Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Highs and Lows of 2011 - The Highs

I actually found 2011 to be a pretty good year. When making these lists, I found more "Highs" than "Lows", and that's a good thing! Nothing surprising or earth-shattering though. 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 2011"
(from less high to highest of the high)

10. Beavis & Butt-head - I know. It's sort of lame for a guy my age to be excited about their return. But with the amount of crap that passes for "entertainment" on TV these days, it's nice to be totally carefree for thirty minutes and openly laugh at their moronic adventures. As I noted when I excitedly posted about this--the kids of today probably aren't watching it as much as their parents are!

9. Do It Yourself! - After too many years of putting up with a damaged screen on my PowerBook, I took it upon myself to replace it. On my own. With no prior experience in doing such a thing! Armed with online videos and printouts from some Mac repair sites, I dove in. I had the luxury of knowing that this wasn't my primary computer, so I had a little less pressure than normal. In spite of having a replacement screen that wasn't exactly what it should have been, I only ended up with six screws and a spring that didn't make it back in...

8. 1,000,000 - It took six years, four months before my Sitemeter in the sidebar said I hit one million visitors. I find that remarkable. The lucky person? Someone from Germany. Too bad I couldn't figure out who it was. There was a cash prize and everything!

7. OsShirt revival - Interestingly, this ranked #7 last year, too! The OsShirt is, in fact, alive and well, and currently floating around South Africa! This after spending the first half of the year in England. It was hung up in customs in Cape Town for awhile--not sure what the hold-up was there. Soon it should make its way to it's next island destination... I'll try to get the OsShirt site back up to speed soon, too!

6. Opera, Nutcracker and Summer - I've been doing more of the production coordination of our performances this year than in the past. Pretty much all the same stuff I've always done, but now with the understanding that I am the one in charge. Simply clarified where the buck stopped. And where the buck started. Of course, that's a bit more pressure on me--the opera was a particular challenge, the summer concert found me smoothing out many rough spots, and the Nutcracker had me having to call time-outs for both of the leaders of the organizations involved. It's a lot of work and pressure, but ultimately, well worth it!

5. Big Soul Band - We didn't have a huge number of gigs, but the ones we did have were fantastic! Great music, great musicians, and a whole lot of fun! I have to write all the horn charts, and love every minute of it. It's a nice diversion from the classical stuff too. Our goal for 2012 is to book at least two of the bigger parties/functions in town. People love us and need to hear more of us!

4. Return of the Griz - Last year was not a banner year for the University of Montana Grizzlies football team. They finished with a 7-4 record, which many schools would consider highly successful. They didn't win a share of the Big Sky Conference title. They didn't make the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. And worse of all--they lost to the Bobcats of MSU. Gucci's team. I lost our Griz/Cat bet. This year, however, was much better! They won the conference, they were seeded #4 in the playoffs, their coach was named Coach of the Year, they beat the Cats and Gucci lost the bet this year. That might have been the best part of all!

3. OsTour '11 - OsTour '11 was pretty low-key, compared to previous ones, and that was fine to me! This was pretty much a one-person trip, rather than partying with a lot of people. I spent 3 days with Redneck Eskimo, which was a wonderful time. Someone I've known quite well since the very early days, but never had the chance to meet until this summer. I was also able to sneak in some layover time with Crystal, from Boobs, Injuries & Dr. Pepper, and with Lola! (and Jasper) from Sex Babble. These were first time meetings too. Oh, yeah, there was also the 90 seconds on the tram talking with Sen. Al Franken! Looking forward to seeing where OsTour '12 takes me!

2. Y'all Come Back Again, Y'hear? - In a twist on the norm, I had three bloggers come to me this year! Well, one of them is norm, and the other one I had to travel a little. First it was No One Special that came to town. The girl lives far too close to only see on rare occasion. Then her Gucciness came to town (well, Missoula--I had to travel) and we spent the night drinking, eating, gossiping, pinky-pacting, pool-playing, and telling each other some of the most interesting things... My last visitor, of course, was Moose, who was here just before Christmas. It's kind of nice when people come to see me instead of the other way around! :-)

1. HNT - Half-Nekkid Thursdays. What a ride. I have made so many friends from this I can't believe it. It's hard to imagine what life would be like these days without the contact I've had with so many of you. Contact that I wouldn't have if it weren't for your participation. So many things in my head to say, but it would all be babbling. Thank you for coming into my life, in whatever way you have. I hope that you'll still be stopping by on a regular basis in 2012. I might not have anything quite as exciting as HNT to offer to you, but I'll try to come up with something!
There you have it. My "Highs" for 2011. Noticing that I sort of rock the same look in those last five pictures...

Many of you are probably already at parties as I'm posting this. I'm staying home and watching "The Walking Dead" all night. I hope that everyone is having a safe but fun NYE! Looking forward to a great 2012!!

The Highs and Lows of 2011 - The Lows

Once again, it's time for my annual recap of the year. In the greater scheme of things, this year really wasn't too bad. This is my fifth year of doing this, and as I've found in the past, it's hard to come up with ten real "lows". And once again, one or two on this list will make the "highs" list! Of course, there were some terrible things that happened in the world, but these are things that affected me somewhat directly. They don't necessarily mean they were bad things, or that life as I knew it changed. Mostly just things that brought me down or perturbed me during the year. 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 2011"
(from least low to lowest of the low)
10. Curiosity Killed the Cat - Something caught my eye on someone's Twitter timeline in their sidebar, so I checked it out (this in no way implies that I approve of, or will be setting up my own Twitter account. it is still the spawn of Satan.). The short story--I found the tweets of someone I know. Along with nekkid pics of his wife (not an attractive woman to begin with), pics of him with strippers, and discussion about waiting at a bar for his wife for a threesome--he didn't care if she brought a man or a woman. Basically, a bunch of stuff that I might enjoy reading from one of you freaks, but not someone I've actually worked with (the wife) or played music with (husband). Fortunately, I've not run into this guy or the wife since reading, and have no idea what my first reaction will be when I do...

