A weekend trip to New Brunswick, and a drive over the Hartland covered bridge:
The little town of Hartland in New Brunswick has one claim to fame- it's home to the world's longest covered bridge. Construction of the bridge began in 1898 and it opened in 1901, although it wasn't a covered bridge at the time. It originally looked like this:
Then, in April of 1920 river ice damaged the bridge, causing two spans of it to collapse. While structural repairs were being done, the bridge was also covered and its wooden supports replaced with concrete ones. It reopened in 1922. Later- in 1945- a pedestrian walkway was added. It now looks like this:
"The covered bridge belongs in the same category as keelboats, prairie schooners, and other picturesque and other largely obsolete traits of a formative stage in American development. Besides its romantic and antiquarian appeal, to the student of man and his works the covered bridge is a conspicuous detail of the cultural scene..." - Fred Kniffen, The American Covered Bridge
We've come to the end of Journey To The Center Of The Earth, with our adventurers failing to actually find the earth's center. Despite this, their journey is obviously a great scientific triumph which results in fame and fortune for the intrepid- and trepidatious-adventurers. Of the three men, Axel is the one who ultimately has the greatest character arc; Hans remains the same stolid, dependable companion throughout the novel. Professor Lidenbrock also doesn't change much, always the same driven, science-obsessed man who barrels over anyone standing in his way for most of the story. He does, however, develop a new respect and liking for Axel over the course of their voyage. Perhaps this is because Axel's character noticeably improves, from being a complete wet blanket to becoming- almost involuntarily- fascinated by the underground world they discover. Also, though completely unnerved by everything they encounter during the first part of the adventure, Axel later displays courage and quick thinking in a number of hazardous situations. Further, it could be argued that Axel's cautious, look- before-you-leap approach is a good counterbalance to Lidenbrock's impatient recklessness.
It's in this final portion of the book that our trio of adventurers find the real wonders of the new underground world they've discovered, with its prehistoric beasts and primitive man. Verne was inspired in his writing of these sections of his novel by the works of Charles Lyell, a 19th century geologist and author of Principles of Geology and Geological Evidences Of The Antiquity Of Man. Which is not to say that Journey concerns itself with being in any way scientifically accurate because, well, obviously it's not. No doubt though, reading about travelling deep underground and seeing prehistoric creatures fighting each other made for exciting reading in The Boys Journal, the magazine in which Journey To The Center Of The Earth was originally published in installments.
Verne may also have been inspired by Dante Alighieri's Inferno, the first section of his narrative poem The Divine Comedy, written between 1308-1320. In it, Dante describes nine circles of Hell which are located deep within the earth, and writes of travelling through the center of the earth in the company of Virgil: “And he to me: You still believe you are north of the center, where I grasped the hair of the damned worm who pierces through the world. And you were there as long as I descended; but when I turned, that’s when you passed the point to which, from every part, all weights are drawn. And now you stand beneath the hemisphere opposing that which cloaks the great dry lands and underneath whose zenith died the Man whose birth and life were sinless in this world.” — Inferno, XXXIV, 106–115, tr. Mandelbaum
Dante writes of the shift in gravity, once having passed through the earth's center: "...that's when you passed the point to which, from every part, all weights are drawn." He also describes them travelling from Jerusalem through the earth and arriving in the South Pacific.
All in all, Jules Verne's Journey To The Center Of The Earth is a great example of early science fiction, with a fascinating underground world inhabited by incredible creatures. I don't find the characters terribly compelling, but it's a fine adventure story and no doubt has fired the imaginations of scores of kids over the many years since it was written. And that can only be a positive thing.
“I saw old Autumn in the misty morn Stand shadowless like silence, listening To silence, for no lonely bird would sing Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn, Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn; -- Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright With tangled gossamer that fell by night, Pearling his coronet of golden corn.” ― Thomas Hood
I just finished sewing this teddy bear the other day:
The most famous teddy bear of all is, of course, Winnie the Pooh, who first made an appearance in a poem by A.A. Milne entitled "Teddy Bear" which was published in a 1924 issue of Punch magazine. The poem was later republished in Milne's When We Were Very Young. Winnie the Pooh got his first short story the following year-1925- in The Wrong Sort Of Bees.
