Thursday, December 30, 2004

May the Lord comfort their suffering.

I have been unable to put adequate words around the tragedy of the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami that took so many lives, and left so many bereft families. My family's prayers are with you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Recent Viewings

Over the holiday weekend, I saw some flicks.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was practically required viewing since we have a child of the target audience age. I have to admit I was intrigued, too, since the previews promised at least a visually interesting movie. And while the presence of Jim Carrey is not a promise of greatness, it is a promise of a riveting performance. (Has he ever not given a riveting performance? Even Jim Carrey haters will admit to his overwhelming presence in any movie, which is often the reason for their hate. My wife, I think, put her finger on it when she compared Carrey's charisma to Jack Nicholson's.)

So there we were, in an audience full of hacking and sneezing children - some virus is sweeping the Denver area this Christmas season. And the movie, as most professional critics have warned, is dull. Even though the trailer is striking when viewed against other trailers, the movie itself is monochromatic and gloomy in appearance. The script is monochromatic and gloomy in appearance, too.

I suspect that Lemony Snicket's series of books is one of those literary achievements that will never quite translate to the screen. The written word is unique in that the style of an author can transcend the tone of the events themselves. Which is to say, the dreariness of the "unfortunate" books is overcome by the clever and humorous writing. The same goes for Lolly Winston's Good Grief. It was a hilarious novel, but it will probably make a dreary movie, because we will just observe a widow grieving her dead husband, and we will not be living inside her head as we do in the novel, where her sense of humor never abandons her, even if her sanity does, temporarily.

Thus, outside of Meryl Streep's great performance, the movie was a slog. The wife and I were happy when the credits rolled. And then the most damning review of all, MPC (most precious child) said she liked it, but wouldn't want the DVD. Ouch.

The only truly moving occurrence in the whole of the two hours spent in the theatre was when the credits began to roll. A girl behind us burst out into heart-rending sobs, most probably because the movie is a big downer centered around the most primary of a child's fears: losing his or her parents. The ending is essentially: "so the children survived all these travails, but there are still many bad things to come, and their parents are still dead, the end." The girl's heartbreak seemed about the only appropriate and honest reaction to the movie.

Therefore, I think that parents of children who are sensitive, or at least those who haven't read the books and know of the delight contained within the pages of the books but not found in the frames of the movie, might just opt for a second screening of The Incredibles.

The Manchurian Candidate

I was fortunate enough to see the original Manchurian Candidate cold, knowing nothing about it, in a blissfully uninterrupted, lights-out optimal movie experience. It's a hell of a movie, and I recommend it highly. It's on that short list of older films (pre-70s in my book) that simply does not age, and some of the twists of the plot still shock. (Warning: You'll never be able to view Angela Lansbury in quite the same way again.)

The new version does not have the tremulous dread of the original, and not for lack of excellent casting or new plot contrivances. No, the blame can be laid squarely at the director's feet for managing to make the movie so plodding I ended up glancing at the clock three times within a span of five minutes. Not good.

Denzel Washington is predictably compelling. He's just one of those stars who magnetically pull your eyes across the screen to wherever he is. His acting is top-notch, as always. But you just don't give a damn about his character. No. You care for the Manchurian Candidate himself, played by Liev Schreiber. Liev, like Denzel, is really, really good in practically every movie he's in, but here, he's -- he's Edward Norton as the yokel who's exposed as the evil mastermind in Primal Fear good (and if you don't know what I mean by that, check out the flick, even though I've given it away). He's freaky good.

Here's why: Liev has to convey all the glossy sheen of an American political candidate hand-picked by the powers that be for unquestioned domination and success (think George W. Bush with the intelligence and charisma points ratcheted up a couple notches), with all the inbred comfort with privilege and access to the powerbrokers, yet at the same time someone who's vaguely aware of and tortured by the possibility of being a brainwashed pawn of a star chamber. He's the tragic Howard the Duck (think of the comic, not the movie) who's living in a world he didn't create. When Liev's character is teetering on that razor edge of realization and remorse, while still clinging to stature and his assigned role of greatness, it just gives you Oscar® chills. I recommend the movie for his performance alone. The plot is telegraphed loud enough that you could conceivably fast-forward through the scenes he's not in, watching for the scant clues you need, and drop back into real-time when he reappears. Ok, stick around for Denzel's scenes, too.