9. Montana Legislature - These guys were as embarrassing to the state as anything that's happened here in decades. Tea Party members and radical right-wingers felt they had free reign, and proposed some of the most ridiculous legislation around. They also attempted to overturn the medical marijuana laws that the voters approved by initiative. While they didn't totally succeed with that, they managed to screw things up, as well as clog the courts with a variety of related lawsuits. Other notable bills introduced: legalize hunting with hand-thrown spear; create fully-armed militia in every town; create an 11-person panel with authority to nullify all federal laws; allow guns in schools; legalize hunting with silencers; lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches and banks; and declare that global warming is good. There were many others. So much more to tell, so little time/space to tell it.

8. Tsunami Watch - This is one world event that did grab me for days. Killing terrorists and despots is one thing, but to watch what Mother Nature can do on a whim was truly jaw-dropping. From the very beginnings of watching the initial wave coming on shore from helicopters, to watching the water rise, to watching it continue to rise, to watching the nuclear power plant explosions--I was glued to the TV. Of course there was the anticipation of the tsunami hitting Hawaii, and then the west coast. Not as dramatic as expected from the movies, but still quite damaging.

7. Death of a Droid - My poor phone, a Droid, went through hell in the two years that I had it. I was able to deal with the shattered screen for most of that time. But eventually, it got to the point where the touch screen didn't work, didn't allow me to read what was there, and I had to go redneck on it and duct tape the protective cover to it so the glass shards didn't start dripping off. As luck would have it, I was able to baby it along until the iPhone 4S was released. As much as I loved my Droid (and I really did), the iPhone makes me a much happier camper! And the next day, Steve Jobs died...

6. Boobie-Thon Calls It Quits - After 10 years of raising money, primarily for the Susan B. Komen Foundation, Boobie-Thon has gone into retirement. And it appears to be for much of the same reason that HNT has retired--blogging is on the decline. I noticed this year as they started their week-long appeal that there just weren't as many picture submissions, and the money wasn't being pledged too quickly. They didn't raise as much this year as in previous years, though they certainly didn't do badly. After ten years of bringing bloggers together to raise money each October, the organizers can be proud of the work that they did.

5. Life Without Dad and Ray - Last year, we were still reeling from the deaths of my father and brother-in-law to really realize what Thanksgiving and Christmas were like. A year later, and we've gone through all the holidays that the family gets together without them. We're all getting through things pretty well. It's still sad, but we don't let it bring us down. Good thing we're a tight-knit group!

4. Summer Concert - This will make the "highs" list as well, but this year was the most difficult from a production standpoint. In spite of years of doing this, and things being somewhat routine, that only happens when the project manager is on top of things. This year's wasn't. She was pretty good about the meetings with sponsors, raising money, and working up contracts. But things on the local end were left to the last minute. Contacts and agreements and scheduling of all sorts of things (like port-a-potties, or piano moves) that should have been done 3 months in advance were scrambled for in the last week and a half. She made all sorts of assumptions, without understanding that outside entities need lead time. Of course, all that ended up on my shoulders at the last minute. We got through it all, and the concert itself was pretty good, but what a hassle (worse than normal hassle, I suppose)! She won't be back in this position next season...

3. Alien Butt Probe - Shortly after my birthday, I treated myself to a flexible sigmoidoscopy. Not quite a colonoscopy, but just as exciting. And done without being put under. I was also blessed with a hot 20-something nurse to assist, rather then the male nurse. In spite of a clean bill of health, and no signs of anything wrong, I didn't get flowers or chocolate. I still feel used...

2. HNT's Retirement - This is a downer, in that it's been six and a half years of effort. Like retirement of any kind, I have no idea what's next. Nor do I really care. I would hope that everyone respects the retirement by not calling whatever it is they do in the future as "HNT". There's at least three individuals who have given some sort of indication that they want to try to keep it going (interestingly, none of whom I would say actually "got" HNT). Unfortunately, I fear that the intent and concept of whatever happens next, won't be Half-Nekkid Thursday. HNT was never about sex or nudity, and though that's never been frowned upon, it isn't what HNT was all about. I think that's been lost. It would be a big disservice to the hundreds upon hundreds who participated to have it confused with what surfaces next.

1. Stealth's Death - For the first time, a blogger whom I actually met, spent quality time with, and developed a friendship with, died. She was someone that many bloggers knew, chatted with, or had some other sort of relationship. Sadly, it was almost a month to the day before I found out, and only because of a chance glimpse of her Facebook page. Her family knew nothing about us, so there was no need to find anyone to tell. Her body simply failed her--she didn't take her own life as many of us might have feared. What's truly sad about this is that her fiancé, the man who found her laying face down at the foot of their bed on that morning, died about two and a half months later. Sadly, in this instance, I think he took his life, though I'm not positive. All in all, a sad, sad day when I found out.
So, that's the downer list for 2011. Some not so bad, some really bad. But as I said at the top, the year really wasn't monumentally bad. Fortunately, there were lots of good things that happened too! You can check those out in the "Highs" post above this one. Go. Now!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Opening Lines 2011

I stole this from Leesa's site in 2005, and have continued each year. Except last year, when my dad's death sort of knocked me out of the "norm".

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

January -"Ooh, look! A blog!" (I posted this about 6 days into January. Don't recall why so late...)

February - "In spite of his brethren's observations in other parts of the country, this furry prognosticator saw his shadow today, thus guaranteeing 6 more weeks of winter weather." (My HNT post on Groundhog's Day--a shadow in the snow.)

March - "Definitely going to have to experiment some more..." (My HNT post through the water glass--the beginning of a series of pics through various glasses)

April - "It's Master's Week here in America." (Nothing excites me in the spring quite as much as this golf tournament--truly the best sign of longer days and warmer weather!)

May - "It's Sunday night." (Ummm...OK)

June - "I hope that all of you in areas that have experienced the wierd, wacky weather today are OK" (There's been so much weird, wacky weather this year, I'm not sure which one I'm referring to. And thank you all for not pointing out the misspelled word from the original post...)

July - "Gotta love a mid-summer four day weekend" (My annual 4th of July/Canada Day post, complete with videos of people shooting bottle rockets out of their ass!)

