I'm feeling very unhappy and don't really know what to do about it.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
A radio station within my range of reception has been playing exclusively Christmas music since Halloween. I like Christmas music as much as the next person -- actually I like it more than most people do -- but I while I think it's sad that some legitimately good songs are buried for much of the year, even I think continuous Christmas music from Halloween until December 26 is excessive.
The station of which I am writing does this all-Christmas-music-from-Halloween-until-Christmas format thing every year. Part of the problem with this station's November/December programming isn't just that the songs are all Christmas songs, but that there are too few of them in the play list. I'd estimate that they're rotating no more than 100 songs for twenty four hours every day.
Even within the confines of the format, the repetition is unnecessary. A very large number of musicians, living and dead, have recorded Christmas albums. All the station would have to do is to acquire rights to an additional ten or twenty of these albums each year in order to improve the quality of the broadcasts and make the few remaining part-time listeners less unhappy. I can't see such a thing happening anytime soon, though. If not playing same renditions of the same songs over and over and over hasn't yet occurred to the braintrust that first came up with the idea, I have grave doubts as to whether constructive criticism occurring in any from other than being struck by a bolt of lightning or a visit either from the ghost of Christmas past or from God himself would convince them.
Roughly one time of every three times I click onto the station in my car, "Do They Know It's Christmas" is playing. This is a song I enjoy; it's in my own collection. I like the song itself, and I like the idea that a group of musicians got together to make a charitable contribution for starving people. I don't necessarily want to hear it, or any other song, for that matter, two or three time a day for the better part of eight consecutive weeks, though.
If the previously mentioned song isn't playing, most often Frank Sinatra's version of "Let It Snow" is on. There are probably people my age who cannot tell the difference between Frank Sinatra and Tennessee Ernie Ford, but I'm not one of such ignoramuses. While my knowledge of Sinatra is far from encyclopeidic, I know that he was an incredibly talented musician with an incomparable instrument of a voice. I wish I could say the same for his back-up singers. One particular female who sang along with Sinatra on many of his holiday recordings possessed an almost inconceivably grating voice. Sinatra was reported to have been a shrewd businessman. My hope is that this woman, whoever the hell she was, compensated Sinatra handsomely for the privilege of singing background vocals on his records. I would hate to think he actually paid her to ruin his recordings. Then again, maybe she paid him in non-monetary ways, if you get my drift. A whole lot of that sort of thing went on back in the day, or so I've been told.
The station also pays far more Gene Autry material than any listener not in the profoundly deaf category would choose to hear. I understand that there is a major nostalgia effect going on with the music of Gene Autry. It sort of evokes memories of the day when a cowboy hat-topped head and a decidedly unimpressive voice could hold an audience's attention for more than thirty seconds to the extent that he would untimately bilk said audience for a sufficient sum to one day buy his own professional baseball team. Face it: in today's world, the man wouldn't have gotten past the initial round of American Idol. For that matter, Gene Autry would never have survived the gong in that iconic 70's American Idol predecessor. We'll give him "Here Comes Santa Claus" since he wrote it, not that it's all that solid a work in and of itself, but Autry's destruction of the Christmas music genre should begin and end with his signature work. His molestation of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Rendeer" was and is an affront to God, Santa Claus, and reindeer everywhere, and should from this day forth be prohibited except in the privacy of the homes of any listeners so lacking in musical discrimination that they would find such an abomination remotely tolerable. Hell, for that matter, even if I were a Libertarian, I wouldn't have a huge problem with banning the playing of Gene Autry Christmas music in private settings. Some things are just plain wrong.
This next song is so utterly hideous, though, that I'd almost (note: I said almost) rather listen to Gene Autry butcher Christmas music for twenty-four consecutive hours than to hear it played in its entirety even once. I can't for the life of me figure out how it ever made it onto anyone's playlist, but it did. It's a preposterous story made into an even worse song. If you haven't yet deciphered the identity of the song I'm describing, it is most likely because you've blocked out any and all associations with this music-related (I refuse to use the term musical in reference to this most tragic occurrence in the history of music) catastrophe. I only wish I, too, possessed the capability to block such traumatic recollections.
