Archive for December, 2007

Merry Christmas to All…

December 24th, 2007
Comments Off on Merry Christmas to All…

Just a quick post to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. My Christmas was two weeks ago today, but I’m working hard to get in the proper spirit for the rest of the family: Warm beer and singing Zeppelin carols doesn’t, apparently, cut it with my brood.

… and to all, a good night.

Christmas, The Mighty Zep

A Chrsitmas Carol

December 24th, 2007
Comments Off on A Chrsitmas Carol

A repeat post from Dec 23rd, 2006. All links are still active:

The Sun and have produced a downloadable version of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. It is newly illustrated by the Sun’s Pam Davies and is in pdf format. The illustrations are quite nice, and it is a beautiful and clear copy of my favourite Christmas story.

Written in 1843, this Christmas classic is amongst Dickens best work. The first of five Christmas books Dickens would release between 1843 and 1848 (Christmas 1847 being the missing year), A Christmas Carol tells the story of the reclamation of the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge. It was immediately popular, selling all 6,000 copies by Christmas 1843, having been released on December 19th.

Christmas was apparently in decline in the mid-1800’s, one description saying it “wasn’t commonly celebrated as a festive holiday.” A Christmas Carol is commonly acknowledged to have “helped revive popular interest in many Christmas traditions that are still practised today.” With Christmas seemingly under attack in our own time, it is a story we would all do well to read. And once done, be sure to employ some Dickensian traditions in your own Christmas. Me? I always fret about the quantity of flour in the Christmas pudding, never mind overdoing it on the rum punch (or as Bob Cratchit said, “I make rather merry”).

Most of all, enjoy. This is a great Christmas book, and yes Virginia, it is better than the movie. I especially recommend it to everyone who just isn’t in the spirit quite yet (don’t sweat it Joanne, Dickens was known to question the politicians in his time – some things never go out of style).

The Sun’s downloads are:


If you don’t like pdf files, an HTML version of the story (not the sun’s version) is available here (click on the book):

arley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate…

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, “My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?” No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call “nuts” to Scrooge.

Once upon a time — of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve — old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already — it had not been light all day: and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure.”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

“Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.

“What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

“Nephew!” returned the uncle, sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”

“Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”

“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

The clerk in the tank involuntarily applauded: becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever.

“Let me hear another sound from you,” said Scrooge, “and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation. You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir,” he added, turning to his nephew. “I wonder you don’t go into Parliament.”

“Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow.”

Scrooge said that he would see him — yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first…

A Christmas Carol, Christmas

In The Workhouse Christmas Day

December 24th, 2007
Comments Off on In The Workhouse Christmas Day

What’s becoming an annual post, for my friends that occasionally visit here from the more leftish persuasion (ribald version, here):

In The Workhouse Christmas Day, by George R. Sims

It is Christmas Day in the Workhouse,
And the cold bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight:
For with clear-washed hands and faces
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the tables,
For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast:
To smile and be condescending,
Put puddings on pauper plates,
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They’ve paid for – with the rates.

Oh, the paupers are meek and lowly
With their ‘Thank’ee kindly, mum’s’;
So long as they fill their stomachs
What matters it whence it comes?
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
‘Great God!’ he cries; ‘but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died.’

The guardians gazed in horror
The master’s face went white;
‘Did a pauper refuse his pudding?’
‘Could their ears believe aright?’
Then the ladies clutched their husbands,
Thinking the man might die
Struck by a bolt, or something,
By the outraged One on high.

But the pauper sat for a moment,
Then rose ‘mid a silence grim,
For the others has ceased to chatter,
And trembled every limb.
He looked at the guardian’s ladies,
Then. eyeing their lords, he said,
‘I eat not the food of villains
Whose hands are foul and red:

‘Whose victims cry for vengeance
From their dank, unhallowed graves.’
‘He’s drunk!’ said the workhouse master.
‘Or else he’s mad, and raves.’
‘Not drunk or mad,’ cried the pauper,
‘But only a hunted beast,
Who, torn by the hounds and mangled,
Declines the vulture’s feast.

