Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Season That Never Ends

I had hoped that there'd be no more Christmas parodies this year; but no. Since yesterday afternoon, Berlin's White Christmas has begotten the following (with throwaway verse):

The bells are ringing;
The lights are lit;
The shopkeepers block the square;
The carolers rend the air:
It's more than a soul can bear!
We've got to keep Christmastide at bay;
And yes, Virginia, there is a way—

Let's organize a red Christmas,
A Tarantino sort of Yule:
When you cleave Bob Cratchit,
Eschew the hatchet;
Instead—use a power tool.

Let's organize a red Christmas—
Go out and vivisect an elf.
Take the gas can down from the shelf,
And set fire to Santa Claus himself.

Lyric © 2005 Nathaniel DesH. Petrikov

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

There, But for the Grace of Thalia . . .

Some time ago, I mentioned that I'd attended the CMA Awards. I had had hopes of getting back stage to hand out my business cards to movers and shakers in the biz, but failed to do so, owing to circs into which I needn't go at this point; all water under the bridge, etc.

In anticipation of the event, I'd had cheesy business cards printed up tout d'suite. In doing so, I'd been called upon by the printer's web page to select a slogan to grab the potential customer's eye. I thought for a bit, and decided that "Tomorrow's Songs . . . Today!" struck just the right note: absurd, tongue-in-cheek, satirical. Entirely in keeping with my product, such as it is.

Well, for no particular reason, I googled the phrase this evening, and what do I find? An uncomfortably similar phrase, Tomorrow's Sounds Today, was the title of a Dwight Yoakam album from 2000. Indeed, Google reports that the album title is misreported as Tomorrow's Songs Today in various places.

Never mind that anyone would be so goofy as to use such an expression seriously. I can't help feeling relieved that I never had the chance to hand 'round those business cards. Instead of conveying the image I'd intended, they would have given the false impression that I was specializing in the purveyance of Yoakam hokum. Not the right note, at all.

Yep, I never got back stage at the CMA Awards; and all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

God Help Us, Every One

That's Benchley's, not mine. How right he was! Fortunately, the whole discouraging mess is almost over: the plum puddings got delivered--except, alas, for one I promised to an English ex-pat at the last minute; I'll have to get him his in the coming week--before the TWU said Merry Christmas in its inimitable fashion by going out on strike. Random thoughts on that little fiasco:

The freebie commuter's rag featured an editorial after the strike ended, entitled, if I recall, "What was that about?" The point being that the strike achieved absolutely nothing, as far as the poor farepayer can tell.

Last time--the 1980 strike--, the Second Department upheld findings of criminal contempt against union leaders and affirmed some of the fines assessed against them (but abated those imposed for days after the union leaders had unsuccessfully ordered the rank and file back to work). Not content with that, though, the Second Department made some very nasty remarks about the MTA and the TWU. Now, we may expect the union leadership, ignoring this precedent, to appeal their fines again, in hopes that the changes in court personnel during the past twenty-five years will gain them a different decision. I hope not; the strike was a textbook example of willful contempt of a court order. (Why didn't the gits appeal it? We all know why.)

I also see that various businesses are proposing to bring a class action against the MTA and the TWU for damages to their businesses during the strike. Once again, to hell with precedent: a law firm tried to sue after the 1980 strike, and was shot down; there's no private right of action under the Taylor Law. I'd like to see what sort of creative pleading this bunch does, to try to defeat a motion to dismiss. But what a shocking waste of resources. And then people wonder (okay, let's suppose that they wonder, just for fun) why I'm cynical about the law.

The Lily-of-the-Valley at our office, who resides in Staten Island and could quite easily have had her husband drop her off at the Ferry, whence a walk to our office would have taken her all of two minutes, decided to visit her folks in Brooklyn on the eve of the strike. She then pleaded inability to come to work, though the Good Secretary managed to make it from South Ozone Park. I think this little shenanigan of Lily's will have repercussions, though I don't know what they will be.

The young law graduate at our office--actually, now a member of the New Jersey bar--offered the opinion that the TWU were the good guys in this fiasco, because the MTA was simply oozing money at every pore, and it was churlish to refuse some of it to Labor. Since I've taken quite a shine to him since he joined the firm, I didn't call him on this foggy thinking. The subways and buses aren't a private concern, they're a government service--though the City and State have done their best to forget that inconvenient fact--and all that money doesn't belong to a few stockholders somewhere, it belongs to We the People (like Rumpole's She Who Must Be Obeyed, the expression is indeclinable). If anyone ought to be sore about the bulging coffers of the MTA, it's the taxpayer, not the worker.

And the MTA has developed all this surplus, despite not fully using its revenue-generating powers: examine any subway car or bus, and you'll see the the most shocking waste of an advertising opportunity in America. Vast tracts of empty space that could be generating ad dollars like crazy; and much that's actually used is devoted to self-advertising and public service announcements of little monetary value. I've often been tempted, when the subject of fare hikes comes up every few years, to go down to the hearings and raise hell about this. But who has the time to analyze the figures, do projections, and develop a real argument on this point?

