Why there will never be another Great Pumpkin
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is one of the most popular television specials ever made, premiering in 1966 and shown every year around Halloween time. Featuring the beloved “Peanuts” characters of Charles Schultz, it centers around young Linus’s yearly obsession with the Great Pumpkin, who supposedly promises to deliver bags of goodies to kids who wait for him in pumpkin patches. Here in the U.S., the program will be broadcast on ABC this Tuesday!
Something tells me that Charles Schultz was not crazy about dealing with legal matters. I watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” just the other day (yeah, I bought the DVD a few years ago…), and I noticed how it is sprinkled with references to lawsuits, notarized documents, and other legalities, and not in a happy light!
Of course, it took a law professor’s scrutiny to pick out the legalisms, because the program is simply a lot of fun. For many of us who first watched it as kids, it brings back great memories of trick-or-treating, school Halloween parties, and scary stories of ghosts and goblins.
In any event, we won’t see anything like the Great Pumpkin anytime soon. Why? Take a look at the photo above, showing the ratings pulled in by the premiere broadcast of the program. The “share” means it attracted 49 percent — roughly half of the viewers — of the U.S. television audience during that time slot!
Such a market share would be unheard of with today’s multiplicity of cable stations, streaming services, and DVD rental/purchase options. Back in the day, we had the three networks and a handful of local stations to watch, and that was it! Less choice meant more of a shared experience. We’d watch highly anticipated kids’ specials on TV, and then go to school the next day to talk about them animatedly with our friends.
It’s obviously different nowadays. While I wouldn’t trade in the bounty of viewing choices we have today for a handful of channels and no way to record anything, we have lost a bit of the “popular” in the term “popular culture” as a result. We also have lost the seasonal anticipation of waiting for that once-a-year broadcast of favorite specials and movies. Instant gratification can be, well, instantly gratifying, but it’s not the same as watching the leaves turn and looking forward to the fall presence of the Peanuts gang.
A random observation on Snoopy, perhaps the most iconic Peanut’s character: He really should’ve been a cat! Think about it: He may be everyone’s favorite animated beagle (including mine), but he acts like a cat! He’s cheap with his affections, utterly self-absorbed, will dish out retribution on anyone who crosses him, and yet we love the little fellow.
Photos are screenshots from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and an accompanying DVD feature on the making of the television special.
Earthy, historic, mysterious, delicious New Orleans
New Orleans has a mythology, a personality, a soul, that is large, that has touched people around the world. It has its own music (many of its own musics), its own cuisine, its own way of talking, its own architecture, its own smell, its own look and feel.
-Tom Piazza, Why New Orleans Matters (2005)
At least during those five months of the year when it isn’t unbearably hot and humid, I can’t think of a more fascinating American city to visit than New Orleans.
I’ve been in New Orleans for a conference, and it’s my first trip to the city in 15 years. Obviously NOLA (as they call it) has been through a lot in the post-Katrina years, but it retains the unique look and feel that Tom Piazza wrote about in his eloquent tribute to the city as it struggled to recover from the storm and flooding.
Lately my vacations have been limited to extended weekend trips and add-on days to work-related travel, and thus I tend to explore places I visit in short stretches. Fortunately I can dig into a city like New Orleans, especially its historic French Quarter, even if I have only a couple of days to do so. For starters, I took a great walking tour of the Quarter sponsored by Friends of the Cabildo, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Louisiana’s history. From that tour, here’s a shot of the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest operating cathedral in North America:
Some of my college pals who read this blog know all-too-well how much our semester abroad in England and accompanying post-semester sojourns imprinted themselves on me. Ever since, I’ve welcomed opportunities to re-experience the adventure of youthful European travel, however briefly, and New Orleans allows me to do just that without need of a passport! Seeing artists displaying their work in Jackson Square reminded me of my first visit to Paris over 30 years ago.
Being the bookstore hound that I am, I had to seek out a few of the city’s bookstores. Here’s Beckham’s Bookstore on Decatur Street, a great used bookstore with piles of books next to filled-up shelves that, well, sorta reminded me of my condo!
Beckham’s comes replete with its own resident cat, who apparently commandeers whatever space is convenient in order to get in a well-earned nap.
NOLA is home to some incredibly talented musicians. Here’s a great jazz band playing on Royal Street.
They’re so good, I picked up one of their CDs, pictured here with the Piazza book:
NOLA’s history has its ghastly side that, not surprisingly, sometimes turns ghostly. For example, pictured here is the house of Madame Delphine Lalaurie, who is said to have committed horrific acts of torture on her slaves during the 1830s. Though some claim that she has been unfairly indicted in the court of history, the most authoritative book that I’ve encountered on the topic, Carolyn Morrow Long’s Madame Lalaurie, Mistress of the Haunted House (2012), sides with the accusers. Naturally, the house is a favorite stop on the countless French Quarter ghost tours, and though I didn’t encounter anything supernatural when I was clicking away with my camera, I wouldn’t be eager to spend a night there.
Not all of the historical offerings are uniquely local. New Orleans also is home to the impressive National World War II Museum, co-founded by noted historian Stephen Ambrose, who taught at the University of New Orleans and whose books about D-Day and the European Theatre inspired the HBO series “Band of Brothers.” The museum, which continues to expand, includes a large hall containing vintage aircraft. Here is a B-17 “Flying Fortress,” an iconic U.S. bomber plane of the era.
Of course, a visit to New Orleans typically involves good food. The city has a collection of fancy restaurants, but I ended up being a repeat customer at less expensive eateries, including The Grill, pictured here…
…and Jimmy J’s Cafe, whose wonderful cinnamon French toast is pictured here.
I think an order of French toast is a good way to conclude this blog post. Enjoy!
For a short piece on the psychology & law conference that brought me to New Orleans, go here.
All photos: DY, 2014
Can Generation Jones talk to its animals?
Okay folks, this is based purely on anecdotal evidence, but many of my Gen Jones friends are among the most devoted animal lovers I know.
They care deeply for the critters they bring into their homes, they understand their quirky personalities, they play with them and feed them well, and they will dig into their pockets when a trip to the doctor is needed.
These animals become part of the fabric of individual lives and families. They are much more than “substitutes” for kids or spouses/partners or friends; they have a standing (and eating and sleeping) of their own.
It’s mostly a dog or cat thing, though other four-legged beings, plus birds and fish, are a big part of the picture too.
Some may think these devotions are over the top, but I see them as healthy — unless, maybe, you’re living with 40 cats in a studio apartment. Otherwise, animals bring joy and comfort to our lives and allow us to return the favor. Their presence helps us to live in the moment, no easy task given the pace and challenges of modern life.