I was exploring Disney+ (their subscription streaming video) and was delighted to see the archive and body of work. I am old enough to remember when Disney product was enjoyed only at Disney's pleasure. Anniversary celebrations of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo or Fantasia brought them back to theaters for limited runs. Disney revived itself with Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, then came VHS home copies. Leap forward to now when everything is on demands – even Disney.
This isn't about the breadth of Disney's offering. It's wide, vintage and new – includes Pixar and Marvel.
What caught my attention – what wakened a long dormant memory – was the sight of those two chipmunks.
"I remember them," I thought. "They were so funny." So I watched one.
I didn't laugh at these chipmunks. Their voices were just high pitches, squeaky, sped up. I couldn't understand what they were saying – so who know if the dialogue was even funny. Then it hit me: These aren't the funny chipmunks. What I was thinking of was two other chipmunks. In fact, they weren't even chipmunks at all: They were the Warner Brothers goofy gophers, Mac and Tosh, introduced in 1947, four years after Disney's Chip and Dale. They did not imitate Chip and Dale, they exceeded them, much as the Beach Boys vastly improved on the sound of Jan and Dean.
So THAT is what I was remembering so fondly. Voiced by two of my favorites, Mel Blanc and Stan Freberg, instead of indecipherable, squeaky, ultra-speedy voices, the English-accented gophers stopped every scene with lengthy, over-courteous exchanges of polite pleasantries, all while a ticking bomb was about to be set off or go off.
So the takeaway? Two things:
I was never a big fan of oceans or beaches until my thirties, then I became inexplicably drawn to the sea.
Before that, I'd show up with sneakers and socks and just bide my time. I was indifferent about the water. I detested the sand.
When my two kids were small we began taking vacations to the ocean. After playing with them in the tide and returning them to the blanket to play in the sand, I felt pulled back to the water.
I watched one wave after another approach at eye level. I became excited as big, crashing wave approached. I felt a kinship with the children squealing with delight at the big wave approached and splashed against us. I didn't squeal, but any age difference was erased as I anticipated the excitement of that moment.
Sea-ing for the First time
I focused on the incoming ripples and waves. I couldn't pull myself away. I responded to wave after wave after wave, bobbiing over them or allowing the big ones to ride me in a few feet, then turning to face the next one.
After a few summers of this, I realized what was happening. I had reached an intersection of life in which my age and the accelerated pace of our digital culture required recalibration. My internal beat was being reset by the metronome that is the rhythm of the tide. Staring at the calm blue water was meditative.
At this time I also noticed on the beaches in early morning or evening, mostly middle aged men practicing tai chi, slow and graceful postures of arm and leg movements, part exerise and part meditation. More on that.
I live in Ohio, so the beach trips are, at best, annual. But at the same I experienced another pull toward nature. While walking my dog I found myself kicking off my shoes while walking across wide green meadows.
Wiithout even realizing it, I would look forward to it, feeling the warmth of the ground, the texture of the grass, and just a general feeling of energy and wellness.
In small talk, I mentioned this to a massage therapist friend, who said, "You're earthing."
I never heard of it before. Earthing is a belief that being in direct connect with the earth, grounded to the earth's electrical charges, provides natural health benefits. Wearing most shoes prevents that conductivity, so earth is mostly associated with barefoot walking on the ground.
Just as a plant will bend toward the sun, I was naturally drawn to both sea and ground without thinking about it.
To complement this, I began to work out more. In addition to walking, I adopted a regimen of light calisthentics and even joined a gym. While following workout videos at home on Youtube, I learned more about tai chi and began doing beginner postures.
Today it feels like the perfect complement to the sea and earth sources of wellness that I have experienced. The movements replicate how our limbs move in the water. There is a stillness and grace, an inspiring blend of motion and breathing, and a direct connection to nature. So it stands to reason why so many tai chi instructors set videos by the sea, river, canyon, trail and other natural settings.
My arms and hands move water. My body sways and shakes like a tree in the wind. My palms become clouds moving across the sky. My feet are planted in the floor like tree roots.
