J.R.R. Tolkien & Father Christmas

FatherChristmasLetterSelfPortraitEdited1931 It is the birthday of English writer and scholar, J.R.R. Tolkien (born January 3, 1892). Among his now published writings is a series of his letters from “Father Christmas” (aka Santa Claus) to his children in years 1920-1943. Tolkien’s children are John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla.

These annual letters include lively snippets of the life of this Father Christmas whose residence is in the North Pole. Among the cast of characters who assist Father Christmas are Polar Bear and his visiting nephews, Paksu and Valkotukka, and an elf assistant, Ilbereth. As they grapple throughout the year with various calamities including too much snow or flooding, goblin attacks and other misadventures, Father Christmas and his helpers strive to make sure Christmas deliveries can be made on time every December.

Tolkien drew colorful pictures to accompany the text of the letters. Following Tolkien’s death in 1973 and beginning in 1976, several different compilations and editions of these “Father Christmas” letters have been published.

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1926 — The Northern Lights






NPB (North Polar Bear) named Karhu


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That’s Entertainment!

I recently saw for the first time the 1953 movie musical “The Band Wagon” where the song “That’s Entertainment” is from (this song subsequently became the title of the mid 1970s documentary “That’s Entertainment” that highlighted the late 1920s – late 1950s era of the Hollywood musical).

I wasn’t aware that there was actually a song that the documentary film title was based on.  This song’s lyrics, to a large extent, seem to speak to the love of theater in terms of plot scenarios…

“That’s Entertainment” by songwriter, Arthur Schwartz

Anything that happens in life
Can happen in a show
You can make ’em laugh
You can make ’em cry
Anything, anything can go

The clown
With his pants falling down
Or the dance
That’s a dream of romance
Or the scene
Where the villain is mean
That’s entertainment!

The lights
On the lady in tights
Or the bride
With the guy on the side
Or the ball
Where she gives him her all
That’s entertainment!

The plot
Could be hot
Simply teeming with sex
A gay
Who is after her ex
It could be Oedipus Rex
Where a chap kills his father
And causes a lot of bother

The clerk
Who is thrown out of work
By the boss
Who is thrown for a loss
By the skirt
Who is doing him dirt

The world is a stage
The stage is a world
Of entertainment!

That’s entertainment!

That’s entertainment!

The doubt
While the jury is out
Or the thrill
When they’re reading the will
Or the chase
For the man with the face
That’s Entertainment!

The dame
Who is known as the flame
Of the king
Of an underworld ring
He’s an ape
Who won’t let her escape
That’s entertainment!

It might
Be a fight
Like you see on the screen
A swain
Getting slain
For the love of a queen
Some great Shakespearean scene
Where a ghost and a prince meet
And everyone ends in mincemeat

The gag
Might be waving the flag
That began
With a Mr. Cohan
Hip hooray
The American way!

The world is a stage
The stage is a world
Of entertainment!







The Rider

“The Rider” by Naomi Shihab Nye is from a group of suggested poems designated for this April 2019’s “Poem in Your Pocket Day.”  Part of National Poetry Month and sponsored by the National Academy of Poets and the League of Canadian Poets, April 18th was the day this year people were encouraged to “carry a poem, share a poem, or start your own Poem in Your Pocket Day event.”

The Rider

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

–Naomi Shihab Nye (1952 – )
from Fuel: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1998


A poem for Earth Day


In your story of bees,
they slowly fill an outside wall—
three stud-spaces wide, two storeys high—
in the front bay of your old farmhouse.
You first try all the poisons,

even your pickup set
to run all day, its exhaust
piped into a hole in the wall—
while you go away, hoping the fumes
will kill them. But no.

So on a winter’s icy morning
you pull the siding off
and scrape out, storey by tall storey,
thick clots of comb and honey,
clumps of stiff, chilled bees.

They had to go. No question.
But tell me again, please,
how you stood inside and breathed—
in summer’s reckless heat—
the fragrance of their work,
wild perfume of wax and flower.
Say again how you pressed your ear
tight to the wall, heard the house humming,
felt its blur of countless wings,
a fine, even tremble.

