Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The 12 Days of Christmas

One of the reasons I haven't been adding many new posts here in 2009 was that I've been doing more on Facebook. Yeah, I know, as stated on the homepage: I suck. I wont proclaim that I'll post more updates here in 2010 but I will aggregate some of my FB stuff. To that end, let me begin with my 12 favorite Christmas songs as posted on Facebook but with more information (and not necessarily in order). I know that the true 12 days of Christmas are from December 25th through January 6th (The Epiphany) but I wanted to count down to the big day as we currently celebrate it. Music is my favorite part of the Christmas Season. This list is long overdue (and far too short).

Day 12: A non-traditional and a great start to any holiday season! I heard it first on 33rpm long-play record - John Denver & The Muppets - A Christmas Together - When the River Meets the Sea. The song was written by Paul Williams for Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas which is another one of my Christmas favorites.

Day 11: A non-secular classic today. When making my Christmas "mix tapes" back in the day, I excluded Jingle Bells because most recorded versions were too childish. Then I heard this version on an oldies station by accident and it became a favorite. Sing, clap or stomp, just make a joyous noise for Fats Domino's version of Jingle Bells!

Day 10: Carol of the Drum, better known as The Little Drummer Boy with words and music by Katherine K. Davis. Check out the interesting side bar on the link - the song dates back to 1941. This is the "original" recorded version arranged and sung by the Harry Simeone Chorale.

Day 9: Oh Holy Night - my favorite traditional and the first song ever broadcast via radio. Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Ignore the video. Just listen. The true beauty of this song is its legendary history. My favorite line is usually not sung: "Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace."

Day 8: With snow on all of our minds, I have to go with White Christmas. Written in 1940 and introduced two years later in the musical Holiday Inn, not the 1954 movie of the same name. I love Bing's version, but The Drifters have way more fun with it. Their video can't be embedded so I present the always fun animated version.

Day 7: Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song - Although its been sung many times, many ways, it was written by Mel Torme in 1947 who was just trying to keep cool one hot summer. Nat changed it slightly by adding the strings section and the song became one of the biggest hits ever. I couldn't imagine Christmas without it!

Day 6: Another old stand-by - Burl Ives singing Holly Jolly Christmas. I still love the 1964 "claymation" movie where most of us heard this song for the first time. This one was written in by Johnny Marks who, though Jewish, wrote many other Christmas classics including Rudolph, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree and Run Rudolph Run.

Day 5: It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas as sung by Bing Crosby. "But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be on your own front door." Every year I make a pilgrimage to some remote forest in NJ and harvest the annual sprig of Holly. This year I visited the maritime forest on Sandy Hook with my wife and a good friend of ours. Good times & happy memories!

Day 4: Happy XMas - John Lennon with the Harlem Community Choir. Yes, the song is titled "XMas" not "Chirstmas". "So this is Christmas and what have we done? Another year over, a new one just begun." Actually a protest song but the message is simple - Peace. On Christmas day remember the man but honor his message.

Day 3: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas works beautifully in duets. One of my favorite versions features Bing Crosby & Frank Sinatra but that isn't one of YouTube's favorites. This version features two performers which I dearly miss. ..."Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow." I tried to not go back to the well with my most favorite Christmas Album of all time... although the lyrics have changed a lot over the years, I could only find recordings where Bing misses a lyric (He says Self instead of Heart) so I go with what works.

Day 2: From the Emmy Award winning Charlie Brown Christmas Special - Christmas Time Is Here by Vince Guaraldi. "Christmas time is here. We'll be drawing near. Oh, that we could always see such spirit through the year!" This video features an excellent edit of the special and includes Linus' monologue (Luke 2:8-14). The inclusion of this word-for-word reading originally horrified CBS executives but Charles Shultz insisted saying "If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?". Read more of the interesting history here.

Christmas Day: John Denver & the Muppets - Alfie the Christmas Tree. Anyone that knows me probably had a good inkling that this would be my final song. It's one of John Denver's favorites and it was inspired by the Muppets that helped him perform it. Merry Christmas! The video features the entire segment of the special including a duet with Kermit. Great stuff.

Orignal From: The 12 Days of Christmas

Monday, August 31, 2009

Throwing away 15 years for $2.10.

My favorite use for this site is venting when I'm pissed so here goes: I'm through with Citibank. They were my first credit card and the only ones who took a chance on the stupid kid with no credit but at some point they got complacent. They made deals with third party "credit protection" folks who, while probably legit back in 1994, are certainly not any longer. 12 years ago I subscribed to a $15/year "credit protection" service paid every 3 years. The credit cards weren't really doing it yet and the service seemed like a good deal as I kept "losing" my wallet. After a few years I stopped receiving updated from the service. I'm guessing they got snapped up by one of the scammer groups. Anyway, 6 Years ago I canceled the service because the credit cards were watching their own backs. 3 years ago I got charged again despite the cancellation. It was difficult to find out who the hell these people were too. If they were still even REMOTELY legit I'd at least get an invoice. I disputed the charges and they got reversed. Bravo.

In the past 3 years I have moved, changed my phone number & my credit card number has been changed not once but twice because the stupid internet vendors are unable to keep my number private. You'd think that any subscription service would be out of luck, right? I mean month-to-month on Napster got screwed up... now could a once-every-three-years survive?

Not without help from the credit card company of course! Because Citi has facilitated these scammers (and "earned" approximately $2.10 on the transaction). And because the amount hasn't been credited as I requested when I called them. And because I was given the run-around and spontaneously disconnected twice.  And because they didn't send me the statements from 3 years ago like I requested last week. And because their interest rate is up to 20%. But mostly because they like to change my billing date, refuse to stop sending me balance transfer "checks", charged fees for "forwarding" my Napster subscription to the new new number and drop charges on top of the interest for being a day late (while closing their business day whenever they feel like it).

