Because too late is better than never

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 25, 2013 12:29 AM

On the way to get my hair cut tonight, I happened upon a house, right near the road, that seemingly has all of its Christmas decorations on display. Wire framed trees and reindeer, a snowman and several candy canes, all already strung with white lights. The sun was just beginning to drop down into the west so I don't know if they light up at night, but it got me thinking about decorations. What is too early and is it ever too late?

Let's unpack this a little.

It is not yet Halloween. The majority of exterior home decorations right now seem to be of the pumpkin/ghost/witch/goblin/spider/skeleton variety. I'm good with that. These decorations, including the little orange lights and the black silhouette cats stuck to windows, went up about a month ago. Early, but not too. Late would probably be October 31. Really late would be November 1 because then it's time for Thanksgiving decorations of which there really aren't many. Thanksgiving seems like an interim holiday, at least in terms of what can be put on a house that screams “I'm in the Thanksgiving spirit.”

My sister is very good about decorating their house for holidays. She has wonderful witches and cauldrons and ghosts that she places strategically on the front porch and between the two trees in the front yard. It's tasteful. If she does Thanksgiving decorations, I'm sure there are strategically placed straw husks, corn, gourds and something to connote a turkey. Maybe a well-appointed pilgrim.

But her decorations are timely, always appearing when appropriate and always disappearing within a respectable time post holiday. The exception may have been when she was pregnant with my nephew. She was so miserable the holidays had little meaning.

This house along my route today was well kept. I wondered if they just recently put up the reindeer and company or if they never were taken down from last year, perhaps even the year before. I hadn’t noticed before. Then again I haven't traveled this particular route very often.

I have always thought that people who leave their Christmas lights on their house all year long are kind of tacky. Though I've seen some places with nice strands of white lights along the edge of the house or threaded through trees. They burn these lights nightly and they are warm and inviting, not festive just friendly.

But reindeers and snowflakes and candy canes and Christmas trees all arranged in a nice “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” kind of way, in October, might be a little early.

In the restroom of my salon, stuck to the floor, was a tiny corner of a holiday sticker. Just two holly leaves were visible. I wondered how long it might have been there.

Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something, maybe the house on River with the reindeers was also trying to tell me the same thing.

Then again, maybe the people in that house just really love Christmas. Maybe they're sharing the spirit, one that is joyous and happy, where music plays and snows falls gently and never screws up anyone's commute; when life is at its most lush and perfect.

Either that or they're just way late taking them down from last year. If that's the case, I'll go with it. I'll smile and applaud their ho-ho regardless of whether it meets my sense of appropriate. I'll celebrate every time I drive by. Because in this case late is better than never.

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live out loud

Santa Claus is coming to my dining room table

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 19, 2012 8:18 PM

Once upon a time, somewhere in the 4th century, there was a man who lived in southwestern Turkey. He was known as the Bishop of Myra and was credited with a number of miracles mostly involving sailors and children. After his death, he became the patron saint of both groups as well as for unmarried girls. He was also given his own day of feast, initially celebrated on December 6th, and his name became Saint Nicholas.

After Pope Julius I decided to assign December 25th as the official celebration of the birth of Jesus, attempting to Christianize what had until then been the date of a pagan midwinter festival, Saint Nicholas’s day of feast also was moved to December 25th for consolidation purposes and the connection was established. A tradition soon developed that had Saint Nicholas visiting the homes of small children on the eve of December 24th. Eventually Saint Nicholas became Sinter Klaas who became Sancte Claus and finally Santa Claus.

It wasn’t until 1810 that Santa Claus was shown – in a drawing by Alexander Anderson – depositing toys in children’s stockings that had been hung by the fireplace. Soon he had transportation, desperately needed in order to reach all of those children, in the form a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, at least according to the song. He moved to the North Pole, thanks to cartoonist Thomas Nast, who was commissioned to do a series of drawings for Harper’s Weekly starting in 1862.Nast also is credited with creating the toy-building workshop and for the naughty or nice mantra. As for his lovely red and white outfit, it was Norman Rockwell who dressed Mr. Claus for a 1921 cover of The Country Gentleman magazine. By the time Coca-Cola showcased its famous depiction of the man in the red suit, his colors had already been well established.

