Monday, December 24, 2018

“The Middle Child’s Night Before Christmas” (2018 Update)

The Likely Author of “The Night Before Christmas” Was a Middle Child!

Livingston: All I want for
Christmas is some credit!

     While I was putting together an updated version of “The Middle Child’s Night Before Christmas(previously released in 2014), I found it odd that Santa’s 7th reindeer is named “Donder” in the famous Clement Clarke Moore poem, but called “Donner” in the 1949 Gene Autry song, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” So I did a little Mid Kid muckracking, and made a shocking unrelated discovery: Clement Clarke Moore might be “The Grinch Who Stole the Night Before Christmas!” The likely real author was a Middle Child! His name was Henry Beekman Livingston, Jr. Naturally, he wasn’t given credit.
     When the poem (originally titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”) was first published in 1823, it was submitted anonymously. In the following years, it was reprinted without attribution in countless publications. Word had spread that it was written by Moore, and in 1837 a friend of Moore's put Moore's name on the poem. When Moore included the poem in a book of his poetry published in 1844, he became accepted as the true author. It wasn’t until 15 years later when Livingston’s family first discovered Moore was taking credit for the poem they remember their father reading to them as his own as far back as 1807! They waited until 1900 before going public with their claim, and the issue has been debated ever since.
     In 2000, Donald W. Foster, a Literary Detective and Professor of English at Vassar College, argued Livingston was the true author. And as recently as 2016, New Zealand scholar MacDonald P. Jackson spent a year looking into the matter, concluding Livingston was the likely author. Good enough for me! (And you think I’m nuts spending a mere blog post on this?)
     While experts still debate who the real author of “The Night Before Christmas” was, there’s no question who wrote this version...

In case you’re still wondering, the names in the original 1823 poem were actually “Dunder” and “Blixem,” Dutch for “thunder” and “lightning.” (Which kind of makes sense because Moore knew German, not Dutch, and Livingston was of Dutch descent.) In a subsequent 1837 version, “Blixem” became “Blixen,” to make it rhyme with “Vixen,” and “Dunder” was renamed “Donder.” When Moore included the poem in his 1844 publication, he retained “Donder,” but “Blixen” was renamed “Blitzen.” Although “Donner” was popularized in the 1949 Rudolph song, the name was mentioned in the New York Times seven different times prior to 1949. So, mystery solved! Sort of. Not.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

New Middle Child Christmas Classic Discovered!

     “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” has become a beloved Christmas standard -- except for those who have recently taken issue with its portrayal of bullying and sexism. Well, they’re certainly not going be happy about this news.
     After years of searching, a select team of the world's best Middle Child Musicologists -- working under the direction of the International Middle Child Union -- have unearthed a never before heard version of the holiday classic which actually predates Rudolph. And the protagonist in this newly discovered rendition is treated even worse!
     Much like Rudolph, “Melvin the Middle Reindeer” tells the tale of a reindeer overlooked and cast aside by his furry-pawed peers. However, there is no happy ending for this reindeer reject.
     Music forensic experts have determined this discovery was recorded in the very same studio as the version made popular by Gene Autry. But it was placed on a shelf and everyone forgot about it.
     You can download and listen to the track from SoundCloud. They even found a video, which is really weird since that wasn’t even a thing then.

NEXT WEEK: The Return of “The Middle Child's Night Before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Middle Children Can Be Very Animated: Part 2

     We continue our salute of those animated characters firmly perched on the middle branches of their family trees. In no particular order, here are the final honorees to earn a spot on the “Smack Dab List of Best Animated Middle Children.” If I missed any, let me know...