August - "Went to see "Cowboys & Aliens" on Sunday afternoon." (Don't normally go to movies, nor do I write about them when I do, but I really liked this movie! Olivia Wilde--mmmm....)

September - "This week's HNT is primarily for the benefit of my beer drinking girls who have deserted me over the years." (The beer from their favorite brewery is now available in cans--had to make them jealous, since they can't get it locally yet!)

October - "We celebrated Mom's birthday (yesterday) by taking her out for Thai food." (Still don't know if it was "good" Thai--nothing to compare with out here in the sticks...)

November - "It's twelve hours into November in my neck of the woods, and it's already obvious it ain't October!" (For as nice as October was, weather-wise, it didn't take long to get cold!)

December - "Oh, it's all bunching up on me all of a sudden!" (Symphony...what else?)
For better or worse, there ya go! Feel free to steal it, if you're so inclined!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Get A Gold Watch, Right? HNT

Wouldn't you know it? I've been anticipating this day for months, and now that it's here, I'm totally unprepared about how to send this thing off into the sunset... Granted, I've spent most every window of opportunity recently working on a final HNT project. You can find it here. Check it out--I think you'll like it.

But still, I could have been running things through my mind over the last few weeks as to what my final HNT words would be. It's currently early afternoon on Wednesday, and I still don't have a clue as to what my picture's going to be!

I could re-hash the history and concept, but you can find those in my archives, or check the "HNT GUIDELINES" button at the top of this page. I could write about all the things that are wrong with HNT, but I'm going to save that for a future post. I'm sure to offend certain people with that one!

I could do a post where I list all my favorite HNTs of the past six and a half years, but I've never envisioned HNT as a competition. There are many who made it a competition in their own mind, trying to outdo someone else's shots, then get frustrated when they couldn't. Sort of defeated the concept, I thought. Do I have favorites? Of course I do. There is one in particular that I've felt was far superior to any others. Beyond that, though, there's no list. I treated myself to listing 20 of them for my 5th anniversary post (actually turned out to be 22). But I won't do that now. Nor will I simply list my own HNTs that were my favorites. You can see all of mine here. Well, all except the last 10, maybe--I've been slacking...

I suppose that the best thing that has come out of all of this is the community. And that's different than 'friendship'. From the very earliest days, that community has been evident. Everyone was welcome to join. No dues, no site to join, no personal info to share. As with any community, there's various neighborhoods, and that has shown up here, as well. Without the gang warfare. Someone once said they felt it was more like a zoo. Where we were on display, and 'outsiders' could come and see us. Some would look and point, others would come back over and over, yet never become one of the displays. An interesting viewpoint. Regardless, the community has thrived. It's policed itself pretty well over the years, and we should all be happy we were a part of it.

And since this post is far longer than necessary, let me make it longer. An example of the community. Follow the timeline (approx. times--not terribly important), and the players:
  • May,2005 - HNT started by me. By end of summer, also joining in were Bloggers A, B, C D, E & J.
  • Late Summer, 2005 - Blogger B lets Blogger A and me know about Blogger F, who was having some very rough times with her life. Blogger F becomes part of the community. I do think we might have saved her life. Blogger F's boyfriend is Blogger G, a soldier.
  • Oct., 2005 - I pop in unannounced on Blogger A.
  • Nov., 2005 - Blogger B visits Bloggers H and A (H was A's daughter)
  • Dec., 2005 - I go to Nashville and meet Blogger C (and others).
  • Winter, 2007 - Bloggers F & G get married (and have a couple of kids)
  • 2007-2009 - Blogger C joins military. Bloggers F & G visit Blogger E. I meet Blogger D. Blogger C gets stationed in Germany at US Hospital.
  • 2010 - I meet up with Blogger D again. Bloggers F & G visit Blogger E some more. Blogger G gets deployed to Afghanistan.
  • Spring, 2011 - Blogger G suffers serious injuries in Afghanistan on Blogger F's bday. Blogger D reads this and contacts Blogger C in Germany, knowing she might run into Blogger G while he was evacuated there. She did, and she quickly becomes friends with Blogger F in the brief time G's there. The amazing part is that neither Blogger C nor F had a clue that the other used to HNT! Summer of 2011 - Blogger J spends a week with Bloggers F & G, to give them a hand in the midst of a chaotic time. Blogger J had never met Bloggers F & G before, other than online.
As you can see--it's quite complex the way this community works! And I would imagine that there's some other stories out there similar to this one.

As for friendships...geez, where do I start? I won't list names. The list would be too long, and inevitably I'd forget to include someone. The people I consider close friends should know who they are already. I've made many friends here that I would someday like to meet. I've made many friendships that I anticipate will last a long time. I know they will, because they've already lasted a long time after they walked away from HNT. This community knows far more about me than anyone offline does (including the family). I'll miss that to a degree, but then again, the friendships will continue on. OsTours will continue, and be blogged about. There might even be some half-nekkidness!

And you people have made similar friendships apparently! I am often amazed while surfing through the statuses on Facebook. Facebook is infinitely more "real" than blogging was ever was. Sort of tears down the precarious walls of online anonymity. But what often catches my eye is recognizing someone unexpected who comments on another's wall. It dawns on me then that these two people originally met through HNT. Even though neither of them has participated in years. It's seeing that sort of thing that I take the most...what, pride? Maybe not so much pride, as a warm fuzzy feeling. And I'm generally all about the warm fuzzies!

Where do we go from here? I'm not sure. I anticipate that a good number of blogs will go belly up. There's many bloggers that only come back on Thursdays to do HNT. Others will look for other outlets for their nekkidness. But I suspect that we've seen the last half-nekkidness from many participants. To that end, though, "...the Other HNT" will be continuing on for awhile. Quitting things cold turkey is never an easy thing, so if you need to post a few more HNTs, then send them over there! And by all means--if you're comfortable being nekkid on your own sites, then don't wait for Thursdays to do it!

