Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Electrical haywire

Such a weird day yesterday. We had very high winds almost all day, as a cold front swept over us. Midway through the morning, the power began flickering in the house. No problem, that happens sometimes, and I figured it would be over in an hour or so. No way. The power flickered on and off ALL DAY, occasionally staying on for as long as 10 minutes at a time, and then switching off for a few moments, just long enough to set all the clocks in the house back to 0:00. The lights were flashing, I couldn't even turn on the TV in the bedroom for the news because it would keep zooming on and off, and the computer would barely come online before it would shut down again - finally I flipped off the surge protectors and figured we'd wait it out.

But here's where it gets strange. I soon realized that the electricity was only unstable in about 2/3 of the house. In the front hall, the basement, the garage and the TV room at the back of the house, there was no fluctuation at all! I moved the microwave in there so we could heat up food for lunch, then ran an extension cord from the kitchen to keep the fridge turned on - no problem at all with the electricity in that one room. I could turn on the TV in there and the kids could watch videos, but upstairs in the bedrooms, it was hopeless.

Finally, at about 3:30 PM, power came on elsewhere in the house, and after an hour or so, I realized that the problem had somehow resolved itself. I have no idea what happened. The circuit breakers in the garage didn't flip off throughout any of this bizarre episode. I can only guess that the house was wired in a strange way, with different gauges in the two different parts of the house, and one gauge was sensitive to electricity fluctuations in a way the other one wasn't. There were no reported power outages in Ottawa, but there were plenty elsewhere in the province. Could the problems drawing on the power grid elsewhere have been strong enough to cause electrical surges in OUR house but nowhere else?

UPDATE: It happened again! On Saturday. Another windy day, another episode of flickering lights. This time I called Ottawa Hydro, and they sent a crew out to look at the power lines. They agreed that the tree branches were causing the problem, so they got out the cherry-picker and the chainsaw, and lopped off a good number of branches, which are now piled next to our driveway. Dean will trim them and saw them into fireplace-size logs in the spring. However, I also called an electrician to come to the house this week and check the wiring. I needed some small jobs done anyway - installing new light fixtures, fixing a broken wall switch - so I figured it was a good opportunity to have the wiring checked out at the same time.

The Palins have a grandson

Lisa Schiffren in NRO posts the good news:
Congratulations to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson on the birth of their healthy baby boy, named, in the family tradition of non-traditional names, Tripp. I'm sure the baby will be much loved and a joy. It also seems clear that the baby will be gorgeous, as are both young parents.
I don't care much for "non-traditional names", but if this is a tribute to Rex Linn's character on CSI:Miami, then OK. Maybe they could name the next one Brass. At any rate, they could have done worse:
If there is any left, put it away for Trapp's education.

What struck me about this opinion piece was the same thing that occurred to me months ago when Sarah Palin first became a candidate for VP, and the media erupted over her daughter's pregnancy. It was reminiscent of something C.S. Lewis wrote when advocating the reading of old books:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

I found that same common assumption in all the discussion of the Bristol Palin pregnancy, even among the friendly voices on the right. You can read it right here in this Schiffren piece:
Apart from the normal personal anguish of an unplanned, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, Miss Palin endured a pretty awful dose of media scrutiny and derision, mostly aimed at her mother, of course. But, for a young woman who was not a celebrity, nor any kind of public figure, the ordeal must have been especially hellish. In our perverse, celebrity-driven culture, however, there is payback. In this instance, it comes in the form of cash. The picture magazines will be paying the couple on the order of $300,000 for first pictures of Tripp. The price went up as the story gained in value this month with the arrest of Levi's mother for drug-dealing. Perverse? Cynical? Gross? Sure. But useful.

Sometimes celebrities make a big show of giving the baby pix money to charity. If I were advising the couple, I'd tell them to have a nice little wedding as soon as possible.("Soon" being the operative word here.) And use the rest for college for both of you — including whatever babysitting you need to pay for.

