Christmas Music

I understand that some people really hate Carol of the Bells. I love it. It has always been one of my favorites. I do have a problem with it though. I am extremely picky about it and acceptable performances of it are rare. This arrangement does not quite match the magical, perfect Carol of the Bells that I have in my head but it is lovely and wonderful anyway. These boys do a great job. Not to mention that they are adorable.

And then there’s this. They have managed to arrange virtually all the Christmas out of it but, aside from that, purely as music, this is really good. Strange… I didn’t even know I like Metallica.

Christmas Music

Generally, I am a strict traditionalist when it comes to Christmas, especially Christmas music, but I find Mannheim Steamroller’s unique versions of traditional Christmas carols irresistible.

Gift Wrap

Someone on Facebook expressed a strong dislike for wrapping Christmas presents. That surprised me a little bit. I know it shouldn’t. It’s obvious that not everyone would but it just never occurred to me that some people might not enjoy it. I’m not very good at it but it’s about the third or fourth most fun thing about Christmas. So, what about you? Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between?

I also wanted to mention, but never got around to it, that gift wrap is becoming more attractive again. I mentioned the gift wrap ugliness/attractiveness cycle during some previous holiday season. For a decade almost all of the gift wrap you can find is ugly and then it starts getting more attractive until one year you look around and think, “Wow, there’s some really pretty gift wrap this year!” and then it starts to decline again. Last year I managed to find some that was not totally hideous and this year, a few rolls that I actually like. I like the new double sided rolls, or at least I like the idea. I only found one that I liked both sides of. (I know, I know! Shut up.)

I might need to buy more. I’m almost done with wrapping gifts and almost out of gift wrap and wondering if I have enough or if I will have to go buy more and end up with nearly a full roll to start next year.

Christmastime, Lazy Blogging, Christmas Music, etc.

I get the feeling that hardly anyone is reading this anymore. That’s okay. I understand. It’s Christmastime and you’re all busy, as you should be. I am too and I’m not so inclined to put much effort into this for the next week or two. That doesn’t mean I’m going to completely disappear but you might not get anything but Christmas music and maybe an occasional brief comment that could almost fit on Twitter. Well, anyway…

I heard this on the radio yesterday. (a different recording) The Huron Carol was written ca. 1642 by a Jesuit Missionary living with the Huron tribe in Canada. He changed some parts of the Christmas story to make it more accessible to the Huron tribes people. (click link for lyrics)

Random Linkage

Everybody Happy – Interesting. I haven’t fooled around with it very much.

Old 7-Up Ads – Mostly from the early 70’s. I don’t remember any of these.

Bionic Bra – Anyone else a little creeped out by this?

Gemstones, through the microscope

Holiday Sweaters – I have never understood why so many people claim to hate Christmas sweaters but after seeing these pictures I think I get it. It’s not really the sweaters; it’s the people who wear them.

Christmas Suits – Oh, you thought the sweaters were bad? (Actually, I think the idea is pretty cool and I would secretly admire anyone who had the nerve to wear one of these in public.)

Science Fiction Christmas – Vintage Christmas themed sci-fi covers

The Myth of The Twelve Days of Christmas

6 Things We Never Want to See Lists of Again

Nicole asked for it so you got it. Sorry (no, I’m really not) I don’t know how to create one of those annoying slide shows but to be as authentic as possible I present these in reverse order of annoyingness. (Yes, it is so a real word. I know because I just made it up myself. Shut up, Firefox spellchecker.)

6. # Superfoods You Should Eat More Of – Actually, I sort of enjoy these good food lists a little bit because I like seeing that something I already like is “good for me” but at the same time the benefits they attribute to the listed foods are always way out in space. If it was really that easy to prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, improve memory, and live 20 years longer the medical profession would have gone out of business centuries ago.

5. # Books you must read before you die – I do like book lists but when they frame it as “books you must read” it’s a bit of a turn off. There are more books than any individual can possibly read in a lifetime and you have to choose according to your own tastes and interests. How about simply “Books Worth Reading” instead?

4. # Places You Must Visit Before You Die – You know, that “before you die” phrase is pretty silly isn’t it? You’re not going to do these things after you die are you? Anyway, on to my main point… What if I never get to visit these places? Does that mean my life is empty, wasted? And you notice that these lists never include places like Branson, Missouri or Eureka Springs, Arkansas. They’re always heavily biased in favor of exotic, expensive, and hard to get to places. Someday maybe I will make a list of “Things You Must Do Before You Die” that includes things like, “Enjoy a stupid TV show with your family” and “Sit outside on a summer evening listening to the night sounds and watching fireflies.”