I write all of this because I am a Santa Claus fan, especially when it comes to decorating our house for the holidays. I’m not one of those people who get out of control when it comes to decorating. In fact, I think I’m pretty tame by many standards. Outside, we hang some white lights in several of the trees and shrubs leading up to the front door. Two small white-light laced Christmas trees guard the entrance to the walkway and over the garage door, white icicle lights twinkle. I also put a wreath on the front door. It, too, has white lights. It’s actually quite subdued and lovely.

Inside, we have a 7-foot artificial tree decorated with grape-cluster lights; at the top is a Santa. A heart-shaped Wine Lover sign hangs from his mittened hand. Naturally, stockings are hung by the chimney, and placed strategically throughout the living and dining room are my Byers’ Choice Carolers. I’ve been collecting these wonderful little hand-painted, hand-assembled singers since the late 1980s and have currently amassed at least 30. Almost all are dressed in Dickensian England attire. There are men boldly singing, others singing while holding Christmas trees, still others with ice skates. There is a chimney sweep and his apprentice (naturally, they’re on the fireplace mantle above the stockings). There are children and dogs and cats. There is a woman selling wreaths and an old Christmas witch. And there is my finished collection of A Christmas Carol, all first edition, with Scrooge and Marley’s ghost, the three ghosts (of past, present and future), Bob Cratchet, Tiny Tim and Mrs. Cratchet, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, the boy with the goose, and a redemptive Scrooge with Christmas presents. They are arranged on my music cabinet, complete with another Caroler wearing a sandwich board for “A Christmas Carol.”

When Kevin completed my collection several years ago, we almost didn’t know what to do. For years, every Christmas, his goal was to find another missing piece of the story, again as a first edition. He’d buy from sellers on ebay as well as in different stores across the country. He’d start in September, making phone calls. With the last Caroler – we think it was Mrs. Fezziwig – we looked at each other. He enjoyed the hunt; I love the Carolers. Now what?

I had bought myself a Santa Caroler years before, and my brother had bought me a Santa in a sleigh being pulled by a single reindeer. A new collection of Santas, also first edition, began. They are from all different times, wearing any number of Santa-approved outfits. They now grace the dining room table. I have six plus an elf plus a really big Santa in the background. Several years ago, my mom and sister sent me another big Byers’ Choice-type Santa who had previously been used only for display in stores. He stands, as big as a small child, on an antique wine box in the entrance way, welcoming visitors.

Santa Claus may be coming to your town but as far as I’m concerned he’s coming to my dining room table, and I’m thrilled to see him. In any incarnation.

Miss trees: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 1, 2012 6:51 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here. It’s another wet morning in Oak Park and wet rainy mornings always make me kind of lazy. I just want to stay in the den a little longer. This morning when I finally left, Mrs. Squirrel told me to be extra careful. The trees are a little more slick than when it’s dry and I could slide and fall off. She was right. I was flying down the side wall, scampering along at my usual pace. I could see Hey Lorin in the kitchen having some coffee. I got to the corner of the wall and jumped for the tree like usual. I almost didn’t make it. I went to grab the branch and my paws started to slide off. I finally caught one of the leaves and was able to pull myself up. Phew. That was a close one. I could have gone splat on the ground.

Once I got myself composed, I decided to just hole up for a little bit. I scrunched down in the space where the branch meets the tree. It wasn’t as wet and seemed wider. Plus it’s a really great space to watch what’s going on, and here’s what I saw. A tree, going in the house.

Naturally I was sort of curious. Trees aren’t usually in the house, but this one went right in through the garage. I left my safe, dry spot, carefully made my way back to the wall and ran to the back of the house. I went down one tree, snuck across the wet grass, and spun my way back up another tree. This one has the lowest branches in the yard and I could look inside. I found myself a dry spot under some big leaves, and hunkered down to watch.

