Category Archives: Seasonal Fare

Musica para las Fiestas!

Just before Christmas, my wife borrowed some LPs from her grandmother so we could digitize them. These were albums her family listened to every December for decades. I was not familiar with any of them because these were albums of traditional Puerto Rican holiday music.

While digitizing these records, I was able to listen to them for the first time, enjoyed them immensely, and thought they would make excellent listening any time of year. This is in part because my knowledge of Spanish is limited, thus blunting the Christmas-ness of the lyrics for me. It’s also due to the unique qualities of Puerto Rican holiday music, which tends to be more about partying and patriotism than it is about things Americans think of as “traditional” Christmas song topics. (Lots more on that subject here.)

I couldn’t find out too much information on these albums online, at least not information I could understand (see above in re: Spanish, difficulties with). Nearly all of these albums were released on small specialty labels that are now defunct and, near as I can tell, have not been reissued by anyone. So I figured I might be the world’s last best hope to preserve these albums in all their glory, which show an interesting transition point between traditional musica jibara (“mountain music,” more or less) and the music that came out of New York starting the 1960s that came to be known as salsa.

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My Favorite Video of the Year

In the giving spirit of the season, I want to share you my favorite video of the year. If you read this site, you know the kind of videos I gravitate toward, and so you’d probably think I’d pick some weird old commercial or that amazing compilation of Russian drivers. Worthy choices, but I have gone in a different direction, something you’ve probably never seen if you don’t have grade school-age children or aren’t 10 years old.

Being the father of a young girl, I am often subjected to Disney Channel’s wide array of programming. Some of it is actually pretty good (Phineas and Ferb, Gravity Falls). Some of it, not so much. One afternoon, we found ourselves watching Make Your Mark, a dance competition show that fell right in the middle of the pack. At the very least, it was light years better than Austin & Ally or Jessie, two Disney Channel shows so awful they make my teeth itch.

The big highlight of Make Your Mark was a segment in which the finalists go backstage at a theater where Justin Bieber will soon be giving a concert. The kids are then surprised with a visit from Beebs himself. He shakes their hands and watches them dance and gives them a little pep talk. It was very cute to see these kids freak out over meeting their idol.

And yet, as I watched this scene, I couldn’t get past one very strange element. Take a peek (it’s less than two minutes long, won’t kill ya) and see if you can spot it.

Did you notice that Bieber enters on a Segway? He also shakes kids’ hands on a Segway, beatboxes on a Segway, delivers a motivational speech on a Segway, and exits on a Segway. He does not get off the Segway for one second.

When I saw this show live, I rewound the segment–no joke–eight times, because I was sure I blinked and missed a part where Bieber hopped off the Segway. Nope! He stays atop it the entire time. While this scene is surely edited from much longer footage, it seems pretty clear from what we’re shown that he never once left his vehicle. What a bizarre, imperious thing to do. It’s the kind of power play an ancient duke would have pulled, if only Segways existed in Elizabethan times. “The Earl of Hartfordshire only greets commoners while riding his Gyro-Perch.”

Is there a better demonstration of Modern Celebrity than this? Dedicate yourself, never give up on your dreams, and you too may some day get to meet your heroes. But, your heroes probably won’t deign to remove themselves from their royal litter.

Not long ago, Bieber was like these kids, dreaming of the big time. Now, he’s filmed from behind, shown towering over these kids from a lofty mobile dais, lecturing them on working hard and keeping their families first before speeding away on his magical chariot.

Well, Merry Christmas everyone!

Own Horn Tooting, 2012 Edition: The Year in Me

cover_9350105At the end of the year, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to the unstoppable march of time. And by “one,” I mean me. As 2012 draws to a close, I initially had a sense of failure (my default setting, really). Another year come and gone, and what had I done with it?

So, I took inventory of what I wrote this year, and it turns out I did a lot more than I remembered. I have little memory of writing some of these pieces, so I can now look back at them as if they were composed by someone else. For other posts, I was sure I’d written them much longer ago than this year, but timestamps don’t lie.

In short, I wrote a poop-ton of words in 2012, in a lot of different places. Not all of it was gold, of course. When you write in this kind of volume, it’s impossible to avoid mediocrity. Looking back on it in total, though, I was pleased with my batting average, and the fact that my output was a roughly even mixture of serious analysis, personal reminiscences, and goofy nonsense.

The only thing I found disappointing, really, was the fact that my online writing tailed off precipitously in the last few months of this year. But the main reason for this is because I took that time to finish my novel (for real this time). So even when I wasn’t writing for immediate public consumption, I was still writing. Before the year ends, the novel will be finally, totally complete, which is another star I can put on 2012’s ledger.

Below the jump, I’ve gathered together what I consider the best of the online writing I did in 2012, broken down by location (Around the Interwebs, at Amazin’ Avenue, and here at Scratchbomb). This is more for me than anyone else, a reminder that I shouldn’t be so morose and remember that this year I made some things I can be proud of, on top of writing a WHOLE DAMN NOVEL (*drops mic*).

I will rest on these laurels for only a minute or two, because I’m already hard at work on some great things for 2013. This includes ramped-up work on Yells For Ourselves, my scholarly fantasia about the 1999/2000 Mets. I’m also toiling away on another super awesome project I’m crazy excited about, which will be announced shortly after the new year (tease).

Everyone who read my stuff in 2012, thank you. Everyone else, there’s still room on the bandwagon.


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Slice of Turkey 2012: Ed McMahon Sings the Glories of Thanksgiving!

Ed McMahon sings songs for swingin’ turkey eaters

Last year, I wrote series of posts under the banner of Slice Of Turkey, mostly about videos from old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades. One of my favorite clips I came across when searching for material for the series was of Ed McMahon hosting the 1981 parade. It featured Ed’s failed attempts to ride a rollerskating elephant and a rambling, red-faced monologue. It was 100 percent mental.

Sadly, that clip has been removed from the interwebs. I hope it shall surface some day so the world may enjoy it again. In attempting to find the same footage elsewhere, however, I stumbled across this clip from 1980, when Ed not only hosted the parade broadcast, but also belted out a turkey-infused ballad about the glories of Thanksgiving. This is a grade-A example of what the Macy’s Parade does every year: Take someone not known for being a singer and force them to belt out, Broadway style. At least Ed didn’t have to wear a Little Bo Peep costume.

In all fairness, Ed’s got some pipes on him. The song is pure treacle, however, lyrically and musically. What blows my mind is that the arrangements, the instrumentation, and the overall sound of this song is identical to songs I heard 20 years ago, and heard 10 years ago, and will undoubtedly hear again this year. That shows some real dedication to anachronism on the part of Macy’s and/or NBC. Do they keep this orchestra on ice somewhere and thaw them out every October?

Note the line where Ed McMahon sing-tells children “don’t be afraid” about Thanksgiving. It has the exact opposite effect. “No one was afraid about Thanksgiving, Ed. Why should we be afraid? WHY SHOULD WE BE AFRAID?! TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW, ED!”

Scratchbomb Christmas Comedy Classics!

Around this time o’ year way back in 2009 and 2010, I did a series of posts under the banners of Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs, with at least one example of each for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day. I chickened out trying to do that again this year because I feared running low on material, but I think there are still some gems buried in the earlier posts that could do with some new exposure, if I do say so myself.

In that spirit, please enjoy any and all of these Holiday Horrors/Triumphs of years past, whether you’ve just been hipped to Scratchbomb or you want to reread these classics of yesteryear because they’re so awesome. Hubris!

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