Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Highs and Lows of 2008 - The Highs

For the first time that I can ever remember, I won't be around to ring in the New Year. I'll hopefully be in bed, as I have to get up before 3AM to drive to Bozeman to catch my plane to Nashville. I've spent the better part of today at work, then coming home and packing. And double checking to be sure I've got all the meds I need with me, and planning out when/what I'll eat. Gotta keep up that routine! Anyway, interspersed is coming up with the "Highs" of 2009. Unlike many of you apparently, I found 2009 to be a pretty good year. Lots of visits, new friends online (and in person), traveling (I never really traveled before my late 40s), and some good music. Be sure to read the post below this one first!! It's my "Lows" list! Makes the "Highs" list much better (most have links back to posts).

"The 10 High Points of 2009"
(from less high to highest of the high)
10. Shumpy on Fallon! - Those of you who have been around for awhile know Shumpy. On a trip to NYC this summer, he went to the Jimmy Fallon show to catch Jimmy Buffett's performance. He ended up being chosen for an audience participation segment--Rush Limbaugh karaoke. Fallon made a big deal about the name "Shumpy"--repeating it almost 20 times! While HNT didn't get mentioned, it was still cool to see one of "us" on national TV! And he won the prize, too!

9. Symphony/Summer - Our annual mid-summer concert at the college was once again a huge success. An estimated 16-17,000 people showed up to hear music and songs by Rogers & Hammerstein. It was a gloriously beautiful night, the production end of things went quite smoothly, and I didn't get injured! I always wonder at this time of year what the next concert will involve...

8. No Smoke! - Those of you who don't live in the northwest or California can't truly appreciate what it's like to be able to breathe clean air in the summer! There were relatively few forest fires around, and as a result, the skies were sunny and blue for most of the season. There was a smallish fire just west of town that caused a really bad day, but the winds blew that out. Nothing at all like the smoke and fires of 2006 or 2007!

7. "We're on a mission from God..." - We put the band back together (well, everyone but the drummer) for a wedding gig in January. After having not played as a group for over 15 months we weren't sure how it would come off. Well, it came off pretty damned well, thank you! The horns went in cold, not rehearsing at all ahead of time. It's like we had just played a couple of nights before. Everything absolutely clicked! And planted the bug again. We've got another wedding gig this coming Labor Day. We're not going to make any money by only playing once every year and a half, but we're going to have fun! The picture here is during a non-horn song. Hard to get a full band shot when you're playing!

6. Health - In spite of my recent health scare, it's actually been one of the best things to have happened to me in awhile. When you're told that if you continue to do the things you've been doing, it'll kill you, and you've almost experienced that, then quitting those things becomes much easier! I've lost weight, but could lose more. I'm eating healthier and smarter. And I'm actually doing some exercise! Not much, but compared to the past, it's quite a bit! I'm wearing clothes I haven't worn in at least 8 years. I got my cholesterol numbers back last week. I used to average between 185-200. In the hospital, they found it to be around 267. Last week's results have me at 100. Sure, it's a combination of meds and diet, but it's a far cry better than what I used to be!

5. Droid - Verizon's insistence that I upgrade my phone finally broke me down. There's no immediate plans for Verizon and Apple to reconcile so that the iPhone will break into the Montana market, so why not? Why didn't someone tell me years ago how cool having a smartphone would be??? I love everything about it, and I'm still learning! Granted, I'll get the iPhone when it becomes available around here, just because I'm a Mac guy. But it's going to have to do some impressive tricks!

4. Weekend at Rachel's - I finally took the trip up the Flathead to go see Rachel. We spent time driving through the magnificence of Glacier Park. We ate huckleberry licorice. We drank beers. Other than the one night where she left me at a bar (see the "Lows" down below), it was wonderful! We hadn't spent more than 30 minutes in each other's presence since she moved up there. It was wonderful to reconnect!

3. Friends! - I got to meet some bloggerfriends for the first time this year. And some old friends too! Some came here, some I went to see, and one happened totally unexpecedly! They were Lori, M, M's sister, Living Diary, NY Diva, Sista Diva, Vixen, Wendy, DH, Dana, Amber, and Dave from Greater Falls. Of course, Moose, Rachel and Kamey. You can check out who most of these people are in my sidebar---------->

2. Obamacare--NOT! - I have mixed feelings about this. I was ready and willing to pay what I could, when I could, for my hospitalization and medical bills. It's the right thing to do. But frankly, when I got the letter from the hospital telling me that they'd adjusted my bill at 100%, I was elated. Then I got the same feeling I got when I first enjoyed unemployment benefits--I'm not one of "those" people. I'm not homeless. I'm not destitute. I live in a relatively nice apartment and enjoy my cable and my internet and my wireless phone. I obviously haven't starved to death. My car is paid off. But you know what? I AM one of "those" people. I'm in a situation where health insurance isn't offered. I don't make the sort of money that would allow me to substantially pay my medical bills and still live my life. I'm not as concerned about getting free insulin from the pharmaceutical companies. They get a nice tax write-off from "those" people. It's humbling. But as one social worker told me, everyone in the medical field knows that individuals can't possibly afford medical care on their own. Programs exist to help them, and should be taken advantage of. So I am. Do I feel like I'm taking a handout? A little bit. But I'll get over it!

1. Indy '09 - I was a bit prophetic when writing last year's "Highs", as I wrote about how good the Elton John concert in Missoula was, and that I couldn't wait see Elton and Billy Joel to get back together on a tour. About a month later, I learned that they were, so I got ahold of M, who is a big Billy fan. I asked if she wanted to go if I could find a close concert. As luck would have it, Indy was the place! We hadn't planned on getting together with anyone, as it was mid-week, and I wouldn't be in town too long. Then I realized that NY Diva was celebrating her birthday a couple days before then. I'd catch hell if she found out I'd been there without letting her know. And Living Diary worked literally a block or two from where we were staying, and I'd catch hell all over again if she didn't get to see us. So we had a great time together. Lunches, dinners, beers, and M and I got to see a fantastic concert! You can click the link to read all about it. This is the trip where I got to see most of the ones listed in #3, too!
There you have it. My "Highs" for 2009. Many of you are probably already at parties as I'm posting this. I hope that everyone is having a safe but fun NYE! I'm off to bed early so that I can be on the road at 0-dark:30 to catch a flight to Nashville. Be sure to check back for some reports on that! Looking forward to a great 2010!!

The Highs and Lows of 2009 - The Lows

Time for my annual recap of the year. For the third year in a row, I've found it difficult to come up with 10 real low points. In fact, one or two on this list will make the "highs" list, I'm sure! Of course there were some terrible things that happened in the world, but these are things that affected me somewhat directly. Most of these won't have a link to a specific post. This is what makes my "lows" list (the "highs" list can be seen above...):

"The 10 Low Points of 2009"
(from least low to lowest of the low)
10. Too Much Drinking - Not that I drink that often, or that much, but twice this year, it got me into trouble. The first time was in August, when a little too much beer while out dining with Rachel and a friend got out of hand, and he and I verbally ganged up on her. Much to her displeasure. She ended up leaving without us, but not after a few choice words. To add to the discomfort, I still had to spend the night at her apartment. Not one of my finer moments. The second incident had me chugging beers with two guys half my age. Twice. I won, of course, but eventually that night I puked like I hadn't puked before. And if my diabetes was triggered by any sort of bodily trauma, this was it.

