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December 09, 2010

Morning Cheer (12/9/10)

Good morning! Cookies, anyone?

Molasses Cookies

That's what I've been doing this morning. Today is my Friday, and I'm off to Connecticut tonight and then New York tomorrow! I'll try to set up a few posts for the weekend in advance, but we'll see how it goes.

Britain's whole "number one single at Christmas" thing is adorable and quaint, but this John Cage contender is awesome.

Yes, Gibbs was making West Wing jokes yesterday.

Blue Valentine: No longer NC-17.

TWoP Gallery: TV's Naughty and Nice of 2010

The RSS reader summary of this straightforward Times item about Oprah picking Dickens for her book club read, in its entirety, "The author is not expected to appear on her show."

Christine O'Donnell is just . . . I don't know. There are no words.

If you only read one piece on Elizabeth Edwards, make it this one by Ezra Klein.

Posted by Kat at 07:09 AM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2010

Morning Cheer (12/8/10)

Good morning! Wednesday. Right? I think. I'm having trouble keeping track of that this week. Elizabeth Edwards died yesterday - very sad. I'll try to round up some of the links to stories about her for you tomorrow. Today is the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon's death, so I should post his Christmas song, even though it has never been one of my favorites.

Related: Is Paul McCartney the "Most Uninteresting Person Ever to Inspire a Mountain of Literature"?

Matt Bai and Matt Taibbi: two different people. Honestly, I did that with Michael Dirda and Michael Dibdin for years. Except I never actually met either of them, so it was less embarrassing.

These may be the worst interview questions ever.

Google has a new e-bookstore.

It seems like there are Russian spies all over the place recently.

The United States of America According to Google Autocomplete

Uh-oh. Mistletoe under threat!

People are still trying to make George Pataki happen.

Oh, but speaking of "inexplicably still trying to make people happen," Eliza Dushku is off her pilot.

I would like the German Christmas market craze to catch on here, please.

The Fight to Preserve Jesuit Heritage in Bolivia

To Fool Baby Panda, Human-Shaped Chinese Scientists Sport Panda Suits

Posted by Kat at 07:51 AM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2010

Morning Cheer (12/7/10)

Good morning! It's Pearl Harbor Day, and Julian Assange was just arrested. And I'm rushing off to try to get an oil change before work, so I have little for you this morning, except eek! Someone stole a Stradivarius! I realized I haven't posted any Hanukkah music yet this year, so here's one of my favorites:

Posted by Kat at 07:09 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2010

Sunday Brunch Cheer (12/5/10)

Good morning! What's everyone up to today? I think I'm going to stay home and try to get stuff done around the house. I went and saw Tangled yesterday, and it was adorable. Highly recommended.

Hee. The lieutenant governors had a convention.

This project doing statistical research on Victorian novels is fascinating.

Does Apple have its eye on console games?

Marilyn Stasio's Notable Crime Books of 2010, which includes the amazing line "To be really bold, give gifts that make people cry."

Posted by Kat at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2010


Good morning! Happy Saturday! My weekend plans consist of cleaning, Christmas shopping, reading, and maybe seeing a few movies. You?

Important Notice: It has come to my attention that some people might not realize that Ari Shapiro is hot. Now you know.

Okay, I have a LOT of links for you today, because I've been getting behind. Ready?

Before we get into the rest of this nonsense, you should really take a moment and read Yglesias on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's short but important. And then Jamelle Bouie on the Catholic League and National Portrait Gallery. Same deal there.

People. PEOPLE. The President will not get a serious primary challenge. Charles will not and should not abdicate for William. Can we just STOP with these two rumors already?

Winter in Russia

Yes, food is part of the culture wars.

The Roosevelt Island Tramway has reopened.

How Republicans are using WikiLeaks to indulge their spy thriller fantasies

The Times talks to a Christmas tree man.

People love single-focus restaurants.

I would be in favor of a port revival.

Hey look, a TV Advent Calendar.

This is the best explanation of the Comcast/Netflix thing that I've read.

What's each 2012 candidate's big vulnerability?

The Clarence House Christmas tree arrives!

I have been waiting for metamorphosis puns for months. Thank you, Byron Tau!

The Wonder and Terror of College Football

Why do we hate modern classical music?

A slightly different take on the economics of gift-giving.

Automats have always sounded kind of fascinating.

Infidelity in Russia

Amazon Prime is a genius business move. And yes, I figured, considering the amount of money I now spend with them because of it.

Manjoo is right: disposable computing is the future.

I really kind of want some of these Lego architecture sets.

I now want to have holiday parties just to make these drinks.

Baking isn't scary if you just follow the recipe.

The Bartender Who Played with Fire isn't quite as weird as a Stieg Larsson book, but it's close.

