Thursday, December 28, 2006

against despair

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
Stood in front of a classroom by myself and taught; legitimately lost a job; curled in a league; poked at the smoking rubble of my place of employment; went to four weddings (but, as you'll see, no funerals).
2. Did you keep New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don't think I did keep any, but I don't remember the ones I made so, who knows? But I will always make more.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Sean and his wife had tiny baby Gwen, Darren and Ellen had tiny baby Caden, and Steve and Krista had tiny baby Lauren, the apple of my eye.
4. Did anyone close to you die? Theodore Degu did, but I don't know if that counts, and also the blacksmith shop.
5. What countries did you visit? Just this one.
6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006? Better classroom management skills, better organizational skills, and a boatload more patience.
7. What date from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? November 3rd - my 25th birthday - was a beautiful day at the site, I was offered my current job, and I had a large group of friends come out to celebrate, including a couple from the BEd. Also, I drank my face off in a way I haven't done since high school.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Keeping myself together after everything that happened in September.
9. What was your biggest failure? Everything that happened in September.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? A few colds (including one right now) and my usual bout with dermatitis on my hands.
11. What was the best thing you bought? Well, technically I "bought" the Major at the end of the year...but I would have to say that it was the joint purchase that the boy and I made of all the graphic novels in the Sandman series. It devastates me, it's so good.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My dad's! Yay for New Dad!
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Often my own, occasionally the boy's, and sometimes people I consider my friends...but mostly my various employers.
14. Where did most of your money go? Clothes, keeping the boy in the manner to which he is accustomed (kidding), books.
15. What made you really really really excited? My two year anniversary with the boy, the new Crowded House Live Farewell album, the Sandman (and Neil Gaiman in general), .
16. What song will forever remind you of 2006? When the Night Feels My Song - Bedouin Soundclash
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer? I think a) happier, b) neither, and c) hard to say.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Being active; being more responsible for my own destiny.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Less being afraid of things.
20. How will you be spending Christmas? I spent Christmas at home with my family, and had dinner at my aunt's in the suburbs with our extended family. I fully believe this year's meal was the best in family history.
21. How will you be spending New Year's? At a friend's, dressed as Shellie from Sin City for our first annual "Movie Stars and
22. Did you fall in love in 2006? I am lucky enough to be with someone who I can continually fall in love with.
23. How many one-night stands? That's a negatron.
24. What were your favorite TV programs? The Rick Mercer Report; 22 Minutes; CSI; the first season of the X-Files.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? I think I hate less people now.
26. What was the best book you read? The Sandman cycle (1-11) by Neil Gaiman
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
28. What did you want and get? An MP3 player, kisses,
29. What did you want and not get? A cat of my own, an apartment of my own, easy solutions.
30. What was your favorite film of this year? V for Vendetta, the Prestige, Flushed Away, The Departed
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I had a great day! (See above) and I was 25.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A full time job.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006? Teacher-smart.
34. What kept you sane? Caitlin, Bryan, Tara, the boy.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Clive Owen (yummyummyummy)
36. What political issue stirred you the most? Global warming, same sex marriage, equality rights.
37. Who do you miss? My classmates from Nip and Guelph
38. Who was the best new person(s) you met? Ellen
39. Side question...who would you like to get to know better? Ellen
40. Favorite memory of 2006? Dancing to "Unchained Melody" with the boy at the union Christmas party; Brendan and Colleen's wedding, the joys of the jacuzzi bathtub; finishing the Sandman and then discussing it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Day 7, 8, 9 - Musical Advent Calendar

Little Saint Nick / When the River Meets the Sea / It's In Every One of Us (John Denver & the Muppets) - listen / lyrics

Apologies for the brief hiatus - it was a weekend that was crazier than anticipated. To make up for it, here are three tunes from the same album: A Christmas Together by John Denver & the Muppets. It's the musical release from the Christmas special of the same name, which I'm sure I've seen, but don't actually have any memories of. This hails from a time when Muppets Christmas specials didn't suck (lookin' at you, Moulin Scrooge), and the whole album is a gem. John has such a sweet, pure voice, and the Muppets are in fine form, backing him on tunes both traditional and contemporary; well-loved and obscure.

Little Saint Nick gets the nod not because it manages to do anything truly amazing to an arrangement that's pretty much the Beach Boys, only done by the Muppets, but because the choice of Muppets to do the song is pretty wicked. Rolf the Dog does a great job on the main vocals; the harmonies are tight; Animal is Animal and it's so perfect when he's singing the "Run run reindeer" bits.

When the River Meets the Sea (which the truly hardcore Christmas fanatics will remember as the song from "Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas," another Henson creation) is also just a very nice, peaceful song that it's somewhat difficult to connect to Christmas except in the experience of the spiritual, the ebb and flow of life. Christmas is a chance to be part of something bigger--the greater goodness of life, of love--and this song finds the essence of that.

