Saturday, December 31, 2022

Drunk Uncle Has Some New Year's Resolutions

As the curtain comes down on 2022, many of us will be making resolutions with an eye toward improving 2023. Drunk Uncle has some resolutions of his own, which he tries his best to describe to Weekend Update's Seth Meyers:

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Philomena Cunk on the Wonders of Christmas

I'm crazy about Diane Morgan, the British actress who plays Philomena Cunk, the dim-witted and ill-informed host of a series of outrageously funny mockumentaries. I've just discovered one dealing with the origins and evolution of the celebration of Christmas. Enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2022

This Year's Boxing Day Horror Show Makes You Feel Worse than a Trip to the Gym

It's December 26 — the day after Christmas, or what the nations that formerly made up the British Empire (and a number of other countries, too) call Boxing Day. The holiday is named for the custom among the British aristocracy of providing service workers and the underprivileged boxed gifts of household items to clear room for the many new gifts that had been received the day before on Christmas. Over time, Boxing Day became less about gift-giving and more about an extra day off. Stores and other businesses remain closed on December 26, and people tend to stay home with their families to enjoy the good feelings kindled during the preceding two days. There's lots of laughter and fellowship and plenty of leftovers to share, and everyone benefits from an extra day away from the cares of everyday life. Boxing Day never quite caught on here in the United States, Here, the 26th of December typically means a trip to the mall to return the gifts we didn't like, and maybe picking up an extra helping of fried dough or something.

I like the idea of extending the Christmas holiday myself. Families should be allowed to stay together an extra day as the food and refreshments run out and the fun of opening presents has ended. Let everyone stay cooped up together as they're running out of clean clothes and the hangover of overspending on gifts begins. In that spirit, we started a fun little tradition ten years ago called the Boxing Day Holiday Horror Show. It involves posting a perfectly dreadful holiday movie to allow folks to really wallow in the after-Christmas blues. There's no better way to double-down on the feelings of guilt and angst that typically overwhelm us anyway on the day after Christmas.

This year's horror show is called Santa with Muscles, a 1996 feature starring Hulk Hogan and (sadly) Ed Begley, Jr. (whom I usually like). Hogan plays a conceited millionaire with a fitness business who runs afoul of the law and dons a Santa suit at the mall in an effort to evade the police. Ordinarily in movies, this is where the fun begins, but there's no fun to be had here. As one of the more favorable reviews of the film explains, this movie is

[b]ad, bad, bad, BAD. With the possible exception of Santa and the Ice Cream BunnySanta With Muscles is not only the worst Christmas movie ever made, but it is one of the worst that could be made … ever. Weighing in at a whopping 2.4 at IMDB and ranked in the bottom 100 movies of all time, you know it is going to be beyond terrible, and it was. Nothing other than actually watching this 97 minutes of Hell can prepare you for how incompetent this movie actually was.

So find a comfortable place to sit, grab a big hunk of fruitcake and do your best to endure this year's Boxing Day Horror Show:

Need still more punishment? Why not revisit some of our previous horror shows, But be advised that Santa with Muscles is a five-star Academy Award winner compared to most of the films below:

Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Time When a Draft Dodger Visited the Bunkers for Christmas Dinner

As a child of the '60s and '70s, I've always appreciated Nick at Nite and TV Land for celebrating the television fare I grew up with. I don't watch much TV of any type these days, and I didn't watch a whole lot after about the 10th grade. But I do enjoy the old shows, which take us back to a simpler time and provide a virtual escape from today's challenges. 

A few years ago, TV Land put together its Top 10 Holiday Moments from the shows of the classic television era. Included in the list were moments from The Andy Griffith Show, Sanford and Son, Cheers and several TV specials including The Andy Williams Christmas Show and A Charlie Brown Christmas. The list also included an especially emotional episode of All in the Family, which featured a Christmas visit from a friend of Mike Stivic's who was dodging the draft in Canada:

It's worthwhile remembering that the deep divisions we see among Americans today are not wholly new. We've had divisions before. However, we seemed to have enough in common to overcome or at least overlook the divisions of the past. It seems different somehow, today. Perhaps we can look to the holiday spirit to put things in some perspective and agree that there still is much more that unites us than the things that divide us.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Hey! You! Get Off of My Roof - Part 14 and Out

Well, we've made it to the eve of another Christmas holiday, and I've got a few parting thoughts to share about the three remaining tracks on my latest mix for 2022. As I type this from Los Angeles the weather is balmy and pleasant. It's supposed to be 80 degrees and sunny for Christmas tomorrow. The rest of the country is facing below-zero temperatures and in many places it's looking to be a white Christmas. I'm just fine with our warm California forecast, frankly. A green Christmas is just fine with me

On Christmas Eve I like to imagine what's going on in homes around the world — the anticipation, the warmth, the reverence and the memories being honored and made. I hope everyone is feeling at least some kind of magic in the air tonight. It's a magical evening, and a wondrous world.

