Friday, December 20, 2013

Coal in your stocking

"Would you care for a candied cane? It represents the emotional crutch of the season's empty frivolity."

"It's the most wonderful time of the year" ...unless you're a hardened cynic with a blog. Dan Brooks of the excellent Combat! blog (as seen on the blog roll at right) wrote a wonderfully funny article for the Missoula Independant about the crappiness of X-mas music. The piece has possibly the best sentence I've read this week:
"But we tolerate the songs because it is Christmas, and if we cannot tolerate them we know we are awful, because it means we cannot tolerate others’ happiness."

If not tolerating X-mas songs makes me Scrooge, then: Bah, hambug.

In college, I worked for the residential life department, and part of our job was to throw a holiday party for the kids in our dorm before they disappeared back home for the winter break. One year a dispute came up with the sole Jewish member on staff over whether or not we should use Christmas themed music during the party. The Christian staff members seemed unwilling to budge on the point, even if it risked alienating non-Christian students. I brought up that we didn't have to play X-mas music just because X-mas was coming; good music is good music regardless of the time of year, and our residents would enjoy that just as much. It was a rare act of diplomacy and understanding on my part that surprised everyone, including me. That's probably why it worked.

I sympathize with my Jewish friends for feeling alienated during the season. I personally hate the holiday. Hearing the words "Merry Christmas" makes me feel dead inside. The only thing I ever enjoyed about the season was the weather while I was living in NY; as someone raised in South East Asia, walking around in the freezing cold and encroaching darkness brought me closer to my black metal albums than anything I would have experienced back home.

As a kid, my Christmases never came with presents, or family dinners, or any of the usual trappings. Instead, I had to go to church three times in a 24 hour period - midnight mass on X-mas Eve, and twice on X-mas day. [Jesus, if you're reading this: Fuck you and your birthday]. These days, I don't celebrate the holiday in any way, besides a yearly viewing of Scrooged and one of National Lampoon's Vacation movies.

But even with my antipathy for the holiday and the musical cash-ins that come with it (seriously, how many more people are going to send me links to that Christopher Lee album?), I couldn't help but be moved by this: Stephen Colbert had the disabled veterans group MusiCorps and soul singer Aaron Neville do a few songs for his show, including the best version of "Hallelujah" I've ever heard. Better than Leonard Cohen's original; better even than the Jeff Buckley version. Even though I hate X-mas songs, I don't hate this. Possibly because it's being delivered by wounded soldiers and not a department store PA. The medium is the message, I guess.

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