Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tripping Over Christmas

You can't avoid Christmas. Nope, whether you like it or not, there is no safe house in which to hide from the abuse of commercials, "Jingle Bells"  or that really annoying spoon player guy in front of Oglivys.

The other thing that is a bit of a pain in the ass about Christmas is the travelling.    If you decide to make the trip to visit family, you inevitably end up driving through a storm - or; one on the way there and one on the way back.  This happened to us a couple of years ago; zero visibility, blocked highway, the whole shebang. 

I really can’t remember a Christmas road trip when snow or freezing rain didn't make me lunge for the liquor cabinet as soon as we reached our destination.
On the other hand, if we don’t make the trip we miss sharing Christmas Day with family. And it’s all about being there Christmas day, isn’t it?

So, if you want to be home for Christmas, you’re probably going to be driving there. Even if it’s just to the airport, remember to pack sand and a shovel in your trunk. Bon voyage!

Chris Rae–Driving Home for Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas: A Time We're So Glad to Have Together

It's Friday and I'm going to take a little TGIF break from my Christmas song of the day.

A couple of blog posts ago I mentioned my Mom and her love of Christmas kitsch.  If you'd like a sense of what Christmas at home was like, I invite you to watch this episode from The Carol Burnett Show where we get a glimpse of the holidays at the Eunice and Mama household.

The styles may have changed, but I would wager that this scene plays out much the same way in many living rooms Christmas morning. That was the genius of this show.  (Alan Alda was kind enough to play "me".)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's Cold, It's Snowy and it's Almost Christmas.

Just got back from walking Ruby (our dog, not my Aunt). It's very wintry today. Strong winds make the -12 degrees seem more like -20º.  We ran a bit then on the way back I noticed that many more of my neighbours seemed to have been tapped by the Christmas Fairy.

Cascading mini lights seem to be the thing this year and big balls still hang in front of several doors.  Not surprising given the cold, the majority were blue.  While I love twinkle, I'm a bit of a traditionalist.  My front door wouldn't look out of place on a Judy Garland Christmas Special set.  And don't get me started on blue lights.  While I agree with my friend, Brian that they're mesmerizing, I also find that they are depressing. I don't need "depressing" at Christmas. I barely hang on to my sanity as it is.

Today's song choice reflects the cold and snow, but with a bit of a beat to warm things up.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Gays of Christmas - Fosse, Fosse, Fosse!

(Disclaimer - This song does not refer to my last year's stocking stuffers!)

The 12 Days of Christmas is one of those "love it/hate it" holiday tunes. It's been done to death both by interpretation and repetition.

We have the traditional versions I remember seeing on CBC each year that had live actors in Victorian costumes play out all of the gifts to the ever increasingly overwhelmed 'True Loved".  And of course there were the classic Bing Crosby and  "Prop 8" Tabernacle Choir versions.

In grade nine, I pantomimed the twelve days of Christmas as a solo; in a clown suit - Apologies to students and staff of King George School 1967.   I am so glad it was pre video.  However embarrassing, I remember it as being exhilarating and one of my earliest memories of having total uninhibited fun on stage. 

And speaking of uninhibited - have you seen this first video from last year - "The 12 gays of Christmas"?  Does anyone know who these dancers are? I would have loved to be part of this dance company. 

Why didn't we ever think of doing this? - we had the Fosse moves.  Every time I see this I think of David, my friend and stage partner who we lost in 1993 to AIDS. How he would have enjoyed it. Undoubtedly, he'd have me up on the floor recreating each hip thrust and ball change.

The second, more traditional version is performed by the King's Singers with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I'm not sure which interpretation is gayer.  If they removed al the gay contribution to this extravaganza, they'd probably end up being called the Mormon Tabernacle Quartet.

Honourable mentions: Straight No Chaser  and Bing Crosby with The Andrew Sisters versions.

