Saturday, December 17, 2011

Preface To A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2011: Two Sides Of Christmas

I mentioned yesterday that I don't really do Christmas except for a radio show. You perhaps either pitied or loathed me as a Grinch. Today I saw two sides of Christmas that, while probably not encouraging me to either forgo my tiny Christmas activity (the show) entirely or perhaps make me start celebrating more, did challenge my indifference - or is it my ambivalence?

The wife & I were driving to some place to return something after a pleasant experience at the grocery store. The place we were returning the thing to was a giant chain store which will probably be out of business in a couple of years - when I was there buying stuff to return later, there were more employees than customers - but it's near a mall, & when we moved to Lexington eighteen months ago, we were warned to stay away from that mall at Christmastime. We should have listened.

It was Christmas at its most crass. Crassmas. Abhorrent. I wanted no part of it, but it took just as long to get out of there as it would have if we'd done the errand. Abysmal.

But earlier in the day, I received from my oldest sister a gift in a package from her & my mom. The rest of the things in the package were nice, but my sister gave me this cookbook. I've been cooking a lot more lately, & I've talked to her about it, & I've mentioned liking this writer's other cookbooks & her online recipes. It was just incredibly thoughtful. (I need to tell her, too! I haven't yet!)

Most presents I've received at Christmas post-childhood have been pretty disappointing. But that gift reminded me that Christmas can be a time to show people you love that you actually pay attention to their lives. That was nice.

Off to listen to more Christmas music now!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Self Help 101: Holiday Shopping Made Simple

I have the simplest way to beat the crowds & still manage to get all my holiday shopping done. & it's not by doing all my shopping online, no. It's by not doing any shopping at all.

You see, as a middle-aged man whose children are all of the four-legged variety, & who has found himself in the (let's say) middle of his life without any supernatural beliefs, the two main reasons for celebrating Christmas have evaporated. In a secular sense, children are the reason for the season - they get time off school, as well as wonderful gifts (if they're lucky, of course - there are a lot of poor children out there). They are encouraged to believe in Santa. This particular interpretation can be shared by Christians & non-Christians alike, & holds a place in my heart for the rage it causes some but not all conservative douchebags.

The other Christmas, of course, is the one that celebrates the early Catholic Church's co-opting of the Roman winter solstice festival, Saturnalia, to make it the birthday of their god, Jesus. Americans especially like to believe that this kind of Christmas has been going on forever, but of course it's a more recent phenomenon. This type of holiday involves church-going as well as gift-giving, & inspires slogans like "put the Christ back in Christmas" & (this is a true story) once caused a drunk girl at a 7-11 to get mad at me because I wrote "X-Mas" instead of "Christmas."

But! I hear you interrupt! I am either a Christian or a parent of young children, or both. If that is the case, this particular piece of advice can't help you. I know of only one way to simplify holiday shopping at this late date - well, all right, two, if you count not having enough money to buy anything except perhaps the essentials to stay alive during early winter - & that is to opt out.

Another reason to celebrate Christmas which has come to me now (because I don't really think about this one) is that it may be important to your larger family. Since I don't celebrate the birth of a supernatural being, & since I don't buy my dogs & cats gifts, I always found myself out-of-place (not to mention embarrassingly drunk) at the annual family Christmas gathering. If you have siblings & parents who are fond of you, this can pose a problem - I am fortunate that my absence has been barely noted, except no one gets as drunk as I did. I would hope your family likes you a bit more than mine does.

In this case, then, opting out can be hazardous to one's health. It's not just that so many people in this country (& in this part of the world!) have guns & believe that those who don't share their theological perspectives ought to be put down. It's that you could possibly offend your dear family members, the ones who might not understand your rejection of what to them is a lovely holiday tradition . It might behoove you to buy some presents after all, & make an appearance. If it's a time you can enjoy your family, that should be enough. & surely that lets you justify the hassle of visiting hectic stores in the next week.

If you are able to opt out, but fear the reprisal of armed fanatic, I recommend that, if you have a radio show, to do a Christmas episode once a year. Christmas music, especially the stuff that hasn't been played to death over the speakers in most stores, has a way of calming the easily-addled hearts of the frenzied Christmas partisan.

