Comment(s) Of The Day: My Annual Christmas Music Lament: Parts I and II

Lots of excellent comments around the blog this week, perhaps because the number of quality comments tends to be inverse to the number of posts I’m able to put up. I haven’t even scratched the surface of Tuesday’s Open Forum, which, I am told, contains many treasures.

I’m putting up two Comments of the Day that resulted from the two Christmas music posts. The first is unusually short for a COTD, but it made me laugh out loud, which is hard to do these days. Joel Mundt was commenting on a Christmas song from Hell called “Fairytale of New York” that Steve-O was kind enough to plant on our brains. The upbeat ditty’s lyrics:

You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last

Joel earned Comment of the Day honors by writing,

“Fairytale of New York” still sounds better than “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime”, which is the worst song – Christmas-related or otherwise – in the history of humanity.

If there was a Christmas song with the title of “I Chopped the Presents Up With an Axe on Christmas Day Before I Kicked the Neighbor in the Head and Burned the Churches Down and Spit on the Mistletoe and Let the Dog Pee in the Egg Nog”…that song would still be better than “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime.”

And I LOVE Egg Nog…

A bit harsh, perhaps (my son, who is an afficianado of all pop music written after 1963 likes Paul’s Christmas song), especially when the competition for Worst Song Ever is so fierce. By all means, submit your nominees.

Joel’s COTD was in the Part II thread, about modern Christmas songs. Paul Compton’s Comment of the Day was in reaction to My Annual Christmas Music Lament: Part I, The Worst Carols.

His addendum about Bing Crosby’s star power compared to his disciples Frank and Dean also went straight to my heart… Continue reading

My Annual Christmas Music Lament: Part II, The Modern Christmas Songs

For some reason, just like the Hallmark cable channels, the satellite radio monopoly Sirius-XM has gone nuts this pre-Christmas season. I count six channels devoted to Christmas music, and I’m sure there are some other buried in there. There are two traditional Christmas music stations that appear to be playing the same songs and recordings; a Country Christmas channel, which means really bad compositions like “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy,” a poor rip-off of the slightly less revolting, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and better songs and carols sung with a twang; a Gospel Christmas channel, and “Nativity,” which includes only carols and songs referencing Jesus, and “Holly,” which avoid religious references completely and is required listening if you want to know how few modern Christmas ballads deserve annual airing. I could two: “Last Christmas,” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” neither of which can be sung around a piano anywhere but backstage at the Grammys.

I been forcing myself to listen to all of it for days, and have reached some rueful conclusions:

  • In their rush to avoid referring to Jesus, the programmers over-play the established Winter Solstice canon to the point of madness. We’re talking “Snowfall,” “Winter Wonderland,” “I’ve Got Your Love To Keep Me Warm,” “Sleighride,” “It’s a Marshmallow World,” “Let It Snow,” “Frosty the Snowman,’ and of course, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by every possible artist, over and over. None of these songs are about Christmas, but if you’re a Druid, I suppose they are appropriate and festive.

At least some versions have lyric changes made to refer to Christmas. Sometimes Frosty says, instead of “I’ll be back again some day!” that he’ll be back on Christmas day. (Is Frosty some kind of a weird Christ figure?). In Winter Wonderland, Farmer Brown’s birthday party is sometimes turned into a Christmas party.

  • Boy, the ex-Beatles’ attempts at Christmas songs are awful, especially John Lennon’s, with its depressive message, and the lame and gloomy couplet,

And so Merry Christmas, and a happy new year

Let’s make it a good one, without any fear.

It is also the last popular Christmas song to be written with a religious theme. Think about that, and what it says about the status of religion in U.S. culture.

  • I know this is a personal preference,  but when Bing Crosby’s recordings come on, his warm, smooth, impeccably-crafted delivery just blows everyone else out of the metaphorical water. Yes, even Old Blue Eyes.

Christmas keeps Bing’s legacy alive, though in an unfairly narrow context. We will never hear a voice like that again, I fear.

  • Having been forced to listen to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” until it kept me awake at night, I have concluded that the suddenly au courant criticism of the song—bullying, you know—is baloney. It teaches the valuable lesson that being a target and a victim need not be permanent, and that if one has character and develops skills, there will be opportunities to prove one’s critics wrong.

