Thanks for bearing with us—what a terrible time to suffer problems! We’re currently uploading the songs of the past week. I’ll have my reposts done by 8 p.m. EST. Not sure about PC—we are in separate cities and both have different songs. But hopefully by the end of the day, everything will be up and running. As we wind down the season, we are reposting several songs over the next few days, especially some of our earlier posts which people might have missed.
Until then, here’s an interview PC and I did with each other about Christmas. It’s fun and has the first of many lists at the end.
JV: Let’s start out in a broad sense: talk me about your love of Christmas. Has it always been this fervent? When did the love of Christmas music start to escalate?
PC: My love of Christmas probably began when my brain started to recognize that once a year we brought a tree into our house and a few weeks later there were many presents under said tree. My love of Christmas as an adult--its ferventness (is that a word?)--probably springs from the fact that , like most people, I wish I could be ten again. This time of year lets me do that with the least amount of guilt/shame. Nostalgia is a terrible and dangerous thing. Here's a few things I love about Christmas. In no order. 1. The world becomes much like the set of a play and I'm all about escaping the everyday. 2. Shiny Things3. Food, Drink, Gifts4. Fire/Smell of woodsmoke, smell of pine, all the smells. 5. Being with family. 6. Snow!7. The music, which brings me to the second part of the question. My love of Christmas music starts and ends with Nat King Cole. Hear my blurbing of this on the blog. When did it start to escalate? Hard to say--I think it's been a slow climb since youth. I hear new songs every year. I must say that I never, ever thought I'd be a part of a Christmas music blog. I like it.
JV: For me, movies play just a big of a part of Christmas. It’s impossible to approach the holiday season and not think of George Bailey’s promise to lasso the moon or the Old Man struggle with that leg lamp. What movies stick out for you? Are there any dark-horse favorites that others might not know about?
PC: Well, I of course love all of the Classics. My favorite "Classic" is "Christmas Vacation" followed closely by "Christmas Story". I'm not sure if it's a dark horse or not, but the movie I really, really love to watch around the holidays is "Beautiful Girls". Nothing so keenly captures the feeling of returning home in winter as an adult, to all your old buddies and family, quite like this movie. Although I've never fallen for a 13 year old on a trip back home, thankfully. Still, this movie is one of my favorites ever and I really wish I could watch it right now.
JV: Beautiful Girls is great. My somewhat unknown Christmas movie is One Magic Christmas. It was releated by Disney in 1985 and is incredibly dark for a family film. But Harry Dean Stanton plays an angel named Gideon who helps out two children.
In the past few years, you’ve lived in Ohio, North Carolina, and now Chicago. What’s the biggest difference you’ve seen in those places in how they celebrate Christmas? Or, just in general, the atmosphere amongst the population at those places?
PC: The biggest difference is weather. In North Carolina they dream of a rainy Christmas, er something. There must be snow. The spirit was present in North Carolina, but it simply wasn't home, wasn't the midwest. There are plenty of songs about this. Chicago and Cleveland being two large midwestern cities, I find this time of year to be wonderfully similar. It's great here in Chicago, but I can't wait to go home. Then it will really feel like Christmas. I plan to sled and hike in snowy forests. We'll see if I get lucky.
JV: Some weeks back, you lambasted Burl Ives in a post, calling him a “creep.” I believe this was in reference to a ling in “Holly, Jolly Christmas,” when Burl asks someone to “kiss her once for me” under the mistletoe. Though we run the site together, I found your criticism observant but also a little harsh. What if, for instance, Ives, as the narrator of the song, was asking the listener to kiss an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend? Or even someone he’s secretly harbored love for over the years? In my mind, I wondered if perhaps this was the case—Ives was urging the listener to kiss this woman so that Ives could have a kind of surrogate satisfaction. What do you make of this theory? Does it change your opinion of him? Or do you think that Burl Ives, quite frankly, was a bearded pervert, seeking to kiss or fondle any woman that he could find?
PC: What you've failed to mention here, that you mentioned on the phone to me is that you thought of all this while in the shower. Now, I find it a bit strange that you think about Burl Ives in the shower. I digress. If ol Burl wants to live vicariously through me, that's his business. I don't really think he needed to sing about it. The short answer is that my answer hasn't changed, really.
You have a pretty impressive collection of Christmas movies. When did that collecting start? What are some of your favorite holiday movies?
JV: I’m not sure when it started exactly—probably in the early to mid 90s. Home Alone is what started it for me. I’ve talked about that movie in previous posts but it remains one of my favorites. It still makes me laugh but I’m also very wistful of that film. A Christmas Story has to be my favorite holiday film—I adore that film. Darren McGavin, who played The Old Man, died this year. When he died, I read someone who said that everybody wanted to have Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch as their father but in actuality, most people had McGavin’s The Old Man.
PC: If you had to choose a place that wasn't North Carolina or your home town in Pennsylvania, where would you spend Christmas and why?
JV: A snowy and small New England town. The house would have a wood stove and windows overlooking a sleepy country valley. Somewhere quiet and nice. That’s the practical answer. But if I could somehow live in an alternate universe, I’d pick a place without this war in Iraq . I really try to keep the troops who are overseas and their families back home in my thoughts all year, but never more so than the holidays.
PC: What are the best and worst gifts you ever received/given?
JV: An ex-girlfriend’s parents once gave two gifts which might not have been the worst but were the strangest. A paperback edition of the screenplay to L.A. Confidential. Now, I like that film just fine, but I have no idea why in the hell they would buy me that. Also, they bought me one of those little hardback writing journals—thoughtful, since I’m a writer—but it had a large picture of the American flag on the front. It’s not that I dislike the stars and stripes, but it just seemed weird.
The best gift would be my Super Nintendo. It certainly got the most use of any gift in my life no doubt. That was the golden age of video gaming and it seemed that games had never been more fun. It’s one of the reasons I bought a Wii last month—that system allows you to download old SNES games, among other systems, and play.
PC: Since we've started this blog, we've discovered a lot of new music. You're a fan of lists--what are your top ten favorite NEW songs? When I say new I mean new to you this season, not new is an Clay Aiken. If Clay Aiken appears on this list I am off the blog.
JV: There are many. We’ve heard a ton of great songs this year, thanks to our searching and also through our friends at other Christmas blogs. This took some time and thinking, but here’s my list, in no particular order. I'd of course heard "God Rest..." before, but I love that Jigsaw Seen version so much, I had to put it on the list.
Christmas Island – The Andrews Sisters with Guy Lombardo
A Christmas Wish – Bobby Goldsboro
Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day – Brenda Lee
Another Christmas At Home – Eux Autres
Christmas On the Beach – Irene
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen – Jigsaw Seen
I Won’t Decorate Your Christmas Tree – Loretta Lynn
Mama’s Twistin’ with Santa Claus – Mark Anthony
Darlin’ (Christmas Is Coming) – Over the Rhine
Christmas Eve – Teenage Fanclub
What about you, PC?
(To be continued...)