The National Archives’ Special Media Archives Services Division has a blog called Media Matters that is full of amazing gems, like this: The Curious Case of Curious Alice.

The post is about a deliriously insane 12 minute movie the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) made in 1971 to convince children not to do drugs.

In the conclusion to the film, Alice suffers from nothing but a slight case of pensiveness as a result of her drug-induced adventures in Wonderland. She reaches for her book and then looks into the distance as if contemplating the cause of her bad trip. The film goes to black, so that the final message of Curious Alice seems to be that reading books can lead to scary or confusing situations. That’s assuming a kid takes away anything from the film other than “neat cartoon—when’s recess?”

The commentary at Media Matters is as fascinating and funny as Curious Alice’s animation. It includes details about how “…the National Coordinating Council on Drug Education (NCCDE) criticized Curious Alice for being confusing and potentially counterproductive to drug abuse education” in 1972.

Good stuff, you should go check it out. Or, if you’re incredibly lazy, you can just watch the movie on the National Archives Youtube Channel:

Since it’s Evil Agent’s birthday, I figured this a good time to post this draft from December.

Husband, Evil and I were at brunch at our favorite local restaurant. The ubiquitous tin ceilings in most old buildings in our neighborhood are pretty, but they contribute to some loud dining adventures when the house is full.

Evil was having hot tea. There was a pot of hot water and a container of unopened tea bags on our table.

Evil asked for more hot water and the waiter asked if she wanted a new tea bag. She said no and gestured at the teabag already in her teacup, so when he brought the hot water he took the container of unopened tea bags to another table. The noise level at the restaurant was very high and clearly Evil and the Waiter misunderstood one another, because she couldn’t understand why he’d taken the teabags.

I thought she was looking for her hot water, which was sitting right in front of her. So now I was also confused, because I was apparently the only one who heard her original exchange with the waiter clearly.

The manager was passing by and stopped to see why Evil looked distressed.

This next part was only funny to me.

Evil told the manager that the waiter took her tea bag away, but she kept gesturing at the teabag in her teacup. He politely pointed out that she had a teabag. She kept pointing and saying, “He took it away.”

Then there was a prolonged exchange where I was trying to clarify why the tea was gone, Evil was asking for a tea bag, the manager were pointing at the tea bag, and the people at the next table were watching us all like we were a bit crazy.

Husband turned his attention to ordering a beer. Can you blame him?

The manager was very patient and, instead of picking up the teabag and aggressively pointing out she had a teabag, he asked questions until he found out what exactly she wanted. Evil didn’t raise her voice or shoot anyone and it was all resolved quickly when the manager gave Evil a new tea bag.

The manager, unfortunately, chewed the waiter out but I stopped back in later and apologized on our behalf and everyone lived happily ever after. (We also left a big tip).

The lesson here is that misunderstandings happen and that exercising a little patience is better than immediately getting angry or behaving rudely or defensively. Or maybe the lesson is that we should have ordered mimosas.

I’m not really sure why I concluded this post with a lesson – I don’t remember how I intended to introduce it now, it’s been too long. Since I can’t remember what the point of the post was going to be, I’m going to semi-pointlessly embed the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Although it’s EvilAgent’s birthday, it’s probably everyone else’s unbirthday, so let’s all celebrate together, with tea!

Our Tivo, OverLord II, recorded Legend of Hell House for us. We thought we’d seen it, but when we started it we realized we were quite mistaken. To be honest, we haven’t finished it. Although it’s not dull, I was finding it slightly ponderous compared to the other viewing options for the evening so we set it aside. I looked it up and read how it ends and I might still finish it at some point.

It’s got everything: rather good good acting, excellent sets and atmosphere that practically drips off the screen, respectable writing, the occasional episode of over-wrought acting, a good cast, a possessed cat, an interesting score, an old dark house, and Roddy McDowell in enormous 70s glasses.

The film is based on the novel Hell House, and both book and movie were written by Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend and other spooky stories.