What could be friendlier or more well-intentioned? But it's there, all the same: having children is a distraction from the REAL business of life in the 21st century - getting into the workforce and making money. From leftists who stood by, hands on hips, berating the Palins for not living up to their stereotypes as Christians by turning their wayward daughter out into the snow, to right-wingers who sneered at the opposition for finally finding an example of copulation too outrageous for tolerance, the basic assumption was the same: these young people have ruined their lives and made themselves contemptible by using their strongest, most productive years by producing a baby instead of dollar bills.

Schiffren is kind enough to suggest that they can make amends by getting back on the career track as soon as possible, but her hint is unmistakeable: this is an unfortunate detour in the road of life, not to be mistaken for a destination.

I think this is the culture of acquisitiveness that Pope Benedict and before him Pope John Paul II warned about. It's the same sort of cultural dead end that is inhabited by the abortion-mongers; the idea that "choice" is paramount, but only the correct choice. In this case, the convention is a little different; where pro-abortionists set their faces grimly toward murder, these "pro-choicers" take a more moderate path: "No, no, we don't want you to KILL anyone. But you can at least keep the little hindrances bottled up for a few years. And failing that, be so good as to admit that you've disgraced yourself and work to be forgiven."

It may seen odd that I don't take the thunderously moralistic tone of "They SINNNNNNNNNNNED!" but compared to the pinched miserliness of this sort of wage-slave boosterism, it seems like a mild fault, and one that at least has the advantage of youthful hope and warmth. Maybe it's the tales of all those rascally popes during the Renaissance, but there are worse things than, as Shakespeare put it, a woman having "a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed". It may be that "this knave came something saucily into the world before he was sent for", but it is wrong to act as if the birth of a child equals the ruination of the parents. There are always things to be chosen, and who are we to tell people that a lucrative career should always outweigh children?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dean the Luddite

Last night, I was on the computer in the basement when Dean came to the top of the stairs and called, "Could you come up and help me with a video?" I was a little confused by that - "What video? Is the VCR not working again?" "No...you know...Charlie Chan?" Aha - I gave him Vol. 4 of the collected Charlie Chan movies, and we've been working our way through them.

"But...that's a dvd, not a video!" Pause. "Are you telling me that you STILL haven't figured out how to use the dvd player???"

Now, a non-handy person MIGHT be momentarily confused by this. We got a new TV in the spring, and new TVs are very dependent on the use of the remote. At any one time, you might need to use THREE remotes - one for the TV, one for the dvd player, and one for the cable box. The latter is technically capable of working all 3 devices, but we were never able to find the correct code for the dvd player, and it doesn't have all the buttons that come with the proper remote for each machine; plus it's sometimes finicky when you try to press the buttons for switching between them, so I've just settled down to using 3 remotes. Dean has never come to grips with this. He's a veteran of the "When I started watching TV, we just turned a knob to change the channels" and he will not update himself. So every time he tries to use the remotes, he ends up switching the TV to the wrong channel to receive cable channels, or he turns off the correct setting and I have to come along to undo what he's done, because it always results in a blue screen with "No signal!" bouncing around.

As you might expect, we've had conversations about Dean's inability to operate the mechanical devices in the house before. My usual response is something along the lines of "I won't be here forever, you know! What would you do if I had a heart attack, or was run over by a car? What would you do THEN? You've got to learn how to do this stuff on your own!!" Well, it hasn't worked so far, so I thought I'd change tactics, and try the "humorous sarcasm" route instead.

So I came stumping up the steps, griping, "You know, they could make a MOVIE about you! A comedy! 'One night, Wanda gets trapped in traffic and can't get home, and Dean has to manage the house all by himself, with no one to tell him how to switch on or operate any of the electrical gadgets he depends on!'"

Dean's deadpan response: "And it would be called 'The Day The Earth Stood Still'."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Comparing 'A Christmas Carol'

Watching the 1951 Alastair Sim version of 'A Christmas Carol' has been a holiday tradition in my family since I was old enough to remember it, and now we watch the movie with Emma every Christmas too. But there are other versions, and though I'll never admit that any of them is as good as the Sim version, they often have their strong points, and I've started watching them whenever I can as well.