I care not a curse for the guardians,
And I won’t be dragged away.
Just let me have the fit out,
It’s only Christmas Day
That the black past comes to goad me,
And prey my burning brain;
I’ll tell you the rest in a whisper, –
I swear I won’t shout again.

‘Keep your hands off me, curse you!
Hear me right out to the end.
You come here to see how the paupers
The season of Christmas spend.
You come here to watch us feeding,
As they watch the captured beast.
Hear why a penniless pauper
Spits on your paltry feast.

‘Do you think I will take your bounty,
And let you smile and think
You’re doing a noble action
With the parish’s meat and drink?
Where is my wife, you traitors –
The poor old wife you slew?
Yes, by the God above us
My Nance was killed by you!

‘Last winter my wife lay dying,
Starved in a filthy den;
I had never been to the parish, –
I came to the parish then.
I swallowed my pride in coming,
For, ere the ruin came,
I held up my head as a trader,
And I bore a spotless name.

‘I came to the parish, craving
Bread for a starving wife,
Bread for a woman who’d loved me
Through fifty years of my life;
And what do you think they told me,
Mocking my awful grief?
That “the House” was open to us,
But they wouldn’t give “out relief”.

I slunk to the filthy alley –
‘Twas a cold, raw Christmas eve –
And the bakers’ shops were open
Tempting a man to thieve;
But I clenched my fists together
Holding my head awry,
So I came home empty-handed,
And mournfully told her why.

Then I told her “the House” was open;
She had heard of the ways of that,
For her bloodless cheeks went crimson,
And up in her rags she sat,
Crying, “Bide the Christmas here, John,
We’ve never had one apart;
I think I can bear the hunger, –
The other would break my heart.”

‘All through that ever I watched her,
Holding her hand in mine,
Praying the Lord, and weeping
Till my lips were salt as brine.
I asked her once if she hungered
And as she answered “No,”
The moon shone in at the wondow
Set in a wreath of snow

‘Then the room was bathed in glory,
And I saw in my darling’s eyes
The far-away look of wonder
That comes when the spirit flies;
And her lips were parched and parted,
And her reason came and went,
For she raved of her home in Devon,
Where her happiest days were spent.

‘And the accents, long forgotten,
Came back to the tongue once more,
For she talked like the country lassie
I woo’d by the Devon shore.
Then she rose to her feet and trembled,
And fell on the rags and moaned,
And, “Give me a crust – I’m famished –
For the love of God!” she groaned.

I rushed from the room like a madman,
And flew to the workhouse gate,
Crying “Food for a dying woman!”
And came the answer, “Too late.”
They drove me away with curses;
Then I fought with a dog in the street,
And tore from the mongrel’s clutches
A crust he was trying to eat.

‘Back, through the filthy by-lanes!
Back, through the trampled slush!
Up to the crazy garret,
Wrapped in an awful hush.
My heart sank down at the threshold,
And I paused with a sudden thrill,
For there in the silv’ry moonlight
My Nancy lay, cold and still.

‘Up to the blackened ceiling
The sunken eyes were cast –
I knew on those lips all bloodless
My name had been the last;
She’d called for her absent husband –
O God! had I but known! –
Had called in vain and in anguish
Had died in that den – alone.

‘Yes, there in a land of plenty
Lay a loving woman dead,
Cruelly starved and murdered
For a loaf of parish bread.
At yonder gate, last Christmas
I craved for a human life.
You, who would feast us paupers,
What of my murdered wife!

‘There, get ye gone to your dinners;
Don’t mind me in the least;
Think of your happy paupers
Eating your Christmas feast;
And when you recount their blessings
In your smug parochial way,
Say what you did for me, too,
Only last Christmas Day.


Never Mind Seasons Greetings, it Should be "Silly Seasons Greetings."

December 20th, 2007

Well it’s late December, that time known as silly season, when Christmas trees become “Holiday Trees” and school teachers decide better the kids should say the grammatically disastrous Festive Day instead of Christmas Day.

A few stories to brighten up your silly season:

A 33-year-old woman who posed for a picture with Santa Claus at Danbury Fair Mall over the weekend wanted more than a photo, police said.