I recommend the movie, although I don’t have much else to say because we haven’t seen the end yet. I can tell you that the ghost is played by an uncredited Michael Gough, who went on to play Alfred in 4 Batman movies (starting with Tim Burton’s 1989 version) and most recently was the voice of the Dodo in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Disney World is an excellent place to spend your birthday. I’m not sure I was in my right mind when I decided we should get up at 5 a.m. on my 40th birthday to go run the Princess and the Frog 5K around Epcot, but it was really fun and I’m glad we did it. We weren’t signed up for the half-marathon that was the centerpiece of Princess Weekend. The other centerpiece, that is, besides me.

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A Disney birthday, you see, is an egomaniac’s paradise. Cast members constantly wish you happy birthday and random strangers sing “happy birthday” to you while you wait in line for rides. You can drink outrageously strong birthday margaritas in FakeMexico and then ride the incredibly surreal ride that I can’t adequately describe because we were laughing too hard.

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Next door to FakeMexico is, logically enough, FakeNorway, where you can study the huge mural and learn about the Norwegian national treasures: polar bears, seagulls, vikings, and giant women with clipboards.

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We had an outrageously good time at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and (no kidding) at the Wide World of Sports Complex. And, of course, we had a great time seeing Alice in Wonderland Friday night. I have much more to say and many emails to respond to, but it all has to wait until I recover for a while.


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My Brother arrives today, as he got the weekend off from his supersecret project to create human-dinosaur hybrid supersoldiers. We’re going to see Alice tonight.

I think we’re supposed to get in the spirit of things and say, “Walt Disney Picture’s Alice in Wonderland, a Disney Digital Production by director Tim Burton.” I’m not awake enough for that level of corporate perkiness. I’m just going to say, “Alice” and growl at anyone who suggests I’m not being sufficiently perky. Nowhere on the passes does it state we have to be perky.

Disney is the happiest place on earth and all, so we’ll hit happy hour before the movie, of course. That’s what they mean, right? We can follow directions when we want to.

I’m excited to see the movie. I’m also excited because I don’t think anyone will be telling me I look like Helena Bonham Carter this time.

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If they do, I have other things to worry about.

When you stop being disturbed by the image of grown men dressed as rabbits, that’s when I think you have a real problem.

Fortunately, the 1999 NBC miniseries, Alice in Wonderland, features a white rabbit and other creatures created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Unfortunately, it also features Whoopi Goldberg as the Cheshire Cat. Everything about the Cheshire Cat is wrong. Only a small part of that blame can be laid at Whoopi’s feet, but she’s still a terrible choice.

It’s an amusing enough adaptation but it’s got more than a whiff of those awkward 80s made for tv production values about it, which is unfortunate because it was made in 1999. There’s more good than bad and the Emmy Awards it won included makeup and costumes (and the nomination for visual effects) that were certainly deserved.

It does contain one of my favorite version of the caucus race, but I may be partial to it because it takes place in a surreal library and the participants of the race remind me fondly of some of my more eccentric library colleagues. It’s a remarkably faithful version of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass and I’m going to have nightmares about that March Hare.

This version stars Tina Majorino (Alice), Robbie Coltrane, Whoopi Goldberg (Cheshire Cat), Ben Kingsley (the Caterpillar), Christopher Lloyd, Pete Postlethwaite, Miranda Richardson, Martin Short (the Mad Hatter), Peter Ustinov, George Wendt and Gene Wilder.

The DVD we’re watching was released today with 5 minutes restored to it that were apparently cut in the previous release. We can’t judge whether this is an improvement or not because we’ve never seen it before. I can say that the March Hare’s teapot/pipe organ is exceptionally clever. You can see it at about 1:36 in this youtube clip, which has the embedding feature blocked so I can only link to it.

The DVD release of the 2009 documentary Alice: A Look into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has both the 1903 and 1915 adaptations of Alice on it as special features. The 1903 version was recently restored as much as possible by the British Film Institute and they’ve made it available online on the BFI website.

“Alice in Wonderland consists of a number of loosely connected scenes from the novel. The audience was assumed to be familiar with not only the book but also Tenniel’s famous illustrations. As far as we can establish from Hepworth’s catalogue, the most significant scene that’s missing is one in which Alice meets a giant puppy in the garden – this was offered separately, but no copies appear to survive.”

It’s worth a watch, it’s got some rather sophisticated visual effects for a film of it’s time, I believe.