Anway, the song, "Christmas Shoes" recounts the tale of a little boy who wants to buy a pair of shoes for his mama on Christmas Eve because she's going to die very soon and he wants her to look pretty when she meets Jesus. I swear I'm not making this up.
I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of a child losing a parent -- it very nearly happened to me when I was a little girl-- but sometimes a manufctured story of such is nothing more than a shameless attempt to tug at the heartstrings of listeners to the tune of lining one's pockets. I can't believe anyone fell for the ruse.This is easily the worst song ever written.
Columnist Dave Barry wrote a book about bad songs called [fittingly] Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. I sometimes wonder what Dave Barry thought when this song came out a decade or two after his book. Did he consider reclaiming as many copies of the book as he could gather so that he could throw them all into a heap, pour on a bit of lighter fluid, and torch them all to ashes, because the very premise of his book had been rendered a complete and total lie in a single drunken or deranged night of [un]musical composition? Did he give up writing altogether? (I haven't heard much from him since then, come to think of it.) Or is he holding his thoughts, knowing that any publication from him declaring a particular song to be the worst song ever will challenge some unscrewed person out there to create an even more heinous piece of musical and literary repulsiveness just to prove to Barry and everyone else that musical and literary depravity is infinite?
In the near future I will list my favorite Christmas songs. Pleas feel free to share yours as well. In the meantime, I leave you with this atrocity.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
|my rather silly birthday cake, which tasted good because it was German chocolate cake with white buttercream frosting, which is my favorite|
The birthday thing was nice. My parents threw a mid-sized bash and said we could invite anyone we wanted; if they ran out of food they would just order more pizza. I think it ended up that thirty three of Matthew's and my peers attended, plus miscellaneous relatives and pseudorelations.
I must issue a disclaimer of sorts about the cake. My friend Alyssa wants to get into the wedding cake business as a way to earn a few bucks, but she's never actually made a wedding cake. She didn't want to make a wedding cake for nothing, though she has been practicing with single layers. She came up with the brilliant idea of making, with her Aunt Stephanie's help, a wedding cake for Matthew's and my birthdy. I told her that twins having a wedding cake on their birthday was straight out of Deliverance, but there was no stopping her. For the record, Matthew and I did not stand before the guests and feed each other cake at our birthday party. While the two of us are not exactly overburdened with dignity, there are depths to which even we will not sink. The cake was pretty good primarily because I refused to tolerate any of that godawful fondant and told her the cake would not be allowed inside my house without buttercream frosting covering it.
My parents got me snowboarding gear and apparrel, which I cannot use during winter break this year because of my upcoming violin recital on February 1. The embargo is entirely self-imposed. I've worked too long and hard to be ready for this recital just to have it all blown on a broken arm incurred in a single outing of frivolity. I've sworn off gymnastics workouts for the same reason. Something as inconsequential as an injured finger or wrist could make playing some or all of my violin pieces virtually impossible.
Once the recital is history, I'll return to my former life with a vengeance. In fact, I'm skipping out of school to drive to Utah for nine days to go snowboarding, beginning the day after my recital. I'll have a light academic load, and I hope to have been accepted into a medical school long before any grades are posted in the event that the worst happens and I get a B in a class.
I received my A's officially for my accompanist/vocal coaching course and my instrumental/choral conducting class. My conducting practical exam went very well, and I was blessed to have very good musicians with whom to work in my accompaniment/coaching class.
I have to accompany for a French horn senior recital tomorrow night. The soloist had planned it earlier, but he had a family emergency involving a car accident in which his younger brother was almost killed. I've been told that the boy is going to make a full recovery, but his outcome was uncertain for awhile. Usually a musician is out of luck when such a thing happens, and has to reschedule for the next quarter, but his circumstances were sufficiently compelling to allow him to reschedulelate in this quarter. His recital date is actually after the cut-off date for recitals for this quarter, but the department can do anything it wants when it really wants to, and in this particular case I'm glad they allowed him to re-schedule his recital this quarter. My mom didn't tell me this, but my piano professor told me that my mom was instrumental in going to bat with the department head on behalf of the French horn player. it makes me proud to be related to her.
