CHRISTMAS EVE 2018 – Garry Armstrong

It was a very enjoyable Christmas Eve. A drama free (dee-lish) dinner.

Everyone enjoyed their gifts including the furry kids who hadn’t destroyed their toys as of Christmas morning.

I had a long and delightful phone chat with my family. Two younger Brothers, cousins, and cousin-in-law. I was able to hear everyone clearly (first time!) with my cochlear implant. I think I was a bit giddy because I rambled all over the place, chatting about how the cochlear implant has changed my life.

We shared memories about Christmases past. Lots of laughter as I said goodbye.

Owen brought over a bunch of old ’78’s (Those of a certain age know what I’m talking about).

We listened to vintage performances of Christmas music performed by Bing Crosby, Mahalia Jackson, Gene Autry and Red Foley. Yes, Red Foley. “White Christmas” is still a signature song of the season and it belongs to Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby.

One of the 78’s contained soundtrack music from the 1942 film, “Holiday Inn” in which Bing Crosby introduced Irving Berlin’s beloved “White Christmas.” Gene Autry’s “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” brought back a rush of childhood memories as did a rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” I found myself singing along — softly — because I sing off-key.

What a blast! Thanks, Owen.

I, too, wonder about the mince-pie mystery.

What happened to mince-pie? Marilyn and I have been searching in recent weeks for mince-pie, fresh or frozen.  No luck.  No answers.  I just read an online piece about a cache of mince pies discovered in England, stashed in a basement — from World War Two. A Mom’s gift to her Son in the army. The pies are over 70 years old. No mention of how they taste.

This still doesn’t answer our mince-pie mystery. Russian collusion?

Christmas Day is upon us. The house is quiet. The furry kids are searching for their toys. Santa Claus has been very kind to us. Yes, Donzo, there is a Santa Claus.

I suppose he forgot about you.

RUDOLPH AND OTHER STORIES OF CHRISTMAS SONGS – Rich Paschall

Some of the stories behind our favorite Christmas songs, by Rich Paschall

I did not know Dasher, Dancer and the gang until I learned the song. Of course, I learned it rather young, so perhaps no one had a chance to tell me. Besides, why would I want to get to know them since “they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games?” But then one foggy something eve, I guess it was, I learned more about him.

rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-the-movie-1998b

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a celebrity in this part of the country long before he became an international hit. Chicago-based department stores and mail order giant Montgomery Ward had been giving out their own coloring books at Christmas time for years. Robert L. May, an advertising copywriter, was assigned to come up with a Christmas story in 1939 — and Rudolph was the result.

When his wife passed away, the retailer offered to take May off the project, but he went on to complete it. The resulting book was distributed, but World War II stopped its publication due to restrictions on paper use. Rudolph made a grand reappearance in 1946.

Rudolph might have faded into a mere footnote of Christmas lore had it not been for May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks. He turned the story into a song, which made Rudolph famous throughout the country.

The song led to sequels by May, and eventually to television and movie specials. Rudolph really did “go down in history.”

The animated Christmas special is now over 50 years old and children and adults still watch today.

The song was recorded by cowboy star Gene Autry. Legend has it, he was not fond of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but his wife liked the song. Autry’s 1949 recording became number 1 on the charts. It was the first number 1 song of the 1950s and became the second biggest-selling song of all time, until the 1980s.  Another Christmas classic was already number one.

The Christmas Song is commonly called “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” and also has a Chicago connection.

Musician, singer, actor, composer Mel Tormé, a Chicago native and performer about town before hitting the big time, wrote the classic in 40 minutes one sweltering July day in California in 1944.

Mel spotted a few of the opening lines in a notebook by Bob Wells, a frequent collaborator, and went on to finish them and add music. Wells had just been writing down a few cold weather ideas to help him deal with the hot summer weather.

The song was subsequently recorded by Nat “King” Cole and his trio in June 1946, but Cole convinced the record label to re-record the song with strings. It is the second version, recorded in August 1946, that became a hit. Cole went on to record it again in 1953 and 1961. The 1961 version is the one you hear continuously throughout the season. The vocal performance of the last version is considered the best of Cole’s recordings.

Tormé recorded the song too. Years later he added a verse and a “coda,” which came from “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” In 1992, the composer of one of the best known Christmas songs of all time, finally recorded an album of Christmas songs. Legend has it that The Christmas Song was not one of Tormé’s favorites, but he was grateful for the royalties.

The all time best-selling song was written for a movie, but not for the movie of the same name. White Christmas was one of twelve songs written by Irving Berlin that were included in his 1942 movie Holiday Inn.