Posted by Kat at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)

December 03, 2010


Happy Friday! My God, it has not come a moment too soon. One of my goals for the weekend is to finish planning out my baking and card-sending and all that. Wish me luck.

This Steve Martin story is completely ridiculous. Really, people? Really?

The Times has named their Ten Best Books of the year.

The real-life Swedish murder that came before Larsson and Mankell.

The state of the Hannukah song.

There are no Kennedys in Congress right now. Who's next?

Even when you look at it from a purely economic standpoint, Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits makes no sense.

Hannukah, Rekindled

I liked this article about the NYT selling their share of the Red Sox just for this line:

Even in 2002, the general consensus was that a print newspaper with $75 million to invest would have been better served throwing the money--literally throwing it--at the first programmer, TED panelist, or bronchial hobo who said he had an idea for making money off the Web.
But I'd also forgotten they owned the Sox!

The WikiLeaks cables as literature

The Atlantic's Ideas of the Year

What's with Betsy Rothstein?

I like Doctor Who as much as the next girl, but I'd only pay $4500 for a TARDIS bed if the Doctor actually CAME WITH IT.

Posted by Kat at 08:13 AM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2010


My God, is this week over yet? No? Really? Oh, but happy Hannukah to those celebrating!

Today's Morning Edition highlights: Does Paterson have a future in sports radio? What makes a good diplomatic cable?

The last Mitford sister has published her memoirs.

This history of ballet sounds fascinating.

This article about how Kate Middleton will fit into court protocol is detailed and fascinating, but sheesh, people. There are rules. Just follow them. Why all the drama?

Dave Weigel read Sarah Palin's new book so you don't have to.

Where are the departing senators going?

This piece about the student demonstrations in London is fascinating, and has a picture of the best protest sign EVER.

I know I was talking about going to see Oscar contenders, but this weekend, what I actually want to take myself to see are Burlesque and Tangled.

Posted by Kat at 08:04 AM | Comments (2)

December 01, 2010


Oh, hey, look, it's December! Wow. Monday and Tuesday went pretty smoothly, at least around here, but today is a little rockier so far, so here's a cute video to ease you into Wednesday: A cat adopts a baby squirrel and teaches it to purr.

Slate's 80 Over 80

What are diplomatic cables, anyway?

I've always wanted to try making sourdough. This Slice Starter-Along might be enough to make me finally do it.

You should really read this essay by a Harvard student who was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child.

I've been looking for a list like this: 13 Movies to See Before the Oscars

Bloomberg? Really?

I could get behind the drip coffee backlash backlash. I mean, seriously. A few minutes ago I tried to put a coffee filter in my teacup. The more labor-intensive coffee preparation methods sound nice and all, but don't ask me to do that before I've had caffeine.

Does Shonda Rhimes ever sleep?

The new Nutcracker movie sounds AWFUL, and that makes me sad.

Bob Geldof knows he wrote the worst Christmas song ever. He's sorry.

Posted by Kat at 08:04 AM | Comments (1)

November 29, 2010

MORNING CHEER (11/29/10)

Good morning and happy Monday! We're at that point at which we're just past Thanksgiving and it seems like it's time for Christmas, but then comes the realization that we have another four weeks of work to get through first. Sigh. So let's have some nice mellow music to get us through this Monday morning back at work:

I don't know much about this blog in general, so I'm not endorsing their overall program or anything, but a friend sent me the link to this list of things to do now to get ready for Christmas and it has some good ideas.

This Morning Edition story about a gay Marine discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell was very interesting.

Leslie Nielsen has died, and here's where I admit that I've never seen any of his movies. I know, I know. I shall Netflix Airplane posthaste.

NPR is doing a Christmas Carol-themed series on the deficit. I love NPR.

Posted by Kat at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2010

Brunch-time CHEER

It's not technically morning anymore; I'm sorry. But hey, it's Sunday, so we'll call it brunch! It's been a busy morning at my parents' house and now I'm getting ready to head home this afternoon. I'm thinking "Home for the Holidays," with its mention of traffic issues, is good for days on which I'll be driving a lot. Are there other songs about traffic, or should I just use different versions of this one? Hmm.

Three good links from Apartment Therapy:
Goblets for the Holidays (Slightly random, I know, but I love goblets.)
Last Minute Things to Do before you entertain
Setting Up a Beautiful and Efficient Buffet

Posted by Kat at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2010

MORNING CHEER (11/27/10)

Good morning! Welcome to your first edition of MORNING CHEER! The dog (my parents' dog) and I are the only ones up, and he's gazing at me adoringly, which is nice, but he's kind of stinky. Anyway! You need a morning song! I promise I won't use Glee music every day, but we've been decorating my parents' house, and I love their version of "Deck the Halls" . . .

