Good morning midnight, It’s Christmas

Cristina Sleep It OffMy mother said ‘I’m a survivor, I pull together Christmas every year.

Something has to last’ she said ‘Once a year let’s have the past’

And then one year to reach up high to hang an angel from the tree

became a painful thing ‘Besides she’s lost her wing’ my mother said

Thing’s Fall Apart by Cristina Monet-Palaci first appeared pale-faced and defiant upon the world, well New York anyway, same thing they say, well New Yorkers say anyway, back in 1981. Going by her first name Cristina her pop-life burned briefly incandescent before evaporating in a puff of neon-dust several years later.

This post is about Things Fall Apart only, though it itself may tell you very much about Cristina. It was her Christmas song, or rather her concession to Christmas song, which as you should gather already is hinting that for her the spirit of Christmas is the sort that Shane MacGowan may raise a glass to. Except that he is very much likely to be doing so in a downtown bar whereas she in an uptown one.

For many Christmas is to be celebrated, for the rest it is to be, if not endured, then at least carefully negotiated.

There are many Christmas songs that celebrate it – whether it is Jesus Christ or Santa Claus or even some confusion of them both – it would be a long pointless list to make of them as such songs cannot be escaped from – whether in your home, whether out shopping, at a bar, at a party, even for some poor souls in their workplace.

Songs that take a more begrudging approach to Christmas are lesser in number but often find themselves as loved as those more unabashed celebratory ones. Certainly in early December anyway when the Christmas spirit has not yet enfolded us all and we are still resistant and perhaps even resentful of its looming presence so that we can take the likes of the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York or Blink 182’s Won’t Be Home for Christmas to our still humbug-bosoms before like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life come Christmas Eve we are finally broken down and such cynical sentiments are cast aside where then even the most syrupy Christmas song is suddenly in heart-step with our own.

There are those though whom Christmas is neither anticipated or resisted, neither cherished or feared rather it is collided with like an uncomfortable fleeting drunken encounter before stumbling on their way into the dead of night. Things fall apart is one such song.

My boyfriend said it’s really sweet the way you go for Christmas cheer

I said we can’t afford the tree

He said ‘Love is free’ so we trimmed the cactus with my ear-rings that we’d meant to pawn

There wasn’t any snow but there was rain

He licked me like a candy cane

Then one day he said I can’t stand in your way. Way of what I asked. But he was gone.

The lyrics do not exactly need anything adding though if you have not heard it you have also to consider it delivered in a spirit of existential nonchalance with a New York  drawl. I am not going to spend too much time on the music because this song’s spirit resides in its words but the music starts with a wonky sounding Music Box refrain of Silent Night before proceeding into choppy guitars – it was called No Wave (by a music journalist no doubt) which was like New Wave but with the melody more of an occasional guest. The guitars dutifully duel along with an electronic underlay that gets vaguely excited upon each passing chorus. It offsets Cristina’s deadpan delivery without distracting from it too much.

Why might you be on a collision course with Christmas? After all it does come every year on schedule wanted or not? Perhaps Christmas can only be welcomed and celebrated in unison with family and close friends but if you are on unspeaking terms with your family and a lone wolf ricocheting through life then you may find that Christmas finds you before you find it.

Cristina’s Christmases are a series of afterthoughts and family something located on the outer edges of her existence. The usual human dramas are in full flow and it just happens to be Christmas too. And with each successive verse the family plays a disappearing role – first spent at home with her mother and as likely to be a latter-year coupling of ageing mother and ageing daughter as a cosy childhood Christmas, second verse the family now an unremembered past just a maybe-future with a boyfriend and its impossible possibility and then the third verse finds her lost in a party, strangers for company. Just as well there is no fourth verse.

The party was a huge success but where should we go next they said

They killed a tree of 97 years and smothered it with lights and silver tears

They all got wrecked. They laughed too loud

I started to feel queasy in the crowd

I caught a cab back to my flat and wept a bit and fed the cat.

