As I see more and more people in official positions claim that President Obama is not an American and is hiding it from the public, it does make me think that the positive outcome of this birther nonsense is that we won't have to hear anymore for a while from people on the right who think it's a fantastic idea to change the rules on natural-born citizenship so that Arnold Schwarzenegger can run for president. Remember all of that talk? It's up there on the list of Republican Hypocrisy That Especially Irritates Me with the right wingers who always think Alec Baldwin or Janeane Garofalo should shut up about politics, but think it's great when Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes Governor of California.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
I finally sat down and watched the Ugly Betty series finale, and it actually surprised me. Not because of any of the plot developments--it more or less unfolded how I imagined it would, given where the season's been leading--but because it just underscored how much I used to adore this show, how much I had invested in the characters' various journeys, and how much I will miss it now that it's over.
There was a time (the first season) when Ugly Betty was my favorite show on television. What killed it for me was the usual show-murderer: an awkward love triangle. I think the major problem with the second and third seasons (and to some extent the fourth) was the amount of repetition in the drama. Rather than changing and growing, too often the characters were running around in circles, held captive by the same character faults that were highlighted over and over and over again until the whole thing grew stale and predictable.
Still, I never gave up on the show because I did like the characters. But the writing... it just seemed like everything any other person would learn and grow from just sort of... happened with no ill effects. Everyone shrugs and moves on to the next plot. Or plots were dropped entirely--until last week's sudden revelation of the Tweety Bird tattoo, I had completely forgotten about Amanda's quest to find her biological father. And until Hilda's wedding, I had also forgotten Ignacio was still dating his former nurse.
Granted, Ugly Betty is a soap opera. But the strongest elements of that magical first season were the characters themselves and how complex they could actually be. Mark is a great example; gay, insecure, out to everyone in the world except his own mother, a schemer with a conscience, constantly teasing Betty about how she looks and dresses and yet full of warm advice to Justin to be himself and not care what anyone else thinks. All of the characters were like that, full of secret insecurities and capable of compassion. As time went on, there was just enough of that to always pull me in, but too many plots that could have been stopped by a simple conversation or a willingness to listen to (and to articulate) an explanation.
These last few episodes have actually been a nice farewell to the series. We went through Betty's two biggest relationships, Gio and Henry, and finally put a stop to any lingering questions about whether the relationships would've worked: they wouldn't. Hilda finally married a good guy who was the type of reformed thug she's always attracted to, and she's going to get her chance at the family she's always wanted. Justin made the step out of the closet that everyone had been waiting for, and did it with grace and dignity. Ignacio put any fears that he was going to feel abandoned to rest. Wilhelmina reformed and finally found a way to balance love and career without being so deceptive, and Claire has her long-lost son Tyler in her life. Amanda found her father and Mark got what he'd always wanted, which was respect for his abilities as an editor and to work with Willie without having to do all of that scheming. We even got to see that Christina was a success as a fashion designer in England.
But the most satisfying endings, naturally, came for Daniel and Betty. Finally, finally, Betty was able to follow her dreams and strike out on her own without feeling guilty, looking back over her shoulder, or losing her confidence.
As to Daniel and his feelings for Betty... I think this was a long time coming. I actually called it at the beginning of the season, when it seemed obvious to everyone that Ugly Betty was going to get canceled this year. There were some moments between Betty and Daniel, especially after his wife died and he needed to be comforted, when you could see their closeness taking the first steps to becoming something more.
The way they handled it on the last couple of episodes was pretty graceful: it was obvious that his friendship with her was, on his end, becoming something else, even if she wasn't reciprocating. They never came out and said Daniel had new feelings for Betty, but instead let Claire be the one to see it and put the possibility out there, both for Daniel and Betty and for the audience. The final episode was smart not to end with them getting together, but with them both finding each other anew and suggesting a possibility. And it really is a new beginning for them: Betty's now a confident, successful woman and Daniel is finally the mature man who isn't self-consciously following in his father's footsteps for family approval. They're meeting each other now as old friends who have been through battles together, but without all of the overhead, as it were--their old insecurities are gone, and they're starting over. That was an elegant way to end the series, with the possibility there, but nothing definitive. I loved that.
