Archive | December, 2005

Last Posting of 2005

31 Dec

‘Twas the night before New Years’
and here in Florida state,
my bags are all packed
my vacation was great.

I head back to Boston
on Saturday ’round noon,
knowing that New Years’ plans
will be happening soon.

While here I played golf
and I also ate lots.
Thanks to my sunblock,
I’m even tan in some spots.

So to all my good readers
in cities or the sticks,
I wish you all a Happy New Year,
and I’ll catch you in oh-six!

I Hate Cold Turkey

29 Dec

It’s hard enough to get into the holiday spirit when you’re in Florida, seeing as the weather is so nice and the neighborhood where my parents live is (by edict of the community’s bylaws) decoration- and light-free. Of course, it also doesn’t help that my parents aren’t into the Christmas spirit like I am, that we keep to ourselves on the big day, and that we barely listen to the radio. So it’s easy to forget that Christmas was only three days ago; it seems like so much longer, if it ever was Christmas. Hell, it barely even feels like Hanukkah, and tonight is only night four (of eight, if you didn’t know). How is it possible that this year, more than any other year I can remember, it seems as if the holiday season came and went quicker than ever? Wasn’t it supposed to be, like, the year of the Super Holiday, what with all three of the major ones happening this last week of December?

To wit: my folks and I ventured off to Sawgrass Mills this evening. If you’ve never heard of Sawgrass Mills, let me describe it simply as the largest outlet mall in the world (or so I’ve been told). End to end, the place must be two miles long, or longer. That’s a lot of stores. Unfortunately, however, less than a week after Christmas, that also meant a lot of stores that were practically empty or in total disarray. It wasn’t even worth walking into the Gap Outlet, and J. Crew was a total bust. My mother said Chico’s was the same. Who could find anything in Ralph Lauren — the place was a mess. I even dashed into the Books-a-Million store to grab a copy of Doug’s book (which hit stores this week), but it seems the copies they had in stock (and I asked) were all gone (already!). Even the take-a-picture-with-Santa booth was already being dismantled. It was as if the entirety of Sawgrass had joined together to confirm that yes, Virginia, there was a Christmas — but now it’s over, thank you very much. Please move on and excuse us while we clean up.

I know some people would rather the holiday season end before it even begins. Many of those same people are probably overjoyed that things have ended so quickly. But I genuinely do enjoy holiday time, and all kidding aside, I wish it was longer. There’s really no other time during the year when people are as happy as they are during the month of December. Think about it — temperatures are falling, days are getting shorter, things are coming to a close (at least calendar-wise), there’s stress from family, stress from work … need I go on? And yet, the music, the lights, the decorations, heck, I submit that even the gift-giving (and receiving) puts people in a happier mood.

So I’m not sure why people and stores are so quick to let it all go. All that build-up, all that hype, and then pffft — just like that, the music stops, the sales get changed from “After Christmas” to “End of Season,” and people become a lot less jolly. It makes New Year’s Eve such an anti-climactic and forced “holiday.” And what do we who live in the northeast have to look forward to after New Year’s? Snow, cold, less daylight, more snow, and more cold … for three more months (at least). Whoop-dee-doo. In Florida, tourism goes down after the holidays. Is that really worth rushing into to? Is that really any better than Christmas?

So I suggest extending the holiday season. After all, Hanukkah is eight days long, and aren’t there supposed to be 12 days of Christmas? Yeah, I know: the decorations have been up since right after Halloween and you’ve heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” a few too many times. So what? Weren’t you happier during the past month than you are now? As far as I’m concerned, there really is no good reason to go cold turkey on the holidays. With so little to look forward to until Spring arrives, maybe an extension of the season wouldn’t be so bad. Who’s with me on this one?

Christmas in Florida

25 Dec


Oh, the weather outside ain’t frightful
And the temperatures are so delightful (mid-70s)
And since we’ve no place to go (‘cuz every place is closed)
Here’s a picture taken from our patio …

He’s Coming to Town

24 Dec

There’s something really scary about Santa Claus. I mean, the guy can see you when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake. What’s more, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so obviously, you’d better be good, for goodness sake.

And he’s so demanding: “you better not cry, you better not pout.” Yeah, maybe we really should watch out.

Anyway, in all seriousness, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Chrismukkah, Kwanzaa, or some other holiday, if you’re reading my blog, I just want to wish you a very happy holiday. There may not be snow in Africa this Christmastime, but there’s something to be said about the greatest gift they get being life (or is it love? Who can tell). So I hope the year ahead is a good one for all my readers.

I’ll be posting less frequently over the next week as I take a vacation from work, life, and regular blog posting. But don’t worry: when something merits a posting, I’ll be back. Til then …

Thank God It’s Christmas

23 Dec

I’m not sure when it started, but as far as I can remember, I’ve always loved holiday music. In 2000, with the help of Napster, I compiled a 2-disc mix of my favorite holiday songs. That year, one of my coworkers suggested to me that a mix of holiday tunes would make for a fun “Christmas card.” So I cut my mix down to one disc, made about six copies, and got an enthusiastic response. And thus, A Very Marty Xmas was born.

