Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Annual Holiday Spectactular

It's that time again. Every year at Xmas, without rules or forethought I celebrate the season and year. As usual, I start off with little inspiration, no direction and hope to rally as I go. You'll forgive (read: "be grateful") for my brevity this year.

Favorite post

These are self appointed awards, so compose your spleen and hold your venom for something else. I admit I am biased towards my history blogs, although they are clearly not the favorites of others.

10. The awe inspiring - 7/23/09 - My take on who is the most dominant athlete we've known. The winner, one of several exceptional wrestlers covered, is truly awe inspiring.

9. Endlessly Fascinating: The Civil War - 8/2/09 - What happens when I peruse my library for sticky notes I left as reminders, all connected to interesting little tidbits from The Civil War.

8. Boo! 9/27/09 - My visit to the ghosts of Gettysburg. Still don't believe, but it is almost as much fun as UFOs.

7. WWII Trivia - 10/31/09 - From James Bond to TV comedians, this trivial pursuit of THE war is fun.

6. The Death of the West - 6/20/09 - What would we be like today without the Golden Age of Athens and how close we came to that on numerous occasions.

5. Fun with POTUS - 8/20/09 - Stories and writings from the lives of our presidents that will definitely surprise.

4. Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence - 3/27/09 - Once again, I bash my arch-historical nemesis - TJ - by watering down the importance of his primary claim to fame. And, I'm right. It is over-rated.

3. I just like these stories - 8/29/09 - Bear's favorite post ever, I believe. Stories about entertainers connected in a loose chain of events.

2. Cheerful News for the Brothers Grimm - 11/27/90 - a memorial to two preeminent humanists of the 19th century who so rarely get the credit they are due and are usually mis-represented these days or valued merely as story collectors.

1. Fulfilling Edith Hamilton's Prophecy: J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings- 5/14/09 - This one got some comments from outside the regular circle. I tried to show how you can not over-estimate the value of Tolkien, but easily under-estimate him, and think I might just have succeeded.

Best of the New Miss Malaprop

In April 26, 2007's post I introduced you, dear reader, to the new Miss Malaprop, an engaging New York woman with whom I am acquainted. Every once in a while she comes out with a new beaut and I shall report this year's crop here and now:

The idiom: Referring to a dumb move by a friend, she saucily stated: "He really dropped the bucket on that one."

The Shakespearean hero:: Accompanying me on a visit to New York's Rockefeller Center recently to watch the skaters, she spoke of an acquaintance who desired to skate there in public too: "Who does he think he is, Scott Hamlet?"

The almost idiom: This one took me a few seconds to understand, but when I did, I saw the usual genius - so close, you know it means something familiar, but what? While I drove, she was describing a place we were looking for and I couldn't see it on the street we were on: "I don't think you and I are on the same street," she said. "What?" Ah, same page. Got it. Well, she was right. We weren't on the same page. But, we were definitely on the same street.

A new television show?: She was trying to explain to me that she was going with her girlfriends to see one of those people who can talk to those in the afterlife. "You know, a . . . a mediator."

Yep, that's it. A mediator.

What would I do without you? Good night, Gracie.

History's Greetings. Indulge my interests, a little here. These are a few excerpts from literature mentioning the Christmas or the Winter Solstice. There's something similar about all of them when you think about it.

This one is from General Xenophon, which passages reminds me a little of the "There is a season" passage in the Bible (but, it's not)"

Think again how the sun, when past the winter solstice, approaches, ripening some things and withering others, whose time is over; and having accomplished this, approaches no nearer, but turns away, careful not to harm us by excess of heat; and when once again in his retreat he reaches the point where it is clear to ourselves, that if he goes further away, we shall be frozen with the cold, back he turns once more and draws near and revolves in that region of the heavens where he can best serve us.

From Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus:

IN December, about Christmas in the Citie of Wittenberg, were many young Gentlewomen, the which were come out of the Countrey to make merry with their friends and acquaintance: amongst whome, there were certaine that were well acquainted with Doctor Faustus, wherefore they were often inuited as his guests vnto him, and being with him on a certaine time after dinner, hee led them into his Garden, where he shewed them all maner of flowers, and 1 fresh hearbs, Trees bearing fruit and blossomes of all sortes, insomuch that they wondered to see that in his Garden should bee so pleasant a time as in the middest of summer: and without in the streetes, and all ouer the Countrey, it lay full of Snowe and yce. Wherefore this was noted of them as a thing miraculous, each one gathering and carrying away all such things as they best liked, and so departed delighted with their sweete smelling flowers.

From Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost:

Well, say I am; why should proud summer boast

Before the birds have any cause to sing?

Why should I joy in any abortive birth?

At Christmas I no more desire a rose

Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;

But like of each thing that in season grows.

So you, to study now it is too late,

Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate.

Top Three Xmas Villains:

No. 3: Winter Warlock. This frozen evil giant has redemption in Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, a wonderful animated work featuring as Kris Kringle, Fred Astaire, who wooes the giant from his evil ways with a song I still play every Xmas, Put one foot in front of the other:

[Kris Kringle]: Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule be the exception
A good way to start is to stand

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

[Winter Warlock]: If I want to change the reflection
I see in the mirror each morn
You mean that it's just my election
To vote for a chance to be reborn

Number 2: Burgermeister Meisterburger. This tight fisted angry little animated ruler is from the very same animated feature. And, he hates, just hates toys. And they hate him. So - he bans them. Which is why, of course, young Kris Kringle comes to town.