Hey Lorin put the tree into a green thing on the floor. Then she got down on the floor, too, and had these screw things she was turning. The red-furred one they call Cooper was sitting on the rug, just watching. I could tell he didn’t quite understand why there was a tree in the house. His head was cocked to one side and his ears were really far forward. You could just see him trying to understand. He must not have ever had a tree in the other houses where he lived before he lived here with Hey Kevin and Hey Lorin.

Hey Lorin was talking to him, telling him what was going on. I couldn’t hear everything because the windows were closed because it’s kind of cold and rainy but I’m pretty sure she said it’s a miss tree. Hmmmm. I figured that was probably about right. A tree in the house would sure be missed by the outside trees. It’s also a miss because it doesn’t really belong in the house. I don’t think it’s a girl tree, though, so it’s not that kind of miss. Can trees be boys or girls? I’ll have to look that one up.

Anyway, the red-furred one kept sitting on the rug and watching and Hey Lorin started putting these long strings of things on the miss tree, wrapping them around. They were very bright, like a million tiny white lights. They were actually really pretty and I was pretty intrigued by it all. Then I heard a crash from the front of the house so I had to go investigate that.

Back down along the wall, but this time, I didn’t just jump onto the tree. I went down the front of the wall, and then up the tree and to the roof over the house so I could see what was happening. Hey Kevin was out there, on a ladder, hanging more tiny white lights on the front of the house. He wasn’t very happy about it either.

When he saw me, he nodded. Hey Squire.

Hey Kevin. What are you doing?

Hanging miss lights. That’s what he said.

I looked around the neighborhood and some of the other houses seemed to have these pretty little lights on their houses, too. I saw a car go by with a tree on top and I wondered if it was a miss tree, too, and if it was going in somebody else’s house. I didn’t recognize the car but I don’t know all the cars in the neighborhood, just the ones that try to run over me.

Miss lights and miss trees. Seems like there is an awful lot of miss happening around here. It’s kind of pretty. Maybe I’ll even get a miss tree for the den. Mrs. Squirrel would like that.

Let it snore, let it snore, let it snore

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 27, 2012 8:16 PM

For a good part of my adult life, I have lived with only males. When Justin lived here and Maguire was still alive, I was surrounded completely by testosterone. I was also surrounded a bit by snoring. Justin snored very softly, it was more like heavy breathing. Kevin snored and still does but mostly when he’s just exhausted; otherwise he sleeps quietly. Maguire sighed heavily every once in a while.

Enter Cooper. He snores. A lot. He also talks in his sleep. He growls and semi-barks. When he lays down, he expels air loudly with a harrumph.

Last night when I wasn’t sleeping – an occasional malady that is quite frustrating especially when I’m so tired because of the holidays and the shopping and the dog and the work and the and the and the – I was listening to the sounds of my two men, the husband next to me and the dog in the kennel in the corner of the room. Kevin’s sounds were small and crisp; Cooper’s were low and guttural. Since it’s the holidays, naturally I couldn’t help but think of the Christmas song Let it Snow.

Oh the music inside at nightfall
Is noisy and not right for all
So since I’m waiting for sleep ‘n more
Let it snore, let it snore, let it snore

It doesn’t show signs of rebounding
And I’ve brought some sheep for counting
The lights are off which I adore
Let it snore, let it snore, let it snore

When we finally said goodnight
How I loved snuggling down to sleep
But if shuteye refuses, alright
Cause tonight I’ve got my sheep

The night is finally slowing
And my boys have sounds they’re sewing
But as long as I can I’ll implore
Let it snore, let it snore, let it snore 

I’ve been told that I, myself, don’t snore. I puff. According to my husband. But I come from a long line of snorers on my father’s side. My grandmother used to fall asleep on her couch at night while watching the news. She’d be bundled up in her bathrobe, her face all slathered with Ponds cold cream, bobbi pins holding her sideburn curls in place, and her head will gradually drift back, her mouth would fall open and she would exhale the loudest snort. She rarely woke herself up. My father was much the same, though his snorts were enough to crack the drywall and peel the paint. My mother used to sleep on the couch in the living room when it got too bad. When my dad came to visit me right after the dissolution of my first marriage, I had a small townhouse with two bedrooms upstairs. I gave him my room and I took the smaller guest room. I, too, ended up downstairs on the couch. I could hear him through the two closed doors and down the hall. 

