Christmas Lights Rant

Setting aside my usual rant on Christmas lights going up entirely too early (i.e. before Thanksgiving), I really do enjoy the way my street is lit up with twinkling Christmas lights now that the timing is appropriate.  Part of this is a love of Christmas, and part of it is because I leave for work in the dark, spend most of the day in a windowless office, then return home in the dark.  This mole-ish existence is made more bearable by sparkling strings of lights outline roofs and dangling from trees and shrubs.

But…

(You knew there was a “but”, right?)

But…

There are some practices that I abhor in exterior Christmas-lit decor:

-Lit-up inflateable figures:  8 out of 10 times these are just flat tacky, 1 of 10 times they’re downright creepy (you’re either spotlighting them with a ground-level flood light so you get the effect of Santa holding a flashlight under his face to tell a ghost story–or it’s lit from within, making Santa look like Satan) and the final time they’re deflated because this is the prairie and those things take off like kites if the wind picks up, so you have to deflate them all the time.  Verdict?  Don’t bother.

-Light-Nets:  CHEATERS.  We all see the uniformity of those lights draped perfectly over your box-hedge, and to any normal human eye, that just looks wrong.  If you don’t have the time to drape lights over your shrubs artfully and creatively, just don’t bother.  Your short cut may add twinkling lights, but in their creepily lock-step formation, the beauty is diminished.

-Solid color lights (other than white):  All red, all green, all purple?  Really?  The consistent scheme may seem like a good idea, but it comes out looking cheeZy, creepy, or cheap–and sometimes all three.  The all red looks like you’ve started a brothel, the all green looks like you’re signaling the mother-ship and the all purple just makes you look like you allowed 14 year old girls to handle your decorating.  I guess I could make an exception for blue if you’re Jewish and these are Hanukkah lights, but even then, you ought to mix in some white.

-Mixing traditional and LED lights:  I’ve accepted the different look of LED lights for the sake of the power savings they offer.  If we get our twinkling wonderlands with less pull on the grid, I’m for it.  BUT… you need to commit.  Don’t mix the old power-sucking strings in with the moddish new LEDs.  Not only are you defeating the power-saving purpose of the LEDs, but the color clashes are visually offensive to your neighbors.

-F’d up flashing:  If you’re going to use the flashing lights, it’s a bad idea to mix three different flashers (flashing at three different rates) AND chaser lights.  Unless you’re setting this whole thing to music like the Christmas light nerd-guys with the whole light show, you’re probably just going to give the neighborhood kids seizures.

We love the sparkle, the twinkle and the fun of lighting up long winter nights….just try not to make it fugly.

Cammy’s Obligatory Pre-Christmas Rant

You knew this had to happen.  I have to rant about the proliferation of Christmas-crap so long before Christmas.

Christmas ads on TV a week before Halloween?  I walked into one store to contemplate procuring candy corn on the evening of 30 October…and found the Halloween decor already consolidated to 2 aisles (from the 6 there the previous week), and the Christmas seasonal shit full stocked and displayed.

Just today I went out to pick up a few things with my visiting mother and by the end of our relatively short shopping excursion I was already at critical levels on my Christmas music absorption.  One more R&B version of “Let it Snow” and I was going to go postal on the store’s sound system.  I’m going to revise my general feeling about Christmas music from “It shouldn’t be played until after the Thanksgiving meal is consumed” to “It shouldn’t be played until after the Thanksgiving meal is consumed, unless it’s an R&B version of ‘Let It Snow’ in which case it should not be played at all.  Ever.”

It’s not that I hate Christmas.  I love Christmas.  I am ALL ABOUT Christmas (just not the shopping part).  Being a pseudo-almost-Christmas-baby I have embraced the holiday.  But, we get so few real holidays in this country, I hate to see one obliterated by the others.  In this case, the encroachment of Christmas means Thanksgiving gets the shaft.  Other than marking a significant day for the U.S. retail community, and a heinous time for travel, it’s completely overlooked.  I’d love to see it moved to early October, like Canada’s Thanksgiving, although even that is too close to the Halloween juggernaut to ensure the safety of the turkey’s day.

Is it really too much to hope that one day we can regain some ground and get back to appreciating each and every holiday we get?

The Day The Musik Died…..

No, I’m not about to do a Musikalischer Mittwoch about “American Pie”  (I can more or less promise that won’t ever happen–I don’t hate the song, but it’s been eye-rollingly over-done in my corner of the Universe).

