Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmastime is Here Again

About a week ago, I had what can only be described as a profound revelation: Tomorrow will be the fifty-second Christmas I have seen in my life - and yet I've never had a bowl of figgy pudding. Would someone please bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here? Thanks.

"On Christmas day you can't be sore
Your fellow man, you must adore
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three-hundred and sixty-four...."

Tom Lehrer, 1959

'Tis the season to be jolly? It's Christmas Eve and - to be perfectly frank with you - I'm not feeling all that jolly. There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, of course, is the crass, commercial exploitation of what should be one of the holiest days of the year. I can really relate to Charlie Brown in that classic, 1965 television program. The real meaning of Christmas has been obscured in a fog of mindless, consumer excess. Our very economic survival depends upon our making a mockery of the birth of Jesus Christ at the end of every year.

"Christmas comes but once a year
So you'd better make hay while the spirit lingers
It's slipping through your fingers, boy
Don't you realize?
Christmas can be such a monetary joy!"

Stan Freberg, 1958

Oh, the weather outside is frightful....

I am not a huge fan of popular Christmas music. I love the traditional stuff - Schubert's Ave Maria, for example, I think is the most beautiful piece of music ever composed. But there are a few exceptions: Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song are undeniable classics. Bob Dylan's new LP is called Christmas in the Heart. The man can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. It's a wonderful record. He even does a good job with Winter Wonderland - a tune I have always loathed with a passion I can't even describe. Good for you, Uncle Bobby!

But for the most part, popular Christmas music has been known to make me sick to my stomach. One tune in particular is enough to drive me to extreme violence. Dick Wells is a legendary disc jockey and singer. Back in the fifties and sixties he was the vocalist for the Harry James Orchestra. He is also a good friend and an expert on the subject of popular songs. A few winters ago in the midst of a horrible blizzard, I had a telephone conversation with him that went like this.

DEGAN: Dick, who wrote, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow?

DICK: Tom, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow was written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne

DEGAN: Are Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne still alive, Dick?

Dick: No, Tom. Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne are both dead.

DEGAN: Good.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is another "Christmas song" I wish had never been written. I find it amazing and ironic that the root of Gene Autry's extraordinary fortune is based on the fact that he penned this hideously dreadful piece of holiday trash. Gene Autry is also dead. No comment. It's Christmas. Joy to the world.

The bumper stickers tell us to "keep Christ in Christmas". Really? As a Christian, I think these bumper stickers should read, "Keep Christ in Everything" Christ should be a beacon and inspiration to all - Christians and non-Christians alike - not the cop-on-the-beat that the right wing would have Him be. But that's just my opinion. Pay it no mind. Jingle. Jingle.

I have a serious problem with people who blaspheme the name of Jesus for their own selfish ends - some of our elected representatives for instance. As I write these words, the United States Senate is within minutes of passing what some are describing as "major health care legislation". It isn't that at all. In fact it is barely worth acknowledging. Fall on your knees. Oh, hear the angel's voices. Oh, night divine....

These so-called "Christian" politicians (and one "observant" Jew) have done everything humanly possible to see to it that the lives of the American people will be held hostage by the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies forever - or until a revolution comes along. Not much is going to change in the meantime - and it will be a very mean time, I assure you. We will continue to die two years younger than they do in Europe. We will continue to have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the industrialized world. Have yourselves a merry little Christmas.

We celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace while waging two senseless wars at such a safe distance from our shores, most of us don't even bother to pay attention to them. We will continue to piss away our national treasure on the military industrial complex while the well being of our children is gambled away in the plutocracy's crap game. We are a nation addicted to weapons of war. Let's face it, that's never going to change. If tomorrow our armaments industry ceased to be, the entire American economy would implode before sundown. So much hypocrisy. So little space. Santa Claus is coming to town.

"Blessed are the peacemakers.
for they shall be called sons of God."

