clip:
From a kid’s coloring book to a traditional song to a classic cartoon—Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is the one special that is so special it’s the special of all specials. All the others are simply paying tribute to an original. It’s been part of tradition since 1964, and keeps on ticking despite current fine-tooth scrutiny for issues. Rudolph and his friends provide a generational bonding, and the bonus is everyone can sing along.
As a child, I watchedRudolphevery year and enjoyed it.As an adult, however, theRudolphstory bothers me. Poor Rudolph is cruelly shunned by his peers—and is only accepted back into the fray once his glowing nose proves useful.
That’s a Christmas story that could’ve been written by Ayn Rand.
A Wish For Wings That Work, on the other hand, is a story driven by a strong-willed (and strongly motivated!) character who lives in Bloom County, a wonderful Land of Misfit Everything—including tater tot-brained cats, rhino-pigs, cross-dressing cockroaches, and a toy store owned by General Norman Schwarzkopf. Opus may be teased, but he’s never shunned. After all, Opus and all of his eccentricities are a great fit for this unapologetically odd and accepting place. Rudolph may take place in Santa’s backyard, but Bloom County better exemplifies the generous, supportive spirit of the
Cricket’s Final Say:
Rudolph overcomes adversity with the bonus of acceptance, providing a story arc of beginning, middle, and a rousing resolution. Opus? He is harshly teased by some really odd ducks, who eventually come around to helping him out with his flight fantasy. Yet, there is no real resolution. The last we see of Opus he’s enjoying mock-flying. How long is that going to last? And Bill—Mike, did you forget how cruelly Opus treated the cat he rescued? He never even apologized for his scathing remarks. Rudolph is upbeat while Bloom County is quirky.
Rudolph or Opus? Which special is special to you? Cast your vote, and add your comments. Thanks for stopping by and watch out for fruitcake. That’s one tradition we could do without.
Macy’s Parade has come and gone along with the November issue of Debatable. This month’s topic was filled with more than the usual amount of hot air as Mike Allegra, that rascally writer fellow who is loved and adored by his thousands of followers, won the round with his pitch of nominating Peter of the Snowy Day as a future Macy Day Parade balloon.
Admittedly, it is s good choice, yet I still contend the parade is all about the lightness of being and Tigger certainly fits that description.
Personally, I think Tigger and Peter would enjoy a snowy day together. Who knows? Maybe they’ll both be balloons one day.
So, congratulations, Mike. For once all your glorious and uplifting promotional ballyhooing rose up to to even greater heights.
Stay tuned for December’s Debatable edition in which Mike and I contest our choices for seasonal specials.
Mike is really, really funny. Check out hisblogand you’ll see why.
On to Debatables:
Here are the ground rules: Each Debater is allowed one brief argument (fewer than 300 words) on a
previously agreed-upon topic. These brief arguments will then be followed by a briefer rebuttal (fewer than
Today’s Topic: Who is the scariest villain found in juvenile literature?
Cricket is nominating Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s classic 101 Dalmatians.
Mike is suggesting:The cat from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat(haven’t we been here before?)
Many of the most evil villains in history have one trait in common: they pretend to serve the best interests
of others. Hitler was elected on a promise to lift Germany out of its economic crisis. Lenin and Stalin
promised to give more power to the Working Man. And The Cat in the Hat promised an innocent boy and
girl a little fun on a rainy day. What the Germans, Russians, and Seuss Kids ended up with, however, was far different than what they
were promised. Yet The Cat in the Hat is sneakier than the other villains mentioned above, for he has a talent for charm and
charisma—personality traits he uses to mask his villainy. The Cat is so skilled in this regard that many
readers fail to notice (or are happy to overlook) this felonious feline’s evil acts!
(Mike says Sally is being clotheslined–not exactly pictured) “Oh, The Cat isn’t that bad,” some might say. “After all, he did clean up the house at the end of the book.
Shouldn’t that count for something?” No, it shouldn’t. And here’s why. In only 64 pages, that cat racks up a long list of terrible deeds. He breaks into a home, destroys property,
abuses an animal, abets assault and battery (via The Things), and endangers the welfare of two children. He does it all with a smile on his face. And he gets off scott free! The Cat’s cleaning machine might erase the physical damage he created—but consider the psychological
damage. The Cat’s amoral actions would terrorize any child—and would almost certainly result in lasting—
perhaps lifelong—repercussions. His victims could end up suffering from recurring nightmares, anxiety,
trust issues, and clinical depression. That’s a lot of damage, and The Cat doesn’t have a machine to clean
that mess up, does he?
While I am amewsed Mike chose the Cat from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat,villains are a serious business
and dog gone it, selecting the scariest villain in juvenile literature leads to the one and only Cruella de Vil.
Before Disney catapulted her to fame as the diabolical dalmatian-kidnapper, Cruella de Vil held her own
in Dodie Smith’s 1956 story of Pongo and his attempts to save his fifteen puppies from becoming Cruella’s
newest fur coat. Right there, the fact that this woman wants to slaughter puppies to wear as a fashion
statement should make you twitter up a rage post.