Sandrama Lamy inappropriately touched a 65-year-old worker dressed as Santa on Saturday while sitting on his lap, police said. She is charged with fourth-degree sexual assault and breach of peace, both misdemeanors.

According to police, Santa Claus reported an incident to them. Although the woman had left the area, she apparently was “easy to spot because she was on crutches, police said.”

Which begs the question, if Sandrama was, oh I don’t know, supermodel Heidi Klum, and not hobbling about the mall on crutches, does Santa complain about his Charmin being squeezed?

Silver bells mean soon it will be Christmas Day — to some people.

But a choir at Elmdale Public School in Ottawa is breaking from tradition with its version of the Christmas classic Silver Bells during a singalong assembly outside the school Thursday afternoon, and that has upset at least one parent.

Rhoda Boyde said she had a “bit of an issue” when she found out the words “Christmas Day” would be replaced by “a festive day” in the chorus of the 1951 Christmas song by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston.

“They’re changing something that’s traditional. It’s something that a lot of people in this country identify with,” said Boyde, whose daughter is in the school’s second and third grade choir. “And it begs the question: why has it been changed?”

Silver Bells, silver bells.
It’s a festive time in the city.
Ring a ling, hear them sing
Soon it will be a festive day?

Is that right? Or will they keep the Christmas in the second line (and in the first verse)? Terrible abuse of melody, if you ask me. And speaking of that, a song written in 1951 is under copyright, and you can’t go changing the words without permission.

Wonder if, with all the fuss, the re-writers wish they had been more careful about doing quality work (insert your own teacher joke here)?

My favourite silly season story, just because, like Wendy, I love the song:

Fairytale of New York, the raucous Christmas classic from the Pogues, is to be restored to its full, vulgar glory on Radio 1.

The station was derided for bleeping out the words ‘slut’ and ‘faggot’ from the 20-year-old song, saying they could be offensive to listeners.

But last night station controller Andy Parfitt said: “After careful consideration, I have decided the decision to edit the Pogues song Fairytale of New York was wrong.”…

The decision to edit the song, a duet between Pogues singer Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl, baffled listeners because Radio 1 has played it uncensored since its release in 1987….

MacColl’s mother Jean said earlier yesterday: “I think it’s pathetic…absolute nonsense.”

She added: “Shane has written the most beautiful song and these characters live, they really live, and you have such sympathy for them.

“These are a couple of characters who are not in the first flush of youth. They are what they are – this is the way they speak.

“Today we have a lot of gratuitous vulgarity and effing and whatever from people all over, which I think is quite unnecessary. But these are characters and they speak like that.

“It’s like a play and it’s very amusing and sad.”

And thanks again to Wendy, for finding the video for me:

Silly Seasons Greetings one and all


Review: 02 Concert

December 13th, 2007

It’s been a busy few days in London, and I apologize I haven’t gotten around to a review earlier. Better late than never &tc. I suppose.Lets start with getting the negatives out of the way.

1) Organizationally, this was a disaster. Three-hour line-ups to get your tickets, followed by one-hour line-ups for tee shirts. Want a coffee while you’re in line, even that line-up was an hour long. The Starbucks people at the 02 didn’t expect to be busy when 20,000 people would be lining up for tickets?

2) One entrance, one exit from the building, even if that meant walking cattle like for 10 minutes around the building on the inside. And the “after party” line up stretched in front of the one exit in the place.

3) I got on the internet the first night, within hours of the first e-mails going out. Our seats in the nosebleeds where bloody partially obscured by hanging monitors, such that I assume John Paul Jones was in attendance, and Robert Plant looked more like Ichabod Crane then the Viking others are describing him as. Our side stage tickets also didn’t allow us to view, what others have told us, was an incredible backdrop show going on behind the band. It should also be noted that “fans” got to stand on the floor, or sit in the 400 “nosebleed” section. The best seats in the house went to VIPs: so much for that big load of crap coming out of Harvey Goldsmith’s office that this was for the real fans only. Real fans were shunted into lineups or aside while the VIPs got a huge number of great seats.