KENNY MCCORMICK (Older Brother: Kevin; Younger Sister: Karen)
     Like many Middle Children, Kenny has a habit of acting out. He’s been arrested 4 times -- once for prostitution, when he gave Howard Stern a “hummer” for $10. He’s also committed Proxy Murder -- together with Eric Cartman, they got Sarah Jessica Parker to dress up as a moose and took her into the woods, where she was shot by hunters. His criminal record also includes: copyright infringement, attempted murder, vandalism, assault, filing a false police report (when he lied to the police about his parents abusing him), cannibalism, kidnapping, violation of firearm laws, underage smoking/drug abuse, arson, blackmail, pedophilia, vigilantism, underage sex, indecent exposure, fraud, civil unrest/rioting, and breaking & entering (when he broke into Cartman’s house with Stan Marsh, Butters Stotch, and Timmy Burch, to remove Cartman’s kidney.) Okay, so maybe he’s taken acting out to the extreme.
     Kenny’s ultimate Middle Child attention grab is dying in nearly every episode of the first five seasons of South Park. He has died and come back well over 100 times across the South Park franchise, meeting every fate from being struck by lightning (Ep. 1/Season3), to being eaten by a giant reptilian bird (Ep.14/Season 15) -- yet no one ever seems to remember. In Ep.12/Season 14 he laments, “I go to school the next day, and everyone is just like, ‘Oh, hey Kenny.’ Even if they had seen me get decapitated with their own eyes.” You know you’re a Middle Child when nobody even pays attention to you dying!

DEWEY DUCK (Older Brother: Huey; Younger Brother: Louie)
     Along with his buoyant brothers, Dewey has been making life miserable for his Uncle Donald since their debut in the 1937 comic strip, Donald's Nephews. The second brother hatched, his official birth name is Dewford Deuteronomy Duck. Dewey missed out on being the eldest triplet by a mere three seconds. Instead, he’s the Middle Duck and wants to stand out.
     In the 1987 DuckTales episode “Duck in the Iron Mask” (Ep. 56/Season 1) Dewey is at bat for his Junior Woodchucks team, but the crowd keeps mistaking him for one of his other two brothers. Dewey wants to be his own duck and separate himself from the threesome, so the next morning he sheds his signature blue shirt and appears wearing attention grabbing garb.
     Dewey’s Middle Child issues continue in the 2017 DuckTales reboot. As a way of proving himself, he embarks on dangerous adventures by himself, earning the nickname “The Guts.” Like many Mid Kids, Dewey can be sensitive and insecure. He’s also made it his life's mission to find his long-lost mother, Donald’s sister Della.

CHRIS GRIFFIN (Older Sister: Meg; Younger Brother: Stewie)
     Christopher Cross Griffin was an accident, the result of a broken condom. Peter and Lois filed a lawsuit and were able to buy their house with the proceeds, so it wasn’t a total loss. In “Peter's Daughter” (Ep.7/ Season 6), Lois admits she smoked and drank a lot when she was pregnant with Chris hoping it would terminate the pregnancy. So even before becoming a Middle Child, nobody wanted him around.
     Chris is self-conscious, mostly about his weight. I’m sure being called “Elephant Child” when he was born didn’t help. He has a close relationship with his father, but sometimes thinks he won’t live up to Peter’s expectations, which are pretty low. Chris is uncomfortably attracted to his mother. He even once dated a girl that looked like Lois, figuring the only person who could love him would be someone who could tolerate his father.
      Chris has pretty typical sibling rivalry with Meg. They love each other, even if it’s only because they’re forced to by their mother. Of course, that doesn't include that time in “Lethal Weapons” (Ep.7/Season 3), as seen here. Chris is also often the unwitting guinea pig for Stewie's many experiments.
      Oh, and in “And the Wiener is...” (Ep.3/Season 5) we learn that Chris has an unusually large penis, like most male Middles. Or maybe it’s just me.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Middle Children Can Be Very Animated: Part 1

     I’ll be the first to admit it. Like other Middle Children, I’ve done many things over the years to compensate for the attention I felt like I was wrongfully being denied. Whether I was standing on my head singing songs for my grandparents, putting on puppet shows and magic shows for anyone who’d watch, or making an injury appear to be far more serious than it actually was, my Middle Child antics could surely be described as... animated. Did it ever quench my thirst for attention? Of course not. But there is a special group of Middle Children who have earned worldwide adoration by being animated. And I mean totally animated.
     While many fictional Middle Children have been immortalized in TV & Film (see this list from Zimbio), the animated Middle Children gathered here are for real! All verified by extensive study of cartoon birth records and analysis of comic strip DNA.
     In no particular order, here is the “Smack Dab List of Best Animated Middle Children:”

