December 24, 2013

On Christmas Spirit

Christmas feels a little schizophrenic this year. Even as the elves stay busy filling up Santa's sleigh, a well-paid League of Scrooges has left Washington without reauthorizing unemployment benefits for some one million Americans in need of help. In Windsor, Connecticut tonight, a six million Christmas light display will shine almost as bright as the Star of Bethlehem. John Chakalos, the man behind the festive display, has been found inside his home, dead from a gunshot wound. The news offers up a constant parade of naughty and nice, charitable acts and Grinch-ly facts. Is it any wonder many people feel they are traveling on the Bi-Polar Express?

My wife Heather and I have been counting our blessings. 2013 has been a long and challenging year, but we have kept our heads above water, and our spirits high. Indomitable is the word, I think. We even have managed to conjure up some genuine Christmas Spirit. Love lives in our home. We are lucky.

Christmas Spirit, you may know, is one of the last remaining vestiges of magic left in the world. It's the warm glow that Black Friday bargains or doctored eggnog cannot quite provide. It's one of the few things children have a monopoly on. Adults feel it too, but they may have difficulty sustaining it.

You might feel it when you toss your change into a shivering bell ringer's kettle. It might strike when you hear Mel Torme's gentle tenor tones, like the voice of an old friend, seeping out of your car radio speakers. It might even come from exchanging a smile with a pedestrian walking in front of your car in an overcrowded parking lot. You will surely experience it if you tuck a jittery child into bed on Christmas Eve.

If Christmas Spirit pounces on you this year, I implore you to seal the exits in your soul. At first, the feelings of pure joy and humility may be overwhelming, like a wild tiger furiously pacing back and forth inside a cage. Wrestle with it, tame it, and keep it as a pet. Take it for long walks in your neighborhood and let your neighbors stoop down to pat it's head for good luck. Feed it and breed it, and give a total stranger the pick of the litter.

If you don't have Christmas Spirit this year, do not despair. Nothing is hopeless, not all change is bad, and not all years are the same. If having Christmas Spirit was easy, everyone would have some, every day, all around the world.

You might have read or been told that, considering the infinite nature of the cosmos, you are as small and insignificant as a grain of sand on the beach. I submit to you that every grain of sand matters. If just one tiny grain of sand, on any of the world's great beaches, were to suddenly blink out of existence, that could very well create an anomaly that might undo all of Creation. You are a part of everything. Your very existence has meaning.

To every person in the world, young and old, fat and skinny, homely and beautiful, virtuous and even despicable, I wish you joy, good fortune,  laughter and all the Christmas Spirit you can handle.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.

December 17, 2013

Beatles Nonsense: Fab Albert

I know this cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by Bill Cosby has been widely circulated on the intertubes, but here it is again, in all it's, ahem, glory. This tune pairs up well with a fluted glass full of Jello brand butterscotch pudding, "dont'cha know mmm oh yeah it's so creamy and delicious and my lovely children were singing and I said 'pull your pants up off the ground!' and my lovely wife Camille something something, riiiiiight!"

eBay Wonders: $un Maid Rai$in$ Box

This vintage Sun Maid raisin box can now be yours for $700,000 or, you know, your best offer.

Seriously! No joke!

Muse Of The Week: Arthur Lyman, Encore!

You are on The Big Island, in the Kona district. Feeling a bit thirsty, you step inside The Makai and take a seat. On a small stage at the front of the room is a slightly elevated area that might technically be called a stage. Sunlight sweeps in and covers the lone instrument on this stage, a vibraphone, sturdy, even elegant, but decidedly lifeless. You take another sip of your frozen cocktail, meticulously avoiding a case of brain freeze, and suddenly he is there. Gracefully wielding four mallets with the precision of a surgeon, the distinguished older gentleman takes his place between the sun and his instrument, and, without ceremony, begins to play. Now, for the first time, you are really in Hawaii.

Final thought: As music permeates our lives so thoroughly, it is sometimes very easy to forget the power it has to influence our emotions. Perhaps tellingly, people often choose to listen to music that only echoes the anxiety and desperation of the unbalanced times in which we are living. Music can also be a balm for what ails, and Arthur Lyman's music is good medicine indeed. If you are intrigued enough to seek out more of Mr. Lyman's output, you might be tempted to listen to it at night, as the sand begins falling from the ceiling above your bed. However, I suggest putting on an Arthur Lyman record as the morning sun is in full display over the horizon. I can practically guarantee it's efficacy to be many times greater than that of a multivitamin.

December 13, 2013

Christmas Comics: "Big-Feet's Holiday"

From The Three Mouseketeers #6 (Jan-Feb 1957); illustrated by Rube Grossman

Muse Of The Week: Arthur Lyman, On The Town!

Via the magic time machine called YouTube, here is The Arthur Lyman Group performing on a local Seattle show called On The Town in 1964. Incidentally, the host is comedian and former Tonight Show regular Pete Barbutti. Enjoy!

December 10, 2013

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor...

Beatles Nonsense: "Thank Heaven For Yellow Subs!"

Here is a Beatles cover you don't hear every day: a French version of "Yellow Submarine" as rendered by ze one, ze only...Maurice Chevalier.

Muse Of The Week: Arthur Lyman

This week Easily Mused pays tribute to the Hawaiian native Arthur Lyman (1932-2002), the vibraphonist and marimba player extraordinaire who was at the forefront of the short-lived and sometimes revived Exotica movement. Let's kick things off with a recording he made well after the height of his career, unusual in that it features a vocal performance by Lyman, who usually stuck to instrumentals. The female vocalist is Arthur's own daughter Kapiolani. From the 1975 Crescendo release Puka Shells here is "Guava Tree," a leisurely tune of gratitude to warm the cockles of your heart. How cockles got in your heart, that's your business.