The Mouse from the Caucus-Race babbles on a Wine Label at Trader Joe’s

We saw this Instragram photo on Twitter (thanks @1devo) and lo! it’s Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of “A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on a bottle’s label. The wine art tastefully adds a glass of red wine in hand of the Mouse, who is telling a very dry tale about a dry wine. (You can see the added color slightly better in the image at the bottom of the post.) Is this a commentary that all descriptions of the wine on wine labels are babbled nonsense? The mouse is babbling “It’s an insouciant little vintage that’s both playful and brash, brawny and confident but with a smidgen of unctuousness that allows its provocative f lavor s to blend into a voluptious tastescape – …” [I couldn’t go on transcribing…] If that’s not the wine industry self-parodying itself, then what is? The back label begins, “We won’t bore you with overwrought descriptions of Babble,” et cetera.

It also replaces Alice for some reason with the Gryphon from Chapter IX. Maybe the vintners didn’t want to offer wine to a young girl (even though the March Hare does.)

Babble Mendocino Red Wine is a designer blend available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s (one of their unique distributions I believe.) The promotional article from their Fearless Flying is far from dry:

Something to Talk about

The English poet Edward Young once quipped, “They only babble who practice not reflection.” Au contraire. They who partake of a fine, high value red wine can reflect thoughtfully, then run at the mouth enthusiastically. (Case in point.)

In honor of our thoughtful prattlers, we bring you Babble Red Wine from Mendocino County. Crafted exclusively for us by a renowned vintner, whose 40 years of wine making experience is as legendary as his infinitely quotable wit, this red blend is verbose but harmonious. 36% Petite Syrah, 26% Syrah, 17% Merlot, 10% Carignane, 10% Grenache and 1% Malbec, this full-bodied red boasts aromas of savory plum and blackberry preserves. It’s creamy on the palate with hints of blackberry cobbler and baking chocolate that roll around the tongue, along with substantial-yet-rounded tannins that lead to a long, wordy finish. As you can imagine, this is a wine that pairs well with hearty fare. We’re selling each 750 ml bottle of Babble Red Wine for $6.99 – a price so good, it will only stir more chatter.

Viticulture Veracity: Mendocino County profited heartily from the California Gold Rush. Failed prospectors planted vines on the rugged hillsides, turning the lack of nugget gold into pure liquid gold – wine.

Hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica:A harmonica to produce music for the soul played by fingers dipped in water… It’s a real thing. To make a wine glass sing, simply wet your finger and gently rub it along the rim of the glass. Or just pour in some Babble.


Multidisciplinary discussion of the mathematical imaginary in L.A. this month

A Mouse's Tale

A multidisciplinary discussion

A science writer, a mathematician, and a professor of English walk into a library… no, it’s not an unpromising joke, it’s a very promising-sounding multidisciplinary event taking place in Los Angeles on February 22.

As part of Visions and Voices: the University of Southern California Arts and Humanities Initiative, three very different intellects will be discussing Wonderland and the Mathematical Imaginary. The trio consists of Australian science writer Margaret Wertheim, who you may have seen crocheting a coral reef during a TED lecture; Francis Bonahon, a professor of mathematics at the USC Dornsife College and a specialist in hyperbolic geometry and quantum topology; and Jim Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Chair in English at the USC Dornsife College and specialist in Victorian literature, culture, criminality, lunacy, and perversion.

The discussion will be held at the historic Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library and will be followed by an “experimental play/workshop” where, it is promised, “participants can make and play with absurd mathematical objects.” The event will run from 11am – 1pm and admission is free and open to the public.

The organizers are the same folks who run the Wonderland Award, an annual competition that encourages new scholarship and creative work related to Lewis Carroll. The deadline for entries this year is April 2 — we’ll be sure to remind you again closer to the time.


