Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: As Chanukah Passes Me By

No matter the holiday, sometimes you just want to sing the blues.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: Candlelight

For reasons which remain a mystery to me, the song Dynamite by Taio Cruz is a huge favorite among seven year olds. At first, I thought it was some odd anomaly exclusive to Julian's class, or perhaps, his school. Then we were hanging out with a friend who home schools and she also sang the song with very little prompting.

For this reason, I kindof like this Chanukah song by The Maccabeats.

Thank God It's Christmas!

Can you think of any better way to wish everyone Happy Christmas than with an over the top power ballad sung by perhaps the most famous Zoroastrian the world has ever known?

December 25 is not only the universally agreed upon birthday of Jesus, it is also the anniversary of Sir Isaac Newton's birth. So we can blame the mess in our living rooms on the second law of thermodynamics. How do you like them apples?

Have a great day!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: Miracle

If this video is any indication, Matisyahu throws the best Chanukah ice skating parties!

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: Fairytale of New York

This is many people's favorite Christmas song and, as songs go, I think it truly captures the spirit of the season.

I was talking to someone yesterday about how she hates the holidays and I suggested that she may feel differently if she has children. I explained that, for me, seeing Julian get excited about Christmas has done a lot to melt the bitterness I used to feel. I also mentioned that most religions and cultures have some sort of winter holiday involving lots of lights because, obviously, humans need something to make it through these long dark nights. My friend agreed about the light, but said she is resigned to hating this time of year for the rest of her life. I can see her point. As adults, we no longer believe in Santa, we feel overwhelmed with duties and responsibilities, and the nostalgia of the season often serves to remind us of all our childhood dreams which never came true.

This songs is all the more poignant when one considers that in the two decades since this song was released, Shane MacGowan has struggled with addiction and Kirsty MacColl died tragically. But in video, as in memory, they are young forever. Like the narrator at the top of the song, we look to the new year with hope in our hearts, seeing a better time where our dreams come true, and the bells ringing out for Christmas day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: Hanukkah Blessings

Let me start this off by saying that I know it would be wrong of me to celebrate a religious holiday that is not mine either by birth, culture, or choice. I also want to say that my impressions of Chanukah are as an outsider looking in and, for this reason, my ideas about it are likely confused. All that being said, I have always felt a sense of affinity for Chanukah, non-Jewish agnostic that I am. Part of this is because my 3-6 teacher was Jewish and she made the stories of her holidays stood out to me, perhaps because they were in such contrast to the Christmas and Easter stories which were all around me. However, I think a bigger reason is that, as a person who has always had questions which often placed her in awkward positions with regards to faith, I feel like Chanukah, a holiday celebrating the triumph over tyranny and the freedom to worship as one chooses, is a religious holiday I can wholeheartedly get behind. Because I may not know what I believe, but I like knowing I can believe what I want to believe even if it runs counter to the belief system espoused by the dominant culture. How could I not want to appropriate holiday celebrating that?

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: I Believe In Father Christmas

It will come as no surprise that I love this cover of Greg Lake's I Believe in Father Christmas. It captures not just the sadness of a child waiting all night for a Santa who never comes, it also captures the sadness of adults who grew up believing we could abolish poverty, injustice, war, suffering. In short, it isn't simply Santa's existence that the song questions. And the song is hopeful, reminding us that, in part, the act of believing in Father Christmas and peace on earth are part of what gets us the Christmas we deserve.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: Feast of Lights

As holiday songs go, They Might Be Giants hits the bulls-eye with this song. Because we all are having fun, but underneath it all, we have a whiny voice reminding us of how we are not measuring up to our social obligations. So while, yes, this is technically a song about Chanukah, it really captures some emotions which are so prevalent among people of all religions this time of year, guilt and weariness.

That sounds so sad and bitter on my part and I really don't intend it to sound that way. I just feel like there are a lot of emotions floating around and not all of them are happy ones, so it is nice to hear a song which captures the pessimism as well. Because if we weren't inclined to be pessimists during these dark days of winter, we wouldn't need holidays to brighten our days and nights up, now would we?