My final thoughts today... Thank you for daring to share yourselves with the rest of us. Thank you for making HNT something that was important in some way to your own lives. Thank you for putting up with me. I suppose that when I arrive at the pearly gates of Heaven, and a list of my life's accomplishments is read, HNT will be somewhere in the top five. And you know what? That's not such a bad thing. But if I end up at the fiery gates of Hell, I have an inkling that HNT will be on that top five list as well!

Michelle and I wish you the very best!

"My Dear,
I am writing this to remind you of your 'essence beauty.' This is the part of you that has nothing to do with age, occupation, weight, history, or pain. This is the soft, untouched, indelible you. You can love yourself in this moment, no matter what you have, or haven't done or been.
See past any masks, devices, or inventions that obscure your essence.
Remember your true purpose, WHICH is only Love.
If you cannot see or feel love, lie down now and cry; it will cleanse your vision and free your heart.
I love you; I am you.”

Stop by Thursday afternoon to find out who this final Mystery Guest is!
Of course, this last MG for HNT is the lovely Shizzle! There's really no one else who I'd have wanted to be in this spot. Thank you to EVERYONE who was the MG at one time or another! There have been probably between 250-275 of you (computer issues--can't tell exactly at this moment) who have held the postition, with many of you appearing multiple times. And a special thank you for those of you whom I could contact at the drop of a hat when someone else flaked out for some reason or another. I've only had one person flat out refuse my invitation to be MG--it was like she was miffed about not having been asked before--like being the last one picked for dodgeball or something (interestingly, she dropped out of HNT very soon after that). Oh, well--her loss! Thanks to all of you, once again!

As mentioned above, "...the Other HNT" will continue on for awhile. Stop by and see who's joined in for the final one of 2011 though! Leave some year-end comments for your fellow HNTers, too! NSFW, of course...
What an end to 2011! May all of you have a very safe and very Happy New Year! Don't drink & drive, and don't make too much of a big deal about those pesky resolutions! Love ya all!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Alexis•Awna•Bellina•Belly•Brisen•Bricotrout•Cece•Grace•HappyKap•Hippigirl•Ian•Jaded• Katehopeeden•LAH•Lamby•LE•Livia•Maddy•mergrl•Meritt•Mistress Dirtbag•Monkey Poundcake •Nina•No Southern Bell•Pink Kitty•Pink Candy Hearts•Randi•MissInnocent•Shora•TerraT•bbsgirl•Kat•GloriaJean•Narcissus•
~Stephanie~•Bez•CindyLou•Goobrgrl•Boo•Chicken•Duff•Fidget•Dark Neuro•Callie/Carni•Miss Lissa•Medora•3.14•Le Chat•Anastasia•Mel Mega•Camo Girl•Cherry•kj•Wenchy•Jazzy•WarCryGirl•Tequila Red•B•Mia•Wry Girl•Breazy• Celibate Nympho•Smoking Redhead•Funky Bee•Adagio Breezes•Chuck•Snow White•Sasha•
Mermaid Girl•Mexican Chick Online•Mouse In My Brain•Melmar•Southern Sweetheart• Melissa/Felix•Deconstructionist•Crystal•Oblivion•Cali Girl•Susie•Cosima•Irish Earth Goddess• Tajalude•Snav•Robyn•kt•Redneck Vamp•Dee Goldie•Hollz•KJ•Sign Gurl•Blondage•Shay• Searabbit•Turnbaby•Evalinn•Ally•Angel•Urban Gypsy•Spinning Girl•I Smile 2 Much•Elisa• Bellacara•Madame X•~d•Sweet Elle•Andi•Avah•Babs•Bekah•Bellarosa•
Betchacantguesswho• Blondie•Boudica•C-Marie•Vampirekitti•Caronfire•Catgirl•Chick•Chelle•
Clara•Cuddleslut•Daisy Duke•Damasta•Dixie Belle•Emerald Eyes•Zoely• Femi-mommy•Hedonistic Pleasure Seeker•Blither•Morning Glory•Covert Lover• Evening•Tequila Girl•Jennybean•Phaedra•Z•Phain• Jellocee•Krazy•Ginamonster•Queen of Pink•Breve•Southern Girl•Binsk•Laken•Queen of Ass• Gus•Southern Vixen• Jada•Aughra•Shana•Solitaire•Lecram•Velma•Annie Angel•Maeve•!LL!• Lollie•TexasSpitfire•Monalicious•Rage•Sam•Emma• Jinsane•JuicyA•Kalani•Kat•Keda•Kelly Kline•Kitkat• Krista•Lacey•Leela•Crimson•Lelly•Lil Bit•Lime•Lucia•MamaKBear•Mara• Ladybug•Melon•MG•Mrs.T•Natalia•Biscuit•No One In Particular•Pretty Peanut•Pud•Alien Autopsy•Lilith•Skindee•JersySjov•Tish•Trixie•Sis B•Charlie•Coy Pink•Triple L•Redneck Eskimo•Hella•Contessa•Lee Ann•VirgoJen•Firefly•Queenie•Minta•YoJ•Bittersweet•Audra•Ms. Inconspicuous•HeatherS•Trojan•...just to name a few from the past...

Click these to read them better!

Click on this one, too!
From the Nov.18-Dec. 1, 2005 issue of Business & Economy magazine,
"India's Most Influential Business and Economy Magazine"

By the Numbers, somewhat...

