Monday, December 28, 2020

The Great Ham Caper

My wife, Stacy, wrote this poem way back in Christmas 2006. It's about us and our cats, Rufus and Sam.

Her poem got some serious Web traffic, and it's been rerun annually since. Since we moved we have adopted a few more cats.

It's bittersweet now, since big red Rufus died on December 5, 2014. It was cancer and there was nothing we could have done. He had a wonderful life. He adored Stacy, who tamed him from a wild cat from the big city to a sweet, round, purring house cat. He had no idea he was on the Internet, of course.

For auld lang syne, here is the poem again, starring our two cats from Brooklyn, Rufus and Sam:

The Great Ham Caper

Words by Stacy Lynch
Pictures by Mike Lynch

’Twas the week before Christmas
When Rufus and Sam
Hatched a devious scheme
To make off with the ham!

The ham that would grace
The holiday table!
Roo was the brains.
Sam, wiry and able.

They devised a plan
Of Goldbergian proportions
With pulleys and weights
And kitty contortions.

And on Christmas day
They’d eat until stuffed
(The very idea
Made their tails slightly puffed!)

’Til then, they’d lay low,
Little angels to see.
But that made us suspicious –
Wouldn’t you be?

So we snooped and we sleuthed
And uncovered their caper -
“The Ham-Stealing Plan”
Diagrammed on a paper!

“No silly cat’s gonna
Steal my roast beast,”
Exclaimed Mike. “Just watch,
I’ll ruin their feast!”

So he countered their scheming
With mad plans all his own
And all I could do
Was inwardly groan!

Who’d win this contest
Of wits they were planning?
Would Mike, Roo or Sam -
Be last man or cat standing?

As Christmas day dawned
The four of us waited
For the ham to be served
With breaths that were bated.

But before the main course
Could even be plated
Their plans took a turn.
Some say it was fated...

What happened to stop them
So cold in their tracks?
Why, cat-nip and husb-nip
(in big canvas sacks)
Was all that it took
To stop their foul warring.
And they rolled and purred
And drooled on the flooring.And as long as I kept
My fingers and toes
Away from a hubby and two cats
In nip’s throes -
My own Christmas day
Turned out merry and calm;
The ham moist and succulent,
The champagne, a balm.

When they “awoke”,
hostilities abated,
We all ate some ham
And went to bed sated.

And such peace we wish
To you and to yours:
An end to fighting;
An end to wars.

Happy Holidays!

Mike and Stacy and Rufus and Sam

UPDATE: and, the "new" cats: Dexter and Fergus.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

It's time to be with family. So, this blog will be quiet for a time. I'll see you soon.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Jean Shepherd Reads "A Christmas Story"

Here's a recording made on Christmas Eve of 1974 of Jean Shepherd reading the story that would later become the movie "A Christmas Story." This is from his long-running WOR-AM radio show. The short story, which originally appeared in Playboy magazine, was then titled "Duel In The Snow, Or, Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid." It was published as a chapter from Shepherd's 1966 book, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash."


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Mark Evanier on Mel Tormé

One of the newer holiday traditions around here (thanks to YouTube) is The Judy Garland Christmas Show (1963), which was taped live and you can see it with commercials and everything. All of her children are on the show, as are Jack Jones, and Mel Tormé. 



Mel Tormé was a legend. He was a composer, singer, drummer, actor. He composed the music for "The Christmas Song" (the one with "chestnuts roasting over an open fire"), cowriting the lyrics with Bob Wells. If you were growing up in the TV age, he was on sitcoms and specials. 

Mark Evanier has a wonderful story of Tormé. It was originally written in 1999, the year Tormé passed away. He has repeated it every year. Here it is:




My Xmas Story by Mark Evanier

I want to tell you a story…

The scene is Farmers Market — the famed tourist mecca of Los Angeles. It's located but yards from the facility they call, "CBS Television City in Hollywood"…which, of course, is not in Hollywood but at least is very close.

