Thursday, December 21, 2006

Welcome, Christmas! Come This Way!

It would hardly do to get this close to Christmas Day and continue to have a blog with a Scary Mary trailer and a song by the name of "That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!" posted. Time to right this ship.

Get thee behind me, Mary! Be gone, Sufjan! There's some new folks in town!

Below (and on the sidebar) we have a fantastic medley from the Boston Pops Orchestra circa 1959 - back when the venerable Arthur Fiedler was conducting. I can only assume they titled it 'A Christmas Festival' because 'JoytotheworldGodrestyemerrygentlemanThefirstnoel' was already taken. In other words, it's a smooshing together of all your favorite Christmas carols into one, with fantastic results. I wish more people did it this way. Every Christmas Eve, my ridiculously large extended family gathers at my parents house to celebrate the holiday, and at some point in the evening, we all squeeze into the living room to sing Christmas carols - or something like that. You see, the first couple of years we would sing about ten or twelve songs - in their entirety. In the years to follow, we would cut off a song here or there if we didn't deem it worthy enough for our family ('Good King Wenceslas' comes to mind, as does 'The Wassail Song'), and in the years to follow that, we started cutting off entire verses. Nowadays, we sing (or hum, if you prefer) just one verse from about five different songs before everyone breathes a big sigh of relief and we start the annual Christmas Grab (referred to in lesser households as a 'Yankee Swap') - which is what everyone would have rather done in the first place. My point is, I think my family could have taken a cue from the Pops. This is how it's done right.

Download: Boston Pops Orchestra - A Christmas Festival

Of course, this Boston Pops tune, being that it's performed by an orchestra and all, doesn't have any words. Some people like that better - I, among them. Christmas carol lyrics are among the most confusing in all of song. It's like a bunch of writers got together and held a contest to decide who could most sound like Yoda. Lines such as 'Let nothing you dismay!' and 'Bearing gifts we traverse afar' do nothing but make me scratch my head in befuddlement. Often times, they're vulgar and inappropriate too, as in the case of "What Child Is This?" where it's rather matter of factly asked, "Why lies he in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?" I ask you, is this how we want to teach our children music? Nay, nay. These carol writers are heathens - the lot of them.

Except for Johnny Mathis. OK, OK, OK - he's not a carol writer... he just sings them. But, it just so happens that I have fantastic memories of his carol renditions. We didn't have many Christmas albums to listen to while decorating the tree when I was growing up, but we did own Johnny Mathis' 'Merry Christmas' - and that was the best (not a difficult accomplishment when you consider that the only other album we owned was 'A B.J. Thomas Christmas.') Johnny sang with such heart and enthusiasm that you couldn't help but get caught up in it all. It helps that he has a great voice, too. So, as an added bonus I've posted Johnny Mathis' rendition of Sleigh Ride. While not technically a Christmas carol, it certainly falls under the genre of Holiday Music and befits the season. It also is one of my sister's favorites because Johnny rather effeminately sings 'YOOOOOOO Hooooooo" towards the end, and she loved to sing along. This ones for you, El.

Download: Johnny Mathis - Sleigh Ride

The audio portion of our Christmas post has, regrettably, reached it's conclusion. However, don't despair! There's plenty more to come. The video portion is about to begin!

Now, being the loyal reader that you undoubtedly are, what would you say would be the first order of business when showing a Christmas themed video clip? What would my history suggest? What's that? Charlie Brown, you say? Good guess, amigo! I wrote an entire post about this special last year, so rather than blab on about it, I think I'll just refer you there. Oh, and post the entire thing. It's a classic, after all. (By the way, make sure to check out the scenes where the characters are dancing (at 8:43, 10:04 & 15:10.) High comedy. Linus and Sally can boogie. Oh, and Pigpen rocks too - just in general.)

Awwww, yeah. Charlie B. in da house. He's got to share the spotlight this time around though, because Christmas comes but once a year and all that jazz, but there's lots and lots of Christmas specials. Our next trip to Christmas past comes to us from Dr. Seuss. The good doctor and H.A. Rey (author of the Curious George books) have long battled it out for the honor of being my favorite. The winner is different depending on my mood (although, truth be told, Dr. Seuss emerges victorious 75% of the time.) One thing is certain, however, and that's the fact that Dr. Seuss has a far better Christmas special. In fact, of those two authors, he's got the only Christmas special - and he even got Boris Karloff to narrate it. Tough to beat. By now, you've surely realized that our next clip is 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' - the cartoon version, not that wasted piece of film starring Jim Carey. I dig the Grinch. He and Grumpy dwarf are the two cartoon characters I relate to most, but since Grumpy has probably always hated Christmas, whereas the Grinch hated it, but ultimately repented and found redemption, I guess I have to side with him - if only just for today. Plus, he's much more sinister and cruel. Have fun.

