Frank Sinatra, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"

>> Saturday, December 24, 2011

I will be sparse the next few days, what with the usual seasonal commitments to friends and family in the meat-world and all that. Actually, physically speaking, I'm unlikely to be any more spare than usual, and with all the Christmas snackage that seems to flow like toys from a gigantic sack--well, I'm likely to be much less spare than usual.

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" comes off as a little treacly, but is still one of those songs that a number of talented people have visited and invested with more power than it might seem to deserve. What surprises me is that the song was a bit less slight as originally written, with lyrics suggesting it might be your last Christmas so you might as well enjoy it. (Thinking about Sinatra's alleged mob ties, those lyrics might have had added significance if he'd used them in his version, thinking about it.) Anyway, I love Sinatra bringing the world-weariness he sold so well in the '50s and '60s to this particular rendition, giving it a kind of cocktail-soaked happy melancholy; you can practically hear the snow rustling on the window as he stands next to the fireplace with a glass in his hand.

On a completely different note, if you really want to veer away from the usual Christmastime fare and like listening to someone reading you a scary story, Pseudopod's December 16th Christmas-themed offering, D.K. Thompson's "Saint Nicholas’ Helper" is a great, nasty little number. These days, many of us forget that among the many, many, many versions of Santa lore, there are several in which Santa doesn't do anything as dull as leaving coal in a naughty child's stocking, but rather leaves those terrible children to his henchman, Krampus, a demonic little imp known for stuffing wicked tykes into his sack and abducting them. As with so many fairy tales we've cleaned up in our gleaming modern age, at least some versions of Santa had teeth, or at least his sidekick did (which, as Thompson's protagonist comes to learn in "Helper", is much the same thing). Thompson's story, I'll warn again, is frightening; I also have to add that it's a bit sad, too. I wouldn't be recommending it if it wasn't good and if Marie Brennan's reading wasn't fine; I merely feel obligated to paste the recommendations with many warnings, as a lot of people understandably don't consider Christmas a time of year for stories about monsters attacking little kids. But if you like a little blood in your 'nog, well... consider the download.

Talking about Krampus and alternate versions of Santa, it would be remiss of me not to mention David Sedaris' classic side-splitting breakdown of Holland's version of Santa's sidekicks, "Six To Eight Black Men". It was originally a written piece in Esquire that can be read here, but the truly priceless rendition is Sedaris' reading of the essay at Carnegie Hall, which you can listen to on YouTube. Sedaris' description is utterly hysterical, though I think his wide-eyed-innocent-traveler fixation on how the Dutch Santa differs from the American version sort of inadvertently glosses over the ugly racist aspects of the Dutch Santa and Zwarte Piet, recently featured in an article-worth-reading over at Slate.

Oh, and Happy Christmas Eve!


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