American Elephants


Old Toy Trains by American Elephant
December 16, 2010, 7:31 am
Filed under: Music, Politics, Religion | Tags: ,

Like I said, my tastes in Christmas music are all over the map. First choral, then jazz, now country — and who knows what next. I like an eclectic mix. Now, I’m generally not very big on much country music — nothing wrong with it, it just isn’t usually my thing — but that means when I DO like a country song, you know it’s gotta be a good one. And so this is.

Old Toy Trains was, I believe, first introduced by Roger Miller back sometime in the late 1960′s and has since become a standard covered by many — but my favorite by far is this deep, cozy version by Toby Keith from the compilation CD, A Country Christmas. All the nostalgia of childhood Christmas wrapped up in one comfortable old song.

I liked it so much the first year I heard it, that I dragged out the old HO and set it up around the Christmas tree. *I* thought it was charming and watched it circle underneath the twinkling lights for hours; no one else seemed to even notice.

Then again, mine was no where near as cool as this guy’s. Now, THAT’s cool!



Snowbound by American Elephant
December 13, 2010, 8:36 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , ,

A beautiful soundtrack for those of you snowed-in back east and in the Midwest. Build a fire, or if you don’t have a fireplace, put one on your monitor, burrow down under your favorite blanket, and kick back and enjoy the gorgeous, sultry song stylings of the incomparable Sarah Vaughan as you watch the snow drift down. A nice steamy cup of creamy hot cocoa never hurts either.



Sussex Carol by American Elephant
December 10, 2010, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Music, Religion | Tags: , , ,

I love Christmas carols. I love all kinds of Christmas carols — traditional, contemporary, choral, jazz, even country and some rock. I’ve yet to find a rap Christmas song that I can tolerate, and I doubt I ever will, but for the most part my taste in carols is very wide-ranging and eclectic.  But I think my favorites are traditional carols that you don’t hear much anymore, and lesser known renditions of those you do.

The Sussex carol is one such song, and you can’t get much more majestic than this rendition by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the King’s Singers (famous English singing group), with the full tabernacle orchestra, including bell choir and pipe organ. This concert was broadcast a few years back on PBS, so they may play it again.

Pretty good way to start off the season. Hope you like!

(Update: You know, I still like the version by the Choir of King’s College I played last year better. )



Bah, Humbug! by American Elephant
January 26, 2010, 4:54 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: ,

Alas, what goes up, must finally come down. Seeing as it’s now closer to Valentine’s Day than it is Christmas, I figured it was time to take down the blog’s Christmas decorations. (Not that I need to announce it, but where else am I going to use this awesome, adorable elephant enjoying his after-Christmas treat?)



For Your Christmas Viewing Pleasure… by American Elephant

Remember back when TV didn’t suck? Yeah, neither do I.

BUT, these first two videos had me briefly believing that such a time existed. Then I remembered the third video.

The first is from my new favorite (old) show. I didn’t even discover Good Neighbors (alternately titled The Good Life) until a few years ago. It’s a show about a couple, the Goods, who drop out of the rat-race to live a simpler, self-sustaining life. (Don’t worry, it’s not a preachy environmental show at all) while their neighbors and friends maintain their affluent ways.

This is their Christmas show from 1977. The characters will charm your socks off, and you will probably end up watching the entire series as I have. Each show is less than half an hour and all are also available to view instantly, in much better quality, on Netflix. But YouTube works just fine, if you dont mind the show being split into three parts. See parts 2 and 3 here.

The second video is one you may remember. Schmaltzy tear-jerker, as Little House on the Prairie so often was. Warm, fuzzy family-viewing from back before  networks had altogeher eradicated Christ from Christmas in favor of Santa Claus. Here’s part one, the rest can be viewed here.

And the third video is one that I saw for the first time since 1978 last year. I remember seeing it then. I was nine years old and a GINORMOUS Star Wars fan. Even so, I think I remember thinking how bad this was even then. If you have not seen the Star Wars Christmas Special, you must. It truly is must-see-TV because watching is the only way to appreciate how utterly dreadful it is. Chewbacca’s wife and kids? Princess Leia singing, and what Star Wars Christmas Special could be complete without appearances by Harvey Korman, Jefferson Starship, Dianne Carol and Bea Arthur dancing with Greedo?

Ugh.

In all sincerity, this may very well be the worst thing ever broadcast in any format at any time. George Lucas has said he wishes he could hunt down and destroy ever last copy.