Jesus of Nazareth

Oh, and did I mention that I hate Santa Claus? I really do, you know. I say this without any fear of coal in my stocking. You see, I haven't received a thing from the hideous old bastard since 1966. That was the year I spiked his hot cocoa with a generous portion of Old Granddad. Santa, although a rather large person, doesn't hold his alcohol too well. I found this out the hard way. After leaving our presents under the tree, he took off from the roof or our home and crashed into the Finkle house across the street. Two reindeer were killed. Horrible carnage.

To boil it down to the unpleasant essentials, although I love the story of the nativity and the true meaning of Christmas, I'm beginning to despise the Christmas holiday - but that's just me. This year I am afflicted with Grinch Syndrome. Or might you call it, "Scrooge Disorder"? The problem is that I am - and always have been - at heart, an angry person. I try to cover up that rage with a facade of silliness, but that's basically who I am. As Frank Sinatra once sang in the very last recording he made for Columbia Records in 1952, "Don't try to change me now."

I really do wish you and yours a happy and blessed holiday. I should end on a hopeful note, I know, but I have nothing hopeful to offer you. The hope I was feeling a year ago today has all-but-evaporated. Barack Obama could have been Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he seems hell-bent on being Bill Clinton. Blue Christmas.

No, there's not a whole lot of hope here. So I'll reach back into the archives and give you something I wrote almost two years ago on Christmas Day, 2007:

"Keep your eyes open for the miracles all around you. And remember the simple truth that there is more music to be found in the laughter of a single child than can be found in all of the symphonies ever composed by all of the composers who ever lived."

There. Is that better? Happy Christmas, everyone!

Which reminds me - just what the hell is figgy pudding anyway?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Christmas From The Heart
by Bob Dylan


How the Mitch Stole Christmas....

This pathetic, watered-down health care legislation is just too much of a giveaway for the Right Wing to handle. A few minutes ago Mitch McConnell said on the floor of the senate that the fight is far from over; that his party is determined to defeat this bill.

And he did the same thing to the other Who's houses
Leaving crumbs much too small for the other Who's mouses....

Happy Christmas, Mitch!


At 6:20 AM, Blogger Sue said...

you are right about blasphemers Tom, and Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Merry Christmas and may your New Year be prosperous!

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Tracy Murphy said...

Hi Tom

I like your thinking! Thank you.

I did not know what the heck figgy pudding was either. So I googled it. More of a sloppy cake with smashed up fig newtons (where else can you find figs?), the dessert dates back to around the 15th or 16th century. Tradition or not, I don't think I will be making it this year--or next.

Here is a special Christmas song for you Tom:

Merry Christmas!

Your friend,

The History of Figgy Pudding and Recipes (for those so inclined):

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

You made my day, Lady Tracy!

And so, Happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young....

Thank you Tracy Murphy.

Thank you John Lennon.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

OK, I'll come clean: I've never had, nor do I know of anyone else who's had, figgy pudding; the fact that the thing looks bloody awful, notwithstanding.

Thanks again for the read Tom - always poignant, cursive and rangy!

And a peaceful and Merry Christmas to you and yours, and all regular readers here!

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

And to you, too, CNL, and all my love to merrie old England!

The visitors atlas tells me that you're in the north west - in Liverpool, perhaps?


At 10:52 AM, Blogger jasondylan said...

Happy Holidays Tom!

Laughter is the best medicine and you are close to being certified.

Keep the home fires burning and churning this out this great stuff.

Wisdom is easier to swallow when distilled with humor.

Thank goodness my wine rack is full!
Many Hot Toddys to you and yours!

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Yes, north west England - Manchester!

I'll raise to your health tonight Tom!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

Okay, one and all; I have to step up to the plate and confess. As someone who loves to cook, I have made figgy pudding and can tell you that if you have never had it, you ain't missin' nothing!!! Just enjoy singing about it and let it be.

And Tom; many thanks for a great year of provocative writing, and in with the humor, thanks for the little stings about bad Christmas music and "Christian" politicians. All too true.

If you want some great Christmas music, go to YouTube and check out Christmas in A Beer Joint by those two lovable guys from Red State Update.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Mycue23 said...

