Seven Christmas Songs I Love (part 7)

The best for last. I know I’d said earlier that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is my favorite Christmas song, and in terms of songs actually about Christmas, that’s true. But there’s a song out there which trumps it, even though I’m sure for some people it wouldn’t count.

It was awfully hard to pick just one song from the Vince Guaraldi’s famous soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. I almost went with “O Tannenbaum” (another favorite) but in the end, I had to pick the iconic “Linus and Lucy.” When you think about it, the song itself has nothing really to do with Christmas. But this song to me—and millions of other people—just screams Christmas. It’s pretty-near perfect.

In fact, I’m going to listen to the entire album all over again once I’m done writing this. So wonderful.

Seven Christmas Songs I Love (part 6)

Ah, “The Christmas Song,” which I think most people know as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” due to the opening song. Mel Torme and Bob Wells’s song is a classic, and I don’t just say that because more people than I can count have covered it. (No, seriously. Check out the page on Wikipedia, the list just goes on and on and on.)

Probably the most famous version is by Nat King Cole (he actually did four versions!). His smooth voice coupled with the simple instrumentation? Marvelous. This is one of those few songs where if someone doesn’t like it, I seriously wonder what went wrong. (If you don’t like it, my apologies. But you’re slightly wrong in the head.)

Take it away, Nat.

Seven Christmas Songs I Love (part 5)

Ever had one of those songs that you hate, until you hear a version that makes you love it? That’s how I feel about Loreena McKennitt’s “Good King Wenceslas.” I don’t know what about most versions that turns it into an instant turn off, save that it’s normally enough to get me diving for the off button.

Loreena McKennitt’s rendition, though… it just feels festive, and happy, and there’s something about this one that strikes the right nerve that none of the others have. She recorded this on her A Winter Garden EP back in the day, although when looking up a YouTube link for the song, imagine my surprise to see that she’s since gone back and recorded eight additional tracks, paired them with the five from the EP, and released it as the full-length’s album A Midwinter Night’s Dream.

I guess I know what I’ll be getting soon…

Seven Christmas Songs I Love (part 3)

Tori Amos’s “A Silent Night With You” is another original song, but there’s a personal story behind this one and how it ended up on my favorite list. I was a big, big, big Tori Amos fan back in the early-to-mid-’90s. Bought all her albums and singles, absolutely devoted to her output. And then, as time went on… her later albums did nothing for me. Maybe it was her, maybe it was me, maybe it was a combination of the two. But I’d burnt out on Tori Amos, and in mid-2009 when her new album came out, I listened to it streaming online and decided not to buy it.

Then, a few months later, she released Midwinter Graces, and it did for me what her last couple couldn’t; drew me in and grabbed my attention. It was a lovely reminder of what I’d liked from some of her earlier albums, and was nice to know that she could still create something that felt like it was especially for me. (Interestingly enough, I also think it’s not like anything else she’s done, so that made it all the more impressive.) Anyway, this is a simple but lovely song from the album that just makes me feel like I’m in front of a fireplace with snow coming down outside. Good stuff.

Seven Christmas Songs I Love (part 2)

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is my all-time favorite Christmas song; it says a lot that there are multiple renditions of this song I could pick from, and most of them are quite excellent. But of course, it’s only appropriate in this case to go straight to the source with the original. Namely, Judy Garland singing it in Meet Me in St. Louis.

Keen observers might note that the lyrics are slightly different than a lot of the later versions; when Frank Sinatra covered it he changed the lyrics to be a little more happy/cheerful. Personally I like the original better, but to each their own…

Seven Christmas Songs I Love (part 1)

Like so many people this time of year, I’ve gone and dredged up a playlist on my iPhone that normally gathers dust for 11 months out of the year: my Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe playlist.

No no, just kidding, it’s my Christmas playlist.

Anyway, it’s a great time of year for music, so I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorites… so, seven days of Christmas songs! Let’s see if I can really pull this off.

First up, Aimee Mann’s “Calling on Mary.” It’s an original song from her One More Drifter in the Snow album, and I just love her deep, soulful voice on this song. So many original Christmas songs stink (let’s be honest, they really do) but this is one of the few exceptions to the rule. It’s hard to keep from humming this song after you listen to it.

Thankful Time of Year II: The Sequel

Despite the fact that last year’s attempt to visit the in-laws for Thanksgiving was an unmitigated disaster where it took all day to end up right back where we started… yes, we’re heading out of town for Thanksgiving again this year.

But! As we are not at the mercy of the airlines this year, we should in theory actually arrive at our Undisclosed Location that may or may not involve Tennessee. So, just like last year, I’ve taken this spirit to heart and thought about what I’m thankful for.

I am thankful for . . .

Cookie Monster clearly being a shoe-in to host Saturday Night Live!

Amazon letting me know that people who play the Black Ops videogame also like to wear underwear.

Charles Schulz revealing in 1959 that Schroeder and Lucy were really just destined to be a gay man and his gal pal. (Don’t fight it, Lucy, just roll with it.)

Superman’s amazing cigar-smoking powers.

…and Batman reminding me to stop goofing off and get back to work.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Force of July

Yikes. Is the holiday almost over? It’s a little startling how fast a three-day-weekend can whip by even with that extra full day available.

The temperature started rising in the area on Saturday, so I knocked out my run early in the morning even though I was flying solo for a change. (I did run into Teresa on the trail, though, which was a pleasant surprise.) After cleaning up and lying down for about an hour, I pulled myself back together and went to check out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival down on the National Mall. It’s running through today, but I knew that this was probably the best weather I’d get.

Finally broke out the camera again and took a lot of pictures… most of which I hate. Well, hate is a strong word. But it’s frustrating when you take photos that you think turned out really well, get home, and discover that what you thought you took and what you actually took are two quite different things indeed. Most of them are already relegated to the trash bin. A few were deemed all right, at least.

Strike a Pose

On the bright side, it was a nice time overall. I watched a Laotian cooking demonstration and a Malaysian dance troupe in the “Pacific Asian Americans” section, then headed over to the “Mexico” section where I received a traditional blessing and watched a bunch of artisans create some gorgeous tapestries, baskets, and fake flowers.

Below is the woman was creating the flowers, but doing so out of old corn husks. Just great stuff, and with the help of an interpreter she was chatting away with people who came by to see her works. (Click here for a picture of some of the flowers.)

Husk Artist

Afterwards I’d decided that I’d leave via the L’Enfant Plaza metro instead of Smithsonian (I knew that station would be a disaster area) and on my way over, stopped in the African Art Museum. It’s been several years since I last visited and I forgot how much I like it. Not only is it well-curated (and with ever-changing exhibits) but it was also almost completely empty. I wandered around at my own pace, and it was a perfect way to cool down from the heat and and enjoy my time there.

Yesterday was pretty quiet; Charlie’s home but with came back sick, so there wasn’t much going on like we’d hoped.  On the bright side, after six months of planning to do so, I finally hauled everything out of the cabinets under the bar area of my kitchen, as well as the mountain of stuff that needed to go in there, and re-arranged it all. I suddenly have counter space again—such a relief!—and everything is put away and easily usable once more.

I was hoping to get my carpets shampooed today (fun fun fun) but considering I’ve yet to get off my butt today I doubt that’s going to happen. But it’s been a mostly relaxing (but surprisingly unsocial) weekend, and for that I’m glad.

(Oh, as for the title of the post? It’s utterly silly but it’s one of my favorite “government superhero team” names, from Suicide Squad back in the ’80s. Led by, if I remember correctly, Major Victory.)