Farmers Market is a quaint collection of bungalow stores, produce stalls and little stands where one can buy darn near anything edible one wishes to devour. You buy your pizza slice or sandwich or Chinese food or whatever at one of umpteen counters, then carry it on a tray to an open-air table for consumption.

During the Summer or on weekends, the place is full of families and tourists and Japanese tour groups. But this was a winter weekday, not long before Christmas, and the crowd was mostly older folks, dawdling over coffee and danish. For most of them, it's a good place to get a donut or a taco, to sit and read the paper.

For me, it's a good place to get out of the house and grab something to eat. I arrived, headed for my favorite barbecue stand and, en route, noticed that Mel Tormé was seated at one of the tables.

Mel Tormé. My favorite singer. Just sitting there, sipping a cup of coffee, munching on an English Muffin, reading The New York Times. Mel Tormé.

I had never met Mel Tormé. Alas, I still haven't and now I never will. He looked like he was engrossed in the paper that day so I didn't stop and say, "Excuse me, I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed all your records." I wish I had.

Instead, I continued over to the BBQ place, got myself a chicken sandwich and settled down at a table to consume it. I was about halfway through when four Christmas carolers strolled by, singing "Let It Snow," a cappella.

They were young adults with strong, fine voices and they were all clad in splendid Victorian garb. The Market had hired them (I assume) to stroll about and sing for the diners — a little touch of the holidays.

"Let It Snow" concluded not far from me to polite applause from all within earshot. I waved the leader of the chorale over and directed his attention to Mr. Tormé, seated about twenty yards from me.

"That's Mel Tormé down there. Do you know who he is?"

The singer was about 25 so it didn't horrify me that he said, "No."

I asked, "Do you know 'The Christmas Song?'"

Again, a "No."

I said, "That's the one that starts, 'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…'"

"Oh, yes," the caroler chirped. "Is that what it's called? 'The Christmas Song?'"

"That's the name," I explained. "And that man wrote it." The singer thanked me, returned to his group for a brief huddle…and then they strolled down towards Mel Tormé. I ditched the rest of my sandwich and followed, a few steps behind. As they reached their quarry, they began singing, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…" directly to him.

A big smile formed on Mel Tormé's face — and it wasn't the only one around. Most of those sitting at nearby tables knew who he was and many seemed aware of the significance of singing that song to him. For those who didn't, there was a sudden flurry of whispers: "That's Mel Tormé…he wrote that…"

As the choir reached the last chorus or two of the song, Mel got to his feet and made a little gesture that meant, "Let me sing one chorus solo." The carolers — all still apparently unaware they were in the presence of one of the world's great singers — looked a bit uncomfortable. I'd bet at least a couple were thinking, "Oh, no…the little fat guy wants to sing."

But they stopped and the little fat guy started to sing…and, of course, out came this beautiful, melodic, perfectly-on-pitch voice. The look on the face of the singer I'd briefed was amazed at first…then properly impressed.

On Mr. Tormé's signal, they all joined in on the final lines: "Although it's been said, many times, many ways…Merry Christmas to you…" Big smiles all around.

And not just from them. I looked and at all the tables surrounding the impromptu performance, I saw huge grins of delight…which segued, as the song ended, into a huge burst of applause. The whole tune only lasted about two minutes but I doubt anyone who was there will ever forget it.

I have witnessed a number of thrilling "show business" moments — those incidents, far and few between, where all the little hairs on your epidermis snap to attention and tingle with joy. Usually, these occur on a screen or stage. I hadn't expected to experience one next to a falafel stand — but I did.

Tormé thanked the harmonizers for the serenade and one of the women said, "You really wrote that?"

He nodded. "A wonderful songwriter named Bob Wells and I wrote that…and, get this — we did it on the hottest day of the year in July. It was a way to cool down."

Then the gent I'd briefed said, "You know, you're not a bad singer." He actually said that to Mel Tormé.

Mel chuckled. He realized that these four young folks hadn't the velvet-foggiest notion who he was, above and beyond the fact that he'd worked on that classic carol. "Well," he said. "I've actually made a few records in my day…"

"Really?" the other man asked. "How many?"