Then the chorus refrain

Things Fall Apart but they never leave my heart

Desolation never sounded so alluring. Then the following final defining line

Good morning midnight, It’s Christmas

Suggesting that Christmas Eve is only just getting started, and Christmas Day is only going to be recalled Boxing Day.

If you find yourself alone at Christmas by circumstance then perhaps comfort yourself with Prince’s Spectorish swoon Another Lonely Christmas.

If on the other hand you chose Christmas as your only companion then consider Things Fall Apart as Your Song. Drink eat and generally self-indulge. And be as merry or as unmerry as you damn well want.

For myself though, as much as I love this song and play it a lot each December, I will only venture as far as mid-afternoon Christmas Eve with it. Beyond that time it is too dangerous and I do not want to find myself welcoming Christmas at the strike of twelve with Cristina’s nasal if dulcet tones ringing in my ears. I have six young nieces and two young nephews to attend to and save me from myself. For now at least!

Castle – Crime Writer, Crime Fighter

CastleRichard Castle is a crime-fighter who due to a serial-killer copying the plots of his novel is seconded to the New York Police Department Homicide Investigation team – not to police but to research. So crime-writing about a crime-writer – meta crime fiction!

This Investigation team is headed by Detective Kate Beckett, strong and no-nonsense, with some reservations about Castle’s involvement in their work, rather like The Mentalist and Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon of its Criminal Bureau of Investigation and her wariness toward the involvement of Crime Consultant Patrick Jane, who like Castle has an irreverent singular approach to crime detection. Initially the professoinal relationship of Lisbon and Jane was cool before she eventually warms to him. Likely, I think, a similar relationship curve between Castle and Beckett.

This new crime series (commenced 2009) now being broadcast in the United Kingdom on Five and episodes re-shown on Demand 5 is a US based crime drama whose two leads are from Canada.

Jayne Brook Castle

The Nanny's Boss - did she do it?

Castle is played by Nathan Fillon who you may remember as Caleb in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Adam Logan in Miss Match or more recently as Dr Adam Mayfair in Desperate Housewives.

Kate Beckett is played by Stana Katic. You may have seen her fleetingly in a good number of TV shows – CSI Miami, Heroes, 24, ER and The Shield among others, but this is her first substantial lead role.

Castle is written by Andrew W Marlowe and is a promising premise for a crime series.

In the second episode Castle employs his literary imaginative skills to good effect assisting Beckett and their team in the investigation of a murdered Nanny whose body was found by a neighbour unceremoniously dumped in a laundry-drier in their apartment basement, so setting the scene for ‘Nanny McDead‘.

A tangled web of relationships and motives the episode then weaves. Reality hits Castle when Beckett reminds him that the parents of the Nanny will have to be informed – contrasting the comfort of the authors chair and the distanced messy reality with the police officers who have to deal with it face-to-face daily.

There are no shortage of crime-fighting double acts on our TV screens – our very own Scott and Bailey, the aforementioned Jane and Lisbon in The Mentalist, Gene Hunt and Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes – these first episodes of series one of Castle shows signs of another sleuthing duo worthy of our viewing-time.

Stand Up for Jerry Seinfeld – Personal Archives

The Personal Archives of Jerry Seinfeld is this legendary New York comedian’s new website.

He will be making available each day three routines from his vast repertoire of stand up performances – not just from his past either – present performances will be shared too. He saved every one of his television performances and has now made them available on this site.

He states that he first came upon stand up comedians aged ten watching television, falling in love with them; and hopes that this site can inspire other ten-year-olds in the same way.

One of the stand-up routines from his 180 episode-long Seinfeld show was the observation that our two biggest fears are dying and making public speeches with the latter being the most frightening! Then noting we would rather be in the box at a funeral than up on the pulpit delivering the eulogy!

Stand Up comedy must be the bravest form of comedy for the very same reason – except that your audience is not as sympathetic as you would expect at a funeral! – nor are you having to play it for laughs!