9. Carroll College's Pep Band - I went to Homecoming this year, and ended up sitting close to the pep band. The band that I formed and developed about 15 years ago. It was sad to see how far it had fallen since I left. And the double whammy of having fans (who generally don't pay them any attention) come up to me and ask why it sounds so bad. I imagine it's probably like raising a child who ends up a petty thief. You just don't know where things went sour...

8. Football Gods Pissed Off - I bragged all fall on my three favorite teams, and how they had gone through their seasons undefeated, and perhaps this was the year that all three would bring home their respective championships. Well, that didn't happen with any of them. One team didn't even make it to the championship game. Particularly hard was the loss by the University of Montana. They looked like champions all season (even when they didn't look very good...). Right up to the last two quarters of the playoffs. They really should have won that game...

7. Vision - My vision has deteriorated due to the diabetes, though it's slowly coming back. But for those first three weeks after the hospital, I was blind as a bat. Not in the "blackness" sort of way, but in a severe bluriness sort of way. I still have a couple of months for it to stabilize, but between the diabetes and my advancing years, it's just a matter of time before I'm wearing glasses on a full-time basis. Damn.

6. Trolls, Juveniles and Assholes - This one has a permanent place in my "lows" list. And it's probably the one thing I hear the most complaints about, particularly from HNTers. It's the constant barrage of come-ons, pick-up lines, juvenile remarks, and totally inappropriate comments that some of you get. Not to mention comments left by ones whose only purpose in life is to stir up emotions. It's never welcomed. It's never classy or humorous. It's the reason I wish I could zap certain people off the internet. I also hate that some guys (let's call it as it is...) look at HNT as their own sexual playpen. Sure, some ladies don't mind, but I think a majority of them at least roll their eyes at certain men. Or some are squicked out enough to quit altogether. As one former HNTer said to me, "why is it that if I post a nice half-nekkid picture of myself, some of these guys automatically assume I'm looking for sex?" I wish I had the answer for that one...

5. Pricey Tix - I am totally disgusted with the way concert tickets are being sold online. I think it's foolish that someone will stand in line at a ticket office, thinking they have a chance for a good seat. But when tickets are advertised as being sold online at a particular time, and the ticket brokers have already snatched them up, it's really a sad state of affairs. Especially if the brokers have some sort of tie-in with Ticketmaster or Live Nation. I bought tickets for a friend as a favor back in February. I was forced to try to get them from a ticket broker. Tickets that were advertised at $49.50 (plus fees) ended up costing $194.26 EACH! For the second to last row. And those who purchased tickets later paid more. It's one thing to pay big bucks to sit in the front row. But to hold the consumer hostage for the cheap seats? It's criminal.

4. Equipment Truck - I have ranted on for well over a year about the equipment truck that we use for the symphony. It's an old furniture truck that now belongs to a construction company. We pay nothing for borrowing it, insuring it or maintaining it. Therein lies the problem. It's a piece of crap, but no one's willing to pay to fix it decently. It's a dangerous vehicle, but it's all we have at our disposal. The thing didn't work well in the winter months (dead as a doornail). It's a piece of junk, but it's free. The construction company finally auctioned it off, and now we have to pay U-Haul for a truck for each concert. Pricey, but well worth the money. Someday we'll have our own concert hall, and we won't have to deal with transportation any more (he said with a dreamy look in his eye...).

3. Bloggers Disappearance - Another permanent topic on this list. The disappearance of bloggers. I understand why it happens. People get caught or outed. Family members find out. Or the whole blogging excitement just isn't there anymore. I get that. But I don't like it. This past year has seen it's fair share of popular bloggers/HNTers disappear like dust in the wind. Or smoke on the water. Some go to invitation only, which isn't quite as bad, though it's sort of embarrassing to ask for an invite if you weren't originally on the "A" list. The risk of rejection is high (just like friending on Facebook!). Some come back and maybe post once a week, which means you never really know if they've quit or not. And others pull the plug with absolutely no notice, and everyone's left scratching their heads. Like I said, I understand it, but I don't like it. I am happy to report that one particular friend who sort of left me high and dry is back. Not quite the same as before, steps.

2. Haloscan/JS Kit/Echo - Back in the dark ages, when Blogger was still the "old" Blogger (I'll bet some of you don't even know there WAS an "old" Blogger!), Haloscan was a wonderful plug-in that allowed you to customize your comment page, gave stats, allowed editing and a multitude of other features. It was good. Then JS Kit came along and bought them out and decided that what bloggers really needed was a bunch of stuff that none of them actually asked for. The interface was changed, modifications were made, and all in the name of "progress". Then along came Echo. I think it's actually part of JS Kit, though I'm not sure. More tinkering transpired, and all was not well with the world. Until one day, just a couple of weeks ago, they changed things around, unannounced, again. You people bitched about it for months, and I finally got fed up with it. It's no longer a part of my blogging. And the fans cheered from far and near! I'm still a firm believer of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I wish they had believed it too...

1. I almost died - Yeah, this one was pretty much a no-brainer for #1 on this list. The month of October is pretty much a fuzzy memory to me, even today. Not much more to say, other than I'm alive, I'm feeling good, and hope to God I don't have to ever go through THAT again!
There you have it. I didn't find the year to be quite as bad as many of you have (and for good reasons, I'm sure). My 10 Lows of 2009. It's not really that bad of a list! Other than that whole almost dying thing...

Year's Favorite HNT '09

As I'm sure many of you have found, choosing a "favorite" among your HNTs of the past year isn't terribly easy. Most of them have some sort of sentimentality. I mean, we wouldn't have posted them if they didn't have some sort of meaning. I was, however, able to narrow it down to two pictures. Hey--my rules, mine to break! :-P

I dabbled a little more with color selection this year, though I think it can be overdone. Both of my favorites utilized this technique. And I'm not so sure that I didn't use two different methods to get each result. The first one is from February. I like the look of it, though it was a bit different than what I had anticipated (aren't they always?). The story that went along with it was based on an old b&w movie I'd been watching on TV. But that quickly morphed into a mini-rant about smoking, and questioning how anyone could possibly subject themselves to it. Then the comments (which are no longer available) from people telling me not to smoke! HA!

The second picture came from just one week later. This one wasn't my favorite because of the write-up, but because of the actual picture.

I like the years of wear in the fretboard, as well as the color contrast with the grays of the rest of it. I think that if I were to do it again, I'd check to see what it would look like with my eye colored as well. Apparently some others liked it too, and Curvaceous Dee even chose it among her favorites of that particular week!

Ah, hell. I liked this one too, with just a sliver of light hitting me from the doorway.

Now I look forward to seeing if each of you picks the same "favorite" as I would
"I know what she can do
She's deadly man, she could really rip your world apart
Mind over matter
Ooh, the beauty is there but a beast is in the heart."

Hall and Oats - "Maneater"

This week's Mystery Guest will be revealed late Thursday afternoon. Be sure to come back and find out who it is!

The final Mystery Guest for 2009 is the lovely Molls over at Neamhpsleach. You can find other similar shots amongst her December pictures! Be sure to stop by and wish her a Happy New Year!

