Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's A Nice Day For A White Christmas

There comes a time in nearly every performer’s career, when, as a result of a whiskey-induced dare, a contractual obligation or a mad grab for cash, he/she/they grace the music world with a Christmas album. Over the years performers from every genre and musical style have either given thier take on standards such as White Christmas or Silver Bells or submitted their own contributions to the Holiday canon.

Not surprisingly, the quality of the music varies from timeless classics, (Bing Crosby, Vince Giraldi, Johnny Mathis) to novelties (The Chipmunks, Toolbox Christmas) to the downright unlistenable (Jackie Wilson, Kenny G). Even some amateurs have darkened the studio doorstep to lay down on wax their own version of Christmas cheer.

However, there are some artists who simply have no business writing, singing or even being associated with Christmas. Ozzy Ozbourne, Bob Dylan and Alice Cooper come to mind. Up until a few days ago I would have put Billy Idol in that category as well.

That was until I opened the Sunday ad for a locally based major electronics retailer, who by the who are a bunch of money-grubbing, profit-over-customer-focused bastards. But that’s another story. As FrankenKristin and I were looking over the ad, marveling at all the TVs and computers we can’t afford, we saw this picture staring back at us.

After cleaning up the coffee that had just been spit across the living room, we vowed to pick up a copy if only for the picture. Could it be that Billy Idol, the pin-up boy of Punk Rock himself, had gone all Perry Como on us? Surely this was a lark. Or better yet, a punk record disguised to send the Geritol set headlong into Depends territory.

After reading the Billy Idol website, as well as the liner notes, I was blown away by his utter sincerity. It seems that Billy Idol, Mr Flesh for Fantasy, fancies himself a regular Father Christmas.

What about the music, you say? Well, surprisingly, it’s not all that bad. The production is a little cheesy and some of the instrumentation sounds like it was done on a $79 Casio keyboard, but Billy does a pretty good job of not screwing around too much with tradition. The guy can carry a tune, which helps, and thankfully he knows how far so he avoids ruining a simple melody the way Mariah Carey might. He seems comfortable with most of the arrangements his gravely baritone voice is as strong as ever. In fact Rod Stewart should take notes because Billy’s voice sounds like what Rod can only wish for these days.

In addition to classics like “White Christmas”, “Frosty The Snowman” and “Silver Bells”, Billy has penned a few of his own including “Christmas Love” and the aptly named “Happy Holiday” (sure to piss off Bill O’Reilly). Both songs sound great and feature just a hint of that Billy Idol attitude. My only complaint is that the CD doesn’t come with more pictures. The sight of Billy Idol lounging in a high back easy chair next to the fireplace, donning a smoking jacket and slippers would be priceless.

Thanks Billy, and Happy Holiday to you too.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Sunday Trumpet

Sorry. I'm a few days late in getting this up but it has been damn cold in my house for the last week. The inside temp as hovered between 52° - 59° most of the week. On Saturday we managed to get it up to a balmy 62°. Fortunately we have been having a minor heat wave with daytime highs in the 30°s. Monday my dad got the furnace going again and now the kids are complaining that 68° is too hot. Go figure.

Nonetheless it is time for the Sunday Trumpet, our weekly contribution from the Spradic Gasbag Roundtable. This week Atilla The Mom takes a stab in the fog at The Ghost Wisperererer. Read her review to find out just what is wrong with mainstream American TV and just what is right about Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts.


Do you think you have what it takes to blow The Sunday Trumpet? Sign up today.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm Your Christmasman

Inspired by Dorky Dad, I started wondering what it might sound like if Curtis Mayfield had written the theme song to that animated classic, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". I think it might go something like this:

Christmasman (Sing to the tune of Pusherman)

I'm your Mama
I'm your Daddy
I'm that Kringle
In the alley
I'm your doctor
When in need
Want some toys?
Here have these
You know me
I'm your friend
Your main boy
Thick and thin

I'm your Christmasman (2x)

Ain't I clean
Toy machine
Super cool
I ain’t mean
Dealin' good
For The Man
Here I stand
Secret stash
Heavy bread
Baddest elves
In the land

I'm your Christmasman (3x)

Silent life of good deeds
A man of odd circumstance
a victim of winter demands
I need no money for style
But I'll let you trip for a while
I’m secure from the past
How long can a good thing last?
Woo-hoo, no...

