I was tasked with the Christmas Cards this year, and to my surprise it looks as if they'll go out after all. Took me long enough - a few days to get around to designing the card, a few days to get around to uploading it to Target, a few days to make the labels, and so on. I'm not the sort of person who makes the labels then puts them on then applies the stamps. Just not. Wish I was, but on the other hand, having a bunch of things to do keeps me from losing interest. "But don't you forget what you were working on before you finish it?" Never. And don't underestimate the joy of finding a project that was 93% complete. You fill in this and that, and hello, something new and ready to roll.
I speak, of course, of the annual update of the Institute of Official Cheer, the revision of Miscellany into something other than a dumping ground, and another big site you didn't see coming, even though the clues have been dropped for a couple of years now. This thing. It never ends.
I have discovered another treasure-trove of midcentury Christmas compilations: the W. T. Grant Christmas Albums. (By “discover” I’m sure this means I stumbled on something well-known to connoisseurs of this peculiar genre.) A mix of pop, orchestral, and folk - something for everyone, and terribly declasse by modern standards. Meant to be played on the family phonograph while the presents are unwrapped or the meal is cooking. Safe selections with a few peculiar choices. Covers:
Andre Previn, lower right - second bulb in, appears to be represented by a porcelain doll version of himself. Rather telling photo of the man with the best possible name for an organist:
Lay off the henna, E.
I love this from his wikipedia entry:
His critics of the time included rival concert organist Virgil Fox, who was known for a more flamboyant, colorful style of performance.
Don't you wish you lived in an era where there were rival concert organists, one of whom was more flamboyant?
Mommy, will Santa be able to come, because the house is totally engulfed in flames?
Annnd the sixties slumps off into the distance as the seventies assert themselves:
Did anyone's house have a curved brick wall like that? Looks like a community college hallway.
People like them because they remind them of the best years of childhood Christmas - somewhere between the dimly recollected age of 7 and the still-not-hating-everything-and-anyone era of teenhood, when it’s all . . . okay, I guess, but you’d rather be out with your friends on Christmas doing something, I don’t know what, doesn’t matter, but maybe like going to the mall and hanging out and talking about things. Stuff. But the whole world has to shut down. It’s torture.
I remember that. Couldn’t wait to bolt out of the house if there was an excuse on late Christmas. By then you’re exempt; by then it’s over. This was our mistake, as a family: everything happened on Christmas Eve, which means Christmas Day itself is just dry chicken at Grandma’s with lumpy gravy, and seeing all the things your cousins at the farm got. They got the coolest stuff. They got PONG for cripe’s sake.
Yes, once you hit 14, life’s awful and it’s all you can do to bear it. Another design flaw in the human psyche, unless it’s designed to countermand the parental instinct to keep the kids around by making them unpleasant pimply snipes you can’t wait to get rid of.
Can’t see myself getting to that point, though. On the contrary. I look down the road and see . . . well, I don’t look down the road. For that reason. Unless it’s late at night and I’m trying to sleep and I see Margaret Hamilton leering at me, holding an hourglass.
Anyway. You'll note some Skitch Henderson in here - he was a Tonight Show bandleader before the awesome Doc Severinsen - as well as that interminable "!2 Days of Christmas," sung with his patented mixture of Nasal Yet Sonorous Reverence by Burl Ives. It fits because Burl became part of Christmas after the whole Rudolph / Holly Jolly affair. There's a song on one of the albums - not included in the compilation, due to the excess of Folk Music present in the track - sung by the Russian man who adopted Worf on"Star Trek." Years later, of course. Also Gomer Pyle. The Arthur Fiedler stuff really gets that broad deep "Pops" sound right, as well it should; he invented it, or rather took Ormandy's sound and applied it to the light peppy stuff. (That might be true; I just sort of made it up.) Something I didn't know about Arthur:
Fiedler had many different hobbies. He was fascinated by the work of firefighters and would travel in his own vehicle to large fires in and around Boston at any time of the day or night to watch the firefighters at work.
I'm sure the firefighters loved that.
The later compilations cobbled together old tracks and new, as if to mirror the company's decline. Once a powerhouse retailer with over 1200 stores, Grant screwed the pooch in a number of ways: didn't bother with the rise of the suburbs, didn't invest in the stores, then decided to meet the challenges of a competitive environment by giving credit away to absolutely everyone. (After bankruptcy, the debt was bought by some Minnesota guys.) They were also responsible for building one of the ugliest buildings in Times Square. It could have been worse, I suppose, but the crown has always bothered me. It replaced the Astor Hotel, and that will not go down as one of the more equitable trades in architectural history.
Anyway, here you go.
Let not your holiday go withot LONG CAKE.
There you have something that tells you the difference 'twixt then and now.
"Strawberries in December?"
This, I know, has been a rather airless and impersonal entry, but it's a column night and all I did today was write a bunch of stuff, scan, buy stamps, and ferry my daughter to and fro from this to that. I need some serious work, and that will come tomorrow. See you around!
By the way, Lint should have some interesting toys up around noonish or so. And don't forget the Strib blog!