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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

“Christmas may not bring a single thing; still, it gives me a song to sing”*…

Our reviewer

At the same time, as Mahalia Jackson said, “if you want me to sing this Christmas song with feeling and the meaning, you better see if you can locate that check.”

Novelist and publisher Tariq Goddard reviews this year’s crop of seasonal songs, for example…

Kelly Clarkson and I at least meet as equals, neither of us having heard of the other, although 25 million album sales mean more people have heard of her than they have me. Her handle on Christmas is not that much more assured than mine – she knows only what the seasonal songs that use the same formulas as hers tell her, which is of course a game of diminishing returns. There is the odd nod on When Christmas Comes Around to modernity (‘Christmas Isn’t Cancelled (Just You)’), but her trite take on tradition, if heard in a public space while experiencing another of life’s seasonal setbacks, may just bring the number of shopping trips down this Yuletide. Meghan Trainor, A Very Trainor Christmas, is more evidence that reality is multi dimensional, a Christmas euphemism for, ‘Are they all fucking mad or are we?’ Meghan is a hyperbolically successful young American whose version of ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ makes Kim Wilde and Mel Smith’s version sound like Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis — which is unfortunate as her frightened and life-denying version of the track is also by far the best thing on the record.

Billy Idol‘s Happy Holidays was the record I was most looking forward to, and like the later odes of Holderlin, is a lot stranger than you might expect. Idol starts in the only way the voice behind ‘Rebel Yell’ would be expected to, bullishly, going for broke on ‘Frosty The Snowman’ like he wants him to cry more, more, more. Eschewing howling axes for triangles and bells, the song is a Carry On Christmas-style piss take with a wink to music hall, full of fruity nudge nudges and spoken asides, which – unlike the awkward office party singalong it could have been – works because Idol sounds like he is having fun. He is a Bill Sykes that plays to the gallery and not to his demons. Unfortunately by track two he is beginning to grow a little more jaded, as if it is slowly occurring to him that just because we all grow old and still need something to do, that something doesn’t actually need to be this. Still, the realisation that a whole album of this stuff is going to be overkill, does not stop his version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ from keeping Richard Harris company in the astral bar that never closes, and ‘Auld Lang Syne’, a risk if ever there was one, is genuinely spooky, more Fagin watching the gallows being built from his cell than a new beginning in January.

So much more at “Jingle Hell: Tariq Goddard Reviews Christmas Music,” from @theQuietus. Via always-illuminating The Browser.

* Charles Dickens

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As we hum along, we might on the other hand recall that it was on this date in 1955 that Carl Perkins recorded “Blue Suede Shoes,” at Memphis Recording Service (later known, for the record label with which it shared a building, as Sun Studios). Written by Perkins and produced by Sam Phillips, it combined elements of blues, country, and pop music– and is thus considered one of the first rockabilly records.

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“All rising to great places is by a winding stair”*…

 

stairs

 

(Roughly) Daily will be on Thanksgiving hiatus until Monday the 2nd.  Meantime, with an eye to the massive meals that U.S. readers are likely to consume in the meantime…

George Schupp never expected to find himself in Robert De Niro’s apartment. Once the owner of a thriving a custom manufacturing company in Tulsa, Schupp’s business withered during the 1970s energy crisis.

Feeling aimless, Schupp and his business partner, Jim Walker, began wondering what else they could manufacture. Through creativity and fate, they ended up producing something so iconic that it transformed gyms around the world – and sculpted countless butts along the way.

Maybe that’s what De Niro was hoping for, when he invited Schupp into his home. It’s hard to know, all these years later. But the one thing the story shows is that even De Niro wasn’t immune to the allure of the StairMaster.

For a long time, gyms didn’t have machines, other than a stationery bike or two. The gym was a place for synchronized cardio classes, or free weights. The StairMaster, along with companies like Nautilus, transformed the gym into its current landscape, where rows of treadmills coexist with bikes, ellipticals and other contraptions.

stair_then

An early StairMaster

 

But how did the StairMaster climb from its humble Midwest origins to an Oscar-winning actor’s luxurious suite? It started with a chance encounter. In the midst of Schupp and Walker’s strategizing over how to transition into the fitness industry, they happened to meet a man named Lanny Potts.

When Walker showed up to buy Potts’ old car, the two fell into a meet cute so perfect it could have been scripted. Potts, it turned out, was an inventor. Soon, the trio met regularly to brainstorm. Walker and Schupp had the manufacturing know-how, and Potts brought promising ideas into the mix.

Seeking inspiration, Potts began reaching out to friends and associates. At one point, he made the fateful decision to approach his doctor, who proceeded to muse about the vexing problem of stair climbing. Did they know that climbing is excellent exercise, yet the descent can wreak havoc on shins and joints? They did not. But there it was, nearly perfect: A problem that needed a solution. And so they got to work.

In this way, the StairMaster’s history is almost the exact opposite of the treadmill’s. While the StairMaster is designed to minimize potential injury, the treadmill was specifically designed to inflict it. In 1818, a civil engineer named William Cubitt designed the treadmill as a ghoulish machine to punish prisoners…

Oprah

Oprah with the (newer model) StairMaster she called “my little friend”

 

A keystone of the modern gym: “The Story of the StairMaster.”