I think of Rudolph as a reindeer version of Desmond Doss.

At the risk of being repetitive (I’ve know I mentioned many of these before), here are some Christmas song lyrics that could be, and in some cases, should be, fixed.

  • What’s a drummer doing by the manger, with a baby sleeping? This has bothered me since the first time I heard “The Little Drummer Boy.”
  • Speaking of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”: I get the wind talking to the lamb, and I’ll even accept the lamb talking to the shepherd boy, but I’ve never understood how the boy had a chance to meet the mighty kind, much less tell him to bring the child “silver and gold.”
  • Listen to Bobby Helms sing his 1957 hit  “Jingle Bell Rock,” and then tell me he doesn’t keep singing “feet” when the lyrics obviously are “beat.” Amazingly, some covers of this song also seem to be singing “feet.”
  • Dumbest Christmas lyric of all time: The Beach Boys’ repeated (In “Little Saint Nick”) “Christmas comes this time each year.”
  • I’m tempted to nominate “see the kids bunch” from “Silver Bells” for the second worst. That requires  assuming that “then we got upsot” in Jingle Bells is an intentional howler.
  • The lovely and wistful World War II Christmas ballad “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” refers to “presents on the tree.” Who hangs presents on a Christmas tree? How would you do that? Many recent versions substitute “”round” for on. Good.
  • The late Andy Williams’ Christmas standard, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” he lists ‘scary ghost stories” as a feature of Christmas. I know the song is referring to “A Christmas Carol,” but that’s a single ghost story. Andy makes Christmas sound like Halloween…

Finally, here’s an example of how attention to tone and craft improved a Christmas song and allowed it to become, deservedly, a classic.

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is certainly somber, but having been through some sad Christmases, it’s an essential part of the canon, and a wonderful song. It almost was too sad, however. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, who wrote the  song ” for Judy Garland’s 1944 movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis”, originally had the lyrics…

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last…
Next year we may all be living in the past…

Yikes! Judy Garland and others insisted on a revision, and the songwriters ultimately settled on …

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light…
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight..

Another gloomy lyric that was vetoed:

No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more..

Nice. That one became,

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more.
MUCH better.

My Annual Christmas Music Lament: Part I, The Worst Carols

“O Come All Ye Faithful” is so stirring that it almost makes up for all other Christmas music botches.

This isn’t so much an ethics analysis as an expression of frustration. For a cultural holiday that relies so much on music, Christmas is wounded today by accumulated  incompetence on that front, as well as a lack of diligence. Just a little more attention and industry could make the traditional repertoire so much better. You know those AT&T wireless commercials about how “good enough” isn’t good enough? That’s the issue in a nutshell. We have to hear these songs year after year. Can’t they be cleaned up?

Let’s begin with the traditional songs and carols that weren’t written to avoid the origins of Christmas. These are the strongest and most evocative of all the season’s songs, in contrast to the”popular” Christmas music that came down to us from Tin Pan Alley. I have to ask, though: What the hell is “I Saw Three Ships” about?

I saw three ships come sailing in,
    On Christmas day, on Christmas day,

I saw three ships come sailing in,
    On Christmas day in the morning.

 And what was in those ships all three?
    On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
And what was in those ships all three?
    On Christmas day in the morning.

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there
    On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
The Virgin Mary and Christ were there
    On Christmas day in the morning.

Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
    On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Pray whither sailed those ships all three?
    On Christmas day in the morning.

Oh, they sailed into Bethlehem,
    On Christmas day, on Christmas day,
Oh, they sailed into Bethlehem,

    On Christmas day in the morning.

