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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Peter S Beagle

I've been a fan of Peter S Beagle ever since I was a kid, but I didn't realize how amazing he was until I got older and stared to look into his biography.  He is known for only a few things, such as The Last Unicorn and a certain quote about dreams.  However, he has done so much more!

Mr. Beagle is also known for being an expert in everything Tolkien and indeed wrote the screenplay for the 1978 animation of The Lord of the Rings.  Because of this, he was invited to take part in something called Mythmoot, a sort of scholarly discussion/class of The Hobbit right after a screening of the new film.  I was, unfortunately, unable to attend this event.  My sister, however, did.

Yes, I am jealous and wish that I was able to go, but it was simply not in the cards this year.  Perhaps next year I can go for the second film.  I feel, however, one step closer to the world of writers.  When Christmas rolled around, my sister gave me a copy of Mr. Beagle's newest work, Sleight of Hand, a collection of short stories.  But the best part was the message inside it.

"To Spencer-
Send the damn stories out!
And if they get sent back,
send them out again!

-Peter S Beagle"

Now I am stoked!  One of my childhood idols has written me a personal message to get my ass in gear!  I will certainly be redoubling my efforts to complete this novel as fast as I can so that I can work on my many other story ideas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Songs That Should Not Be

This Christmas season, my wife and I have been listening to the radio more often than we usually do.  For some reason, we aren't using Pandora as much, and we haven't dug out all the Christmas CDs.  Because of this, I've been hearing a lot more of the "popular" songs that the radio plays.  Granted, some of them are quite lovely; I thoroughly enjoy anything with Josh Groban or Michael Buble.  But there are some Christmas songs that I simply cannot stand, for one reason or another.  And here they are.

4) Blue Christmas - The Elvis version.

Now, I am sure a lot of you love this song, and love Elvis.  He does, I admit, have a good voice, and the song has nothing bad in it lyrics-wise.  This is a personal choice.  I do not like this song because of ONE of his background singers.  She has this little climbing arpeggiated chord, but when she hits the top note she's slightly off.  Just slightly.  And it bugs the ever-living goodness out of me.  All other versions of this song do not have that singer, and so I have no problems with them.

3) Do They Know It's Christmas

This song is on the list despite its good intentions and noble background.  It was written in 1984 for "Band Aid," a group dedicated to ending the hunger in Ethopia.  How could something like this possibly be bad?  Well, for starters, it is condescending.  It is also full of errors.  "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time" is one of the lines.  First of all... yes, there will.  It DOES snow in Africa.  Plus, what does snow have to do with Christmas?  The singer tries to make a point that they don't know it's Christmas because they do't have snow, jingle bells, and that "nothing ever grows" there, another fallacy.  If you know anything about how third-world countries work, the first thing you learn is that it is the governments, not the planet, that is preventing people from getting food.  And this all really has nothing to do with Christmas, and more to do with some European idealistic Yuletide celebration.  Christmas is actually about the birth of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps the Africans who aren't part of our "world of plenty" understand Christmas far better than we do because they aren't distracted by all the worldly goods we are.

2) Santa Baby

Let me get this right...  you are trying to seduce St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, so that he will give you more material possessions?  Oh yes, that's a song I want my child hearing.  Someone could make the argument that this is all in sarcasm, but when you hear different versions, all of them have some highly attractive and over-sexed woman using her most seductive tone possible with no hint of sarcasm.  And she's asking for the most stereotypical things possible, such as diamonds and money.  Not only does this song insult Christmas and Santa Clause, but it demeans women.

1) Baby It's Cold Outside

AKA: The Christmas Rape song.  Let's examine the lyrics.  It starts out with the woman saying she really has to get going and that her mom is going to worry.  She moves on to excuses to get away... such as the neighbors might see.  All the while, the male singer is calling her things like "baby" and "beautiful" (which can so easily be seen as a college kid trying to get the girl he just met into bed but doesn't remember or know her name).  At some point the girl says she thinks there's something in the drink, and it apparently puts a "spell" on her which makes her not able to say "no."  Sounds like the date rape drug to me.  It continues with her making more attempts to get away and the guy just fawning over her body and coming up with every terrible excuse in the book.  The next time you hear the song, listen to the lyrics and imagine the guy is actually a sexual predator.  Not that far fetched.

So, please, stop playing these songs, DJs.  They are terrible and should not exist.  Instead... why not focus on some of the lesser known but beautiful songs of Christmas?  Let's give Christmas back its meaning.