Meryl Streep continues the wonderful third act of her career, bringing her massive talents to bear in roles not quite worthy of her. She hits the perfect note of the obsessive mother whose relationship with her charismatic, powerful son is just two quivers past incestuous and wrong. Since all of her best stuff is during scenes with Liev, if you take the fast-forward approach, you'll only need to stop for her scene where she's standing outdoors with two of the heavies from the Manchurian Corporation.

Totally worth a cheapo rental, but not as the full-price centerpiece of the movie night rental.

Expect bigger things in the future from Liev. And, Denzel, dammit, pick better directors.

Around the World in 80 Days

Another Jackie Chan swat-fu fest. Sucks. Out. Loud.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

I don't know if I have any cachet with my regular readers regarding taste, because I like some pretty silly stuff and don't like some of the supposed media caviar out there. But if I did, I won't after this because, I think Scooby-Doo 2 is the Citizen Kane of sequels to remakes of second-hand, bargain-basement 70s television animation.

Even stranger, I didn't like Scooby-Doo as kid. I've always been an animation aficionado, and the terminally over-looped, blatant mistakes-left-in animation fiasco that was Scooby-Doo always left me mildly pissed off. (I watched it only when there was no other choice.) It had one plot, and, as Likeks pointed out once, approximately 7 overused music queues. The characters where unappealing, with Daphne being a low-rent version of Josie with no Pussycats, Velma evoking all the warm charm of the eternally congested class introvert in second-hand sweaters who smelled like catpoop, and Shaggy being an ugly unshaven stoner who represents the exact kind of adult all policemen told kids to avoid and whose sole talent was being able to consume twice his body weight during an attack of the munchies. Scooby himself was a vapid retread of the Jetson's dog (voiced by the same guy, no doubt), done better and done first. And just what the hell was the point of Fred anyway? He didn't ever solve a mystery, that was always Velma's gig. Perhaps he was merely Daphne's love puppet (or, shudder to think, Velma's), but if so, then what was that kind of character doing in a kid's cartoon?

Anyway, the first movie was only interesting insofar as Matthew Lillard's resurrection of Shaggy was spooky dead-on, and impressive considering the original voice for Shaggy was done by none else than Casey Casem, he of the infamous paint-stripping voice that introduced the weekly top ten on the radio during the Reagan years. I think he still does it, been since we've become Radio Free America through the implosion of the industry via monopoly, I can't be sure.

I didn't expect much of Scooby 2, and got it only at the request of MPC, who was mildly interested in seeing it while recovering from the croup. Even she suspected she'd have the attention span for it only while swacked on Triaminic and children's Motrin.

And then, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, there we were, the whole family, tears of laughter streaming down our faces, backing the DVD up to hear a funny line yet again, or pausing it altogether whilst MPC got a (laugher induced) coughing fit under control. One line that floored us, as the team pulled up to yet another spooky place to search for monsters and clues, was Shaggy warbling: "Like, Scoob, how come we never get to investigate, like, a Burger King?" This line is made all the funnier due to the dubious fact that the movie touts a product placement for Burger King so bald-faced that the laugh line puts a nice spin on the tawdriness of it.

Fearing I might had been under the influence of rogue endorphins, or in some other unexplainable generous mood, during my initial viewing and enjoyed the movie more that it deserved, the MPC and I sat down to watch it again a couple days later. It was still as funny, so it wasn't mood or circumstance. We've slated this one for a purchase when it hits the under $9 mark.

I thought this movie was funny as hell, and, like, so did my family. I bet you will, too.


I don't like Tom Cruise. He's got that mechanical "Scientology has improved my life too much" glare that all the lesser talents in the thrall of that cult do. (Only John Travolta appears to have the chops to be able to suppress it while playing a role, even though it's on full display when he hits the talk-show circuit.) Further, I don't think Cruise is that gifted of an actor. Granted, he pulled Lestat out of some dark hole in his soul, but then Lestat has a lot of the same manic denial of unwanted reality that Scientologists do, so maybe the performance wasn't so much of a stretch after all. Therefore, when Tom Cruise is in a movie, there have to be other damn good reasons for me to see it. (I think the continued partnership between Cruise and Spielberg is one of the more egregious developments in recent movie history. Doesn't someone as perceptive as Spielberg realize most Americans find Cruise sorta creepy?)