A nice collection of pictures for the last OHNT of the decade! Definitely NSFW, but stop by leave some comments for your fellow HNTers, OK?
I have not thought much about the typical end-of-year sentimentality that I've often done in previous years. I'll hopefully have "best of" and "worst of" posts up tomorrow like I usually do, but no guarantees. Time seems to have crept up on me, and I'm so unprepared! I leave for Nashville on Friday. Leaving town at 3:30AM on New Year's Day to drive to Bozeman to catch a flight out of there (ah, the things I'll do to save a couple hundred bucks!). There will be some meeting of bloggers and HNTers during my stay there (let me know if you're in the neighborhood, in case I don't know about you!), and a concert, too! I'll be sure to provide my usual documentation here. Since I'll be getting up at an ungodly hour (and there's no way I'm staying up all night), I'll have to wish all of you a SAFE and Happy New Year now. May the new year bring lots of good things to you! For me, I'm just hoping I don't get seated to some guy who celebrated all night and looks like he's going to be sick...
Thursday is the final day to put in your vote for Trojan. If you've missed the story--she's a former HNTer who is in a national contest for a modeling contract. She's within the top 3-4 positions within her age group, out of thousands of contestants. There is still another round of qualification yet to come, and any votes at this point will help get her to that level. You'll have to register once, but can opt out of any mailings, and they don't do spam. You can only vote once a day (which is a change from earlier). Let's help out a fellow HNTer!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Let the normalcy begin...

I figure I'd better get something written down, just to remember how to do it. Even though I'm finding it difficult to write anything. Funny how a few days away from it makes it so hard to get back to it...

Christmas went pretty much as expected. Lots of family time, as usual. Though we were all surprised by the arrival of S1 and BIL1.2! Their plan was to head to the Caribbean (BIL1.2 is a citizen of St. Kitts, a tiny island where the temps are currently in the mid-80s). But with the weird weather in the southeast, they didn't know if they'd actually make it, so they changed their plans. It was the first time in years that everyone was actually home for Christmas!

In our post-dinner chatter, N2 mentioned how much she LOVED the movie "Avatar", so it was decided that we'd all head to the matinee on Saturday. If SHE liked it, it must have been good! And it was. I had avoided all the hype about it as much as I could, so I was totally blown away by the imagery. Whoever came up with the visual concept of the floating mountains must have been a fan of YES in the 70s--they looked just like the album covers of many of their albums! A suggestion--if you have the option between 3D and 2D, go see the 3D version. You'll thank me later! And if you have to pee, do it before the movie starts. Three hours is a long time to keep your legs crossed, and you won't want to miss anything! The story line is totally predictable, but you can easily let that slide, simply to see what other movie magic is around the corner!

We did dinner at the Brewhouse afterward, with a trip to the tap room for dessert (after sending the kids away).

On the left: Me, BIL3, BIL1.2
On the right: S1, S3, S2

Another short week, though I'm going to be plenty busy. I'll be missing the stroke of midnight on NYE as I hope to be sound asleep. I have to leave at around 3:30AM on the 1st to drive 90 miles away to Bozeman to catch a plane (much cheaper prices) to NASHVILLE!!! I was there 4 years ago, and got to meet a bunch of cool bloggers, and hope to meet up with many of them again! I'll be sure to post a picture or two! I've got SO much to deal with in the days before then!
Most of you participated in the Three Wishes HNT last week! There were some great wishes out there! I hope you had to do some thinking about it--I certainly did! One more theme for the year...the Year's Favorite HNT. This refers to the favorite HNT that you posted yourself. Not someone else's. Be sure to tell us why it was your favorite, too! Click on the link at the top of the sidebar if you've got questions!
Only a few more days to put in your votes for Trojan. If you've missed the story--she's a former HNTer who is in a national contest for a modeling contract. She's within the top 3-4 positions within her age group, out of thousands of contestants. This last push over the next two weeks could put her over the top! You'll have to register once, but can opt out of any mailings, and they don't do spam. You can only vote once a day (which is a change from earlier). Let's help out a fellow HNTer!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Three Wishes HNT '09

For some reason, this year's Three Wishes theme was harder for me than I had anticipated. It was difficult to whittle the list down to just three. But it was good, as it forced me to really spend some time thinking about who, and then what, I'd choose. I know many of you experienced the same (some of you whine quite well!), and will probably cheat and do wishes for more than three. That's OK. It's Christmas! Here are the three that I finally narrowed down to:

Amy, over at "More Sex Chocolate and Red Lipstick" has found her Prince Charming this fall. Befitting a princess who is wearing the glass slipper, my gift to her is her own Cinderella carriage to go visit him! Much better than taking the the train, I'd imagine. I'll even throw in the mice, rats and assorted other animals needed to be transformed into her horses, coachmen, etc. Just be sure you're home by midnight, young lady!


BTExpress has been doing the HNT thing forever, it seems. Which is possible. I think he is officially the oldest HNTer we've got! Anyone who's followed him at all knows that he spent this past year getting a pool built in his back yard. It looks great! The man spared no expense! And to officially christen it, he's throwing a pool party in August, 2010. I think you can email him for an invite if you haven't received one yet. So my gift to him, in anticipation of that party, is his very own cabana boy. Knowing BTE, he'd prefer to have all the women in the pool, rather than having to worry about drinks or anything! I'll let Lori decide if he should be clothed or not. No reason she can't enjoy your gift too! Merry Christmas, BTE! Be careful as you break him in!


Sometimes you run across a blogger who takes you by surprise. Sa is just one of those bloggers! She's lurked among us for awhile, with some limited commenting. She's even dipped her toe into the HNT pool a couple of times! She's multi-lingual, trans-continental, and certainly isn't hard on the eyes! :-P She's French, but spent a year in the US as a student. In Chicago. I'm thinking she needs to spend some quality time over here in someplace other than the midwest. So my gift to her is a flight back to the States, where she can visit her sister, and places like Florida, Tennessee, Montana and Oregon! We'd take care of you!

As for the rest of you, you get the consolation gift (which the three above get, too!). And that's my wishes for a safe and merry Christmas. Even for those of you who don't celebrate Christmas. 'Tis the season, you know! Thanks to all of you for sharing a little bit of yourselves with the rest of us this past year. Now be sure to hug someone this season, and mean it!
"Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes,
snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes,
silver white winters that melt into springs,
these are a few of my favorite things..."

"My Favorite Things" from
The Sound of Music

This Mystery Guest is not revealing - but you can find her if you seek!

As expected, there's not a huge number of submissions over at "...the Other HNT". Busy schedules and all, you know. But that's not to say that we don't have a few gifts wrapped up for you under the tree! Be sure to stop by and leave some comments for your fellow HNTers! NSFW, of course...
Only one more week to put in your votes for Trojan. If you've missed the story--she's a former HNTer who is in a national contest for a modeling contract. She's within the top 3-4 positions within her age group, out of thousands of contestants. This last push over the next two weeks could put her over the top! You'll have to register once, but can opt out of any mailings, and they don't do spam. You can only vote once a day (which is a change from earlier). Let's help out a fellow HNTer!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

10 Christmas albums that you should at least check out...

Again, another list from 2006. I worked too damned hard that year on these not to share them again! But before that, go vote for Trojan! Less than 10 days to go! Go to a previous post for the link (too tired to add it here...).