 LISA SIMPSON (Older Brother: Bart; Younger Sister: Maggie)
     America’s favorite sax addict is ranked 11th on TV Guide’s list of “Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time” -- tied with her older brother. Intellectually superior to her parents with an IQ of 159, Lisa is the voice of reason in the family, yet feels like an outsider and often wonders if she was adopted. What Middle Child hasn't had the very same thought?
     For the most part, Lisa had to raise herself as Homer and Marge were busy dealing with Bart, as seen in “Lisa’s Pony” (Ep.8 Season 3). As an infant, she changed her own diapers. Doh! While this lack of nurturing made Lisa fiercely independent, it also made her feel like her parents don’t understand or support her. When trying to build Bart’s confidence before a golf competition, Lisa tells him, “Having never received encouragement, I'm not sure how it should sound, but here goes: I believe in you.”
     Early signs of Lisa’s Middle Child issues are evident with her heartbreaking rendition of “Happy Birthday to Me” in “Stark Raving Dad” (Ep. 1/Season 3). There’s a story in Simpsons Comics #89 titled “Lisa in the Middle.” And Lisa’s Middle Child Syndrome surfaces again in “Peeping Mom” (Ep. 18/Season 26)...

SIMON SEVILLE (Older Brother: Alvin; Younger Brother: Theodore)
     The list of famous animated rodents is an impressive one: Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Danger Mouse, Chip & Dale, Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Fievel Mousekewitz, Jerry, Itchy, Speedy Gonzales, and of course, Alvin & the Chipmunks.
     The birth order of the singing Seville siblings has been the center of worldwide controversy. Some fan sites suggest Simon is eight seconds older than Alvin. In fact, in “The Sub,” Ep. 29B/Season 2 of Alvinnn! and the Chipmunks, Alvin does refer to himself as the “Middle Child.” But as seen below, all questions are laid to rest in “Grounded Chipmunk,” Ep. 60/Season 6 of The Chipmunks, when Alvin reveals the truth! Having previously established Theodore as the runt of the Seville scurry, Simon is confirmed as the Middle Chipmunk, securing his place as the sole inductee in the Animated Middle Rodent Hall of Fame.

JOHN DARLING (Older Sister: Wendy; Younger Brother: Michael)
     Don’t let the top hat and fancy talk fool you. Although he appears sophisticated for his age, the high flying Middle Darling is a child at heart with a playful sense of adventure, as witnessed by his fascination with pirates. John likes listening to his older sister's Peter Pan stories. He also enjoys playing the part of Captain Hook while his younger brother is Peter when play in the nursery.
     Scottish author and playwright J.M. Barrie named John after John Llewelyn-Davies, one of the brothers whose family was the inspiration for the boy characters in Peter Pan. True Pan-ophiles also know John shares the same middle name as the world’s most renowned diminutive Middle Child -- Napoleon.

 LINUS VAN PELT (Older Sister: Lucy; Younger Brother: Rerun)
     Born on July 14, 1952, Linus didn’t make his first appearance in the Peanuts comic strip until September 19, 1952. He wasn’t mentioned by name until three days later. How Middle Child is that? Linus has a typical Middle Child relationship with his siblings. Lucy treats him like crap, making him her personal errand boy and often getting physical with him for no apparent reason. She even once took his beloved security blanket and locked it in a closet for two weeks as part of a bet. What a bitch!
     Linus is depicted as a loving older brother to Rerun, who he actually named. Upon learning about her new baby brother, Lucy comments that having another little brother is like watching reruns on television, and Linus suggests naming him just that. Rerun is often embarrassed by some of Linus’ more glaring peculiarities. These include, but are not limited to, Linus' unwavering belief in the existence of the Great Pumpkin and his obsession with his ever present security blanket, which he’s often mocked for by other characters as well. His insecurity is further evidenced in his persistent sucking of both thumbs. He insists one is sweeter than the other, by the way. But nothing captures Linus’ true Middle Child nature more than his loyal best-friendship to Charlie Brown. And that cannot be easy.

NEXT WEEK: Middle Children Can Be Very Animated - Part 2