3. # Things You Should Never Eat – We don’t need to be told what we shouldn’t eat. I think most people have figured out which foods are bad for you. We are told often enough. And even though it changes somewhat from year to year – sometimes things that were bad turn out to be good and vice versa – two things that will always be on the list are fat and sugar. But even these are not so bad in small amounts. The oldest advice is still the best: “All things in moderation.” We don’t need a list; we just need to remember that.

2. # Items Every Woman Should Have In Her Closet – Let me point out that “Every Woman” does not live in New York city, work in an upscale office, and attend fashionable parties every weekend. One item you always see on these lists is “the little black dress.” I have never in my life owned a little black dress. Where would I wear such a thing? Chili’s? Even if I did go to the kind of places where one wears a little black dress I probably wouldn’t because that’s what everyone else would be wearing, right? That’s what I call a uniform. Besides the LBD, there is usually nothing else on such lists that I either own or feel that I need.

1. # Things You Should Never Say To […..] – This is my top list pet peeve. There are dozens of different versions of it – Things you should never say to parents of young children, Things you should never say to a Teacher, Things you should never say to a woman, Things you should never say to a man, and so on. Honestly, there are a few things that you should never say (or that a polite person would never say) but these lists always go beyond the limits of what a polite person wouldn’t say and into the “Things we just don’t want to hear because we know it’s true but we don’t want to believe it,” and “Perfectly legitimate opinions that we disagree with,” categories. But it is really the whole idea of this type of list that is wrong. You can’t tell other people what not to say. To the makers of these lists and the members of the groups they represent I say, get over yourselves. You are not special and you don’t have any special right to be protected from the opinions of others.

Dustbury also has a list.

The Cutest Christmas Song

I first heard this song, Christmas Bells, the same year I first heard So This is Christmas, but, while John Lennon’s gloomy guilt trip continued to play on the radio year after year, Christmas Bells soon disappeared from the air waves.

I was never a big fan of Peanuts as a kid and I especially disliked Snoopy’s Red Baron fantasies but during the first 13 years of my life we only got one TV channel so when Peanuts was on we watched it. Now, however, I have this odd nostalgia for the Peanuts holiday specials and it actually disappointed me that my kids didn’t like them either.

What I really like about this song though, is not that it’s about Snoopy and the Red Baron; it’s the Christmas spirit in it – bitter enemies putting aside their hostilities for just one night and enjoying a moment of Christmas cheer together. To me it seems that there is a better lesson in this song (if you happen to be looking for such lessons) than in the more popular So This is Christmas. And besides, it’s just so darn cute it’s irresistible.

Real Women Don’t Need Your Advice

Here’s one of those things I bookmarked, hoping I would get around to it one day. (See? See? Sometimes I really do “get around to it”.)

9 Things Middle Aged Women Should Stop Doing Immediately. First of all, stop telling your elders what they should or should not do. “Middle aged” women have been there, done that. We’ve seen fashions come and go and we’ve tried silly fads and we are so over it. We know what we like; we know what looks good on us; and we know when it is okay to just not care and do whatever the hell we want to. That said, I have to admit that I agree with most of these. In fact, DO NOT WAIT until you are over 45 to stop smoking, tanning, wearing too much make-up, and comparing yourself to other women.

But, if you know me you know which one I have to say something about: “Mom jeans”. Now the really funny thing about this is that most of the rest of the list is all about “stop acting like a teenager” but about the jeans the author says: “Once a woman hits the age of 45, it doesn’t mean she has to start wearing unflattering, high-waisted jeans.” That’s right, ladies; you can show off your butt cleavage until you’re 90+. Okay, okay! I know they don’t necessarily have to be that low to escape the dreaded “mom jeans” title. (Do they?) But what is so wrong with jeans that come up to one’s natural waistline? Unflattering? That is always, always, always a matter of opinion and varies from person to person.

Personally, I actually don’t think high-waisted jeans look good on me but neither do the low-riders or the in between jeans. That’s why I never wear tucked in blouses with pants. Pants that fit at my natural waistline are simply more comfortable so that’s what I wear. Frankly, anti-mom-jeans articles make me want to get a t-shirt that says, “This Is What a Real Woman Looks Like” and tuck it into my properly waisted jeans and proudly walk down a busy city street. I generally don’t care what other people wear, however, I really don’t want to see your underwear or your butt crack. Sorry, (no I’m really not) I’m just old-fashioned that way.

The articles says, “Ladies, have a little pride!” Indeed. Do have a little pride. Have a lot of pride. Wear what you like; wear what you feel comfortable in and wear it proudly.

Random Linkage

Scientific Paper by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel – Gotcha!

Burt Reynolds’ Stuff – Burt’s auctioning off a bunch of his stuff. So far some of the bids are not out of reach of the average person. Still got Christmas shopping to do?