A very satisfying ending to a series that may have had its ups and downs, but which I always liked and will genuinely miss.
Bye bye, Betty.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Yes, it's a second meme today, but I saw this one and decided there was no way I couldn't do it.
1. What is your favorite Star Trek movie? (not including STXI)?
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, of course. It's the best Trek movie that will ever be.
2. What is your favorite scene in STXI?
I especially liked the scene where Scotty beams aboard inside a water pipe, for several reasons: first, because it was funny, and there's not a lot of physical humor in Star Trek (frankly, sometimes Trek can be pompous); second, because part of the genius of STXI is that it looks at space travel and exploration as dangerous and exciting and uncertain; and third, because it's so boring when everything goes perfectly on the Enterprise.
3. When were you first introduced to the Star Trek franchise?
When I was 10 years old, in 1986. It was my Mom's favorite show ever, and I think it used to be on Sunday afternoons in reruns on the local WFLD-TV (now the Fox affiliate). The first episode I ever saw was "Amok Time." How could I not be immediately hooked by "Amok Time"? After that, we started renting episodes at the video store, I started reading books about the series, and I caught up on the movies. There were only three at the time!
4. Is there anything Star Trek around the room in which you're currently sitting?
My DVDs are in the other room, but my soundtracks are out here. Becca made a mosaic of Trek pictures that's hanging up, too. They're all from the original series.
5. Vulcan ears are: A) cute, B) sexy, C) neither, D) both.
I rest my case.
6. If you could be any other species than human in the Star Trek universe, you would be:
Andorian. Not sure why. I just dig the blue skin, and I figured Vulcans are the obvious answer, because they're fascinating.
7. Which pet would you rather have: a sehlat or a tribble?
Sehlat, all the way. I just want to see one in a Star Trek movie!
8. Who might you cast in the role of reboot Nurse Chapel? Khan? Other reboot character?
I really don't want to see them do Khan; Ricardo Montalban was so definitive, but more than that, it would just be a retread to start rehashing old plots. They had to do an entire movie just to establish that the new series takes place in a different, alternate universe just so that they could remake the damn thing: time to nut up and just make your own movie now.
And come on, Kristen Bell should play Nurse Chapel.
9. Kirk and Spock are:
There's a deep love there. Maybe not in a romantic way, to me, but still, there's love.
10. If you could give any Star Trek character a chance to be captain of the Enterprise, who would it be?
I would've said Sulu, but they gave him the Excelsior many, many years ago. And, technically, Spock's already been a captain of the Enterprise. I could see the new Uhura in command, though.
BONUS. Think fast! Give one Star Trek quote from memory.
My two immediate favorites--which always make me emotional--are both from Spock: "I have been, and always will be, your friend." and "Jim. Your name... is Jim."
Picked this one up off of Tumblr and thought I'd give it a go here.
Pick five of your favorite shows, in no particular order, before you read the below questions, then answer them!
1. Freaks and Geeks
3. Doctor Who
4. Star Trek
5. Veronica Mars
01. Who's your favorite character in 2?
Aeryn Sun. One of the best characters in SF television history, and probably the best woman character in all of SF TV.
02. Who's your least favorite character in 1?
I don't think I have a least favorite character in Freaks and Geeks. The characters are all so well-developed. I can't really pick one. It was a perfect show.
03. What's your favorite episode of 4?
"The City on the Edge of Forever." But you knew I was going to pick the Harlan Ellison episode, didn't you? I also have great love for "Amok Time" (the first episode of Star Trek I ever saw, which hooked me right in at the age of 10), "Balance of Terror," "This Side of Paradise" and "A Piece of the Action." So there's a top 5, I guess.
04. What's your favorite season of 5?
Definitely Season 2. The deepening of the Veronica/Logan relationship, more emphasis on Mac, all that Charisma Carpenter... fantastic season.