First, the honorable mentions: The only addition since 2006 would be James Taylor's "At Christmas". Probably helps if you're a James Taylor fan though (I am). Another album is The Bobs' "Too Many Santas". Not much on the classics, but they're style of a cappella music is so incredible that I have to at least mention them. If you get the chance to hear their albums where they record pop classics, you'll agree! Lastly--I'm sorry, I love "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" by the South Park gang. It's crude, rude, nasty, but there's a couple of real gems to be found! Now to the list...
  • 10.- Deana Carter - "Father Christmas" - Deana and her superb guitarist father. No one else. Mostly jazzy guitar with her twangy country voice--it actually works!
  • 9. - Mark Mothersbaugh - "Joyeaux Mutato" - You might not recognize the name, but he was a founding member of DEVO. That means lots of synthesized sounds and just weird music. Very few of these are remotely Christmasy, but there's a Christmas feel to them, and you can almost tell what song it's almost sounding like...
  • 8. - Various Artists - "Merry Axemas, Vol. 2" - This is a follow-up to Volume 1 (duh) of guitar superstars from all types of bands. I believe there might have been a Volume 3, too. One can find Neal Schon, Trevor Rabin, Zakk Wylde, Robin Trower, Ted Nugent, Al Di Meola, etc., etc. No vocals--just instrumentals. Excellent compilation!
  • 7. - Various Artists - "Have Yourself A Jazzy Little Christmas" - Top jazz artists playing Christmas songs. Better than run of the mill. Oscar Peterson, Jimmy Smith, Billie Holiday, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé.
  • 6. - Hollywood Trombones - "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" - About 20 of Hollywood's best studio and jazz trombonists get together to play jazz and standard arrangements of Christmas classics. Playing a full range of trombones from contrabass trombone to soprano trombone. It's definitely geeky...
  • 5. - Bob Rivers - "Twisted Christmas" - This actually spans 5 albums over the years. Bob Rivers is a radio DJ in Seattle. He's done song parodies for awhile. It was just natural that Christmas songs got the treatment as well! "The 12 Pains of Christmas", "Walkin 'Round In Women's Underwear" (sung to "Winter Wonderland") and "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" (sung to "House of the Rising Sun"--it works!) are some of the numerous memorable songs.
  • 4. - Vince Guaraldi Trio - "A Charlie Brown Christmas" - This is the trio behind all that wonderful music. Very light, easily accessible jazz arrangements, plus the unmistakable "Linus & Lucy". The only thing that would make this perfect would be the inclusion of Linus, reciting the biblical version of Jesus' birth. One of the finest soliloquies on TV.
  • 3. - Spike Jones - "It's A Spike Jones Christmas" - First off, you need to know who Spike Jones is. No way to describe his band, other than you have to experience their style. Novelty, maybe? Secondly, this isn't like any other Spike Jones album. Put together for Jones' family gatherings, it's more like the 40s-style large choral groups singing very tight arrangements. If you're looking for the glug-glugs and slide whistles, this isn't the album. But a very good collection.
  • 2. - Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass - "Christmas Album" - This is vintage early 70s HA&TB. They were very hot at the time, and this is a great collection of songs. My mother bought this album when I was a highly impressionable young brass player, and we have played it repeatedly every Christmas. Even to this day! Thank God it came out on CD!
  • 1. - SHeDAISY - "Brand New Year" - Easily my favorite of all Christmas albums. Fresh arrangements of standard Christmas songs, with a couple of new, original songs. The impeccable vocal stylings of the ladies is unmistakable, and even though they are a country act, this album shows no real signs of that. If you haven't heard this one, it's the ONE album of the bunch that I think you should hear!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

10 Favorite Versions of "Jingle Bells"

Repost from 2006. My 10 favorite versions of "Jingle Bells". The order might have changed a little bit since 3 years ago, but with this song, one can hardly go wrong. With the exception of the singing dogs...
  • 10.- The Mills Brothers - Their harmonies are as perfect and tight as any group around. I think I like this one more for their reputation on earlier recordings, where they would break into "instrumental" sounds with their own voices. Simply remarkable.
  • 9. - Diana Krall - This would be her big band version. Anyone who has never heard her voice or piano talents is missing out! Canadian, blond, a golfer, a total knock-out. Her only possible weakness is that she's married to Elvis Costello.
  • 8. - Morton Gould - Probably a name that you won't recognize. "Jingle Bells" is one of the first songs a beginning band student learns. Just in time for the school Christmas concert. How do you go about writing an arrangement of it for highly-trained, highly-paid musicians? You do it the way that Mr. Gould did. Fast, complex, tricky. It's a difficult piece for the musicians, but a joy for the audience. You don't really get to hear it often, but it's a great version!
  • 7. - Swingle Singers - Probably the best a cappella version. The Swingle Singers were well known for their vocalizations of classical pieces. They also got into the jazz area, and were the singers during the chase scenes of the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Very distinct style.
  • 6. - The Hollywood Trombones - OK--this is a geeky trombonist's dream. Read more about the album below. I can't begin to tell you how incredibly talented these guys are!
  • 5. - Jewel - This is just a cute, jazzy, a cappella version. I like it! Note: I cannot, for the life of me, find a recording of this. It could be her recording of "Rudolph" I was thinking of, or it might very well be a figment of my imagination...
  • 4. - moe. - These guys are a jam group that infuses fun in their rock. Influenced by the Grateful Dead, they have played at Woodstock 99, and opened for the Who this past summer. Just a darned fun version!
  • 3. - Diana Krall - Yeah, her again. A couple of years before she released her Christmas album, she did a three-song EP as a promo product. This is the version found on that, and is the more recognized version of the two.
  • 2. - Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters - You can hear a snippet of this version in the movie "A Christmas Story" when they're opening presents on Christmas morn. At least that's where I think it is. Barry Manilow/Exposé have recorded a similar version recently. Jazzy, up-tempo and fun.
  • 1. - Jimmy Smith - Great version from the jazz organist himself. The Hammond B-3 has rarely sounded so good!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

25 Item Christmas List

Stole this from BFD, who stole it from..., who stole it from..., who...

(1) What is your favorite Christmas movie? - Used to be "A Christmas Story", until they started running it for 24 hours on Christmas Day. Sort of happening with "Elf" now, too. I think the favorite would have to be "White Christmas" though. Though I see it's going to be on a 24-hour run this year too. Hope it doesn't ruin it for me!

(2) What is your LEAST favorite Christmas movie?
- Almost anything that shows only on the Hallmark, Lifetime or Oxygen channels.

(3) What is your favorite Christmas song?
- In spite of an earlier list, I think that "Carol of the Bells" is currently my favorite.

(4) What Christmas song(s) drives you crazy? - Any of them that should be sung by a full choir, rather than as a solo. "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" just sounds terrible when sung by one person!

(5) What is your favorite Christmas drink? (i.e. egg nog, hot chocolate) - Used to be a toss-up between eggnog and hot buttered rum. Neither of those would be good for me these days. Might have to be Diet Coke for me this year...

(6) What is your favorite Christmas memory? - I don't really have any "favorite" memory. I remember that I spent Christmas night (plus a few more days) in the hospital when I was 15. I had cracked a couple of vertebrae about 10 days earlier from a tobogganing incident, but it wasn't until Christmas Eve when it literally paralyzed me. Other memories include the 2 1/2 week gig my band had up at a ski resort over Christmas/New Year's and Christmas 2007, when I sort of got my Christmas spirit back.