— Paulann Petersen, 1998 (born in Portland, 1942)
Oregon’s sixth Poet Laureate (serving two terms: 2010 – 2012 and 2012-2014)



by Kirah Van Sickle
Mixed media and collage on paper


“How Poetry Comes to Me It comes blundering over the Boulders at night…” Gary Snyder

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows in the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in the cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.


Rolling snow turned peach-color
the moon
left alone in the fading night
makes a soft cry in the heavens
and once more
drinks up the scattered light

–From the collection of poems The Back Country by Gary Snyder, published 1968.

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Gary Snyder (1930-) is an American award-winning poet, environmental activist, Zen Buddhist and educator (also considered one of the Beat movement poets.)


From COLD MOUNTAIN POEMS – The poems of Chinese
poet, Han Shan (c. 680-760) in a translation by Gary Snyder


There’s a Naked Bug at Cold Mountain

There’s a naked bug at Cold Mountain
With a white body and a black head.
His hands hold two book-scrolls,
One the Way and one its Power.
His shack’s got no pots or oven,
He goes for a walk with his shirt and pants askew.
But he always carries the sword of wisdom:
He means to cut down senseless craving.


“How Poetry Comes to Me It comes blundering over the Boulders at night, it stays Frightened outside the Range of my campfire I go to meet it at the Edge of the light”
–Gary Snyder


Kathe Kollwitz, German Expressionist artist & activist (1867 – 1945)

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Considered one of the foremost artists of social commentary of the 20th century, Kathe Kollwitz (formerly Kathe Schmidt) grew up in an open minded German middle-class family that encouraged her to pursue a career in art.  Studying painting in Berlin and Munich, she eventually found her calling in graphic art, focusing on etchings, lithographs, woodcuts and drawing.

After marrying Karl Kollwitz, a doctor, in 1891, it was in his working-class patients in Berlin that Kathe discovered new subject matter.  With empathy and insight, she began to depict in her work the day-to-day struggles of poor and working-class families.  She directed her attention to portraying, in particular, the oppression of women and children, and discovered printmaking as a worthwhile medium for creating and distributing what would be regarded as controversial artwork.

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Kollwitz was additionally influenced by such writers as Emile Zola, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Gerhart Hauptmann, whose play “The Weavers” had inspired her first series of prints. The series portrays the story of a group of Silesian weavers who staged an uprising during the 1840s to revolt against extremely low wages and poor working conditions.

In 1920 Kollwitz was elected a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts, the first woman to be so honored.  Membership entailed a regular income, a large studio, and a full professorship. When Hitler came to power in 1933, however, Kollwitz was forced to resign from her academy post.  Her art was classified as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, who barred her from exhibiting her work.  She was humiliated and marginalized by the dictatorial regime until her death, which came just two weeks before the end of World War II.

Ultimately living through both World War I and World War II and losing a son and later a grandson in each of these, Kollwitz’s art reflects the upheaval and turbulence of the first half of the 20th century.  Devastated by the death of her son in 1914 in the first world war (that lead to a prolonged depression), Kollwitz worked for several years to create a memorial in his honor entitled The Grieving Parents.  Her art was both personal and political.

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Fire Breathing Dragon


 Iceland, February 2019

Up on the Roof

The Beatles singing “Get Back” on a London rooftop, January 1969


Irish rock band, U2, live performance of song “Where the Streets Have No Name,” Los Angeles rooftop, March 1987

The Sky Swan

“The Sky Swan” — Federico Bottos, photographer





There is a backstory about the compelling letter that Director Jon Chu wrote to the members of the band, Coldplay asking permission to feature a cover of their song “Yellow” in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians.”  I’m very glad Coldplay agreed!!

This is sung in Chinese by Katherine Ho.


The movie takes place in New York City and Singapore and features an all Asian cast.  The film is based on the first book of a trilogy written by author, Kevin Kwan: Crazy Rich Asians (Book 1); China Rich Girlfriend Book 2); and Rich People Problems (Book 3) .