Yes, Mr. Capra, You Are Correct

December 24, 2012

(remixed from Christmases past, but the sentiments remain true)

Though it was warm enough this morning to have a window open, the forecast tonight is for cold and the central heat is keeping the chill of the outside world at bay with a steady, soothing hum.

The only light radiating – other than that from the television’s glow – is from the lights of the Christmas tree which Paloma has trimmed with care.

(and, astoundingly, Ravi has not attempted to scale…yet)

On the television screen is Bedford Falls.

I didn’t grow up with viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life, which is odd I suppose as I was a kid in the ’70s.

It was during that decade that the copyright on the film lapsed and the movie was being aired repeatedly during the holiday season on independent television stations.

Suddenly, it had become a beloved, Christmas staple.

Somehow, I didn’t watch It’s A Wonderful Life until I was in my early twenties and rented it from the video store next to the record store where I worked.

I had two days off, I was broke, and I wanted to veg. There was It’s A Wonderful Life. I shrugged and figured I was due.

It was the middle of July.

Now, an annual viewing, seasonally adjusted, is a bit of a tradition. So, I’m stretched out on the couch and watching as the plans of Jimmy Stewart get laid to waste one by one – no travel, no college, no life in the dirty city.

(and, as I think about it, I’ve been fortunate to do all of those things he’d set out to do)

Paloma was up very early this morning, so she’s not watching. She’d likely have passed anyhow as she finds the flick to be depressing.

(it is a bit of a grim slog to Jimmy Stewart’s epiphany)

A lot of folks watching tonight likely identify with the struggles of the working class citizens of Bedford Falls.

There is a dreary rain falling outside and gusts of wind. I can feel by touching the window that the temperature is dropping.

My eyes kept catching snatches of items about the living room in the firefly flickers from the black and white images on the screen.

Bob Marley is smiling from some odd print that has him juxtaposed against stars and stripes. Godzilla battles the Smog Monster on a framed Japanese poster – a very nifty gift from Paloma.

There’s some of Paloma’s artwork on the wall as well as a cattle skull painted metallic silver, a British Union Jack and a Singaporean flag, a subway poster for The Boomtown Rats’ In The Long Grass, a clock with The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft’s face, and numerous other unusual artifacts.

There are a thousand or so CDs we’ve kept on one wall; a thousand or so vinyl albums filed against another wall.

We have creature comforts.

Ravi is asleep on a large chair, curled into a small ball of black fur and Ju Ju sits on the back of the couch staring out the window behind me.

Pizza is most certainly curled up with Paloma, sleeping in the next room.

We have a home.

It’s peaceful, it’s comforting, and, to have what we have, it is quite wonderful.

Here are four modern songs of the season that I must hear each Christmas…

Wendy & Lisa with Seal – The Closing Of The Year
from Just Say Noël (1996)

“If I cannot bring you comfort
Then at least I bring you hope
For nothing is more precious
Than the time we have and so
We all must learn from small misfortune
Count the blessings that are real
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
At the closing of the year”

The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
from If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)

Gritty and gorgeous, poignant and profane – I’m not sure how it is possible to resist the charms of Fairytale Of New York.

Band Aid – Do The Know It’s Christmas? (12″ version)
from Do The Know It’s Christmas? single (1984)

Band Aid’s charity single from 1984 has been pretty maligned and, granted, it might not be a stellar musical effort, but, if you were a young music fan at the time, it had a certain charm that it likely retains to this day. It featured some of the superstar acts of the early MTV era and it was one of the first musical events I had lived through.

And, if you were a kid at the time, it very well was one of the first times you realized that as big as the world might be, it was one world. And, maybe it made you stop and think that there are a lot of people in the world who might not have the simplest things which we take for granted, not just at Christmas, but each and every day.

At least it did for me.

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
from I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts (1982)

The Waitresses only released one full-length album and an EP of their quirky, New Wave rock. But, despite their scant output, the group notched two, enduring classics – the sassy I Know What Boys Like and their modern holiday classic Christmas Wrapping.

I first heard the song on 97X during Christmas ’83 as I was discovering modern rock and it was immediately memorable.

Years later, I’d much better relate to the story within the song, and, somehow, despite how many times I’ve heard it, the ending is still a surprise that makes me smile.

