Holidays in Comparison

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Well, tonight is the night — New Year’s Eve.  Ho Hum.

Had a conversation last night with my in-laws’ German exchange student about what people were planning for New Year’s Eve, what were the foods people eat in America on New Year’s etc. Was an interesting question, seeing I had been mulling this column for today at least several hours before that conversation.

Because really, for me, New Year’s is one of the least consequential holidays of the year.  Really, why do I stay up and lose sleep, just to observe a specific marker on the calendar. Why do I think so? How do I rate holidays?

At work we are given 9 holidays a year, and 3 floating holidays/personal days. Those holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • MLK
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Good Friday
  • Memorial Day
  • July 4th
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

As I would rate those days, The ones that don’t fall on a Monday are probably the most significant to me:

  • Easter (which is the real holiday of which Good Friday is the lead-in)
  • July 4th
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

Which leaves the Monday holidays:

  • MLK Day
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Memorial day
  • Labor Day

Notice how I left New Year’s Day out of both lists.  It has more in common with the Monday holidays, but does float around the week for how it occurs.

The first list, with the exception of July 4th, are all religious holidays. The first list, with the exception of Thanksgiving, all mark specific historical events. They are all commemorations, connect us with the past in a commitment to the future.

The Monday list items are just nice secular days to have time off. As celebrated they don’t have any special observances done.

So where does that leave New Year’s? It isn’t religious, it isn’t a commemoration. It is a time to take off. 

There is a story I shared with the German exchange student last night, one that showed my age — from back in the old days of the 1980s. I mentioned the name Oliver North, and the Iran Contra affair.  

When Oliver North was in the middle of the media eye on Iran Contra, he couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t leave his house, without hordes of the press there to follow him, continually watching his house. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, didn’t matter, the press was there. Only one day showed a respite.  The media took off New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s day — had to sleep that binge off, after all). 

Being a minor press figure at the time, I found that observation interesting. I think it has colored my perception of the eve/day ever since.

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2013 in Review

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Okay,time of year when everyone is insisting you look forward, and you look back. Facebook wants to show me the 20 top things from my year.  Very interesting which items they think are my top items. Do some of these items have key words that pull them up — because some yes, but most no, I wouldn’t choose them in my review.

So here, Let me do a review of my Blog for 2013:

January — Three blogs, all political. Probably most interesting is this one where I took a rule of good leadership and created a corollary couplet on bad governance:

First rule of good leadership: Don’t give a command you know won’t be obeyed.  

First rule of bad governance: pass a law if it has good intention or purpose, without worrying whether it can be carried out or not, and without considering its potential side effects.

May — Long gap, but I started blogging again. Blogged about the Samsung Evolution Kit.

July — Travelogues. Three weeks of travels to Europe. Probably the premiere feature of the blog for the year. I think I do best when I have a good series idea.

August — Demise of Toontown. Retrospectives of my College days at Houghton (prep for upcoming 30th reunion). Church youth fundraiser at Pizza Ranch. Goodbye party for my niece Sofia headed to Latvia.

September — More Houghton College retrospectives

October — College Reunion series. Government shutdown (got my first troll on that one — huzzah!)

November — Slow month, one blog on the water main improvements on our street and in our neighborhood.

December — 25 days of Christmas Carols. Longest series of daily continuous blogs. Audio of each carol, some professional, most not.

Tomorrow: End the year with some reflective thoughts on Holidays.

An Evening of Movies, Musicals and Miscellany

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Today is going to be a mix of various shows we watched last night.

First, a return to The Lemon Drop Kid.  I made comments on it during my Christmas Carol series for its feature piece — Silver Bells. Now I am going to take a brief look at a cuter song — It Doesn’t Cost a Dime to Dream:

Spoken:

I’ll show you how to own the moon
And how to bounce the world just like a toy balloon.
I’ll show you how to have your way
And help yourself to wishes on a silver tray. 

Someday we’ll fly to Bali Ha’i
Or any other island you would like to buy;
You can travel cheap when you’re fast asleep
‘Cause it doesn’t cost a dime to dream. 

We’ll line our walls with dollar bills
And use the wrinkled ones to wipe our windowsills.
Pour our old champagne down the kitchen drain.
It doesn’t cost a dime to dream. The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) Poster

We will call at the president’s family residence,
Pay off the national debt.
And if we find the president slightly hesitant,
We’ll say we have a lot left yet! 

A fancy home, why that’s a snap.
To get from room to room we’ll have to have a map.
Just to see this prize only close your eyes.
It doesn’t cost a dime to dream. 

We play roulette, we place our bets,
We lose a million bucks and cut out crêpes suzettes.
Call the U.S. mint, what we need they’ll print
‘Cause it doesn’t cost a dime to dream.

We’ll have a maid who has a maid
Who has a maid to serve the maids lemonade.
We will spend our dough just like H-2-O.
It doesn’t cost a dime to dream. 

