Friday, December 7, 2012

The (There's No War on) Christmas Special 2012

Welcome to this special Christmas edition of my blog. I'm old enough to remember when the only time you heard the word gay was when people sang Christmas carols. Don we now our gay apparel, for instance (from "Deck the Halls"). Or, make the Yuletide gay (from "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"). Funny how that word evolved to become a label for someone's sexual orientation.

Icon. If I had to pick a favorite character from all the Christmas specials I've seen in my life, it would be Hermey the Misfit Elf from 1964's Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Why? Well, lots of reasons. He had the balls to quit Santa's workshop when the other elves ridiculed him about his dreams of becoming a dentist. He befriended fellow outcast Rudolph and accepted his glowing schnoz. He fought the Abominable Snowman, rendering him harmless by pulling out all of his teeth. He realized his dream of becoming a dentist and ultimately opened a practice at the North Pole. And he had one of the most iconic hairstyles in TV history.

Hermey the Misfit Elf and Rudolf.
Sure, that bright-red-nose business is impressive and cool, but Hermey's hair is just as wondrous.  

Brew. Looking for a seasonal ale? Every year since 1975 San Francisco's Anchor Brewing has created one. Available from early November through mid-January, it's a rich, dark spiced ale. The recipe is tweaked from year to year, as is the label, which always features a different tree. I've had this year's creation and it's delicious.

Oreo. I told you about Nabisco's Candy Corn Oreo in October. Their latest holiday-themed limited-edition cookie is the Gingerbread Oreo. It's the company's Golden Oreo with a filling of gingerbread-favored creme. It was described online by one reviewer as, "Not disgusting at all!" I'm told you can find them at Walmart.

Clarity. The Daily Show's Jon Stewart expertly undermines Fox News' annual -- and increasingly ridiculous and desperate -- insistence that there's a War on Christmas.

Tunes. Lots of diversity among holiday releases this year...

Pentatonix - "Carol of the Bells." Pentatonix is an a cappella group of five vocalists -- Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola -- who won the third season of NBC's The Sing Off in late 2011. They've developed a devoted following since then, covering popular songs by other artists, giving live performances and creating their own YouTube channel, of course. One of the most amazing things about them, aside from their tight harmonies and incredible arrangements, is the stunning vocal percussion and bass done by Kevin Olusola. It's called "beatboxing," which involves producing drum beats, rhythm and other musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue and voice. Here's "Carol of the Bells" from PTXmas, their holiday EP. You can find it on iTunes.

The Killers ft. Ryan Pardey - "I Feel It In My Bones." The Killers (who easily get my vote for one of the most attractive bands on the planet) have released seven Christmas-themed songs and music videos over the years.

Some of their Christmas songs have been serious ("Boots"), some seriously goofy ("Don't Shoot Me, Santa"). "I Feel It In My Bones" is somewhat of a sequel to "Don't Shoot Me, Santa," which featured a comically demented, vengeful St. Nick. He's back, and he still needs therapy.  (Side note: All proceeds from their Christmas songs go to the Product Red campaign, which funds African AIDS charities.)

Father Tiger - "On Christmas Day." According to their Facebook page, Father Tiger "is a modern indie synthpop duo with a love of vintage analog synthesizers and everything mid-century modern." I just discovered them recently and I'm totally digging this holiday effort, a charming, synthpop hipster carol and video. (Also, the actor bear they chose for their star is mighty easy on the eyes.)

Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta - "I Think You Might Like It." Thirty-four years after starring together in Grease, they've reunited to record an album of holiday classics called This Christmas.

Why is Travolta's name first? We all know who the real singer is here.
And what's in Travolta's cup? Hot gay chocolate?

"I Think You Might Like It" is an original song written for the album by Newton-John's longtime collaborator, John Farrar.  He wrote "You're the One That I Want," her duet with Travolta in Grease. This song is old-fashioned and relentlessly cheerful and that's okay. But the video... the video. As one of my Facebook friends said when he saw it, "Oh, dear." First, the good news... Olivia looks fantastic. You're probably going to say she's had work done. Whatever. I don't care. It's good work. She's 64. Cut her some slack. The bad news... the video is awe-inspiring, must-see kitsch primarily due to the insanely ridiculous presence of Travolta. If you think his hair on the album photo above looks like it was drawn on his head with a Sharpie, wait until you see the preposterously jet-black real thing coupled with the most unfortunate goatee in the history of celebrity facial hair. Consider that at some point prior to shooting this, 58-year-old Travolta must have looked in a mirror and liked what he saw. The only possible explanation for this is that his stylist hates him. And hypnotized him. Okay, back to the video. There's a special guest appearance by Travolta's family, and somebody else's family and some soldiers, all of whom are apparently just fine with his new cartoon head. There's Travolta's private jet and references to It's a Wonderful Life, in case you forgot that it's a Christmas song, and then there are several completely unnecessary homages to Grease. Of course. And there's dancing -- line dancing. Remarkably, Newton-John rises above all of this. She really is a Teflon icon.

Comfort and joy,

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