Who's done HNT?
  • A COUPLE of attorneys;
  • A COUPLE of active military;
  • LOTS of teachers (?!?);
  • LOTS of students;
  • LOTS of divorced people;
  • WAY TOO MANY unhappily married people;
  • QUITE A FEW happily married people;
  • TWO or THREE cancer survivors;
  • ONE internationally recognized cat breeder;
  • ONE animal trainer;
  • ONE piercer/tattoo artist;
  • LOTS of nurses or medical field, but no physicians that I'm aware of;
  • ONE airline pilot;
  • LOTS of wait staff/bartenders;
  • ONE coal handler;
  • ONE professional model;
  • A COUPLE of actors whose name can be found on;
  • A COUPLE of truck drivers;
  • NO cops that I'm aware of, but many others in the 'first responder' category;
  • NO professional athletes;
  • A COUPLE of Vietnam vets;
  • A COUPLE of fitness/dance instructors;
  • MANY from IT/tech fields;
  • A FEW from the entertainment fields;
  • A FEW who have been published;
  • ONE full-fledged adult film actress;
  • TWO who have died;
  • LOTS whose relatives have died;
  • A HANDFUL of real photographers;
  • WAY TOO MANY "photographers";
  • A HANDFUL of real sexbloggers;
  • WAY TOO MANY "sexbloggers";
  • NO politicians that I'm aware of (no surprise);
  • LOTS of SAHMs;
  • LOTS of first-time parents;
  • A FEW newlyweds;
  • A HANDFUL of "Star Wars" geeks;
  • A SMALLER HANDFUL of "Trekkies";
  • LOTS of generic geeks.
If you don't fit one of these categories, feel free to add to the list in comments!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies

I can't believe that, in six prior Christmas seasons, I haven't come up with this list yet. I've done it for Halloween. I've done the Christmas music ones (go back and read up on those if you haven't already). I've been lax in my responsibilities to you. So here's the list of my favorite Christmas movies (in ascending [or is that descending?] order):

Of course, I'll start with the ones that just missed the list. "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's A Wonderful Life". WTH?? Sorry--they're both great movies, and they're on everyone else's list, so I feel I can let them sit with Honorable Mentions. I just don't find myself needing to see either of them at Christmas. I should also note that we're talking the original versions of both. The remakes and colorized versions shouldn't even be in the room... Also getting Honorable Mention is "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Only because I have yet to see it! Crimson (remember her?) loves it and quotes it regularly, so I trust her judgment. My final HM goes to "Prancer". Yeah, that sort of surprises me, too. But I'm a sucker for Sam Elliott and his voice. And it's a nice story of Christmas magic. Now the top ten...
10. "1941" - One that I'm sure many of you have never seen. A Steven Spielberg's movie. A great John Williams score. A large, big-budget, blue-ribbon cast. And a box-office flop (like most Spielberg comedies). The story isn't much about Christmas. Actually, not at all, other than it's set during mid-December, 1941. It's about spying a wayward Japanese sub off the coast of L.A., and the ensuing hilarity while scrambling to defend the Hollywood from a supposed Japanese invasion (did you know that there really was concern about that?). Since this is my list, it's included. And you should try to find it.

9. "Gremlins" - OK, this is another one that isn't so much about Christmas either, other than Phoebe Cates' (good enough reason to include this movie!) story about her father who died dressed as Santa trying to climb down the chimney. And the fact that it takes place at Christmastime. But how can you not include a fuzzy little Mogwai named "Gizmo"? Yeah, it's a bit gory and violent, but it's also pretty funny at times!

8."A Christmas Story" - This one should probably rank higher, but ever since TBS started running it all day on Christmas Day, it's gotten on my nerves. Still, it has some memorable moments that can't be discounted. The pink bunny pajamas, the Bumpus' hounds (Sonsabitches Bumpasses!!!!), the lamp (fra-gee'-lay), the tongue on the flagpole--all of these will be ingrained in our memories forever!

7. "The Lemon Drop Kid" - An old Bob Hope/Marilyn Maxwell movie with gangsters dressed up as Santa, trying to raise money to pay off a debt. Of course, the Christmas spirit wins out, and the money goes to a charitable group. The movie where the song "Silver Bells" was introduced. And it's got William Frawley ("Fred" of "Fred & Ethyl" from the old Lucy shows) in it. Any movie with William Frawley in it has to be good! (He was in "Miracle on 34th Street", too--maybe I should pull it out of HM status...)

6. "Scrooged" - A modern retelling of the Charles Dickens' classic. Great performances by Bill Murray and cast. This one was also higher on my list before it got shown over and over. Whatever happened to having only one or two chances to see your favorite Christmas movie?

5. "Elf" - I'm not a Will Farrell fan, but he does a remarkable job in this one. So many classic lines to choose from. And Zooey Deschanel is cute as a button! Renewal in Christmas cheer saves Santa's sleigh! This one would be higher too, but suffered the same fate as "Scrooged"...

4. "A Charlie Brown Christmas", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!", "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" & "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" - Technically not movies, but I figure all four of them together counts. These are the TV shows that let me know that Christmas was here. The classics. The ones that everyone else tries to emulate. I remember how "Mr. Magoo" was almost sort of scary at times. I shuddered whenever I saw the Abominable Snowman's teeth for the first time. The Grinch is just fun, as is his song (don't even get me started about the Jim Carrey movie--what a piece of garbage that was!), and Cindy-Lou Who was such a cutie!. And I can still get a tear in the corner of my eye when Linus takes center stage to tell Christmas is all about (Luke 2:8-14). These should probably be at the top of the list, but they're not really full-length features.

3. "The Santa Clause" - People either love this one or hate this one. I'm one that loves it. Actually, the sequel is pretty good, too (the third one, not so much...). A different twist on the Santa legend. Mixing both modern and traditional views of Santa, this is just a good story about believing in Santa. As Judy the elf says, "Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing."

2. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" - I could watch this movie any time of the year! Chevy Chase gives a wonderful performance as the hapless Clark Griswold, trying to make this year's family Christmas the best ever. I think we like it because we see a little bit of ourselves in what he's trying to accomplish. And we all have a relative that matches up with each of his. Of course, by the end, the spirit of Christmas reigns, and he "did it".

1. "White Christmas" - Easily my favorite of all Christmas movies. Even if it IS shown too much. I can never get tired of Vera Ellen's dancing, or Bing Crosby's singing. Or just being Der Bingle. And for all the stress and problems throughout the movie, the spirit of Christmas reigns (hey, haven't I written that already?), and they live happily ever after. With a nice snowfall.
So there you go. I'm sure it's different than yours. Let me hear from you about what movies I missed...

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

Again, another list from 2006, and revisited in 2010. I worked too damned hard on these not to share them again! No additions to the list for 2011. Admittedly, I haven't really looked for anything new this season--no time! But the original list and additions are still pretty good.