I just rediscovered this very useful site which offers a scene-by-scene pictorial comparison of 13 film versions, ranging from the serious and authentic (Sim, George C. Scott) to the ridiculous (Mr. Magoo, Mickey Mouse). It's interesting to see how some scenes from the original story are retained in a few versions - the phantom hearse, for example - and what is trimmed out.

I recently found that an animated version I saw on TV when it first aired in 1971 is available on YouTube in its entirety. It's a VERY abbreviated version of the story, dashing from scene to scene, but it has some startlingly creepy animation, as you can see by the pictures in the list above. Marley's Ghost is really scary, with a mouth that gapes open like a Victorian railway tunnel, and the two children, Ignorance and Want, are portrayed the way I think Dickens must have imagined them (and in a way that live action performance could never match).

An interesting thing is that Scrooge is voiced by Alastair Sim himself - I don't know if I realized that when I first saw it; I certainly didn't remember it, and was surprised to hear that familiar bottom-of-the-well voice echoing out as me when I watched this again. Sim was a Scot, and has a very obvious Scottish accent - but who ever thought of Scrooge being Scottish? You don't - you think of THAT VOICE being just the voice of Scrooge. Sim makes the role so much his, that we forget entirely that he has an existence outside the role, that doesn't match up with the character; I've never once noticed that Young Scrooge has a perfectly English accent, which somehow turns into a Scottish brogue when he becomes an old man!

If you want to watch it, here is Part 1:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Penn's Progress


This monologue by Penn Jillette has gotten a lot of comment on Hot Air (though Kathy Shaidle had it up before them on her site). I've met Penn a number of times, and I have to say, he's one of those guys who is so verbal and open, he makes you think that he's easy to read and understand. But there have been so many times when I thought I knew what he would say or do in a particular situation, and he almost always ends up surprising me. And usually surprising me in a good way - showing far more depth and intricate thought than I'd given him credit for. He's a very original mind, and defies attempts at pigeonholing.

If I were REALLY cynical, I'd say that he cultivates the rough bluff yeoman persona just to more effectively fool people in his professional life, but I don't think that's all there is to it. I'll just say that he gives the impression of broad strokes and primary colours, but if you think that's all there is to him, you're fooling yourself.

Now, this little monologue is unusual, and once again, it's surprising to me - I've never heard him speak this generously about any religious person. Someone on Hot Air marvelled that he talks as if he's never met a good, decent, sane person who was also a sincere Christian before. I don't know if this is really the first time that has happened - I know he's had BAD experiences with proselytizers, and most atheists will tell you that they have. They talk about people coming up to them completely out of the blue, and trying to talk about Jesus, or annoying them at home with door-to-door evangelism, and there are always stories about rude encounters in a parking lot over a displayed Darwin Fish. I never know what to say in these cases. I've never been approached by strangers in that way and expected to talk about religion (well, except for Jehovah's Witnesses coming to the door, but even that doesn't happen very often, and they're never rude), so either they've had very bad luck and been the target of a LOT of attention, or else they're reacting strongly to some incident that I regard as so minor I don't even remember it - a mentally ill person muttering about religion, perhaps. I've seen THAT, but it's so obviously abnormal and impersonal, it barely registers on my mind.

Anyway, I've always thought that deciding what Christians are based on the unpleasant people who might accost you after a Las Vegas show was a narrow view of things. It's not his fault that bad experiences came to him, and I've no doubt they did. But that's not the way a rationalist would reach a verdict on what Christians are like, any more than I could get a really accurate idea of what Cairo was like by standing at the mouth of the Nile and watching the debris that came floating down the river. If you want to know what a thing is, the best way is to go and find the best, most complete example of it and study it, not depend on random currents to waft the evidence your way.

I'm impressed that Penn went public with this little musing on how a long-standing opinion - that Christians are dumb or deranged or at the very least unpleasant - was disturbed and rethought when contradictory evidence came his way. Maybe the experience of marriage and 2 little kids has expanded his sense of the complexities of the world - I certainly became a different person once I had children. It felt like I was in a bigger world, somehow, that I hadn't expected or really been prepared for.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tagalong

I owe Perpetua of Carthage for this tagging! Let's see if I can do this without screwing it up.