Got to be givin, y'all
Gotta get givin, now
Christmasman, he be givin y'all

Heavy mind
Heavy sign
Makin' joy
All the time
My reindeer
And just me
For all kiddies
To see
Winter Prince
Is my thing
Makin' toys’
How I swing

I'm your Christmasman (2x)

Full bags, please
Take no fee
Make your world
What you want it to be
Got a woman I love desperately
Cant’ give her nuttin’ better than me
Been told I shoul’nt be nuthin' else
Just a giver in spite of myself
I know I can break it
This life just don't change it
Lord, Lord, yeah

Got to be givin’ now
Gotta be givin’ y'all
Got to be givin’ now

I'm your Mama
I'm your Daddy
I'm that Kringle
In the alley
I'm your doctor
When in need
Want some toys?
Here take these
You know me
I'm your friend
Your main boy
Thick and thin

I'm your Christmasman (4x)
Lord, Lord

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Weather Inside Is Frightful

Temperatures in MN recently have hovered below freezing for over a week. Highs have been in the mid 20s Farenheit with lows in the single digits. In short, winter is here.

To combat the escalating cost of natural gas, we keep our thermostat set at 68°F during the day and 64°F at night. When I get up in the morning I turn up the heat so that the house is warm by the time the kids wake up. On the days FrankenKristin works we leave the temperature down in order to save a little money. After all the dog has a thick coat so she can handle to cooler temps for a few hours.

However, when I woke up Monday morning I was surprised to see the temperature in our house was 62°F. I turned the thermostat up to 68°F but by the time I left for work an hour later the temp had not gone up at all. In fact it had gone down to 60°F. This made me nervous.

So before I left I went down stairs to take a look at the furnace. Given my ignorance of most things mechanical I stared at it for a while, turned it on and off a few times and then gave it a good WHACK! For whatever reason, the furnace kicked in, so I asked FrankenKristin to keep an eye on the temp and let me know if it gets any colder.

It didn’t last too long because by the time I got home from work the inside temp was down to 58°F. Luckily we were having a short warm streak so the outside temp had actually risen to 30°F. Nonetheless it was still pretty cold.

The last time this happened the problem was due to a bad igniter, so in a rush I headed off to the hardware store. When I returned I installed the igniter, said a prayer to St. Lawrence and switched on the furnace. The igniter glowed nicely but the gas never kicked in. I ran through the morning ritual again but to no avail. Even the WHACK didn't help. Meanwhile the temp inside (and outside) continued to get colder.

The guy who installed the furnace is a good friend of my parents, and we have recently been talking with him about upgrading anyway, so I gave him a call to see if he had any ideas. Of course he wasn’t home so I left a message and hoped he might return my call in the morning. At bedtime we dressed the kids in long pajamas and piled them up with blankets. FrankenKristin and I did our best to warm up our bed too but that only lasts so long.

When I woke up the next day the inside temp had dropped to 53°F. As left for work I called my brother-in-law. One of his high school friends is an HVAC guy and coincidentally, used to work the guy I had left a message for the night before. He said he couldn't look at it because he was in South Dakota and wouldn’t be home until Friday. He did agree to make a few calls and see if he could find someone who might be able to help. Two hours later he left a message saying that none of his guys had gotten back to him so he was going to have his dad take a look at the furnace. He said his dad is a plumber but he assured me that he knows some things about heating as well.

Since both FrankenKristin and I were at work I had my dad go over to the house to let this guy in. When he called a few hours later he said that he’d poked around a bit and determined that there was probably some corrosion in the gas valve. How did he know this, you ask? Apparently he tapped on the valve, near where the piston is located, and that triggered the heat to come on. He said that the their is a small piston inside and it has probably gotten stuck due to a build-up of gunk. He made it clear that this was a temporary fix and that he couldn’t guarantee how long it would continue to work.

We discussed the cost of replacing the gas valve as well as the sensor inside the furnace that regulates the temp and decided that, since the furnace is nearly 20 years old, it would probably be in our best interest to look at getting a new furnace sooner rather than later.

Guess what I'm getting for Christmas?