* Today was a legitimate weather day. I had no problem covering this storm like it was a story. Because it was. For once. That 3 inches we got our knickers in a twist over two weeks ago? That was nothing. This is something.
* Jama Juice now offers oatmeal. They brought it to the newsroom yesterday. It was awful.
* This will be the last blog entry until December 29. I’m on vacation, visiting my family for the holidays. Feel free to send presents I can unwrap upon my return. (Ben Bowman, WMAQ, 454 N. Columbus Dr. , Chicago, IL, 60611.)
* I’ll tell you what I don’t want for Christmas: a “goth kitten.”
* Want your presents to look like they were wrapped by a drunken, ill-tempered rhino? Spend $9 for the deluxe treatment by the guys at Crap Wrap.
* Christmas is, by far, my favorite holiday. One big factor is that the music simply destroys all other holidays’ music. “Monster Mash” vs. “O, Holy Night”? Are you kidding me? The 4th of July is nice with its patriotic songs, but all the John Philip Sousa in the world can’t stack up to the time-tested songs of Christmas.
But several Christmas songs have gotten away with too much for far too long, hiding behind their exquisite melodies. Pay attention…
Offender: The Twelve Days of Christmas
Crime: Repetition, Creepiness
Evidence: “A partridge in a pear tree.”
Okay, who’s this whack-job sending you birds and leaping lords and stuff? Sounds like a stalker to me. Twelve straight days of weird presents. That’s the kind of thing a serial killer would do before claiming a victim. This might also be the longest Christmas Carol. For me, it loses its fun around “three French hens.” The only reason everyone looks forward to “five golden rings” is because it’s the only change in a dreary and repetitive list of freaky gifts. Maids a-milking… who gives that? Do they come with a gift receipt?
Offender: The Christmas Song
Crime: Preposterous premise
Evidence: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”
Nobody roasts chestnuts on an open fire. I defy you to show me one person.
Offender: I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Crime: Impossible Lyric
Evidence: “Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree.”
Some versions of the song say “presents UNDER the tree,” which makes sense. But it seems the original version requests presents ON the tree. Wha? Either Santa is bringing flimsy items that weigh no more than four ounces, or you’ve got some sort of industrial-strength tree, capable of supporting a Playstation 3 and a plasma television on its huge metal forklift arms.
Offender: The Little Drummer Boy
Evidence:“Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.” (repeat ad nauseum)
This might be the worst carol of all. It sounds like something written by someone really, really bored. And after the first lyric (“Come, they told me”), the writer realized he was in way over his head. The Bible makes no mention of a Little Drummer Boy hanging out at the manger, so the author is already guilty of lying about the circumstances of Christ’s birth. The only way out, he must have thought, is to try to lure people in by having them sing drumming noises.
But that’s stupid. We’re not Bobby McFerrin. We’re not Michael Winslow from “Police Academy.” We’re just average Joes and Janes. Don’t force us to make drumming noises, man.
And if you are going to force us to make drumming noises, at least make them realistic. No drum has ever sounded like “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.” “Rat-a-tat-tat,” maybe. But then it would sound like the Little Drummer Boy was opening fire with a Glock 9 in the manger. That’s even more ridiculous than the premise of a fictional character trying to lull the Son of God to sleep with a drum solo. Get that junk out of here.
Offender: The Wassail Song
Crime: Gibberish Word
Evidence: “Here we come a-wassailing,” and “To you your wassail, too.”
Wassail? Anybody? Who wrote this thing? Dr. Seuss?
Offender: Deck the Halls
Crime: Author forgot his own lyrics
Evidence: “Fa la la la la, la la la la.”
Ever sit down to write something and then leave a space where you intend to go back and insert something? I think the “Deck the Halls” guy just wrote the “fa la la la la’s” as placeholders for real lyrics. Either that, or he had a really good idea for those lines, but he forgot each time he went to write them down. And at some point, he died, and his relatives cashed in on the unfinished masterpiece. (A model that would later be run into the ground by the Shakur family.)
Offender: O Christmas Tree
Crime: You name it
Evidence: “O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!”
First off, it’s a song about a tree. That’s a stretch. Secondly, it’s way too repetitive. During the first verse, you say the words “O Christmas Tree!” six times. You say, “Thy leaves are so unchanging,” three times. And Christmas trees don’t even have leaves. They have needles. Sheez. Maybe it’s because this is just a translation of the German “O, Tannenbaum,” which leads to a whole other set of problems. Humbug.
Offender: Holly Jolly Christmas
Crime: Advocacy of alcoholism
Evidence: “Have a cup of cheer.”
I think we all know what a “cup of cheer” means. I wonder if you can get arrested for driving while cheerful.
