Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Warm Thoughts

Debate Summary

There was another Republican presidential candidate debate last night in Las Vegas. In my opinion, it wasn't of much value in part because there were still too many candidates on the stage...

...and in part because the "moderators" spent far too much precious time trying to instigate disagreements between specific pairs of candidates. Even the biggest narcissist on the stage, asshat Donald Trump, felt that too many of the questions focused on him.

Nothing happened last night to change my leanings (Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio,
and to a lesser extent Ted Cruz), but at this point it isn't clear that people are paying much attention to new developments in the race. We'll see what the New Year brings...

"Who really cares about politics this time of year anyway, am I right?"

You absolutely are, yes...

Happy Birthday, Maestro!

Ludwig van Beethoven, by Hugo Hagen

Although we have no official record of it, most historians regard December 16, 1770 as the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven because we know he was baptized on December 17, and it was traditional at that time for the baptism to take place a day after a child's birth.

I consider Beethoven to be the greatest composer in all of classical music, and his works have enriched my life beyond measure.

It is too long a clip to use for a closing send-off, but in honor of the maestro's birthday, here is a bracing performance of his magnificent Piano Concerto No. 5 featuring Murray Perahia and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields:

Christmas Movies & TV Shows

Title card from the episode

One of my favorite things about the TV series Supernatural, now in its 11th season, is the way it deftly combines elements of horror and suspense with more lighthearted elements.

One of the best examples of this approach was the show's 2007 Christmas episode, the 8th episode of Season Three.

One very fudged up Christmas party.

The plot of the episode is difficult to summarize, but suffice it to say that it culminates in the Winchester brothers having to fight for their lives to avoid being turned into Christmas dinner.

This scene featured a line that went on to become a catchphrase of sorts for fans of the show: "You fudging touch me again and I'll fudging kill you." And he did...

My "Charlie Brown" Christmas Tree: Day Three

This one was "just right."
The decorating process continued yesterday, but I am still not happy enough with the arrangement of the lights to hang the ornaments (you have to get the lights right first, or you'll go nuts trying to adjust them after the ornaments are already hung).

I'm pretty pleased with the little Nativity scene I found at Hobby Lobby, though. Not too small, not too big.

Until Next Time...

I lived for many years in St. Joseph, Missouri, and one of the points of St. Joe civic pride that was often touted this time of year was the fact that classical composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis, a St. Joseph native who graduated from St. Joseph High School (now known as Central High School), had written the beloved Christmas song "The Little Drummer Boy" (originally titled "The Carol of the Drum").

Cover of 1958 Harry Simeon Chorale single
That song has always resonated deeply with me. For as far back as I can remember, Christmas has been for me a mixture of joy and melancholy. The latter emotion was due in part to my own feelings of unworthiness to receive so many wonderful gifts each year, in part because I often felt that the gifts
I was giving to others weren't as special as I wished them to be, and in part due to my frustration at not being able to do more for those who lived lives far less materially comfortable than my own.

Davis's simple song taps into those emotions, but also reminds me that it is, after all, the spirit of a gift that really matters. It is that message, along with the song's simplicity, that has led to its being recorded hundreds of times over the years, by artists from almost every musical genre.

Faith Hill is an award-winning country singer who successfully crossed over into the popular market as well. At last count, she has sold more than 40 million records worldwide. And, like many popular recording artists, she has recorded an album of Christmas music. Her Joy to the World album was released in 2008, and is one of my favorites in the genre.

I have a weakness for distinctive singing voices, both male and female, and Faith's mezzo-soprano has a clarity and power that has always appealed to me, whether she is singing in the country style or more in the popular idiom.

Today's send-off is her particularly moving version of "The Little Drummer Boy" from Joy to the World. Enjoy...and if you feel a tear welling up, I'm right there with you...

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