The romantic comedy musical starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with a storyline about two performers in love with the same girl. Crosby loses out to Astaire and leaves the musical act to run an Inn that is only open on holidays. Astaire comes to the Inn after his dance partner (yes, that same girl) leaves him, giving us the opportunity to hear a variety of holiday songs by legendary songwriter, Irving Berlin.

In the movie, White Christmas is a duet when we first hear it, and when it reappears late in the story, the female character Lila, played by Marjorie Reynolds, sings it.  The song picked up the Oscar for best song of 1942.  The recording by Bing Crosby the same year has gone on to sell over an estimated 50 million copies of the single and holds the top spot by far. If you consider all of the compilation albums on which it appears it is likely over 100 million.

It is the overwhelming popularity of the song that led to a movie entitled White Christmas. Of course, Bing Crosby is back in another role, this time teamed up with Danny Kaye. Fred Astaire turned down the project.

White Christmas, like Holiday Inn, achieved great success, but its soundtrack never got a remix into stereo for release as an album. The master recordings were destroyed in a fire.

SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your Merry World 12-10-18

What’s the worst topping you could put on popcorn?   (credit to Teresa for this one)

Anything other than salt and maybe butter. But I can’t eat it anymore. Too slivery for aging gums.

In what country did Silent Night originate?

I was sure it was Germany, but am now told Austria. Go figure, right?


WARNING! The following question is NOT meant to start a fuss.  It’s merely a good discussion question in my opinion.  Most everyone knows where I stand on this. If you feel like arguing about it, please give it a pass.) We’re all adults and sensible ones at that.  We can be mature about such things, right?


How would you react if there was irrefutable proof that God doesn’t exist? How about if there was irrefutable proof that God does exist?

I wouldn’t believe it regardless. You can’t prove (or un-prove) faith. It’s an opinion, yay or nay. Unless God personally drops by and shows me his a photo ID, it’s faith.

What is the scariest non-banned item you could take on to a plane?

I haven’t the slightest idea. I’m not even sure what IS banned and I have no intention of traveling by plane.

Which version of the holiday celebration do you and your family enjoy?  By this I mean do you follow Jewish traditions with Hanukkah; Christian celebrations with Christmas and (for those over the pond) Boxing Day; or some other festivities that I’ve overlooked?   Please do share with everyone!  I truly feel that this sort of question lets us know a little more about our fellow bloggers without getting too personal (i.e. revealing too much of private lives, which some folks prefer to keep private.)

We just have a little tree. We watch old holiday movies. Garry loves Christmas Eve church, but it always gets held right at dinner time, so we never get there. Which is a pity, because regardless of religion, I love Christmas Carols and know a ton of them. I learned them for Glee Club in elementary school. That was before we weren’t allowed to learn anything with religious content. I didn’t even know the songs were Christian. I just thought they were pretty.

Actually, thinking about it, I know more religious music than most people because, as a music major, I spent years learning Gregorian chant and other early Western music. I’m sure I had my mother very worried.

If you study music, an awful lot of it is religious. Western music started as chanting and “grew up” in churches. When you study music, it’s a long time before you emerge from religious music to “modern” music … and a lot of our modern music is based on old church music too.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to follow anyone else’s religion, but I also think trying to remove all traces of religion from the world is silly. You can’t do it. Religion and religious thought are woven into the way we think. It’s organic. Nor do I think there’s any reason why you can’t believe in god or gods — and yet be a scientist or mathematician. I have never understood why one thing negates the other.

Not all of the things we believe are Judaic or Christian, either. There’s a lot of much older stuff woven into modern thought. There are many reminders of more ancient religions which are part of “modern” thinking.

Sorry for going on so long. This was what I studied in school. It began with music but moved into religious philosophy. I wrote papers about it. I still dream about it.

The near decade I spent in Israel was no coincidence. Despite what I may have said, my travels had nothing to do with how many times I read “Exodus” (the novel by Leon Uris, not the second book of the Torah).

I needed to be there. Because I needed to understand. Things.

THE POST-EVENT CRASH – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday – CRASH


I noticed in the definition that my favorite slang definition of a “crash” is missing. It’s the exhausted collapse after a busy week, weekend, vacation, or period of travel. Or really, any major festivity. When you get back from whatever you were doing and you fall in a useless heap on the nearest soft surface. Be it bed or sofa, it is officially “a crash.”

“I called but you didn’t answer!”

“Hey man, I was totally crashed out. That was some weekend.”

I think we’ve been permanently crashed out since Garry began his march to hearing from non-hearing.