See also “From Oil to Oprah: An Oral History of the StairMaster.”

[image at top: source]

* Gautama Buddha

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As we work it off, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that the annual Thanksgiving Day parade started in Newark, New Jersey by Louis Bamberger at the Bamberger’s store was transferred to New York City by Macy’s.  Originally running from Harlem to the Macy’s store on Herald Square, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is tied for second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States with America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit.  (Both parades are four years younger than Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.)

The balloons that have become the Macy’s Parade’s signature were introduced in 1927, when a Felix the Cat balloon took the place of the live animals that had previously been borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.

From the first Macy’s Parade:

elephants_21904_1370_10881

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 27, 2019 at 1:01 am

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present”*…

 

The 13 most popular Christmas songs on Spotify, a music-streaming service, have amassed 1bn plays between them. The most popular of them, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, written in 15 minutes and recorded by Mariah Carey in 1994, accounts for 210m of those plays. It has earned over $60m in royalties since its release.

Despite its ubiquity during December, the appeal of festive music varies significantly by geography. Spotify provided The Economist with data for Christmas listening across 35 countries, and for every American state, on a day-by-day basis for the two months leading up to Christmas Day 2016. The data demonstrate that music lovers in Sweden and Norway listen to festive tunes most frequently. One in every six songs they streamed on Spotify during December last year received this classification (the list includes some 1,500 Christmas songs performed in English and local languages). By contrast, during the same period in Brazil—a country with a comparable proportion of Christians—just one song in 150 was Christmas-themed. Listening habits in American states also vary, though to a smaller degree: in New Hampshire Christmas songs accounted for one in nine streams, whereas in Nevada, the state where such tunes are least common, it was one in 20…

Why?  Find out at “The music industry should be dreaming of a white Christmas.”

* Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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As we deck the halls, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that 55-year-old German accordionist Will Glahé outsold many established Rock And Roll artists when his “Liechtensteiner Polka” reaches #19 on the Billboard Pop chart. Glahé’s first success in America had come in June, 1939 when his rendition of “Beer Barrel Polka” hit the top of the US Hit Parade, selling over a million copies. (Your correspondent has no explanatory link for this one…)

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Dear Santa, before I submit my life to your scrutiny, I demand to know who made YOU the master of my fate?!*…

 

Father Christmas as pictured in Josiah King’s The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686)

Contrary to what many believe, Santa Claus as we know him today – sleigh riding, gift-giving, rotund and white bearded with his distinctive red suit trimmed with white fur – was not the creation of the Coca Cola Company. Although their Christmas advertising campaigns of the 1930s and 40s were key to popularising the image, Santa can be seen in his modern form decades before Coca Cola’s illustrator Haddon Sundblom got to work. Prior to settling on his famed red garb and jolly bearded countenance, throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Santa morphed through a variety of different looks. From the description given in Clement Moore’s A Visit from St Nicholas in 1822, through the vision of artist Thomas Nast, and later Norman Rockwell, Mr Claus gradually shed his various guises and became the jolly red-suited Santa we know today…

The illustrated story of St. Nick at “A Pictorial History of Santa Claus.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes)

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As we finish our letters, we might recall that it was on this date in 1913 that Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross,” the first crossword puzzle, was published in the New York World:

2-3.    What bargain hunters enjoy.        6-22.    What we all should be.
4-5.    A written acknowledgment.         4-26.    A day dream.
6-7.    Such and nothing more.                2-11.    A talon.
10-11.    A bird.                                            19-28.    A pigeon.
14-15.    Opposed to less.                           F-7.    Part of your head.
18-19.    What this puzzle is.                     23-30.    A river in Russia.
22-23.    An animal of prey.                      1-32.    To govern.
26-27.    The close of a day.                      33-34.    An aromatic plant.
28-29.    To elude.                                      N-8.    A fist.
30-31.    The plural of is.                           24-31.    To agree with.
8-9.    To cultivate.                                     3-12.    Part of a ship.
12-13.    A bar of wood or iron.                20-29.    One.
16-17.    What artists learn to do.            5-27.    Exchanging.
20-21.    Fastened.                                      9-25.    To sink in mud.
24-25.    Found on the seashore.             13-21.    A boy.
10-18.    The fibre of the gomuti palm.

solution (source)

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Now, the supreme moment, the Christmas pudding was brought in, in state!”*…

 

Central Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1900

What did people eat in America 100 years ago during the holiday season? Menus catalogued by the New York Public Library from Christmas dinners served in the early part of the 20th century offer an interesting look at our ancestors’ dining habits. The menus come from a survey of restaurants, hotels, and even an Army fort’s Christmas dinner service…

Just in time to aid in planning this year’s holiday meal:  more (and larger) menus from an age gone by.

* Agatha Christie, “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding”

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As we bake the bread to break, we might recall that it was on this date in 1843 that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol— a novella he’d written over the prior six weeks– was formally published; it had been released to book stores and the public two days later.  The first run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve, and the book continued to sell well through twenty-four editions in its original form.

Cover of the first edition

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

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