(7) What is the best toy/gift you've received on Christmas? - Would most definitely have to be the saddle that my grandfather (Santa) got me when I was probably 8 or 9. The horse riding didn't continue, but I'll remember that saddle forever. Hmmm...I guess that's another memory!

(8) What is the worst toy/gift you've received on Christmas? - I'm sure it's got to be the matching lederhosen that my sister and I received from our aunt. Why is it always the aunt...? (a picture exists...I'll post it if I can find it)

(9) What do you LOVE about the holidays? - The lights, the celebration, the last-minute stresses.

(10) What annoys you about the holidays? - The Scrooge-like feelings of so many. Not the "I'm-tired-of-the-mall" sort of Scrooge, but the "there's-nothing-good-about-Christmas" sort of Scrooge. There's an awful lot of it.

(11) Do you prefer star or angel on top of a Christmas tree? Or something else? - I prefer the star, but I use an angel that a student gave me years ago.

(12) What is your family favorite recipe at Christmas? - Povitica. It's a Eastern European bread. No one left in my family who knows how to make it anymore. :-(

(13) Are you a Grinch or a Who at Christmastime? - I think I'm best described as a Who in Grinch clothing...

(14) Christmas light displays - Love them or Hate them? - LOVE THEM!

(15) Santas at the mall - Fun times or Creepy? - I don't know if they're creepy or not, but they usually smell sorta funny...

(16) Christmas cards - do you send them, yes or no? - In my mind, yes I do. In actuality, I'm still sitting with my Christmas card list from 2006, wondering when I'll get them sent out.

(17) What is the best thing about Christmas, in your opinion? - The gathering of the clan.

(18) What is the worst thing about Christmas? - Worrying about trying to "one-up" others. And the thought that material gifts are the meaning of Christmas.

(19) When do you put the tree up and take it down? - When I have time? I try to have it up at least 2 weeks before and down before the new year.

(20) Out of the 12 days of Christmas, which day and item would you want your true love to give to you? - The 5 gold rings would be nice. Gold. Always the best currency!

(21) Why do you think that Grandma got run over by a reindeer? - She was overheard during dinner discussing reindeer jerky recipes.

(22) Who is your favorite reindeer? - Vixen, of course. Is there really any other answer??

(23) Do you believe in Santa Claus? - Absolutely!

(24) What is your favorite smell at Christmastime? - Toss-up between the turkey in the oven and the smell of a REAL Christmas tree.

(25) What would make you happy at Christmas this year? - A fully functioning pancreas. A cheap airline ticket to the east coast. Rachel making it home. Knowing that lots of people will come to party with me in Nashville. Peace on earth, goodwill towards men.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It beat me down...

I finally had to do it. I've dumped Haloscan. For as good as it was originally, it's deteriorated substantially since they were sold. It's currently far too social (why does everyone want to be like Facebook or Twitter??). Their last unexpected change put me over the top. I've spent about an hour scouring my template to figure out how to revert to Blogger's pop-up menu. The "new" Haloscan was good about deleting all of the Blogger comment code. I think I've done it though. Unfortunately, all prior comments are now lost to you. And maybe to me. I'm not sure. Hopefully you'll be happy with the new change!

Friday Fill-Ins: #155 and other stuff...

Nice job on the Christmas Tree HNT, people! While I'm not a big fan of naming "favorites", there were definitely some outstanding pictures this week! Now be sure to read the details for next week's theme. If you haven't already read them, or haven't figured it out--it's an opportunity to not worry about coming up with any sort of half-nekkidness during Christmas week. But still, it's not an easy theme!

Montana Grizzlies (14-0)
Villanova Wildcats (13-1)
2009 FCS National Championship
Chattanooga, TN
ESPN2 - 8:00PM

We even made ESPN's #1 Play of the Day last Saturday!

Only two more weeks to put in your votes for Trojan. If you've missed the story--she's a former HNTer who is in a national contest for a modeling contract. She's within the top 3-4 positions within her age group, out of thousands of contestants. This last push over the next two weeks could put her over the top! You'll have to register once, but can opt out of any mailings, and they don't do spam. You can only vote once a day (which is a change from earlier). Let's help out a fellow HNTer!

Haven't done this for a few weeks...hope I remember how! we go!

1. No, we will NOT lose the football game tonight!
2. I miss family dinners at the old kitchen table.
3. I watched the steam rising from the hot cup of coffee (or tea) and thought: if this steam could be harnessed, it could power millions of machines someday!
4. Jessica is going to be okay.
5. I'll take FCS Champions for $1000, Alex.
6. The Griz don't even need to bother playing this game, at least from my point of view.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a Griz victory, tomorrow my plans include maybe working on some Christmas cards and Sunday, I want to wave a magic wand and have the rest of my Christmas preparations done!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Tree HNT '09

It's not a big secret that I love the Christmas season. Not the commercial, start-before-Halloween season, but these last two weeks before Christmas. That time where, for me, I start wondering if I should bother attempting to send Christmas cards. Or if I should start my Christmas shopping.

I love driving around looking at the lights--where the competition between the neighbors is intense. I love seeing how differently others decorate their homes for the holidays. And their trees--whether fake, pink, flocked or straight off the mountain. I love watching how stressed some people get, and how I've never really gotten that way.

I got to thinking about that--why do I never get stressed? I think it's because I'm so incredibly stressed during the first part of the month that I see the second half as a relief! For most of my adult life, I've had to perform for most/all of December. When I was teaching, it was the school concerts. With the band, it was gigs for Christmas parties. With the symphony, it's usually been two different concerts, with up to 4 performances some years. I've never had the chance to stress as the day came near!

Another contributing factor would be my seemingly anti-social self. I can't remember the last time I was even invited to a Christmas party. And that doesn't bother me. My weekends are generally spoken for. I certainly don't have the inclination nor room to really host my own! So there's another level of stress that's absent in my life.

But for years I think I was missing out on the Christmas spirit. I went for well over ten years without bothering to put up a tree. I told myself I didn't have the time to do it, and if I was never home, who would see it? Until something wonderful happened in 2006. It was straight from the "Grinch". My heart grew three sizes that Christmas. Goofy smile and everything. And one week night, I got a wild hair and put up a tree! Found all my old ornaments and lights. And some I didn't know I had! And an idea was born...Christmas Tree HNT!

This is the fourth year of this theme. There's been some great interpretations of it. I suspect there will be similar variations this year. Hopefully most of you will have joined in (don't worry about it if you didn't!). By the way...only one week left before Christmas Eve!

"An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand-
Though earth holds many splendors,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly."

Excerpt from "My Country" - Dorothea Mackellar

This week's Mystery Guest is the eternally lovely Ell from "Wilful Damage". Be sure to stop by to see how she's cooling down this Christmas from down under!

You might find some Christmas gifts for you over at "...the Other HNT" this week. Go check and see! As always...NSFW
Please go read the theme for next week's HNT. The link is up there at the top of the sidebar! This particular theme seems to give people fits! It definitely takes a bit of thought and preparation! Email me if you have questions...

Go vote for Trojan!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So many bullets it's like a war zone!

