Thursday, December 22, 2011

v2, d429: File Under: Christmas, General

Man, I've almost written a ton of blog posts lately.  See, back when I forced myself to blog daily (or later, near-daily), I would sit down at my computer and think, Gee, what should I blog about today?  And then I'd just ramble on about whatever was on my mind, unless that thought was too complicated for me to articulate at one in the morning (which happened frequently). Were I not already determined that I would be blogging something, many of those thoughts would have stayed in my head.  I know this because it is exactly what has been happening lately.  Now, instead of starting with the decision "I am going to blog today" and fitting a thought to it, I start with a thought, "I wonder why so much Christmas pop culture is so terrible?" and eventually the train of thought turns to, "Hey, I ought to blog about this," but when one a.m. roles around, the train of thought has pretty much run its course in my head, so I feel no need to put it out on the screen any longer.  Thus, without the predetermined outcome that I will share my thoughts, I usually don't. 

What have I almost blogged about this month?

--the "culture" of Christmas
--my favorite Christmas songs
--my least favorite Christmas songs
--a poem I was working on
--a short story I was thinking about
--Robbie's school Christmas pageant (you can see the pic on my flickr site, tho)
--my own church's Christmas special (my script, and all the nerves that came with it)
--why I don't participate in religious, political, or philosophical discussions on FB or Twitter
--the Texans winning the division (and subsequently becoming the Texans of...every year before this one)
--Robbie's first hockey game, and the possibly-divinely-won free tickets that made it all possible
--keeping faith in the face of financial struggles
--our upcoming Christmas road trip
--taking the kids from my church to the Players' to see Christmas Pageant
--why Gremlins is such a wonderfully absurd and grotesque Christmas classic
--Feliz Navidadgehangen
--A new RNGOTM
And a few other, "deeper" subjects I don't remember any more. 

That would have made for some interesting reading, huh???

However, I have been spending this month working on some other, smaller writing projects, and they've been eating my time and creative juices, even if they've been very slow in coming. 

Anyway, heading home for Christmas tomorrow morning.  I have to stay up late until the bread in the breadmaker is finished.  We have an 11-day 3-state whirlwind of family and festivity ahead of us.  I estimate at least 40 hours of driving time.  That will probably not be fun.  Plus, I've finally got the head cold that the rest of my family has been fighting through.  Just like at Thanksgiving!  I think it will be good, though.  I'm stoked to see my sister and brother-in-law for the first time since their wedding.  And to see the in-laws' new house for the first time.  And to (hopefully) revive the New Year's Eve hockey tradition (albeit in OKC).  And to just get a chance to relax and maybe focus on some reading or writing.  (I think I read almost 600 pages over Thanksgiving break)  I'll also need to update my reading blog.  Operation: Christmas Reading has been pretty funny.  And fairly disastrous.  So I've wanted to wait until I've got enough time and focus to sit down and write a good review for each of the lumps of literary coal I've labored my way through so far this month.  Oh, and it looks like I'm actually going to end up with an average of just over one book per week this year.  Which is not a lot to some of you, but it's a great step forward for me. 

In case I don't log back on before Sunday, Merry Christmas, everyone.  And have a happy new year.  I won't have Internet access on the 31st, so I won't get to write an absurdly long year-in-review post this year, but if I could I promise it'd be a lot happier review than last year's. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

v2, d428: A Carol for Baboushka

Are you familiar with Baboushka?  I wasn't until I checked out a Caldecott-winning children's storybook from the library.  Now, I can't claim this source is 100% accurate, but here's the cliff-notes version:

Baboushka was an old woman who lived alone in Russia.  One blizzardy night, the three kings stop by her place on the way to find the newborn King. They say they've been following the star, but the snowstorm has made them lose track of it and they want a place to stop until the storm blows over.  Baboushka opens up her home to them, and the three kings tell her the wonders of the Baby they're seeking.  They even offer her the chance to go along, and Baboushka is thrilled.  However, she asks if they're willing to wait until morning, and they insist they have to leave out that night.  Thus, Baboushka gets left behind.

Later in the evening, she changes her mind and decides she wants to go with the wise men after all.  She gathers up (or makes, I don't remember which) some simple toys for the baby and sets out after the wise men.  Unfortunately, the snow has completely covered their tracks and she can't find any trace of them, so she wanders the countryside looking for them.  She goes door to door, but nobody can tell her for certain where the kings are.  And, to this day, every Christmas Eve she goes from house to house, seeking the Christ-child, and leaving toys for the children of the house in His honor. 

Interesting that our symbol of gift-giving is a jolly fat man who lives in extravagance at the North Pole with magic and legions of workers who mass-produce toys for him, while Russian children have a kind-hearted beggar woman leaving gifts she made herself in honor of Christ. 

Anyway, I worked up a little Christmas carol in honor of Baboushka and her neverending quest to find the wise men.  I hope you like it.

(the song opens with a lovely strings section)
 Where did they go?
I was searching (searching) for three men, quite wise
I was hoping (hoping) I might find those guys
I was looking for some camel footprints in the snow
(They're gone so long)
What can I do? 
(Where did they go?)
Nyet, nyet, nyet
Don't know what I'm going to do
I've got to catch up with you.