I’m talking about how my favorite radio station totally killed music.

The country station I listen to (the one that plays old shit and does not mock my less-than-secret love of Hee-Haw) decided to become the 24/7 Christmas station for the area starting the day after Thanksgiving.  I would applaud this but for two things:

1) They said this will run through 26 December.  Um.  Yeah.  No.  Twelve days of Christmas, yo (and more than that if you’re smart and milk both Roman Catholic/Protestant AND Orthodox calendars)

 

and (this is the important one)

 

2) I haven’t heard a Christmas song yet.  Or any other song.

This station was always a bit heavy on the advertisements in the mornings.  That’s to be expected for any station, so I’m annoyed, but forigiving. But since the alleged Christmas rotation started, I have heard about nothing but collision repair, vinyl siding and the price of brisket for a grocery chain whose nearest store is 30 minutes from me.

I knew the Christmas music thing was going to be a bad gimmick, but I didn’t think it would be this awful.  How can I mock the craptastic renditions of “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” if I never get to HEAR them?!?!

Holiday Tune Vampire

To start:  Yes, I’m missing a lot of posts.  That is due to a work-related time vampire that I am just not going to discuss because it’s entirely too suck-tastic.

And now that I’m here thanks to the wonder of one of the few holidays we haven’t destroyed completely in this country*….

Except that I’m here later than I expected because, it’s officially post-Thanksgiving-meal-consumption for me, which is my stated prerequisite for starting up Christmas music.  And I wanted friggin’ holiday cheer blaring before I started typing.  So, I sit down at ye olde PC…..about 2-3 hours ago.

Trouble is, I had hell getting MP3s loaded.  To own the truth, I am still playing them ones-y, two-sy.

In the off-season, when I’m shifting files around on computers to make space, or set up a new drive, the first thing to get shuffled aside in a less-than-orderly fashion, are the Christmas MP3s.  It’s generally done because, well, I won’t need them until after Thanksgiving, and of COURSE I’ll get them organized again before then.

Except I don’t.

So, here I am, ready to start rockin’ to my Danish Santa Rap, Juleman, and….where the hell was that file?

First there’s the consolidation into one location, then there’s dumb-ass iTunes and it’s molasses-in-January loading process (although, I suppose I shouldn’t blame iTunes totally….I have fairly extensive collection of holiday tune-age.  By-product of being a practically-Christmas-baby).  During this process, I get fed up and start my internet search for the killer-app to replace this nightmare that we call iTunes.  Download a few.  Install.  Realize they won’t fit the bill, go back to loading iTunes.  And here I sit, just now attempting to get this thing posted while a folder sits open next to this window so I can right click on a Christmas song and tell it to play in Winamp so as not to disturb the goings-on of iTunes (why don’t I just use Winamp?!?!?!)

Then again, the real time vampire in this is probably my own lack of organization….

*Though we’re working on it–I mean, whatever meaning it had, racist or not, is pretty much gone–but so far it’s still a mandatory day off.  Except for those poor SOBs in retail.  And because of that, the slippery slope is in place to make this into another work-day for the rest of us where only those with vacation time and forgiving superiors can manage to take the day.
This entry less-than-thoughtfully composed to the following soundtrack: “Kaj i kanen” – Kølig Kaj; “Podsafe Christmas Song” – Jonathan Coulton; “Es Wird Scho Glei Dumpa” – Stefanie Hertel & Stefan Mross; “Christmas Wishes” – Anne Murray; “Throw The Yule Log On, Uncle John” – The Christopher Wren Singers; “Wenn ein neues Jahr geboren wird” – Claudia Jung.

 

Old Maid’s Memories

First of all, an announcement:  Some of you may have noticed that we went two days without posting.  We’re going on a brief hiatus here until Cammy and I can get to our respective homes.  Cammy is in another hemisphere without access to the interwebs and I am at my parents’ house where the internet is slower than dial-up (it has taken me twenty minutes so far to make this post).  We know you’ll miss us desperately, but try to be strong.

And now for today’s actual post…

I’m guessing our five readers are probably sick of reading my musings over being thirty years old and unmarried.  I really am okay with it.  I have a great life.  I haven’t found the right person.  And I am certain that it’s better to be single than married to the wrong person.  But there are certain times I really wish I had a husband stowed away somewhere I could roll out for important occasions.