Gosh, it's gotten dusty around here! I've hardly had any time to myself to do the important browsing/commenting/etc. I'll keep things to the facts (and in no particular order):
  • Nutcracker - Went well. Not a great production from the dancers--seemed a bit flat to me. The orchestra, on the other hand, played probably the best it's ever played Nutcracker.
  • Temps/wind - The weather gods must have looked at the calendar and saw that it was Messiah/Nutcracker time again. Cue the cold. Just like last year, the temps were -9°F, with the added bonus of -25°F windchill.
  • Snow - Plus snow. Fortunately it was so cold it stayed powdery.
  • Moose - Moose is in town for Christmas! Well until she leaves to go home for the actual holiday. But she opted for Helena instead of MN to come see me! You know...since I almost died and all... More to come later, I'm sure!
  • Blood - Had to go to the hospital to have blood drawn. I need to sell it--it appears that my blood is a rare commodity. The small amount they were able to gather a couple of weeks ago clotted before they could test it! Hopefully they can get to it earlier this time!
  • Classmate - I'm not one who has gone looking for any of my high school classmates on Facebook. But through a series of events, I've gotten reconnected with a girl whom I haven't seen or heard from since the day we graduated! We didn't run in the same circles, she was hot and out of my league, and the only thing that "connected" us was the fact that we were born on the same day. And that connection was really rather strong. Strong enough to be friends in high school, anyway. She's now living in Portland. I now have another reason to get there sometime soon!
  • Tux - Due to my slow but continuing weight loss, my tux fits better than it has in years!
  • Theme - Don't forget tonight's Christmas Tree HNT theme! And really, really think about next week's theme. Trust me when I say that if you do it right, it's a difficult one to follow! Click on the links up there at the top of my sidebar for details...

  • Go vote for Trojan. The glitch from last week has resulted in a different way of voting. One has to register, but there doesn't appear to be any spam coming from them. And once you've registered, you can still vote once/day. She's still in the top part of her age group, so keep voting!

  • Camera - I sent my better camera to Bozeman with N2 because there's not a camera repair shop in this backwater town. She called me last week to tell me that I have to send it to Sony for repair. All it needs is the shutter button fixed. I'm not going to pay postage or excessive labor costs to get that done. I've found an online "how-to" page to fix it myself, but I'm missing a minute little piece. That I can only get from Sony. I might get back to taking my pics with my 35mm...
  • GRIZ! - Ooh! The biggest news of all! The Griz play for the NCAA football championship against Villanova on Friday night! They are 14-0 on the season, and are making their second consecutive appearance in the championship game. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Don't bother trying to get ahold of me that night!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Helping to bring a little Christmas cheer...

No time to do an in-depth post, so here's a few things to help bring a smile to your face:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Love Tchaikovsky HNT

Nutcracker rehearsals started Tuesday night. I had forgotten how much I really like the music. And not just the dances that everyone recognizes from the Nutcracker Suite. The music of the first half of the ballet (most of which is NOT dancing!) is, to me, by far the most exciting. There's war between mice and soldiers, there's the Christmas tree magically growing bigger, there's the snow falling... all with incredible music. Tchaikovsky certainly knew what he was doing!

However, the bread and butter of Nutcracker are primarily the dances of the second act. My favorites are the "Russian Dance" (amazing, if you get a really athletic dancer), and the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" (seen here). The picture is from a couple of years ago, when I sprained my finger (hence, the fine masking tape splint thingy). That's the strings' part that my fingers are on, with the harp part up above. Without question, the Sugar Plum Fairy is my favorite character in the ballet. :-)
Unfortunately, if you're reading this, it means that there was a glitch with the Mystery Guest. It does bring up the opportunity, however, to mention that you don't need to wait for me to ask you to be the MG. If you're interested, just let me know! We'll talk...
As noted in the past, it almost seems like the OHNTers get together and come up with a theme. This week's would be 'boobies'. Go check them out. You'll like them. Leave some comment love, too! NSFW, as usual.
Don't forget the THEME ALERTS for December! The start off next week with the Christmas Tree HNT. Click on the link at the top of my sidebar for all the details. Don't be afraid to ask questions if you're unsure of what to do. Especially for the second theme. Always seems to be confusion with that one...

Pimping that needs to be done:
  • Many of you have been to Amorous Rocker's site. And know all about her toy reviews (which are great!). Well, for Christmas, she's doing something different and is needing your help. She's still working with toys, but these are the ones that will go to Toys For Tots. You can check her initial post about this at the top of her site. She's got some updates, too, and promises some half-nekkidness! She's already started buying toys with donations that have come in, and will be going out shopping again this weekend. For as tough as the economy is for many of us, imagine it for the kids. Stop by, donate some money (doesn't have to be a fortune!), and ogle her HNT(s). It'll warm your cockles...

  • A reminder about the photographer looking for models in the NYC and DC areas. You can read the details on Moll's site, as well as see the first of the pictures he's taken of her. She's also going to be using them for her HNTs for the next few weeks. Any of you who might be interested/available should check him out!

  • Go vote for Trojan. The glitch from last week has resulted in a different way of voting. One has to register, but there doesn't appear to be any spam coming from them. And once you've registered, you can still vote once/day. She's still in the top part of her age group, so keep voting!

This is set to auto-post, so I hope it does! I'm sure I'll hear about it from someone if it doesn't! Which seems like a silly thing to actually write, since if you're reading this, it obviously posted... I won't be around a great deal due to everything associated with Nutcracker, but I promise to get to everyone as soon as I can! Have a great weekeend

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Redux - Favorite/Least Liked Christmas Songs

Due to lack of time for anything original, I give you a repeat of a post from 2006. I didn't even have to change either of the lists! If you want mp3s of any of these, I'll be more than happy to send them! I'll start with my least liked, and then my favorites:
    Least Favorite Christmas Songs:

  • 10.- Any Christmas song recorded by Michael Bolton - Well, that should probably read any song recorded by Michael Bolton.
  • 9. - Any Christmas song recorded by Mariah or Britney or BoyzIIMen or 'N Sync or Hillary or Christina, ad nauseum.... - Actually, Christina's Christmas album wasn't too bad.
  • 8. - "This Christmas" by anyone... - This song really wants to be this generation's "signature" Christmas song. Somebody needs to tell singers that it's not going to be this Christmas, next Christmas, or any Christmas in the foreseeable future.
  • 7. - Any Christmas song recorded in a "country" style - This does not necessarily mean I don't like Christmas songs recorded by country artists. But the country-fying of most songs just drives me up a wall.
  • 6. - "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney - Yeah, he was the "cute" Beatle. Yeah, he's written some of the best, most recognizable music of the 20th century. Yeah, everyone has an "off" day some days. Why can't we recognize that and just attribute this song to that, and scrub it? The world's greatest composers were smart enough to recognize a stinker and would toss their poor efforts into the fire.
  • 5. - "Merry Christmas, Darling" by the Carpenters - Don't get me wrong. I loved the Carpenters. The very first concert I ever went to was the Carpenters. In the midst of my hormone-ravaged junior high years. But this one is SO overplayed... And it's one of "those" songs that's rarely recorded by others, simply because it was so well done the first time. But once an hour???
  • 4. - "Last Christmas" by Wham! - The first words of this song are the ONLY references to Christmas in this song. It's about a failed relationship. Why does everyone want to record it??
  • 3. - "Because It's Christmas" by Barry Manilow - Because it's Christmas, I'll be gentle... What an overproduced piece of crap! I don't know exactly when this was recorded, but it sounds like an afterthought from the recording session for "I Write The Song". And some of the sheet music from that was left on the musicians music stands. They're like fraternal twins. So much alike, but different. Despite the fact that I consider Barry Manilow an overattacked, but brilliant musician/entertainer, this should never have been released.
  • 2. - "White Christmas" by anyone other than Bing Crosby - There are certain songs that should never, ever be recorded ever again, because the first one was perfect. This is one of them.
  • 1. - "Any Christmas song recorded by Celine Dion - Nothing more needs be said...

