It's Beginning To Feel a Lot Like X-mas
by Jeff Lewis

Malls are playing the Christmas standards and towns everywhere are re-gluing the red reflector noses on the “Watch for Deer” signs, so I thought I’d pass on some holiday cheer.  If you don’t like religious or pan-African holidays, I hope you’ll settle for Glad December Tidings (I hesitate to offer Winter Well Wishes for fear of offending the new Peruvian readership that Oliver has secured for Babblog). 

First off, I’d like to shamelessly plug the Holiday Story Contest that I’m running.  When you have a chance, jot down a memorable holiday story and send it to jlewis@prancyhorse.com by December 15th for a chance to win a custom-made t-shirt.  I will personally design and iron on the decal, which I can guarantee will stay on the shirt for at least three washings.  The top seventeen finishers will get to view their story on the internet at Christmas-time, which admittedly isn’t much of a consolation prize, but at least it isn’t a cheap trinket that you’ll be tempted to re-gift.

With Apologies to Santa’s Super Sleigh

Holiday shopping often drives me mad, which is why I try to do as much of it as possible in August and September.  One aspect I do enjoy, however, are the holiday mixes with pop and jazz singers from the forties and fifties, which I treat as a Pub Trivia-style quiz.  All too often, though, the stores don’t provide you with the answers, so I’m left wondering, “Was that Johnny Mathis or Andy Williams?”  I put up with the expensive candles at Pottery Barn because they play their own holiday CDs, which they sell.  That makes it easy to check the correct answers when I get stuck.  In case you’re wondering, my favorite Christmas tune is Mel Tormé and Robert Wells’s The Christmas Song.  I naturally prefer Nat King Cole’s version, but Mel does it justice.  For singing purposes, I go with It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, which I’ve tried to sing both as Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, but I’ve got no talent, so my phrasing is all wrong.  Therefore, I take it deeper and sterner, á la the great Paul Robeson, but to others I sound like a Renaissance Fair performer pretending to be drunk.  Until today, I also didn’t know the words, so I’ve been singing, “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.”  My least favorite:  Alvin and the Chipmunks.  They’re too easy to guess and they’re crap.

At the risk of taking this ramble far afield, I’d like to share with you two reviews on the soundtrack for the most recent Star Trek series, Enterprise.  I found them while trying to find out why Scott Bakula recorded a version of It’s Beginning...  After finding out that he is a singer, I wondered whether he sang that dreadful power ballad that served as the show’s theme.  I recall being mildly interested in the pilot, despite a creepy attempt by Paramount to create a sexy Romulan, but I could never get past the opening credits of any other episode because of the theme song.  Now, after reading the following reviews, I feel that I should reevaluate the song.  The first comes from a Barnes & Noble review, the second from an Amazon.com shopper:

Bart Stavisky (bart_stavisky@hotmail.com), a Star Trek fan (5 stars out of 5)
Where my heart has taken me with this CD
While we had to wait for some time after the premiere of Enterprise for this CD to come out I believe that it was worth the wait.  The theme chosen for the series is a vocal ''Where my heart will take me'' which is also known as ''Faith of the Heart'' and expresses what this show is about.  Its about going where no one has gone before…

"Where my heart will take me" says it all., March 27, 2004
Bartnick51 - San Antonio, Texas (5 stars out of 5)
There has been much debate over the choice for the theme for Enterprise.  While the theme is different than that of the previous four series and films, it truly defines what Star Trek is.  It is a song that inspires hope and explains why humans are going into space and exploring the final frontier...

When I’m done here, I think I’ll program Enterprise into Tivo, so I can give the song another chance. Speaking of Tivo...

This Christmas, Give ‘Em “God’s Machine”

I finally share something in common with FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who’s so mad about Tivo that he calls it “God’s Machine.”  (Since I live near Berkeley, I call it “Gaia’s Machine” to placate the neighbors.)  It’s tough to find a better holiday gift, now that Tivo is offering a $100 box (with rebate), although if you are conscientious and plan to spring for the a lifetime subscription, that’ll run you an extra $300.  Still, is $400 too much to pay for Ultimate Happiness? Speaking of God...

“God Jul,” Says the Hugglig Dane

This year, I thought t-shirts with Danish phrases would be a great yuletide gift.  Danes are renowned for their clean lines, so I figured that their t-shirts could not fail to be stylish.  Plus, their language is great, particularly when mispronounced, with a few English phrases thrown in:  “Publiken klappar med lite halvhjärtat och bäst respons blir det självfallet i avslutande Dead or Alive covern "You spin me round like a record."

The problem is, it’s tough to find Danish t-shirts in California, apart from the kitschy, “I Heart Danmark” shirts that you can buy in Solvang, near Santa Barbara.  The web isn’t much of help if your Danish vocabulary is restricted to “God Dag,” “God Jul” and “1-2-3 Moster Henne!”  (“Good day,” “Merry Christmas” and “1-2-3 Aunt Henne!”, in case you are wondering).  How can you hope to order the right merchandise with all those Ø’s and å’s milling about?  After about an hour of trying to decipher several websites, I gave up.  On a positive note, my wife founding the missing “God Jul” sock—lovingly given to me by my parents a few years ago—so I now have a pair for this year’s Jul.

If Ye Be Needing No Barrels This Year, Cross the Cooper Off Your List

I’d like to apologize to my Marxist friends in advance for not heeding your calls for an all-barter Decemberfest.  The problem with barter as a gift is in the wrapping:  you can’t give a box of barter.  For me, the true meaning of Christmas is wrapping mediocre gifts in multiple bags and boxes, so that by the time the recipient reaches the gift, she is too tired to be underwhelmed.  I hope in the near future to reveal the secrets behind this technique, in an essay that I’ve tentatively titled, “The Revised Lewis Wrapping Method.”  Until then, I recommend holding off on any wrapping plans you had, because after reading my hard-learned advice, you’ll likely want to start from scratch.

A Message to the Kiddies

When I was fourteen, a friend persuaded me to join a caroling group, which I found appalling until I learned that there’s good money to be made in caroling, if you pick the right neighborhood and look cute.  We were in Bavaria when we did our gig, but I’m pretty sure the principle applies in the U.S. as well.  You need to find an affluent community with old people who are feeling a lot of remorse around Christmas time.  If you sing to them and smile widely, they will cry and give you money.  If you are in Germany they also will give you ginger biscuits of an odd consistency.  Anyway, we netted about $100 total, plus about 30 biscuits, which was good money in the mid-eighties.

One thing that you should avoid at all costs is getting conned into taking your clarinet to the fanciest of the local strip malls for a duet with your friend who plays the flute.  It doesn’t matter how many times you play Jingle Bell Rock, you will make very little money and what little you do get will be the result of pity.  Pity money only buys you sadness, so if you see a couple of kids toodling away in the mall this holiday season, just ignore them.  If you give them money, their private teacher will just send them out to play some more, which neither you nor the kids want to hear.

Another Message to the Kiddies, and to the Adults, Too

If your really good friend Fiona tries to talk you into watching Chuck and Buck again this year, just tell her that you are still grimacing from watching it last year.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.  If you do get roped into watching it, though, trying doing this:  Whenever things get too uncomfortable, just close your eyes, sing “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas” softly to yourself and think, “It’s only a movie.”

Copyright Jeff Lewis, 2004