Now Available Again: Disney’s 1951 Alice in Wonderland

If you recall, Disney re-released their 1951 animated feature Alice in Wonderland on DVD last year in conjunction with their new Tim Burton version: a “2-Disc Special Un-Anniversary Edition“. This is still available, and contains the following special features:

oReflections on Alice: Walt Disney labored for almost twenty years to get his vision of Alice in Wonderland on the screen. In this featurette, learn about how a exceptional group of talented individuals conquered the difficulties of translating Lewis Carroll’s beloved tale into a classic animated movie
oDeleted scene: Pig And Pepper: In the twenty years it was in development at the Walt Disney Studios, Alice In Wonderland went through many changes. This rare glimpse at a scene that was once considered for a 1939 version of Alice In Wonderland is narrated by the directors of The Princess And The Frog, and offers their informed perspective on how scenes come and go during the development of an animated movie
oRemastered and restored with an all-new transfer
oVirtual Wonderland Party activities including riddles, silly song & dance, Teapot orchestra, Mad Hatter Says, and other games and stories
o”Thru the Mirror” animated short with Mickey Mouse
o”I’m Odd” never before heard song
o2 Sing along songs
oSet-top game
o”One Hour in Wonderland” documentary (60 mins.)
o”An Alice Comedy: Alice’s Wonderland” featurette (8 mins.)
o”Operation Wonderland” featurette (11 mins.)
oExcerpt from “The Fred Warring Show” (30 mins.)
oDeleted Material Featurettes: “From Wonderland to Never Land,” “Song Demos,” Deleted Storyboard Concept: Alice Daydreams in the Park”
oOriginal Walt Disney TV introductions and trailers

Kathryn Beaumont with Walt Disney c. 1949

Now, on February 1st, Disney is issuing again their 1951 animated feature Alice in Wonderland, a “Two-Disc 60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo“. We look forward to 2012’s Special 61st Re-Un-Anniversary Edition. In the Knight Letter 85 (now available!), we mentioned that Kathryn Beaumont, “voice of both Disney’s Alice and Wendy from Peter Pan, appeared at the Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco on May 22, 2010, to share her memories as a voice-over artist. The actress, who turned 72 [last] year, was recently heard in the video game ‘Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep’ as the voice of ‘Kairi’s Grandma.’ She will also be introducing the special feature ‘Through the Keyhole: A Companion’s Guide to Wonderland’ in the digital remastering of the 1951 film to be re-re-re-re-released in February 2011.” I do not know if this 2011 edition is significantly more remastered than the 2010 edition, but for shopping comparison, I’ll quote the full special features on the new one also:

o New BD Features
o Through the Keyhole: A Companion’s Guide to Wonderland – View the movie in this special mode and discover references to the original Lewis Carroll classic – introduced by the voice of Alice, Kathryn Beaumont.
o Disney View – Watch the movie in this expanded viewing experience with new Disney art in the wings of the screen
o Painting the Roses Red game – Help paint the roses red in the Queen’s garden. Careful, or someone could lose their head
o Walt Disney color TV introduction (1959) – A never-before-seen color TV intro by Walt
o Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob – Kathryn Beaumont provides an introduction to this newly discovered reference footage of Alice talking to the doorknob
o Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks – Kathryn Beaumont introduces a newly discovered pencil test of Alice shrinking
• PLUS, Classic DVD Features:
o Reflections on Alice
o Operation Wonderland (now in hi-def)
o “I’m Odd” newly discovered Cheshire Cat song and intro
o Thru the Mirror Mickey Mouse animated short (now in hi-def)
o One-hour in Wonderland
o An Alice Comedy: Alice’s Wonderland
o Original theatrical trailers (1951 & 1974)

So, lots of new stuff! But, for some reason, not all of the stuff from the 2010 release. If you want to read more about Beaumont’s appearance at the Disney Family Museum last year, there was an article about it on blog Disney Fan Insider here.


“Alice’s Theme”: Music & Lyrics by Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman’s soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland will be released on CD (an ancient kind of optical disc used to store digital audio) next Tuesday, March 2nd, and there’s some short clips at the Amazon store if you desire a teaser. I couldn’t help noticing the opening song – with children’s voices singing “Oh, Alice, dear where have you been?” – and I found the complete lyrics at a blog called I’ll include them with that website’s charming introduction:

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp as Elijah Wood The Mad Hatter begins pissing off prickly Lewis Carroll purists on March 5, 2010 in theaters everywhere in eye-popping 3D. Lending musical support is Burton’s constant composer Danny Elfman, AKA film music’s most awesome red head.

