December 19th, 2008


Caroling Into Obscurity

There are a lot of Christmas and winter holiday standards we all know, but I'm sure we've also heard plenty of really obscure ones. Music books tend to have a lot of these in them, including:

  • Thirty-Two Feet and Eight Little Tails - A song about Santa's reindeer that was in both one of my mom's piano books and one of bethje's clarinet books. I know basically how it goes, but I've never heard it on the radio or anything.
  • When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter - I actually HAVE heard this one, as it was on a record I had as a kid. Still pretty obscure, though, I would imagine.
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Me - Sweet Christmas, what a horrible title! I remember seeing this in Beth's clarinet book and laughing over the title, and then I actually heard it at work in December 2006. The tune doesn't sound anything like "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," but it is ABOUT a star. The version I heard had an R&B sound to it, but I'm not sure whether that's how it was originally conceived.
  • Christmas on the Moon - My mom liked to play this one on the piano, presumably just because of how weird it was. It was about some guy wanting to spend Christmas on the Moon (duh) with his girlfriend.
  • The Christmas Candy Calendar - Another piano book entry that my mom liked to play due to its oddness. The structure was much like "The Twelve Days of Christmas," but it measured the time until Christmas in pink peppermints. The main repeated line was, "Then you and I will bake a pumpkin pie and pick a purple tie for Uncle Lou."
  • Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella - I might well have actually heard this, but I couldn't tell you what it sounds like.

Another popular source of obscure Christmas songs is elementary school, a regular cesspool of ridiculous songs that you'll probably never hear elsewhere, and which might possibly have been written by the music teachers themselves in their infinite malaise. In first grade, we sang "The Santa Express," and our second grade song included the lines, "Christmas time is coming, drummers will be drumming, pipers will play." I also remember singing something to the tune of "Jingle Bells" that mocked Santa's weight problem. (Good lesson to teach kids, huh? :P) And while I was never in the chorus, I remember a fair number of songs that they did at choral concerts. Many of them were comical songs that really weren't all that funny to anyone but certain elementary school choral directors, like "The Last Shopping Day Until Christmas," and a song that referred to Nintendo as "the TV game that makes a funny noise." Gee, you can't tell THAT was written by someone who revels in their own old-fogeyism, could you?

If you have any favorites among obscure Christmas songs, feel free to comment. But I'd like to end this entry with a comment on a song I know pretty well, but have never really understood, "I Saw Three Ships." Since when does the Christmas story have a nautical theme? Jesus had several adventures on the Sea of Galilee, but that was when he was an adult. And St. Nicholas was the patron saint of sailors, but he doesn't come into that particular song. So help me out here, okay?

Oh, and happy birthday to lozenger8! It's summer where she is now, which must be nice.

Writer's Block: Doh!

It's the twentieth anniversary of the first Simpsons episode today. Who is your favorite Simpsons character—Ralph? Sideshow Bob? Ned Flanders? An actual Simpson?

I've actually always liked Apu. I wasn't so fond of the writers' decision to have him cheat on his wife, though.

I guess I should do the happiness meme for today, but I'm really not that happy, since I have to get my car's driver's side mirror replaced. But I suppose I'm happy that it seems it'll be resolved quickly, as long as the people at the Ford dealer were telling the truth.

For one final miscellaneous comment, am I overly paranoid for not wanting to give Facebook my passwords to other sites, in order to search for contacts, or alert people about LJ posts (really not sure why I'd even NEED a password for that one), or whatever? And was that a run-on sentence?

Tin Type

I finally watched Tin Man, last year's Sci-Fi channel miniseries loosely based on The Wizard of Oz. therealtavie had warned me that it wasn't very good, and...well, it really wasn't, but I thought I should see it anyway. It stars Zooey Deschanel (presumably chosen on the basis of the first two letters of her name being "Oz" spelled backwards; her first name can also be rearranged to spell "oyez," but with an E left over) as D.G. Seriously, that's all anyone ever calls her; I guess her parents forgot to make her initials stand for something. Actually, there's a hint late in the final part that she might share a name with her ancestor Dorothy Gale (yeah, Dorothy apparently had children and died, unlike in the books), but it's not entirely clear. She turns out to be a Princess of the Outer Zone (or "O.Z."), and armed soldiers try to stop her from gaining her birthright. Now, where have I seen THAT before? Oh, right. In the 1925 silent film version of Wizard. Thanks for reminding me of THAT train wreck! Anyway, after escaping from the soldiers and the Munchkins (who, in this version of Oz, are suspicious little guys in body paint who live in treehouses presumably stolen from the Ewoks), she starts her journey to the Central City with the local equivalents of the Big Three. The Scarecrow is a former adviser to the Queen whose brain was removed (well, half of it, anyway), the Tin Man an ex-cop who threatens people with his gun to get out of pretty much any possible situation, and the Lion a psychic healer with a rubber-banded beard (I suppose he must have taken fashion tips from Captain Lou Albano). In the city, they seek out the Mystic Man, played by Richard Dreyfuss, to tell him how much Mr. Holland's Opus sucked. No, that's probably what they SHOULD have done, but they actually end up being sent on a mission to find D.G.'s parents and the Emerald of the Eclipse, which the Wicked Witch wants to block out the O.Z.'s two suns. Unlike Mr. Burns, she doesn't appear to have any real motivation for this, other than just being nasty. As it turns out, the Witch Azkadellia is D.G.'s sister, who was possessed by the spirit of an ancient witch, and cursed with the inability to deliver her lines convincingly. The winged monkeys are tattoos on her breasts that come to life when she wants them to. D.G.'s search leads to a shape-shifter playing the role of Toto, and to her father Ahamo (I wonder if "Tunrettub" was their second choice), who arrived in the O.Z. from Nebraska in a hot-air balloon. Wait, I thought Dreyfuss' character was the Wizard. Oh, well. It's probably not too important by this point. D.G. stops Azkadellia by reaching her human side. I've seen that trope a bunch of times, but it rarely seems all that convincing. This witch's spirit can make Azkadellia go on ruthless killing sprees, imprison her own parents, and rule the country with an iron fist, but can't withstand sisterly love? I don't know; it's not that I can never buy the Love Conquers All message, but I think it's usually applied WAY too conveniently.

In a way, I guess I'm biased, due to my love of the original Oz books. People are constantly reinterpreting the first story, and while that's good in a way, they always ignore the later ones. We've seen so many different versions of the Wicked Witch of the West, but few of the Nome King, and none of Ugu the Shoemaker (at least as far as I know). Even more than that, though, I'm not sure I understand what they were going for with this particular reworking. It was on the Sci Fi Channel, which suggests that it's supposed to be a science fiction retelling, but there were very few elements of sci-fi in it. Sure, there were robots and holographic projectors, but those thing were in the original books, even if they weren't called by those names. In fact, there was probably MORE sci-fi in L. Frank Baum's books than in this miniseries. I also saw a reference to Tin Man as "steampunk," but I can't recall any retro-futurism in it. Really, I think it might have worked best if they hadn't played up the Oz connection so much. Why not just come up with an unrelated fantasy series with some Oz references? That way, they might have come across as more clever and less "oh boy, another remake."