Monday, December 31, 2018

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

In the beginning


Zweihundert Jahre Mohrs Stille Nacht

This is the 200th anniversary of a well-known Christmas song, Joseph Mohr's "Stille Nacht," set to music by Franz Gruber.  A Catholic priest, he was assistant at Laufen, on the Salza, near Salzburg in Austria.

Most of us have heard it in a various English translation.  But today, as we celebrate the Birth of the Saviour, let's enjoy the original German "Stille Nacht" as our Christmas gift.

1. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab' im lockigen Haar,
|: Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh! :|

2. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.
|: Jesus in deiner Geburt! :|

3. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn,
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt sehn,
|: Jesum in Menschengestalt! :|

4. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Wo sich heut alle Macht
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß,
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
|: Jesus die Völker der Welt! :|

5. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Lange schon uns bedacht,
Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit
In der Väter urgrauer Zeit
|: Aller Welt Schonung verhieß! :|

6. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Alleluja,
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
|: "Jesus der Retter ist da!" :|

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 25: Wishing you a...


An ad not for Coke, which produced the product, but Vendo, which made the machine that kept the product cold. What a wonderful, vivid ad, and a great way to bring this series to an end. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did - don't worry, this just scratches the surface of what's out there, and there's no reason we can't do this again next year. And a Merry Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 24, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 24: The big night


Doesn't this ad perfectly capture the anticipation of Christmas Eve? I used to get so excited on Christmas Eve I'd get almost physically ill. It's strange, I know, but that's what happens when you're a kid.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 22: Say it with aluminum


At first I thought this said, "Hunting Season," which I'm sure is what they wanted to play off of.  I know I have problems with Disney, but that would have been going too far...

Friday, December 21, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 21: In the "St. Nick" of time


The way things are going in this country, I'm more confident about Rolex always being there than Christmas.

I only wish I was kidding.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 20: How sweet it is!


Aren't these colors great? Sharp and vivid, especially against the black backdrop. Perfect for those Christmas parties.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 19: Have an RC and a smile?


You mean Coke isn't the only soft drink at Christmas?  But if Barbara Stanwyck says to drink RC Cola, who am I to disagree?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 18: Full steam ahead!


Now this is a contemporary ad that gets it right. It's from the 2013 Lionel Christmas catalog, but it has all the hallmarks of ads from 50 or more years ago: the vivid colors, the wonderful detail (note the reflection of the engine on the polished surface of the table), the cookies and milk under the tree, and Santa himself looking with loving care upon the gift he's about to leave some lucky child. The gift of a train itself evokes so many memories of Christmases past - yes, this is an ad that presses all the buttons. Makes me wish Santa was bringing me one this year.

Monday, December 17, 2018

"Christmas" music controversies: They aren't Christmas songs!

Recent controversies over the song “Baby, It's Cold Outside” being banned from radio stations in the “Me Too” movement that successfully conquered this country with another Pelosi Administration where she runs the nation and the “men are bad” mentality runs amok reminded me of the real problem in today's music for Christmas.

“Baby, It's Cold Outside” is a 1944 song by Frank Loesser for year-end parties in Los Angeles as a duet with his wife.  His daughter noted it was the song of the family, and gave licencing rights to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for usage in the 1949 film Neptune's Daughter, where it is used twice in duets, once between Esther Williams, a legendary swimmer whose career was destroyed by World War II when the Tokyo Olympics were initially moved to Helsinki but later cancelled by the war (the United States was not in battle at the time), and Ricardo Montalbán (an actor whose career was well-known;  I remember him as Mr. Rourke and we may remember the old Chrysler Corporation commercials regarding “Corinthian Leather”), and then by Betty Garrett and Red Skelton, which the roles were reversed.

The song won an Academy Award for Best Song in a movie for the 1950 Oscars.

And in a similar vain, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which we've referenced in the past after learning a minister exposed the truth of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer censoring the song against Hugh Martin's request, was used for Meet Me in St. Louis, a 1944 film inspired by the eponymous book that was based around a year in the life of a family towards the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (now retroactively recognised as Expo 1904 by the Bureau of International Expositions).  In its usage, a family was concerned as the father planned to move to New York for his job, leaving St. Louis just before the exposition.  In a scene on Christmas Eve, Esther (Judy Garland) sings it to encourage her sister Tootie, played by Margaret O'Brien.