A few Thanksgiving-specific links I didn't manage to post before Thanksgiving:
Where to Buy Last-Minute Thanksgiving Pie in New York
What all the food magazines are pushing this year.
The women of Slate on mothers and holiday cooking traditions. (Warning: This made me cry.)
I know I already recommended this Awl series in general, but this apple pie recipe reads like some sort of cross of Spencer Ackerman and Jay McInerney, and it's completely hilarious and now I want to make pie. (The pie crust article it links to is pretty great too.)
Backstage at the Macy's Parade

These were written for Thanksgiving but will work for the whole month of holiday events to come. Want to win all the arguments at the holiday dinner tables? Slate and Foreign Policy have you covered.

Happy news! The early, out-of-print novels of Rafael Yglesias are now available as ebooks.

Looking for a movie to see with family or friends over the holidays? TWoP has you covered.

Annie Lowrey visits the offices of one of the companies that makes those airport scanners everyone's talking about.

Which books are Penguin authors giving and hoping to get this year?

I liked the Avalon High movie better than the folks at Forever Young Adult did, but their take on it is hilarious regardless.

Not quite feeling the holiday spirit? This is for you.

Ten Things I Hate About Slideshows [A Slideshow]

Posted by Kat at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2009

Christmas Song Roundup: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

My father recently proclaimed that this was his favorite Christmas song. Who knew? Certainly not any of us! So this one is for him. The classic version, of course, is Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis:

But this, of course, is the version I grew up with, from the incomparable Christmas Eve on Sesame Street:

And, of course, Kermit and Miss Piggy sing it in the much-overlooked but classic Muppet Family Christmas. I couldn't find it on its own, but it starts about 1:50 into this clip:

This won't embed, but it's Frank Sinatra singing, set to scenes from Love, Actually.

And let's end with a little Ella:

Posted by Kat at 07:37 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2009

Five Christmas Songs I HATE

As I've mentioned, I am generally a big fan of holiday music. But there are a few songs I completely loathe and despise. Let me tell you about them.

5. "Baby, It's Cold Outside"
This one is a classic, and I will readily admit that I love the music. I mean, Frank Loesser! Ella Fitzgerald did it all the way back in 1949! But have you listened to the lyrics? Let's just say that after hearing this ALL THE TIME while working at Borders, I started calling it "the date rape song."

4. "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"
I think there are two types of people: those who find that song title amusing, and those who find it completely traumatic and uncomfortable and want to run screaming. I am in the latter camp. Obviously. I don't think I've ever even listened to this whole song, because the entire concept just freaks me out so much. I just read through the lyrics - just for you - and . . . yeah. I do not understand why this is funny. At all.

3. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
For this song to work, at least one of the following must be true:
1. Santa is not real.
2. Santa is an adulterer.
CLEARLY neither of those can be true. Therefore, this song will not be tolerated.

2. "The Christmas Shoes"
So a few weeks ago, my boss e-mailed me saying "I found this great new version of The Christmas Shoes. It's much better than the original. Listen to it." So I said "Okay!" and went off to listen. It took me about thirty seconds to remember that my issue with the original had nothing to do with the music - it's the lyrics. It's so theologically and narratively questionable that I'm not even sure where to start, but here are a few of my issues:
1. Why does this kid know his mother's shoe size?
2. Why shoes? That seems bizarre. Why not a pretty dress or scarf or necklace or something? Shoes? Really?
3. Why is this child wandering around alone, all dirty? Even if the father is at the hospital with the mother, say, surely he thought to have someone supervise his child.
4. Okay, so one of the big supposedly heartwarming themes is that the mother needs the shoes to look pretty if she "meets Jesus tonight." One option here is that the songwriters thought that Jesus would actually care what someone is wearing. This is clearly preposterous, although supposedly they wrote the song in four minutes, so who knows. I guess the other option is that we're supposed to think it's cute that the kid thinks it would matter, but - if he's old enough to know his mother's shoe size, and clearly has some sort of religious background - he's talking about his mother "meeting Jesus," after all - isn't he old enough to be familiar with one of the most elementary tenets of Christianity: that clothes and outward appearances don't matter?
I mean, I get that the POINT is supposed to be that the boy is just thinking about his mother, and that prompts the adult narrator to think about the meaning of Christmas and to help the kid out. But the whole "mother dying" thing just complicates matters. I think the piece would have been stronger if the child was just recognizing all the sacrifices his mother had made and wanting to get her something nice, without the whole illness thing. And also! The dying mother angle - which supposedly is part of what reminds the narrator "what Christmas is all about" - seems like much more of a Resurrection thing than an Incarnation thing. The Resurrection is important, of course, but that's not what Christmas is all about, exactly. (I am similarly baffled by my neighbors who have a large cross on their roof made out of Christmas lights.) I am all for keeping my Solemnities separate.