Tormé smiled and said, "Ninety."

I probably own about half of them on vinyl and/or CD. For some reason, they sound better on vinyl. (My favorite was the album he made with Buddy Rich. Go ahead. Find me a better parlay of singer and drummer. I'll wait.)

Today, as I'm reading obits, I'm reminded of that moment. And I'm impressed to remember that Mel Tormé was also an accomplished author and actor. Mostly though, I'm recalling that pre-Christmas afternoon.

I love people who do something so well that you can't conceive of it being done better. Doesn't even have to be something important: Singing, dancing, plate-spinning, mooning your neighbor's cat, whatever. There is a certain beauty to doing almost anything to perfection.

No recording exists of that chorus that Mel Tormé sang for the other diners at Farmers Market but if you never believe another word I write, trust me on this. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas Time Spirou Magazine Covers

Some lovely covers from the 1950s thru the 70s from Spirou Magazine (and one from the Tintin Journal).  Spirou has been, since 1938, a weekly Franco-Belgian comics magazine published by the Dupuis company. European comics goodness!

Oh, this one is from 2015:


Lambiek: About Spirou

TCJ: Behind the Blue: The Story of Peyo

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

72 Years Ago: Deck Us All With Boston Charlie!

Via Maggie Thompson with thanks: A holiday tradition began 72 years ago. Celebrate the anniversary! Sing along! © 1948 Walt Kelly



The Subway Scene with Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in "A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood" (2019)

The Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers movie, A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood (2019), had such a tough challenge. Rogers is such an iconic figure, and easy to parody. Here's the best scene from the movie, with Hanks pulling off the acting challenge in a sweet real-life inspired moment. It's NOT about Christmas, but this 2 minute clip made me feel Christmassy.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Video: Ronald Searle Introduces "The Making of Scrooge" (1970)


Ronald Searle introduces this behind the scenes short promo for the film "Scrooge" (1970). Searle was involved in the film, creating the illustrated titles for the Albert Finney musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."



Background: there was going to be a Ronald Searle-drawn animated adaptation of Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Good news!

But the bad news is: the project did not happen.

The good news: LIFE Magazine presented Searle's concept art -- and these became the drawings for a Searle edition of A CHRISTMAS CAROL book edition.

Via Matt Jone's "Ronald Searle in America" Facebook page:

"Did you know Ronald Searle almost made an animated film of Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'? Unfortunately it didn't pan out and his pitch drawings were published in LIFE magazine then expanded for an edition of the novel."


Searle illustrated an edition of the book, published in 1960 by Perpetua Press. 

His iconic drawings later became the first thing you see when you watch the movie Scrooge.  Great to see an illustrator showcased in the movie promo above!


Art of the Title has scans of Searle's Scrooge film title drawings, as well as video of the opening title sequence here.

Film director Mike Leigh: "Ronald Searle taught me filmmaking"

Friday, December 18, 2020

Video: Peanuts at 70

 From the Library of America:

LOA Live: A conversation with Sarah Boxer, Jonathan Lethem, Clifford Thompson, and Chris Ware, moderated by Andrew Blauner. 

In 1950 Charles M. Schulz debuted a comic strip that is one of the indisputable glories of American popular culture—hilarious, poignant, inimitable. The "Peanuts" characters continue to resonate with millions of fans, their beguiling four-panel adventures and television escapades offering lessons about happiness, friendship, disappointment, childhood, and life itself. 

Andrew Blauner, editor of the LOA anthology "The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life," joins four distinguished contributors to the collection for a seventieth anniversary conversation reflecting on the deeper truths of Schulz’s deceptively simple strip and its impact on their lives and art and on the broader culture. 

Presented in partnership with Peanuts Worldwide and the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

From the Dick Buchanan Files: Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 10 1949 - 1966

Wow! Here's another batch of gag cartoon clichés that have been collected over the years by our friend Dick Buchanan. Thanks, Dick. And don't forget to look at all of the other clichés that Dick has cataloged. Including this entry, there are now fifty magazine cartoon clichés, with 150 samples. My goodness! A feast.