He used to tell my mother that it never kept him awake. He’d say it in jest as she would snarl at him. Interestingly, when I puff, it wakes me up almost every time. Kevin sometimes snorts and it wakes him up; mostly I just give a gentle nudge, he says “what?” and I say “you’re snoring, roll over.” I haven’t yet figured out how to get Cooper to shhuuush. He doesn’t tend to snore for long, which is good. I suspect I’ll just have to whisper his name. Dogs are notoriously light sleepers.

Until then I’ll just let him snore, let him snore, let him snore. And when I’m good and tired, and the sheep are all counted, I’ll finally drift off with a puff.

Life is good living it out loud with my guys, even when it’s supposed to be quiet. 

The first time I heard jazz

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 25, 2012 8:35 PM

On December 9, 1965, an animated TV special aired for the first time, on the CBS network. I was watching it though I’m fairly sure I don’t remember it, not from that date, as I was only 4. It was to my great fortune – and the fortune of others all over the country – that it continued (and continues) to air every year following. It was A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first time the Peanuts comic strip had been given over to animation, and it has become a perennial favorite. I’ve always loved it but not because of its message of peace on earth or goodwill to men. While that’s lovely, and it is delivered in a most appropriate fashion by Linus and his blanket, what I love most is the music. I can’t help but wonder if my consistent and continuing love of jazz had something to do with the first time I saw and listened to that wondrous 25 minutes.

The music was composed by Vince Guaraldi, a jazz pianist who first recorded with the Latin jazz musician Cal Tjader in 1953. By 1959, he was out on his own. He was a well-respected musician, but not necessarily a big name until he released Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. A song called Samba de Orpheus, featured on the French film Black Orpheus, was released as a single and was largely ignored. But then disc jockeys started playing the B-side, Cast Your Fate to the Wind, and Guaraldi officially arrived. When Lee Mendelson, the producer of A Charlie Brown Christmas, heard the song while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, he knew what he wanted for its musical accompaniment. Mendelson contacted the jazz columnist for the city’s newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, who put him in touch with Guaraldi. Guaraldi took the gig, performed a version of what would become “Linus and Lucy” over the phone to Mendelson just two weeks later, and recorded the full soundtrack with the Vince Guaraldi Trio over the course of the next couple of months.

I remember being entranced by O Tannenbaum. The song has long been known as one of the simplest Christmas carols, one that every kid learns in school. But Guaraldi set it to the lightest pace, one slightly off center, and suddenly what was familiar became more enchanting. Guaraldi’s seeming improvisational take on an old German song reinvented it and even though I didn’t know it at the time, turned me into a jazz lover. Someone who enjoys the emotion, the centering of the music, the possibilities it represents; the surprise I always find.

Linus and Lucy is still impossible for me to hear without seeing the Peanuts characters all dancing freely with near abandon, heads bobbing up and down, feet largely in place, shifting with the beat from side to side, as the now so-familiar piano chords are pounded out.

Guaraldi and his drummer Jerry Granelli and bassist Puzzy Firth (sitting in for Fred Marshall) created one of the strongest enticements for learning to not just appreciate but love jazz, perhaps ever. From the opening melancholy of Christmas Time is Here to the final Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, the music permeates through the characters to become – at least to me – the ultimate message of the holiday: that music can grab onto a person, can wrap itself around both the psyche and the soul to put both in a trance. It’s about expression and individualism, rather than the straight biblical interpretation of Linus’ recitation. Beautiful as that may be, I believe that the ultimate religious experience of A Charlie Brown Christmas comes from the piano chords as decided by Vince Guaraldi. A message of potential as created by the improvisation of great jazz.