Threaded throughout the score is an original song penned by Elfman, called “Alice’s Theme”, and it opens up the Disney Records score album due in stores on March 2 (obligatory Amazon link). Here’s a sneak peek at the song’s lyrics (thanks to the supremely talented LD for these)…

“Alice’s Theme”

Music and Lyrics by Danny Elfman

Oh, Alice, dear where have you been?
So near, so far or in between?
What have you heard what have you seen?
Alice, Alice, please, Alice!

Oh, tell us are you big or small
To try this one or try them all
It’s such a long, long way to fall
Alice, Alice, oh, Alice

How can you know this way not that?
You choose the door you choose the path
Perhaps you should be coming back
Another day, another day

And nothing is quite what is seems
You’re dreaming are you dreaming, oh, Alice?
(Oh, how will you find your way? Oh, how will you find your way?)
(There’s not time for tears today. There’s no time for tears today.)

So many doors – how did you choose
So much to gain so much to lose
So many things got in your way
No time today, no time today
Be careful not to lose your head
Just think of what the doormouse [sic] said…Alice!

Did someone pull you by the hand?
How many miles to Wonderland?
Please tell us so we’ll understand
Alice…Alice…Oh, Alice

(Oh how will you find you way? … Oh, how will you find you way?)

Sing along!

I’ve never met a prickly Lewis Carroll purist, let alone a pissed-off one, but I would presume they’re easily decapitated with a vorpal sword. Or defenestrated with a defibrillator.

Anyway, if you are not familiar with Mr. Elfman, he is the film composer and long-time collaborator with Mr. Burton, the man wrote the iconic music for Batman, The Simpsons theme, and those wonderful songs for The Nightmare Before Christmas. He has done less-than-stellar work for some of Mr. Burton’s more recent mediocrities. Elfman is often mocked in the classical world for basically having a team of composers do his work for him, although I sometimes feel this criticism is harsh. (After all, Renaissance painters employed whole crews of apprentices, Dale Chihuly has a studio to manifest his glass-art masterpieces, and George Gershwin didn’t do the orchestrations for Rhapsody in Blue (free round of drinks if you can name the composer who did!) Art is not always the product of an agonized solo genius, sometimes she can be more of an architectural designer, et cetera, especially in the film music world. Thus ends this parenthetical rant.)
As dear to my adolescent heart as Elfman’s music for The Nightmare Before Christmas is, there’s many cringeworthy lyrics (e.g., “I wish my cohorts weren’t so dumb / I’m not the dumb one / You’re no fun / Shut up! / Make me!”) I would pay a large sum of money to hire William Shatner to read the lyrics to “Alice’s Theme” as a beat poem accompanied by bongos and upright bass (as he did for Sarah Palin’s verbiage). In conclusion, Mr. Elfman should hire a real librettist.

Alice in Dingleland – The Panto

Given plenty of money and a reliable seat cushion, I am relatively certain that a keen fan could see 365 different community theater productions of “Alice in Wonderland” this year. Amongst the ever-popular homages to the Disney film, it is always nice to hear of a production that takes a more local angle. “Alice In Dingleland” promises just that.

Dingle is a neighborhood of the English city of Liverpool. Liverpudlians, also known as Scousers, have a strong regional identity and an even stronger accent (think early Beatles).

Following on the success of their first pantomime “Cinderella and her American Fella,” the Dingle Community Theatre, have created a “scousalized pantomime” version of Alice in Wonderland:

“Alice In Dingleland” follows the journey of ‘posh’ Alice as she is transformed into a true Scouser after following the white rabbit into the Williamson Tunnels.

Using local settings as our inspirations… Dickinson’s Dingle beauty spot, the Tunnels and Princes Park, we have encountered many characters such as the Scouse Mouse, Dave the Knave “I’m innocent, it’s a stitch up”, the militant gardeners, “you’re a name not a number”. The White Rabbit of course, and the double act that is the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, “Mad, Mad I’m fuming!”

