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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A Postcard From Paris

July 10, 2010

I wouldn’t have the slightest idea when it was that I last received a postcard.

I’d have even less idea the last time that I sent one.

I do remember purchasing several postcards at a small shop near Père Lachaise, the cemetery where Jim Morrison and a slew of other poets, writers, and such are buried in Paris. The postcards were shots of the iconic, graffiti-covered bust that once marked the Lizard King’s grave.

I’d intended to send them to friends – musicians and merely lovers of music – back in the States, but five or six days were not enough to eat baguettes, drink wine, and write missives on the back of postcards.

(I write very, very small, so it would be more work than it might seem)

Actually, I’ve never been blessed with discipline when it comes to scrawling thoughts onto postcards and actually mailing them.

(probably a reaction to my mom being a taskmasker when it came to the sending of postcards)

On summer vacations, we’d no sooner reach a hotel and step ‘cross the threshold of sweet air conditioning then my brother and I would be sitting at some hotel desk, hands straining, as we cranked out tidings to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and relatives we didn’t even know.

It was like being in the sweatshop for a public relations department of some Third World dictator.

Paloma brought home a postcard several weeks ago – depicting the scene above – that she had found on the sidewalk.

Sandy – who had sent the postcard – might have checked out Père Lachaise, but, if she did she wasn’t making a pilgrimage to Morrison’s grave.

The postcard is stamped 25 Avri ’62. Even with a limited grasp of French and math, I know that to be more than nine years before Morrison died.

There really isn’t much information provided by Sandy on that postcard to Helen Harding. “Of course,” she is “having a good time” and “the monuments are fabulous.”

There’s no mention of baguettes or wine.

But, she does happen to note that they’ll be home on Saturday.

Maybe she was angling for an airport pick-up from Helen.

Here are four songs that are postcards from Paris…

Rosanne Cash – Sleeping In Paris
from The Wheel

I know that a lot of folks consider Interiors, the album before The Wheel, to be Rosanne Cash’s masterpiece (not that a listener could go wrong with much in her catalog).

I’ve always been a bigger fan of the latter (especially for the heartbreaking, opening salvo of The Wheel and Seventh Avenue) and the gentle Sleeping In Paris is simply gorgeous.

Kate St. John – Paris Skies
from Indescribable Night

Those who read liner notes with an eagle’s eye might recognize the classically-trained Kate St. John as a member of the ’80s trio The Dream Academy who notched a memorable hit with the hypnotic Life In A Northern Town.

A good half decade after that band’s split, St. John issued her debut, Indescribable Night, and the delicate, cabaret-pop of Paris Skies sounds like an evening in the City Of Lights.

Shane MacGowan & The Popes – A Mexican Funeral In Paris
from The Snake

Four years after receiving his pink slip from The Pogues, legendary songwriter Shane MacGowan issued the first album fronting his new band, The Popes. Like his work with his previous band, The Snake fused raucous rock with traditional Irish folk music into a delirious brew.

A Mexican Funeral In Paris is a disjointed affair, punctuated by some manic saxophone and a sunny brass section, that tells the tale – more or less – of a band of ne’er-do-wells splitting up the spoils of a heist at the titular event.

Beth Orton – Paris Train
from Daybreaker

I’ve made the trip from London to Paris by train a few times and its a fantastic journey from one major capitol to another in four hours, but it is a bit strange to consider that a portion of the trek is spent under the waters of the channel.

I’ve also spent time riding The Metro, the subway system of Paris, which, compared to The Tube in London isn’t quite as sterile and has a bit more grit and character.

As for Beth Orton’s Paris Train, it’s dreamy and hypnotic and it no more than ends than I’m inclined to hit repeat.


Straight To Hell, Indeed

March 12, 2009

For several years, I worked in a very large record store. One of the perks of the job (aside from cocooning oneself from reality) was free rentals from our video department.

One night, after working a closing shift, I was perusing the “midnight movie” section, and locked onto a spine that read “Straight To Hell.” I pulled it from the rack and the cast drew me in.

Joe Strummer.

The Pogues.

Elvis Costello.

Dennis Hopper.

Grace Jones.

I recognized the director’s name – Alex Cox. He had directed Repo Man, a strange little film involving aliens, punks, and Harry Dean Stanton mentoring a young Emilio Estevez in the arts of the titular profession. The film was a must-see for teenagers in the ‘80s.

Straight To Hell opens with a botched bank heist by a gang including a pre-celebrity status Courtney Love. They end up fleeing to a bizarre, desert town right out of some Sergio Leone flick which is run by a gang consisting of members of The Pogues and The Clash’s Joe Strummer.

(it’s been well over fifteen years since I’ve seen the movie, so some of my details might be off)

The entire population of townsfolk is all whacked out on caffeine, swilling coffee like whisky which is served by Elvis Costello as some kind of butler.

There was also a hot dog vendor/troubadour.

Supposedly, the movie came about following the collapse of a scheduled tour in Nicaragua by Costello, Strummer, and The Pogues in support of the Sandinistas.

Since everyone now had an open schedule, they headed for Spain under the guidance of director Cox and made a movie.

Though I didn’t know that back story at the time, the surreal, spaghetti Western setting and Pogue Shane MacGowan in all his orthodontically-challenged glory had me expecting much.

I was certain that I would see one of the most entertaining things in the history of cinema or such an unmitigated disaster that it would still be one of the most entertaining things in the history of cinema.

It failed to achieve either inspired extreme.

Instead, I yawned a lot and the movie seemed to last longer than the time Paloma and I decided to watch the entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy in just one sitting (me being pretty much unfamiliar with the Tolkien epic).

And, when Straight To Hell ended, I had pretty much the same reaction I would have years later at the conclusion of Frodo’s road trip (or Mr. Frodo as that sycophantic sidekick kept calling him).

I just kind of stared at the television screen, slack-jawed and inert.

At least Straight To Hell had a cool little soundtrack.

The Pogues – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Yes, it’s The Pogues doing Ennio Morricone’s classic theme. Actually, it reminds me more of the style of Big Audio Dynamite (who were led by another member of The Clash – Mick Jones) than The Pogues.

Pray For Rain – The Killers
If I recall correctly, The Killers played over the opening credits of Straight To Hell. The song is stellar, but things went downhill from there.

Joe Strummer – Evil Darling
Evil Darling is one of two songs by the late, great Joe Strummer featured in Straight To Hell.

Zander Schloss – Salsa Y Ketchup
I mentioned that there was a hot dog vendor/troubadour in the movie. Well, that part was played by Zander Schloss of The Circle Jerks. Throughout the movie, the MacManus Gang which runs the town torments him. “Lets make that Weiner Kid sing his song. Wanna?”