Thursday, December 31, 2015

Uh-huh--feeling like that, are you?

January 1 is, as many unfortunates know, the great, annual Hangover Holiday.

Out of necessity, we have made a study of hangover cures, from "the old restorative" mixed by Jeeves for Bertie Wooster to Kingsley Amis's remedy, not for publication in a family blog.

Keith Floyd, the wittiest chief ever to appear on the Food Network, and described as "veteran of many an heroic binge," wrote an entire book on hangovers. He offers several remedies, with such names as the Silly Sod, the Gormless Idiot and the Upperclass Twit. These are probably funnier when you don't have a hangover, and the ingredients for the Upperclass Idiot, including clam juice, may make you even queasier.

The most appealing is the Sydney Sunrise: juice of a lime, spoonful of runny honey, yolk of one egg, orange juice, and crushed ice, all whirred in a blender, if you can handle the noise, and then a grating of nutmeg on top.

For the seriously afflicted, Floyd also has menus for a Five-Day Detoxification Program.

And if nothing works, remember the wise words of Jack Wasserman: "It's better to have a morning after than to never have a night before."

Monday, December 28, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

Here we are on the cusp of 2016, and once again, many will be making New Year's resolutions.

Here are ours:

1. No more Stephen Harper jokes. (But watch out, Rona Ambrose--only national political leader named for a home construction outlet).

2. Despite the lineup of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, no more referring to my mother's birthplace as the Demented States of America.

3. Forgiveness of football teams and coaches for last season's fumbles. We will wear, in rotation, jerseys of the BC Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Seattle Seahawks.

4. A fixed warm smile for all. Thanks to Botox.

Best before date for New Year's resolutions: January 3.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

And in this corner...

It being Boxing Day, we leap into the ring at Madison Square Garden, and bring you greetings from Stanley Ketchel, Jake LaMotta, Tony Zale, Sugar Ray Robinson, Archie Moore, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Billy Conn, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, George Chuvalo, Jimmy McLarnin, Max Baer, Georges Carpentier, Max Schmeling, Primo Carnera, Rocky Graziano, Emile Griffith, Rocky Marciano, Ken Norton, Ingemar Johannson, Willie Pep, Jack Sharkey, John L. Sullivan, Jess Willard, Budd Schulberg, George Plimpton, Rocky Balboa, Joe Palooka, A.J. Liebling, the Marquis of Queensberry and Don King to all aficionados of what Liebling called "the sweet science."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Silent Night

A radio station is a quiet place from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. Quiet and deserted, thought Jack, except for the ghosts of announcers past. And not a bad thing, after the fury and chaos and last-minute panic of salesmen and copywriters and production people who staggered off around 4:00 p.m. December 24, haggard, weary, nerves shredded, trying to work themselves back into being acceptable company, or maybe just heading for a drink.

Not much to do on these shifts--run taped shows and voice tracks, keep the music going, wait for the Queen's message. In the afternoon, Jack ran tapes of two Christmas parties--one with the orphaned kids at the Orange Benevolent Home, one with the station staff, with the more embarrassing stuff spliced out.

Finally that night, as the day wound down, Jack found himself back in the familiar deejay mode, playing music that otherwise would not get played, like the Kenton band's robust, dignified collection of carols. And as midnight drew closer, he turned on his mike and said, "Time to say merry Christmas to those who've been having a tough day. Doctors and nurses in emergency wards, paramedics and ambulance drivers, cabbies and bus drivers on the late-night haul, cops on the beat, people hoping to make a dime on the street, store clerks with tired feet, guys who got laid off last week, people whose relationships fell apart just after he bought the ring, travellers hanging for hours in airline terminals and bus depots, those in the jug, on both sides of the bars, and all those in other bars, including the bouncers, and especially anyone who's sitting alone in a room talking to a poinsettia." Then he ran in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

"Better brighten things up after that," he thought, and put on Dave McKenna's "Lulu's Back in Town." Switching on his control room mike, he sang along: "Gotta get my old tuxedo pressed, Gotta get the mustard off the vest, Tonight I gotta look my best--Lulu's back in town."

The control room phone started to ring. He thought, "Okay, it's some drunk wanting a request, or some lonely lady inviting me over for a drink, or a guy wanting a sports score. Or maybe the program director, who never sleeps."