“Alice In Dingleland” will be at the Unity Theatre, 1 Hope Place, Liverpool, L1 9BG, United Kingdom on the 16 and 17 February, 2010.

Keith Sheppard’s Wonderland Revisited

Evertype has published a book of new Alice stories called Wonderland Revisited and the Games Alice Played There by author Keith Sheppard, with illustrations by Cynthia Brownell. At Sheppard’s website,, you can read the first chapter of the book & also some of his other nonsense verse.

Here is the blurb from the back cover:

“Excuse me,” said Alice to a small white Mouse in red shorts. “What precisely is a custard race?”

Did Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass leave you yearning for more? Join Alice on her new journey and meet the extraordinary inhabitants of Wonderland, both familiar and new.

If your bed turned into a boat and you found yourself “drifting off” in an entirely unexpected manner how would you find your way home? The Jack of Diamonds says it’s Alice’s own fault for being fast asleep—had she slept more slowly she wouldn’t be so far from home.

The Red Queen, the Mah-jong Dragons, even the Red King’s Gamekeeper, all seem helpful enough at first—but things never quite turn out the way Alice hopes!

Brimming with wordplay, nonsense verse, and a cast of eccentric characters each with their own peculiar logic, this adventure is faithful to the style of the originals, picking up the pen where Lewis Carroll put it down. Be swept away on a torrent of humour and madness. Alice is back!

It can be purchased from for $12.95 or for £8.50.


Special Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at the Dorchester this week

All week long, the Promenade at the Dorchester (in London’s Mayfair on Park Lane) has been transformed into the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, with help from the English National Ballet‘s young dancers. If you’re in old Lud’s town, there’s still time to catch it this weekend. Author Jenny Woolf says she “thinks the costumes probably come from the Frederick Ashton version of Alice in Wonderland.” It’s apparently an annual event. From the press release:

The Dorchester’s award-winning afternoon tea will be served with pirouettes, pliés and petit sautés as dancers from English National Ballet dressed as some of the favourite characters from Alice in Wonderland will be found among the specially created decorations and flower displays. Children can look out for favourite characters including the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Dormouse and Alice herself.

Accompanying adults will be able to sink back and enjoy the entertainment with a glass of champagne, delicious savoury finger sandwiches, homemade scones and a selection of indulgent cakes and pastries.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party will be served on The Promenade at The Dorchester from 26 October to 1 November 2009 at two sittings, 2.15pm and 4.45pm, and is priced at £47.50 per adult including a glass of Champagne and £30.00 per child. (Prices are inclusive of VAT and exclusive of service charge at 12.5%) For every Mad Hatter’s Tea that is ordered £1 will be donated to Cancer Research UK.


National Book Festival

I regret to inform you that Mr. Lewis Carroll will be unable to attend this year’s National Book Festival, which takes place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Saturday, September 26. However, the delightful poster for the event, illustrated by artist Charles Santore, most cleverly features Alice, the Hatter, the March Hare, the Dormouse, the Caterpillar, and the White Rabbit, front and center as they should be. (Click the image to enlarge.)



After much accidental online leakage (I would very much like to know the story behind that – coerced intern? anarchist webgeek? media outlet that doesn’t respect embargoes?) one day prior to Tim Burton’s official showing at Comic-Con (with surprise visit from Johnny Depp) and an early release to Mad Hatter’s fans on Facebook yesterday, the trailer for Alice in Wonderland is now up on the Disney website.

Probably not coincidentally, Disney also announced yesterday that an Alice game for the Wii, DS, and PC would be released the same week of the movie.

As a former marketing person, it is very interesting to see all of the various games and gimmicks that they are dreaming up for this movie. On the other hand, they are not quite on top of their game… I signed up for Disney’s mailing list despite my misgivings of giving the Mouse Corporation any of my private information. By signing up, I basically told them that they already have my $10 to see the movie on March 5, that I am their target audience, and that I will probably be talking about it to all of my friends for the next eight months. Soooooo…. why haven’t I received any emails yet?!