(Oh, and if you get bored or don't feel like watching the whole thing, might I suggest a drinking game handed down to me by my brother? It's called 'The Who Game' and it's very very easy to play. Simply, take a swig of your favorite alcoholic beverage every time they say the word 'Who.' Makes for some interesting moments when they burst into the 'Wa-who doraze' song. You'll be having fun in no time. Trust me.)

And, of course, we save the best for last. This next clip comes from one of my (and everyone else's) favorite films. It's not a cartoon, and it's not a half hour long special. Still, I can quote 80% of it from memory and not feel the least bit corny or ashamed. It's only on once a year these days (as opposed to the gazillion times a week it was on in the 80's. NBC bought it from the public domain which means no one else can air it now - jerks. Thank God for DVD's) but we should feel lucky and grateful it's still around. After all, what would Christmas be like without George Bailey?

Here's hoping you all have a happy and healthy holiday season. Here's hoping you all get lots of fun toys and presents. And, here's hoping you give more than you get.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Toppins From Hell

I must've seen Mary Poppins a gazillion times when I was younger, and unfortunately all I can remember about it are two songs - specifically Dick Van Dyke singing the 'Chim Chiminey' song in a bad Cockney accent, and Julie Andrews (as Mary) singing "Toppins! Toppins! Toppins a bag!" The latter infuriated me because I couldn't figure out what the hell a toppin (sp?) was. I still had no idea up until about three years ago when a British co-worker of mine took offense at me even daring to ask.

"TWO PENCE!" she exclaimed. "God, don't you bloody Yanks know anything?!?!" And that ended that conversation - but only after I called her a surly bitch. Rudeness, I can take. Being referred to as a "Yank" is crossing the line.

Anyway, back to Mary Poppins. Despite the fact that I can only remember two songs (and I think there were some dancing penguins in there, weren't there? Help me out, here) I DO remember liking the film very much. I was young when I saw it, of course, and to my mind it was full of magic and wonder. It was most certainly NOT a scary film. I'm quite sure of it. So, how then, do we explain this?

Amazing what a little editing will do, isn't it? Some innocent things shouldn't be messed with. THAT is some scary stuff, amigos. Warped, yes. Brilliant, yes. But, above all - scaaarrrrryy. And, just in time for the holidays, too!

Go ahead. Watch it again. You know you want to...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tip A Canoe and Me Too

Those who've been reading this blog from the beginning may remember one of my first posts in which I admitted to being more than a little confounded by the act of tipping. In that post, I focused specifically on the Jr. Stylist (or whatever they're called) whose unenviable job it was to wash my hair, right before Rene, the trash mouth stylist supreme, cut it. Now, every idiot knows your supposed to tip the person who cuts your hair 15% - 20%, just as you would your server at a restaurant. It was the Jr. Stylist that had me worried, and after speaking with Rene, I decided that a $1 or $2 tip for said hair washer would be appropriate. Problem solved, right? Hmph. Not really.

Do me a favor and look at the calendar, would you? Notice anything? That's right! Care to sing along?:

"Just hear those sleigh bells jing-a-ling, ring-ting-ting-a-ling, toooooo..."

Christmas time is upon us, dammit, and once again I'm at a loss to figure out who gets tips - this time of the expensive holiday variety. Understand that I'm normally not of the "give and you shall receive" mentality. There are ulterior motives at work here - namely saving my own ass. I've always been of the impression that those who deserve holiday tips are the same people who have the ability to make your life miserable.

Case in point: the mailman. Growing up, my mother always made sure to 'leave a little something' out for Mark Tice, our neighborhood letter carrier. Mark was a nice guy, and he was great at what he did. He also stopped working our route a full ten years before my mother stopped writing holiday gift checks in his name, but no matter. The checks (oddly - I wonder who got the money) still got cashed, and the mail still got delivered on time. Now, a postman is not someone you want to piss off. I know he's legally bound to deliver the mail on time and to the correct address through rain, snow, gloom of night and all that crap, but who's to say that he/she couldn't "accidentally" deliver a piece to a house across town, or perhaps "lose" a letter at the bottom of the mailbag delaying it a day. See? Best play it safe and give them a gift of holiday cheer.

(Disclaimer: Unlike me, my mother, the most giving person I know, had the best interests of the mailman at heart. She truly wanted to thank him for his good work and give him a holiday gift. Just thought I should point that out. Also, as you'll see in a moment, postal employees are not allowed to accept cash or gifts in excess of $20 (although this rule hasn't seemed to stop those in my neighborhood from doing so.) No wonder they bring machine guns to work.)