First, the honorable mentions: These are additions since 2006. First 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! New to the additions for 2010 is Diana Krall's "Christmas Songs". It's not a new album, having come out in 2005, but it should have been on this list when it first was compiled. I'm just taking care of a lapse in judgment! 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 original 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!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three Christmas Wishes '11 HNT

This is the 7th year of the Three Christmas Wishes theme. This thing gets harder and harder for me to do every year. I think I'll give it up, and then I start hearing Christmas music, and I convince myself it's not so hard. Right up to the time that I actually have to start making decisions...

Anyhoo, for better or worse, here's my three:

Cougar In Training - I know she's a few years away from even being considered a "cougar", but that's why she's in training! As everyone knows, good training requires dedication, variety, and a trainer. She seems very dedicated already, so that shouldn't be a problem. The variety would be Part I of my wish for her. All sorts of guys to develop her style and moves on. Part II would be hooking her up with WWE "Official Consultant to SmackDown", Vicki Guerrero. Not that there's much she could learn anything from her, but she could fake it--it's professional wrestling, after all. But afterwards, she'd be awarded the "Cougar" necklace that Vicki is proud to wear around her neck. A sign that she was no longer in training! (please don't judge me by the fact that I know who Vicki Guerrero is, or that she wears a "cougar" necklace...)

Saucy Wildcat - Saucy Wildcat is back to blogging, and looking to get her sexy back. While it might be a news alert to her, her sexy's alive and well! But it never hurts to have a little sumthin' sumthin' on the side to help out. None of that weird stuff they sell on TV for him and her (or for her and her, as I saw for the first time this weekend!). I digress...I wish for Saucy as much Awesome Sauce as she thinks she might need (personally, I don't think she needs any!). From the website:
"It will sound silly to say, but Awesomesauce Hot Sauce really is awesome. You get a delicious, flavorful sauce full of warmth and spice and garlic. And then the heat gets turned on - and it doesn't stop. In our little taste tests, the heat continued to build while we ate. It was fantastic - no. It was AWESOME."
I'm sure that Saucy can read between the lines here...she's always been good at that!

Diva - It's no secret that the Diva has a Bad Ass Motorcycle Babe side. With a pink Harley, no less! She takes regular road trips, but I haven't seen any evidence that she's taken any to Big Sky Country. So my (selfish) wish for her is VIP tickets to the 30th Annual Testicle Festival, August 1st-5th, 2012, at Rock Creek Lodge, Montana. Beer, boobs, babes, bikers and balls. "Balls?" you ask. Yep! Rocky Mountain Oysters at one of the largest parties of the year, and it's only the fresh stuff, too! There's music, various states of nekkidness, food (not just oysters), lots of cameras, and it's virtually 500 yards (if that) off I-90. And why so many bikers? It takes place immediately before the Sturgis Rally, and anyone from the PNW has to pass Rock Creek to get there! Diva, it's only a little over an hour away from me, so we can meet there, or you can continue on to meet me in Helena! Your choice!

As for the rest of you, I wish you a very Merry Christmas! Give hugs to your family, even if you don't like them. Do something nice for someone you don't know. And don't forget why we celebrate Christmas. For those of you who don't celebrate Christmas, have a great weekend!
The Christmas Gift Poem

It isn't the flowing ribbons,
draped and curled with extra care,
or the fine and fancy bows
tied with ornamental flair.

It isn't the label on the box,
the sum of money spent,
or anything that shows the length
to which you obviously went.

The beauty of a Christmas gift
cannot be seen at all.
For the loveliness of giving
is a feeling, grand and tall.

It's the genuine offer of love,
the yearning to make a connection,
a show of honest gratitude,
a display of sincere affection.

Be sure to check back Thursday afternoon to find out who the Mystery Guest is this week!
Of course, Santa's gift to us this week is Vixen. Be sure to stop by and see what Santa calls her!

The Christmas spirit has hit "...the Other HNT" this week. We've got a larger than normal group of HNTers over there, with a little bit of something for everyone! Stop by and leave some Christmas cheer over there!
If you haven't read my past few posts, you should. My thoughts on Christmas music, and "Jingle Bells", in particular! Both are must reads! I've even gotten some dissenting comments, as well as an anonymous commenter who is musically geekier than me! And that's not an easy feat (if they're reading this, thanks for the link)!
Don't forget--next week is the last hurrah for HNT! Hope you can come up with something worthy of the occasion!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Versions of Jingle Bells

Repost from 2006. My 10 favorite versions of "Jingle Bells". Nothing new to add to this list. Again, if you're interested in an mp3 of any of these, I should be able to help you out. The order might have changed a little bit since 5 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. 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... OK...this recording doesn't actually exist. It was "Rudolph". I'll have to find a version to replace #5 now...
  • 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!

Moose and Griz and Saints

Wow. Christmas is coming upon us quickly, all of a sudden! Moose has been here since Friday night, and just left this morning. It's always great to see her. She got to see her best friend a couple of times; we took her last HNTs; we watched football; we drank beer and ate Howard's Pizza. But now she's gone. I can go back to leaving the toilet seat up, the dishes in the sink, and can scratch to my heart's content!
I mentioned football. Unfortunately, it was not a great football weekend in the state of Montana. On Friday night, my Griz lost to Sam Houston State, 28-31. The game started U-G-L-Y, as SHSU blew out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter! The Griz were completely blindsided, and looked terrible. However, for the last three quarters, and particularly the entire second half, it was all Griz. They only gave up 3 pts. in the second half, while mounting their comeback. It was a gutsy 4th & 1 call late in the 4th quarter by SHSU to go for it from their own 45, and they made it, keeping the ball for the remainder of the game. So for as proud as I am for their play, there's a lot of what-ifs around regarding that first quarter!