Most of said occasions involve my family and holidays.  Christmas especially.

Families and family holiday celebrations tend to revolve around their youngest generation.  And that’s how it should be.  Christmas should be about the kids.  But being the one member of my immediate family without kids, this means that I no longer matter in holiday planning.  We had our family Christmas celebration on a night I had to work this year because my mother checked with everyone but me.  When everyone realized I was working there was no thought of changing things—it was decided I could just go to work from our Christmas celebration.  Keep in mind that my job involves tying my body in knots, so any sort of holiday culinary indulgence was off the table, so to speak.

I really don’t mind things revolving around the kids so much as I don’t understand why things revolving around the kids means my brother and sister are exempt from any work.  My mother and I do all the cooking for the big holiday buffet (actually two of them since there’s one for brunch and one for dinner).  My brother and sister don’t even bother offering to bring anything anymore.  Keep in mind that I’m brining one mouth to the table, my sister is bringing four and my brother is bringing five.  And while meals are planned around the tastes and distastes of my brother, sister, their spouses and children, my tastes are not regarded at all.  This year I helped cook shrimp for those people, even though the smell of shellfish makes me want o vomit.

Then there’s the present opening ritual.  My job at this point is to stand in the corner with a trash bag collecting wrapping paper (as the old maid spinster sister I open my presents at a different time when there aren’t so many people around).  It’s as though we’re following some sort of nineteenth century custom where spinster aunts suddenly become part of the household staff.

Don’t get me wrong; this is just venting.  I love my family and it’s always great to see them.  And the upside of working post-holiday celebration is it gives me a means to escape—I love my nieces and nephews, but there’s only so long I want to be in a crowded house with five children between the ages of eleven and three.

It’s just sometimes playing the role of spinster in the family gets a bit tiresome.

Not Dreaming of a White Christmas

As we have discussed ad nauseum around here, Cammy is currently in the Land Down Under.  Where it is currently summer.  Cammy was quite distressed about the prospect of celebrating Christmas during the Summer.  I don’t think I was fully able to comprehend why this was so distressing.  I was born in Hawaii and the first Christmases I can really remember were celebrated in Florida.  Cammy had plenty of warm Christmases living in Texas, but she’s used to at least some sort of seasonal change.  I’m a little more okay with things not working the way seasons dictate they should.

In fact, I’d be quite happy if things in Virginia were a little less seasonally appropriate.  I know everyone gets all twitterpated about the prospect of a white Christmas… they’re welcome to have mine.   It started snowing early afternoon on Christmas day and didn’t stop until sometime late last night.  All told we are under fourteen inches of snow here at my parents house.  And let’s be clear, where my folks live, they have no clue what to do with this much snow.  This means my brother couldn’t come over yesterday to untangle whatever the heck my father has done to his wireless connection that makes it run at dial-up speeds.  The trip to the local outlet mall is canceled.  Any further visits with my brother and sister before my Aunt leaves are unlikely.  Grocery shopping is an implausibility.  Oh yes, and we are under threat of power loss at any moment from falling trees.  Tons of fun.

While driving home from work Christmas night the song “White Christmas” came on the CD player in my mother’s car.  I admit to a little cynical laughter.  I was not dreaming of a white Christmas.  I was dreaming of an 80 degree Christmas.  Just like the ones I used to know.

A Little Holiday Filk for You

First of all, we here at It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter would like to wish a happy birthday to faithful reader Bridget!  Hope it was a good one!

Second, a slightly updated version of a classic holiday song!

On the first day of Christmas
My Bloggers Gave to Me
A really lame entry.

On the second day of Christmas
My Bloggers Gave to Me
Two rotten tags
And a really lame entry

On the third day of Christmas
My bloggers gave to me
Three dead links
Two rotten tags
And a really lame entry

On the fourth day of Christmas….Four random photos…
On the fifth day….5 MP3s…
Sixth day 6 new categories…
7th day 7 comment responses…
8th day 8 crappy captchas…
9th day 9 login errors…
10th day 10 timeless tweets…
11th day 11 stupid widgets…
12th day 12 reasons not to read on…

Working Chirstmas

Once again, we here at It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter would like to wish you all a happy holiday.  I’m rather exhausted, having just gotten home from work.

Yes, that’s right.  I worked on Christmas.