05. Who is your favorite ship in 3?
I'm not a shipper when it comes to Doctor Who.
06. Who is your anti-ship in 2?
If this means what I take it to mean, I still have... no idea. But that's the thing about a well-written show.
07. How long have you watched 1?
Well, sadly, Freaks and Geeks only had one season. I first saw the whole thing on DVD a few years ago, and I've since watched it a couple of times.
08. How did you become interested in 3?
In 1996, when the Paul McGann Doctor Who TV movie came on. It sparked my interest in the mythos, especially since I was sharing an apartment with a guy who was an enormous Doctor Who fan and really urged me to check out the older series. I can't remember what the first story was I saw... I think Becca and I rented some videos, and some were lent to us by friends, and since then, we've been big fans of Who.
09. Who's your favorite actor/actress in 4?
10. Which do you prefer: Show 1, 2 or 5?
Well, I love them all, obviously. But I'd say Farscape is my favorite TV show of all time.
11. Which show have you seen more episodes of, 1 or 3?
Well, Doctor Who by default. We're talking one season vs. 31 seasons.
12. If you could be anyone from 4, who would you be?
Dr. McCoy. Because I'm cranky like that.
13. How would you kill off your favorite character in 1?
What an... odd question... Freaks and Geeks isn't the kind of show that really lends itself to those kinds of discussions. My favorite character is Lindsay Weir, and I don't want her to die. She's a good kid.
14. Give a random quote from 1.
"Everyone's a Democrat until they get a little money. Then they come to their senses!" Harold Weir, one of the best TV dads ever.
15. Which character from 5 would be a good guest star on 2?
They could've used Mac onboard Moya, right?
16. Would a 3/4 crossover work?
Doctor Who and Star Trek? Absolutely. I'm sure there must be fan fictions out there of this happening.
17. Pair 2 characters in 1 that would make an unlikely but strangely okay couple.
I could definitely see Kim and Lindsay finally getting it on.
18. Has 5 inspired you in any way?
No, it just kept me greatly entertained.
19. Overall, which show has a better cast, 2 or 4?
I think both shows have great casts for what they did. I do think Farscape was much better at utilizing the entire ensemble, though.
20. Which has better theme music, 3 or 5?
Doctor Who. That middle 8 section is my favorite thing ever.
Ustinov was born today in 1921. I haven't had a quote post in some time, and he seems like the perfect person to have one around. One of my all time favorite actors, and a genuine humorist, he's one of my intellectual heroes.
"Laughter would be bereaved if snobbery died."
"Politicians only get to the top because they have no qualifications to detain them at the bottom."
"There is no question but that if Jesus Christ, or a great prophet from another religion, were to come back today, he would find it virtually impossible to convince anyone of his credentials despite the fact that the vast evangelical machine on American television is predicated on His imminent return among us sinners."
"Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them."
"Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious."
"In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from."
"Unfortunately, the balance of nature decrees that a super-abundance of dreams is paid for by a growing potential for nightmares."
"The truth is really an ambition which is beyond us."
"Sex is a conversation carried out by other means."
"Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich."
"The only reason I made a commercial for American Express was to pay for my American Express bill."
"Once we are destined to live out our lives in the prison of our mind, our one duty is to furnish it well."
"I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me the most civilized music in the world."
"Contrary to general belief, I do not believe that friends are necessarily the people you like best, they are merely the people who got there first."
"Her virtue was that she said what she thought, her vice that what she thought didn't amount to much."
"It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously."
"To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal."
"If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can't be done."
"The point of living, and of being an optimist, is to be foolish enough to believe the best is yet to come."
Thursday, April 15, 2010
This is a padded bikini top aimed at children that was being sold by a British company called Primark.
Now, my first thought when I saw this padding in a two-piece bathing suit for kids, without reading the related news story, was, Oh, good idea. Pad the kid's chest and the suit won't be as revealing as a wet, clingy bathing suit usually is. For kids at that awkward prepubescent stage, she doesn't have to worry about getting leered at by guys who think its open season on little kids.