Villains are aptly named. Dodie gave her readers a big hint: Cruella de Vil? A spin off of “cruel devil.”
Although Disney’s portrayal of Cruella is transfixing, Dodie defined her pretty well in the novel. Here are
eats everything with pepper and tastes like pepper (found out when nipped by a puppy)
drowned dozens of her Persian’s kittens
her family home is called Hell Hall
her fireplace fires are as hot as (see above)
her house interior is prone towards red
she drives a zebra-striped car with the loudest horn in England
expelled from school for drinking ink
her London flat was originally purchased by Count De Ville, an alias for Dracula
Here is an extra tidbit:ranked 39th on the AFI list of villains
A megalomaniacal tyrant with a streak of narcissism, she is a cruel devil of a woman who even
contemplated skinning the kidnapped puppies alive. Double yikes! This scary villain has found her way
into all sorts of popular culture, from song lyrics to movie lines to Lady Gaga’s choice costume. Puppy
stealer, kitten drowner, pepper eater, and related to Dracula–this is a way scary villain. Plus she is a terrible
driver. Lock up your puppies and stay off the roads if she is about.
Cruella is evil. Very much so. But she wears her evil like a badge of honor, advertising it to everyone. Her
very existence is a harsh warning to stay away. Now, if I may quote Kaiser Sose, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he
didn’t exist.” The Cat is the devil we didn’t know existed. He can hide his evil behind false innocence and a perceived
eagerness to please. This is the M.O. of the most effective predators: the fellow in the park “looking for his
lost dog,” or the friendly stranger who kindly offers “to give you a lift home.” The Cat is cut from a similar cloth. Once he wins over his audience with a smile and a tip of his hat, he
becomes an agent of chaos. And, like The Joker from The Dark Knight, The Cat delights in the horror he
Mike implies Cruella wants people to stay away from her and that she advertises her evil like a
well-deserved medal. This assumption would mean she cares about what people think of her. Truthfully?
She could care less what people think of her. Her actions indicate she doesn’t care about anybody except
herself. All the havoc she creates from personal insults to animal abuse is because she is self-centered with
a hateful regard towards others. Her devilish behavior doesn’t require an audience like Seuss’s Cat.
Cruella’s evil deeds are not beguiling antics that are mischievous or even ambiguous in their intent.
Cruella is all about villainous, malodorous mayhem. She doesn’t care who she hurts and doesn’t try to be
charming—she is and will always be Cruella, Cruella de Vil.
If she doesn’t scare you then no evil thing will.
If new to DOWO, it stands for Dictionary of Word Origins by Jordan Almond, which is a new source for exploring all those words, expressions, idioms, and clichés that abound in our language having thoroughly explored our previous source Why We Say.
If you were here last month around the fifteenth, you know we have already covered the “A” list. We are now off exploring the “B” list:
Why is the four year degree called a “bachelor’s” degree?
Originally a bachelor was a soldier, a man neither old enough or wealthy enough to lead into battle under his own banner, and was considered to be inferior in status. When colleges became more popular, to distinguish between the levels of study and awarded degrees, “bachelor” was the indicated inferior to that of “doctor.”
No mention of how “master” came to be, and it is of note that a “master” is lower than a”doctor” designation, yet “master” does carry more significance than a “mister” status.
How did “taking the back seat” come to mean taking a lesser position?
British Parliment dictates that those members of the majority part take the front seats while those in minority are relegated to the back, or are told to do so. In case you are wondering if it is “back seat” or “backseat” here is the discussion:
Where did the term “bankrupt”come from?
In Italy money-changers placed money available to loan on a banca or bench. If unable to continue in business, the bench would be broken or banca rotta. The broken bench became synonymous with the broken money lender and both were banca rotta or “bankrupt.”
What is a “bare-face lie?”
To tell a lie without having show your face is much easier than having to face someone and tell a lie, as in trying to keep a straight face while communicating a big fat fib.
Why is an airship called a “blimp?”
It was almost called “A-limp.” In 1914 England began testing airships, and of the two designs the “B-limp” rose to usage. Why “limp?” It was non-rigid–but you guessed that right?
What is meant by “once in a blue moon?”
Blue moons supposedly never happen, which was the original saying. However, moons can appear blue when seen through volcanic explosion ash, so maybe, just maybe a blue can be seen–but just barely. They are fairly rare and their appearance may only happen once in a person’s lifetime.
Why does a person “bone up” for exams?
The Bohn publishing printed up study aids for students which were referred to as a “Bohn up” later becoming a “bone up” as a play on “bonehead” meaning a person who wasn’t smart (because you must have a thick skull and no brains if you need extra help studying).
What is meant by “getting down to brass tacks?”
In early England draper shops the draper placed brass tacks along the counter to aid in measuring off material. When a customer was ready to purchase cloth the draper would get the desired stock down to the brass tacks to measure off and complete the transaction.
Where did the term “bus boy” come from?
The Latin term omnibus means “for all.” An “omnibus boy” was a lad who did a bit of everything, and it became shortened to “bus boy.”
Which saying totally made your day, tweaked your paradigm, or prompted you to immediately want to run out and share with someone?