The album was re-released in October for the third time. It features the original 1965 recording newly re-mastered with 24-bit technology from the original analog master tapes. Naturally, it’s on CD. But it will also be issued on green vinyl. Nothing says great holiday jazz like green vinyl.

Celebrating my love of jazz on this Sunday, with deepest gratitude to the late, great Vincent Anthony Guaraldi. 

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live out loud

The Christmas Eve Miracle Mountain Reindeer Dog and more wonderful holiday movies

by Lorin Michel Monday, November 19, 2012 10:15 PM

It’s that time of year again. Thoughts turn to death, broken hearts, missing children, long lost loves, hardened widows, miserly widowers, adorable children, dogs and dastardly weather. Yep. It’s holiday movie season on TV, a tradition led in earnest by the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime. These movies all tend to star either washed-up stars or up-and-comers. They almost always take place somewhere there is freakishly cold weather, or someplace where there is a freakish storm that has never happened before.

I don’t know of any holiday movies being released this year in the theater, not even kid’s movies. But for television, they have been filmed and are ready for broadcast and re-broadcast ad nauseam, now and through December 25. Lifetime TV started several weeks ago, broadcasting a holiday themed movie every afternoon at 4 pm. Don’t ask me how I know this. I will not divulge my source.

Each movie, or telefilm as they’re called in the biz, is full of people needing a good dose of holiday cheer, usually in the form of love. Or redemption. Or some combination there of. Hallmark is offering a mind-numbing 12 new flicks this season and is even promoting this avalanche of cheer as – drum roll – “The 12 New Movies of Christmas.” Catchy.

Not to be outdone, Lifetime, that other bastion of schmaltz, is showing “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime Movie Marathon,” with 10 original movies including the new The Christmas Consultant with David Hasselhoff. Note to the wise: Anything with David Hasselhoff probably should be avoided. I don’t believe any more reason is necessary but in case there is, one word: Baywatch. Nothing says ho-ho like scantily clad lifeguards running around Southern California. No offense to lifeguards.

Lifetime is also serving up The Wishing Tree which tells the tale of holiday angst at a boarding school where a young teacher is having trouble dealing with the death of his wife. Hasselhoff is also having trouble with a dead spouse in his movie. Naturally there’s also another take on the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, with a flick called It’s Christmas, Carol! where Carol, a busy publisher, gets a visit from the ghost of her dead boss. The dead boss is purportedly played with hilarity by Carrie Fisher.

Holiday Spin features a car crash; The Christmas Heart is about a teenager who needs a heart transplant. The holidays in holiday films are decidedly unhealthy. People die, either before the movie starts, at the end in order to save someone else, or are in danger of dying unless someone else dies first. Lessons are learned, tears are shed, and in the end, a nice Christmas tune wraps everything up nicely, with a bow, and often a very TV-passionate kiss.

I’m a sucker for the holidays and I’m a bigger sucker for holiday movies, though I prefer the old theatrical ones like Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Holiday and Miracle on 34th Street.  For more contemporary movies, I love Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and The Holiday. The television equivalents have to be good holiday movies. I can’t take another one starring Melissa Gilbert, or Richard Thomas. Most television movies tend to be a little lacking in originality, a little too hung up on death.

I remember one from many, many years ago starring the late, great Jessica Tandy and Stephanie Zimbalist. It was called The Story Lady and it was charming. Maybe if I saw it again today, I wouldn’t think so, but I remember it fondly. And with Jessica Tandy, how bad could it have been?

Because I’m a nut for holiday movies, I imagine I’ll watch one or two. I just can’t help myself. Plus, there’s something kind of magical about snow falling in a place where snow doesn’t normally fall, and on Christmas eve, when a child who was missing is magically found by a reindeer, and a dog stays close in order to keep said child warm and the widowed father whose heart has been closed accepts the help from the local sheriff who happens to be a woman and everyone weeps at the end as the telling sound of jingle bells rings through the falling snow. Well, what’s not to like.

