Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve, 1965

Those of us of a certain age remember seeing Guy Lombardo ring in the New Year from New York, usually on CBS. If you're a little younger, you probably grew up watching Dick Clark and his New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC. Easy enough, because neither of those networks had regular late-night programming on a consistant basis.

Nowadays, NBC has its own show, with Carson Daly. But for many years the peacock network stuck with its regular programming - that is to say, Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show. Johnny didn't do a regular New Year's special per se, but especially during the years when he broadcast from New York, he'd cut away as the clock approached midnight to provide live coverage from Times Square. Here's a rare clip from New Year's Eve 1965, as Johnny goes to (I believe) Ben Grauer to watch the ball drop. (Note how the studio broadcast is in color, but the live remote is still black and white.) Frankly, from the looks of this footage, I think they'd already been celebrating back at the studio.

2011 has not been a great year, and there's a lot of apprehension about 2012 - the economy, the state of the nation at home, tensions overseas, the election. It's somewhat poignant listening to Ben talking about 1965 and all that had happened, particularly the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and his hopes that 1966 will be better. In fact, I thought as I watched this, the worst was yet to come - even more war, even more drugs, even more death, MLK, RFK, riots, and more. John Lindsay, the new mayor of New York, will turn out to be a disaster, and it will take the city until the time of Rudy Giulianni to return to its former glory. Carson himself will leave New York for Hollywood in a few years.

Tonight we hope that 2012 will be a better year. Personally, I think that it will - at least, let's hope that 2012 will be kinder to us than the end of the 1960s was to that crowd in Times Square on New Year's Eve, 1965.

The Our Word Awards: Best of 2011

I'd love to have all of you involved in this new project for Best of 2011, the Our Word Awards! And this time, we're inviting our readers to vote! What do you think was the best of 2011?

Most Insulting Ideas of the Year:
  • Pepsi's Crash the Super Bowl promotion that included an ad that mocked Communion at Church
  • A South Carolina state legislator proposing cutting the school year to 144 days from 180.
  • New York state legislators betraying the people to redefine marriage in order to persecute the church.
  • The shutdown of the US Armed Forces in favour of establishing the Department of Social Engineering, Special Rights Division.
  • Macy's protects sex offenders by firing a worker who catches a man in a woman's dressing room.

Quotes of the Year:
  • "Within ten years, I wonder how many fine orchestras will survive Generation Gaga? What will happen to talent like this?" – Ingrid Schlueter
  • “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” – Ken Jennings
  • “But Governor Walker has freed the government union serfs from (union leader Richard) Trumka's plantations in Wisconsin.” – Peter Ferrara
  • “We will not allow the goodness of the traditional value system in our military, an ethos which has kept us safe all these years, to be undermined by misguided and deviant interpretations of American history.” – Bill Connor
  • "Being in a bookstore helps me to think. I find that my mind makes connections between authors and books and ideas as I walk along the shelves and look at the tables. When I get a case of writer’s block, I head for a bookstore. The experience of walking among the books is curative." -- Albert Mohler

Heartbreak of the Year:
  • J. R. Hildebrand crashes in Turn 4 on Lap 200 of the Indianapolis 500.
  • The United States House is unable to pass any of the reforms promised because of Dingy Harry.
  • Butler is stopped again at the Championship Game of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
  • Boise State, a top 10 team, is relegated to a pre-Christmas postseason game in Las Vegas.
  • The millions of Japanese affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Classic Sports Thursday

Back in the day, New Year's Day used to be the holy grail of the college football season. It was known to many as "Bowl Day," and invariably one of the games would settle the national championship.

Today, of course, the season drags on, with mostly meaningless games on New Year's (or January 2, as the case may be), and even more games leading up to a fabricated championship game a week later. But this wasn't always the case, as illustrated by this classic showdown, the 1973 Sugar Bowl* between undefeated, top-ranked Alabama and undefeated, third-ranked Notre Dame (undefeated and second-ranked Oklahoma was on probation). Here's the climatic sequence from Notre Dame's thrilling 24-23 win, with the incomperable Chris Schenkel providing the call.