But, in typical Nanny State style, there has been an outpouring of anger in the UK over the idea of sexualizing children by giving them a padded swimsuit. Words like "pedophile" have been thrown around--as always, without the slightest understanding of what that word actually means--and Primark has been accused of marketing a product designed to make girls look sexy.
The company itself refuses to discuss it, but someone speaking off the record said that the bra was designed to protect a child's modesty. And that's exactly what it looked like to me. Granted, I don't know how it was advertised, but in an election year, it became more fodder for political posturing.
All I know is, with the swimsuits off the shelf, Britain has ensured that men will still be able to leer at a seven year-old girl's hard, wet nipples as the fabric of their suits clings to their chests. Congratulations on your moral victory.
Only a sick nation sexualizes children. But it's also a sick nation that is obsessed with the idea.
I know, I live in one.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
:: The longer this goes on, the more insufferable I find Kara DioGuardi. Bad enough watching Ellen DeGeneres flail about while barely offering a single cogent criticism on music or performance, but Kara DioGuardi really acts like a person who thinks she's doing everyone a favor by giving her opinions, and it just makes me retch. She's so full of herself, I can't stand it.
:: There are several contestants I forget are actually on the show until I see them, because they so don't belong. With the exception of Crystal Bowersox, none of them are as good as Lilly Scott, who got kicked off so damn long ago and was so damn good. Seriously, this is a farce.
:: I don't get the love for Siobhan Magnus at all. I keep hearing people talk about how wonderful she is, but she comes across to me like a one-trick pony. She's got that screechy thing she does that people dig, and that's all she does. BFD. Also, that look of angry shock she had when Simon and Kara didn't like her performance was very off-putting. Some of these kids are so bad at handling criticism; after weeks of enduring Didi's bitchface every time a judge said something bad about her, now I have to look at this.
:: I wouldn't be surprised if Andrew got voted off tonight. I think he got too caught up in the judges' completely uneven criticism and lost a lot of his confidence. He's been trying to be too loungey lately when he obviously has no idea how to sing in that style.
:: Why is there always the 80-pound teenager with the warbly, mannered voice? What's the appeal? Aaron is just not a singer.
:: I'm sick of Lee's Joe Cocker impression; every song sounds the same.
:: Tim so doesn't deserve to be on American Idol. He's got the whole package--sincerity, great hair, chicks dig him--except for being able to sing. He just can't sing. But Simon drools over him because he knows Tim is marketable. But every time I see Tim sing, he reminds me of that guy everyone sees in their freshman year of college who carries his guitar around and breaks into soulful/folksy songs that girls like and can sing along too. Every one of Tim's performances comes across like something calculated to get him laid. (So, it's not sincerity so much as the appearance of sincerity.)
:: Why the hell do they keep praising Katie week after week after week? Is something wrong with the sound on my TV? I just don't hear what's so good about her. This over Lilly? Really? Really?
:: I don't even pay attention to Casey. And I like Mike a hell of a lot.
Crystal. Just give it to Crystal, already.
I get my internet through Comcast, and I'm pretty pleased with the service. Comcast Broadband comes with a free subscription to the McAfee Security Suite, and for the most part, I've been pleased with that, too. Granted, it could be a lot better about what it catches, but aside from one very serious problem--in which the entire suite was bypassed and then shut down by a virus--there haven't been a lot of incidents with McAfee.
So, in the grand corporate tradition of "If it ain't broke, switch to something cheaper that doesn't work as well," Comcast has decided to cancel its deal with McAfee and switch to Norton.
I don't have much experience with Norton, but based on the few hours I had with it last night, I can say this: Norton sucks.
The most immediate issue I had with it was that it made the internet run a lot slower, sometimes even freezing up for 2-3 minutes. I'm at a loss as to why Comcast would purposely force me to switch over to a program that slows down their service--the service that I pay for. I uninstalled it and rebooted, and Windows had a hell of a hard time opening. I reinstalled Norton and had the same problems, so I uninstalled and rebooted. That time, Windows couldn't open. I had to manually shut the computer down and restart with my last known good configuration.