But, I needed a movie to watch, and I'd read that Jamie Foxx - the same Jamie Foxx that is currently channeling Ray Charles so brilliantly and Oscar®-worthy in the biopic - essentially carries the movie, so I decided to pop for the rental. (And when I got it free by remembering a promotion code, I was especially smug.)

Not that it's not clear from his performances in Any Given Sunday and Ray, but why not state it for the record: Jamie Foxx is a great actor, and probably has a huge future in front of him. From the first frame of Collateral, he owns and inhabits his role. Were you to leave the credits off of the three movies mentioned in this paragraph, some might not realize the same actor played all three leads. Well, then Tom strolls in and kinda messes up the vibe until it becomes obvious that the movie is really about Max, Jamie's character, and not Vincent, Tom's shadow puppet. With the Cruise relegated to a purposely 2-dimensional supporting role, the movie glides along under its own power, and is a fine piece of entertainment.

Highlights include the soundtrack and the relative consistency of the intelligence of the plot, marred only once by the "psychic bad guy phenomenon" during the final chase sequence. Lowlights (outside of the Tomster) include the cinematography which may have been done in a digital video kind of feel on purpose, but it draws your attention in a bad way, meaning "what the f*ck was that?" and not "ooooo, cool!"

Collateral is a nice, tight little thriller with groovy tunes (have the surround on and the volume up) and the talents of Jamie Foxx to waft you to the credits. Pick it up next time you're in need of some diversion.

Aloha till next time.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Let it snow

Check out this collection of photos of real snowflakes. Happy white Christmas!
Surfin' Bird

Not only because I can't find anything unique or less boring than usual to say, but because once an awhile it doesn't hurt to give credit where credit is due, I submit to you better - or at least other - blogs to read whilst you're all logey on tryptophane, nog, and distant relative overdoses this holiday season.

Don't take this wrong, but if you haven't heard of The Bleat in the blogsphere, you've not only been living under a rock, but under a moonrock, on the dark side of the moon, and said moonrock only recently arrived via a comet from the farthest reaches of space. James was doing a daily post back before the term "blog" was invented, so if you want top-notch writing that winds back for years and years, this is the site to hit. He also has some hilarious galleries of abominable interior design, food recipes that would make even dogs shudder if they could read (keep in mind how they bathe themselves), and unfortunate product mascots, just to name a few. His day gig is a humor column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but since he can go uncensored and follow his whims even further down the rabbit hole his daily bleat is about the best thing out there on the web.

The Poor Man is a hyper-intelligent guy who I believe is still in grad school for a physics degree or something like that (once in a while he'll write about his illudium Q36 explosive space modulator or something like that). He was one of the few blogs that was actually readable during the last election. He is also wildly talented at making the juxtaposition of cute kitten pictures and scathing ironic humor seem natural.

Dooce is new mom who recently moved from LA back to her and her husband's homeland deep in the heart of Mormon Utah, a brave move considering they are ex-Mormons who each had originally fled to LA to get hip careers and escape the pod-people gestalt that is Utah. (I would attempt a tactful mitigation of that characterization of Mormonland, but it would be a blatant lie and would read as such. TLD:During a trip to Zion, a beautiful area in Utah, we stopped at a bar for a beer, and a huge sign on the wall read "23 miles to the United States of America" which, of course, was the distance to the Utah border, so it's not only me.) Dooce, aka Heather Armstrong, is blessed with razor-sharp wit and the writing chops to spin comic sentences of such brilliance, you are often forced to blaugh. A blaugh is a laugh that is in such a hurry to get out that it trips over the laugh in front of it, causing a sound that is onomatopoeia to blaugh.

The 2Blowhards are your one-stop shopping for ruminations on all things artistic: movies, architecture, painting, porn, philosophy, memes, and advertisement copy. It's easy to get lost in all the ideas presented with astounding fecundity on this site. The comments are part of the experience as the regulars of this blog take the ideas as if they were relay race batons and run them out past the bleachers. Once you start reading, the only thing that may pull you back to the real world is the spouse or family screaming "Forrest, Stop!" directly in your ear to get your attention.

Syaffolee is another freaky-intelligent grad student who offers an eclectic and charming smattering of observations about anything under the sun. Or things that orbit it. Or even other suns. I enjoy traipsing around in brains much brighter than mine. You will, too.