*OK, so this year the Sugar Bowl was played on New Year's Eve, to try and keep the game from getting lost amidst the other three games on New Year's Day. They did that for a few years, went back to playing on January 1, and now the game's all over the calendar.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Opera Wednesday

In the opera world, nothing says New Year's Eve quite like Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, which certainly has one of the great English-translated titles in all opera - "The Bat."*

*I've often wondered why, in the memorable scene of Christopher Nolan's first Batman movie where young Bruce Wayne's parents are murdered coming out of the opera, they didn't use Fledermaus for the music. I think they used music from Faust instead, which was also a good choice, but I could be wrong.

Fledermaus is frequently performed around New Year's Day, often with big-nbame guest stars in cameo roles. (The Met's doing it on its radio broadcast this Saturday, New Year's Eve.) But you don't need a big-name singer when you've got a big-name conducter like Herbert Von Karajan, who brings us the delightful overture here with the Vienna Philharmonic in a 1987 New Year performance.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A story that's more Boxing Day...

When the Christmas shopping bag had a few cans of canned food that would be donated to a food pantry as part of Christmas Eve Midnight services and communion, and the focus was more for those that need help more than the self, it's evident the story is about those in need.

And one story on this Boxing Day that makes you think about it is this from the 1970's, when brothers Kevin and Keith Parsons (yes, the Keith Parsons who would spend much of his sportswriting career for the AP based in North Carolina, covering the ACC) helped their father remind us of the disadvantaged, and how their father and his peers helped kids in rural North Carolina.

Tom Higgins reports on this story . . .

Celebrating the Feast of St. Stephen

Who is St. Stephen, the man whose feast is celebrated on December 26?

Happy Boxing Day!

Wait - you mean that's not what it means?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

O Church, Oh Why, O Church, Are You Resting on His Birth?

Christmastide has started! Starting today (Sunday) until near the end of the first week in January (January 5), we are in the Christmas season, and as is tradition, we are in the season.

Pondering on the gift of the Only Begotten Son, I drove past numerous churches and saw no morning Bible studies happening, save for a minute number of churches that were doing a full plate of morning studies, and most venues had relegated themselves to one short service that was more party, and discarded Bible studies, even though denominational study books carried a Christmas study. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, the church responded with kids cheered as they "danced" to a butchered "Ave Maria" from a teen pop artist that wasn't even the sacred song itself that claimed to be one thing and was another.

The trendy Life Enhancement Centres promoted big parties on the days leading to Christmas, but come Christmas morning, there was nary anyone, as they were shuttered, while restaurants (some quick-service, but also sports-themed, since the NBA season opener was Christmas Day, and hotel-attached ones), movie theatres (the Oscar nominees need to have their releases made on Christmas), and gambling halls were wide open on Christmas Day. Does something feel wrong when the world is open, but not a House of God?

Why the complacency of such an important day? Christmas is not the time to keep Houses of God silent. It's the right time to sing the sacred songs and observe such an important day! When I have to find a place that's not in party mode and doing the right thing, we know how serious it has become.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Hope you found everything you wanted under the tree this morning!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Classic Sports - Friday?

Yes, it's a special Friday edition of Classic Sports Thursday, to celebrate the Yule season. (After all, if the NFL can have special "Sunday Gameday" editions on Saturday, we can do whatever we want, right?)

This is a quick link to this story at by Don Banks, clearly a man after my own heart, as he remembers back to Christmas Day 1971, and the longest football game ever played (not counting a playoff game from the USFL, but who's counting?) between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Like Banks, I would sit at the dinner table with one eye on the food and one eye on the field when big dinners and big games happened to collide. (When I was really spoiled, I'd be allowed to eat in the living room, in front of the TV, while everyone else was in the dining room.) Unlike Banks, I was not rooting for the Dolphins that day - never did, really. At the same time, I don't recall that I was rooting for the Chiefs, either. I do remember, though, the drama that accompanied that double-overtime thriller, and how it pretty much ended the NFL's playing football on Christmas for many years. They do now, but it's only one game, at night, when the movie theaters have opened and restaurants are serving and people are looking to wind down anyway. I think a lot of dinners were ruined that day, waiting for men to come in from a game that seemed it would never end.  What a Christmas!