We will call at the president’s family residence,
Pay off the national debt.
And if we find the president slightly hesitant,
We’ll say we have a lot left yet! 

To keep our dog in perfect trim
We’ll have a butler and a footman just for him.
We will splash with vim in the social swim,
Be the finest fishes in the stream. 

I can see it now,
‘Course I don’t know how,
But it doesn’t cost a dime to dream.
It doesn’t cost a dime to dream.

Bob Hope sings this with his female lead, Marilyn Maxwell, in a charming duet as they put the ladies in the “Nelly Thursday Home for Old Dolls” to sleep on the crap tables they are using for their beds.  Context gives an added fun to what they are dreaming.

Next Stephen Sondheim. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  Song title: A Comedy Tonight

[PSEUDOLUS]

Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) Poster

Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns;
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns!

Old situations,
New complications,
Nothing portentous or polite;
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!

Something convulsive,
Something repulsive,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Something aesthetic,
Something frenetic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Nothing with gods, nothing with fate;
Weighty affairs will just have to wait!

Nothing that’s formal,
Nothing that’s normal,
No recitations to recite;
Open up the curtain:
Comedy Tonight!

Something erratic,
Something dramatic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Frenzy and frolic,
Strictly symbolic,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

[ENTIRE COMPANY]
Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everybody:
Comedy tonight!
Something that’s gaudy,
Something that’s bawdy–

[PSEUDOLUS]
Something for everybawdy!

[ENTIRE COMPANY]
Comedy tonight!

[MILES GLORIOSUS]
Nothing that’s grim.

[DOMINA]
Nothing that’s Greek.

[PSEUDOLUS]
[Indicating DOMINA:]
She plays Medea later this week.

[WOMEN]
Stunning surprises!

[MEN]
Cunning disguises!

[ALL]
Hundreds of actors out of sight!

[ERRONIUS]
Pantaloons and tunics!

[SENEX]
Courtesans and eunuchs!

[HERO]
Funerals and chases!

[LYCUS]
Baritones and basses!

[PHILIA]
Panderers!

[HERO]
Philanderers!

[HYSTERIUM]
Cupidity!

[MILES]
Timidity!

[LYCUS]
Mistakes!

[ERRONIUS]
Fakes!

[DOMINA]
Rhymes!

[PHILIA]
Crimes!

[PSEUDOLUS]
Tumblers!
Grumblers!
Bumblers!
Fumblers!

[ALL]
No royal curse, no Trojan horse,
And a happy ending, of course!
Goodness and badness,
Panic is madness–
This time it all turns out all right!
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!

Love Sondheim’s word plays.  And with a topic set in the classical world, he does a good job with his classical references and allusions — much of which goes unappreciated in our under educated age.

Reminds me of a scene from Eric Flint’s book 1632. The uptimer American doctors were in a conversation with downtimer doctor Balthazar Abrabanel about bringing him up to  date with all the modern medical knowledge he didn’t know. But when they started pumping him about downtime knowledge and cures, as replacements for their limited supply of 20th century antibiotics he mentioned a downtime text and said:

“Of course, you should examine the text yourself before we prescribe anything.  You do read Arabic?” Then seeing their expressions he said “Well, no matter, I believe I have most of it in a Greek translation.”

Which brought a sheepish grin from the Americans’ faces.  When Miss Mailey, the high school teach ended up in the conversation, her comments were:

“Americans are ignorant louts when it comes to languages” and “Did you think you were actually smarter than these people?”

Sort of a comment that belongs with yesterday’s column as well.

Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) PosterWhich works as well as the next thing for a segue into movie number three of the evening: Yours, Mine and Ours, starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. A real family movie. Widow with 8 children and widower with 10 children court and marry. References to Fanny Hill, and the 60s free love movement, answered with a great line  by the Henry Fonda character as they are headed to the hospital for birth of #19, with his stepdaughter asking how she should respond to a boyfriend pressuring her to have sex with him.

” It’s giving life that counts. Until you’re ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud. All the crazy haircuts in the world won’t keep it turning. Life isn’t a love in, it’s the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and… ground round instead of roast beef. And I’ll tell you something else: it isn’t going to a bed with a man that proves you’re in love with him; it’s getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts.

“I suppose having 19 kids is carrying it a bit too far, but if we had it to do over who would we skip… you?”

Why America desperately needs “What’s in the Bible”

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Even Agnes and Winifred could teach Joy Reid something about “What’s In the Bible”

For she certainly is the poster-child of Biblical illiteracy.

A simple lesson in Exegesis would do her a lot of good.

One cannot help but almost feel that she has to know her script she is reading is a spoof, a gag, and yet she is totally serious.

Clive and Ian

Even Ian’s one-liners about pastry arks and the hysterical books of the Bible show insight that she is sadly lacking.

And yet way too many people who should be Biblically literate will probably give her interpretation unmerited credence.