It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time I’m sure.  When you work in entertainment, particularly a type of entertainment people partake of mostly on vacation, the times when other people are off work are the times you get the most work.

Honestly, I don’t mind.  It’s good to have work.  And working on Christmas can often (although for me it didn’t this time) carry fringe benefits like higher pay rates or free food.  And cliché though it may be, customers tend to be in a better mood, which makes work a little more pleasant.

It’s possible that this whole working on a major holiday thing is a little easier for me to assimilate because my mother worked about every other Christmas growing up.  She’s a nurse and babies don’t stop being born because it’s a holiday.  As she well knows since she was herself born on Christmas day.

At any rate, there are worse things to do with Christmas than work.  But however you spent it, we just hope it was a good one.

Christmas Eve Day

We at MTV, MPB hope you are all having a cozy, comfy Christmas Eve surrounded by food, music, booze and people you love (who, hopefully, aren’t pissing you off).  It’s Christmas Eve Day!  In the words of one of the top 3 ficitional FBI agents ever, one Seeley Booth “Christmas Eve Day!  It’s both an eve and a day!  It’s a Christmas Miracle!”

Unfortunately, Christmas has always felt like it kind of jumps the shark on Christmas eve.  I always prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas Day because in my Mom’s family, Christmas Eve is the primary day of celebration.  There’s also my old church Christmas Eve service which was always one of my favorite services and was the first time I ever remember enjoying church.  Honestly, you let me stay up past my bedtime, you turn off the lights, you give me fire AND you tell me to sing Silent Night?  That’s a Venn Diagram of awesome when you’re 6.

It’s also that last chance to look forward to something.  Even when we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, there was that potential for something else to come along or to happen on Christmas day.  You may not get anything else, but the odds are better than on most other days of the year.  And besides, there were people to visit and places to go on Christmas Day, so a little anticipation lingered.  But once you get to Christmas Day itself?  The anticipation is all gone.

And there’s no mystique to Christmas Day.  It is what it is.  No one tells stories about animals being able to talk on Christmas Day–it’s Christmas Eve.  Even the bulk of the events of the Christmas story itself take place on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day.  In fact, I was pretty convinced as a kid (and, what the heck, I still am) that to the extent that there’s truth in the Christmas story?  Baby Jesus was really born on Christmas Eve right before midnight.  Because it’s just cooler that way.

So, enjoy this Christmas miracle of Eve and Day colliding into one.  Stay warm.  Stay safe.  And try to remember there’s 12 whole days to Christmas and there’s absolutely NO good reason not to capitalize on that and extend the fun beyond this epic evening.

Stille Nacht

In the Cammy Countdown of Christmas Favorites, Silent Night is, and always has been, number one.  And since it’s my birthday (at least it is on the side of the dateline  where I’m hanging out this holiday season), I find it oddly satisfying to get to discuss one of my favorite pieces of music.

Whether you believe the tale that Stille Nacht came into being because a snow-bound Austrian village suffered a broken pipe-organ and the priest and organist decided to team up and compose a fitting musical tribute to Christmas Eve that could be played on a guitar instead., or that  it was that the priest wanted a song that his congregation could sing in their native German tongue as opposed to the plethora of Latin hymns available, the song is, simply wonderful.

Emphasis on the simply.

It’s really not a complicated melody.  It’s simple, easy, versatile.  I’ll admit that I was shocked when I first learned that it was originally written to be far more upbeat and snappy than the slow lullaby-esque version most of us are familiar with.  It works either way.  Speed it up, slow it down, use a full bodied orchestral arrangement, or strip it down to a single vocalist with an acoustic guitar–musically, it’s the little-black-dress of tunes that works no matter the occasion.

Maybe it’s the flexibility of the tune that’s led to the spread.  It’s been translated in to dozens if not hundreds of languages.  I’ve heard versions in Norwegian, Italian, English and, of course, German.  It’s been a common denominator in a pause on a battle field (“Belleau Wood” by Garth Brooks being a fine musical take off on Silent Night in the Christmas Truce….just try to ignore the fact that the battle of Belleau wood was fought in June).  But mostly?  It gives me the warm and fuzzies like no other piece of music in the world.

So, no matter what your beliefs or non-beliefs, and no matter whether your share Cammy’s obsession with Silent Night, we here at MTV, MPB hope you all get the warm and fuzzies tonight, tomorrow night and every night throughout the winter season (onces it warms up, we only wish you fuzzies, not heat).