Merry Christmas, Tom. It has been a great joy of mine to discover your writing this year. Keep up the good work and remember, Christmas comes but once a year, but figgy pudding is a year round treat.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thank you, friend. Now you got me to thinking, I have got to try figgy pudding at least once

This is my quest!



At 6:48 PM, Blogger finefroghair said...

tom, tom, tom, I never figured you for a scrooge but what the hell someone's got to be why not you. Come on Rudolph's a great story I think you would fit nicely on the Island of Misfit Toys. Spot on every time I read your blog I swear that you are reading my mind. The only thing we differ on is I am atheist please don,t hold it against me. Man I know you've got other things to do but I wish you posted a blog every day hell even twice a day but I can't have everything, so I'll just have to be Happy with the ones I get. You should be a national treasure, to me you are internet royalty keep up the great work and have a Happy Winter Soltice..

At 8:08 PM, Blogger HeirloomRose said...

I'm another fan from the red state of Arizona but in the blue island near Tucson! I always come back to your blog after reading a lot of progressive stuff. Do you read Joe Bageants column by chance?
I am thinking we are reaping the bad karma we have inflicted on our indigenous populations, not to mention all the other nations where our government has meddled and overthrown other leaders.
I don't like Christmas either, esp the church music. I am almost 62 and i think i started being a Scrooge when I was your age!! I love your blog BTW

At 9:08 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

HeirloomRose and finefroghair....

Thank you more than I can express for the words of encouragement. That really is a nice thing to come home to on Christmas Eve! I am speechless.

Thanks again, folks.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 9:12 PM, Anonymous finrfroghair said...

it's the night before Christmas
and I am wearing a frown
the country now realizes
we elected a clown

we were duped
now we've been had
Obomber screws us
man its so sad

the graveyard of empires
that's what it's called
Afghanistan sucks
and I am appalled

a few dozen people
living in caves
have sent thousands
to their early graves

along comes Obomber
and exactly on cue
we need more soldiers
this can not be true

the place is a shit hole
from bottom to top
this stupid strategy
will most certainly flop

where is the outrage
oh what a shame
this never ending
most sickening game

America the Beautiful
that's what they say
if this is called pretty
I'll take ugly okay

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I am with you on the older christmas music, cannot stand the cartoon crap :o)

Have a great day tomorrow.

At 2:24 AM, Blogger Suzan said...

You are dead on about that Dylan, friend, but how could you be wrong about THE MAN?

Hope you get some respite over the next week or so and charge up your batteries for the days ahead as we desperately need your strong voice to continue the fight against the forces of evil and venality.

Thanks for all you do.


At 4:10 AM, Anonymous Kathleen Mairead said...

Excellent, excellent piece Tom. Wow, you penned my feelings of Christmas exactly. Ok, maybe I'm a little more forgiving on the music - but Ave Maria, by far, IS one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.
I have this Catholic guilt thing every Christmas - guilt over the fact that basically I have come to dread Christmas. I pretty much hate Christmas, or rather, what Christmas has become. I don't like who I am at Christmas either. My own anger and sadness seem to rear their ugly heads the most during what should be the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Now, I thought you ordered up that figgy pudding....
Have a peaceful Christmas day Tom.

~Kathleen H.

At 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"one good laugh is worth a thousand right answers"

Yes-I am laughing alot these days because the right answers are as elusive as hen's teeth.

Dr. Rick Lippin

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Tom,

My grandkids called to tell me all they got for Christmas was a lump of coal in their stockings.

These kids will have to carry the cross of the National Debt for the Utopian Dreams of the most corrupt people in the world: our "leaders" in the House and Senate. Using taxpayer money to buy Senate votes is a disgrace and the founders of this country are rolling over in their graves.

The bill passed was a joke with regards to reforming health care, but was a short term political victory. In the long term, 2010 elections, it will most likely be a loss. The Health Care system will still be broke and costs will only go down when a real market exists.