Hmmmm. Maybe that could be the 13th new movie of the season on Hallmark, or the 11th on Lifetime. It could be called The Christmas Eve Miracle Mountain Reindeer Dog. I’d watch it. And I’d probably cry.

Celebrating the schmaltz of the season. 

What is it about the standards?

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 11, 2012 12:45 AM

I know I’ve talked a bit about this in the past but I have become completely enamored with much of the music known as “the standards.” Old-fashioned music some would call it. Wonderful, I call it. Music that started right around World War I and oozed its way into the 1950s. Cole Porter, the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Count Basie. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and more.

About five years or so ago, I started developing a real appreciation for the music of the industrial revolution. I have no idea why. I suspect it has something to do with getting older and appreciating history. When I was young, like most youngsters, I figured the older generation didn’t know anything. I was convinced that my parents were complete idiots until I got out of college. Then, as the saying goes, I was surprised and thrilled to discover how much they’d learned in a relatively short span of time.  

It wasn’t because of my parents listened to a lot of standards. I don’t remember my parents listening to a lot of music at all. My dad was born in the late 1930s, my mother in the early 1940s. They were both fairly young when I was born in the 1960s, just as the British invasion was taking over the world. I don’t remember anyone ever talking about the Beatles. Or any of the other British rockers that defined that era. The Rolling Stones and The Who come to mind. My parents were definitely not rockers. I don’t think they even liked Elvis Presley; I’m not sure they knew much of his music. They knew the bebop stuff of the 50s since they were both in high school at that time. But the only thing I remember my mother listening to was Barbra Streisand, Nancy Wilson, Lena Horne and Johnny Mathis (my husband calls him Johnny Mattress; he’s not a fan). I almost remember other LPs of Steve Lawrence and Edie Gourmet, maybe some Andy Williams and Ray Conniff at Christmas, perhaps some Perry Como.

That was the type of music that played from the big turntable-radio console that we had in the living room. One end was the record player which was stackable and had an arm that held up to six records in place. As one side of one record would finish, it would kick down the next in the stack. We also had the ability to listen to the radio. At the other end was storage for all of the records. It was quite the piece of furniture. I have no doubt it was fairly hi-tech for the day.

As I grew up, I gravitated to rock. The first true rock and roll album I ever bought – and still have – was Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. I also have several Elton John albums from that time as well as Carol King and Peter Frampton, Heart and Fleetwood Mac. Then I started listening to the Doobie Brothers and Bob Seger and Jackson Browne. My mother was not a fan and that was fine with me. She had her music; I had the better music.

But then, a funny thing happened on the way to being old. I started developing a true taste for the old standards. I don’t think it had anything to do with nostalgia, largely because I had no nostalgia to remember. I didn’t live when these songs were first popular so I had and have no sense of loss for a time that I didn’t live through. I suspect it was simple appreciation for the purity of the sound, the rawness of some of the singing, the joy of many of the lyrics; the loss, the heartbreak, the celebration, the revelation that there is another life, and more importantly, another love. One For My Baby; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; How Do You Keep The Music Playing; Stranger in Paradise; The Way You Look Tonight; It Had To Be You; and my all time favorite, Fly Me To the Moon.

Lately I have found myself purchasing CDs with music by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett as well as CDs by more contemporary artists who are singing standards. Rod Stewart, Steve Tyrell, Michael Bublé, Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall. It seems to me that if so many people are still singing these songs, there must be something truly timeless about them.

That, I believe, is at the core of my love of the standards. Yes, they were originally popular once upon a time, but they’re still popular because they transcend trend. They’re sexy and powerful, awash in the deep melancholy of blues and the smoky reality of jazz. There are strings, clarinets, brass instruments like the trumpet and trombone. There is always a haunting piano and the lazy beat of a snare drum.

You can sway to this music, dream to it. I like to put it on the iPad, pumped through and our big Infinity speakers and let it fill the room. It makes me feel. Sometimes good, sometimes sad, but always a depth of emotion that I don’t get from most of today’s contemporary music, no matter how much I like some of it.

