I'll be honest. It's been a rough couple of weeks. A lot of it is money problems, which have a way of seep into everything, especially this time of year. But I think more than ever it's gotten to be this sort of annual holiday blues thing that just seems harder and harder to escape.
And yet, it's not like everything is doom and gloom. My son is very excited for the upcoming holidays, and with a little luck (and some creative bookkeeping) it looks like he's gonna come out of it pretty good -- and despite all of the other clouds in the horizon, looking forward to his reactions on the 25th is one ray of sunshine that makes it all seem worthwhile.
So before I go out to finish Christmas shopping -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
Because of financial issues, I've had to play things a little more last-minute than I would really like to this year. Of course the stores were mobbed, but even with the logistical problems that creates, it's hard not to enjoy the whole process -- even if it's just for the tradition of it all. It's funny though, because every couple of stores I'd be walking through I'd see some older guy sitting in one of the chairs in a furniture display, or those seats near the dressing rooms of the department stores with that whole crossed-arm, tight-lipped pissed off look in their eyes. The kind of posture that clearly says, "I'm throwing a tantrum because I've had it with these crowds and this mall." And while I can easily recall plenty of times where I was in some store with my ex-wife looking at effing nothing for hours on end and where I'd just reach my saturation point and tried to find any excuse to leave and go home -- if you're shopping for Christmas gifts with less than 5 days to go -- then you've really gotta quit your bitching and suck it up, OK? Here's the thing about Christmas gift shopping that I think people really lose sight of sometimes -- It's not about you. You fight the crowds and put up with the stress because the people you're giving the gifts to are worth it. Besides -- According to legend, three wise men rode smelly camels all night long across a desert just so they could drop off three tiny boxes of spices and trinkets to a baby they weren't even related to who was born in the place where livestock go to the bathroom. If they could handle that, then it really shouldn't be such a big deal for you to have to stand in line at a fucking Sears for a little while, ok? Batman
I am the father of an 8 year-old boy. As such, I need to be constantly prepared to deal with the little cuts and scrapes that little kids tend to get from playgrounds, skateboards, and housecats who don't appreciate their less-than-soft touch when it comes to petting or picking them up. Of course 90% of those cuts and scrapes are usually more about wounded pride than anything else -- so I keep a steady supply of Batman band-aids on hand, which I've found have a much better curing effect on boo-boo's of the dramatic variety than anything a doctor could do or say. Unfortunately their actual medical value leaves a lot to be desired -- a fact I discovered after boneheadedly slicing up my thumb while cleaning the other day. I tried (unsuccessfully) to apply one of these bandages to the cut, watching it slide all around and not stick to the skin -- at which point I went kinda crazy and dressed the wound by applying five or six of them at various angles and then wrapping the whole ugly mess up with copious amounts of scotch tape that I'd originally purchased for gift wrapping. Then, in a burst of inspiration I made a quick trip to my workplace to "borrow" some of the real bandages we keep on hand just in case there's ever an accident on the manufacturing floor. I can only imagine my late mother -- a career nurse, looking down on me from heaven and just shaking her head in disappointment. The
I spent a number of years when I was younger working for mall marketing offices (I was the guy who built the Santa Houses and hung all those oversized ornaments from the ceilings) and then for radio stations that specialized in playing marathons of Christmas music during the month of December. And during those years I had one real nemesis. One singular enemy that plagued my days and made every night of the Christmas broadcasts a living hell -- and that villain's name was Manheim Steamroller. For those of you who might not remember, Mainheim Steamroller was a soft-jazz/easy listening orchestra group that specialized in putting out Christmas albums full of souped-up holiday carols. They were as cloying and insipid as the worst Kenny G ballad and just as popular among the people who programmed Muzak loops, commissioned local radio spots, and customized telephone hold music. For many years Manheim reigned supreme as the go-to soundtrack for corporate christmas parties or that guy at work who liked to blast Christmas music out of his computer speakers to help everyone "get in the holiday spirit." But now there's a new scourge. A new and even worse source for over-produced "modernized" christmas carols -- all the way down to their name, which finally usurped the steamroller in terms of flat out pretentiousness. But that's not even the worst part -- which is that The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the brainchild of former Aerosmith/Scorpions producer Paul O'Neill, keyboardist Robert Kinkel, and singer Jon Oliva -- all of whom used to be in a band called Savatage. Most people remember that group because of a really cheesy song called The Hall of the Mountain King that got a lot of play on MTV's Headbangers Ball during the hair metal 80's, and then again when it got skewered for it's ridiculous subject matter on a particularly memorable episode of Beavis and Butthead (especially for those us who grew up in Florida [Savatage is from Tampa] having to continually hear how great they supposedly were). After a bashing like that you'd think they would have learned their lesson -- but instead they went in an even more ridiculous direction, deciding to write Christmas songs that blend Guitar-Hero like posing with movie-soundtrack orchestra cliché's, all culminating in a series of inexplicably sold-out concerts where the final chorus of Jingle Bells is punctuated by pyrotechnic explosions and laser-light effects. Ever since they found their way into being the soundtrack for this viral video a couple of years back they've been a fixture on the holiday music scene, adding as much schlock to these traditional tunes as they possibly can. Seriously, they're like the Nickelback of Christmas music, and for my money they can't go away soon enough. The Curious
The more I read about this movie, the more I really want to see it. Say what you will about Brad Pitt's wacky media presence with his wife and his kids and his ex, the guy has an eye for unique scripts -- and although this is clearly a star-vehicle for him (like Fight Club, Babel, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [which was awesome, btw] before it), what I appreciate the most about Pitt is the way that so many of his performances aren't so much about him the movie star as it is about telling the story that's in the script. Oceans Twelve and Mr. and Mrs. Smith aside -- I love the way he likes to disappear into the roles he plays instead of using them as a billboard for his already accepted public persona the way the Will Smith's, Tom Cruise's, and dare I say the Angelina Jolie's of the world tend to do. At the same time, as intriguing as the story line of Benjamin Button looks, I am somewhat concerned that it could be like Meet Joe Black all over again -- where what seemed like a cool idea gets screwed over by ham-handed direction and spotlight grabbing co-stars. Hopefully he will have learned his lesson from that debacle, and this film will come out better. Keanu
Fresh off the box-office success of The Day The Earth Stood Still (which looks awful, btw) there's talk that he wants to make a big screen version of one of my all-time favorite anime series, Cowboy Bebop. On the one hand I'm excited, because I think the series would make a really fun film, but on the other -- you just know that Keanu will want to star in it himself, and I can't even begin to tell you how much that would suck. Marley
It's a book about a dog. But it's clearly a movie about Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson, and haven't we all had enough of those already? Great Songwriting ..It's harder than it looks.
[Listening to: Miles Davis - "Blue Christmas" ]