First of all: the Rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you. (see first line)
2. Post the rules on your blog. (here they are)
3. Write six random things about yourself. (I'll get to that in a minute)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (Hmm, are there 6 people still speaking to me? I'll have to check)
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

OK, six random things:

1. I don't like getting my hair cut, and procrastinate as long as possible.
2. I read 'Oliver Twist' when I was in Grade 6.
3. I'm allergic to avocado (the fruit/vegetable thing - not the colour)
4. My balance is so bad, I never learned to skate, ski or ride a bike
5. My favourite opera is 'Andrea Chenier'
6. I like ghost stories

My tag goes out to: Toral at Not Weighing Our Merits, Bovina Bloviator, The Clam Rampant, Dr. Alice at Feet First, Letter From The Northwest and uh...Mark Steyn.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Music question

I just uploaded a movie clip on YouTube from 'The Queen of Spades' (1949). It's one of my favourite movies, and this is one of my favourite scenes. The plot follows the short story by Pushkin: a poor but ambitious young officer named Guermann (sometimes Hermann) Suvorin becomes obsessed with obtaining the secret of winning at cards, supposedly possessed by the aged Countess Ranevskaya. He threatens her with a pistol to get her to reveal the secret, and she dies of fright. Believing that "the dead will give up their secrets" Suvorin brazenly goes to her funeral.



Can anyone tell me what is the choral music being sung during the funeral? I've heard it since first seeing this movie - the anglo-catholic church we used to attend sang it once during All Souls, but it was in the English hymn book, not the Canadian one. I think it was called 'Kontakion', but I've tried to find it on recordings since and that's not very useful as a title. It's like saying 'Requiem' - whose Requiem? Verdi's? Mozart's? Beethoven's? Everyone wrote a requiem, and there are as many "Kontakions" in orthodox music, so I need to know which one, and where I could buy a copy.

By the way, if you follow the English tradition of enjoying ghost stories at Christmas, 'The Queen of Spades' is an excellent one for a winter's evening. Emma and I watched 'A Christmas Carol' (the Alastair Sim version, of course) a few days ago, and I think we'll watch "The Queen of Spades" this weekend. It's unjustly neglected, and has a GREAT performance by Anton Walbrook as Suvorin. He was good in 'The Red Shoes' too, but I think he's even better in this one.

Brilliant new blog

Warning, strong language. But still extremely funny, and with cute animal pictures!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Episcopalian Grand Remonstrance

I was enjoying the Gypsies, Liars and Thieves thread at Stand Firm, on a leaked post at the House of Bishops/Deputies LS, when right in the middle came this grand remonstrance from a revisionist priest. Note the point-by-point indictment of individual criminals, which adds weight to the gravity of the charges. But the best part comes right at the beginning:
When you write “However, I can state with complete honesty that I have rarely read such a collection of heresy, dissimulation, half-truths, lies, hyperbole, distortion and bile as is regularly spewed onto the Internet by the leaders of my church.” referencing me and others you are wrong—and exhibiting the kind of behavior you say is wrong. I would advise you gather a few people at Stand Firm and bring charges of heresy against me and the others you cite. That is how heresy is defined, not by hurling phrases about.
Ah, those grand old days in the briar patch - how the revisionists must miss them! Those were the good old days, when conservatives did what was expected of them, and trotted obediently off to the killing fields to await gracious dispatch at the hands of their betters!

A trial - that's what will clear this all up. A heresy trial! It's about time we had a trial where the revisionists control all the rules - the other kind hasn't been nearly as much fun. For them, at any rate.

You can sense the frustration that the conservatives are refusing to play their allotted role in this play. What's supposed to happen is that conservatives are cast as the bull in the arena, lurching about heavily and clumsily, and charging stupidly at a red cape. Then the revisionists, playing the role of the bullfighter, will give a dexterous twitch of the fingers, and presto! The cape vanishes from view, the bull blunders about in confusion, and receives a sharp thrust with a rapier before he knows what has happened, all to the delighted applause and cheers of the elegant crowd in the stands. I can almost overhear the delighted chortles rising from restaurant tables that first evening after the trial, as the word "skewer" is repeated with relish.