Add to that numerous songs such as “Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman,” which were designed as television specials that can only work in the Northern Hemisphere, it has now spread to fad songs from Mariah Carey (see 2004 column, “Sing We Joyously Noel” for reference) and Kathryn Hudson (please see the 2008 “Cultural Rot: MTV Video Music Awards” for historical reference) that it seems have been overplayed and are not even Christmas tunes.  Note too the trend in the Grinch and other characters, none of which even observe the moment we celebrate on 25 December.  There are plenty of Grinches, Rockette wannabes, and others, but if you try to find the Baby in a Manger, it is long lost and unable to be found.

These songs, as I've learned over time, are not anywhere near Christmas when you're sitting in a bed of Part I with Händel's Messiah with the annual singalong coming Monday, Bach's Christmas Oratorio (which took place a few weeks ago with Dr. LaRoche as soprano, I skipped it because she was added as a last-minute substitution for an event 150 miles away), and numerous Christmas sacred masterpieces (Es Ist Ein Ros) that I have learned as a singer and also one who has gained an appreciation of sacred standards (“Still, Still, Still” and “Gesu Bambino”), along with the real “What Child Is This?” and “Stille Nacht,”  that are polar opposites to what is being pushed as “Christmas” tunes.  Even churches today have bastardised church Christmas music to the point churches buying a Warner Music kids musical that replaced studying the Bible on Sunday morning were inspired by a dirty movie and dirty song, and the evening service was the adult choir singing with the karaoke machine the latest tunes off the radio that were not Christmas but instead regular songs performed by the fad Life Enhancement Centres in Australia (Hillsong) and Redding, Californina (Bethel) known for their heresies.

What gives?  Has this world of “real Christmas and the Christ Child” given way to overt commercialism where the real material is being covered up, while we glorify every winter song?  When I think of it, these winter songs are appropriate to sing in Australia during June, July, and August.  Why no discussion of that?

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 17: It doesn't add up


Whatever else you do, do not get this as a Christmas gift. For anyone. This is not a good idea. I don't know many people who appreciate a scale at any time of the year, let alone Christmas, and though I have one myself, I promise you I will not be looking at it between now and the end of the year. Whoever greenlighted this ad should not be allowed anywhere near Sales and Marketing in the future.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 16: Santa and a smile


Just as the cartoonist Thomas Nast first came up with the modern concept of Santa Claus, Haddon Sundblom's iconic paintings of the Coke Santa have really become the face of Santa today. I never fail to smile at these; they're so warm, capturing the awe and wonder of childhood Christmases, that we'll look at several of them in the next ten days. In this one, the boy presumably wonders if it's naughty behavior to raid the icebox of people you don't know.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 15: Just under the surface


I really like the midcentury graphics of this 1959 ad; I have memories of this kind of illustration from the tail end of its run, in the early '60s, before things got more psychedelic. But still - underwear for Christmas? As someone once said, this is what you get when you don't believe in Santa.

Friday, December 14, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 14: What a ham!


So when did ham become the Christmas standard? We eat turkey on Christmas, but so many people seem to opt for this instead. Looking back at old movies and television shows, you hear people talk about turkey and goose, but not ham. And yet this ad shows that it was always part of the tradition.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

25 Days of Advent, Day 13: By the bag or by the box


Just like Whitman's Samplers, Brach's chocolate is one of the classic Christmas gifts. You can see the pleasure Santa has in bringing them, although he looks so pleased, I'd open the box and count to make sure they're all there before I let Santa leave...

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Looking for the perfect gift? Why not "The Electronic Mirror"!

Still hunting for that perfect gift? Or, like the people on the Black Friday commercials, are you thinking about a little treat for yourself? It's not too late - allow me to suggest my book, The Electronic Mirror: What Classic TV Tells Us About Who We Were and Who We Are (and Everything In-Between)

The Electronic Mirror looks at how classic TV acts as a time capsule, telling us how life used to be, and in many cases how things got the way they are today. Not only does it feature many of your favorite shows and stars, it also places them in context, explaining their meaning and significance. As Carol Ford (Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography) says, "You won't watch TV the same way again!"  Best of all, you'll have fun along the way. If you like It's About TV!, you'll love The Electronic Mirror. And at $12.95 (plus shipping, unless you're a Prime member) it won't break the bank.

The link above takes you to the Amazon link, but The Electronic Mirror is also available at Barnes & Noble.com, as well as many other online retailers. And if you really want to make it a special gift, how about a signed copy? After you've placed your order, just send me an email (the address is on the sidebar) with your address, telling me who it's for and how you'd like it signed, and I'll send you a bookplate that you can insert in your copy. Don't be shy; I won't bite!