Now for the good: Led Zeppelin. The band was great. Musically they were very tight, Jones and Bonham connecting very well throughout the show. There was the odd false start to songs, and once during Dazed and Confused when the rhythm section seemed to not be connecting, but such points are nit picking, were short lived and understandable for any band that hasn’t played together for a while. They were otherwise very tight and very good.

Song wise, there was discussion that some songs were being re-arranged to suit Robert Plant’s vocals. If that was true, it was only noticeable on The Song Remains the Same, which sounded rather flat and uninteresting. A song that is usually bright and lively it was the opposite, very probably a victim of re-keying. Otherwise the songs themselves were very good and the set list strong.

Ah, the set list. One worry I had going into this show was that Jimmy Pages joke about Dazed and Confused, No Quarter and Moby Dick would take up over an hour of the show. It’s not 1977, I am not on acid and a 20-minute drum/violin bow on a guitar/organ solo is not cool. But Zeppelin understood this, and the solos were minimized. Yes, Page pulled out the bow, but a 19 minute Dazed and Confused not just makes sense, but was great, and the same applies to a shortened No Quarter was also a highlight. Moby Dick wasn’t offered, and in fact, wasn’t even joked about.

Complaints? One, well two: it really wasn’t long enough. By the time it was over it just felt like they were hitting a groove. I know the old show biz adage about leave them wanting more, but it felt like half a show somehow. It was a touch over two hours long, so it’s not really a complaint, but it really seemed as if it was a short show. Most bands after that long I think, “Finally.” Zeppelin, it’s “what? That’s it?” The second complaint? After bitching in the last chapter about solos, I shall now be entirely inconsistent. Page never played White Summer (nor did he pull out his blue and white Danelanctro guitar). I have always liked that piece, and it’s short enough and such a solid lead in to Kashmir that I wished he had. That is, however, mere quibbles.

A special note about Jason Bonham, who was incredible. Word is he had to be practically dragged on stage, ½ before show time telling the boys, between pukes, he couldn’t do it. He did it in spades however. He was brilliant, I think the best drummer I have ever seen. If not that, I have never seen a drummer dominate a show musically like he did. Some people after the show even saying he was better than his father, and he was good enough that I can believe it. This is a guy who is clearly wasting his talents playing with Foreigner. I noticed about five songs in, between songs Jimmy Page walked over to the drum riser and smiled at Bonham, who gave the thumbs up back. And at shows end during the final bow, Bonham got down in front of the other three and did a “I’m not worthy” bow: he was worthy.

In final, I haven’t seen a review that gave this show any less than a five out of five, one giving it a six. I will not disagree with either, going unqualified with a 5 out of 5. Here in England there are even some calling it the greatest concert ever. I have been trying to decide if I have seen better, and can’t think of any. Even if there was a better one in my past, the fact I can’t immediately decide so means this was plenty good.

No, I won’t equivocate: this was a great concert by a great band that was in great form. I simply can’t imagine how good these guys would be after a few shows to get the groove going. If they do tour, and it would be a crime if they don’t, I want to see them again mid tour. They would be an unimaginable force of music.

Rockin' and Rollin' and Never Forgettin', The Mighty Zep

Not Much, What’s Up WithYou?

December 3rd, 2007

It’s been a slow blogging period the past while, mostly because my internet connection is, on an inconsistent basis, sh*t. But only on my computer, and sometimes if move it to another room it works fine (sometimes not), and not just in Windows but on Linux as well and…

Trying to piece together a post, using web links and other overly complex technology is frustrating at best, throw this Fu*&ing thing through the window kind of fun at worst. In short, not something I’m really up to after a day at work or when I should be cooking/spending time with the family.

Meanwhile, I am off to London (England) on Thursday to see the Led Zeppelin reunion at the 02 arena next Monday. I may post occasional pictures of the day from my trip, and possibly a review. If you want more information, I have been running a small Led Zeppelin based blog for the past month and a bit, Ramble On, which has lots of Zeppelin news and which I will be updating from England up until the concert.

Blog Administration, Rockin' and Rollin' and Never Forgettin', The Mighty Zep