Santa Was A Bit Of A Bastard, Wasn’t He?

December 1, 2010

They’re airing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer tonight.

Tonight being, as I write this, November 30th.

It doesn’t seem quite right to be watching it before we’ve even reached December, but I have it on nonetheless.

As a child in the ’70s, it seemed as though there was some animated Christmas special on more nights than not during the weeks leading up to that day.

Those specials were the most certain sign that Christmas was close and Rudolph’s saga – narrated in a tour de force performance by Burl Ives – was one of the linchpins of the holiday line-up.

Watching Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer probably thirty-five years after my first viewing of it, Santa’s behavior is a bit distracting to me.

Not ten minutes into the show and Santa is threatening Donner that Rudolph’s future on the sleigh team could be jeopardized because of his peculiar proboscis.

(and, if reindeer could fly, would such animals in the wild dream of being captive and groomed to chauffeur around a fat man?)

It’s the way that Santa makes the threat that is especially disconcerting. It’s offhand and casual. It’s delivered in the manner of someone who is accustomed to making and making good on threats.

Not that Donner offered much support as he quickly heeded the advice of the fat man.

And, seriously, Donner condemned the fruit of his reindeer loins to childhood ridicule the moment he named the tyke Rudolph.

It is pretty hilarious, though, to hear Donner bellow, “No! This is man’s work!” when, stricken with guilt, he heads out to search for runaway Rudolph and the missus wants to join him.

(such a declaration was probably more acceptable in reindeer culture in the ’60s when the program first aired)

But the show is a classic and the stop-motion animation fascinates me as much as it ever did, so…

But, it is December now, so what the hell. Here are four random Christmas songs…

Everything But The Girl – 25th Of December
from Amplified Heart

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
from Christmas Eve And Other Stories

Kate Bush – Home For Christmas

Shane MacGowan & The Popes – Christmas Lullaby
from Christmas Party

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In Hopes Of Appeasing The Sun God…

June 25, 2010

I give.

I’ve tried to be patient as the daily high temperatures crept up into the low 90s from the high 80s.

And as those daily highs steadily climbed from the low 90s to the mid 90s, I told myself and anyone who would listen – essentially Paloma and the cats – that maybe we were getting the worst out of the way before we even hit July.

But, for the past several days, we’ve flirted with triple digits.

Something has to be done.

I suppose that Superman could alter the rotation of the Earth (or something) and cool things down to a more temperate and normal state of meteorological affairs, but I haven’t seen him since I stumbled across Superman II on cable last month.

I’m not sure he’d be up to this challenge.

El Sol is pissed.

Perhaps a virgin thrown into the gaping maw of a volcano – perhaps an Icelandic volcano – might set things right, but such shenanigans haven’t been acceptable since the ’50s.

So, as an homage to that great, fiery globe in the sky who is usually a welcome, nurturing presence and to honor the season – albeit several days late – I offer four songs for the sun and a plea that you chill the @#$%&! out…

Queens Of The Stone Age – Feel Good Hit Of The Summer
from R

Queens Of The Stone Age are one of the few bands in recent years that have really wowed me with everything I’ve heard (though I’ve missed their last couple albums). But I had also been a big fan of Kyuss, the previous band of Queens Of The Stoneage guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme.

(of late, he’s worked with John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl in Them Crooked Vultures)

Feel Good Hit Of The Summer is a jackhammer – thunderous, pummeling, with some serious buzzsaw guitar.

And catchy as hell (with an interesting background).

Everything But The Girl – British Summertime
from Worldwide

Like few other artists, it is impossible for me to hear Everything But The Girl and not think of Paloma. I first heard the band in college when a girl named Peggy Sue with whom I worked in a record store would play their albums, but it was during countless hours listening to them with Paloma that made them staples.

You can throw anything on by Everything But The Girl and I’m good. Obviously, there are songs by the duo of which I am more fond, but Tracey Thorn’s voice – and Ben Watt’s, too -is as comfortable as the nostalgic memories of childhood summers.

(even if British Summertime is also rather melancholic)

Blue Öyster Cult – This Ain’t The Summer Of Love
from Agents Of Fortune

I think that I’ve been quite clear about my affection for Blue Öyster Cult.

Nuclear Valdez – Summer
from I Am I

The debut album from rock quartet Nuclear Valdez quickly became a favorite of a college roommate and me when the record store where we worked received an advance copy. The group garnered notice from magazines like Rolling Stone and attention from MTV.

Nuclear Valdez’ guitar-driven, anthemic sound and socially conscious lyrics positioned them alongside similar acts that were finding audiences at the time such as U2, The Alarm and The Call.

The sweeping Summer chronicled the plight of those in exile following the Cuban revolution in 1959 – three of the members of the band were children of such exiles – and takes me back instantly to a summer twenty years ago.


It Must Be Spring When You Come Home With A Carnivorous Plant

April 11, 2010

For a week or so, it appeared that we were in store for one of those years in which the weather essentially leapfrogs from winter to summer – no spring for you!

But the last few days have given us at least a bit of spring with today being a beautiful day in which the baggy sweater/cargo shorts/sandal ensemble I sported was perfect.

(I am speaking from a standpoint of comfort – sartorially, I am wholly unqualified to comment)

Paloma and I opted to temporarily throw off our city slicker shackles for a drive into the country. She had wanted to browse at a garden show.

It was lazy, zen, and a wonderfully placed pause, and, we are now the proud owners of our first carnivorous plant.

Here are four songs that shuffled up on the drive and seemed to suit the day well…

Everything But The Girl – When All’s Well
from Love Not Money

Though I’d known of Everything But The Girl since college, it wasn’t until several years later that Paloma turned me on to their catalog in depth.

The breezy When All’s Well, from one of the duo’s early albums, is a brief shot of B12 for the spirit.

Starbuck – Moonlight Feels Right
from Super Hits Of The ’70s: Have A Nice Day

Sure, Starbuck’s soft rock smash Moonlight Feels Right might have been more appropriate later in the day, but the song always puts a smile on Paloma’s face.

Personally, the marimba-laden hit makes me think of hearing it at the pool, blaring from the radio during the summer of ’76, as a kid.

James Iha – See The Sun
from Let It Come Down

Iha rose to the top of the music world as a member of Smashing Pumpkins, the band that he formed with Billy Corgan. Following the mammoth success of that band’s Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, Iha put out his solo debut, Let It Come Down, which failed to generate much interest.

It’s unfortunate that so few people heard Let It All Come Down. Simple, understated, and intimate, the album was the polar opposite of the Pumpkins. In truth, tracks like the lovely See The Sun would have fit nicely alongside Starbuck on late ’70s radio.

Richard Ashcroft – Crazy World
from Alone With Everybody

The Verve were one of my favorite bands of the ’90s with their expansive, spacey sound, walls of guitar, and charismatic lead singer Richard Ashcroft. But, aside from their breakthrough with Urban Hymns, tensions within the band and legal hassles from outside seemed to thwart them from sustaining momentum.

Following one of the group’s numerous break-ups in the late ’90s, Ashcroft took the solo path, issuing Alone With Everybody, a surprisingly upbeat release that lead a friend (and fellow Verve fan) to dismiss the record.

The pleading Crazy World isn’t completely angst free, but the string-laced song is insanely catchy and inviting.