The Saints lost to St. Xavier (Ill.), 20-24. It was a close game throughout, and I think Carroll just didn't play to their potential. Their last possession of the game found them 4th and goal from the 9, and they had 4 straight incomplete passes. Execution just wasn't there. Still, they had a good season too. So now, football in MT is finally over. How long is it until September???
Don't forget about the theme for this week's HNT! It's a bugger, for sure! I've got mine picked out though--do you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Songs

Now that the Nutcracker has wound down, and playoff football is in full swing, it's time to revisit my favorite and least favorite Christmas songs. I grew up with some of the most gawdawful Christmas albums my mom could find. But it opened my eyes (ears) to a wide variety of Christmas songs. Some great, lots not so great.

The greatest of the bad...a three LP set, and I couldn't even tell you who recorded it. No one anyone would know, I'm sure. But I vividly remember all three LPs. The first one was nothing but organ. Not a big cathedral pipe organ; not a cheesy theater organ; not even a Hammond B-3. This sounded similar to some bad organ in the corner of a small church that was donated by a family some 50 years earlier, and has been played by the same little old lady for every Sunday service, wedding and funeral. goes through all the classic carols. The second LP had a chorus joining in. Not a church chorus, but one of those choruses that was big in the 50s, like the Norman Luboff Choir or Ray Conniff Singers. But not. With the same organ accompaniment, but with different songs. The third LP is what made the collection truly memorable. The same organ and organist, with almost the same arrangements as the first LP, but with the addition of chimes. A nice idea for one song, but not an entire LP.

The collection has to be at least 45 years old by now, and yes, I still have it. It is so gloriously bad, I could never throw it out. It's in storage with the rest of my hundreds of records, but I think I might try to dig it out and see if it's really as bad as I remember. I'm sure it is.

So now, I'm reposting my favorite and least favorite Christmas songs. 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 one is sort of a Calypso/salsa/something uptempo thing.
  • 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 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. (It was brought to my attention last year by Ms. I that the Drifter's version is pretty darned good too. Touché.)
  • 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!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Tree 2011 HNT

"O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
How often has the Christmas tree
Afforded me the greatest glee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me."

-the fairly unknown 2nd verse (out of 4!) to "O Christmas Tree"

"The cool kindliness of sheets, that soon smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss of blankets."
- Rupert Brooke

Carry me to bed
place me between the sheet
warm me with your heat
Make dizzy my head.

This week's Mystery Guest will be revealed Thursday afternoon. Be sure to come back and find out who it is!
I have missed you all so very much. Know I am well, not perfect, but well. I hold each and everyone of you dear still and the impact you each had on my life is not forgotten. Through you all I found me- something I had been seeking for years. The changes that occurred in the years we were together is evident both inside and out. I wish I could post a full before and after picture, you would be shocked at the result. Remember, each of you have the power within you. Just hold fast in your desires and convictions and be daring enough to try, even if you face opposition. Happiness is attainable- just not easy. ~BFD~
Another good crop of pics over at "...the Other HNT" this week. Go leave some Christmas cheer (or at least some nice comments) for your fellow HNTers! Of course, it's NSFW!
Theme Alert! - Only two more HNTs left! Be sure that you give next week's some attention NOW! It's easily the most difficult theme of the year!
  • Dec. 22nd - Three Christmas Wishes HNT - Perhaps the hardest theme of the year. Pick three individuals to send special Christmas wishes to. The hard part? Pick three people who are not necessarily someone you'll be sending a Christmas card to, or an e-card, or specifically contact at Christmas.Those people might expect something from you. No, send out your Christmas wishes to someone you've only lurked at, or to a newbie, or to someone whose HNTs and/or general blog posts have made some sort of impression. And post a picture of it, too! It can be serious or humorous or heartfelt or fantasy. Then contact that individual to let them know that they got one of your wishes. (For example, I remember that my very first year of this I wished for two bags of fairy dust for one person, a wish for another HNTer's husband's swimmers to impregnate her (she had a baby exactly 9 months later--I did good on that one!), and a big stick with nails for a third one to beat me with as I had somewhat trampled on our friendship. You can see this post here, or check out the other mid-December posts from my archives.) Good luck with this one. It's tougher than it sounds, so start thinking about it now!

Six years ago to the day, I started out on my very first OsTour. Driving to Nashville, TN, to follow the Saints on their NAIA football championship repeat (#4 at the time, as I remember). Driving through South Dakota in a blizzard, which is truly the only way one should drive through SD (gosh, what an ugly state!). Stealing internet from the Taco John's parking lot in Rapid City. Forty-eight hours from meeting my first group of HNT friends. Hardly seems that long ago. If you're interested at all in reading about it, you can do that here. It's best if you start from the bottom and work your way up. And be sure to click the pics. No extra pictures to see--it just bigs 'em. (just perused the site--what a great time we had!)

I mention all of that because that same football team will be playing for their SEVENTH national championship this weekend. But this time in Rome, GA. If any of you are nearby, feel free to go to the game and cheer for me!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Nuts Have Been Cracked

Whew! Two weeks of non-stop symphony work is over. Lots of work, lots of unnecessary headaches and lots of sore joints. But the performances went well, and everyone is happy. No one moreso than me! And I still have over 10 days until Christmas! Most years it's less than that, so I'm a happy camper!

Some observations from the past two weeks:
  • There's nothing quite so unwelcome to an early morning rehearsal as the mix of cologne (guys actually wear that stuff?) and beer farts. No, neither of them from me. Sitting in close quarters and without the chance to run away--nasty, nasty, nasty.
  • Also ranking right up there--coffee breath. Do coffee drinkers have any inkling how badly their breath stinks?
  • I think I've said this in years past, but I will never take potshots at the masculinity of male ballet dancers (or dancers of any type or gender). I watched more hours of warmups than necessary. The things that they can do with their bodies, and with such ease, is downright unnatural. Their muscles pop out like statues. And that's just the girls! Makes me think naughty thoughts about Minority Report! But the guys have the same muscles and flexibility. And that extra pouch in their tights that the girls don't have. Some of these guys have every right to be proud!
  • I hate the sense of entitlement that family members seem to have about getting access backstage. There's a lot of stuff backstage that is, for lack of a better term, dangerous. The last thing any of us needs is something being tripped over or falling down on someone and causing injury. Family members were told about the no-access rule, yet the number of people trying to get past the poor usher guarding the door was embarrassing. And when he successfully kept his cool, and the door shut, they'd run over to the other side of the stage and try the same thing. Without success. When did being the mother of the Third Mouse become important enough to be allowed in back?? And why did you buy the girl a bouquet of flowers? She was onstage for all of three minutes, and screwed up her dance??? I'll never understand a parent's mentality!