Sometimes crashing isn’t a physical thing, either. It’s emotional. You got all worked up about something — and not necessarily a bad thing. A big party or a series of big parties … or the winter holidays. Then, suddenly, New Year’s comes and goes and that deflation leaves you completely crashed.

Somewhere, in your mind’s ear you hear someone singing “The Party’s Over,” and you realize it’s another year. We don’t get that excited about the holidays anymore, but we do get excited about vacations — when finally they come around. It’s good I take a lot of pictures. That helps keep the mood for a while longer. Sort of stretches the even for as long as you are still processing the photographs.

Festive on the commons!

And it’s that time of year again. If you are getting all lathered up about the holidays, try to remember that it’s a month of festivities, but it ends. Please! Don’t crash!

TWO CAROLS FOR OUR HOLIDAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

As the weird, right-wing Christians endlessly complain about how they can’t say “Merry Christmas,” while the rest of us try to keep our heads low and avoid getting bombarded by Christmas? For us, there is Tom Lehrer and a few songs to make us smile.

Let us not forget that “other” seasonal holiday, Hanukkah. Although it is not one of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar, it’s relative (depending on the Jewish Lunar calendar which moves the holidays around in a thoroughly un-Christian way) proximity to Christmas has given it an undeserved prominence. And for that, there’s still Tom Lehrer.

May your season be joyful if you celebrate and sane, regardless. It’s a holiday. Enjoy it, ignore it, or sing your heart out.

SHARING THE WORLD, THANKSGIVING EDITION – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your Thankful World


Are you an Early to bed, early-to-rise person, a night owl, and daytime sleeper-dozer, or an ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ person?   

Age has made me reconsider the idea of sleep. I need to get some or I just can’t function.

Now, if only I could give up on reading at night … I go to bed early enough, but then, there’s that book.

What are some misconceptions about your hobby, should you have a hobby?

People think I’m a lot better a photographer than I am. I do take pretty pictures, but I don’t process them nearly as well as others do. I’m not even in the same class.

No matter what anyone tells you, a good eye does not overcome quality issues.

A penguin walks through the door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?    

He has come bearing cruise tickets. He is our lottery vacation Penguin.

Aliens have landed. Do they come in peace?

I doubt it. They landed? They have an agenda. Maybe it’s benign, but until I know what they want, I’m being really careful.

I play with robots! Especially Robbie.

Really really careful.

What are you really, incredibly thankful for this week?

Garry’s ears are good and my son is doing Thanksgiving. Hallelujah!

 

SNOW AND THE HOLIDAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

Today and tomorrow are doctor visit days for Garry. His three-month surgical checkup for his ear and a stress test for his heart … so I’m writing ahead because I’m just not going to be around. Hope you don’t mind.

This is turning out to be a crazy busy month. I feel like Alice, running as fast as she can just to stay in the same place!

The holidays haven’t officially “hit” because of a calendar thing. It’s not because Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Nope, it’s that all of a sudden, it’s winter. We’ve got snow.

Snow falls and suddenly, everyone thinks Christmas, including those of us who aren’t Christian. Much of the snow that fell while we were away has melted. Not all of it, but more than half, anyway.

More is expected today and tomorrow. I suppose we might as well get on with holidays since, with the ground snowy, icy, and muddy, there isn’t much else to do.

The last time we got significant snow before or on Thanksgiving was 2014, a year during which we got 120 inches of snow out here in the country. That is, no matter how you look at it, a lot of snow. It’s the amount they normally get in northern Maine. It’s downright Siberian.

Christmas is so minimal in this house, there’s really isn’t much for us to do. I don’t put up wreaths any more.  We have so few visitors and live far off the main road that no one sees them.

Also, the nursery where I used to buy them closed and somehow, buying them at the grocery store may be cheaper, but it doesn’t have that “feeling” it had, picking the perfect one at the nursery.

We don’t give gifts because we don’t have money and anything we can afford is no more than a kindly thought. We give small things. Holiday reminders, maybe. Remembrance of days gone by when we ran up our credit cards because we got into some kind of bizarre Christmas frenzy.

These days, the tree gets plugged in. Our blue Christmas lights live in the living room drapes all year round, so when the holiday arrives, I just plug them in.

It doesn’t get simpler than that. We had fun with Tom and Ellin and that’s always a treat.

The weather isn’t as bad as it is going to be in a few days. Hopefully, we’ll have time to get some of the many errands, doctor appointments, vet appointments, and other stuff done.

And I have my fingers crossed that we’ll find someone to plow the driveway!

Boston’s big holiday tree

This is an El Niño year which can be bad. But, you never know. Sometimes winter starts out bad but eases up. Meanwhile, I’m keeping a close eye on weather maps and trying not to worry.