You better slow down (slow down) sweet talkin' wise men (slow down)
That wind is blowing (blow, blow) My toes are freezing
Hold on (hold on) sweet talkin' wise men (hold on) 
Feels like I'll search for you forever.

I was (making) little dolls and toys
To be giving (giving) to God's favorite Boy
I forgot to ask which star to chase 
(They're gone so long)
What do I do?
(Where could they be?)
Nyet, nyet, nyet
Don't know what I'm going to do
I gotta catch up to you.

You better slow down (slow down) sweet talkin' wise men (slow down)
That wind is blowing (blow, blow) My toes are freezing
Hold on (hold on) sweet talkin' wise men (hold on) 
Feels like I'll search for you forever.

I've been knocking (knocking) on my neighbor's door
I've been sleeping (sleeping) on a stranger's floor
People say you're prob'ly dead by now
(They're gone so long)
It's 2011.
(Folks have a point)
Nyet, nyet, nyet,
Don't know what I'm going to do.
I gotta catch up to you.

You better slow down (slow down) sweet talkin' wise men (slow down)
That wind is blowing (blow, blow) My toes are freezing
Hold on (hold on) sweet talkin' wise men (hold on) 
Feels like I'll search for you forever.


(As always, a little help if you need a reference point)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

v2, d427: This Blog Still Flies

The Great Thanksgiving Road Trip went pretty well, overall.  Unfortunately, I was pretty sick for just about the whole thing.  And Kim was sick for part of it, too.  As was Isaac, who had RSV and needed to breathe medication through a mask three times a day.  So I won't say it was a perfect holiday, but it was good times with good food.  And we got to see my folks in OKC for a day at Chuck E. Cheese.  Robbie had never been to a CEC.  I hadn't been since (I think) we moved from California, which was 1988.  (August 8th, for the record.  The day before Wayne Gretzky was traded to the L.A. Kings)  I seem to remember loving Chuck E Cheese and especially the large animatronic characters who would sing for guests' entertainment.  Apparently, however, this is not the case, as my mom, dad, and sister all went on and on about how I was terrified of these characters as a child.  Funny the different ways we remember things twenty years later.

At any rate, I remember thinking that Showtime was a pretty big deal at CEC.   At this CEC...not so much. While my childhood's memories had Chuck E. flanked by an entire animatronic backup band, this iteration of the franchise featured a robot Chuck E. and a TV screen where he interacted with puppet versions of his friends from my memory.  It wasn't the same, and I couldn't really blame all the kids in the restaurant for completely ignoring the musical numbers.  Also, they ought to allow Chuck E. to have a degree of manual control rather than being completely pre-programmed.  During the few moments when a couple of kids gathered by his stage to watch the show, Chuck E. was usually looking in a completely different direction than the kids were standing.  "Are you guys enjoying the show?" he'd ask an entire row of empty tables while four cute little ones stood off to the side, hoping Chuck E. would talk to them.

(Now that I think about it, the only concrete memory I have of CEC as a kid was the entire cast singing Neil Diamond's "America," which was my absolute favorite song as a four-year-old)

Robbie loved Chuck E. Cheese, and I don't think he even realized there was a show element.  He was happy playing games even before he knew he could get prizes with the tickets he won.  Whack-A-Mole has become pretty high tech.  Instead of physically whacking tangible objects that pop out of holes in front of you, you now use a toy mallet to whap a TV screen that has mice scurrying across it.  You hit them and actually get to see them smush before little mouse angels leave their lifeless mousey bodies.  Now, I'm trying not to be one of those "Back in my day..." old guys, but...that's just not quite right.   There was also a game where you had to use a water gun to shoot monsters, and the game was rigged with plexiglass all around it so you couldn't spray everyone with water.  Except that Robbie found the one corner of the game that, when hit directly, would send water splashing back far enough to get himself wet.  And so he just aimed for that one spot over and over and over.  The kid was actually pretty wet by the time he was done playing games.

The car trips were actually not that bad.  Isaac slept for half of the drive and he sat happily looking out the window/ playing with his duck/ sticking his tongue out at Robbie the rest of the time.  I can't recall a single instance he started crying much the whole way to Oklahoma or back.  Robbie didn't fare quite so well--sitting still is not so easy for him, even in short intervals of time.  But we all made it.  Gives me hope for Christmas, because we'll be traveling a lot for Christmas.

I'm enjoying our Christmas season so far. We got the tree up the day we returned from OK, we've been listening to the music, Robbie's in a play at his school (he's playing one of the wise men), and I recently checked five Christmas-themed books out of the library since I don't have our TV working and we're missing the annual Cheesy Christmas TV Special-palooza.  Isaac is crawling now, so he's becoming a lot more fun (and challenging) to play with.  I recently had another play accepted for publication, and that's exciting.  My sleep difficulties are coming back, which is unfortunate, but so far I'm not staying up till 5 like I was before we moved.  Five Iron Frenzy is officially coming back, and I almost wrote a long blog about that but I was too tired at the time.  Still, seems like a good idea to wrap up this post with a video for their new song.  Enjoy, and talk to you again soon!