Making Light is a very literary blog, which makes sense as the author is an editor for a major publisher. As with all the other blogs mentioned here, Making Light is eclectic to a fault, but manages to go into depth in a way that's never dry and always wry. Another reason I enjoy this blog is Teresa Nielsen Hayden is a Christian; a very informed, learned and (thank God) non-fundamentalist Christian. She doesn't discuss that aspect of her life much, so if religion gives you the fantods, don't be put off in fear yer gonna hear about Jay-sus! too much. Actually, her perspective might be a welcome oasis in that sense. On the web, it seems we Christians who aren't fundies but who really believe Christ was who He said He was (what I think if as mainstream Christians, which includes Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox) are either silent or very quiet about it, so it's nice to hear a calm, steady voice unafraid of speaking (was we believe is) the truth. She also drops the occasional bitchin' recipe.

Redwood Dragon is another blog by a Christian who doesn't pound it down your gullet, out yer arse, straight to China, and into orbit. Dave Trowbridge is also yet another eclectic (notice a theme here?), thoughtful funball. Good reading.

Minute Particulars is an overtly theological blog, and wow, even if you don't have any truck with Christian thinking, this guy explores some ontological corners that might surprise even the most virulent atheist. He makes your brain hurt so good.

Moby (click "moby journal") is the internationally renowned artist and musician whose work you've heard whether you've intended to or not. His album Play was unique in music history in that every single track was licensed for a movie, TV show, or commercial - some many times over. Granted, that is either a dubious distinction (if you're a music purist) or a hell of an accomplishment (if you consider that his tunes are so accessible and evocative that everyone relates to and enjoys them). His song "18" (off of the album of the same title), in my opinion, is one of the prettiest instrumentals ever composed. Anyway, for a big deal music personality, his posts are down-to-earth and very human. It's a unique window into one of the major artists of our day who is just an average guy. It's fun to read him talk casually about schlepping off to do a show the same way you or I would talk about trundling off to work in our cubies.

Have fun! And ya'll come back now, y'hear!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Yes, this is still "Third Level Digression"

Ah, changes were needed. The old template didn't take to the new, indigenous comments functionality, so I had to switch to a new template. I had to dump the old comments system because it lost virtually all of the comments I've ever had. Since I don't get that many comments, the loss of the few I had was not good. So, new comments functionality, new template, off we go!

Oh, and as soon as I figure it out, I'll replace the links to other blogs I usta have.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Dearth of 2004

The yearly "best of" lists are blossoming across the web and entertainment media. Usually, I have my own to offer, but this year was kind of abysmal for entertainment, imnsho, so I don't really have lists so much as an honorable mention or two.

I've noticed that for some reason every year a new Star Wars movie is released, there tends to be a raft of good flicks, as though somehow the anticipated competition with a guaranteed blockbuster somehow raises the bar in the kinds of movies studios produce. I still haven't detected an indicator for the other extreme, though - years like this where movies just weren't all that mindblowing. I'd love to hear any theories, if you've got one.

The only truly memorable, utterly fantastic movies I saw that were made this year were:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Incredibles
50 First Dates

Eternal manages to capture the desperate need and heartbreak of relationships, and is probably the best observation of people in love I've seen. 50 First Dates manages the hat trick of actually being a drama hiding in the costume of a light romantic comedy which is multi-leveled and consistent, never betraying its premise at the service of cheap laughs. The Incredibles is just that, especially the Edith Head-esque superhero costume designer, darling.

I also sorta-kinda liked, some for dubious reasons and others for not-so-dubious reasons:

Ella Enchanted
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Jersey Girl
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Shrek 2
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Spider-Man 2
The Polar Express
The Punisher
Van Helsing

But none on the list are something I'd search out and buy, with the possible exception of Ella Enchanted, because great kids movies that don't become odious with the obligatory repeated viewings are valuable beyond their sticker price.

I greatly anticipated Touching the Void because the raves were unanimous. But, gosh, to me this was just another of the many movies/books about people who have too much time (and money) on their hands who decide to climb a dangerous mountain just because it's there, only to have things go very wrong, leaving the survivors to gravely opine that time with family and friends is more valuable than the supposed glory of gazing upon the rare view of surrounding peaks for the five minutes you have before your genitals freeze solid. I'd love to know what the average Sherpa thinks of these yahoos.

I read a mere two memorable books published this year:

Good Grief by Lolly Winston
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (View a small excerpt here.)

Good Grief is brilliant writing, sustaining the reader through the intense grief of a recent widow with humor and honesty. Odd Thomas was funny and charming, with a surprise ending for a Koontz story.