10 Common GMO Claims Debunked

Archi/Maps – Oooo! I love this. An excellent historic architecture Tumblr.

Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant?

Snow Fort for a Cat – I think my cat would actually like something like this but I’m hoping we won’t get enough snow this winter to try it.

Leonardo da Vinci’s To-Do List

100 Shades of French Fry – a tasty exhibition. Well, maybe not so tasty, since you can’t actually eat them.

Film Summary T-Shirts

Christmas Ornament Dioramas – How to make your own

Sweet Potato Chili – Ooooo this looks SO good! I don’t think anyone else in my family would agree though.

11 “Unhealthy” Foods That Really Aren’t Bad For You – The key is to eat them in moderation, which means nowhere near as much as you want, and without all the unhealthy accompaniments that are a big part of the reason you wanted to eat them in the first place. So, nothing new here.

Quotes From Here and There

…it’s amazing how many years a big chain business can be “circling the drain” and still hang

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a point here, about synchronicity and serendipity and the strange and magical nature of the creative mind of man.there

Schlitzie was a ray of sunshine, and his smile and unconditional love shined on all those around

Mythology offers multiple explanations of the origin of the cornucopia.there

I had no idea it would be this exciting and charming and funny and delightful and really, just utterly incredible, watching someone learn to

Litotes and bathos wrapped in a subjunctive mood hidden inside a false indicative: my regular manner of imparting information, either verbally or typed into an email’s oblong box.there

And More Music (not Christmas this time)

I saw this video of young Vince Mira on Ellen on Facebook yesterday. This was in 2007 so I’m a little late to the party as usual. Surely by now everyone has heard of Vince Mira and his remarkable voice. People all over Facebook and Youtube have been saying he sounds “just like Johnny Cash”. He does not. Seriously, people? When was the last time you actually listened to Johnny Cash? Obviously not recently enough. (Yes, I do like Johnny Cash but I’m not here to talk about him today.) Hopefully this amazing young singer will be able shake off all of these comparisons and someday people will be saying of some young singer of the future, “He sounds just like Vince Mira.”

There are also videos of Mira singing songs by Bob Dylan, Elvis, and an original song of his own. But after listening to all of those I decided to embed this one because… well, because I like it of course.

Christmas Music Time!

Oops. It’s past mid-week and I didn’t do the “Mid-Week Music Break” thing. So I was thinking… since it’s December, I need to do a weekly Christmas music thing. (Some more ambitious people are doing a daily Christmas music thing.) So then I thought I should get my annual tearful lament out of the way first. But this year will be different because I discovered something. (Yay Google!)

The version of a song that you grow up with will always be right even if it is an obscure, oddball recording that no one has ever heard of and the “wrong” version is the standard that everyone is familiar with. This has always been the situation with me and the Christmas song, O Holy Night. (Originally a French carol) I grew up with a recording by an ensemble called the Longines Symphonette that had slightly different lyrics from the standard English translation that we always hear and it drives me nuts every time I hear the wrong (i.e. standard) version of it.

Every year I search in vain. But this year, finally, I found it! It’s just the middle part of a medley (starting at about 1:28) but these are the right lyrics.

Aside from having the right words… well, I can’t really complain about this choir and soloist. They actually are good, but I can’t help thinking how lovely it would have been if Nat King Cole had known the correct lyrics. [sigh]

edited for clarity

More Reading

I finished reading Stardancer yesterday morning. About two weeks to read it, I think. That’s actually pretty fast for me. It usually takes me at least a month to get through an average sized book. (Though I am getting better about that since I’ve been trying to spend more time reading books.) It’s sort of a weird experience for me to write about a book knowing that the author is going to read this, because he’s not some distant celebrity but someone I have known online for more than 10 years. But in this case it’s easy because this is a really great book. Seriously.

I read a wide variety of science fiction (as well as other genres, mostly classics and history) but this is the kind of story that got me hooked on science fiction in the first place – full of space ships and adventure. Stardancer is unique in a number of ways too. The main character is a teenage girl who, though she is a princess who discovers that she has a strange ability, is fairly typical of girls that age. There is also an ethnic minority character who is a minority of one on the planet they are visiting. Girls and minorities are two seriously neglected groups in science fiction. There is a hint of environmentalism – what happens when you rely on just one power source and that source starts running out – but the reader is not beat over the head with it. The story keeps moving, uninterrupted by either preaching or science lectures.

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, not in any way a cliffhanger, but enough questions are left open to make me really impatient to read the next book.


