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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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)


Way Out West(ern)

February 23, 2011

I have vague memories of pestering my parents to allow me to stay up and watch Gunsmoke on Monday nights.

That long-running television Western was off the air before I reached grade school. I grew up in what was probably the first wave of kids for who Westerns weren’t an essential part of childhood.

And, instead of John Wayne, I think Clint Eastwood.

(in truth, I’ve never really watched a John Wayne movie of any kind)

Eastwood’s Unforgiven, The Outlaw Josie Wales, and High Plains Drifter, though, are all essential viewing for me as are his trio of Spaghetti Westerns with Sergio Leone.

I vividly recall one of those infrequent nights as a small kid when I inexplicably escaped being sent off to bed well before the late news aired.

The news had come and gone and, yet, there I was, sprawled on the floor with a pillow and a blanket, basking in the glow of late-night television.

I was seven, maybe eight and I knew little of this mysterious world.

My dad was still awake, stretched out in his chair, as up popped the logo for The CBS Late Movie on the television screen in all of its mid-’70s glory and there was For A Few Dollars More.

There we were, me and the old man, watching as Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef tracked the fugitive El Indio with steely-eyed resolve.

There was a crazy prospector, a hunchback, a little person, some odd sound effects, an unending hail of bullets, and Ennio Morricone’s musical brilliance. There were moments and scenes that were not unlike the cartoons I watched.

(except for the bullets and music)

The Old West in this flick bore little resemblence to the one which I’d seen on Sunday mornings when the only options on our handful of television stations was religious programming or an old Western in black and white.

Black and white?! I might as well have read a book.

This had grit and I could all but feel the heat shimmering from the desert plains. When Clint squinted into the glare of the sun on the horizon, so did I.

And sometime before Clint loaded up the pile of bodies into a cart to collect his bounties and Lee Van Cleef rode off alone, my dad explained to me the origin of the term Spaghetti Western.

Westerns named after my favorite meal…

The late-night world held wonders and the music of Ennio Morricone was the soundtrack.

The only Ennio Morricone I own are the soundtracks to Cinema Paradiso and The Mission – both of which are stellar – and a few other odd tracks.

So, here are a pair of songs from Ennio Morricone’s classic soundtrack to The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and a pair from the late ’80s soundtrack to the obscure, twisted spaghetti Western flick Straight To Hell

Ennio Morricone – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly soundtrack

Ennio Morricone – The Ecstasy Of Gold
from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly soundtrack

Evocative and compelling, it’s impossible to think of The Man With No Name and not hear the music of Ennio Morricone (and vice versa). It was a perfect marriage.

If I could – and I suppose there’s no reason I couldn’t except for obvious financial constraints – I’d hire Morricone to write theme music for me which I would then listen to on my iPod all day as I went about my tasks.

That’s what I’d do.

Pray For Rain – The Killers
from Straight To Hell soundtrack

The Pogues – Rabinga
from Straight To Hell soundtrack

Two years ago, I wrote about Straight To Hell, an odd curio of a movie starring Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer, and The Pogues as well as a pre-fame Courtney Love, Dennis Hopper and Grace Jones.

The tagline for the movie – which was from the same director/writer behind the ’80s cult flick Repo Man – was “a story of blood, money, guns, coffee, and sexual tension.”

The movie was underwhelming, but there was some cool, Morricone-inspired music on the soundtrack.