Thursday, December 17, 2015


My Halls...

...remain undecked with just 8 days remaining until Christmas. The wreath on my apartment door looks fine, but I wanted to add a small Nativity scene or angel to it this year, and have not yet found anything suitable.

The lights for my patio doors have to get put up today if I want them seen by the judges for the apartment complex's lighting contest, which is tonight. My humble little string of lights isn't going to win (there are some really elaborate displays on other apartments in the complex), but since I was able to get them up last year I am struggling to figure out why it is proving so difficult this year.

I have high expectations for even such a simple display, as I spent my adolescence and early adulthood around perhaps the most elaborate and beautiful Christmas lighting display in the United States, the Country Club Plaza lights in Kansas City...

"If you tried something that elaborate you'd electrocute yourself."

Or burn down my apartment...

I also hit a snag on the "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" project: I need to make another trip to Hobby Lobby to get some more ornaments. The package I bought initially turned out not to have enough to come close to what I see in my head for the finished tree.

This is the most fussing I have done about Christmas decorations in many years. It takes me back to my childhood days of helping my mom decorate the house and tree, and it has the added bonus of distracting me from all the idiotic shit politicians are pulling at the moment...

Christmas Movies & TV Shows

Many of my favorite "Christmas" movies are not explicitly about the holiday itself.
The reason for that is simple: Most of the films that are explicitly about the holiday are mindless comedies that do nothing at all for me. If you pay attention to movies much, you know the kind of schlock that hits the cineplexes this time of year. Unwatchable,
in my opinion.

Original 1992 "one sheet" poster

Writer-Director Keith Gordon's film  
A Midnight Clear didn't fit that pattern at all, being released in April of 1992.

Gordon's screenplay, based on William Wharton's 1982 novel, tells the story of a small U.S. Army intelligence unit during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II which encounters a group of teenaged German soldiers who wish to surrender.

Over the course of several scenes which serve to remind us that our humanity transcends politics (and warfare), the Americans agree to a "Christmas truce" with their German counterparts.

This is not one of those films that has a Hollywood-style "happy ending." Far from it.
But there is, at its heart, a profoundly moving message about what underlies what we call "the Christmas spirit."

Filmed in densely wooded areas of Utah, filming took place during a winter that was
the coldest Utah had seen in more that 80 years. The cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful at times.

The talented ensemble cast includes Gary Sinise and Ethan Hawke.

Another Christmas Tradition

From the delightful comic strip Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

There are a fair number of popular, non-religious Christmas songs that I find entertaining musically but annoying lyrically. At the very top of that list is "Deck the Halls," a traditional Welsh song dating back to the 16th century. The lyrics commonly heard with this song date back to the mid-19th century, and I find them silly, bordering on absurd. Even my favorite choirs aren't able to do much with those lyrics, so it won't come as a surprise that almost every recording of the song in my collection is an instrumental. There are a number of those versions of the song that I enjoy rather a lot.

Ensemble Vivant is a Canadian chamber music group with a somewhat unorthodox instrumentation (their sextet includes double bass and vibraphone). They have been recording and performing to great acclaim for more than a quarter of a century. Their 2005 Christmas Tidings album is among my most favorite instrumental collections.

Today's send-off is the group's lively rendition of "Deck the Halls," a track from Christmas Tidings that was included on the 2010 anthology album A Very Merry Christmas featuring Canadian singers and musicians. Enjoy...

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