I have three finals on Monday and one on Tuesday, after which I am FINISHED for the quarter. It would have been a great time to snowboard, but it would be foolish for me to do so. Because my family is spending christmas in Idaho and it wouldn't be too far out of the way, I'm going to do the New Year in Utah thing. I'm not certain what I will do with my time there since I can't snowboard, but I'll find something. Jared and my friend Alyssa will be there. Alyssa probably won't be able to ski or snowboard either because she had an injury (hairline fracture of the pelvis, of all things) in a soccer game that happened in a PE class at her college, and it's unlikely she will have clearance for any major physical activities. If I forget, remind me not to sign up for any soccer classes.
Have a nice week. Ciao.
Monday, December 2, 2013
My twin brother has finished the first of two Guinnesses with which he is ringing in the start of our twentieth year and is opening his secondstout or ale or whatever category into which Guinness properly belings. (Paul, where are you? I need a refresher course!). I have chosen this moment to ask him to stroll down memory lane to a time when the two of us spent more time than any child probably should spend in front of a TV featuring Paul and Jan Crouch and their Trinity Broadcasting Network cohorts. Matthew and I were slightly odd children (I probably more than he) but even we weren't so bizarre as to have chosen to watch Trinity Broadcasting Network's programming over Blue's Clues or whatever else PBS had to offer. Rather, it's our mother whom we have to thank for our early exposure to some of the most comically freakish television footage ever produced.
My mom holds doctorates in educational and clinical psychology and music performance, and before we came alone had most recently worked as the director of psychological services for a school district. Once we were born, she was committed to staying home until we were in kindergarten. She said later that she found staying at home with preschoolers to be such a mind-numbing experience that she would have seriously considered handing over her entire paycheck to anyone willing to come into our house and agree to remain there with Matthew and me while she worked at her former job, but a situation that had hit the news in our local area caused her to rethink that option. A woman who hired her services out as a nanny had nearly killed one of her charges by overmedicating the child with Dimetapp so that the kid would sleep most of the day. This deeply disturbed my mother. If she'd had no alternative but to work outside of our home, she said, she would have had no choice but to find the best nanny she could and to try to monitor the person as closely as possible, but cash flow by then wasn't a major issue for our family. My dad earned enough money as a research physician to easily support us, and my parents hd banked my mom's entire salary for several years. My mother felt that it would have been unconscionable for her to risk having someone abuse either of us just because spending her days with babies and toddlers made her want to drink vanilla extract or to stick silverware in light sockets to amuse herself. She did the noble thing and stayed home, allowing the two of us to, in effect, anesthetize her brain.
To keep herself somewhat connected with the adult world and more or less sane (I qualify this statement because no one in my family can accurately described as 100% sane), my mom turne the TV on for a couple of hours each day. She tried to keep it to a minimum, as she had strong feelings regarding the negative impact of television on developing minds, but she rationalized that an essentially sound-of-mind mother who watched an hour or two of TV a day was less harmful to children than would be a shrieking maniac. One day when she was holding a croupy me while channel-surfing, she says, she happened upon TBN's Praise the Lord. She found the TBN fare to be more addictive than Oxycontin.
Some of my earliest memories are of stacking Megablocks atop each other as my mom sat on the floor with my brother and me, with Paul and Jan and the other zealots-for-hire prattling on in the background. My mom would grab the remote to turn up the volume if anyone spoke in tongues or did anything bizarre enough to be considered out of the ordinary, although it was all so bizarre to us Catholics that choosing any one act as being sufficiently bizarre to warrant being considered out of the ordinary was a cognitively demanding task.
Much of what we saw on TBN was musical, or in some cases decidedly un-musical, programming. I recall watching a male singer with gray hair maybe an inch-and-a-half long that stuck straight out from his head and was trimmed so evenly that it didn't look real. I must have commented that he looked as though he had cut a silver teddy bear in half and had put the butt over his head, because that's what my baby book says that I said. I recently came across a posted video of that singer -- Roger MacDuff -- and I shared that same comment. Some truths are so profound as to transcend the age level of whoever is sharing them. It was a salient point whether it was an eighteen-month-old or a nineteen-year-old making it.
Some of the musicians were not all that bad. My mom particularly liked one couple -- Dean and Mary Brown -- who sang together, sometimes while Mary played the piano. This was before auto-tuning was available, and a musician's pitch was only as good as his or her ear allowed it to be.