WordPress wont allow us to imbed Google videos, so you can watch it here. So painfully, uncomfortably bad, it is hardly to be believed. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Merry Christmas!



My Favorite Things by American Elephant
December 16, 2009, 3:15 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , ,

Nobody beats the original by Julie Andrews from the Sound of Music, but one of my favorite things is Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’ Christmas Album. We grew up with it, and this year I found this rare footage on YouTube. The whole album is a classic.



Carol of the Bells by American Elephant
December 13, 2009, 10:33 am
Filed under: Music, Television | Tags: , , ,

Shchdedryk, The Ukrainian Carol, or Carol of the Bells — different names for the same beautiful carol. There are so many excellent renditions of this carol to choose from — unless you happen to be limiting yourself to performances available on YouTube — in which case you get a thousand mediocre High School Choirs, ten-thousand amateur webcam performances, and if you are persistent, you might unearth a few gems.

I am.

So, I present, first, the Muppets, followed by Julie Andrews in her (1973?) Christmas Special with the Treorchy Male Choir, and finally George Winston’s beautiful piano arrangement.

Merry Christmas!



We Need a Little Christmas by American Elephant
December 12, 2009, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , ,

The New Christy Minstrels, from one of my favorite Christmas albums.



Christmas Classics by American Elephant
December 10, 2009, 1:43 am
Filed under: Movies, Music, Religion | Tags: , ,

Before the stop-motion animation Rudolph we all know and love came to be, there was this animated short written by Robert May and Joe Stultz, and directed by Max Fleischer.

And here is the original White Christmas from the movie Holiday Inn, starring Washington State’s own Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The actress is Marjorie Reynolds, but the voice is Martha Mears. The song became such a hit that they wrote an entire movie around it the next year. But this time, Fred Astaire declined the role which then went to Danny Kaye. Fred may have later regretted that decision because White Christmas went on to become the biggest movie of 1954.



Merry Christmas Three-fer by American Elephant
December 7, 2009, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Music, Religion | Tags: , , , , ,

I suppose I should have known from the start that since much of my favorite Christmas carols were hard to find audio recordings of, that finding them on YouTube would be even more unlikely. That obvious conclusion, nonetheless, escaped me.

BUT! While I haven’t necessarily been able to find the songs I most wanted to share, I have found some fun stuff that I hadn’t seen or heard before myself. The first of which is a performance of The Twelve Days of Christmas, which is usually one the most tedious and/or obnoxious carols around, but NOT when done by the King’s Singers with Julie Andrews. Dame Andrews doesn’t actually sing in this one, while it’s her special, she’s just there for comedic effect. Although everyone should own at least one of her various Christmas albums.

The second is the sultry stylings of legendary jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson in That’s What I Want for Christmas. Often imitated, never equaled.

And last but not least, Chanticleer, perhaps the best men’s chorus in the world, performing in the Medievil Sculpture Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in front of the Neapolitan Baroque Créche and Christmas Tree. The tree is beautiful beyond compare, the acoustics in the room are breathtaking. Many PBS stations will replay the performance each year — watch the whole performance if you can.



Sussex Carol by American Elephant
December 5, 2009, 8:19 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: , ,

I love traditional English carols, particularly the less familiar ones. They always remind me of my English grandma. Sussex Carol was, “first published in the 17th century by Luke Wadding, a 17th-century Irish bishop, in a work called Small Garland of Pious and Godly Songs. It is not clear whether Wadding wrote the song or was recording an earlier composition.” It is performed here by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, one of the best in the world.



Snow! by American Elephant
December 4, 2009, 9:29 am
Filed under: Movies, Music, Pop Culture | Tags: , , ,

The temperature reached down below freezing last night for the first time in our area. I caught a glimpse of my first Christmas tree headed home on the roof of a car. The skies were clear, but just the same, it quickly brings snow to mind whenever the mercury drops that low.

Everyone knows the song White Christmas, but you may not have heard this lesser known song from from the 1954 musical which that classic carol inspired.  Sung by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen in close harmony, the song is simply called Snow! It originally had nothing to do with Christmas, but with the right lyrics and some sleigh bells, Irving Berlin turned it into the perfect tune for anyone anticipating the first snow of the season.

We had our first white Christmas in several years last year, and it was a doozy! Several feet of snow, atop a bed of ice, which in combination with the Seattle hills had most people stuck at home. I suspect we’ll get a blanket of snow again this year, but I hope not that much! What about you? Have you got snow yet? Think you’ll get any?




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