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Monday, December 31, 2012

My Top Fives For 2012

The end of the year has several traditions around it.  The most common is making resolutions.  I do not see any value in setting resolutions as the fulfillment of my goals and completion of my projects rarely coincide with the calendar year.

I do, however, think that the end of the year is a great time for some thoughtful reflection.  Below is some of what I have been reflecting on.  What were the most influential, memorable, and moving art, ideas, and experiences I encountered this year.  I gave myself the limit/minimum of five items for each category.

Some of the things mentioned on this list were not released this year, these are all things that I first encountered in 2012 or that continue to influence me by informing my understanding of the world.

Thank You All

"Your pain, courage, and prosperity are lessons on my wall.
I will know for all the time I am waking
You have given me the courage to stand tall."







I don't know how to thank you all.
By teaching, guiding, wishing, and loving
You have given me the courage to stand tall.

You have known me when I was crawling
And still my life is just beginning.
I don't know how to thank you all.

When I felt ready to sit and bawl
It was often you doing the comfort giving or forgiving.
You have given me the courage to stand tall.

I have learned that in life we fall;
You have shown me that sometimes it is worth jumping.
I don't know how to thank you all.

Your pain, courage, and prosperity are lessons on my wall.
I will know for all the time I am waking
You have given me the courage to stand tall.

All it takes is a little call
To remind me there is nothing to keep me from winning.
I don't know how to thank you all.
You have given me the courage to stand tall.
------

Sunday, December 30, 2012

When I Tell You

A Glowing Heart
"What we will never
have has to be
replaced by contentment."
I woke up
full of love;
I don’t know
if you ripped it up,
if I threw it away,
of if we both just
gave up.

When I tell you the
details of my day
I am looking for validation,
for someone to say it is
not crazy to feel
this way.

You get angry
and overwhelmed
by my over analysis

(Is that you saying,
"I don’t care?");

it is saying,
"You are wrong."

I touch you with love
but the hurt and pain
come from somewhere
other than
me or you
and yet the anger
and the fear are
aimed at me.

I get angry;
I get confused.
It is like saying,
"I don't love you."

It is saying,
"You are wrong."

What we will never
have has to be
replaced by contentment.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0

Friday, December 28, 2012

Before You

Self Portrait Reflection @ Chazen, #2
"Before you
is me, in awe of your
strength, love, and compassion."
Before me,
a life of pain
and misunderstanding:

ruined Thanksgivings,
uncelebrated birthdays,
merry Christmas assaults of
character and body,
first days of school in
“fat” dresses,
crawl spaces filled
with bugs,
desperate acts
to save everyone
but yourself,
thoughts of railroad tracks,
a mean calico friend,
misfit toy friends, and
more strength
than all of it.

Before you
is me, in awe of your
strength, love, and compassion.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0

Mother’s Love

"Hugging the black stone
she prays to a personal saint
hoping for a sign, a message of
love and hope from beyond."
Home from the office, she sits with
Phone pressed firmly to her head;
she says, “Mom do you love me?
Do you approve of what I did?”

Because each day is a chance,
each conversation an opportunity,
for the one who should love her
to let love shine through.

Cancer took the old woman slowly.
Wrinkled hand held firmly to her cheek
she says, “Mom do you love me?
Do you approve of what I did?”

Because each day is a chance,
each remaining moment an opportunity,
for the one who should love her
to let love shine through.

Hugging the black stone
she prays to a personal saint
hoping for a sign, a message of
love and hope from beyond.

Because each day is a chance
and every memory an occasion
for the one who should have loved her
to inflict posthumous pain.

She says, “Mom do you love me?
Do you approve of what I did?”
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0

Expecting It

...a series of nervous moments in which past pain
becomes part of a
present fear...
I
will not forget
but I am meant to forgive,
however much a wound keeps
getting
reopened.

Mother,
you aren't

supposed to
play mind games

or

treat your children
like high school friends.

Father,
you aren’t

supposed to
bring war home

or

do evil things
that cause me harm.

This life of simply expecting

it
(a series of nervous moments
in which past pain
becomes part of a
present fear)

is not
what dreams are made of.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0

Thursday, December 27, 2012

At A Time Of Having Too Much

There Is Always Next Spring
...there will be a few sprouts here and there
in the fields next spring,
and we will be timid around them...
Gray has settled
before
the green wall,
on our heads,
in our eyes,
and
in our lungs;

we have now completed the harvest.
The grain and the chaff are separated.
We wear the dust of separation.

In the cool dawn
you showed me
just how high to
toss the contents
of the full baskets.

And there was a lot of chaff.

Children playing in the leaves of fall,
we scattered it around us and over all the fields
with the help of the wind.
And this chaff was a lot of waste;

it concerned us.