I wonder if this happens to everyone as they get into their 40s. They start to appreciate the classics. Cars, music, people. All I know is that I love the music, the style and the singing of that era. It’s what living it out loud, set to music, was – and is ­– all about.

I love you baby, and if it’s quite alright

by Lorin Michel Monday, April 30, 2012 9:50 PM


Like most people, I’m a big fan of music. Unlike most people, I’m a big fan of almost all kinds of music. Most people like one, two, maybe three varieties. But I can’t really think of any music I don’t like. Granted I don’t listen to a lot of country though I don’t mind it. I don’t listen to a lot of classical, but in certain situations, it doesn’t bother me. I like jazz of all kinds, some pop, most rock, the standards, Celtic, new age, some opera. On my desert island list I have songs like Rod Stewart’s Maggie May, Janis Joplin’s rendition of Me and Bobby McGee, several songs by Bruce Springsteen like Thunder Road, Tony Bennett’s Fly Me to the Moon, and Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.

You’re just too good to be true; Can’t take my eyes off you; You’d be like heaven to touch; I wanna hold you so much.

The song was written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio and recorded by Frankie Valli in 1967. It quickly went to the top of the charts and was one of his biggest hits. It’s so popular it has become a staple of both film and television, beginning in The Deer Hunter in 1978 when the main characters sang along as the song played on the jukebox. When it was performed by the late Heath Ledger in the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You, the song – and Mr. Ledger – was nominated for Best Musical Sequence in the MTV Movie Awards.

At long last love has arrived; And I thank God I’m alive; You’re just too good to be true; Can’t take my eyes off you.

The song is also featured in the still-running Broadway musical Jersey Boys, and has been recorded by over 200 different artists, ranging from crooner Andy Williams in 1968 to Maureen McGovern in 1979 to the Pet Shop Boys in 1991 to Australia’s Manic Street Preachers in 1996 to Sheen Easton in 2001 and Barry Manilow in 2006. In 2011, the Welsh rock band Stereophonics’ lead singer Kelly Jones sang an acoustic version as a tribute to former Wales national football team manager Gary Speed. Country band Lady Antebellum (who I think has one of the best group names around) has covered it as has the English rock band Muse.

Pardon the way that I stare; There’s nothing else to compare; The signs of you leaves me weak; There are no words left to speak.

It’s a song about a basic human reflex. Think of it this way: you’re at a party with your favorite person and a person of the opposite sex walks in, and you stare. It’s involuntary but you literally can’t take your eyes off of this person. There have actually been studies done. Jon Maner, associate professor of psychology at Florida State University and three of his graduate students conducted a study of 440 students measuring what they called attentional adhesion, or the length of time something or someone holds your attention even though you know you’re supposed to be looking at something else. Study participants sat in front of a computer terminal as various images flashed on screen including a beautiful face followed by a circle or square elsewhere on the screen. The time it took for participants to shift their gaze to a new image was measured, with differences measured in 100 milliseconds. Beautiful faces were stared at longer than average faces. The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

But if you feel like I feel; Please let me know that it’s real; You’re just too good to be true; Can’t take my eyes off you.

I love that there’s scientific evidence that such a phenomenon as not being able to take your eyes off of someone is actually true. I felt that way about my extraordinarily handsome vintage puppy.

I love you, baby, and if it’s quite alright.

I feel that way about my husband.

I need you, baby, to warm a lonely night.

I feel that way about so many things. Things I can’t take my eyes off of. I just have to see them.

Let me love you, baby, let me love you.


Happy Birthday to me

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 25, 2011 11:40 PM

Guest post by Maguire

I'm 15 today. Next year I get to drive. At least that's what happened when Justin turned 15. I don't know if I want to drive, though. I'm not big on the car thing anymore. I used to really like the Rover; I liked to go. I liked to put my head out the window and feel the wind in my ears. But I kind of like to stay home now.