It's hard for people who have so little experience of self-denial or discipline to abandon the hope of tasting such pleasures again. So they are reduced to going on conservative blogs and pleading with their enemies to lean into the sucker punch. "Come on, charge me with heresy! Maybe you'll win this time!" I'm sorry to say that people on SF couldn't even be bothered taking the bait long enough to squash it flat. They were more intent upon telling him to take the Code of a Yale Gentleman regarding "Communications Made (Sorta) In Confidence" and cramming it. Only one person mentioned the Righter trial - everyone else is so bored with the play they just ignored it.

By the way, am I the only one creeped out by the way revisionists like this Ann Fontaine person indulge in the most malicious, vengeful sentiments, and then without embarrassment smear on a pious smiley face like "I offer prayers and blessings on their journey wherever we all end up." Whom do they think they're fooling? The Swan of Newark likes to finish off her poison pen letters with a sanctimonious "Blessings" as well. It might be as well for people to check their spiritual bank accounts before writing big checks with their mouths that their souls can't cover.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why I like Ace of Spades

Sometimes the testosterone cloud gets a little too intense for me, but overall it's worth it for moments like these:
The president's appearance [in Iraq] was interrupted by a man, apparently a journalist, who leapt to his feet and threw his shoe at the president, who ducked and thus narrowly missed being struck. Chaos ensued. The [man] threw a second shoe, which also narrowly missed the president.
...
The president was at no point injured and he brushed off the incident. "All I can report is it is a size 10."

The pool's Iraqi colleague said the man shouted, "This is a farewell kiss, dog."

Apparently the man and his family were arrested, his wife raped in front of him and then the entire family was thrown screaming into a wood chipper. Oh sorry, that's what would have happened if this brave Iraqi patriot had tried this during Saddam's reign.

No one likes to have their country invaded and patrolled by a foreign military, even if it's for a their own long term good but maybe this guy should think about why he suddenly is so courageous and who made that possible.

Playing down the incident, the president later added: "I don't know what the guy's cause is... I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it.

This is the the second classiest way for Bush to have handled it. The classiest way? Bush pulls a dagger out of his waistband and flings directly into the guy's heart and shoe chucker is dead before he hits the ground (which incidentally is exactly how Dick Cheney would have handled it).

If only.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas tree


We got our Christmas tree up over the weekend. It's a 4' artificial one, which I set on top of the piano - a tree standing on the floor always gets tipped over by the kids, and once it's on the piano, the additional height makes it reach almost to the ceiling. This year I decided that almost all the ornaments would be from India. We brought back some interesting ones from our time there, though we lose a few every year, it seems. Every year when I look at ornaments, I get annoyed to see that 90% of them are made in China. I try to avoid Chinese imports whenever I can, though for some industries, it's all but impossible. However, I draw the line at Christmas ornaments. I refuse to have ornaments on my tree made by a tyrannical, anti-Christian slave state. It's cynical on their part to make them, though I guess they don't care what brings in foreign money, but we have no excuse for buying them. India's no picnic for Christians right now either, but at least anti-religion isn't a basic tenet of their culture.

The thing about Indian ornaments that I like is that they're often a little weird. They're HEAVY, for one thing, made out of very solid materials, especially if they're metal. And some of them aren't specifically Christmas-oriented, like the papier-mache balls and bells. They can be painted with floral designs or geometric patterns, because in India they're often used as just regular house ornaments. I have a lot of little stuffed elephants with bells on them - elephants are a good luck symbol.

You can see the little red elephant at the bottom of the picture, under the decidedly NON-Indian American Republican Party elephant. That was a souvenir of our 3 years in Washington DC when we were first married - a fundraiser for the Republican Women's Organization. (I so regret not buying the 3-D Pentagon ornament!)

Here's a pair of ornaments I found at Canadian Tire this year:
You see what I mean about "not quite suitable" designs? A cocktail shaker and a martini glass. They were so cute, though, and as I said before, SOLID. The kids won't be able to break these, although the lid unscrews from the shaker, so I have to make sure they don't fiddle with it and lose it.