Good luck to you!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Joke A Day A Week: Episode Twenty-Five

It's time now to say adieu to the A Joke A Day world. Alas! I will have to find something else to write about on this blog on Thursdays.

What did me in? Nothing specific - I have simply been worn down by the insistent stream of mediocrity. Week after week of the expected melange of recycled jokes, woefully uncorrected spelling & grammatical errors, & of course the constant stream of unfunny. Unfunny every day, delivered to my inbox without fail, a tremendous achievement to be sure, to be the complete opposite of what you promise day in & day out, with little or no reaction (as far as I can see) from the millions who subscribe to this "service"! There should be some kind of reward given to the site's hosts, developers, programmers & content managers, & afterwards they should be forced to read their "jokes" out loud to a hostile audience, one that won't hesitate to turn physical after they bomb mere seconds into the gig.

I'm sure I'll miss going over each joke rather than deleting them. I'll miss spending a few minutes wondering at the level of intellect that considers what I'm staring at as anything close to humor. What am I saying? I won't miss that at all!

Ta ta A Joke A Day. I'm sure you'll keep doing what you're doing: making the internet a little more ashamed of itself each day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gary's Favorites Are Here!

Whoop dee doo!

So here it is, a sampling of the music I listened to most in 2011. There shouldn't be any surprises there, or if there's one, it's that there were so many great comedy records that came out this year. It's not a best of list - I've checked, & I share virtually no release in common with the major best of lists in the magazine & blog world - which only goes to show how out of touch I am with the world of commercial (& probably "commercial indie") music world. Oh well. Maybe you'll like some of what I liked.

The show is of course up at the Self Help Radio website. It was a special two-hour show, so you can hear the first hour here & you can hear the second hour here. The contents of each hour are listed below.

If there's anything you think I missed this year, tell me about it!

(part one)

"Little Surprise" The Wave Pictures _Beer In The Breakers_
"It's All Over Bar The Shouting" Prince Edward Island _This Day Is A Good Enough Day_
"Bad Feeling" Veronica Falls _Veronica Falls_

"My 7-Year-Old Is Better Than Me" Louis CK _Hilarious_
"Love Wakes The Devil" Momus & John Henriksson _The Thunderclown_
"No One" Andrew Jackson Jihad _Knife Man_
"High Hawk Season" The Mountain Goats _All Eternals Deck_

"Abbie" Mike Birbiglia _Sleepwalk With Me_
"Songs About Your Girlfriend" Los Campesinos! _Hello Sadness_
"Don't Look At Me (I Don't Like It)" The Lovely Eggs _Cob Dominos_
"200x" Johnny Foreigner _Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything_
"A Train Wreck" Bearsuit _The Phantom Forest_

"The Miracle Of Sweatpants/The Parking Ticket" Patton Oswalt _Finest Hour_

(part two)

"Raconte-Moi Une Histoire" M83 _Hurry Up, We're Dreaming_
"A Darkness Rises Up" Broken Records _Let Me Come Home_
"When You Know" The Feelies _Here Before_
"Cosmos 7" The Fall _Ersatz G.B._

"The Creation Museum (Part One)" Marc Maron _This Has To Be Funny_
"My Terrible Friend" The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart _Belong_
"Money" The Drums _Portamento_
"Darren" Allo Darlin' _Darren EP_
"Record Shop" Help Stamp Out Loneliness _Help Stamp Out Loneliness_

"An Old Fashioned Tea Party" Wyatt Cenac _Comedy Person_
"Blokes On 45" Orange Juice _Coals To Newcastle_
"The Song From Venus" Stephin Merritt _Obscurities_
"I Sat On The Edge Of My Bed & I Sang You Velvet Underground Songs" Catnaps _Why Don't You Whisper?_
"Promises, Promises" Pocketbooks _Carousel_

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Whither Gary's Favorite Indie Music 2011?

Yay! The music I listened to most this year! Compare & contrast with your own list!

Yay! It's a special TWO HOUR Self Help Radio! Who approved this? Does he/she still have a job?

Yay! You can listen to it from 7 to 9am in Lexington at 88.1 fm or you can listen online at wrfl dot fm!

Boo! You won't be up that early!

Yay! I'll archive the show later in the day at self help radio dot net!

Yay! Boo! Yay!