But you gave me the most important lesson:
there will be a few sprouts here and there
in the fields next spring,
and we will be timid around them
as we plow to plant a new crop.
------

The Collected Chaff, v. 1.0

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Day 25 - "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by Jimmy Boyd - 25 Days of Christmas Angst

Review all 25 days of Christmas angst here:   
Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays! 
Feliz Navidad!  Joyeux Noel!  Fröhliche Weihnachten! 
Mele Kalikimaka!  God Jul!  Sheng Dan Kuai Le!
I saved "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" for Christmas Day for two reasons.  First, it clearly is set on Christmas morning, and more importantly, it is the most disturbing song on the list.
There have been many good covers of this song but in this case I like the original version by Jimmy Boyd (you can hear it here:  http://youtu.be/sVM-Vnjk4J8).

The premise of the song is simple enough.  A child sees his mother kissing Santa on Christmas Eve.  It can be assumed that Santa is really the child's father.  Perhaps the lines in which the child contemplates how his father would react could be taken as purely an expression of innocent wonder: 
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.
It is difficult to deny though that we are dealing with a child at a very special age.  He is young enough to still believe in Santa Claus but old enough to understand that his father would be upset by this sight.

When the song was first released it was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church in Boston because of how it connected Christmas to sex.  The Los Angeles Times sums this event up in Boyd's obituary:

"The Catholic Church condemned the song for implying even a tenuous link between sex and the religious holiday, and radio stations in several markets banned it. The ban was lifted after the 13-year-old Boyd appeared before church leaders to talk about the lyrics."

Boyd apparently explained the tradition of kissing under mistletoe to the leaders of the church.  I would agree with his point were it not for this line:
Then, I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white
This suggests something more intimate than an obligatory kiss under the mistletoe.

This song is also troubling because it is sung from the point of view of the child the morning after viewing this event.  It would be different if we were seeing an adult reflecting on the event described and realizing his/her own naivety.  Some modern versions of this song are exactly this.

What we are left with in this version is concern for this child who is confused by what he is seeing.  Will this child feel like he has to keep a secret or will he confront his mother?  Is this incident enough to plant seeds of distrust that will interfere with his ability to have healthy adult relationships later in life?

I know, I'm over thinking it.  However, please be careful when you are wearing a Santa suit.

There is a rather long tradition of twisting, tweaking, and corrupting the symbol of Santa Claus and the other traditions of Christmas.  This is okay; it is how traditions and mythologies get refined and become more meaningful.  If something is so easily made ridiculous, it will likely be dropped form our stories and traditions.

I see the giving of coal as a punishment for bad children fading from American Santa traditions.  This is okay.  In the Netherlands the tradition of Saint Nicholas being accompanied by "Black Pete" is gradually going away because of its connections to slavery. 

All of our most meaningful and important ideas, traditions, and myths are continually reinterpreted by each new generation. 

Yes, Cindy Lou, Christmas is changing but no more than any viable, living, relevant, and powerful idea must in order to stay relevant. 
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
as performed by Jimmy Boyd

I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night.
She didn't see me creep
down the stairs to have a peep;
She thought that I was tucked
up in my bedroom fast asleep.

Then, I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white;
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.

[next two lines sung by backing singers]
I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night.

She didn't see me creep
down the stairs to have a peep;
She thought that I was tucked
up in my bedroom fast asleep.

[next two lines sung by backing singers]
I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white;

Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.


Resources:

"Jimmy Boyd dies at 70; singer of 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'"
http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-jimmy-boyd10-2009mar10,0,6186981.story

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Saw_Mommy_Kissing_Santa_Claus

Lyrics
http://www.lyricsfreak.com/j/jimmy+boyd/i+saw+mommy+kissing+santa+claus_20344386.html

"How 'Merry Christmas' is said...
http://www.santas.net/howmerrychristmasissaid.htm

"Zwarte Piet"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwarte_Piet


25 Days Of Christmas Angst
Day Song Download/Purchase Info
25 "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by Jimmy Boyd Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Hopefully Santa brought this boy a down payment on years of therapy.
24 "Silent Night" by John Denver & The Muppets Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
The story of the song, in the song. Denver and the Muppets take on a Christmas standard.
23 "Carol Of The Bells" by Mannheim Steamroller Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Chip Davis brings a driving and slightly ominous feel to a standard Christmas carol.
22 "Christmas" by The Who (from Tommy) Buy the full album:
Tommy
Buy the song:
Christmas
Buy the DVD:

Buy the Blu-Ray:

Amazon Instant Streaming:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Tommy contains a very disturbing Christmas scene with an equally disturbing song to go with it.
21 "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Fred Astaire (from the stop motion classic Santa Claus is Coming to Town)
Buy the DVD:

Amazon Instant Streaming:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Who is this "Claus" and why is he coming to my town? Did TSA check him out?