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If It’s December, It Must Be Christmas

December 2, 2012

iawlOn one of the however hundred or so cable channels, NBC is airing It’s A Wonderful Life. Most years, since I first watched the seasonal classic in my mid-twenties, I’ve made an annual viewing a habit.

(Paloma finds the flick too depressing and annually doesn’t watch it)

Instead, I’m watching the alma mater’s top-ranked basketball team as they finally lower the boom on a plucky low major that has hung tough but is gassed.

When I went to bed last night, it was still November. The last remnants of the Thanksgiving bird are still in the fridge.

(Paloma wants to dispose of the remaining scraps; I’m having separation anxiety)

And though I have – surprisingly – already finished some holiday shopping, the windows behind me are open as it is twenty-five degrees warmer than would be expected for this time of year.

It certainly doesn’t seem to be time for It’s A Wonderful Life, just yet.

Meanwhile, across the street, a local university’s recital hall is emptying following a Christmas pageant. Since late afternoon, holiday-themed music has been blaring from a sound system that had been assembled earlier in the day which left us – particularly the three felines – feeling a bit like we’ve been re-enacting Manuel Noriega’s last stand.

(I’ve heard Greensleeves at least a dozen times since dinner)

During the past week, I did hear Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band barrel through a rollicking version of the Darlene Love staple Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) on Sirius’ Springsteen station and I also caught Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas on the ’80s channel.

I didn’t change the stations, but, as I stared up at sunny, blue skies through the open sunroof of Jeepster, the songs seemed a bit like green bananas.

(and, I should remind Paloma that while there is a Sirius station devoted to Bruce, there still isn’t one for The Smiths)

There’ll be plenty of time for holiday songs over the next three weeks and change and they’ll seem a bit more fitting when I can see my breath in the air.

And, I do hope that NBC will rerun It’s A Wonderful Life, perhaps a week before Christmas as I believe happened last year.

(and, I hope it’s on an evening when my school’s team isn’t turning an outgunned non-conference foe into steak tartare)

For now, here are four random songs…

New Radicals – You Get What You Give
from Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (1998)

Few albums tickled Paloma’s fancy more as the ’90s drew to a close than Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, the lone release by the musical collective led by producer Gregg Alexander. The group included former child actress Danielle Brisebois, who had been an addition to the cast of All In The Family toward the end of the groundbreaking show’s lengthy run.

So, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too came out, garnered comparisons to power pop icons like Todd Rundgren, notched a smash hit with the ebullient You Get What You Give – which took some shots at Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, and Hanson – and, then, Alexander promptly split up the outfit to focus on songwriting and producing.

The Beautiful South – Everybody’s Talkin’
from Carry On Up The Charts (1994)

I can’t say I’m overly familiar with The Beautiful South (despite owning several albums), but what I have heard is consistently wonderful. And, the British group’s version of the lovely, melancholic Everybody’s Talkin’ seems tailor-made for their classic pop stylings.

Fleetwood Mac – Think About Me
from Tusk (1979)

The last of Tusk‘s trio of Top 40 singles, the sassy, upbeat Think About Me serves as an excellent reminder that, although Stevie and Lindsey might have gotten most of the attention, Christine McVie was an integral part of the Mac’s period as a ’70s pop music juggernaut.

Shivaree – Stealing Home
from Rough Dreams (2002)

I became curious about Shivaree after reading reviews of the band’s 1999 debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump which was produced by Joe Henry. It was understandable.

The reviews were glowing, the band had named their debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump, and the outfit was led by a singer/songwriter named Ambrosia Parsley.

So, I was quite pleased to receive an advance of the trio’s follow-up, Rough Dreams.

I was fortunate to snag a copy because, nearly a decade later, the album has yet to receive a proper release in the States. It’s too bad as Parsley might well have endeared herself to the audience that Shelby Lynne claimed during the decade with her soulful Americana.


Yes, Mr. Capra, You Are Correct*

December 17, 2011

Tonight is being forecast to be one of the coldest of the season so far, but the central heat is keeping the chill of the outside world at bay and its steady hum is soothing.

The only light radiating – other than that from the television’s glow – is from several strands of white bulbs which Paloma has put up along with several other trinkets of the season.