Since commercial radio and the music industry continue their respective death spirals to a massive terrain conflict (that means "a crash" for those of you in the cheap seats), nothing of much interest was offered outside of hits compilations (John Mellencamp for one) and the new one by U2.

My favorite quote from the year is:

"I understand why Bush has such high approval ratings. Hell, he's done everything I expected him to do: The economy's in the toilet, we're at war, and everything's on fire." - Wanda Sykes

The best lesson(s) I learned this year came from Second Innocence by John B. Izzo:

1. Have Courage.
2. Ask, "What does life want from me now?"
3. Just Start...

The Terminal and Chronicles

Saw The Terminal the other night. Y'know, honestly, Stephen Spielberg has never really made a bad movie. He's just made some that you'd never want to watch again. For all of its good intentions, Amistad is one of those movies. Thus, a review of a Spielberg film is more for the longrun view of the film, and not so much a warning to avoid it or to directive to see it. Of course you should see each and every Spielberg film eventually. You will be entertained.

The Terminal is entertaining, and initially moving, but it hits the implausibility barrier quickly which dooms your utter enjoyment of it.


I was gonna lay all of those out before it dawned on me that would just be a string of spoilers, and fellow movie lovers, if they haven't seen it yet, will eventually see it, and I don't wanna ruin it for them. For those of you who just want to know, go to the Movie Spoiler and read up.

Read Chronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob Dylan. At first, I was impressed that he could write decent prose. Most talented people are talented in one specific way, and not others. And, the more immense the talent in the one area, typically the less there is in other areas of expression. Dylan, in particular, has not been much of a revelation when he's ventured away from songwriting and performing. Thus, I was reading more to pierce the enigma than anything else. I expected verbal drudgery.

Well, Dylan can write prose, even if he's given to filling entire paragraphs with listings of authors he's read or other songwriters he admires. And, I simply think he's being cagey when he does that. You learn a lot about someone through what they admire.

My overall impression is that Dylan is pretty much a normal guy, if not somewhat curmudgeonly, who wanted to be a minor star in the folk music world, but got strapped into a rocket ride of fame and admiration that mystifies even him, to some extent. He didn't want to be Jesus, he wanted to be Johnny Cash.

If you're a fan, of course you'll read Chronicles. The rest of you can skip it, as there is nothing here that will change your life. If you want revelation, then give a good listen to Blood on the Tracks, still one of the most beautiful expressions of pain and loss ever committed to the ages.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Batman was plagued by a furless cat, too

I use Google image search as a sort of poor man's instant mind mapping thought unjammer. When stuck on a passage, I pick a word out of the air, or out of a song, or out of what I'm working on, plug it in, and hit enter. The resulting images often reset my thoughts and get me going again.

Oddly, hairless cats keep showing up on frequent occasion, and I haven't decided whether this is cause for alarm or not - or, if I am to be alarmed, is it my word choices leading to these things, or is it that they are somehow inexplicably ubiquitous in the Google imagine link catalogs.

Either way, this baby popped up:

Which I thought was strange enough (and wondered what that freakin' exposed-brain-like thing was on the top of its head), but then found the context for the image, and it was somehow worse. Go to the bottom of this page for details.

No caption contest could result in something stranger than the real story, imho.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Ruminations on Christmas Songs

Big blog daddy James Lileks recently called for opinions on Christmas songs for an upcoming Minneapolis Star Tribune article - his day gig. So I sent him my 2¢. As he may use it (or not) I won't bore you with the whole actual email here; no, I'll bore you will all new thoughts about Christmas songs.

Well, just in case the curiosity is killing you (and bless you if it is - I'm touched), and in case he doesn't include my worthy thoughts in his piece, I said the best ever is the Pretender's "2000 Miles" which hits the perfect note (ha ha) of yearning for a Christmas song, and the worst ever is "The Little Drummer Boy" which has annoyed me since childhood, right down to its kill-me-now "rump pah pum pum" refrain. It took me a while to figure out the whole Santa Claus thang, but I clued in immediately that no mother of a newborn would allow some brat into the nursery with a drum say: "Bang away Fauntleroy!" Especially with a song that sucked as much as that one does. Dear Lord.

Assuming that after the yearly assault mounted by the twin hazards of radio and muzak, you still want to listen to Christmas music on purpose (or simply want to control WHAT you hear to avoid "The Little Drummer Boy"), I have some guidance to offer.