Click this link to preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days:  http://www.carneylentz.com/p/25-days-of-christmas- angst.html

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 24 - "Silent Night" by John Denver & The Muppets - 25 Days of Christmas Angst

Quiet evening, moon-lit night,
The world is silent; the moon is in sight.
'Round the world people marvel at the light,
The moon is here for rich and for poor.
All sleep peacefully and secure.
There are many songs that tell the Nativity story.  A few already on this list could be counted in that number.  The modern musical takes on this story need to prove themselves worthy over time.

So, if you focus on traditional carols there are few that rise to the level of "Silent Night."  This song's superiority is due to its simplicity and its universal message.  

"Silent Night" is THE Christmas carol.  It tells the story of Jesus' birth with simple lyrics and a beautifully simple musical accompaniment. 

The two traditional carols to compete with "Silent Night" are "O Holy Night" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." 

"O Holy Night" is a more beautiful song packed with more emotion than "Silent Night," but it fails to appeal to the masses because the vocals require a significant amount of skill to perform.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" has lyrics that are nonsensical to a modern audience and therefore difficult to remember and sing with conviction.

It is difficult to imagine what Christmas looked before 1818 or what it would look like today if "Silent Night" had not been composed that year and handed down to us.

Preview the remaining day of angst or review the previous days here:   

The John Denver and Muppet version I am recommending today is great because it focuses on the song itself.  The first part of this version is the first verse of the song in its original German.  Then Denver tells the story of the song's creation.  There is some doubt about the song needing to be composed in this simple manner because of the broken organ but the other details are correct.  Then the first verse is sung in the most accepted English translation.  You can listen to this version here:  http://youtu.be/_O8PfL0QnXc.

Several years ago I compiled a two CD "mixed tape" with as many versions of "Silent Night" as I could find.  This was a Christmas gift for a fried who loved the carol and appreciated all of the different versions.  In my searching I learned that there are hundreds in dozens of languages.  Yes, many Christmas carols have been translated into many languages, but none have this much world wide adoption.  There is something special about this song. 

It could be, as I suggest above, that it is its simplicity of lyric and music alone that make it appealing.  I think there might be more to it.

Regardless of your religious affiliation, the idea of a peaceful night with no worries is appealing.  Add in the image of a mother holding her newborn son and you have a nearly universal appeal to the human psyche.  Other Nativity songs overdo the details and fail to focus on the real story. 

It isn't the manger, the sheep, or the wise men we are here to look at.  Singing about those details would be like going to the maternity ward in a hospital to admire the bassinets the babies are in or to praise the scale they weigh the children on.

I have encountered versions that even drop "Virgin" from the line "Round yon Virgin Mother and Child."  Again, this makes the image more universally appealing and simplifies the song even more.

Expressions of hope, messages of universal appeal, and wishes for peace fill the mythology of the holidays.  The story told in "Silent Night" and the beautiful music that accompany it meet all three of these ends.

Silent Night
as performed by John Denver & The Muppets

[Muppets, in chorus]
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

[John Denver, spoken]
On December 24, 1818 the curate of a parish in Oberndorf, Austria, Joseph Mohr, gave a poem that he had written to a friend of his, Franz Gruber, who was also the choir master and organist in that church.  He asked Mr. Gruber if would write music for his poem, that he might write it for two solo voices and guitar accompaniment because the organ being broken he desperately wanted music to be part of their Christmas eve service.  Mr. Gruber wrote the melody to a song which has become the most beloved of all the Christmas carols, "Stille Nacht," in English - "Silent Night."  Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!  Sleep in heavenly peace.

[John Denver echoes The Muppets in chorus]
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

-----
Silent Night
[complete English version]

Silent night, holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Resources:

"Silent Night"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Night

"Stille Nacht:  Lyrics and History"
http://german.about.com/od/christmas/a/StilleNacht.htm

"O Little Town of Bethlehem"
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Notes_On_Carols/o_little_town_of_bethlehem.htm

Lyrics
http://www.carols.org.uk/silent_night.htm
 

25 Days Of Christmas Angst
Day Song Download/Purchase Info
24 "Silent Night" by John Denver & The Muppets Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
The story of the song, in the song. Denver and the Muppets take on a Christmas standard.
23 "Carol Of The Bells" by Mannheim Steamroller Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Chip Davis brings a driving and slightly ominous feel to a standard Christmas carol.
22 "Christmas" by The Who (from Tommy) Buy the full album:
Tommy
Buy the song:
Christmas
Buy the DVD:

Buy the Blu-Ray:

Amazon Instant Streaming:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Tommy contains a very disturbing Christmas scene with an equally disturbing song to go with it.
21 "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Fred Astaire (from the stop motion classic Santa Claus is Coming to Town)
Buy the DVD:

Amazon Instant Streaming:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Who is this "Claus" and why is he coming to my town? Did TSA check him out?

Click this link to preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days:  http://www.carneylentz.com/p/25-days-of-christmas- angst.html