Track 42
A Spaceman Came Traveling, Chris de Burgh (1975)

I've been aware of this song almost since it was first released, and I guess I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, it's got a certain amount of emotional punch to it — that's undeniable. On the other hand, as a song it  suffers from a little of the same sort of heavy-handed pretentiousness that plague so many of de Burgh's songs. Many people know him only through his one big hit, 1986's "The Lady in Red," which has topped several surveys as the public's most hated popular song ever. I suppose there are several songs I dislike even more than "The Lady in Red," but I can't put my finger on any of them at this moment. 

By contrast, "A Spaceman Came Traveling" has a number of redeeming features, and I think it's the sort of thought-provoking tune that fits awfully well as the final track on a holiday compilation. I understand de Burgh wrote the song after reading Erich von Däniken’s best-selling book Chariots of the Gods?, which suggests that the technology and religions of many ancient civilizations on Earth may have been brought here by interstellar visitors. According to de Burgh, this led him to wonder, "what if the star [of Bethlehem] was a space craft and what if there is a benevolent being or entity in the universe keeping an eye on the world and our foolish things that we do to each other?"

The lyrics of the song are as follows:

A spaceman came traveling on his ship from afar
'Twas light years of time since his mission did start
And over a village, he halted his craft
And it hung in the sky like a star, just like a star

He followed a light and came down to a shed
Where a mother and child were lying there on a bed
A bright light of silver shone round his head
And he had the face of an angel and they were afraid

Then the stranger spoke, he said, do not fear
I come from a planet a long way from here
And I bring a message for mankind to hear
And suddenly the sweetest music filled the air

And it went la la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la, la la la la la la la la la
Peace and goodwill to all men and love for the child
La la la la la la la la la, la la la la la la la, la la la la la la la la la, oh

This lovely music went trembling through the ground
And many were awakened on hearing that sound
And travelers on the road
The village they found by the light of that ship in the sky
Which shone all around

And just before dawn at the paling of the sky
The stranger returned and said, now I must fly
When two thousand years of your time has gone by
This song will begin once again to a baby's cry

And it went la la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la, la la la la la la la la la
This song will begin once again to a baby's cry
And it goes la la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la, la la la la la la la la la
Peace and goodwill to all men and love for the child

Oh the whole world is waiting, waiting to hear the song again (la la la la la la la la la)
There are thousands standing on the edge of the world (la la la la la la la la la)
And a star is moving somewhere, the time is nearly here (la la la la la la la la la)
This song will begin once again to a baby's cry

I don't know if there's anything to the thoughts that gave rise to the song, but I've always felt that we know only the tiniest fraction of what there is out there and how things work, and it's comforting to think that a benevolent force has the upper hand somehow.

Watch Chris de Burgh performing "A Spaceman Came Traveling" with choir and orchestra

Track 41
All Your Christmases, Santa's Little Helper (1998)

This little clip's been in my voluminous "miscellaneous clips" file for what seems like forever, It's an excerpt from a longer piece that I seem to recall finding somewhere on the WFMU-FM "Beware of the Blog" site that I've written about previously. WFMU is a New Jersey community radio station that specializes in the unusual and offbeat, and while "Beware of the Blog" is no longer updated regularly, the older postings still available are a treasure trove of interesting material. The original version of the track is a seven-minute montage that lifts the word "Christmas" out of a long list of holiday tunes and then pastes the results together to form a lengthy string of holiday madness. For my mix, I figured a much shorter version would suffice. 

In the interests of full disclosure, I've taken certain liberties with the name of the responsible artist as listed above. The actual name of the artist reorders the letters in the first word of the group's title so that instead of "Santa's Little Helper"  it forms the name of "he who cannot be mentioned" — or at least "he whose name maybe shouldn't be mentioned on Christmas." I trust you can figure it out!

Track 40
A Great Big Sled, The Killers (2006)

Last year, I included an awesome song by The Killers on my 2021 compilation Be A Santa! The song was "I Feel It In My Bones," and it was probably my favorite track on last year's mix. It was also the seventh of the 11 annual Christmas tunes The Killers released each year from 2006 through 2016 to benefit Product RED, and its fight to battle HIV, AIDS and other preventable and treatable diseases. This year, I've chosen another holiday song from The Killers' collection — in fact, it's the song that kicked off the tradition, "A Great Big Sled" from 2006.  

I like this one a lot, too. The Killers ended their series of holiday releases in 2016, which is disappointing, but certainly understandable. All told, the 11 holiday songs they released raised over $1 million for Product Red, and dramatically improved the quality of rock's holiday library. And since I've only used two of The Killers' Christmas songs on my compilations to date we still have nine great tracks to use on future mixes.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our presentation of background information on the tracks of this year's mix. A reminder that you should be able to access all of my previous compilations on my holiday music website, HERE.

For those who celebrate the Christmas holiday tomorrow, Merry Christmas!