    10 Favorite Christmas Songs: (but I'm doing 20--it's my list...)

  • 20.- "Silver Bells" - The Bob Hope version. From the movie "The Lemon Drop Kid". As usual, the original version is the best, and that's no different here.
  • 19.- "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" - Whoever came up with the pairing of David Bowie (in his prime) and Bing Crosby (just being der Bingle) has a special place in Heaven waiting for him. Yes, it's overplayed, but when the video hit the screens, you could hear a pin drop, regardless of where you were watching it. I miss Bing...
  • 18.- "Shimmy Down the Chimney" - This was recorded for a country Christmas compilation album a couple of years ago by Alison Krauss. It's a rare instance of her performing a style other than her brand of bluegrass (though she's sung background vocals on a number of rock-type albums). This song is a feel-good, pop-style, horn-infused, waitin'-for-Santa/love song. If you like Alison, you'll love this. If you don't, you still need to find it and listen to it!
  • 17.- "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" - The Russ Freeman (the "Rippingtons") version. I generally don't like this song, but it's harmonic structure lends itself to some great arrangements. This was one of my songs highlighted earlier when Castpost still worked OK. Check it out below from one of my earlier posts.
  • 16.- "And the glory of the Lord" - This is one of the movements from Handel's Messiah. A much better song than the "Hallelujah" chorus. I've never heard a bad recording of this song, even among the bad recordings of Messiah.
  • 15.- "Winter Wonderland" - Finally! A song that can be successfully recorded by just about anyone and still sound pretty good! And it has been... My personal favorite versions are one by Deana Carter and another one recorded by the Hollywood Trombones (see more descriptions of their albums in a future list). There's not many ways to screw this one up!
  • 14.- "Silent Night" - I really like the Mannheim Steamroller version of this, though the entire concept has been overplayed (same with Trans-Siberian Orchestra). Again, this song is ripe with different versions just waiting to be written.
  • 13.- "It Happened In Sun Valley" - From the movie "Sun Valley Serenade" starring Sonja Henie, John Payne, Milton Berle and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Not really a Christmas song, but deal with it. The version I REALLY like is by those South Park kids Stan and Wendy on "Mr. Hanky's Christmas Classics". Truly, it's very good. Except for the pukey parts...
  • 12.- "The Christmas Song" - This one's sort of on the fence, because everyone thinks they can record it. You really have to know what you're doing though... My favorite versions--Mel Tormé (the composer) does it in a way that's indescribable and in his signature style. Nat King Cole recorded the "definitive" version of it (many times, actually), though it's WAY overplayed. Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy did a nice version. Christina Aguilera's version is the only one besides Cole's that made it to the Top 40 charts.
  • 11.- "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" - This song lends itself well to a large group style of performance. Which is why it just doesn't sound good when Sinatra records it. Or any other solo artist. When done with full choir and orchestra, it's rarely less than glorious. From a musician's standpoint, this is a great piece to play, too!
  • 10.- "O Holy Night" - To do this song correctly, you REALLY need to be good! Better done by large groups, but there's some good solo performances of it. And some incredibly BAD ones. Spectacularly demonstrated by Cartman on "Mr. Hanky's Christmas Classics". It's a favorite of mine because I specifically remember when I heard it for the first time. December, 1962 (shaddup) at Central School's (which looks EXACTLY like the one in "A Christmas Story") Christmas Concert, held in the 7th Avenue Gym (across the playground). I was a first grader, and I heard the 6th graders sing this song. I had never heard it before. I was blown away. For as much as a 5 year old boy can be blown away. I have always loved this song since that day!
  • 9. - "Jing-a-ling" - I have a recording of this song, but it's some thrown-together studio group. But the song kicks ass! It's done in a style alá the Andrews Sisters. Jazzy, up-tempo, and fun! I'd love to hear the original!
  • 8. - "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Not the Mariah Carey waste of breath. This is the one hit recorded by Vince Vance and the Valiants. It is sung by a female lead in a late 50s triplet ballad style, with passion just oozing from the speakers. And a rough, raw tenor sax solo (like any good 50s song) in the middle. Again, one of those songs that was done so perfectly the first time that it's rarely covered by anyone else.
  • 7. - "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - I LOVE this song! Technically not a Christmas song, but usually associated with the season. The entire contrapuntal dialog between the woman and the man is a conversation that everyone of us has uttered at sometime in our lives. Trying to get the lady to spend the night! Her with the reasons why she can't. Him with the reasons why she should. And all the subtle (or not-so-subtle) undertones of other types of conversations! There's been alterations to the lyrics over the years, and pairings between some truly interesting duets! It appeared in the movie "Elf", sung by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone. The current version of Natalie Cole and James Taylor is pretty damned good.
  • 6. - "Sleigh Ride" - One that anyone can do. Personally, I consider the original orchestral piece written by Leroy Anderson as the best (written for the Boston Pops--they seem to play it the best, even to this day!). Of course, there's the Motown version by the Ronettes, which is a classic in its own right. And one that's performed by bass guitar virtuoso Stu Hamm with some tasty B-3 in the background. Most recently, SHeDAISY recorded an altered version of it (find it down below somewhere as one of my Castpost offerings) that I like best.
  • 5. - "Let It Snow" - Lots of versions, but the one I like the best is one by Gloria Estefan. Not much of the Miami Sound Machine, but it's a great treatment of the song!
  • 4. - "I Believe In Father Christmas" - Recorded years ago by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, it's beginning to find it's niche in the Christmas season. Being a child of the 70s, and the prog-rock movement of the day, ELP were gods to me, so I automatically liked this song. It's actually been recorded by other bands recently, lending credence to the idea that this is a pretty good song.
  • 3. - "Carol of the Bells" - Another standard Christmas song that mesmerized me in my youth. Another one that lends itself well to variety. It's the cross rhythms of the 2 against 3, in case you're really wondering. My current favorite versions--Mr. Mackey's version on "Mr. Hanky's Christmas Classics" (how can such a vile album be so good??), and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's version as the basis for "Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24".
  • 2. - "White Christmas" - Only sung by Bing Crosby. Originally sung by Bing in the movie "Holiday Inn" (1942), it was again heard as the title song in 1954's "White Christmas". No one should ever attempt to record this song again. It can't be done any better.
  • 1. - "Jingle Bells" - And it's not even Christmas specific! But it's my #1. So many great versions that I'm going to do a separate list of the top ten best recordings of it!
There you go--hope you found it as interesting as I tell myself it is!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

One down, two to go...