This is a picture of Christopher Robin's actual toys, minus Roo who was lost:
This image is from the 1951 Frank Capra film Here Comes The Groom which stars Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman. In it, Crosby is American journalist Pete Garvey who has been based in Paris since the war, working with an orphanage there to find homes for war orphans. He is now returning to the States, but is reluctant to leave behind two orphans whom he's become attached to: Bobby and his little sister Suzi. He arranges to adopt them, but in order to do so, he has to be married. He's informed that, if he's not married within five days of returning to the U.S. with the children, the adoption will be void and Bobby and Suzi will have to return to France. Pete figures, no problem- he'll just marry Emmadel Jones, the girl he's been unofficially engaged to for years. To his shock and dismay, upon his return to Boston he finds that Emmadel has become tired of waiting for him and has agreed to marry Wilbur Stanley, a member of Boston's social elite. Pete immediately sets about scheming to win Emmadel back, and discovers that a distant cousin of Wilbur's- Winnifred- has been in love with him for years. Hoping to cause trouble in paradise, Pete offers to help her try to win Wilbur away from Emmadel. Shenanigans ensue while tempers flare and finally explode at the wedding rehearsal, resulting in a knock down, drag out fight between Emmadel and Winnifred.
We had some of the younger set with us tonight, and watched the 1979 film The Black Stallion. It is, of course, adapted from Walter Farley's 1941 book of the same name. I loved that novel when I was a child and owned (well, own: I still have them) several books in the series. As you probably know, the plot of the novel involves the protagonist Alec Ramsay getting shipwrecked on a remote desert island with a wild stallion. Eventually rescued, he returns home, taking the horse with him. The black stallion is insanely fast and Alec dreams of racing him but is hampered by the fact that the horse is untrained and also has no official papers. He is aided and abetted by Henry Dailey, a retired jockey and trainer who helps him train the Black and uses his contacts to get him into a match race with the two fastest race horses in America.
The movie was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and stars Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, and Teri Garr. I've seen it a couple of times before and like it: the cinematography is beautiful and so is the soundtrack. I do have some reservations about changes made to the plot, but that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the story told in the film, or the fine performances of some of the actors involved such as Rooney's (as Dailey) and Teri Garr (Alec's mother)... Mickey Rooney was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Henry Dailey. It seems like the studio bosses also had reservations; after completion the film was shelved for two years because they thought it was too "artsy" for a children's movie. This idea might have stemmed from the fact that for almost half an hour (while on the island) there is no dialogue in the film at all. Coppola had to use his clout to finally get the movie released. When The Black Stallion actually made it to theaters, it became a critical and financial success and won numerous awards.
The biggest problem I have with the movie is the fact that the writers of the screenplay changed Alec Ramsay from the sixteen or seventeen year old he is in the the book to an eleven year old boy. This isn't to say that Kelly Reno does a bad job; it's just really unbelievable that a boy as young as he is would be able to survive everything which happens during and after the shipwreck, would be strong enough to control a semi-wild horse on the track, and that he would be allowed to ride in any kind of horse race, even a match race. In fact Reno, who was a skilled rider and did most of the riding scenes himself, had to be replaced by a double during the race scenes because- being eleven- he wasn't strong enough to control the horse portraying the Black. It just seems an odd choice to make him so much younger when the age he is in the book is so much more believable. Also, in the film, Alec is travelling with his father who goes down with the ship. In the book, Alec is travelling home alone after spending the summer abroad with an uncle who is a missionary- again, something a seventeen year old could do, but not an eleven year old. In the book Alec's father is alive and well throughout. That being said, there's a lot to love about the movie and some scenes like the one of the ship sinking, and Alec and the Black becoming friends on the island are very effective.
Fun fact: in the room where Henry (Rooney) keeps all of his trophies and memorabilia from his racing days, there's a black & white photo of him on a horse which is actually from the 1944 film National Velvet in which Mickey Rooney also starred.