It's In Every One of Us builds on the feeling that "River" gives me. They are both songs about the potential for truth, and the possibility of redemption through truth. Which is actually a little more religious in nature than I usually like to think of myself. This song does speak to a greater truth than simply the religious, however:

It's in every one of us to be wise.
Find your heart, open up both your eyes.
We can all know everything without ever knowing why.
It's in every one of us, by and by.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Day 7 - Musical Advent Calendar

Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) (Ellie Greenwich) - listen /lyrics

THSWSNBN (this is the first of two references to that place in the calendar) has a sister site, which I will call Disco Inferno, and on the property of the Disco Inferno there is an old, 19th century building that has been converted into a lovely theatre space. There is some bitterness and contention among the Local Historical People about this, but say what you will, it is a beautiful theatre. One of the benefits for working for THSWSHNBN is that you occasionally wind up with tickets to shows at this theatre, including, two summers ago, "Leader of the Pack: The Ellie Greenwich Story." Today's song shows up in that musical (which I highly recommend if you like the era at all, but then again, I totally want to see Dreamgirls).

Ellie was a songwriter who penned some of the most memorable songs of the early 60s, working with a variety of different co-writers, most notably her husband Jeff Barry and also Phil Spector. "leader of the Pack," "River Deep, Mountain High," "And Then He Kissed Me," "Da Doo Run Run" are only some examples of her work, which was hugely influential. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was originally recorded by Darlene Love (and later by U2, for the first A Very Special Christmas) and is one of the most vocally powerful 'pop' Christmas songs; the original arrangement benefitting from Phil Spector's Wall of Sound business.

It's not perfect, it's a little raw (or at the least the vocals are), it speaks of pain but still manages to be quite hummable. What more could you want in a Christmas song?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Day 6 - Musical Advent Calendar

Happy Xmas (War is Over) (John & Yoko) - listen / lyrics

It really wouldn't be much of an advent calendar without this song, would it? This song is a lot of thing that Christmas songs shouldn't be; it's ponderous, sad, and a bit preachy; its lyrics are, well, sometimes less sensical than, say, Frosty the Snowman. On the other hand, this songs is a lot of things that Christmas songs should be; it has a children's chorus, it doesn't pretend to a false cheer, and most of all it is driven by hope.

I usually don't say too much about what is going on in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as I really don't think that I know enough about either situation to make any kind of intelligent statement. Every Friday I struggle with the notion of supporting troops vs. supporting what they are doing, and I never reach an answer that's at all satisfying. But I think that whatever side of those conflicts you fall on, that whatever you believe about them, that you do wish them to be over, and in that respect, this Christmas song is perfect.

(As a small addendum to this, I would like to state for the record that I wish people would stop doing cover versions of this song. I was going to write "bad cover versions" but then I realized that all of them were bad. This song is so iconic--I think it's just as emblematic of Lennon, his life, and his work, as Imagine is--that it would be hard for any performance to outstrip, outshine, or even add anything new to what we know and love. And if you aren't doing any of those things, what's the point of doing the cover? Yes, yes, I know sometimes it's just because you "love the song so much" - but keep those demos for friends and family and don't inflict that on the rest of us. Thank you.)

my mother's secret...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Day 5 - Musical Advent Calendar

Mary's Boy Child/ Oh My Lord (Boney M) - listen/lyrics

Day 5 of the Musical Advent Calendar finds us looking at a particular group. To be quite honest, we should probably give Day 5 of Musical Advent to the entire album (20 Greatest Christmas Songs) that this group produced, but if I must (by my own silly, self-imposed rules) choose a single song from the album, I would choose the medley of Mary's Boy Child / Oh My Lord. According to Wikipedia, it was the UK Christmas Number One in 1978, which makes sense. It is a beautifullly produced piece of pop music. The timing is just right for it to be moving away from disco and towards New Wave; very synth-happy and very 'bright' sounding production. Anyone who knows me or my musical taste well would know that this sound is right up my alley.

The mix of the two songs works well. Mary's Boy Child starts out well, talking about Christ coming to earth etc and then morphing into the vaguely call-and-answer style of Oh My Lord, which has terrific rhythm to it. Throughout both songs, the harmoinies are absolutely terrific. The group was three singers and a DJ from the West Indies, apparently, but they were produced in Germany by that guy who was responsible for the whole Milli Vanilli debacle. (It seems that he had a very similar approach to his production with Boney M, and most of the male vocals are not the DJ but actually him.)