Thursday night, after the strike had ended but before the trains were rolling again, I taxied from the office Christmas dinner to Danny's, where Have Yourself a Mercenary Christmas received a nice reception. The place was very quiet, which helped: my songs seem to go over better, in the absence of hubbub, when the assemblage can actually listen. Or perhaps the faithful drinkers who come in on Thursdays are just more discriminating.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes: the whole discouraging mess is almost over. Today, we finish making oxtail soup, against our trip to Flavortown tomorrow; and who knows? Perhaps we'll throw in some fresh bread, too. And, of course, the last of the plum puddings. I expect the pudding to please my hostess, who has a glossy-women's-magazine sensibility about Christmas, to which a plum pudding appeals very nicely.

At some point, I have to arrange to deliver Miss Sallie Parker's gifts to her. Once Christmas is passed, though, my spirits should be sufficiently elevated to allow me to manage it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Last Hurrah, I Hope

Well, kiddies, Papa's in a Christmas mood, and it's hell.

The other day, friends in Flavortown invited self and issue up to their farm for Christmas dinner, and we accepted.  A four-hour drive each way; and, since the issue will be spending the following week there, a four-hour drive each way the following weekend, as well.  Ah, me.

But I got to thinking about spending Christmas in the car, and wondered whether a parody of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas might not come of it: something along the lines of Have Yourself a Mobile Little Christmas.  But the thoughts engendered by this nightmarish idea would not be shoehorned into a song that, among other things, calls for two dactylic rhymes (olden days/golden days; dear to us/near to us).  That's the problem with writing song parodies: the limit imposed by form.  Now, one could write an essay about celebrating Yule on wheels; say, something along the lines of Frank Sullivan's The Night the Old Nostalgia Burned Down or Wodehouse's Indoor Golf.  But a song parody?  Nope.

So--I asked myself--how about Have Yourself a Murky Little Christmas?  Nice; but how "murky"?  Answering that would require work, and, being allergic to work, I decided to fall back on a good, old, time-honored joke, as pioneered by Stan Freberg.  The following took only two commutes:

Have yourself a mercenary Christmas;
Cultivate your greed.
Make a list of everything you think you “need.”

Have yourself a mercenary Christmas;
Covet each new toy.
Sidle up to Santa Claus, and don't be coy:

Seize his coattails and beg a gift!
Beg a mega-gift!
Beg four!

Come right out, and demand a lot!
Kiss his hand a lot.
Kiss more.

If you say, "The thought is all that counts," you're
Hang the thought!  It’s avarice that guides us now.
Remind yourself that Christmas is a
Real cash cow.

Lyric © 2005 Nathaniel DesH. Petrikov

God willing, the urge to write sophomoric parodies of Christmas songs will pass with the season.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Three-Day Blow

I'm hoping that by tomorrow ack emma, I'll be sober. I've just been on a three-day blow: Friday night, around and about Manhattan, delivering plum puddings (with accoutrements) to English ex-patriates, drinking myself silly on the way; then, after sleeping till mid-afternoon, Saturday night at No. 32 for a White Trashmas party; and then this evening at No. 44, for a more conventional open house, complete with red wine, white wine, port, and egg nogg laced with Barbadan rum.

Excellent browsing at that last, by the way: yum, yum! One dish, the jambalaya, inspired an on-the-spot parody of Mona Lisa:

Rob [our host] has made you;
You're so full of shrimps and sausages and things!
If in culinary terms I had to grade you,
I would say that you were fit for queens and kings.
You're a gastonomic native of New O'leans,
But you've taken all America by storm;
All your herbs and your spices have made you
So delicious,
I'm suspicious!
And the best part of all, Jambalaya—
You're as tasty when you're cold, as when you're warm.

Lyric © 2005 Nathaniel DesH. Petrikov

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Richard Pryor

Well, Richard Pryor has no more pain.

I first encountered him (if memory serves, and it usually doesn't) on The Mike Douglas Show. He was the first black comic I'd ever seen: not a comic who happened to be black, like Nipsey Russell, but a comic whose humor--even in his clean-cut, mainstream phase--was as it was because he was black. In one bit, he pretended to be a weightlifter, using the microphone stand as a set of weights. I'd never seen anything like it before, and, looking back on it, I realize that his blackness was what made it so: no white comic would have, or could have, done quite the same thing in the same way.

At around that point, I knew Bill Cosby only from a friend's recordings. I Spy was not on the list of watchable shows at our house, and, if Cosby was ever on Ed Sullivan, I never knew it. Frankly, I didn't get him at all, though I was charitable enough to think that seeing him might add the comedy that the recorded word lacked. But Pryor was, to me, hilariously funny, and remained so, even when he started doing the "blue" stuff that was supposed to offend us dumb honkies.

His candidature for Martyr of Humor, in the footsteps of Charles Lamb, Sir Arthur Sullivan and others, was in the bag when I heard him, not long after he'd famously set himself on fire, delivering a monologue on the incident. At one point, he said something like "I learned one thing: when you're on fire . . . and you're running down the street . . . People will get out of your way." That line brought the house down, including the house in which I happened to be sitting at the time.
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