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: Home For Christmas

Last night on All Things Considered there was a segment on Callin' Oates: The Emergency Hall & Oates hotline.

I find this awesome on so many levels, not the least of which is because now, every time I hear Hall & Oates, I think of Carrie.

This led me to wonder if Hall & Oates (either together or individually) had any Christmas music and, sure enough, they have a whole album full of Christmas music.

So, of course, I had to share this with all of you as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: Punk Rock Chanukah Song

So I can't really present Chanukah music without acknowledging the elephant in the room that is The Chanukah Song. The guys from Yidcore do a pretty awesome job of covering it and include shout outs to all the Jewish punk rockers (as an aside, it is hard not to love a band that has changed "Hey ho, let's go" to "Oy Vey, let's eat").

If you want a more traditional rendition of the song, you can listen to Neil Diamond's version of it (alas, it is fairly true to the original with nary a TODAY thrown in for flavor).

Julian's Winter Sculpture

Julian made this sculpture in ceramics class.

Yes, I am a proud mom.

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music: 2000 Miles

Even though I cry every time I hear it, this is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Part of the holiday season is to remember all those one has loved who are no longer here to celebrate. Sometimes they appear to us in dreams, we pretend they will come back, and we tell ourselves that it is just snow and distance which keeps us from them. It gets colder day by day, we think of them, and sing through our tears.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eight Nights of Chanukah Music: How Do You Spell Channukkahh?

I figured we could also celebrate (C)Ha(n)nu(k)ka(h)h because there is so much awesome music out there and, really, the dominant winter holiday already gets so much attention, shouldn't we shine a light on all fabulous songs celebrating the Festival of Lights?

I love this song. Who among us has not asked this question? I love the line, "A Spanish kid told me that it starts with a silent J. But Julio was wrong. Or maybe he was right." Lauren can confirm if (C)Ha(n)nu(k)ka(h)h is spelled with a J in Spain. Or maybe she can't. And, trust me, the song just keeps getting better. I mean, how could I not love a song which gives a shout out to the word antidisestablishmentarianism, the longest non coined and nontechnical word in English?

Chag Chanukah Sameach!

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: I Really Don't Hate Christmas

I present this as a counterpoint to yesterday's song. And, like yesterday's song, it also captures the spirit of the season--who among us has not, at some point, felt an intense, burning indifference towards Christmas?

Phineas and Ferb is one of those awesome things I don't think I would have known about if I didn't have Julian. If you are not already a fan, give yourself a gift and check it out.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: I Hate Christmas

Even with all the peace, love, and joy, it is hard not to get grouchy this time of year. It is awesome that Sesame Street understood this. Also seeing Bob and Maria in the full bloom of youth fills me with holiday cheer. And did you know Mr. Hooper was Jewish?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: Feliz Navidad

Who wouldn't want Charo coming by to sing, play guitar, and then hand over some fruitcake? Pee-wee had the best Christmas guests and misdirected packages ever!

Before seeing this, I had not realized Charo spoke Spanish with a Castillian lisp. This realization which led me to check out her Wikipedia page where I learned that Andres Segovia was one of her guitar teachers and no one is entirely clear on her actual age because she has been lying about it since she was a teenager. Also, in case you were wondering what Charo is doing now, she is performing portions of her Vegas show on cruise ships. All this new information fills me with happiness because it feels like everything my seven year old self ever suspected about the adult world while watching TV on a Saturday night has turned out to be true, even after all these decades have passed. Feliz Navidad indeed!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek

This is what happens when you enter "the Go-Go's Christmas" into the search box on Youtube. Of course I had to share it with you because, well, it's so goofy and it's about Daleks. While, I think we can all agree that it is no surprise this band recorded only this one record and the name the Go-Go's was available for Jane Weidlin, Belinda Carlisle, et al. to use a decade later, the song itself is not completely without charm. Sure, I would rather spend Christmas with the Doctor than with any of his enemies, but I don't begrudge any fan their desire to spend the holiday with a Dalek who asks politely for plum pudding and custard.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: Sugar Rum Cherry

I loved The Nutcracker as a child in a deep and profound way. Not just the ballet and the story, but the music itself was something I could listen to over and over again. It kindof broke my heart when, as a teenager, I hung around with a couple classical composers and discovered that cool people consider The Nutcracker to be, at best, music that is best watched and, at worst, naff and pandering to the lowest common denominator. In terms of high art and snobbery, Tchaikovsky is not Stravinsky. Now, snobby high art wannabe that I was (and still am), I attempted to adopt this too evolved for the classical equivalent of top 40 music attitude, but, try as I might to be a cool kid, I can't shake my love for this flower petaled, sugar-dusted suite.