I assumed that there was an acknowledged and well-researched metaphor buried here, but no, there really isn’t. The nearest body of water to Bethlehem  is the Dead Sea, and it’s 20 miles away: Bethlehem is land-locked. Where were those ships coming from? How did Jesus and Mary end up on a ship, and why were three necessary? This is the fake news of Christmas Carols. The song makes no sense, so scholars and critics have been positing justifications for this nonsense, without any evidence at all other than, “It must mean something!” One batty theory is that the the three ships are references to the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Wikipedia concludes that the reference to three ships “is thought to originate in the three ships that bore the purported relics of the Biblical magi to Cologne Cathedral in the 12th century.” Then the song has nothing to do with Christmas at all?  The entry continues, “Another possible reference is to Wenceslaus II, King of Bohemia, who bore a coat of arms “Azure three galleys argent”. Ah! It’s a song about a coat of arms! Sure! THAT makes sense.  Then it goes on to a theory that I considered years ago along with everyone else, that the ships represent the camels used by the Magi, as camels are frequently referred to as “ships of the desert.” Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Review, 12/I/50: Birthday/Finding Dad Dead In His Chair Anniversary Edition

[Yesterday I was just about to post the following when I felt a recurrence of the dizziness that sent me to the floor on Thanksgiving,  This sent me to the emergency room, where I spent  the second worst birthday of my life. I just got home, now just about 24 hours later, after three blood tests, about ten stroke tests, lots of other tests and quizzes, four doctors and a miserable night, culminating in the conclusion that whatever this was, it wasn’t related to my heart or circulation. 54% of fainting incidents, I learned remain mysteries. Swell.]

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Hi.

Ten years ago today, I went over to my parent’s condo to check on my dad, since my mother, then recovering from knee surgery, was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him. Jack A. Marshall Sr. was also going to take me out for dinner, since it was my birthday, but that pleasure was not to be. He had died, quietly during a nap, a few months short of his 90th year. I miss my father’s inspiration, guidance and unflagging support constantly, and December first has been a matter of serious dissonance for me ever since. I did take comfort, while everyone was telling me that I was a fool not to go to the emergency room after my fainting episode on Thanksgiving, that the odds of anyone dropping dead not only on the anniversary of his father’s death, but also on his own birthday, seems extremely remote. Kind of cool, though.

I took my birthday off of my Facebook page because those reflex happy birthday messages—I send them myself—are meaningless and  faintly obligatory. Two years ago I received almost 200 of them, then last year I got the message when the number fell by about two-thirds. I had made it clear by then that I was rebelling against the Facebook Borg aka “the resistance,” and so I had been told that I did NOT deserve a happy birthday. Fine. Bite me.

1 “The Crown” Ethics. A. The Pretend Sister-in-Law Of The King’s Pass! While waiting to see if I was going to pass out again, I began watching Season 3 of Netflix’s “The Crown.” Like the first two seasons, the series is uniformly excellent and largely accurate, but I am annoyed at Helena Bonham Carter’s turn as the middle-aged Princess Margaret. Carter is an excellent actress as well as one of the biggest stars the series has featured, but to be blunt, she’s too fat to play Margaret, who at that point in her life was  still vain winning the battle against middle-aged spread (at 5’1, it could not have been easy.) For a production that mostly aims for near perfect look-alike casting (young Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Phillip are especially uncanny), why would the producers allow Carter to appear on screen like this? Mostly, I’m annoyed at her: actors gain and lose weight all the time for roles, and a mere 10-15 pounds would have made Carter a credible and flattering Margaret. She could have hit the gym and laid off the kidney pie; obviously the actress didn’t care, and the producer and director let her get away with it, because she’s a star. Yet all the lines about how glamorous Margaret is make no sense as a result. Carter’s a beautiful woman, but she’s a mighty frumpy Princess Margaret.

B. A perfect future episode for Season 4, or maybe 5, is going on right now.  Prince Andrew, the younger brother of Prince Charles, has long been mentioned a party pal of billionaire sex-slaver Jeffrey Epstein, and thanks to a car crash  of a BBC interview in which he couldn’t have seemed more guilty and less remorseful, the Duke of York is reportedly being removed from all royal duties and may have his allowance cut off, meaning that his two princess daughters will no longer be supported by taxpayers, among other nasty consequences. Charleshas ordered a crisis meeting with his scandal-scarred brother before Monday night’s dreaded BBC special with key accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who accuses Andrew of raping her while she was under Epstein’s control.

The news media has been ostentatiously uninterested in Prince Andrew’s travails, in marked contrast to its coverage of the various Charles-Diana scandals in days of yore. One reason, I think, is that Epstein’s OTHER celebrity playmate was Bill Clinton, and it will be hard to expose one without drawing attention to the other. After all, the objective now is to get Trump, not remind the public about Bill (or Harvey.) Media bias is exhibited as much by what isn’t reported as by what is. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/16/2019: Plan T?