So, I won't be installing Norton on this computer ever again. The issue wasn't with the install, anyway, but with how much of the CPU it uses up at any given time--which was often between 51 and 98%. Talk about a bloated program. McAfee had its problems, but it never burned up so much space at once simply running in the background.
I downloaded some free programs--Zone Alarm for a firewall, Avast for antivirus, McAfee SiteAdvisor for Firefox, and Malwarebytes for an anti-mal program. I don't mind not having it all in one suite as long as the products work the way they're supposed to and don't take up so much space on the CPU that I can't do anything when they're running. So far, so good. We'll see.
Thanks again, Comcast.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I just read that apparently Brad Bird is going to be directing the wholly unnecessary Mission: Impossible IV, and Joss Whedon, the guy who couldn't figure out how to make Wonder Woman work, is going to be the guy behind the much-anticipated Avengers movie.
My question: can we switch them?
See, I don't want to see Mission: Impossible IV... really, it's hard for me to imagine anyone who would other than Tom Cruise himself. But I'm really looking forward to The Avengers.
So why don't we switch the directors around? Then Brad Bird, who has proven he knows superheroes, can direct The Avengers, and Joss Whedon, who has proven that he knows complete and utter crap, can directed Mission: Impossible IV.
That would make me extremely happy.
I know, I've been doing a lot of these lately. Thankfully, there's no shortage of stupid in America...
:: Conan O'Brien is going to do a talk show for TBS. Sure, The Jay Leno Show is a bad lead-in, but reruns of My Name Is Earl...
:: Suri Cruise still drinks from a ba-ba? Isn't she, like, 40 months too old to still be doing that?
:: The Democratic Party has an all-time low disapproval rating, according to Gallup: 54%. The disapproval rating for the Republican Party is only slightly lower at 51%. Boy, having a two-party system's really getting the job done these days, isn't it?
:: Nebraska is the latest state to try and criminalize abortion, with new legislation championed by Governor Dave Heineman making it illegal to get an abortion unless the mother is either really sick or really crazy--with special provisions that will land doctors in court if they don't follow procedure or, hell, even if the woman just feels really, really bad about getting an abortion. I don't expect this one to stand up in court, but it does genuinely concern me that so much patriarchal shit is being passed in state legislatures in the past few weeks.
By the way, Governor Heineman vetoed legislation that would have provided prenatal care for poor mothers in Nebraska, because the programs would've covered illegal immigrants. Just to show you that this is all motivated by genuine caring...
:: Hey, why leave out slavery from the "Confederate History Month" celebrations? Shit, let's reenact some lynchings and really get back to the South's roots, huh? Why not? Why not just go all out with this thing and stop pussyfooting around RedneckFest '10 and get to what all of this is really about. I mean, there's only one reason for Virginia to fetishize something they should be embarrassed about.
Mississippi (of course!) Republican (of course!) Governor Haley Barbour actually went on TV to say that bringing up slavery was "trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't amount to diddly" and that you shouldn't have to explain to anyone why slavery is bad. Yeah, that's what we all thought, but then some fucking redneck decides to make a month-long celebration of a government that ONLY EXISTED TO DEFEND SLAVERY.
What's really scary and stupid is that this weird movement you can almost describe as Neo-Confederate is gaining a lot of traction in the GOP. They have a message of racism disguised as States' Rights that seems to be meshing well with the Teabaggers' message of racism disguised as fiscal responsibility. And I'm sure they have national appeal outside of the former (but still proud) slave states; we've all known those kinds of racists. Look at those assholes in Michigan.
Their superstars are Rick Perry and Sarah Palin and other dangerously stupid people, and Democrats are never smart enough to call these idiots on their blatantly racist appeals to white voters. (It would be rude or something.) Democrats are like that younger kid you knew in high school who wanted to hang out with you and your friends, and would do anything you told him to because you just wanted to see if he'd do it, and he would, because he wanted your validation so badly. The Democrats are still entirely bereft of strong leadership, and they don't seem to care. They just want to be liked so badly. It's pathetic.