Offender: We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Evidence:“Now bring us some figgy pudding.”
The singers start by wishing you a Merry Christmas, which is a lovely sentiment. And after you’ve accepted their wish, they shake you down for figgy pudding, whatever the hell that is. What’s more, they say they “won’t go until (they) get some.” It’s like the mob just showed up on your doorstep to make demands. Then they start bossing you around, telling you to “bring it right here.” I, for one, refuse to be extorted by carolers.
Offender: Do You Hear What I Hear?
Crime: Drug-induced hallucinations
Evidence: “Said the night wind to the little lamb…”
Okay, you start your carol by having wind talk to a barnyard animal. Not a particularly good foundation from which to build your Christmas oratory. Then you talk about “a star, dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite.” Is it also twirling a cane and two-stepping with Ginger Rogers? Then the lamb starts talking to a shepherd boy. Is there anything that doesn’t speak in this carol? Why not just go all out and have a kraken sing Baby Jesus a lullaby while painting its toenails?
Offender: Silent Night
Evidence: “Round yon virgin mother and child.”
Is the virgin round? After she’s given birth? Too many quarts of the Zero B.C. equivalent of Häagen-Dazs? Or is the author saying something is a-round the virgin? Too confusing. Plus, what’s “yon”? Is that short for “yonder”? Is this an Old West Christmas carol? Who says “yonder,” let alone “yon”?
Offender: Jingle Bell Rock and Jingle Bells
Evidence: “Jingle bell time is a swell time to go gliding in a one-horse sleigh” and “Dashing through the snow on a one-horse open sleigh.”
Clearly, the authors of these carols received vast sums of money from the one-horse sleigh industry. Never mind that two-horse sleighs and rickshaws can provide just as much (if not more) enjoyment. The authors here sold out, advocating the one-horse solution. I can think of lots of methods of transportation that are more fun or more efficient than a one-horse sleigh.
Plus, what happens if the snow melts? You’re stuck with no way to get home – you’re in a sleigh with runners, not a buggy with wheels. Do you wait for next winter? Unhook the horse from the sleigh and ride him? What if there’s more than one person? Bet you wish you had another horse now, don’t you?
Offender: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Crime: False custom
Evidence:“There’ll be scary ghost stories.”
Scary stories? On Christmas? What the hell kind of family do you live in, pal? I, for one, don’t want to sit around watching “Saw” with my parents on Christmas morning. The only Christmas ghost story I can think of is “A Christmas Carol,” but that’s hardly scary. Plus, the song references stories – plural. You know what? Just stick this song on Halloween where it belongs.
The song also says we’ll have “marshmallows for toasting.” Come on, man. You toast marshmallows at camp during the summer. Why not just throw in a lyric about raking leaves and giving Valentines to totally blow it?
Offender: Winter Wonderland
Evidence: “We’ll conspire… to face unafraid the plans that we’ve made.”
If we made the plans, why would we be afraid of them? Are we planning to reanimate the corpse of a fallen friend? Are we dabbling in the occult? Virtually every plan I’ve ever made, I’ve had excitement over, not fear.
Maybe this song was written by a hostage who was forced to say wonderful things about the holiday. But he’s trying to get a message to the outside world. Like, “I am enjoying this Christmas because I am not injured and trapped in a cave and I wish all the best to my close friends, the Taliban.”
There’s really no other explanation.
Offender: Angels We Have Heard on High
Crime: Pathetic shout-out
So we start the carol in English, then switch over to Latin for some reason. Or do we? I believe the author of this carol was dating a girl named “Gloria,” and just wanted to impress her by making every body sing “Gloooooooooooria!”
The same guy went on to pen the Van Morrison song, “Gloria.” (G-l-o-r-i-a!)
Seriously, pal. If you have to do that to get her to notice you, she’s not interested.
Crime: Misleading title
Nowhere in the song do we learn why it’s called Greensleeves. There’s not a single garment mentioned. Why not just call it “What Child is This?” This is a frustrating tradition that many songwriters employ – giving nonsensical names to their songs that have nothing to do with the actual lyrics. Just make your title the first lyric or the most memorable hook from the chorus. I don’t want to have to carry flashcards to remember what the song is called. Get that junk out of here.
Offender: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Evidence:“Everyone’s dancing merrily in a new old-fashioned way.”
What is it? Is it new or is it old-fashioned? Oh, it’s both? Excuse me while I find a Christmas carol that doesn’t put two diametrically opposed notions next to one another. That’s like having a carol that says, “Let’s all worship crucify Jesus.”
When it comes to carols, I prefer to get my songs from two robots and a guy in space…