Monthly Archives: December 2005

Happy New Year!

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We’ve had just about every kind of weather conceivable over the past dozen or so First Nights in Albany, but it’s been a while since we actually had snow. Tonight, we have it — the kind where it snows for hours, hard, but doesn’t amount to much. Small, dense, slippery little flakes. But for once, we were there for the fireworks, which went on despite the snow, as this terribly odd photo of fireworks through the bare trees illustrates:

Fireworks and snow

Let’s have a great 2006. Let’s give peace a chance.

All we are saying,

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I don’t know why it hit me this year, rather than the past couple of years, but hit me it did. All through the Christmas season, every time I heard John and Yoko’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” I got a little choked up at the thought that, in fact, war was not over, that once again we were teetering on the edge of where we were thirty years ago and more. Divisiveness, polarization, protests, and death.

Then last night we were watching a bit of Wim Wenders’s “Wings of Desire,” in which his Homer asks, “What is wrong with peace that its inspiration doesn’t endure?”

War is over, if you want it.

Christmas at last

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Bek on ChristmasAn extraordinary Christmas, in a number of ways. Mostly, in the sense of the extraordinary amount of preparation that was occasioned by hosting it, as I realized that the house was just not presentable and a little dusting and vacuuming was not going to cut it. There was down-on-your-knees scrubbing, there were nasty household chemicals, there was varnishing of cabinets (okay, it was polyurethane, but still). And then there was cooking. We did a Rachael Ray Christmas (much more attractive to me than anything Martha ever presented) and served beef for the first time in about 15 years. Not just any beef, but an unbelievably good organic beef tenderloin (and if you’re in Albany, treat yourself with a visit to one of the very last of the old-style butchers, Cardona’s Market at 340 Delaware Ave.), rubbed in seasoning and cooked to perfection. Oh my god it was so good (if I may say so myself). Everything else went well, too, including Rachael’s recipe for a panettone-based bread pudding that was incredible. Of course, it started with the best panettone I’ve ever tasted, also from Cardona’s. And to think I used to scoff at cake in a box.

Got through the entire day without too much of a meltdown from any of the kids or adults. One gift broken on arrival, which is not too bad. My new camera is a dream. Now I’m just dreaming of getting a very fast lens for it (it came with two zooms, one shorter, one longer, and I’d like one fixed-length that’s faster).

By yesterday, I was exhausted, and accomplished absolutely nothing. Today it was back to work, where a random comment from a co-worker about the brightness of a particular toy in the Toys for Tots pile led me to a revelation: I finally know the name of my rock ‘n’ roll band, and its name shall be — Blinded By Tweety.

Tis the season!

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Fourth grade chorus concert. (And by the way, I would happily see my taxes increased if I thought it would result in auditorium chairs with even a hint of cushioning, because the involved-parent thing is hard on the ass.) A marvelous, politically correct little walk through holidays of all cultures — not an inappropriate thing, as our schools are becoming more diverse than they used to be. There was a story mixed in between the songs. The kids did a wonderful job, and they had a lot of dialogue to memorize, so that alone was pretty amazing. So it went something like this: Story of Christmas, followed by Christmas song. Story of Hanukkah, followed by Hanukkah song. Story of Kwanzaa, followed by, yes, a Kwanzaa song (people have doubted me on this one, but why wouldn’t there be a Kwanzaa song?). Story of Ramadan, followed by . . . well, a story of something else, because, really, there are no Ramadan songs. They talked about fasting, they talked about Allah, they talked about how it sometimes overlaps the Christian holidays, but no song was sung.

In a pinch, I would think they could have dressed up “O Tannenbaum” into “O Ramadan,” don’t you? “O Ramadan / O Ramadan / How lovely is thy fasting,” something like that.

Please, no fatwas. I may be going to hell, but this won’t be the reason.

Surviving the Nutcracker

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Our sixth year of the Nutcracker, and the easiest one yet. One daughter took a sabbatical, so we only had one girl, and one performance. This was good, because the backstage chaos was worse than ever. But our angel did very well.

Otherwise, the weekend was a blur of cleaning — mostly the kind you don’t really notice, like washing walls and the insides of cabinets, cabinet doors, that sort of thing. Had to assemble a new bathroom cabinet — the old one was seriously ratty looking. Trying to get this place presentable for Christmas.

In an unrelated note, we were riding along in the car the other night, listening to the Underground Garage, and it turns out younger daughter knows every word to The Who’s “Substitute” — which is more than I can say. Couldn’t be more proud.

Bye bye, boring radio

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This is it. Howard Stern’s last day on terrestrial radio. I’m a huge fan of Howard, not for the smut and the strippers, but for his incredible ability to get people to reveal themselves, and his skill at creating radio train wrecks that you can’t turn away from. Who else could have spent hours in an argument over whether “oil and vinegar” and “vinaigrette” were the same thing, and made it so funny you could listen to it over and over again? But most important to me, it’s the last time I have to listen to ads for diamonds, mattresses, help wanted websites, biker clothes, or any of the other phenomenally annoying local ad sponsors that have been faithful to the show but drive me crazy hearing them over and over and over for years and years and years.

I was a huge fan of radio growing up — like a lot of people my age, it seemed magical. The DJs still seemed like celebrities (though it was often best not to actually see them in person), just about any kind of music could be played on a station — there was a great atmosphere, but it seemed like it could be even better. Then there was a great radio station in college, WAER, that really had that perfect mix of very professional shows mixed with a wild eclecticism — until a professor seized an opportunity to make it what he wanted it to be: all boring jazz, all the time. Click! (Okay, car radios don’t click anymore.) And ever since then, I’ve barely listened to radio at all, because I have never heard good new music again. But I got into Howard Stern about 10 years ago, and it gave me hope that radio could be great again. Then Janet Jackson’s nipple somehow equated to a crackdown on radio — because that’s how this works: always have a crusade in your pocket, just in case the opportunity arises. Almost nothing could be said anymore (even though it was being said on other shows, even on cable TV), and it just got to be too much, so I was thrilled when Stern decided to go to satellite. I just hope I can tear myself away from the Underground Garage channel long enough to listen!

Lights? Humbug!

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Really. I hate the Christmas lights. It’s not just the untangling — that’s pretty much under control with some careful coiling. It’s that after all the work, they still never look like I intend them to. Maybe that’s why I wait until, say, today to do them. The lights have been on the tree, for a week, but the house was looking kinda bare (in fact, our little neighborhood seems a little less Electric Yule-y than in past years). It’s enough to make me get one of those giant inflatable snow globes. I hate tacky, yet I want tacky. Must. Defeat. Tacky. Self!

So, some lights are up. Some are headed for the trash. I want to feel guilty about the waste, especially knowing someone in Malaysia earned about a quarter for putting the whole thing together so it would only cost me $9.99 at the Target. But when a string goes, out they go — I don’t have hours to spend figuring out which little micro-light is causing the problem. And I hate that string, anyway. Never looked the way it does on other people’s houses.

I was thinking of making the obligatory Griswold reference, and it reminded me of what a crisp piece of writing the original “Christmas ’59” story was when it appeared in National Lampoon. It was so laugh-out-loud funny. And now I couldn’t be happier to tell you that it’s available on the web, right here. And, so is the original “Vacation ’58” story. I love the web!