:: More from Itawamba County, Mississippi. Apparently, there were three parent-run proms on the night Constance McMillen was sent to a fake prom destination for doing nothing illegal. Apparently she's also run afoul of the school board this year for defending a friend of hers, Juin Baize, who was suspended twice for coming to school in women's clothes. (The suspension notices have a suspicious blank under the reason for suspension.) Juin had to move out of the state and is now attending high school online.
By the way, here's what Itawamba's real prom looked like:
Oh, look at the girls tongue-kissing. I guess the lesson here, as always, is that lesbianism is wrong unless it's done with the express purpose of turning men on.
Fuck you, Itawamba County.
:: Speaking of America's gay panic, it's been announced that the film I Love You, Phillip Morris is being shelved. Well, the euphemism they're using is "delayed indefinitely," if you're ridiculous enough to be fooled by euphemisms. It took forever to get a distributor to even touch the film--a film which stars Jim Carrey, one of the most bankable movie stars in the world--and when it was finally scheduled, it ended up being re-scheduled a couple of times. Now it's not even going to get released. And why? Because of a gay sex scene.
Seriously, America? Hey, guess what? Some boys fuck each other. It's a fucking fact of life. And some boys fall deeply in love with other boys, and it does not affect your life in any way. I have had it up to here with America's deep, idiotic fear of gay people.
Why are we such fucking cowards?
:: About the only good news is that Westboro Hate Cult members are finding it harder and harder to protest. A family of six in Des Moines carrying "God Hates Fags" signs found themselves facing over 500 counter-protesters singing "All You Need Is Love." In Charleston, where they actually had the audacity to demonstrate their self-serving, opportunistic "belief" that the miners killed in the cave-in were murdered by a just and loving God because America is too tolerant of gay people, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, and various local churches and community groups organized a counter-protest that overwhelmed the Westboro Hate Cultists and drowned them out.
At least sometimes, the Left and the Right can come together to stop the messages of fear and hate.
If only we could do this every day and just be fucking rational for a change.
:: Incidentally, you must read Paul Constant's letter to his Catholic Bishop in which he asks to be excommunicated.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
I've seen the first two episodes of the new series of The Tudors, and I already like it much better than the last one. I thought the third series never got over the death of Jane Seymour. Annabelle Wallis was wonderful in the role, but after Jane's death from childbirth complications, most of the rest of the series was just Henry moping. Unless Henry's really engaged, it's hard to care about the machinations going on around him. He can't be so detached because, honestly, the rest of the court just isn't terribly interesting. I did like Joss Stone as Anne of Cleves, but the series felt as though it had petered out by then.
This series has gotten off to an interesting--and much stronger--start, with Henry marrying wife number 5, Catherine Howard, who really is, after all, just a silly 17 year-old twit, and not much of a leader. Henry, however, has always been searching for this sort of ideal family and now, with a wife who is besotted with him and three children (including a son) at his side, he seems to think he's found it. Sadly, as history shows, he's going to discover why it's never a good idea to marry your teenage mistress. Especially as we see his vigor deteriorate with the re-inflammation of his old leg wound. This is the injury that turned Henry into the fat, diabetic, prematurely old and infirm man that he became, and we're seeing it take its toll on a temper that was already unpredictable to begin with. Here, though, it generates a lot of sympathy, because in the first episode we've seen a man who is finally, truly happy, and who suddenly feels all of his losses and all of his mistakes, and the mortality he fears.