As Banks mentions, the NFL Network is doing a one-hour retrospective on that game on, appropriately enough, Christmas.  Don't interrupt your dinner for it, but set the DVR.  It should be a lot of fun.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Miracle: The Story of the 2010 Carolighting

Last year, at the South Carolina State House, the Governor's Carolighting, which had been lost two of the past three years, was in danger of being lost to complacency when the volunteers were able to rescue it in time, with a volunteer chorus and musicians, for Mark Sanford and the boys to light their final State House Christmas Tree.

Unfortunately this year, when we had the all-state crews back and ready for this year's Carolighting, the event, moved to Monday night this year, was called off as a result of weather, the third time in five years the state's annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony did not take place, meaning Nikki Haley would not have the ceremony for her first year in office. 38-year Raycom newsman Bill Sharpe, the unofficial dean of South Carolina newscasts (joined WCSC in 1973, and has stayed with the station since then), was set to host the event.

Let's remember back when a group of hearty volunteers made a State House tradition as a miracle on Gervais Street. Raycom's Dawndy Mercer Plank had the honours.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rockin' Christmas

For reasons that don't really bear going into, here are some Christmas classics I'm fairly confident you haven't heard in quite this way before. First, a medley of seasonal favorites by Jimi Hendrix, including "Silent Night," "The Little Drummer Boy," and "Auld Lang Syne," with a little bit of "Taps" thrown in for good measure.

As if that wasn't enough, here's a Jim Morrison impersonator with a surprisingly effective rendition of "Jingle Bells":

Just goes to show that Christmas music comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn't it? Say what you will, this beats Celine Dion and Mariah Carey any day.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cool Yule Links

A couple of neat sites to keep you in that Christmas spirit:

As seen on the Travel Channel (at least that's where I found out about it), the National Christmas Center in Paradise, Pennsylvania, is indeed Paradise for anyone who wants to recapture the Christmas memories of their youth. I've come to see this not as a desperate attempt to relive the past, but rather to find out just what it is about Christmas back in the day, and to share it with those who never lived through that time. There's no doubt that the way we celebrate Christmas isn't what it used to be, and I think what is missing from it is the sense of awe and wonder, not to mention the general acceptance that Christmas was a fundamental part of American culture, something to be shared and celebrated.

Speaking of back in the day, for me one of the highlights of the kid Christmas season was the arrival of the Christmas catalogs from Sears, JC Penney, and Montgomery Ward. Again, it's hard to find the modern-day equivalent - online shopping has replaced the mail-order catalog, and it has its own charms, but imagine shopping for Christmas decorations, toys, artificial trees, cards, even candies and nuts - all from the same store. This terrific site helps bring back those memories of the epic days when the catalogs arrived, and immediately became dog-eared with the items that I hoped would wind up under the tree. And a lot of times, they did!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Even our name spells Christmas

Wrapping up our week-long look at Christmas commercials is probably my favorite of all the old-time commercials - the Norelco Santa. As one of the commentators says, it wasn't Christmas until you saw the Norelco Santa on television.

In this version from the early 70s, Santa flies through the village, meeting some decidedly odd but charming snowmen.

By the 80s the look had been updated, but it was still classic.

The great news is that this year the Norelco Santa is back! Some differences, to be sure (while it would have been nice to have the famous "Noëlco" ending, as is it isn't bad), but it retains almost all the elements that make the original so endearing. Great to see that there's still a place for tradition, at this most traditional time of the year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A cornucopia of Christmas music

In February, I celebrate ten years since a 26-year old college graduate decided to have fun and take voice from a 24-year old master's student earning the degree in vocal performance who needed it to fulfill her degree requirement, and over the years, it has blossomed into an enjoyable friendship with Dr. LaRoche, her pets, her friends, and her (newlywed) husband. I've sung sacred Christmas works at the 2010 Governor's Carolighting (the ceremony was not held in 2011 because of weather) when a makeshift choral group was required because of the lateness of its organisation, and have been part of two one-offs with church choral groups because of the laziness of our own church with Christmas music becoming extremely secular in nature. Monday night is the annual sing-along at Washington Street that I've enjoyed over the years, with Dr. LaRoche, The Brittnee, and the Rattrays in the past.