So, see ya Citi. Hope you get a lot of happiness out of your $2.10 because you sold me out for the last time.

Orignal From: Throwing away 15 years for $2.10.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Cluster of 2009

Around Christmas late last year I started into a cluster cycle of headaches. It’s been a long while since I wrote about these so I’ll retell my tale of the pain in the brain. Cluster Headache is in the migraine family. A typical day in the life of a Clusterati has me feeling a little strange about 3 hours after waking up and then spending 15 to 30 minutes with a serious headache isolated exclusively on the left side of my head. Unlike a regular headache the pain is sharp and constant. My left eye waters, I get extra sensitive to… pretty much everything & once in a while it’s enough to give me the classic migraine nausea. Once in a while they’ll just cease but they usually peter out after several minutes. Often, I’ll be due for another episode 3-4 hours later and then done for the day. This is the largest thing that separates them from standard migraine. They seem to be directly tied to the circadian rhythms AKA, your sleep cycles. This particular cycle was a little out of the ordinary in that I was frequently getting them in the evening and twice in the middle of the night.

It’s been a week now since I had a full-blown attack so I’m definitely coming out of this cluster pattern. This is the other defining factor and where Cluster Headaches get their name. They come in groups over a few months and then completely vanish for as much as a year or two. My current cycle will have lasted almost exactly two months, which is on the short side, but I’m certainly not complaining.

Due to the quick onset & (hopefully) rapid departure of the pains, taking medication isn’t really a solution. A few times in the past 2 months I had dull (for clusters) headache that just lasted all day. In those cases 12-hour pain caps took the edge off but for most of the days there’s just nothing you can take that will do more than slowly make you immune to the pain dampener. The only thing I’ve found that can truly beat down a cluster headache in full swing is a terrific rush of endorphins & adrenaline. If I’m at home I’ll hit the basement where we store the free weights. If I’m out and about I’ll do a few wind sprints. If I’m at the office â€" and this is where the headaches most frequently occur â€" there’s not much I can do. While working in New York I used to take a walk to the stairway and knock off a few dozen flights. 10 down and 16 back up followed by a walk on the roof usually did the trick. The panic inducing vertigo of looking down 16 stories onto the streets of Manhattan sometimes provided the finishing touch.

The correlation between circadian rhythms and exercise beating the pain is something of a mystery to me but I can see that getting the blood flowing & opening up the capillaries in my head is the solution. Now I just need my current employer to put in an additional 15 stories of building.

Orignal From: The Cluster of 2009

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Monthly Update - January

I only seem motivated to drop a post here once a month so I'll make it a tradition.

This has been a turbulent month for me in a lot of ways. It all started when I returned to work after the New Year's break and discovered our parent companies had filed for their country's equivalency of bankruptcy.  The American division is ok so far but it's not a pretty sight overseas. I hear about companies all over laying people off left and right and I can't help but feel a bit worried, especially after my other New Year's surprise - my property taxes went up 10%. Thanks Corzine!

Other turbulence: The other Saturday I flipped on the old boob tube (which doesn't have a tube. Oh well.) and found nothing but infomercials for hair products & yoga mats. What the? When I was a whipper snapper I lived for Saturday Morning Cartoons and now they are nowhere to be found. I suppose they've moved up the dial. You can always get something animated on the Cartoon or Nick networks but Yoga and Hair curlers? Damn... kids are going to just have to go outside to find entertainment!

Two days later I was shocked to hear G-Rock, my favorite radio station, suddenly change formats. Without warning they went from a progressive alt-rock station to a soulless top 40 cookie cutter TMZ mess. The station had been the anchor of my presets and it left a giant hole where "4" used to be. I wasn't alone in my disgust. By that weekend 7500 people had organized on Facebook (yeah, I got drawn in) and 3500 signatures had been signed on the Bring Back G-Rock petition. As of this writing Facebook has 9500 members & the petition is up to 4600 signatures.

I'm disappointed but I'm afraid the station wont go back to what it was. Nor will the institution of Saturday Morning Cartoons draw children together on weekends. Times they are a changing and terrestrial radio will be the first to go. Network Television may eventually follow. The Internet is largely to blame and though I love some of the changes, I'm sorry to see my options diminished. I could go with Satellite Radio but then I'll have to get subscribed. I could get a plan on my phone... but once again, they make you subscribe. Not for me, man! Information & Entertainment was meant to be free. I'll reconsider when "data" isn't a "plan" and "commercial free" really is free from commercialism. One day in the hopefully distant future I'll look back at the early 00's and remember them as the golden age of entertainment & information - when it was still free and available in multiple ways.

On one hand it will be excellent to turn on The Fiosion to check your email, pull up the latest pictures of your nephew and instantly begin watching the latest episode of The Simpsons (Now in it's 33rd year!) but the flip side of that coin is that you'll be locked into a 5 year deal with T-Mobile/Verizon (Officially branded as T.V.) and subject to personal commercials directed right into your psychy based on the things they know about from your Gmail account. Don't think it's possible? Get a glimpse of the future on Facebook. Change your birth-date to something in the 50s and watch the ads change to wrinkle cream & arthritis pills. Mark yourself as "Single" and the dating ads will fill your sidebar. Just wait until they know your car just went over 100,000 miles, that you're addicted to Chap-Stick, and that you never returned that overdue library book (ya know, from back when Libraries still existed).

Ok, that's enough grousing for one month. I'll be back next month with less insight and more hindsight.

Orignal From: Monthly Update - Januar