Ditto your hair stylist. What could be worse than have a bad hair day EVERY DAY? Just as good haircut can make you, a bad one can break you. Why risk a bowl cut because you stiffed your stylist on the holiday tip? Plus, they're cool people most of time, and end up playing psychologist as much as they cut hair. Granted, I don't tell Rene my deepest, darkest secrets (thank Christ), but she's got a lot of character, has a great accent, and makes me laugh.

And, as it turns out, I'm in dire need of a haircut (it's easy to tell when this is the case. I have an annoying as hell cowlick right behind my left ear, kind of like a sideways version of Alfalfa's... or not) and having made my appointment for next week, it has occurred to me that I should come bearing monetary gifts. But how much?!?!? That's where I'm stumped. I looked to the two articles I had linked to in the previously mentioned post for help, but unfortunately they were short on information of any sort (proving, once again, that I should probably proofread these damn things before I post them.)

Ah... but did I not mention in yesterday's post that I'm gettin' all financial on yo' ass? I most certainly did! Enter - the online site of Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Not only do they provide an in-depth article on What You Need to Know About Holiday Tipping, but they also provide a Tipping Tip Sheet! Answers aplenty! I have linked to them here as recompense for my previous poor linkage.

Enjoy, and please remember, if you want your holiday season to be one full of cheer, be sure to tip, and drink lots of beer.

Sorry, my pathetic excuse at a holiday rhyme. Seriously, don't forget the people who help you out over the course of the year. They're deserving, and scary when they're bilked out of cash - specifically bloggers like me. What? Don't you know what 'tip' stands for? To Insure Posts.

Later, hepcats.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

(Tap, Tap, Tap) Um... Is This Thing On?

So you've come looking for your daily dose of Murky Words, expecting to be disappointed once agai- what's this? FINALLY, a post. 'Tis true! I'm back, bearing large apologies and a sheepish grin. TWICE I had planned on posting this week (Tuesday night and tonight and... Well actually, I am posting tonight, technically, but it isn't the excessively lengthy and overly grandiose piece that I had envisioned) and twi- er, ONCE I was denied.

You can blame FedEx. On both days, I arrived home to find they had posted a "Sorry, we missed you!" tag on the door which instructed me to head to an address in South Boston to pick up whatever it was they were so sorry I had missed. And so, off to Southie I went. I won't apologize for Tuesday's trip. As luck would have it, it ended up being my very first paycheck from my new job (sent via FedEx because they forgot to issue it with all the others.) You fine folk mean a lot to me and all, but a brutha-man got to get paid, know what I'm sayin'? Today was a sort of follow up package - 'Your Benefits for 2007' and all that jazz, and after a cursory looksie, they could have just as easily sent it via regular mail. I mean, don't they know that an anxious public awaits? A public who needs something to read in order to avoid work? Well - they soon will! Why, I've got half a mind to...

Oh yeah, the new job. It's going very well, actually. Thanks for asking. At the risk of boring you to tears, I'll just mention that it involves a lot of proprietary application support and back end database work. Or, at least it would if I were doing any. The other people in my department haven't exactly cottoned on to the fact that there's a newbie in the office that they can dump part of their workload on to. Needless to say, I haven't exactly been in any hurry to point this out. So, tell me. How many times do you think a guy can check his personal email account in one day? Eh - how many? Noooooo, that's way too low.

Still, I am learning a ton, and - unbelievably - getting paid to do it, so things are pretty nifty, indeed. In fact, just today I enrolled in the company 401(k) - what happened to versions (a) through (j) is still unclear to me - and, wouldn't you know, I feel all productive and smart and shit... Just wait. Soon, I too will be a middle aged man with salt and pepper hair, wearing slacks and a cardigan while walking my dog on the beach. I'll throw a stick for Rover to fetch and while he's off being stupid and getting distracted by gulls, I'll call my financial adviser and say, "Edgar? Eric here. It's time for some straight talk about my financial future!" And he'll say, "Too true, Eric. Too true. Tell me, how would you like to balance your portfolio?" Feels good to be on the fast track, no?

Woah. Forgive me. Those are the ramblings of a sleep-deprived Bostonian suffering from a dearth of creativity. Basically, I've been doing the usual for the past two weeks: reading some (although not a lot - still stuck on the book in the sidebar there), watching Christmas specials (Charlie Brown, anyone? Rudolph? Misfit Toys?), happily enduring the wrath of graduate students with varying degrees of frayed nerves, cutting my toenails, trying to decide just how casual 'business casual' is, watching movies (go see 'The Departed' and 'The Queen' - both are excellent), rebuilding computers, rediscovering music on the drive to/from work, shimmying, oh... and posting.

Now, however, I'm going to put a stop to this nonsense and try 'sleeping.' Perhaps it will put the joints back in the areas that are currently 'dis.' Just wanted to let you know that I'm alive, I'm well, I'm tired, and that I'll be back soon - probably tomorrow. Ta, until then.