It was the program director. "Jack," he said, "do you think that's an appropriate song to play tonight?"

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The PC Holiday Playlist

Scene: the office of PC Records. Slogan: "We're Politically Correct, So Who Can Object?" Present are the company's A&R man and marketing director.

"That's just about it for the holiday music, Al. We've re-recorded 'The Holiday Song' and 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday'."

"How about that Charlie Brown number, Frank? Have we done that?"

"I'm working on it, Al. New title: 'Holiday Time is Here'."

"Can we get the same kid singers?"

"We could, but they're all seventy years old now."

"And then there's the big one."

"That's right, Al. It's now 'I'm Dreaming of a White Holiday'."


"Yes, Al?"

"Can we drop the 'white'?"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Hits by Accident

Frank Loesser didn't intend "Baby, It's Cold Outside" to be a pop hit. He wrote it as a party song for himself and his wife. Now it's a winter standard, in versions from the seriously lame to witty and sexy, which, of course, is what it's meant to be. Check out the Ray Charles-Betty Carter recording.

"The Christmas Song," by Mel Torme (music) and Bob Wells (lyrics)  came about because of a very hot day. Torme came by Wells's house to pick him up for a game of tennis. While Wells was changing into his whites, Torme noticed a few lines scribbled on a notepad: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...Jack Frost nipping at your nose." When Wells came down, Torme said, "Bob, I think maybe we've got a song here." They didn't get to play tennis that afternoon.

And then there's White Christmas." Famous chorus, but what is seldom heard is the verse:

"The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December twenty-fourth,
And I am longing to be up north."

Maybe the best part of the song.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Grab Bag of Thoughts

Stuff from the Mental Remnants Table:

Readers of "Sports Illustrated" will have noted the choice of Serena Williams as Sports Person of the Year. Tennis fans are happy, but the horse racing crowd is not, as they were pulling for (maybe betting on) Pharoah, the Triple Crown winner. In the SI cover photo, Ms. Williams appears to be channeling Marlene Dietrich, but what her pose really recalls is the picture of Diahann Carroll on the album "Running Wild." It's clear, whatever her inspiration, that Ms. Williams no longer has--as one writer once commented--the figure of an SUV.

In other sports news, new faces behind the bench for at least three CFL teams in 2016. Well, the faces aren't new, but the moves are: Chris Jones to Saskatchewan Roughriders, Jason Maas to the Edmonton Eskimos, and Wally Buono, back in the saddle again, to quote Gene Autry, for the BC Lions. And they're still waiting for the other cleat to drop in Montreal and Winnipeg.

A charming card arrived today wishing not only a merry Christmas, but also "an amazing 2016, filled with love, connection and laughter." Best wish so far.

Finally--resolutions to reduce the amount one drinks last only as long as the return from a pre-Christmas shopping mall.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Christmas Playlist

In response to a total absence of requests, we bring you again the Pointless Digressions recommended Christmas Playlist.

1. Art Pepper and Richie Cole: "Sleighride," the Leroy Anderson winter standard--a wild, runaway ride led by the two saxophonists, with Roger Kellaway trying to keep the sled upright. Takes us thru some scary curves and over some crazy bumps.

2. Louis Armstrong: "'Zat You, Santy Claus?" Who better than Satchmo Claus to keep us merry and bright?

3. George Shearing and Don Thompson: "Away In a Manger." From one of the live performance albums recorded with Mel Torme. Torme is silent on the children's carol, while Shearing on piano and Thompson on bass give the simple melody Brahmsian depth.

4. The Modern Jazz Quartet: "England's Carol." Really "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," but "England's Carol" is what John Lewis and Milt Jackson call it.

5. Dexter Gordon: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The most poignant of Christmas ballads, composed by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. First sung--incomparably--by Judy Garland, in Vincente Minnelli's "Meet Me in St. Louis." Long Tall Dexter gives it a more upbeat treatment.

6. "An Appalachian Christmas." A compilation album, including James Taylor's "Ol' Blue" and what, by Jane Monheit, might be the most attractive performance of "The Christmas Song."