Right off the bat, let's cut to the chase and point out the must-haves for those of you in the cheap seats. The two "Time-Life Treasur[ies] Of Christmas": Original flavor and "Memories," have the sum-total of all the best standards available. If you buy both, you'll get some repeats, but by different singers. The other standard is, of course, Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas. If you have ever been in the proximity of a TV during the holidays, I DARE you to not get an endorphin rush when you put this one on. (Music geek moment: The link is to one of the new hybrid SACDs (Super Audio CD (a moniker which is analogous to "New and Improved Edible Chocolate" in its recursive redundancy)), which sound amazing.)

In my opinion, there is no better vocalist for Christmas songs than John Denver. I know he got overplayed back in the day, but, really, give the guy another chance during the holidays. (Unless you've built up bitter resentment because he created a persona of a simple, poor, dope-smoking country boy but had the gall to pen a song about his estate Starwood, in Aspen, where he hoarded gasoline during the gas shortages of the 70s; you're excused, Earl.) His soulful tenor just lends itself naturally to the soaring melodies of most Christmas songs. But, avoid the Christmas album he did with the Muppets, which of course has Frank Oz and Jim Henson croaking all over John's vocals. Avoid any duet that John Denver did, for that matter. His voice is oil to anyone else's water.

The other classic Christmas crooner is Nat King Cole. Can't praise him enough, so I won't try.

One of my personal favorites is A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. Thumbnail, slamdance music history lesson: Phil Spector invented the production style which created an immediately recognizable "Wall of Sound," as it was called, by cramming several drummers, pianos, guitarists, horn sections, and singers into a tiny recording studio and letting them thrash away in unison. Bruce Springsteen loved that sound so much, he tried to recreate it when he recorded Born to Run and failed, but famously found his own sound in the process. Anyway, for this album, Spector got together all of the groups he'd formed (Svengali-like) and recorded this as a kind of a vanity project, which most people either love or hate upon first listen. I fall into the prior category, my wife the latter. I strongly recommend a litmus test listening of the samples via the link before you put your money down.

I just dinna know why, lads and lasses, but my favorite Christmas song remains "Do You Hear What I Hear?" I don't know if it's the call and refrain of the lyrics, the melody, or the fact that anyone who attempts this has to have a good enough voice to pull it off (read: neither Mick Jagger nor Bob Dylan would attempt to cover it, though Neil Young might, just to be perverse). I also dig "What Child Is This?" probably because "Greensleeves" is the melody, and that tune is imprinted on the DNA of anyone of European descent.

For it's sheer wink, wink, nudge, nudge, goofiness, I love Buck Owen's "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy." It's almost a retread of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," but way funnier and not nearly as cloying. Plus, gotta love that trademark "Bakersfield Sound," nearly as distinctive as Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound."

I can't help but smile when I hear The Singing Dogs do "Jingle Bells." (Found on Dr. Demento Presents: Greatest Christmas Novelty CD if you've been searching.)

"Blue Christmas" as performed by Elvis Presley is a snort. When he starts out, he sounds like he's trying to keep down a fried banana peanut butter sandwich.

The lyrics to "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" have been memorized by several generations, for good reason. The invectives hurled are some of the best ever conjured. Oh, and Boris Karloff, who is the narrator and voice of the Grinch is often credited with singing this one, but it's really Thurl Ravenscroft, who also voiced Tony the Tiger of Frosted Flakes fame.

"Ding Dong Merrily on High." Song aside, the jokes over the title just write themselves.

"Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano, while mostly innocuous, tends to stick in your head like "The Pink Panther Theme" and the Sesame Street Muppet's "Mah Na Mah Na" song. (Bah bee badeepee!)

But for sheer annoyance factor, I doubt any Christmas song surpasses "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It's even got drummers in it! (TWELVE drummers drumming!) And I didn't detect a theme here until now, but all Christmas songs that mention drumming SUCK! Anyway, who in the hell had the bright idea to model a Christmas song on the conceit of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall"? Wasn't the original bad enough? Noooo! Someone had to spread its suckitude all over the holiday spirit as well! At the very least Bob & Doug McKenzie saved things somewhat by recombining both songs into a more palatable version, replete with interjections of "hoser" and other merriment, bless their little Canuck hearts. Ho ho ho.