Little did I know that five years later, I’d still be compiling these CDs. In fact, the albums have developed quite a following over the years; in addition to giving them out to friends and coworkers, I’ve been asked to make copies for friends of friends, their siblings, some coworkers’ children, and even some parents of friends and coworkers. Every year I hear stories of people who played the CDs while trimming the tree or during a holiday party. There’s always someone who is stunned or amused to learn that I’m Jewish because the mix is so good. And two days ago I actually received a tin of homemade cookies and a card from the grateful family of one coworker. The fact that people seem to genuinely, really like the CDs makes me really happy, and encourages me to continue year after year.

In fact, it is a constant source of pleasure that there is so much good holiday music out there and that I’m always finding more to share. Six discs later, I even have enough material for next year’s CD. But maybe that’s jumping the gun.

As I have mentioned, this week I sent out A Very Marty Xmas 2005. Since I’ve written about the CD a couple of times on this site, I thought I’d post the song listing here. As always, the CD is peppered with quick clips from A Charlie Brown Christmas, Scrooged, and other fun holiday movies and specials, and where those appear is a surprise, so they’re not listed on the cover. Some of the clips this year came from The Daily WAV, so I thank the guy who runs that site.

Alright, without further ado, here is the song listing:

Slade — “Merry Christmas, Everybody”
Eels — “Christmas Is Going to the Dogs”
Gavin DeGraw — “Silver Bells”
Ray Charles — “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
Queen — “Thank God It’s Christmas”
Rufus Wainwright — “Spotlight on Christmas” (live acoustic)
Bleu — “Snow Day”
Diana Krall — “Jingle Bells”
Harry Connick, Jr. — “I’m Gonna Be the First One”
Jason Mraz — “Winter Wonderland”
Barenaked Ladies — “Sleigh Ride”
Jack Johnson — “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Andy Williams — “Christmas Holiday”
Rockapella — “Carol of the Bells”
Death Cab for Cutie — “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
Brian Wilson — “The Man with All the Toys”
Leon Redbone — “Christmas Island”
Jimmy Buffett — “Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum”
Melissa Etheridge — “Christmas in America”
The LeeVees — “Latke Clan”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy — “Mr. Heat Miser”
Elvis Presley — “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”
Stevie Wonder — “One Little Christmas Tree”
Michael Bublé — “Grown-up Christmas List”
Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole — “The Christmas Song”

If you ask me, it’s a perfect blend of jolly tunes, some pop, some rock and roll, a classic or two, some unexpected artists, and some fun. After some shuffling, I found an almost ideal order so the whole thing flows from start to finish. Including the covers, which I designed myself but had the kind folks at FedEx Kinkos print for me so they’d look the way I wanted them to, I think this may be my best mix ever. Suffice it to say, I’m really proud of it.

And considering each year I try to raise the game a little bit, I can’t wait to compile — and hear — next year’s mix. (Somewhere, my sister is already dreading it.)

Rocking Good Time

21 Dec

In the past couple of weeks I’ve found a new favorite holiday album. That is, a new favorite Hanukkah album. (Sure, it didn’t take much; my options are limited to Klezmer music and Adam Sandler.) It’s The LeeveesHanukkah Rocks. You may have heard one of their songs, “Latke Clan,” on the holiday episode of Grey’s Anatomy — and if your mail service is running on time, you may also have heard it on this year’s edition of A Very Marty Christmas. The guys (Adam Gardner from Guster and Dave Schneider from the Zambonis) opened up for Barenaked Ladies on their recent holiday tour and were also on the Fox25 morning show in Boston this morning singing “Goyim Friends.”

Hanukkah Rocks is filled with catchy, poppy music in the style of the guys’ regular gigs, and the lyrics are knowing and quite funny. In addition to the above, song titles also include “Jewish Girls (At the Matzoh Ball),” “Applesause vs Sour Cream,” and “How Do You Spell Chunnukkahh?” You can hear a few of their songs over at My Space, and the whole album is available at iTunes. And, if you live in the Boston area, you can check them out this Tuesday at The Paradise. Of course, my friend Doug was ahead of the curve with this one and for that I thank him. This is good stuff, whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas … or both.

Update: Actually, scratch that. I now have two new favorite holiday things. The other is that Darlene Love “Christmastime for the Jews” song that was on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. As soon as I can find an MP3 or Quicktime file (and I’ve been looking ever since it aired), this thing will be on constant play.

What Would Marty Do?

21 Dec

It’s certainly going to be hard to hate the Yankees next year now that Johnny Damon is playing for them … but I’ll try.

G’bye, Johnny. We’ll miss you.