Jonathan Rhys-Myers' performance is excellent, by the way, especially when all the series combined are considered. We've seen him transform from a callow youth who is generally happy--arrogant, but generous with his friends--to someone who is easily turned by others, easily played by conspirators, and fearful of the possibility of death. We've seen his remorse lead him to horrible abuse of his powers and we've seen him justify tyranny in the name of defense of the realm. It's just an excellent performance. (I also enjoy it because every time there's a movie or series based on history, everyone becomes an amateur historian, in this case complaining that Rhys-Myers wasn't fat enough to be Henry VIII, as if he was just fat and slovenly his entire life... It reminds me of when Elizabeth came out in 1998 and was accused of playing fast and loose with history because "Mary didn't die, Elizabeth had her executed." If we were talking about Mary, Queen of Scots and not Mary Tudor, then... Always makes me laugh.)
I'm looking forward to how this final season will play out, especially with Joely Richardson coming into it soon as Catherine Parr. Sarah Bolger, in particular, continues to get better and better as Princess Mary, to the point where I really wish they'd consider going for a fifth series of The Tudors focusing instead on the reign of Queen Mary I.
Still, I'm really going to enjoy this final series.
Meco - Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album - 1980 (re-released in 1996, but now discontinued and no longer commercially available)
Well, here it is. The legend of this album grew over the years among obsessive Star Wars fans; before the re-release of this album, I remember seeing bootlegs at conventions priced upwards of $200. It became as sought after as The Star Wars Holiday Special. And in light of the existence of that steaming piece of Wookie crap, the existence of a Christmas album makes perfect sense. Hey, fans, George Lucas' merchandising of Star Wars used to be even more pervasive than it is now.
In fact, George Lucas had hoped this would be only the first in a series of annual holiday albums. Having already worked with Meco on Meco's The Empire Strikes Back record, Lucas granted not only the use of sound effects, but R2-D2 and C-3PO (played by Lucasfilm sound man Ben Burtt and Anthony Daniels). Even Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie painted the album cover.
The concept for this album is pretty weird. It's got R2-D2 and C-3PO getting ready for Christmas in some kind of droid factory where droids work all year making presents for "S. Claus." Most of the songs were co-written by Maury Yeston, who went on to write the musical Nine. If that piece of trivia needs to be repeated, Jon Bongiovi (later Jon Bon Jovi) sings the lead vocals on "R2-D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas." His cousin Tony was Meco's producer for every one of his albums. I wonder if Jon was sucking in his cheeks and squinting into the distance even then.
Meco brought Harold Wheeler back on board for this album. And the arrangements are very good. What seems like it should be a goof is given a very professional, very full production, and the result is an excellent product that you're not really sure you want. A lot of work obviously went into this; it almost seems rude not to like it. It's so... sincere.
The songs are a mash-up of traditional Christmas music and Star Wars. For example, the song "Sleigh Ride" features C-3PO teaching R2 how to sing (which, of course, he can't). It's actually a fun album to listen to, and a big part of that is not only the presence of the real C-3PO, but also the full orchestral production. It was one of the first non-classical-or-jazz albums to be recorded and mixed digitally, and the sound spacing and layering is impeccable. If the album doesn't necessarily rise to the level of greatness, it's not really embarrassing to listen to. And it flows so nicely and has a short enough running time that despite some of the lamer songs (I've never cared for the album's single, "What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Has a Comb?)," or the very twee "The Odds Against Christmas"), it doesn't linger around long enough to truly wear on the listener. Too bad it ends with "The Meaning of Christmas," which is too earnest and too long for its own good. Have you noticed how often Meco missteps at the end of his albums by bringing everything to a halt?
But I usually put "Christmas in the Stars" and C-3PO's dramatic reading "A Christmas Sighting ('Twas the Night Before Christmas)" in my Christmas rotation. It's impossible to hate (and I find it impossible to like anything ironically). The album only had one printing when RSO Records went out of business; they never made any more of them. If Star Wars fans hadn't become so humorless about Star Wars in the last 15 years, we'd still be seeing this sort of thing. Whether that's a good thing or not is up to the listener to decide.
A Side: "Christmas in the Stars"
BlindSides: "R2-D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Sleigh Ride"
DownSides: "The Odds Against Christmas," "Merry, Merry Christmas," "The Meaning of Christmas" (it's a morass)
Cross-posted from Septenary.