7. "Winterset." One of the excellent collections assembled by Starbucks, when the coffee people were doing that. Includes the lovely Austrian carol "Still, Still, Still," and music by, among others, Christopher Parkening, John Rutter, and the Empire Brass.

8. Les Violons du Roy: "Symphonies des Noels." Baroque concerti for Christmas, by Corelli, Torelli, Charpentier, et al. Serene accompaniment for late evening when all the shopping is done and the cards all mailed and you sit back with brandy and happy thoughts.

And for our Orthodox friends, celebrating on January 7 (perhaps celebrating again):

9. The St. Petersburg Chamber Choir: "Russian Christmas."

Not all easy to find, but worth looking for. And listening to.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Preparing for Christmas

At one time, CHQM Vancouver, then a very civilized radio station, would not permit the playing of Christmas music before December 15. Even this would have been too early for such Advent purists as Fr. Bill Youngman, who would not allow carols in his church until midnight December 24. Still, it demonstrated greater restraint than shopping malls that begin playing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" by Alvin and the Chipmunks the day after Hallowe'en.

A few suggestions for a tranquil pre-Christmas month: 1. Do not buy any hastily (and crassly) recorded seasonal CDs; e.g., "Celebrate with the Cast of Two and a Half Men," "A Mike Tyson Mistletoe," "Christmas with Steve, Laureen and the Cats." (We would, however, rush to get a Lyle Lovett Christmas album, were he to record one. )

2. Skip all television Yuletide specials, including, we're sorry to say, the new Bill Murray show. Instead, watch again the classic Alastair Sim film of "A Christmas Carol" (un-colorized), "Love, Actually," "Meet Me in St. Louis," and Bill Murray's wonderful update on Dickens, "Scrooged," which is roughly 1,000 times better than the TV special, even if George Clooney does turn up in a tux to mix the martinis.

Mix your own martini. Tuxedo optional.

P.S.: And be sure to skip all those year-end reviews of the news. Who wants to go thru all that again?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Give a Little Whistle

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? Just put your lips together and blow." -- Lauren Bacall in "To Have and Have Not" on the Dummy's Guide to Whistling.

We began thinking about whistling after finding people giving us bemused stares for whistling in elevators and on public transit. Apparently, this is not done. One can carry on loud conversations on portable phones, including declarations of love and details of medical conditions, but whistling is not de rigueur.

Still, the word "whistle" turns up in many ways--trains go through whistle stops, whistle blowers reveal bad behaviour, we go whistling in the dark, and we whistle up a snack.

Remember "The Whistler" on radio, when people listened to radio in the evening? The movie "Whistle Down the Wind"? The popular Vancouver policeman Whistling Bernie Smith? There have even been albums of jazz whistling (try whistling Charlie Parker's "Koko.")

And how about Jiminy Cricket's instructions to Pinocchio when he needed the aid of his conscience?

"When you get in trouble, and you don't know right from wrong,
Give a little whistle! (tweet tweet) Give a little whistle! (tweet tweet)"

Stephen Sondheim assured us "Anyone Can Whistle." So off we go, whistling tunes no one else remembers--"Red Sails in the Sunset,""An Apple for the Teacher," "I Get the Neck of the Chicken." We just put our lips together and blow.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

So long, Number 9 -- Welcome back, Wally

A big week for football news, even after the Grey Cup game. Those of us who have watched Jon Cornish ("Jonny," as he was then known) since his years at St. Thomas More view his retirement with mixed emotions. Sad not to see more of his play (characterized, correctly, as "brilliant" by Cam Cole) but glad he's getting out with (remembering J.D. Salinger's "For Esme, With Love and Squalor") "his faculties intact."

And here in Lions country, we are delighted to have back leading the pack Wally Buono, surely the wisest old cat in the jungle.

And that's it for now, sports fans.  Slap Maxwell, in the press box with his old typewriter and a fortified Thermos.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Money Matters

The Boston Red Sox have given ex-Toronto Blue Jays pitcher David Price a seven-year contract for $217 million. This works out to $85,000 a day, including the four days out of five he doesn't play.

As Dorothy Parker said, "Rich or poor, it's nice to have money."

Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is giving $45 billion to charitable works.

Brother, can you spare a dime?