Nancy Harmon was another interesting singer. She had what my mom said was a decent voice, though it was at least an octave lower than that of the average female. She seemed to perform only songs she had self-composed, which meant that she never sang any decent songs. At that point, she might as well have had a lousy voice. She surrounded herself with a chorus of young singers who were far less talented thsn she. I believe there was some murmuring abour her sexuality among the TBN community. In one show she very nearly went after her accusers right through the television screen. It gave me nightmares, which caused my dad to beg my mom not to watch her anymore, so we didn't. I have no idea wht she'sdoing today, if she even still exists, but she'd probably give me nightmares if I watched her.
Other musicians weren't quite so blessed. There was the grating Betty Jean Robinson, the douchy Steve Brock, and a bunch of othrs who jumble together in my mind. It's probably best if I leave them that way. If anyone was sick or afflicted, Benny Hinn could be called upon to heal whatever ailed the person. They were all minor players, anyway. The stars of this operation were the members of the Crouch family.
Paul Crouch was a smooth-talking southern preacher, a prototypical sort who probably would have wiled away his days handling snakes in had he been born a couple of generations earlier. His ticket to famy -- or infamy, if you prefer -- surely his pink-haired wife, Janice Wendell Bethany Crouch, known to viewers simply as "Jan." While Jan's hair is probably more famous than is she herself, jan was a crowd pleaser and a favorite to viewers. I remember watching once when paul was speaking and needed jan to reinforce something, but looked down and saw that Jan was not available to assist hi, as she was having some sort of Holy Spirit manifestation. "That Jan," Paul said, shaking his head. "She's lost in the Spirit." I recall asking my mom what "lost in the Spirit" meant. Her reply was something along the lines of "I'll let you know as soon as I figure it out myself."
Paul and Jan had two sons, Paul, jr., and Matthew. (Now I'm reading of a supposed third son, Andrew; where did he come from and why isn't he in any of the pictures if he indeed exists?)_Both were married and had children. matthew's children were paraded in front of the cameras regularly. I don't know why the other grandchildren didn't figure so prominently in the public TBN persona.
My brother's first word after "Mama" was "Jesus," but he didn't quite say it the way a typical northern California baby would pronounce the name of the man from Galilee. It sounded more like JAY-zuss, and, in retrospect, should have been our father's clue as to what was going on in our home during the day while he was working.
My father's actual first inkling that we were being subjected to religious indoctrination beyond what anything his lifetime of Catholicism and Mormonism had prepared him was actually the rather outrageous telephone bill. This was in the very early years of cell phone usage, where plans did not yet exist that would make calling one's out-of-town relatives multiple times in a weekday a particularly economical practice. If my mom saw anything Earth-shattering or truly consequential on TBN, she felt the need to discuss it with someone other than a precocious two-year-old girl or the girl's babbling halfwit twin. All of my mom's local acquaintances worked. Instead, she telephoned her sister or her good friend from the central California town where she grew up. My dad, who didn't ordinarily pay much attention to household finances, happened to look over her shoulder as she paid the phone bill one month. "Holy shit, Erin!" he bellowed. (And this was in the days of our pre-kindergarten years when my dad somewhat censored himself around the house -- back when he spared us the full amplitude of his vocabulary.) "Have you been calling Russia three times a week?" My mom eventually resorted to using pre-paid phone cards to cover her daytime long distance habit just to keep peace in the house. Her overall expenditures were never anywhere near a level that should have merited concern from her spouse; it was the mere shock of seeing an excessive phone bill monthly that sent my dad into the exosphere.