Just in case you need more:

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 1

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 2

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 3

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 4

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 5 

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 6 

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 7 

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 8 

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 9

And here's the latest! Thanks, Dick!


(1949 - 1966)

Cartoon Clip File Cliché Compendium continues the task of surveying gag cartoon clichés prevalent during the mid-20th Century. Haphazardly culled from the leading magazines of the era, these gag cartoons illustrate cartoonist’s attempts to add a new twist to an old situation. Sometimes they were inspired, other times they fell flat into the same old rut that begat the cliché in the first place.
It was all in fun.


1. DAN DANGLO. 1000 Jokes Magazine March-May, 1956.

2. VAHAN SHIRVANIAN. 1000 Jokes Magazine December, 1959-February, 1960.

3. AL JOHNS. The Saturday Evening Post. October 10, 1959.


1. JOHN DEMPSEY. 1000 Jokes Magazine August-October, 1954.

2. REAMER KELLER. Collier’s March 28, 1953.

3. HERB WILLIAMS. American Magazine February, 1949.


1. ROBERT DAY. Collier’s September 25, 1948.

2. HANK KETCHAM. Collier’s July 2, 1949.

3. AL JOHNS. The Saturday Evening Post October 10, 1959.


1. DICK ERICSON. 1000 Jokes Magazine December 1965-February, 1966.

2. GUSTAV LUNDBERG. 1000 Jokes Magazine May-July, 1955.

3. VIRGIL PARTCH. True Magazine November, 1956.


1. ROBERT DAY. The Saturday Evening Post February 11, 1950.

2. CLYDE LAMB. American Legion Magazine November, 1953.

3. VAHAN SHIRVANIAN. 1000 Jokes Magazine March-May, 1958.

Need more?

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 1

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 2

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 3

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 4

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 5 

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 6 

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 7 

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 8 

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 9

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

From the Dick Buchanan Files: Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 9 1937 - 1968

Courtesy of the massive gag cartoon clip files of Dick Buchanan, here are some more gag cartoon clichés. This is part nine of this study, and there are links to other samples that Dick has culled below. My goodness, go and see! My thanks to him for this and -- take it away, Mr. B:

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 1
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 2
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 3
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 4
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 5
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 6
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 7
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 8  


(1937 - 1968)

The Cartoon Clip File continues the task of surveying gag cartoon clichés prevalent during the mid-20th Century. We began compiling this illustrated list when confronted with a list of 100 Gag Cartoon clichés more than a year ago. Over time we have used this list as a guide, finding typical examples of gag cartoons from the great magazines of the era. Our research also uncovered several examples of clichés which were not on the list so we have added them to this accounting, creating the Cartoon Clip File Cliché Compendium. Here is the latest installment . . .


1. CLYDE LAMB. 1000 Jokes Magazine August-October, 1954.

2. ELMER ATKINS. Collier’s April 16, 1954.

3. GARDNER REA. 1000 Jokes Magazine March-May, 1964.


1. ORLANDO BUSINO. Boys’ Life November, 1968.

2. CLYDE LAMB. American Legion Magazine December, 1953.

3. A.F. WILES. Punch July 2, 1958.


1. BILL YATES. American Legion Magazine January, 1956.

2. GEORGE CRENSHAW. 1000 Jokes Magazine Winter, 1950.

3. ROBERT CHURCHILL. The Saturday Evening Post February 24, 1951.


1. PERRY BARLOW. Collier’s June 2, 1937.

2. SALO ROTH. The Saturday Evening Post July 30, 1949.

3. ROLAND COE. Collier’s August 1, 1942.


1. REAMER KELLER. Judge March, 1947.

2. GEORGE DOLE. The Saturday Evening Post August 28, 1965.

3. BOB WEBER. True August, 1962.

Need more?

Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 1
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 2
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 3
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 4
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 5
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 6
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 7
Gag Cartoon Clichés Part 8