On the television screen is Bedford Falls and It’s A Wonderful Life.

I didn’t grow up with viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life, which is odd I suppose as I was a kid in the ’70s.

It was during that decade that the copyright on the film lapsed. Suddenly, the movie was being aired repeatedly during the holiday season on independent television stations and was rediscovered, becoming a beloved, Christmas staple.

Somehow, I never watched the movie.

I didn’t see It’s A Wonderful Life until I was in my early twenties and rented it from the video store next to the record store where I worked.

I had two days off, was broke, and wanted to veg. There was It’s A Wonderful Life. I shrugged and figured I was due.

It was the middle of July.

Now, an annual viewing, seasonally adjusted, is a bit of a tradition. So, I’m stretched out on the couch and watching as the plans of Jimmy Stewart get laid to waste one by one – no travel, no college, no life in the dirty city.

(and, as I think about it, I’ve been fortunate to do all of those things he’d set out to do)

Paloma was up very early this morning, so she’s not watching. She’d likely have passed anyhow as she finds the flick to be depressing.

It is a bit of a grim slog to Jimmy Stewart’s epiphany.

A lot of folks watching tonight likely identify with the struggles of the working class citizens of Bedford Falls.

There is a dreary rain falling outside and gusts of wind. I can feel by touching the window that the temperature is dropping.

My eyes kept catching snatches of items about the living room in the firefly flickers from the black and white images on the screen.

Bob Marley is smiling from some odd print that has him juxtaposed against stars and stripes. Godzilla battles the Smog Monster on a framed Japanese poster – a very nifty gift from Paloma.

There’s some of Paloma’s artwork on the wall as well as a cattle skull painted metallic silver, a British Union Jack and a Singaporean flag, a subway poster for The Boomtown Rats, a clock with The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft’s face, and numerous other unusual artifacts.

There are a thousand or so CDs we’ve kept on one wall; a thousand or so vinyl albums filed against another wall.

We have creature comforts.

Ravi is asleep on a large chair, curled into a small ball of black furr and Ju Ju sits on the back of the couch staring out the window behind me.

Pizza is most certainly curled up with Paloma, sleeping in the next room.

(Sammy is in my thoughts)

We have a home.

It’s peaceful, it’s comforting, and, to have what we have, it is quite wonderful.

Here are four modern songs of the season that I must hear each Christmas…

Wendy & Lisa – The Closing Of The Year
from Just Say Noël (1996)

Wendy & Lisa were integral parts of Prince’s band The Revolution and, since the purple one split up that outfit, have made some fine work on their own and as The Girl Brothers. The Closing Of The Year appeared on the soundtrack to the Robin Williams’ flick Toys (which I seem to remember enjoying far more than the average critic).

I simply love the lyric “If I cannot bring you comfort then at least I bring you hope” and, yes, that’s Seal lending his distinctive vocals to the affair.

The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
from If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)

Gritty and gorgeous, profane and poignant – I’m not sure how it would be possible to resist the charms of Fairytale Of New York?

Band Aid – Do The Know It’s Christmas? (12″ version)
from Do The Know It’s Christmas? single (1984)

Band Aid’s charity single from 1984 has been pretty maligned and, granted, it might not be a stellar musical effort, but, if you were a young music fan at the time, it had a certain charm that it likely retains to this day. It featured some of the superstar acts of the early MTV era and it was one of the first musical events I had lived through.

And, if you were a kid at the time, it very well was one of the first times you realized that as big as the world might be, it was one world. And, maybe it made you stop and think that there are a lot of people in the world who might not have the simplest things which we take for granted, not just at Christmas, but each and every day.

At least it did for me.

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
from I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts (1982)

The Waitresses only released one full-length album and an EP of their quirky, New Wave rock. But, despite their scant output, the group notched two, enduring classics – the sassy I Know What Boys Like and their modern holiday classic Christmas Wrapping.

I’m sure that I first heard the song on 97X during Christmas ’83 as I was discovering modern rock and it was immediately memorable.

Years later, I’d much better relate to the story within the song, and, somehow, despite how many times I’ve heard it, the ending is still a surprise that makes me smile.

*(remixed and remastered from Decembers past, but the sentiment remains true)