I follow a good number of tai chi instructors. Here is the first one.I continue to take daily walks on nature trails, earthing when weather permits. I look forward to visiting the ocean, but that is at best an annual treat. In the meantime, tai chi gives me access to the natural wellness resource that gives me easy everyday access to the benefits provided by sea and earth.
In just five minutes and 29 seconds you can understand how to become a good writer by paying attention to "Count's Place," a 1962 recording by Count Basie and the Kansas City Seven.
Winter solstice festivities existed long before the birth of Christ. To liven things up on the shortest day of the year, people partied. Christians, seeing the party already started, decided to jump aboard and co-opt the celebration by saying it was a religious holiday. This gave them air cover. They could now justify their imbibing of spirits as, well, spiritual. Want to make the faith interesting? Keep Christ in April 24. Or any other lonely day on the calendar that's got nothing going for it.
Panic-stricken turkeys fleeing the first Thanksgiving.
True or false
The name Thanksgiving is transparent and it means exactly what it says: It is a day set aside to share a feast with friends and family and to be grateful for one's blessings.
False. It is widely misconstrued that Thanksgiving is a simple, transparently named holiday set aside to give thanks. But because it was established before the era of recorded communications – or eyewink emojis – no one was able to tell that the thanks part of Thanksgiving was sarcastic, i.e., "Hey, thanks to whoever left the gas tank on E!"
Also, nobody picked up on the snark of establishing the tradition of turkey, which is a bland, dry entree that is edible only if drowned in gravy, second only to fried liver – which must be smothered in onions – as a dish to be the least thankful for.
Then again, maybe that's the best test of gratitude. Being thankful for something that isn't really that good. It's baby steps for something bigger like: If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?
If you know who said that, then you're ready for the next big holiday.
When you think about it, the first Thanksgiving was just a welcoming gesture for Americans who already lived on the continent to welcome the newest immigrants to their shores.
It's a rare window of time in your child's life. It could be a matter of months, even weeks. It's the time before you child understands the business model of the dollar store.
During this time you can take advantage of this fact and become a larger-than-life hero to that kid. Take your child window shopping. Go to lots of stores. Whet his or her appetite to buy. Point out things in windows. Check out items on shelves.
Refuse to buy anything. Then, when the kid is salivating with consumer desire, go to a Dollar Store and announce, "This is the last place we are shopping today. You can buy ANYTHING in the store."
You will seem like the Lord of Largesse.
Your child will squeal with delight. Enjoy this. In a few weeks, this kid will understand the meaning of the dollar store and may even be resentful that you tried to pawn yourself off as a big spender.
Till then, enjoy that moment of being the most generous, indulgent parent there ever was.
(As you get older, you can share the joy of shopping at these stores by dancing to this song):
I didn't take this photo. But it represents the poem well.
I saw an old woman helping an older woman
step up on a curb.
It was a beautiful moment
for all mankind.
Our gurus and seminars fill calendars
Earn us cred
To move ahead.
But today our mission: Do not
leave her behind.
All from a much-needed pause.
People in cars, obeying laws.
1. Fear of Pain
A countdown of five creates an intimidating sense of urgency that can be traced in American culture to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," a 1965 animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. The global popularity of this Peabody and Emmy award-winning animated TV special has firmly entrenched "five" as a list number that attracts the attention of our inner Linus – and it has been proven to make us pay attention.
2. Research Confirms It
Google invested more than $30 million to confirm what we all pretty much knew. If it comes in a five, it can make a lot of fast impact on culture. From the Osmonds and Jackson Five to New Edition and New Kids On the Block to NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, content providers have taken the lessons of opportunistic music producers in mingling together five random things only to see the ROI go through the roof.
Want proof? Here are the Mills Brothers, whose 1931 recording "Hold That Tiger" was a #1 hit and it would still be on the charts today if it weren't for the fact that there were only four members of the band. Listen.>
3. Because It's a High FIVE!
It's so good you don't even need another person. Content best practices change continually. As the parameters of media consumers' attention spans further shrink, to make your five-point listicle even more effective, make it brief. Three is not only the new five, but three is a top contender for this year's Person of the Year at Time magazine.
Mark Morelli is a New York Times Bestseller reader.