Today we had presents and stuff. Mom and dad got up early and dad took me outside. It was really warm. I like it when it's warm. It was kind of windy, too. It feels good in my fur. Dad says wind like that can blow the stink off. I don't think he means that I smell bad. I did have a bath a couple of weeks ago.

Me, on my 15th birthday, Christmas morning

Then we came back and mom gave me a kiss on the nose and wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy Birthday. That's how I knew it was my birthday. The Christmas thing I knew. There's a tree in the house and whenever there's a tree in the house, that means presents and presents mean Christmas, ever since I was a puppy. Probably even before though I don’t remember before I was a puppy. Mom also puts these little people out in different places. They look like they're singing. Their mouths are in 'O' shapes but they don't make any noise. They're kind of weird. They scare me a little. People shouldn't be smaller than me. But mom likes them. She calls them her "carolers." They only come out at Christmas, too.

Dad put the TV on because one of the local stations was playing the Yule log. I don't know what a Yule log is but mom and dad thought that playing the Yule log was funny. The whole TV screen was filled with logs burning in a fireplace. It even made crackling sounds. It sounded like a real fire but it was on the TV. I couldn’t stop watching it. I was laying on the floor in front of the tree and looking at the TV the whole time even though I thought it was kind of dumb. But since it was Christmas I decided not to say anything. I would rather have watched cartoons, something like Rocky and Bullwinkle. I like squirrels.

One of mom's carolers, a new one from my grandma

Mom is interrupting my post.

Maguire’s mom here: The Yule log is a big, hard log burned as part of the traditional Christmas celebrations in Europe. Yule is an ancient word, probably meaning jolly, and also Christmas. The Yule Log program, the broadcasting of a burning fire and nothing else but its crackle, was actually started in 1966 by Fred Thrower, the President and CEO of WPIX in New York. He wanted to give homes without fireplaces a chance to experience the ambiance. The original was filmed at Gracie Mansion, the official home of the mayor of New York. The Yule Log program was and remains 2 to 4 hours, complete with Christmas music. I now return you to my guest blogger. Magu – the blog is yours.

Thanks, mom. 

The Yule log was only on until 10 o’clock. That made mom and dad laugh, too. After it turned off, we got to open presents. I like presents. I got a new hedge and a new moo and a new rudy and a new moose. Moo came from my grandma. My Aunt Khristan and Uncle John gave me new moose. It's really just a big head but he squeaks really, really good. I love new toys. Last week, Roy and Bobbi gave me a new ring toy, too. I always get toys on my birthday and Christmas and since my birthday IS Christmas I get the most special toys ever. I like Christmas. I like my birthday.

Me with some new toys

I miss Justin. He wasn't here today. I heard his voice on the phone and I think mom and dad were going to do something called skype later. I don't know what skype is. It sounds like it might hurt but maybe not.

I don't get to see Roy today. Mom and dad went to see him and Bobbi and Diane and Gene. I thought about going but I was really kind of tired from all the celebrating. Besides, I didn’t want to leave all my new toys. And besides again, there are cats there. I don't like cats. Even though one of their cats - his name is Pixel - is really, really big. Big like a dog. But not big like me. So mom and dad went away for a couple of hours and I stayed here to watch the house and my toys. I also got to take a really good nap. Then they came back and I was happy to see them and they were happy to see me and mom said “Merry Christmas, baby!” and dad said “Happy Birthday, big boy,” and I wagged my tail and got to go outside again. When I came back, my toys were all waiting for me on the floor, right where I left them. It was like Christmas all over again.

It was a good day.


A Visit from St. Nicholas

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 24, 2011 7:59 PM

In honor of the Eve...

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,

And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap—

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:

"Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,
"On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys—and St. Nicholas too:

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack:

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


Attributed to Clement Clark Moore (1822) but probably written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr in 1808. The poem was originally published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. It came from the home of Clement Moore, but many of Livingston’s children remembered their father reading the same poem fifteen years earlier. To this day, the actual authorship remains in question with no original copy ever having been produced by either family.

Regardless, Merry Christmas to all. And to all a celebratory night!


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