So, obviously, I am pleased as punch to listen to Duke Ellington's Three Suites record because only someone with a blood temperature approaching absolute zero would suggest they are too cool for something this awesome.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: Frosty the Snowman

I realize I have already written about this song, but every so often something extremely strange and unexpected happens and I just have to talk about it.

Today I was in Ulta, examining the various anti-aging creams on offer, when this song began to play. Yes, you read that correctly, the Cocteau Twins' rendition of Frosty the Snowman was on their holiday music compilation, a few songs after Taylor Swift's egregious cover of Last Christmas (note, this is not a slam on Taylor Swift's abilities, it's just that some songs should not be covered because there is no way the original can be improved upon. See also: No Doubt's egregious cover of Talk Talk's It's My Life). The Cocteau Twins! Ulta!

Like haircare, the rules of holiday music are simple and finite. Obscurity and oddness are not tolerated in the stores or on the 24/7 holiday music station. Should I be worrying the time-space continuum been breached? Did I just manage to avoid falling through wormhole in the skin care aisle? Are the Cocteau Twins some parallel universe's Mariah Carey (and, if so, are the goth/alternative kids in that universe listening to All I Want For Christmas Is You)? Where is Brian Green when you need him?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Love, Santa Cards

I have been talking about making these cards for years. I am quite pleased with how they have turned out.

And on the inside,
Did you really expect milk and cookies?

Of course, the ideal way to send them is one a day without a return address or any signature whatsoever.

P.S. If you really love these cards, you may purchase them on Etsy.

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man This Christmas)

If Santa knows what's good for him, he'll honor The Weathergirls' request and will bring them a man this Christmas. As this video demonstrates, they are not just women blessed with amazing vocal abilities, they also appear to be the leaders of a coven of skinny, big haired, spangle dress wearing white witches. Martha Wash and Izora Armstead not only can belt out this great jingle, when their voices are coupled with their minions' cloak twirling and dancing, they live up to their name and make it snow inside. Santa, do these ladies a solid and they'll make sure it isn't too foggy for Rudolph on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas Music: I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas

Julian pointed out that we have twelve days until Christmas*. So, I figured it was time to share some of the great Christmas music that the internet has to offer (and which you may or may not hear on your local radio station (though if your local radio station offers Sound Opinions, you will get to hear this year's picks from Andy Cirzan, a musical treasure trove and my former neighbor, which I guarantee will be even more obscure and awesome).

I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas by Kay Martin and Her Body Guards (from the album I Know What He Wants For Christmas...But I Don't Know How To Wrap It)

This song was brought to my attention by Steve Darnell, host of Those Were The Days and publisher of Nostalgia Digest.

I thought this would be a good way to get us all in the mood (double entendre not intended. It is a sad reality that once you start to think everything could be a double entendre, everything becomes a double entendre). I kindof can't get past how little coverage that tube top is giving her on the album cover. Clearly, the climate in Southern California offers one a completely different set of holiday wardrobe options than one is afforded in Chicago. But not unlike the skimpy clothing which still covers all the necessary bits, the song is not nearly as racy as one might expect. The same can be said for the title track which, for all its suggestive allusions, ends cute.

Kay Martin has a dreamy voice and I can imagine people trying to get that big red bow on the Lexus may well have this song going through their heads. As ear worms go, that would not be so bad, would it?

*I am aware that the twelve days of Christmas referenced are the ones between Christmas and the Epiphany, but that dates back to a time when the build up to the holiday didn't begin before Halloween. By the time Christmas rolls around, we will all be so sick of the music that none of us will have the energy to listen to even the funniest and most obscure of Christmas songs.