I'm very proud of The Electronic Mirror, and I'm confident you and your favorite classic TV fan will enjoy this trip through television history. Order now, in time for your gift-giving!

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 12: not even training wheels!


This picture tells so many stories. It's a crisp, clear Christmas morning, and the lucky recipient of this bicycle is so excited he can't wait to get it outside, even in the snow. His friends have gathered around to check it out; perhaps some of them have gotten bikes as well. In the background the parents, happy to have pleased their son, proud that he takes a step into the next stage of his life. As I say, a great story.

Monday, December 10, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 10: Playing to type


One of my favorite scenes in A Christmas Story comes at the very beginning, when the kids are pressed up against the store windows, looking in awe at the new toys. Somehow, I doubt a typewriter would have inspired the same awe, but who knows?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 9: Plymouth rocks!


There's just something very, very inviting about this ad. Perhaps it's the vividness of the colors, the red rug in the entryway, the wreath hanging on the front door and the red decorations hanging down from the walls. Maybe it's the arms laden with gifts on what probably is Christmas Eve. The holly inserted in various parts of the frame. Whatever, it's a wonderful tableau - so much better than the car ads you see at Christmastime nowadays, when it's all about doing something for yourself, rather than allowing the car to be a reminder of the joy you can bring to others.

Friday, December 7, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 7: Faster than a speeding sleigh


Yes, in the days before Federal Express, having a gift or letter delivered via Air Mail was a big deal - when you got a package with the distinctive striping pattern around the edges, especially at Christmastime, it was special. So is FedEx, but not in the same way.>

Thursday, December 6, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 6: Wrap it up


I don't know about you, but my first thought was that a Christmas gift made from Reynolds Wrap would have been made sometime in first or second grade. Now I can see they might be talking about something else.

The tinsel-type trees are always great, particularly now that they're made from something other than aluminum. You can't put lights on it. But then, that's what the color wheel was for.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 5: Do you have Prince Albert in a can?


Then you'd better let him out! (Accompanied by the sound of adolescent chortling.)

Seriously - I love the colorfulness of this ad, but it's not something you're likely to see today, is it? And did you notice, a different product for mister and missus? Because you don't see many women smoking a pipe, I'd guess.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 4: You like him, he likes you


I've never been a big fan of 7Up, but there's something tremendously evocative about this ad. Between the vividness of the colors, the clear night sky, and the smoke swirling lazily up from the snow-covered chimneys, you can almost feel the crispness in the clear cold air. Even having lived in the South for a few years, this is still how Christmas should feel to me.

I'm confused about one thing, though - I always thought Coca-Cola was Santa's favorite soft drink!

Monday, December 3, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, Day 3: When Christmas meant sacrifice


Christmas during the war years was somber; with most families having loved ones in the line of fire overseas, not having many presents under the tree was the least thing to be concerned about. (By the way, don't you think her pose was supposed to bring to mind the famous Betty Grable pinup?) Nevertheless, one of the things that I think has been missing during the "War on Terror" has been this sense of shared sacrifice; it's hard to appreciate the gravity of the situation when the response to the enemy is not a call to sacrifice, that we're all in this fight together, but instead urging us to buy more, to show that the terrorists can't bring our economy down. There's something very wrong about that...

Sunday, December 2, 2018

25 Days of Ad-Vent, Day 2: Throwing some light on the subject


I don't much care for GE products nowadays; I think they're overpriced and not as good as the competition, and I don't have a lot of time for the company itself. But when it comes to Christmas, I still have warm feelings, thanks to ads like this.  General Electric was, of course, the initial sponsor of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and used the animated special's characters in their seasonal ads. They also made the Lighted Ice lights, which probably give me the warmest nostalgic feeling. Perhaps I'll have an ad for them up later.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

25 Days of Ad-vent, 2018

Once again this year, we're doing "The 25 Days of Ad-vent," looking back at vintage Christmas ads that show us an America that bring back warm, wonderful memories of Christmases past, from an America that perhaps isn't as innocent as it was back then. But for a few minutes, let's allow ourselves to take a vacation in the past!


Hey, kid, you'll shoot your eye out!

Seriously, you have to like this - a remnant of America's pioneer spirit - the idea that children should be comfortable with the feel of a gun in their hands. Not a bad sentiment for today, if I do say so myself.

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