I'm sorry that I couldn't find a sound clip for you, but if you see this album secondhand or remaindered anywhere, you should absolutely pick it up. It truly is a feast for the ears in a way that only the late 70s could provide.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

spot on

Today's Forecast

You have a tendency to go to the very bottom of an issue and you always seem to resurface transformed and wiser from your experience. This last trip down was quite intense, yet now you are on your way back up. Don't try to make things move too quickly. It may take a while yet to figure out exactly where you are going, but one thing is certain: you cannot go back and undo what has been done. Your future is waiting for you to arrive.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Day 4 - Musical Advent Calendar

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (traditional) listen / lyrics

This is one that has always fascinated me. In childhood it stuck out because it was so sombre. A lot of traditional Christmas music is serious, I know, but this is one of the few that I find downright depressing in its tone. Which is funny, because the tone often doesn't suit the lyrics: How can one feel these "tidings of comfort and joy" when they are wished upon us so mournfully?

It's also a terribly English song (see also: The Holly and the Ivy), which, again refers us back to the above comment. The rhythm in it is what makes the song stand out. A long, long time ago we used to actually have a carol-sing assembly in school, and this was one of my favourites to sing for this reason: the great big breath you take at the beginning to keep the proper flow between the lines.

every once in a while, words fail me

Today's Horoscope:

Scorpio (Oct 23 - Nov 21)
You are quite ready and willing to jump in and deal with tough issues now, rather than just sticking your head in the sand. You realize that denial will not get you anywhere. If your finances are a current source of aggravation, resolve to make changes, even if your situation feels hopeless. Communication may be the missing key. Start slowly and you could be moving mountains in no time at all.

Huh. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Day 3 - Musical Advent Calendar

Petit Papa Noel - Raffi listen / lyrics

It probably isn't too obvious today, but I actually began my education in a French immersion program, back when French immersion actually meant "no English until grade 3." Raffi is a popular children's singer here in Canada (and his music was featured on "Full House" once upon a time) and I have actually seen him in concert three times, including one time where I got to go up on stage and play with his band for a song. Naturally, I have no recollection of this. The Raffi Christmas album is truly a classic, and this song stands out to me as the gem in the bunch, probably because it made me feel special to be the only in my family who could understand the lyrics. It's a very sweet, simple song sung to Pere Noel from the perspective of a small child who asks that he not forget the child's shoe as he comes down from the sky with his millions of toys. It's much more lyrical and poetic in French, I assure you. Even if you can't understand the words, it (and Raffi) do a lovely job of capturing the season as it appears to children.

Day 2 - Musical Advent Calendar

Jim Croce - "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way" listen / lyrics

This song was one I had actually almost forgotten about, probably because it isn't, technically speaking, a Christmas song. However, my Christmas party for one of the unions (I think I belong to four at this point) last night, the DJ played "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and I was reminded a) of how much I like Jim Croce's music, b) how sad it was that he died so young, and c) that "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way" should be included in the days of musical advent. There are only one or two references to Christmas in it, but the emotion of the song is such that it speaks, I think, to what the season should be about:
Down the windy winter avenues
There walks a lonely man,
And if I told you who he is,
Well I think you'd understand.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What we had should never have ended.
I'll be dropping by today.
We could easily get it together tonight.
It's only right.
The holidays are stressful--it comes with the territory. Though Croce's song discusses this in a romantic context, I think it could easily be applied to many of our dealings with one another at this time of year. It really doesn't have to be that way...we can each forgive a little, forget a little, and try to remember that love is what the spirit of the season should be.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Musical Advent Calendar

The musical advent calendar. This probably would be a much cooler feature if I had started back on December 1st, but I didn't...I'm sure someone else has probably done this, and done this better. However, I do have a semi-secret, abiding passion for the music of the season, which stems back to my youth when all the good toy lines also produced music as a tie-in product. I had the Rainbow Brite Christmas (and a silver star for Rainbow Brite's tree!), a Care Bears Christmas (oh, Grumpy! - this one actually had to be purchased twice because I wore out the first cassette), and of course, the Mini-Pops Christmas. Because this music is a passion of my father's, we have a very extensive library of Christmas CDs, and, well, I probably know more about it than most people would care to.

So I've decided to highlight one song here each day until the day itself. The parents, the boy, and myself went to see the lovely Natalie McMaster last night, and she did a beautiful version of "O Holy Night" (or "Minuit Chretiens" to the boy) on the fiddle. "O Holy Night" is probably my favourite traditional Christmas song. It is gorgeous both musically and lyrically (although the boy tells me that the French lyrics are quite intense and include references to Christ arising to free us from original sin). Probably one thing I like about it is that the song is so vocally demanding that not everyone chooses to sing it--the "FAll on your knees/ and hear the angel voices/ o night divine" part is just killer if you can't manage the range. I don't usually care much for the "powerhouse" singers like Mariah, Celine, etc., but this is a song that requires a set of pipes. The combination of music, lyrics, and vocals in "O Holy Night" has a power and strength that few other Christmas song have. I am not much on the religious tradition of Christmas (silly heathen upbringing) but this song makes me feel connected to it.