My favourite ornaments that we brought back from India are my Rajasthani horsemen. They're not Christmas ornaments at all, but I use them for that purpose, and they look so unusual and original. They're hand-made crafts, made from worn-out garments (often with mirror embroidery), and they have a horseman with a wooden head and cloth body riding a horse with string legs with bells for feet. Here are a few of them:



You'll notice that one of them is a 2-headed horse, sort of like a Pushme-Pullyou, and he's ridden by a two-faced horseman! I have another one of those, but James pulled the rider off and lost him, so now I have only the horse:



Tucked in among them you can see the occasional papier-mache bell or moon. They're not that bright, so they tend to disappear among the branches.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Beware of the Doghouse

I love retro ads, but this one (from National Review Online) is just too weird for words:

I find it hard to believe that even in the Eisenhower years that a garbage disposal would leave a wife overwhelmed with gratitude. Actually, the picture is drawn in such an odd way, it almost seems to undermine the delirious message of domestic harmony via garbage grinding that they want to convey. The guy is lying down so the garbage disposal looks like it's coming out of his chest - as if HE is being fed into the garbage disposal. "Yes, three times a day! That's how long it will take her to feed your dismembered remains into the grinder and on out to the river!" Either that, or he's lying in something like an iron lung, which is not an unlikely outcome after the momentous moment on Christmas Day when this present was revealed in all its glory.

No, I rather suspect that the husband who gave his wife a garbage disposal for Christmas would find himself suffering the same fate as these fellows:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Vignette

Story in today's City section of the Ottawa Citizen about a guy who managed to get a public housing apartment, which he proceeded to use as a storage locker, while living elsewhere. Yes, yes, it's "our tax dollars at work" and all that, and the upshot was that Ottawa Community Housing has finally decided to evict him, but that's not what interested me in the story. It's the final paragraphs, which provide a little vignette of what life is becoming for the poor in this city:
“I don’t have to live in fear anymore,” said Mr. Wiper.

Well, at least not the fear of fire. Mr. Wiper has other fears — the ones that don’t usually make the paper in a town like Ottawa.

Up until six weeks ago, Mr. Wiper carried a Louisville Slugger baseball bat when he went downstairs to get his mail for protection against the crack dealers. He no longer uses the laundry room because he got rattled after too many times of being called a “white bastard.” He still uses the elevator to his 11th floor apartment, but will only ride it alone after being called an “infidel.”
The writer is correct - this doesn't usually get publicly admitted in Ottawa, but it's true nonetheless.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Blast from the past

People of a certain age like myself will remember watching Ed Sullivan back in the 60s. Those were the days of 2 TV channels up in the cold north of Edmonton, where you didn't have much choice about what to watch. Variety shows were very popular. I remember when Penn & Teller created their own one-season variety show, Penn described how these shows used to work - one minute you'd have an opera tenor singing an aria, and then he'd be followed by a guy with trained performing housecats.

Many performers became famous on Ed Sullivan, and one that I remembered well was the ventriloquist, Senor Wences. He died only a few years ago at the grand age of 103, and I was disappointed to find at the time that there was very little on the web about him. Recently, though some fan has remedied this, and posted some clips on YouTube.

Senor Wences actually got better with the years, I think - his appearances on the Muppets were even smoother than the original ones in the 1960s, but I like those just because they are so historical. He really was a very weird performer, when you think of it - disembodied head in a box, face painted on his hand to make a little face puppet. Everyone else used regular old Charlie McCarthy-style full-body puppets, and he did too originally - the story is that Pedro, the head in the box, had a body which got destroyed in a train accident. Senor Wences was left with nothing but the head, so out of necessity, he came up with the idea of just sticking the head in a box and working it by itself.


What's so good about him is that he can build such a believable interaction with his puppets, with the quick back-and-forth dialogue. I love the "I am not afraid. I am NOT afraid!" byplay with Johnny, and his little under-the-breath muttering that keeps distracting Senor Wences while he's doing his plate-spinning.

This second one is only from a few years later, but colour TV had already come in. This one has Cecilia Chicken in it, and is not quite as intresting as the first one, though it has a great range of voices. And who can resist Pedro roaring at Cecilia when the lid of the box is opened?