For Christmas: Grace Jones sings “The Little Drummer Boy”

Okay, it’s Christmas, and it’s Obama’s second term. I get it. I need to be inclusive. I need to put something out here for everyone.

How about Grace Jones, circa 1990, on Pee-Wee Herman’s Christmas special, wearing a bizarre metallic headdress and breastplate and singing a technopop version of “The Little Drummer Boy”?


Now that’s inclusive.


Joyeux Noel.

For Christmas Eve: Dominic the Italian Christmas donkey

Dominick, the Italian Christmas donkey

There are some Christmas songs that I block out of my mind, until I hear them the next December, and think: Oh dear little lord Jesus, I forgot about that one.

This is one of them.

The more Italian you know, the funnier this song gets.


For Sunday: the ELO implores you not to be “So Serious”

This is a nice Eighties song with a bouncy beat and a pleasant melody, and a welcome message to boot.

It’s always best not to be so serious.

The Electoral College

electoral college

The Rhode Island Secretary of State, Ralph Mollis, recently sent me the cutest email invitation, as follows:

Following the second-highest turnout in state history, our remarkable election year will officially end this Monday when we convene RI’s Electoral College for the purpose of casting votes for president and vice president.




The historic ceremony will begin at noon when the Kentish Guards in colonial military garb will escort the state’s four Presidential Electors and other dignitaries to the House Chamber, where the event will take place.




If you would like to attend the ceremony, please RSVP to because seating in the House Chamber is limited. Capitol TV will also televise the ceremony live on Channel 15 on Cox Cable and Full Channel and Channel 34 on Verizon. In addition, we will set up TV monitors in the State Room to accommodate anyone who cannot be seated in the House Chamber.




State Rep.-elect Marvin L. Abney of Newport, Emily A. Maranjian of Providence, L. Susan Weiner of East Greenwich and Mark S. Weiner of East Greenwich have the honor of representing RI. By federal law, the state Democratic Party got to select the electors because Democrat Barack Obama won Rhode Island’s popular vote.


This is sort of adorable, in the way that the Beefeaters in the Tower of London and the Swiss Guards at the Vatican are adorable. We’re a small state, so we like ceremonies; it’s easy for pretty much anyone in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations to attend this, if he/she wants to. Notice the reference to “colonial military garb”: we’re one of the original thirteen colonies, right?

The Electoral College is a charming but unnecessary leftover from the early days of our Republic. But it needs to get lost. We need to elect our President and Vice-President by popular vote, nothing more, nothing less. Our history would be very different if we’d done this; there have been four elections (1824, 1876, 1888, and – surprise! 2000) when the popular vote went against the electoral vote.

There is an initiative running around among the states: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. In brief: states are declaring that they will give all their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote (so long as enough other states sign onto the compact).

Sadly, the only states to sign onto this compact so far are progressive/liberal states in the Northeast and West.

The red states seem suspicious of this initiative. I’m not sure why.

Maybe they just love their Kentish Guards.

Kids: time to put away childish things. Let’s get rid of this relic, the Electoral College, once and for all.

Happy (belated) birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven

beethoven schroeder

Beethoven’s birthday was a few days.

How do I know this? Why, the dear late Charles Schulz, of course.

Charles Schulz was the artist behind the comic strip “Peanuts.” He created the character Schroeder, who played his toy piano as if it were a grand piano, and who especially appreciated the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Schulz said later that he loved the idea of a child playing real music on a toy piano, and he showed this by showing Schroeder playing the actual (complex) Beethoven scores. You can always identify the music that Schroeder is playing; Schulz reproduces it perfectly, note for note.

And every December Schroeder remembered and celebrated Beethoven’s birthday, on the seventeenth of December.

Was Beethoven really born on the seventeenth of December? No one is sure. He was baptized on the seventeenth, in any case.

In belated honor of Beethoven’s birth (and baptism): the lovely ethereal opening movement of the late E major piano sonata No. 30, op. 109.





The Syfy Channel (I hate that name!) has been showing winter-themed disaster movies this month: “Ice Quakes,” “Ice Twisters,” “Snowmageddon,” and most notably, “The Twelve Disasters of Christmas.” This last one was best of all: a filmization of the Mayan apocalypse that’s scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, December 21, 2012.


We’ve all been joking for some time about the world coming to an end on December 21. And won’t we be all giggly if it turns out to be true!

But I think the end of the calendar year, and the darkness of the season, always makes us gloomy and fatalistic.

I noticed the other day that the asteroid Toutatis passed close to the Earth. Partner told me recently that a new asteroid just buzzed past Earth – closer to Earth than the Moon, in fact. The asteroid was approximately 120 yards wide – about the size of the asteroid that caused the Tunguska disaster in Russia in the early 1900s.

So many little perils! So many things that might happen to ruin our day!

So, while you’re waiting for the end of the world, a little traveling music from Elvis Costello:

Technology and its discontents


Some time back, Partner’s nephew appeared on Mecum Car Auctions (you should watch it sometime, it’s fascinating), driving a couple of the cars being auctioned. We wanted to share the video experience with Partner’s sister, because there were a few good shots of her son in the car.

Probably, with the right connections, we could have plugged into the TV or the DVR and extracted the images.  But neither of us is very good at that, and I have struggled for a long time to figure out how to do it.  We have a conventional DVD player / VCR wired into the system, but I think I connected the units in the wrong sequence; according to the DVR manual, I should be able to record programming onto a videotape, but I can’t. And I’m sure somewhere in the wide world there’s a cord that I could plug into the TV or the DVR to connect it with the laptop, but after buying at least three different cords (and facing blank stares from Best Buy staff members when I labor to explain what I want), I have given up.


So this is what we did:

•   We recorded the show on the DVR.

•   I took my little Polaroid digital camera (which takes videos too) and made a mini-movie of the relevant clip (Partner was behind the remote control on the DVR; it was a two-man operation).

•   I uploaded the clip to Facebook.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely Partner’s nephew, and if I do say so myself, it wasn’t bad.

•   I called Partner’s sister on my cellphone and told her to log into Facebook.  She assured me that she was no longer on Facebook, because she hadn’t logged in for so long.  I assured her that she was wrong.  I talked her through it, step by step.

•   And finally I heard her shriek: “OH MY GOD!  MY BABY!  MY BABY BOY!”

It was worth it.

But I desperately need to figure out a better way to do this.

I am told that the DVR has something like a computer’s hard drive at its heart.  If so: why can’t I dive in there and copy out a file?  It would be so much easier.

And can someone please go beat the bejeezus out of those stupid boys at Best Buy for me?

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