1. "Dominick the Donkey"
Is this a national phenomenon, or is it a Boston thing? In any case, this has been on the radio constantly the past few Christmases. Yesterday was the first time I ever listened to the whole thing (in preparation for this post), because I usually just slam the radio off as quickly as possible when it comes on. Apparently it has been around since 1960 and is "traditionally popular with Italian families," but, um, not my Italian family. (Is there anything in Italian Christmas tradition about this donkey that precedes this song? I couldn't find anything, but I didn't have time to do tons of research. It certainly doesn't look like La Befana, the traditional Italian gift-bringer, has a donkey.) I could make a case for how this is offensive to Italians or Democrats or, heck, Dominican friars or something, but honestly, my main problem with this song is just that it's SO FREAKING ANNOYING.

Posted by Kat at 06:16 AM | Comments (2)

December 09, 2009

Orrin Hatch wrote a Hanukkah song?

Orrin Hatch? Really? Apparently. I . . . don't even know what to say about this.

Eight Days of Hanukkah from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

(Via Ezra Klein.)

Posted by Kat at 05:45 PM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2009

Christmas Song Roundup: "Little Saint Nick"

This one is for my cousin Liz, who claims to have never heard a Beach Boys Christmas song. How awful for her! :)

It's a great song, but really, the main thing I associate with it is standing in a long holiday shopping line with my dad - K-Mart, maybe? Toys 'R' Us? Not sure. I was maybe nine. This song came on, and he explained the concept of a truism to me using the line "Christmas comes this time each year." I now think of that conversation every single time I hear this song. Which is frequently, because it's on the radio all the time. So I contend that Liz must have heard it and just not realized. Just saying.

And, of course, it was used in what was possibly the best commercial ever:

Now, I am usually the first to protest that penguins and polar bears live on opposite poles and therefore are not wont to frolic together. But, as my best friend pointed out the first time we saw this commercial, it packs an awful lot of things I love into a minute: Christmas! The Beach Boys! Coca-Cola! Penguins! Adorable baby animals! It's nothing short of brilliant, really.

Posted by Kat at 06:51 AM | Comments (2)

December 04, 2009

Christmas Song Roundup: "Elf's Lament"

One of my absolute favorite modern Christmas songs is "Elf's Lament" from the Barenaked Ladies album Barenaked for the Holidays. It's hilarious and clever, and hey, pro-union! I'm all for combining progressive politics with traditional Christmas stuff. The album version includes Michael Buble, but unfortunately I couldn't find a version on YouTube that included him. This live version is pretty good, though:

Posted by Kat at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2009

Christmas Song Roundup: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"

Upon a rather alarming amount of reflection, I have concluded that I may have been overhasty in my dismissal of Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" in the gift guide review the other day. It is a great track, although I stand by my convictions that it is not the greatest Christmas song of all time and that there are even better songs on that particular album. I also concede that I am biased by my general distaste for romantically-themed Christmas songs (with a few notable exceptions, but we'll get to that later too). Thematically, this is basically a standard Darlene Love song with an overlay of Christmas, rather than an actually Christmas-centric song, and that might be why I'm not quite as wild about it as some seem to be. But her voice, and that wall of sound . . . I cannot possibly deny that, musically, this is pretty darn good. So here it is. You should listen to it.

A few years ago, my best friend said he was going to learn to play "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" so he'd have something seasonal for some December gigs. And I was all "You're going to play . . . a Darlene Love song? Really?" "No!" he insisted. He was going to play a U2 song! And I was baffled. But!

(My gosh, all that hair!) Okay. That's a good version too. But Bono, much as I love him, is no Darlene Love. Still. Perfectly adequate. And it looks like there really is a Leighton Meester version:

I kind of like it, but then, I'm rather a Leighton Meester fan (because of her acting more than her music), so I can see that those of you who don't have those happy associations with her might not be so impressed. I do not, however, approve of the way that someone on YouTube set it to a scene of Blair (the character Meester plays on Gossip Girl) and Nate kissing in the snow because, ahem, BLAIR BELONGS WITH CHUCK. But! Moving on: Joey Ramone!

And . . . Death Cab for Cutie?

Okay, that one's not so interesting. YouTube also has Mariah Carey and Bruce Springsteen doing this, but I think I've embedded enough videos for one post.

(This was the first of what will likely be a series of posts in which I try to make you listen to Christmas songs I like, because I love Christmas music to a somewhat ridiculous extent and there's a very limited timeframe in which it is socially acceptable to discuss it. So. Just a warning! Do you have a favorite carol or song you want me to blog about? Let me know!)

Posted by Kat at 07:27 AM | Comments (0)

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