Speaking of a parent's mentality...I'm beginning to get some Christmas cards. Surprising, since I haven't actually sent out a Christmas card in ages. I appreciate them. I love them. I love them even more if I get the newsletter along with it. HOWEVER...I know that your kids mean the world to you. They are God's gift to us all. I know that Susie is building her own particle accelerator from pieces from her Easy Bake Oven. And Johnny has already signed with the city of Boston to be the Celtic's power forward AND to play hockey for the Bruins, while ALSO becoming the home run leader for the Sox--this just months after he graduated from crawling to standing and tripping over the cat. But I don't know these little people! So when you send your Christmas photos and newsletter, why can't you include the people I DO know--theoretically, you and your significant other! Is it so hard to get the entire family together for a picture? Or throw an extra one in along with the rugrats?
Can't let the weekend go by without mentioning my Griz! They kicked butt on the national stage (aka ESPN). They demolished the #2 team in the country, Northern Iowa, by a score of 48-10. UNI fans had complained that they should have been seeded above the Griz and hosting the game. Obviously, they were mistaken. Next up...a trip to Sam Houston State, the #1 ranked team in the FCS. To be televised on ESPN this Friday night. SHSU beat the Bobcats pretty easily last week, 49-13. A shocking showing for the Cats, even for the most avid Griz fan. So we won't have the chance to see Gucci lose another bet. Dammit. Can't count on the Cats to do anything right!
Theme Alert! - The first of the Christmas themes comes this week for HNT! Hope you've all gotten your trees up!
Dec. 15th - Christmas Tree HNT - I want to see you half-nekkid with your Christmas tree. If you don't have a tree put up, then with any other Christmas decorations. If you don't celebrate Christmas, then you're off the hook. But the rest of you--I really want to see your Christmas trees!

It's been years in the making, but I finally got my first real jackass comment (well, not the first...) on last week's HNT! Of course, it had nothing to do with me, the MG, or even HNT. It's the guy who's boycotting American women. I left it up for those of you who haven't had the chance to read his "logic". He's real piece of work. I feel like I've hit the bigtime!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

'Tis the Season HNT

It's Nutcracker time again! I'm in the midst of 12 to 14 to 16 hour days (and nights). Thank God I can autopost! Usually at this time of year I throw in some sort of picture from Nutcracker rehearsals or something. This year, I change it up with a picture during a break in our rehearsals at the Cathedral we play in (shown at the left). It's a wonderful building, but a pain in the ass to perform in. The acoustics suit smaller groups, as a rule, as does the physical space. But we make it work.

The worst part, however, is that it's a bugger to keep warm during the winter months, even when it's full of people. And in most of the recent years, it's been sub-zero temperatures during the first weekend of December. This year, it was relatively balmy (mid to upper 20s!) and I was almost a happy camper. Until I got word in the afternoon that a quick storm was blowing through that night, bringing the wind chill to a brisk -15°. The same night that I'd be having to load the equipment truck after the concert. This was my reaction shortly after hearing that lovely bit of news (for the record--it did get that cold, and I had to UNload the truck the next morning in similar weather. Don't you just love my life?).

All I have is black and white
My shades of grey
Fading away

All I have is this here flesh
For you to touch
For me to display

Be sure to come back Thursday afternoon to find out who our sultry Mystery Guest is this week!
This week's MG is the always cheeky Cheeky Minx! Always a pleasure to have her! Can you guess who the last 3 Mystery Guests will be?

Some lovely people to be found over at "...the Other HNT", as always! It won't go up until midnight, Mountain time though. Still worth a visit! As's NSFW!

Ashly's Toys for Tots project only has about a week left for you to donate! Please check it out and help out, OK? And Evalee's project has done well too. She's got a raffle going on to entice you, as well! Get your Christmas spirit into gear and help out either or both of these!
Can't miss out on the opportunity to say GO GRIZ!!! Check them out on ESPN Friday night and cheer them on! I believe it's at 8PM EST. (Then check out Gucci's Bobcats on Saturday morning on ESPN)
Theme Alert! - Only three more HNTs left, all three with themes! A rundown is below. Be sure that you give the middle one some attention NOW! It's easily the most difficult theme of the year! Make mention of it on your own sites to (as well as HNT's retirement). It's amazing how many people say they didn't know about this stuff!
  • Dec. 15th - Christmas Tree HNT - I want to see you half-nekkid with your Christmas tree. If you don't have a tree put up, then with any other Christmas decorations. If you don't celebrate Christmas, then you're off the hook. But the rest of you--I really want to see your Christmas trees!
  • Dec. 22nd - Three Christmas Wishes HNT - Perhaps the hardest theme of the year. Pick three individuals to send special Christmas wishes to. The hard part? Pick three people who are not necessarily someone you'll be sending a Christmas card to, or an e-card, or specifically contact at Christmas.Those people might expect something from you. No, send out your Christmas wishes to someone you've only lurked at, or to a newbie, or to someone whose HNTs and/or general blog posts have made some sort of impression. And post a picture of it, too! It can be serious or humorous or heartfelt or fantasy. Then contact that individual to let them know that they got one of your wishes. (For example, I remember that my very first year of this I wished for two bags of fairy dust for one person, a wish for another HNTer's husband's swimmers to impregnate her (she had a baby exactly 9 months later--I did good on that one!), and a big stick with nails for a third one to beat me with as I had somewhat trampled on our friendship. You can see this post here, or check out the other mid-December posts from my archives.) Good luck with this one. It's tougher than it sounds, so start thinking about it now!
  • Dec. 29th - Final HNT - This one is sort of self-explanatory. This will be your last official shot at doing HNT. Make it memorable. That doesn't imply stripping bare and letting it all hang out. Just make this one a good send-off.