Things have been seasonally hectic here. It's Messiah/Nutcracker time, which means that about one half of my December is shot to hell. We had Messiah rehearsals every day since Thursday, plus the performance Sunday night. To make it extra special, I had to move equipment from the rehearsal church to the Cathedral (pictured here) in single-digit temps (and sub-zero wind chills), and then load out of the church in sub-zero temps (and even worse wind chills). Then unload half the equipment truck on Monday. The good part is that the sun was out, so the -10° didn't feel too bad. As I'm typing this at some time past midnight, it's -17°, and should hit -30° by 5AM. For those of you who can't fathom that, it's really not too bad, as long as the sun is out. Which it's not at 5AM.

The good news is that I don't have to worry about equipment until Thursday, when the temps are expected to be in the mid-teens. Again, for those who have never experienced it--that's going to feel like springtime! Anywho...rehearsals start Tuesday night and will run through Saturday, with performances Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Means I'll have to miss perusing HNTs on Wednesday night, but I'll certainly have things auto-posted! Any other posts this week will be hit or miss. I might do a re-run or two. If you don't see me around much this week, it's not because I don't want to be around! Just think of me cracking my nuts all week...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Opening Lines

I stole this from Leesa's site in 2005, and have continued each year.

What was the first line from your blog the first day of each month in 2009?

January - "Wow. It's been a few days, hasn't it?" (I posted this on Jan. 4th. Apparently not much blogging over New Years!)

February - "I've got nothing of interest to blog about. Thank God for TMI!" (I sense a theme here...)

March - "I always imagined that Willie Wonka must have had some sort of machine that could spray chocolate." (Sort of a disgusting post regarding something I must have eaten for dinner.)

April - "I braved the snow and the cold yesterday and went to WalMart (eeeek!)." (I went to buy the latest Diana Krall CD. Even posted a picture of the ever-lovely lady!)

May - "It was one of those days." (A rambling post about my procrastinating ways, and blowing a tire that had worn down to the inner threads.)

June - "1. What was the last movie you saw on a date?" (The first question of TMI for the week.)

July - "Happy Canada Day!! Be safe and don't drink too much beer!" (Somewhat self-explanatory.)

August - "Accomplished absolutely nothing this weekend, other than laundry." (Yep, there's that theme again...)

September - "I've been thinking about this for a long time, but now I'm hooked." (Mentioning that Enzyte was giving away "Smilin' Bob" t-shirts.)

October - "OK, the "other stuff" will have to wait for a bit." (Title of the post was 'Friday Fill-Ins and Other Stuff. Another self-explanatory one.)

November - "If you're not interested in my diabetes story, skip this post..." (Again, self-explanatory. BTW--I'm feeling pretty good these days!)

December - "Bad news..."A Charlie Brown Christmas" is being pre-empted tonight by Obama's address." (The good news--it's rescheduled for this coming Tuesday night! Check your local listings!)
Feel free to steal this and do it yourselves!

Friday, December 04, 2009


I've never liked the attention that Tiger Woods has garnered over the years. Make no doubt about it, I appreciate his skill as a golfer. But the sports media has tripped all over themselves over the years covering every tournament he plays in. Even when he's not in contention (hey, it happens!), he's the center of attention. As far as the media is concerned, the rest of the field needn't bother showing up. TV cameras will always be following him. (sort of like how I'm forced to watch every game that Brett Favre has played this season, even though MT isn't even close to being in "the market"...but that's a rant for a different day).

I don't care about what Tiger did/didn't do, or what his wife was doing with a golf club, or that he doesn't do the fast escape thing too well. But the jokes have been making the email circuit, and since Friday Fill-Ins seems to have taken the week off, this is what you get:
  • The police asked Tiger's wife how many times she hit him. "I don't know exactly...put me down for a 5."
  • Phil Mickelson contacted Tiger's wife to pick up tips on how to beat Tiger.
  • What's the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.
  • Tiger Woods wasn't seriously injured in the crash, but he's still below par.
  • What were Tiger Woods and his wife doing out at 2:30 in the morning? They went clubbing.
  • Tiger Woods crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. He couldn't decide between a wood and an iron.
  • Ping just offered Elin an endorsement contract for her own set of drivers; to be named Elin Woods..."clubs you can beat Tiger with."
  • Tiger just changed his nickname but still kept it in the cat family--his new name?: Cheetah
  • Tiger was driving an Escalade, can he blame the accident on his caddy?
  • Hello Mister Woods this is the On Star operator we have detected that an angry person has put a golf club through your window, we are contacting Nike for a new club.
  • Who among us doesn't hear a car crash and immediately grab the closest golf club we can find??!!
  • Tiger's new movie: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Hydrant.
  • Tiger Woods owns lots of expensive cars. Now he has a hole in one.
  • Poor choice; he should have gone with the driver.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Jam-packed HNT

As mentioned earlier, my next two weeks are going to be packed with symphony, symphony, and more symphony. Nightly rehearsals or performances every day from Thursday through to next Sunday. Throw in a couple of morning rehearsals on the Saturdays, equipment transfers and stage set-ups, and my time online is going to be limited. In spite of my whining about it, I love this time of year and the pressure of getting things done. And though I won't be online much, I will be able to work on some posts, particularly this week.

While I'm not really phased by this concentration of work, it brings to light a new problem. For decades, I've told students, co-workers and musicians that if something isn't written down and handed to me, I'm not responsible for remembering it. Even if I look you in the eye and nod my head--all bets are off unless it's written. The main person who doesn't follow this, unfortunately, is me. I'm generally pretty good about remembering times and dates, but this year, some things have slipped me by. Obviously, the week before I ended up in the hospital, my mind sort of checked out, and it hasn't quite come back at full strength. I don't want to miss anything, so I broke down and used the calendar application on my new phone. This really is pretty cool! It synchs automatically with my Google calendar on my regular computer (as well as every other Google application), so I don't have to worry about transferring information or anything. Sure it's probably similar to what the rest of you have, but for someone who's never used it, I'm hooked! I wanted to get a good picture of what my month ahead looks like, but it seems that my camera was focused on other things...

Boob Poem
The men I meet are fond of boobs
But I can’t help my jeers,
“What you’re looking at aren’t eyes
And boobs do not have ears!”

--Ima Wurdibitsch

This week's Mystery Guest is showing off her new girls for the first time. Some of you know her; many of you won't. Don't dispair--she'll be revealed Thursday afternoon!
Doing the reveal a little earlier than usual, due to the fact I get to move equipment in this nasty cold weather. Grr... This week's MG doesn't have a site that she maintains anymore, but you may remember her as Shizzle. She currently holds the record for MG appearances with seven!

We always seem to get fewer numbers for "..the Other HNT" around this time of year. Busy schedules, holiday plans, lack of time or privacy... So be sure to check out those fellow HNTers who were able work around those obstacles! Leave some comment lovin', too! NSFW, as usual.
Don't forget the THEME ALERTS for December! Click on the links at the top of my sidebar for all the details. Don't be afraid to ask questions if you're unsure of what to do. Especially for the second theme. Always seems to be confusion with that one...
A reminder about the photographer looking for models in the NYC and DC areas. You can read the details on Moll's site, as well as see the first of the pictures he's taken of her. She's also going to be using them for her HNTs for the next few weeks. Any of you who might be interested/available should check him out!
Go vote for Trojan.
From what I understand, she's still stuck in the 30s as far as her overall standing, but is sitting about 3rd or 4th in her age group!! Only one more month to get her numbers up, so be sure to stop by and vote... Daily!!
NOTE: Seems like the site is having a glitch and isn't letting anyone vote. Go back often to see if it gets fixed!