Thursday, December 31, 2009

January 1, 2010 - A blue moon at midnight

How do you break a year down? There are 365 days. Do you remember each one? A very rare few probably do (I saw one on Oprah). But on the whole you only remember some days. Special days. Tragic days. Days of big decisions or big changes. Big news days. Celebrations.

In some ways I'm sad about what I'm seeing. In a world of constant connections I wonder if people really do connect, really know each other, really care to. When I was young I thought people who don't like change were old fogies—those people who couldn't see the bright new future that was coming. Why can't they just get out of the way? And yet only age can give you perspective. You compare the way the world was and the way it is now. The common phrase "it was so simple then" comes to mind. It wasn't ever simple but things do change. They do get more complex. It seems to be our nature, to add more and more to our lives and be proud that we can handle it all, "multi-task." Kids seem to grow up faster, deal with more drama. Technology evolves and changes our lives, for good and bad. Nature seems to take a back seat, be put aside, and yet everyone rallies around the green flag and pretends to have altruistic motives. But a lot of kids aren't going outside and experiencing the natural world. They're sitting in front of a monitor or looking at the screen on a "smart phone." I can guarantee they, the kids, don't see it this way. What will they see when they're fifty? Will it all seem as innocent, as harmless?

Last night I did something different for New Year's Eve. Late in the evening, before midnight, I went for a cold winter's eve walk. It felt right. True. It was seven degrees, no wind, calm. The full moon called me out. I saw it through the window. Bright in a clear dark indigo sky. A blue moon—this was the second full moon in the month. A rare spectacle for a special night. How appropriate. The warm glow of Christmas lights brighten my way. The snow and ice crunch under my steps. Everyone's up. Celebrating in their own ways.

So what's ahead? Will it be a good year, a better year? Will hardships lighten? I know we'll see things we never expected. There'll be lots of the same but it will all be new. Fresh—at least we can make it fresh. We're all moving forward, together. We hope for the best and once in a while the best will come to us. Grab it when you can.

I truly wish you all the best in the new year. Take a chance this year. Move forward. Get rid of the clutter. Pay attention to what's really important in your life. Stop sleepwalking. Wake up. Do something you've always wanted to do. Share it with someone.

Love. Peace. Truth. Powerful words that need action to make them real. m

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13, 2009 - "Not a finga!"

Could there be a more famous lamp associated with Christmas than "The Christmas Story Leg Lamp?" My family discovered this movie in the mid-eighties and it's become a "tradition" of sorts that we watch the movie at least once a year, if not more. Because who can miss the many reruns on TV during the holiday season. It must be up there with "It's a Wonderful Life." And I wouldn't be "The Lamp Guy" if I didn't do a post about the famous Leg lamp during the holiday season.

First of all, you can find everything you ever wanted to know about the Leg Lamp at the official "A Christmas Story House" web site. Yes, someone has bought the house, which is actually in Cleveland, and turned it into a tourist destination along with a museum and gift shot across the street. You've got to go if you happen to be in Cleveland during the holidays. Perhaps you've wondered, was this a real lamp or just something the author made up. Answer: It was made up. Jean Shepard, the author, was inspired by an old Nehi Soda advertisement (shown below). It seems Reuben Freed, the production designer on the film, created the lamp with very little to go on but he seems to have pleased Mr. Shepard with only a few sketches. Three lamps were created for the movie but alas none of them survived the production. If you look closely during the scenes where the lamp is broken you'll notice that the lamp is actually broken in two different ways, depending on which scene you're watching. In one the lamp is broken into chunks, in another it's split lengthwise.

Fear not, you too can own any one of five different sizes of Leg Lamps, the full size 50" inch, a slightly smaller 45" (on sale now), a 26" and 20" desktop lamp, and an 8" night light. But that's not all, you can find replicas of almost all the props at A Christmas Story Gift Shop. There's the bunny outfit, Randy's stocking cap, Flick's aviator cap, and the crowning touch, a limited edition "Red Rider Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and that thing which tells time." And if you really want to splurge, you can buy the immense wooden crate for the lamp, sold separately. I'm actually tempted by the sale for the 45 inch lamp. What a lovely prop to bring out every Christmas and put in my studio (family and friends take note of this amazing gift idea but I can do without the crate. And you'd better check with me in case I decided to get on already).

And in a Google search I also came across this lovely "Leg Lamp" Costume, an idea for those truly obsessed. Here's hoping your holiday season is full of joy and that you always get a great parking spot at the mall, if you really have to go there. m

Friday, December 4, 2009

December 4, 2009 - For the Holidays

I have to say I'm enjoying this holiday season so far. I never know when it's going to hit me but I think because work has been manageable and fairly stress free I've been able to fall into the pleasantries of the season pretty quickly. This year the long and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend gave me a great excuse to get the Christmas tree up and at least partially decorated, just the lights so far, but that's the best part for me. It's been a week and we had our first snowfall in Madison last night. Just enough to cover the ground and make things look, well, like Christmas, but also enough to cause some stress during the evening rush hour. Luckily I was cozy at home and didn't have to deal with it. So, still being in the holiday mood I decided to search out some new Christmas music today on iTunes. There's always a few new CDs that are worth downloading.

This year I have two to recommend. The first is "Christmas Cheers" by Straight No Chaser, an a cappella men's singing group that started at Purdue University in my home state of Indiana. This is the first I've heard of them but they actually have two Christmas albums out with some non-seasonal music mixed in. I have a soft spot in my heart for really good a cappella groups and this group is one of the best I've heard. They offer beautiful arrangements of traditional songs with the addition of some novelty and humor in unique renditions of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," a concoction of well known holiday tunes merged with the traditional lyrics, and "We Three Kings" with a Mission Impossible theme. Some are pretty clever, and one or two are a little over-the-top for me. My favorites? I love the Charlie Brown classic "Christmastime is Here," "Carol of the Bells," and a new song called "Indiana Christmas." I had many good years growing up in Northern Indiana and it's great to have a song to remind me, it's still home.

The other CD is Sting's "If on a Winter's Night," a haunting collection of traditional carols and lullabies spanning centuries. This is not your typical holiday CD so it's not for everyone, especially those who expect the pop sounds of The Police or even Sting's later works. Sting defies labeling but his artistry and talent is inspiring. The CD is growing on me but I have to say my favorite song so far is "Soul Cake," a song I first heard from Peter, Paul and Mary.

I should also mention that Straight No Chaser will be featured in a television special on PBS stations this month so check your local listings. In the meantime check out the new music of the season and add to your collection. I love Christmas music if only for it's innately positive spirit. Have a wonderful week and I'll try to be better about posting, but you know how it goes. m