I ponder as I wonder how we came to this point, and how we raise the literacy of people who don’t realize how illiterate they truly are.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

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It remember growing up, that my dad always enjoyed the time after Christmas more than the build-up before Christmas.  Growing up on the farm there was a wonderful time in the winter when we were off from school, and could truly enjoy the time together as a family.  Winter slowed things down so dad could join us.

Below is a quote from G.K. Chesterton, the Facebook status on Thursday for his community page. Reading it made me think of my dad, and how much he would have agreed with the sentiment.  My dad may never have said it so well, but he certainly lived it:

Christmas and Salesmanship

“I take a grim and gloomy pleasure in reminding my fellow hacks and hired drudges in the dreadful trade of journalism that the Christmas which is now over ought to go on for the remainder of the twelve days. It ought to end on the Twelfth Night, on which occasion Shakespeare has himself assured us that we ought to be doing What we Will. But one of the queerest things about our own topsy-turvy time is that we all hear such a vast amount about Christmas just before it comes, and suddenly hear nothing at all about it afterwards. My own trade, the tragic guild to which I have already alluded, is trained to begin prophesying Christmas somewhere about the beginning of autumn; and the prophecies about it are like prophecies about the Golden Age and the Day of Judgment combined. Everybody writes about what a glorious Christmas we are going to have. Nobody, or next to nobody, ever writes about the Christmas we have just had. I am going to make myself an exasperating exception in this matter. I am going to plead for a longer period in which to find out what was really meant by Christmas; and a fuller consideration of what we have really found.”

~G.K. Chesterton: ‘Illustrated London News,’ Dec. 28, 1935.

And so, in that spirit, I spent Thursday night with the family, not really doing anything, except watching some Christmas specials.  I expect to watch several more over the next few days.

The first one last night was my choice:  “The Story Lady”, starring Jessica Tandy and Stephanie Zimbalist.

The Story Lady (1991) Poster

It truly is a wonderful, modern fairy tale.  There is a section of it where there is a telling of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” When they got there I turned to the rest of the family and said, “A Christmas Carol — one of the most told and most mutilated stories ever.” It is a wonderful story to use to tell and make whatever point you want to. They put words in the mouth of the Ghost of Christmas Future to make the point they wanted to.

But despite my literary pickiness about “A Christmas Carol” the story is told really well, and acted well by Tandy and Zimbalist.

And when we got done with that, my daughter chose “The Snowman” — a video my Aunt Olive gave my family back in the 80s, accompanied with its own stuffed snowman to match the animated one in the video. When I left home, the stuffed snowman and video eventually came to my family, and my kids still enjoy watching this video. Amazing — entirely wordless except for the lyrics to “Walking in the Air” sung near the end. Yet they still watch it at least every year.

The Snowman (1982) Poster

Thank you, Aunt Olive, for a Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

Boxing Day — stocking up for next Christmas

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Well, the above picture shows my main haul from Santa, and my main present from Christmas.

In the center is “The Organists’ Manual” — a gift from my mother and sister I asked for, so I can start formal organ practicing instead of the pickup I have done over the years.

But the rest of the picture is what “Santa” brought in the stocking, as he does each year. We get a lot of Holiday Candy around here — both in the stockings, and as free-for-all bags.

So today we will go to Walgreens and purchase candy for next year.  We purchase whatever is left over, at 50% off, and then store it, cool and safely wrapped, until next year, where it become our treat for the next month or so. We do this for each holiday. Too bad there aren’t any candy holidays during the summer 😉

Saving 50% means we could spend half as much — but instead we buy twice as much.

Masters in This Hall

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Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell.

Masters in this hall, hear ye news today.
Brought from over the sea and ever I you pray.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we clear!
Holpen are all folk on Earth, born is God’s Son so dear!
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we loud!
God today hath poor folk raised and cast a-down the proud.

Then to Bethlehem town we went two by two,

and in a sorry place we heard the oxen low.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we clear!

Holpen are all folk on Earth, born is God’s Son so dear!
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we loud!
God today hath poor folk raised and cast a-down the proud.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell 

Ox and ass him know kneeling on their knee,

Oh wondrous joy had I this little babe to see.
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we clear!

Holpen are all folk on Earth, born is God’s Son so dear!

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we loud!
God today hath poor folk raised and cast a-down the proud.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we clear!

Holpen are all folk on Earth, born is God’s Son so dear!
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we loud!
God today hath poor folk raised and cast a-down the proud.

This is Christ the Lord, O masters be ye glad!

Christmas is come in, and no folk should be sad.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell

Masters in this hall, hear ye news today

Nowell nowell nowell sing we clear nowell nowell nowell

God today hath poor folk raised and cast a-down the proud.

Nowell

I’ll let this one stand for itself — except to say that it is another favorite of mine.  And that I’ve sung all four parts in performance at one time or another.  In this audio I am alto, and the recording doesn’t start at the beginning.