Great. I’m sick again.

It’s psychological, I’m sure of it. I dread the Whitewaters of Life period from November 17 through New Years, encompassing the anxiety of Thanksgiving, the anniversary of my father’s perverse decision to kick-off on my birthday, the annual 10-hour prickle-fest of decorating an eight-foot live tree to meet family traditions, maneuvering around the Christmas season while trying to make it special and feeling deep inside that those days are long gone, struggling with the rotten timing of wanting to spend without penny-pinching on thrilling loved ones while one’s own small ethics business is at its cash-flow nadir, and fighting off the ghosts of more carefree times with the missing, including my dad and especially my mother, who was a Christmas fanatic, and now Rugby, whose trick of sniffing out his presents and unwrapping them, and only them, with typical elan was always a Christmas morning highlight. This year, I have the extra burden of not one but two multi-day ethics road trips, one to carry musical ethics down the metaphorical chimney in Las Vegas, and to by car to New Jersey, where Paul Morella, alias Clarence Darrow, and I have two dates. Both trips are guaranteed to leave me feeling like I have been run over by a reindeer.

Ho-ho-ho.

Shut up, Perry.

1. Plan T watch. Note that the ethics Alarms home page finally has a link directly to the growing list of 19 attempted removal plans that have been launched to various degrees by the Democratic Party/ “resistance”/mainstream media soft coup alliance against President Trump. This version is slightly revised, including a reference to a consist statement of what is going on that echoes what I have written, but is nicely turned: “Donald Trump daring to serve as President is itself impeachable.”

Bingo.

Meanwhile, Plan T might be imminent. The tortured logic of Plan S, the basis of the current inquiry, is convincing no one, in part because the average American doesn’t know impeachment from a pear tree, and mostly because Plan S is dishonest and bats. To their shame if they had any, the impeachment mob has been  polling and using focus groups to determine which accusation will stick.

The Washington Post reports  that Democrats are easing out the term ‘quid pro quo,’ instead using “bribery” as the favored term to describe Trump’s alleged impeachable conduct: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day #2 On “Comment Of The Day: ‘High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees’”

The Wisconsin Governor’s endorsement of holiday trees with science ornaments continues to pay dividends here at Ethics Alarms. Here is Ethics Alarms veteran commenter luckyesteeyoreman‘s Comment of the Day on Michael West’s concise COTD, “Comment Of The Day: “High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees.”

Lucky begins with a quote from my intro, but here is Michael’s full post:

What part of Christmas do they hate? The individual and spontaneous demonstrations of generosity, spawned entirely from personal choice free from central coordination and bestowed as private individuals see fit free from oversight? Or Christ?

Now heeeeere’s Lucky!

But really, why would anyone in their right mind object to Christmas…?

Because many are in their right mind who object. Most of us here at EA might not understand such people – even more likely do not even think like such people – but, that isn’t because the objectors aren’t in their right mind.

I assert the foregoing, coming from a history as a sibling who was the youngest of the brood. Much younger than all of my siblings. As a result, I had “multiple parents.” Also, as a consequence of that “virtual only child” status, I quickly deluded myself into thinking I was the center of the universe, the sole reason why any and all of the others existed. Any circumstance or appearance of a reality that in my perception was in conflict with that delusion, became a “trigger” for me to remind everyone, by any means necessary, that, “HEY!: THIS IS ALL ABOUT ME, here.”

Despite how my comments here might suggest otherwise, I really did out-grow that delusion. I thank the humbling influence of baseball for that, at least in part. In my case, learning about the example of Christ helped greatly, too. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees”

Just to prove that reader commentary doesn’t have to be over 600 words (Technically known as “Alizia-length” on Ethics Alarms) to qualify as a Comment of The Day, here is Michael West’s COTD regarding the Governor of Wisconsin’s decree that the state Christmas tree is a “holiday tree” and his call for the ornaments traditionally submitted by Wisconsin children be “science-themed,” from the post, High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees”:

What part of Christmas do they hate? The individual and spontaneous demonstrations of generosity, spawned entirely from personal choice free from central coordination and bestowed as private individuals see fit free from oversight?

or

Christ?