I actually have two books that I want to talk about. I’m going to start with the one I finished two or three weeks ago (?) and never got around to saying anything about. The other book, the one I just finished, I want to think more about exactly what I want to say, and I have other things I need to do today, so I’ll probably (I hope) get around to that one later today or maybe tomorrow.

Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martin Dugard is an exciting account of the famous explorers’ adventures and ordeals in Africa. Stanley and Livingstone are two names I have heard most of my life, and of course I have heard the famous line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” many times, but I had only a very vague idea of who they were. Something about explorations in Africa.

Into Africa reads like an adventure novel but it is completely factual, based on the journals of David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, which author Martin Dugard quotes frequently throughout the book. I think it is difficult for a person of our century to imagine the popularity of explorers during the 19th century. It is tempting to compare them to rock stars or, perhaps more appropriately, Neil Armstrong.

The “Holy Grail” of the day was finding the source of the Nile. Dr. Livingstone was one of a number of Europeans who set out to find the source. He failed to return from Africa when expected and was reported to have been killed by natives but many people believed that he was still alive and the public demanded that an expedition be sent to find him. Among others who went to Africa to search for the missing explorer was British-American journalist Henry M. Stanley who was sent by the New York Herald, hoping to “scoop” rival newspapers.

I wish I had more in detail to say about this book but, like I said, it was a few weeks ago that I finished it and my mind is not really on it anymore. I can say that I very much enjoyed it and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in history and/or epic adventure.


Random Linkage

Snake Oil Supplements? – A handy chart showing which health fads might be worth spending your money on and which ones are probably worthless.

Look down – beautiful and interesting floors

Unknown Kingdoms – Perhaps I should start my own kingdom, er, queendom. Empire, perhaps. Yes, I think I like the title, Empress.

Post Apocalyptic VHS Cover Art – [sigh] It’s disturbing how dated stuff from the ’80s looks now.

Top 5 Cold Remedies That Do Not Work

Long Lost Painting Found – What a neat story!

How to make your last name plural – This is different from what I was taught in elementary school [mumble mumble] years ago. I hate misplaced apostrophes probably more that most people do but I can’t help wondering if this person knows what she’s talking about. Has this rule actually changed?

Slow Service at Restaurants

The Neurological Side Effects of 3-D – I don’t know if I’m supposed to take it this way but I find this hilarious.

Ancient Origins – Oooo! This looks like a fascinating site.

Catwalk – Neat art

Awful Library Books – Hmmmmm… I think there’s a good chance that if I keep looking I will find one that makes me think, “That doesn’t seem so awful.”

Mid-Week Music Break

Something traditional for the day before Thanksgiving. Those of you who are at least my age (in the U.S.) probably remember singing this in elementary school. I don’t know if they still do traditional stuff like that anymore. This short piano version is lovely.

Thanksgiving Week This ‘n’ That

I’m not in the mood for the Internet. Actually, it’s not that I’m not in the mood for the Internet at all; it’s just that I’m more in the mood for other things, mostly sewing and reading. And then there’s Thanksgiving and the day after, the infamous Black Friday. Today I need to go to the store and I’m in a bit of a panic about what to get and about remembering everything I need for the whole week so I won’t have to go back out on the day before Thanksgiving, or worse, the day after. Although, the grocery stores shouldn’t be too bad on Black Friday? Also, I’ve noticed in previous years when we drove past Walmart later in the afternoon on Black Friday that the parking lot is almost deserted so I guess all the craziness happens early in the morning then everyone goes home and passes out or something.

Anyway, I’m not saying no blogging this week but maybe not every day. I will definitely – well, I will try to – find a nice music video for Mid-Week Music Break and I will try to come up with some quotes for Friday. I bookmarked several articles that I wanted to rant or preach about but I don’t know if I will ever get around to those. But maybe. I am being a lame blogger. Sorry. Here are a few links.

11 Unsettling World Mysteries – Well, they are interesting but they don’t really “unsettle” me. I’m not even sure I believe all of them even happened, particularly #’s 1 and 7.

And how about some recipes? (My online recipe collecting is getting totally out of hand)

French toast stuffed with Philadelphia Bacon Cream Cheese Spread

Family Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole – That name seems rather odd. Since when are sweet potatoes not family friendly?

Another sweet potato recipe. This one has cranberries.

Cheddar Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs

Salted Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Quotes From Here and There

Every thing in the history of the world that’s been worth doing has had to start somewhere, and that the world doesn’t always make a huge deal of things doesn’t mean they’re not worth

Oh, love! let us love with a love that loves,
Loving on with a love forever;

To put it another way, in the twenty-first century’s speeded-up time and vast platter of choices, the past seems to have become

Because isn’t that really what we dream of? Not so much doing nothing but read all day but the luxury of being able to make that choice.there