If camera crews could record the Senators and capture on film all the secret meetings and negotiations, it would be Americas number 1 Reality TV show. Maybe the advertisement revenue could make a dent in the National Debt dumped on the backs of our children.

Possible stars of the show:

Harry "the ring leader" Reid

Barack "Change is Here" Obama

Mary "the $300 million whore" Landrieu

Joe "the Jackass" Lieberman

Ben "Medicaid exemption" Nelson

Bernie Sanders who did little squawking since his state will get some extra pork

Chris Dodd who also got some pork

What I really wonder about is how much scripting is involved in our Senator's dramatic scenes.

The last thing I want to mention is how come Howard Dean has stopped squawking about the passed Senate HC bill. Did somebody slip him a paper bag filled with cash?

Archie Bunker

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

My year has been enriched with your sardonic wit and excellent writing. I sincerely wish you a warm and cheery Christmas - without the figgy pudding. My grandmother used to make fig preserves that was delicious, but pudding?

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thank you for that, Leslie. Hope you're having a grand day!

Love and Peace on Earth,

Tom Degan

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Chris said...

A fun read as usual! Hope you have a great holiday!!

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Anthony J. Pennings, PhD said...

You may not get gifts, but your presence is always a gift. Good to see you Christmas Eve!

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...


It was wonderful seeing you, your beautiful and sweet wife, and precious daughter as well. You must be the happiest man in the world.

I am jealous.

Happy Christmas!


At 4:25 AM, Blogger Lydia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4:28 AM, Blogger Lydia said...

You can be jealous of Anthony's domestic bliss while I - and how many others? - remain jealous of your writing skills! This post was absolutely excellent.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thank you, Lydia. Those are some encouraging words to wake up to!

Happy New Year!

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said...

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet, the words repeat
Of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men

I thought as now this day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rung so long the unbroken song
of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no Peace on Earth", I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men

Then peal the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Lauren said...

Tom--it's the 26th, but I enjoyed your latest rant (even though I'm not a believer)--you speak from the heart and are NOT a Grinch! Don't give up hope anyway.

I'm disappointed that the president didn't channel LBJ in the health care reform process--to me that's an unforgivable waste of his command of a bully pulpit for him not to have used his eloquence to come out in unequivocal terms to promote the public option (much less single payer, which is what I want).

It has been clear for quite some time that the corporate media have been complicit in promoting the neo-conservative agenda. Did we seriously expect the election in 2008 to cause them to stop doing that? Should we have accepted that the voters who came out for Obama would not be as fired up a year later, after all the well-covered teabagger events?

These are dangerous times for our country, partly because of the extremists on the right, like Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, etals, who continue to pound away with their message on corporate airwaves.

Scandinavia looks better & better, not that it didn't always look good. But first I have to learn some languages.

In the meantime--let's all take it one day at a time, resist the darkness & push back.

But first: have a lovely holiday season. Best wishes to you and yours. Let's put a fork in 2009 and declare this mongrel of a year done with! Am looking forward to 2010.

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Amen, Sister Lauren!

Those are very good words to close this "mongrel of a year out". I could not agree with you more. Happy New Year!



At 5:50 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Belated merry Christmas, Tom. It's been truly a pleasure to read your excellent blog for the last couple of years. Your innate ability to infuse humor into the most serious of subject matter, lifts the dead-weight of what sometimes seems like a futile attempt to reconcile the truth with the unseemly reality of the current political landscape.

Wishing you the best, along with your vast readership, of just and peaceful 2010...


At 8:28 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thank you, Mr. Frank....

It's an honor and a joy to live in the same century with you.

Happy new year, pal!

Tom Degan

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Tom, the feeling is mutual.

Peace and joy...

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rock on TD! Rock on! I love it!

At 2:00 PM, Blogger DutchHeretic said...

Figgy pudding is a pudding resembling a paler coloured Christmas pudding containing figs. The pudding may be baked, steamed in the oven, boiled or fried.[1]

Err reading this you didn't miss much Tom
figs YUK

3 more years to go LOL


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