Kicking Off Christmas


Is it too early for Christmas music?  One local radio station started playing non-stop, 24/7 Christmas music a couple of weeks ago, and both my mom and aunt are listening to it, so I guess not for some people.

And I guess not for me, this year.  I’m not a huge fan of Christmas music under most circumstances, and the circumstances for this holiday season are going to be a little . . . challenging.  But my mother (66 and with a bad back) went out around 5 AM on Black Friday and got us a nice pre-lit tree (not to mention about a dozen poinsettas).  Today, we set it up and decorated it.  This is the first time I’ve had a Christmas tree in a long time, so it’s kind of getting me in the holiday mood.

So, even though December is still about five hours away here in SoCal (and tomorrow’s weather might make it into the low 80s), here’s a little Vince Guaraldi.  A Charlie Brown Christmas is on this coming Monday (ABC, check your local listings).  I’ve already got the DVR set.

“Rhythm of the Rain”


This morning was one of the nicest I’ve had in a long time.  I got to sleep in, although I did get up around seven to feed the cats.  But it was raining this morning.  So I got to lay in bed, drifting in and out of sleep, listening to the lovely sound of rain.

Here’s hoping the rest of everyone’s day is just as nice as mine started out.

Turkey Day Repost


The holidays are different this year.  I had a bit of a bad time while I was out shopping yesterday, but I powered through it.  (I’m sure I’ll have a nice big meltdown before Christmas.)  But I’m still thankful.  I have my mom, and the rest of the family, and my friends.  I have my furry family members.  I have good health, and a roof over my head.  We’re having the big meal tomorrow, because a lot of people in our family have to work today; Mom and I will do something smaller here at home tonight.

I hope y’all have a lovely day today.  Enjoy your families.  Go shopping if you want.  Eat yourselves stupid (or not; that’s probably better for your health).  Enjoy listening to the massacre.


Happy Hanukkah!


With the coincidental (and/or lunar) coincidence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, the holiday season has officially begun.

Of course, if you’ve been in a mall, watched TV, or listened to the radio at any point in the last few months, then you know the holidays really began quite some time ago.  Hallmark stores release their annual Christmas ornaments in July (maybe it’s their way of honoring the release of the classic Miracle on 34th Street, which was advertised as “Christmas in July”).  There’s talk of sales and recipes for some time before any holiday actually arrives on the calendar.

Being of the gentile persuasion, it’s really not my place to opine about a Jewish holiday.  But it has always seemed like a warm affair.  Maybe that’s just me conflating it with what the season represents for seculars and Christians.  I know it’s not considered one of the holiest holidays; that’s reserved for the High Holy days, of course.  I think, though, that may have something to do with more contemporary culture and the way Hanukkah and Christmas come so close on the calendar.  It seems fun from the outside, what with the candle-lighting and gift-giving and games.

So I wish any Jewish folks who happen to read this a Happy Hanukkah.  I will not conflate your holiday with Thanksgiving, which is the most secular of holidays.  But I will risk offending someone by including a clip of Me First & the Gimme Gimmes ruining Johnny’s Bar Mitzvah (a totally separate and also religious celebration).  “Hava Nagila” doesn’t show up until the end, though, so you’ll have to put up with some other nonsense first.

“She Works Hard for the Money”


We have a housecleaning service.  It’s one of those things I said I’d never do after I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed (btw, if you haven’t read that book, you really should; it’s terrific).  My mother is very concerned about how things look, and likes a clean house.  But she is older and has a bad back, and still works full-time anyway.  I’m lazy and a rotten housekeeper.  I know how to keep a clean house (my mother made sure of that), although there are some things I’m kind of terrible at even when I do them (could someone please show me how to fold fitted sheets neatly?).  I just don’t do it unless I absolutely have to . . . which of course means I end up doing three times as much work as if I’d kept up with it in the first place.

So we have housecleaners come in every two weeks to handle the stuff I’d just neglect if it were left up to me.  I handle laundry, dishes, and litter box cleaning.  We do daily upkeep.  It seems to be working out.  I still feel a little odd having someone else take care of my dirt, but I try to be polite, offer them water if they want it, and stay out of their way.  And I always tip.

So this one goes out to my cleaning ladies, and to all the cleaning ladies out there in the world.  And the sales clerks, and bank tellers, and garbage collectors, and food servers, and everyone else who works way too hard for way too little.  I hope the world someday learns that you’re the people who really make things work.

“Rocket 88”


No, this isn’t another theme week, but I thought it might be fun to give this a listen again.

Credited to Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, “Rocket 88” is generally considered to be the first Rock & Roll song.  It’s classified as R&B because Rock didn’t exist as a separate genre yet.  And really, there’s not that much to distinguish it from most barroom style Blues from that time.  But as a song, it does rock and roll, with an easy rhythm punctuated by a jangling, jittery piano.

That piano is played by Ike Turner.  Yes, that Ike Turner.  For all his failures as a human being, Ike knew how to make music, and it seems he was one of the architects of early Rock & Roll.  He was all of 19 when he came up with this tune, along with his band the Kings of Rhythm.  I’m not sure why the song wasn’t credited to his band, since they were the ones that recorded it.  The song’s vocalist, Brenston, was the group’s saxophone player.  (There’s more details about the song’s origins here, but no explanation about the credits.)  I guess it doesn’t really matter.  The point is, this is pretty much where it began.

You can hear just about the whole history of the music in this song.  The only thing missing is the excess.  It’s even about a car, one of the enduring themes of Rock music.  1951 was a good year for music.

Old Music


I wasn’t quite sure to title this post.  I’m not quite sure why I’m writing it.  It just seems important that I share this with you.

Ever since the rerelease of Harry Smith’s classic Anthology of American Folk Music back in the 1990s, I’ve found really old recordings of music very interesting.  The music is incredible.  When I first listened to it, I’d never heard 90% of the songs before, and the ones I did know, I only knew from more contemporary versions.  But I knew these songs.  I knew them in my bones.  This was music at the heart of music, the kind of songs that everything else in popular music evolved from.  I call it genetic memory.  This song is one of my favorites from the collection, sung by Buell Kazee.

I guess what inspired this today was this story I saw on Yahoo! about some of the oldest recorded music being auctioned off.   When reading it, I was actually surprised these old recordings didn’t sell for much more than they did.  They’re so incredibly rare; one is only one of two known existing copies (the other is in the Smithsonian), a gospel song by the Unique Quartet called “Mama’s Black Boy.”

There is a great movement to preserve these old recordings, made on wax cylinders and glass discs and goodness knows what else.  This is history, and I find these old sounds haunting.  What is probably among the single oldest ever recordings, and probably the first ever human voice recorded, is from 1860 (that’s before Edison and his phonograph recording of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in 1881).  It’s a little like listening to a ghost.

This version actually repeats the tiny clip that was recovered several times.  I accidentally downloaded it back when Slate first reported the finding a few years ago, but I’m glad I’ve got it somewhere in my collection (even if I can’t locate it right at this moment).

My first record player was that old Fisher Price thing that played plastic discs with raised dots that plinked out a tune.  (You can still buy it if you have a toddler in your life.)  And I saw a few 78s that my grandparents had.  But I’ve never had the wonder of seeing one of these really, really old recordings.  I’m just glad they still exist.