My mom watchded TBN before the Internet evolved to the extent that it and its instant and in-depth information now pervades our culture. What my mom knew about the Crouches and everyone else on TBN was what she saw on TV. And she found that interesting. Had she known at that time that Jan supposedly had an affair with the 1954 Mr. Universe which culminated in the birth of Matthew Crouch, that Paul Crouch supposedly had a same-sex attraction, that Jan bought a $100,000 motor home to for the sole purpose of keeping her two Maltese/Poodle mix dogs comfortable on the road, that Matthew and Laurie Crouch reportedly had a TBN-owned home renovated so that it could serve as a giant closet for their expensve and expansive wardrobes, that Matthew Crouch allegedly brandished a gun and threatened his niece with it when she threatened to go public with some of the family's dirty laundry . . . the list goes on far too long to be exhaustively quoted in a single blog. Anyway, my point here is that if my mom was so thoroughly entranced by what little she actually saw, it's a damned good thing she never heard the rest of the story, because she probably would not have been able to pry herself away from the TV for long enough to potty train us. Matthew and I would possibly still be wearing Huggies or Pull-ups. Sometimes people are better off not knowing all things.
Eventually kindergarten came for us, and my mom was paroled from her stay-at-home mom sentence to the workforce. As addictions go, her dependency upon all things TBN was broken without even the need for a 12-step program or weekly support group meetings, and she spent little if any time on them in more recent years, as did the rest of us. Still I cannot help wondering what will be the next exciting chapter in this ultimate reality show of a network. Who needs soap operas when we have TBN?
|The layperson's method of testing for the supertaster phenotype is to use blue food coloring to stain the tongue, then to count the raised papillae within a hole reinforcer.|
I'm not going back to the dorm tonight just because. My brother doesn't have any classes until Wednesday of this week, so he's staying so that we can celebrate our birthday together. We may not have many more birthdays together. We're having pizza and whatever else my mom ourders at our house tomorrow evening. people from the dorm are invited, as well as friends from other aspects of my life. my brother has a few friends showing up from his university roughly a hundred miles away. A few family friends will be there as well.
My pseudoaunt's birthday was on Saturday. We have a short-standing tradition of celebrating one th day between our birthdays by having lunch or dinner together. She was tired of restaurant meals, so we had tacos that were made by her husband. They're weren't all that bad.
My dad was recently reading an article about super-tasters, who have more tastebuds than ordinary people and are as a result often very picky eaters. This is far from revolutionary insight, as researchers have been awae of the condition for awhile. neither is it uncommon; roughly one in four people are classified as supertasters, with more women than men being so classified. Anyway, the condition is biologically based, as supertasters have more taste buds that do ordinary people. A quick way to screen fronthe condition is to have the person taste propylthiouracil, which is a thyroid-reducing medication.the average person doesn't have quick access to propylthiouracil, but my dad is an MD, so he has access to pretty much every medication under the sun. Propylthiouracil is known to be quite hard on the liver, but a mere taste of the drug has never sent anyone into a state of full-blown liver failure.
Without telling us what it was he was trying to accomplish, my dad put a propylthiouracil tablet on both my brother's and my tongues and told us not to swallow. I immediately said, Eeeeww!" and took it off. My brother didn't seem to think it was any big deal. My dad said my mom's reaction had been similar to mine.
So now that I'm too old for his knowledge to do me any good, my dad realizes that I'm a supertaster. It would have been nice if he'd figured it out back in the day, when he was beating me because I refused to taste much of what was on my plate at dinner or to drink the vile milkshake concoctions he mixed up for me to promote growth and weight gain. Too little, too late, C'est la vie.
My brother raided the house Guinness supply so that he and I can toast our nineteenth birthday appropriately. He's drinking two while I'm drinking a whole bottle myself, which is two times what I normally have in my twice-weekly binge nights (sanctioned by my parents as long as I don't drive for several hours because it increases my appetite). I hate the taste of Guinness almost as much as I hated my dad's growth and weight gain shakes, but beer is thinner and easier to get down even if you hate it
than is a milkshake.
Still I have to plug my nose when I drink the Guinness. My brother told me something that I already know, which is that if I go to a party and have to plug nose in orer to consume alcohol, I will look really, really stupid. That's one more reason not to go to any of the wild unversity parties frequented by my peers.
|This guy is probably a supertaster.|
Sunday, December 1, 2013
|Paul Crouch 1934-2013 MAY HE REST IN PEACE|
For now, I would like simply to present, for your viewing pleasure, a salute to a separate and distinct persona of the TBN empire, which is the hair of Jan Crouch, widow (unless there really was substance rumors from a few years ago of a divorce between the power couple) of Paul Crouch, and co-founder of TBN. Enjoy!