Writing for a TV or radio show or indeed writing for anyone gives you a safe remove – if your routine falls flat you are not the one on the line. In TV and radio your laughter can be canned – getting canned on stage is not so neutral – heckling audience members or perhaps even worse an audience silent and there is nowhere left to hide.

So I stand up for them – if safely applauding from my audience seat!

For Seinfeld and for others in this fold like Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Diane Morgan, Sarah Silverman, Isy Suttie, Victoria Wood, Sarah Millican, Russell Brand, Aisling Bea and – and anyone that you would stand up for?

Taylor Momsen – Miss Nothing Unplugged

I am a latecomer to this NME TV video of Taylor Momsen’s band The Pretty Reckless with an unplugged version of their song Miss Nothing – recorded August 20 2010 at the Borderline London England.

Ben Phillips turns in a great rock’n’roll performance on acoustic guitar – guitar soundboard percussion too.

And Taylor soars along the melody of this song.

A slightly shy dressing-room performance but she still exudes star appeal whether she likes it or not – Courtney Love and Deborah Harry’s Sweet Rock Child – and again another actor trespassing on the rock pop music territory as if it were her own – think of Evan Rachel Wood Across the Universe in the Julie Taymor Beatles fantasy homage and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Gleeful Prince Kiss – what a pity that when singers turn to acting it is not usually this good.

But for Taylor Momsen this is more than just a flirting alliance – she seems heart and soul committed to it.  I will be interested how long she sticks on this path or turns back to Gossip Girl and other acting. I think she should stick with rock music while still young and return to the acting later – rock singers usually become less interesting as they get older – Neil Young being the exception list of one?!

But talk of this is ridiculous as I keep forgetting she is only 17!

And I look forward a few more ballads too. ‘You’ the final track on their 2010 Light Me Up album  was a beautiful soul number.

Shine On Miss Everything.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and boys with pink toe-nails

The Comedy Channel’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart in its episode of April 13 (and broadcast in the UK on More 4 on April 18) featured a piece on J.Crew’s Creative Director Jenna Lyon’s recent weekly Email ‘Saturday with Jenna’ featuring an article and photograph of her with her son sporting pink toe-nails and the line ‘Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favourite colour is pink’.

A touching scene but surely not controversial?

In the US it seems so.

The piece has been touted as symptomatic of gender confusion and the feminization of America!  If this were the response of a few bloggers here and there I would think nothing more of it.  The fact that Fox News took against it is also of no surprise but that mainstream channels such as CNN and ABC took up air-time to discuss this ‘story’ I find astounding if not shameful.

Are they for real?

If the photograph had featured a father with his daughter and she sporting a Groucho Marx moustache would we be subject to tirades about gender confusion and the masculinization of America?!

I very much doubt it.  This response is as much then about conservative male chauvinism.

Much ado about nail-varnish.  Words should fail me.

I can but wonder how bemused Jenna Lyons must feel.

Jon Stewart was agog and I share his agogness!

I apologize for re-producing the offending image in my post and hope it hasn’t disoriented your sense of gender identity too much!

Sex and the Cities

I have been enjoying Channel 5’s nocturnal re-runs of Sex and The City on their Five * Channel. Candace Bushnell‘s smart chronicles are still as fresh as when first told in the 1990s.

It ended after a sixth series in 2004 – perhaps the characters wanted to move on and out of the city – and perhaps happily and married and in the suburbs and do enough of us want to watch conjugal bliss!? Undesperate Housewives …?  But its romantic tales broken or not are not limited in time or place and I feel this program could have continued on as a constant presence on our television…

We have had the two films but I think Sex and The City by its nature is episodic and television its natural medium.

Sex and The City was of course Sex and New York City – and rather like the CSI franchise which takes in New York, Miami and Las Vegas so too a Sex and The City Franchise? – and not just US cities but global ones too – London, Paris, Rio, Mumbai  – these dating tales don’t date – they are dateless to excuse the pun!

The places and characters change but the romantic tales of love found and lost and found again never does…