And now on to other pressing issues: As we all know, our chance for holiday gift buying has officially dwindled to zip. So, with this emergency in mind, today’s list eschews serious topics in order to get down to the business at hand—namely last minute gifts.
Below you’ll find six of my off-the-top-of-my-head gift ideas. But please be sure to fork over some good ones of your own.
Okay, here’re my six:
1. A Homeboy Attache bag . (Surely everybody needs one of those.) At this late date, you’ll have to drive down to the Homeboy store on Alameda in order to acquire one, but hey, you can also have lunch at the Homegirl cafe, and get a snazzy Homeboy trucker hat or a Homegirl spaghetti strapped t-shirt for yourself.
2. The soundtrack to the Great Debaters. A very cool CD filled with a range of classic blues, gospel and jazz sung , by Grammy Award-winning blues singer/guitarist Alvin ‘Youngblood’ Hart and soul diva Sharon jones. Lovely stuff. (Anybody who doesn’t like it—in the future just demote ‘em off your gift list and into greeting card-only status.)
3. A pound of Grizzly Blend coffee- Yes, if you order it it’ll show up after Christmas, but it could be worth it. The coffee is a rich, dark blend roasted in Montana. The best part of the deal is the fact that a healthy percentage of the proceeds from Grizzly blend sales are dedicated to acquiring and preserving land as grizzly habitat through he non-profit group Vital Ground. (Virtue AND caffeine. Hard to do better than that!)
5. R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz, & Country – This was commenter reg’s idea, and it’s a very good one. At his rec, I went out and nabbed one of these books (with CD) as one of my own last minute gifts. It was given out on Saturday night, and its recipient appeared to be satisfyingly blown away by its sheer fubulosity.
6. A Bologna Chub - Yes, there is such a thing, and I have it on good authority that a certain mega-star actor (with a new film out) gave bologna chubs as Christmas gifts to his closest friends in the biz, including other mega-star actors. I think frankly that much of the reason for the actor’s choice of gifts had to do with the fact that he liked getting to say “bologna chub” over and over again. (And who wouldn’t????) Most of these puppies are mail-order only for us LA people, but the Spring Street Smoke House does make them for their bologna sandwiches, so maybe you can weasel a few gift-sized chubs out of them. (And think of the number of times you too would get to say “bologna chubs” while doing so.)
Alright, now over to y’all.
No, not all holiday musical offerings found at the top of Amazon’s sales list at this time of year are treacly and irritating. But many are, so antidotes are sorely needed.
Here are ten of mine. What’re yours?
(NOTE: The video, which is unrelated to the list, is from a Bing Crosby special that was made during Bing’s last months. He died before it was actually shown. The lead-in skit’s a bit stiff, but the music’s hard to beat.)
1. Christmas In Prison – Amos Lee (A very nice cover of the John Prine sing.) (Hey, I’m a criminal justice person, so this has to be on my list.)
2. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl (If for some reason you’ve never heard this, at least play it on YouTube. It’s quite fabulous. Though, due to its lyric content, best not to play it in front of your next-door neighbor’s six and seven-year-olds—at least not if you want to continue to be invited to the yearly neighborhood pancake breakfast.)
3. Randolph the Rouge Nosed Reindeer – Justin Wilson (Justin Wilson is a Cajun dude. And this is a very silly song. I guar-ron-tee’ it.)
4. Go Tell It on the Mountain – Tom Waits & the Blind Boys of Alabama (Tom Waits…. Blind Boys of Alabama…Go Tell It on the Mountain. Nuff said.) (Canadian folk star Bruce Cockburn’s version of this is also a must have.)
5. Stop the Cavalry – Jona Lewie (A British radio fav during the holidays.)
6 . Jingle Bells – Crash Test Dummies (This one’s guaranteed to frighten small children. However the Crash Test Dummies version of Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem is actually quite lovely.)
7. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Michael Doucet and Beausoleil (An all instrumental by some Cajun masters.)
8. The Rebel Jesus– Jackson Brown & the Chieftains (Politics and celebration both. Jackson’s a tad over-serious, but it works anyway. The Chieftains help.)
9. Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas) – John Denver (Denver wrote it and loads of country stars have recorded it. I still like the John Denver version best, so sue me.)
10. Santa Baby – Carter’s Chord (Three extremely cute, talented sisters. Their album ain’t out until next year, but iTunes has the download)
My extremely smart and funny fiction-writer friend, Tod Goldberg has a thing he does every year on his blog called 12 days of lists. I’ve decided to shamelessly steal this idea and tweak it for WLA. From now until New Year’s eve I’ll be posting lists—a new one every day or so. (I urge you to check out Tod’s lists too.
Some of the lists will be political and social justice-y. Some will be far, far more frivolous. Some will be liberal- leaning (like the one below), some not. Okay, here’s the first one:
This past Saturday night I was at the LA writer-clogged party for Red Hen Press and decided to ask a bunch of novelists and poets (and one composer) which of the presidential candidates they thought would make the best fictional characters. Here’s what they said:
1. MIKE HUCKABEE by Kate Gale Kate is the editor of Red Hen Press, and The Los Angeles Review. She’s also the author of five books of poetry, the editor of four anthologies and she is now writing operatic librettos that have been performed at such venues as Disney Hall, and the New York City Opera.
Okay, as a fictional character I’d choose Huckabee because he’s the most ridiculous. So many of his beliefs are so completely out of touch with the majority of the American people. I’d use him in a libretto because librettos are all about extremes. In opera people are going to die, they’re going cheat on their wives, do the wrong thing, and generally behave badly. Huckabee would be a great character in an opera libretto.