As someone who appreciates the serious church music of Christmas, and is sad to see many of the works disappear from our daily grind, being replaced by winter songs that are not sensible for the season (remember half of the world it's summer!), let's open a cornucopia of wonderful song for Christmas.

Paderborner Domchor's - Veni Veni Emanuel

Johannes Kalpers - “Hush, hush, hush, for the little child wants to sleep!”. This Austrian folk tune from Salzburg is about the infant Jesus and Mary as they sleep. The song was given to me for the informal recital with friends, and it's become a favourite of mine.

I'm guilty of always (especially the first verse) wanting to sing this in Latin. One of my first Christmas music selections I purchased was a Luciano Pavarotti album (are you kidding me?) and why would he be an inspiration for a college student who hadn't heard much classical music? Once I anchored my boat with the young Mississippi Squirrel, I had gone classical and my steps haven't turned back. A Montréal, chanson "Adeste Fideles," avec Pavarotti . . .

Say it with Andre

I always loved this commercial for Andre's sparkling wine. We think about this as being a Christmas commercial, but as I recall (and I'm always open to correction), it only ran between Christmas and New Year's.

Now, maybe it's just because I was still going to school when these were on, and therefore I would have been on break between Christmas and New Year's, but I'm convinced that back in the day, people recognized that New Year's Day was an extention of the Christmas season - you still heard Christmas music, parties were still being held, and ads still featured holly and other Christmas trimmings. In other words, the Christmas season didn't end at the stroke of midnight on December 26. I kinda liked that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The family that sleds together drinks Coke together

Yesterday I shared a clip of a 1958 Coke Christmas commercial featuring the "Santa Doll." Here's a different commerical from the same Christmas - a typical example of the animation that was so prevalent in commercials of the 50s and early 60s. I think many of us are used to seeing the polar bears or remembering the "I'd like to teach the world to sing" Coke commercials; it's fun to see something different. I guess it's true that if you stick around long enough, the old becomes new.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Real Thing

As far as I'm concerned, Coke has always been the official soft drink of Santa. Last year, the Swedish Institute here in Minnepolis had a magnificent exhibition of the Coke Santa illustrations of Haddon Sunblom. So it's no surprise that this 1958 Coke commercial prominently features the big guy himself.    You can read more abou the Coke Santa Doll here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hot Pepper!

We're doing Christmas commercials here at Our Word this week, and let's start with this one for a Christmas beverage tradition I'm not previously familiar with: hot Dr. Pepper. Enlighten me, anyone who's tried this.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Retro TV Friday

Over at the "It's About TV!" website, I've got a piece on the 1960s Christmas special "Carol for Another Christmas." I've written about it before, but it's got some new links, and it's worth checking out.  In my humble opinion, that is. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cleaning up on Christmas

During our Christmas carnival of features a few years ago, I posted this picture with a comment to the extent that nothing says Christmas like finding a vacuum cleaner under the tree.

Well, as it turns out, I guess there's more truth to this idea than I realized. It just goes to show that I really don't understand what women want, apparently.

The YouTube description says this is a 1962 commercial from Australian television. Proof that all the mad men weren't in the United States.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The most wonderful time of the year...

It's December, and that means it's time once again for our parade of Christmas-themed videos and stories. Believe me when I say that this is not only the best time of the year, it's also the time when it's the most fun for me to write this blog.

Speaking of the most wonderful time of the year, let's get it started with Mr. Christmas himself, Andy Williams, in this clip from one of his great Christmas shows, from around 1965.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Opinion Digest

The sands of time tick away, yet the run to the primaries is less than 30 days away until the first caucus of the 2012 election season!

Neal Boortz interviewed Jack Chambliss of Valencia College, who assigned students in economics a project on "The American Dream". The sad state of what is being taught in schools and media show their true colours in this report.

Paul Jacob talks about junk science.

Amy Oliver Cooke and Michael Sandoval uncover the disaster of "clean energy."

David Limbaugh believes the President is moving the goal posts, and benefiting from each move.
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