Do you have a favourite version?  Do you know the lyrics? 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merry Christmas, Mr. Bowie

When I hear Karen Carpenter at Christmas I am transported to my Mom's home in Oshawa.   There wasn't a crepe paper Santa or Christmas Bell that was safe from hanging.  

Red and green paper streams were strung from the ceiling corners in the kitchen and crisscrossed in the middle where a huge clump of red and green accordion bells were scotch taped to the light fixture.

There were plastic holly & berries adorning anything stationary. On the porch windows were snow stencilled reindeers, snowflakes and Santa's - flying, falling and walking through the glow of multi-coloured lights. Even the bathroom was decorated with a crocheted Mrs. Claus toilet paper cover. (Was that supposed to keep the tissue warm?)

Mom enjoyed her Christmases. Even if she had survived to experience the Martha Stewart era of tasteful DIY decorations, I think she'd still haul out the crêpe paper Frosty and the canned snow each December because that's what Christmas at home was.

These songs take me back there and to her bottomless tin of Christmas cookies.

Was your Mom a Martha Stewart or a Roseanne Barr when it came to Seasonal decor?

David Bowie, Bing Crosby: Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth

Karen Carpenter: Merry Christmas Darling

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't Get Drunk This Christmas!

Well, it's another, blue Monday Christmas song day.  Today's choices are songs that speak to the kinds of experiences I and many others unfortunately lived through as a kid.  

I know that I told you all about the magic of being mesmerized by Christmas tree lights and music.  And that is a big part of the memories that I hold on to.

The other part is hiding in my room with the pillow over my head trying to block out the noise from the fighting downstairs. Or, leaving the house altogether and walking around the mercifully silent streets looking at the beautifully decorated houses -  imagining what it would be like to live in one of them.

I didn't understand what it was about Christmas that caused grownups to get so pissed (as in drunk and "off").  Maybe it was the combination of the looser inhibitions that come with booze with the sentimentality of the holidays.  

It seemed that it was impossible to be happy for any length of time without it dissolving into a ugly soul baring rage.  Perhaps that rage was always there and only needed the coerced joviality of Christmas to fuel it?

All I know is that despite that, I choose to remember my dream Christmases and while the "nightmare" Christmases sucked, they have long ceased to scare me.

You "Grinches" out there should enjoy this...

"Please, Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" is best known for the John Denver version. But I prefer Alan Jackson's.
"Please Daddy don't get drunk this Christmas
I don't want to see my Momma cry
Please Daddy don't get drunk this Christmas
I don't want my Momma cry
Just last year when I was only seven
Now I'm almost eight, as you can see
You came home a quarter past eleven
And fell down underneath
our Christmas tree

Mama smiled and looked
Outside the window
She told me son
You better go upstairs Then you laughed and hollered
"Merry Christmas"
I turned around and saw
My Momma's tears"

Alan Jackson

That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!

(Sufjan Stevens)

Going outside
Shoveling snow in the driveway, driveway
Taking our shoes
Riding a sled down the hillside, hillside
Can you say what you want?

Can you say what you want to be?
Can you be what you want?
Can you be what you want?
Our father yells
Throwing gifts in the wood stove, wood stove
My sister runs away
Taking her books to the schoolyard, schoolyard
In time the snow will rise
In time the snow will rise
In time the Lord will rise
In time the Lord will rise

Silent night
Holy night
Silent night
Nothing feels right

Sufjan Stevens

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Vocalise

I'm a big fan of vocal groups. I followed The Manhattan Transfer' career since the early seventies when they were part of the 40's revival that had Bette singing "In the Mood" and the Pointer Sisters: "Steam Heat".

There are so many amazing Christmas songs done by groups small and large; acapella and accompanied that I don't know where to start selecting songs for today. So, I'll start with my favourite older group then choose one from a new group, Straight No Chaser, that I really enjoy. (Another YouTube discovery!)

Pass that pitch pipe and let's harmonize!

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