Innocent Until Investigated

20 Dec

Some impressive stuff, that Syriana. Top-notch acting all around, especially by my main man George Clooney and most notably by Jeffrey Wright, an actor-chameleon if ever there was one. A chunk of the movie went over my head (chalk that up to fatigue after a long day of work), but despite that, it registered loud and clear. Syriana, a searing indictment of the worldwide oil industry, is one of the most intelligent movies I’ve seen all year. A–

Best of the Box

19 Dec

Over the past two weeks or so I’ve had quite a few discussions about the Very Marty Christmas CDs and all the work that goes into making the disc every year (this is year six). I’ve been joking that when put together, the CDs would make one hell of a boxed set. I mean, really: considering that each disc is nearly 80 minutes of music, you could start playing them all (in sequence) at noon on Christmas Day and have enough music to last until almost 7:30 p.m. That would be one holly, jolly Christmas!

Anyway, so it’s led me to consider compiling a “best of the box” CD for those who have not been a part of the fun for all these years. However, until that day arrives when I actually burn this “best of” CD, here is a list of what I would consider to be the 20 essential holiday tunes that would be on my Ultimate Very Marty Christmas CD, in no particular order:

1. Darlene Love, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” — The best Christmas record of all time, in my humble opinion. Not even U2’s cover can touch Darlene Love’s original. She sings it every year on Late Show with David Letterman and will be doing so this Friday night. Set your DVR.
2. Donny Hathaway, “This Christmas” — Simply, a soulful classic.
3. Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” — A good, old fashioned Mariah Carey tune that totally puts you in the holiday mood. This is an irresistible confection; it’s undeniably catchy and hard to dislike.
4. Stevie Wonder, “That’s What Christmas Means to Me” — It’s hard to choose between this song and Stevie’s “Someday at Christmas,” but like Mariah Carey’s track, this song is also irresistibly upbeat and catchy.
5. John Lennon, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” — Of course. The Corrs’ cover of this song is also quite good.
6. Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” — Untouchable. As last year’s remake proved, it’s hard to improve upon the original, though Barenaked Ladies do a really fun cover of this song live.
7. Andy Williams, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” — Duh. Like there was any question about including this one.
8. Harry Connick, Jr., “Sleigh Ride” — Had to make a tough choice here. A song by Harry has been on every one of my mixes because his two Christmas CDs are my two favorites of all-time. If they’re not in your collection, buy them now.
9. Jose Feliciano, “Feliz Navidad” — Why not?
10. NSync, “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” — What? It’s Christmas, cut me some slack.
11. Ray Charles, “Winter Wonderland” — The gold standard rendition of one of the most popular Christmas songs.
12. Bruce Springsteen, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” — A big, boisterous cover.
13. The Eagles, “Please Come Home for Christmas” — Not a happy song, but an essential nevertheless.
14. Tom Petty, “It’s Christmas All Over Again” — Yeah, again.
15. John Williams, “Carol of the Bells” — Sure, this song will stick out on the mix, but it’s one I just love listening to.
16. Britney Spears, “My Only Wish (This Year)” — You’ve gotta hear it to know what I’m talking about. This is old school Britney, the sweet, pop music kind.
17. James Taylor, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — A gentle voice makes this song even warmer.
18. Ron Sexsmith, “Maybe This Christmas” — Short, sweet, and to the point.
19. Jimmy Buffett, “Mele Kalikimaka” — This one’s pure novelty. It’s a dose of summer at the coldest time of year.
20. Rufus Wainwright, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” — A song of longing, one that ends any mix with a cliffhanger. I also love Vonda Shepard’s version.

Alright, there are plenty, plenty more great holiday songs, but as I’m going through the first five mixes, those are the ones that stand out. And hey, I’m the one making the mix here. You want to suggest a “best of” mix? Go right ahead.

And of course, perhaps this raises a question for you: What’s on this year’s mix? Well, I think it may just be a perfect mix of classic, contemporary, jolly, rocking, upbeat, downbeat, and bittersweet tunes. And, there’s a Hanukkah song on it! I can’t wait for people to finally hear it. I’m putting them in the mail on Tuesday, so midweek, I’ll post the final list. Stay tuned.

Top O’ the World, Ma!

18 Dec

Wow. Is King Kong ever a cool movie. It’s three hours long, and every consecutive hour is better than the last. In fact, when Kong battles not one, not two, but three T. Rexes midway through the movie, you’ve already forgotten how endlessly long the first hour felt. And, just when you think you’ve seen the money scene, Peter Jackson shows you another. And another. And another. And then he leaves you in awe with the truly awesome climax atop the Empire State Building. Naomi Watts’ performance breaks your heart because she makes you really care for Kong — particularly in a scene where they watch a sunset together. I loved how cool New York circa 1933 looked, and I also got a big kick out of the fact that Andy Serkis served as the model for Kong’s movements and also plays one of the ship’s crew members (actually, he also gets the film’s goriest death at the hands — or rather, the mouths of some giant-sized slugs). So there you go: no surprise, King Kong gets high marks from me: an A–.