Not only was Burgermeister Meisterburger a great character, but he has one of the great names of all animated villains right up there with Felix the Cats' Rock Bottom, Rocky and Bullwinkle's Boris Badenov and the Dalmation's Cruella DeVil. Just brilliant. Is there an Emmy for great names?

No. 1: Scrooge. Even though he too finds redemption at Xmas, there is no greater Xmas villain than the mean spirited and greedy Scrooge, who Dickens' created in 1843's Christmas Carol.

Who was Scrooge really based on, if anyone? No one knows. But there are lots of theories. I find most credible a characterization of a real person Dickens' himself has referred to at least in letters, one John Elwes, an 18th century British parliamentarian, who, although a wealthy heir himself, to save money would, among other things, not use candles at home, wore poor man's clothes including a wig he found in a bush, and allowed his house to become dilapidated to the point the rain would come through the roof throughout the home. He was sometimes portrayed by cartoonists as clutching his money bag. Now who does this sound like?

Who was the best Scrooge? Well, I haven't seen them all, nor even the new one portrayed by Jim Carrey (so I won't include him), my votes go to:

Number 3: Alistair Sims in the 1951 production I think is sometimes called Scrooge and sometimes A Christmas Carol.

Number 2: Bill Murray's hysterical Scrooged (1988) still makes me laugh. This was before Murray could prove he was an actor as well as comedian, and I'm glad, as his snarky over the pompous charicature which he is synonymous with, fit perfectly. p.s., Jamie Farr, of Corporal Klinger fame, played Marley to Murray's Scrooge and Karen Allen of Indiana Jones fame was his love interest.

Number 1: Ah, that would be the great Jim Backus (aka, the Millionaire, Mr. Howell, on Gilligan's Island) in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. I was three years old in 1962 when it came out, and for me, the funny nearsighted old man was Scrooge. That's the way it goes.

Top ten holiday or Xmas Songs: I've probably ranked them before, but I'm doing it again, and I care not if it is consistent at all. I just love holiday music (and, of course, this is perfectly consistent with my Jewish background, as nobody does Xmas like the Jews):

10. Snoopy's Christmas by The Royal Guardsmen (1966).
9. Put one foot in front of the other. As I said, above, from the great animated feature Santa Claus is comin' to town featuring Fred Astaire.
8. Zat you, Santa Claus? The only version I know is the Louis Armstrong classic. May no one ever try and duplicate this unique and memorable piece.
7. Joy to the World. The Whitney Houston version is tops. She cannot be beaten when she chooses a song these days, even by Mariah Carey. Still, there are many great versions.
6. Christmas Canon. Germany's Johann Pachobel must be pleased he can atleast be seen with the Bach family in heaven thanks to the discovery this century of his brilliant Canon in D major. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra version is my favorite.
5. Do they know it's Christmas by Band Aid. A recent work, but magical in it's own way. Stick with the original.
4. The Carol of the Bells. I like the Mannheim Steamroller version but there are also many good ones for this. Did you know this is a Ukrainian piece based on a folk tune?
3. Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! I go with Dean Martin's version, although there are a bunch of good ones.
2. Baby, It's cold outside. I give the Doris Day/Bing Crosby version the nod, although I like the fairly recent Zoey Deschanel/Leon Redbone version on the Elf Soundtrack. Not surprising I like the song, which was written by the composer of my favorite musical, Guys and Dolls, Frank Loesser, and performed by him and his wife at parties for four years starting in 1944 before it was ever put in a movie, after which it was in many.
1. All I want for Christmas is you by Mariah Carey. In my mind, her best song of all. In fact, her Xmas album is the only one I own or want.

Okay, that's it for me.

Feliz Navidad!


  1. Anonymous1:52 PM

    You must include...Nat King Cole - The Christmas any top 10 Christmas song list.


  2. Not a bad choice. Doesn't make my list. But may your chestnuts roast on an open fire, my friend.

  3. Great new comments from Ms Malaprop - just hilarious!

  4. Have to agree with most of this. And I also love the new additions from Ms malaprop.
    My only disgreement is that I've always thought Baby its cold out was the second worst Christmas song of all time. The first worst (love the grammar) is Santa baby.
    Merry Christmas!!

  5. Man, you really had me enjoying myself and then, at the end, you made me go ARRRRGGGGHHHH! Mariah freakin'Carey and Christmas music NEVER go in the same sentence.
    1) The Christmas Song -Nat King Cole's rendition
    2)Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland's version
    3)Let it Snow,Let it Snow, Let it Snow! - Tony Bennett's version

  6. The secret to how we've been friends so long is that you never told me that you preferred the Tony Bennett version of Let it Snow! to Dean Martin's version. I'm destroyed.

  7. Love Dino, but Tony (in his prime) is the greatest pop singer ever. Get over it.


Your comments are welcome.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .