52 Albums, Week 52: The Weavers At Carnegie Hall
52 Poems, Week 1: The Darkling Thrush (Thomas Hardy)

Sunday Night Journal, December 31, 2017

I hate to admit it, but for four or five years now I've been slowly turning into one of those people who feel depressed at the approach of Christmas. Still, I usually find that I snap out of it, more or less, by the time the day itself arrives--if I don't feel so very good, I at least stop feeling bad, and even rise to mild cheerfulness. This year I didn't make much attempt to talk myself out of it or fight it, but just accepted that this is the way it is now.

My wife and I seriously considered not getting a tree. She's been leaning that way for a while, as most of our children are far away, and our local grandchildren would not be at our house for more than a few days of the two weeks or so that are generally encompassed in the term "the holidays." So the two of us would for the most part be the only "audience" for it, and in that case was it really worth the trouble? Left to her own devices I think she would not have had one, but I can't quite bear to let the custom go. We decided to compromise by getting a small one, so on the Saturday two weeks before Christmas I went off to Fish River Trees while she worked on the deep carpet of cypress needles and sycamore leaves that covered the yard.

Some years ago my late friend Robert sent me a mixtape that included a lot of pre-rock-and-roll Christmas music by people like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I've never been very fond of secular Christmas-pop songs like "The Christmas Song" (aka "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire"), and the truth is that much of the material on that tape struck me as cheesy. But for several years while we still had children at home I played it in the car on the way to the tree farm. And I learned to like the Sinatra album with which it began, A Jolly Christmas. In time I bought the CD, and when my youngest child was still at home, and it was sometimes just the two of us going to get the tree, it was a bit of a tradition for us to hear it on the way there and back, not without a certain irony produced by the old-fashioned swingin' '50s way in which it starts off: a jazzy re-working of "Jingle Bells" which includes a group of background singers  in an upbeat chant of "I love those j-i-n-g-l-e bells--OH!--those holiday j-i-n-g-l-e bells." 

I wasn't sure whether I wanted to listen to it the other day. I thought it might just be sad. But I decided to do it anyway, and if it made me feel sad about past Christmases, well, I would just wallow in it. 

And it did turn out to be a bit of a wallow, not for anything personal to me, but for what has been lost in our culture since 1957, when the album was recorded. This is not a desire to "return to the 1950s", as is generally charged against anyone who feels any sort of nostalgia for the time. There were certainly a great many things wrong with American life at the time, and we can be glad that some of them have been corrected. But only a fool--well, an old fool or a young person who doesn't know any better--can fail to see that in many significant ways American culture is now meaner, cruder, dumber, more dishonest, and vastly more cynical than it was then. You may argue that on the whole things are better; fine, I might even agree with you, depending on what's in front of me at the moment. But still: something has been lost. Much has been lost, in fact. It seems inevitable that mankind will always throw out babies along with bath water, and steer clear of Scylla only to be dragged under by Charybdis.

The Sinatra album is an instance. It's about evenly divided between secular pop Christmas songs (why is "Jingle Bells" even considered a Christmas song, anyway?) and carols. The carols are truncated, made to fit the two-and-a-half-minute strait jacket of the popular music of the time, but are simply and tastefully arranged (by Gordon Jenkins) and presented with an unforced respect, even reverence. A word comes to mind, a somewhat casual word which acknowledges that some things are better than others in ways that ought be obvious to all, not as profound moral truths but as a matter of a properly formed sense of what is decent and appropriate: "class," as in "classy." It has a bad and laughable sense, as used by people who lack the thing itself, in which it refers to something meretricious, something marked by an insincere or misguided attempt to appropriate class: "Let's put an "e" on "old" to give it more class." But in its good sense it signifies respect for that which actually has merit, for a certain dignity and grace: "The losing team showed its class by congratulating the winners."

The Sinatra album has class, which is something we don't often get from popular music today, and I ended up listening to the CD five or six times over the past few weeks, and deciding that I like it quite a lot.

I kept returning to one song, one of the pop-Christmas songs that I've heard for most of my life and never paid much attention to: "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." This is an odd little song. The title, which begins and ends the lyric, seems somewhere between wry and spiteful. The whole thing is subdued, almost somber, wistful, and a little mysterious. You have the sense that something is going on, something not explicitly referred to, and that the hopeful words ("From now on our troubles will be out of sight") may be in defiance of that something, or at least relief that it's over. And the music is definitely melancholy, and far from jolly. But then in the next to last line the melody ascends where it had descended, so that "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough" becomes a cry of hope.

The song comes from the musical Meet Me In St. Louis, and until tonight I didn't know what its context in the drama is. I could have found out easily enough, but had very deliberately not yet done so because I like the ambiguity of it, and the sense of its being extracted from a conversation we haven't heard.

So just now I did look it up, and now its melancholy makes perfect sense. It was in fact as originally written resisted by Judy Garland, who was to sing it in the original play, and others because they found it depressing. You can read the whole story of its revisions here; "depressing" it certainly was in the original:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last


The lyrics were revised heavily for the play, but the next-to-last line remained "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow." This was replace by the shining star for Sinatra, who thought muddling through wasn't quite the touch he wanted in his "jolly Christmas" album. And though one might decry it as bowdlerization I think in this case the late revision really makes the song.  At the moment it's certainly my favorite of the pop-Christmas repertoire.

All my quirky personal reactions aside, by the way, I can recommend this album to anyone who has any taste at all for this kind of music. Sinatra's voice was in its golden cello-like prime, and Gordon Jenkins was a top-notch arranger.

The tree turned out very nicely, by the way. It's only five feet tall, small enough that all but a few inches of it fit into the trunk of my Honda Civic, and light enough that I can pick it up with one hand: easily set up, and it will be easily taken down, but still bringing a sufficient amount of greenery, colored lights, and glittering ornaments, to the living room.  


Now that the 52 Albums project is over, there will probably be more discussion of music in this post. For instance: here is a Christmas playlist put together by Sigur Rós for BBC Radio 6. I don't see that it has anything to do with Christmas, but those who like the band will probably like at least some of the music. I know I'll be looking for more music by some of the artists represented. And at the very beginning you get to hear the voice of Sigur Rós herself. As fans of the band know, she is the sister of Jónsi, the band's vocalist, and she was only a few days old when the band was formed in 1994. So now she's twenty-three and introducing the band's playlist on the radio. It's interesting to hear the way she pronounces her name. I wouldn't have recognized it.


Speaking of 52 Things: as we discussed over the past week or two, this year it will be 52 Poems, appearing on Thursdays. I have something in mind for this week. Beyond that it's open. I said in that discussion that I would have specifications for the format, because formatting poetry for the web can be difficult. But after doing some experimenting I think that may not be necessary. We'll see. For now you can just send the poems in a Word or Word-compatible format, or in plain text. Or you can just send me a link, if the text is online, which is quite likely. So you can send me things whenever you want. If I have nothing by Wednesday morning, I'll supply a poem. If I have more than one I'll post them in the order received. And if two people send the same poem...well, I guess we'll cross that bridge if we come to it. Should I post a "dibs" list? Did anyone ever consult those in the past?

Also, I'm not soliciting original poems, or publishing any of mine. No offense but I just don't want to be in that position. 


Sunset, Christmas Day. SunsetChristmas2017Best wishes to all for a happy new year.


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Can I write about the poem if I want?


Of course. Optional but desirable. :-)

You will get no original poems from me! :)

I haven't heard Sinatra singing that song for a long time, but I always liked it. Maybe because, as you wrote, his voice was in its "golden cello-like prime". Great phrase.

Interesting that the fellow who wrote those depressing lyrics hailed from Alabama. :)

I know, I laughed at that. If you haven't clicked over to Wikipedia to read the original lyrics, you should. They are *really* gloomy.

"Great phrase"--thanks--I think Robert, the guy who sent me the tape, made the cello comparison.

I appreciate that, Louise. :-)

Last Saturday I listened to a podcast while driving, and the speaker seemed to be under the misapprehension that "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" belonged in the category "classic Christmas carol", along with "Jingle Bells". With no appearance of irony they excluded explicitly religious music from consideration, as uninclusive and therefore at odds with "the message of the season".

Perhaps it goes without saying that the speaker was American, but it still made me sad that there could be anyone anywhere in the world using the words "classic Christmas carol" in a way that shows so utterly deficient an understanding of Europe's musical traditions.

[inarticulate sputtering]

"I appreciate that, Louise."

Trust me, you don't even really know how much!

[inarticulate sputtering]

Well, indeed! :o

Sometimes I believe that the over commercialization of Christmas takes out some of the joy, but usually things redeem themselves on Christmas Day when the shopping is done.

Things are better things are worse. It is always been like that. Every age has its beauties and its horrors.

In my pious days l only listened to christmas hymns. These days l like Charlie Brown Christmas jazz and my favorite holiday song might be Joni Mitchell's the River.

Is that the song on Blue? JM's music has always been something I admire more than like.

The commercialism of Christmas per se doesn't bother me all that much anymore. The shabbiness of most of it does. And the way-too-early start. And the insistence on the generic "Holiday".

I like some of the secular trappings because they are cheerful and remind me of my childhood. And I like some of the secular Christmas songs, for the same reason, although I love the religious ones the best. Some of the newer songs are just dreadful; however, and they are of a quality that wouldn't be accepted in just regular songs or even commercials. Thankfully, I did not hear any of those this year because I didn't go out shopping.

It was a sad kind of Christmas here, for several reasons. I didn't even decorate except for the creche, but that was mostly due to exhaustion. I'm hoping next year I can step it up a bit.


I usually feel excited in the lead-up to Christmas then down after it's over, but this year it was different. I had a fair amount of "Christmas spirit" early on, but I lost it as the weeks progressed. I think this may have been because I started preparations a week or two earlier than usual -- right after Thanksgiving rather than the first or second week of December -- and I sort of peaked early, I guess. I won't make that mistake again.

For me Christmas is very much tied in with the childhood "sense of wonder" (always has been) and I've tried consciously not to lose that as I've gotten older. My childhood Christmas memories are very good ones, and I feel that they're a big part of that measure of "wonder" that I've managed to maintain, even when it pertains to other things. I've kidded with friends and relatives that I'm always happy on the first day of summer because it means we're halfway to Christmas. :)

Re: Christmas music there was an interesting post and discussion about it a couple weeks ago at The American Conservative. I wrote this, which ties into the comments about Sinatra:

~~Listen to the late 50’s/early 60’s collections of Christmas songs put out by Firestone, Goodyear, etc. What strikes me when I listen to them today is not only the balance between “religious” and “non-religious” themes, but the fact that there was very little overlap in musical tone between them: the non-religious songs could be bouncy, jaunty, even in some ways mildly “sexy,” but the religious songs are almost always treated seriously and with respect. This strongly suggests that people back then, both performers and listeners, had some sense of the difference between the two (even if they perhaps couldn’t articulate it).

I think this is borne out by the fact that on these records the religious and non-religious songs are often juxtaposed in a manner that people today might consider odd, even jarring. It seems to me, however, that people of that era must have been able to keep the two things (frivolity and piety?) straight in their heads so to speak, and had an idea when they could be mixed and when they couldn’t. I’d day that to a large degree we’ve lost that in our contemporary Christmas music.~~

Like "Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen."

I grew up listening to Sinatra, et. al. quite a bit. When I was a teenager, I had a portable stereo that I kept next to my bed, (Why I never tripped over it, I will never know.) and I used to stack up about 8 records on it before I went to bed. One of my favorites was a record I "borrowed" from my Dad by Sammy Davis, Jr. The album consisted of a bunch of songs that were nominated for an Academy Award, but didn't win. I was going to write about it for the Albums series, and even did quite a bit of research regarding the films the movies came from, but life interfered and I never got around to writing anything.


"Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen."? I fear you are going to tell me that those are the words of an Easter song.

When I was growing up I held all that non-rock-and-roll pop in disdain. That was all old-folks stuff. I guess I was in my 40s before I came to appreciate it, and that was probably Robert W's doing. At any rate I can't remember giving it any thought until then.

In turn I expected the next generation to hold the music I liked in disdain, and was surprised when they didn't. Now that I think of it, that's of a piece with the whole transition of the culture, with so much of the "counter-culture" becoming the norm.

This is a newish Christmas song (2010) that I like a lot. I heard it for the first time this year:


That Sammy Davis record reminds me that since I got my old turntable out of mothballs and have been buying vinyl again, I've slowly been replacing some of the records that my dad had and that I liked when I was a kid.

Good observations about the older approach to Christmas music, Rob. I read that AmCon piece and only partly agreed, but didn't feel like taking the time to argue. I'm inclined to gripe about contemporary Christmas music, but I've heard so little of it that I can't do so authoritatively. There was a mention on Facebook a week or two ago of a Mariah Carey Christmas song which, I was assured, it was impossible for me not to have heard. Well, maybe I have, but apparently not much, because I didn't recognize it.

Of course I never stopped listening to vinyl. I did stop acquiring it a few years ago, because I'm out of space. And because I promised my wife that I would not expand it.

Janet said: "I like some of the secular trappings because they are cheerful and remind me of my childhood."

Yes, that's pretty much me. Then when they are obviously shabby and cynical it's just depressing. The childhood sense of wonder that Rob talks about departed from me a long time ago, except for a faint hint of it that appears every now and then.

"The childhood sense of wonder that Rob talks about departed from me a long time ago, except for a faint hint of it that appears every now and then."

Yeah, I think that practically the entire culture works against it. I read something recently about Allen Tate, and why, though he was a successful poet and critic, he spent so much time and energy defending "traditional" understandings of God and man. The essayist said that it all boiled down to Tate's rejection of any ideology that threatened to reduce human life to some form of utilitarianism. That really struck a chord with me.

"Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen."? I fear you are going to tell me that those are the words of an Easter song.

Horrors, Maclin, it's Lewis.


From what? What's the context?

I mean what I said about the sense of wonder only in relation to Christmas and its accessories. I still have plenty of it about the world in general.

I think I could say more or less the same about myself as you say about Tate, except that I'd use the word "materialism" rather than "utilitarianism," though of course they're closely related. Meaning "materialism" in the philosophical sense, of course. I was a little shocked a while back when I encountered a person with a degree from a fairly prestigious college who seemed only to have heard it in its moral sense (acquisitiveness, greed, consumerism).

The chocolate eggs are vital, apparently.

There's a quote from Reflections on the Psalms here: https://generositymonk.com/2017/03/28/c-s-lewis-chocolate-eggs-and-jesus-risen/, but I haven't read very much of that book, and I seem to remember him talking about it in a more favorable context--not that this is negative--elsewhere.

The idea being that you can have both, and both are good as long as they are ordered correctly.


I could just imagine it as the chorus of a CCM tune.

Paul, it's good to know that the UK is not entirely spared the culture war. I really enjoyed the last few paragraphs of the commentary, explaining Easter, and that chocolate is not made from slaughtered animals.

CCM? I guess I should now, but I don't.


I know you know the thing itself: Contemporary Christian Music.


Ha! I hadn't even read that. It is hilarious.

Mac: Also, I'm not soliciting original poems, or publishing any of mine. No offense but I just don't want to be in that position.

One of my students was writing a PhD about a mystical theologian, and she found an online journal of mystical theology. Under the advice to the prospective authors, it said 'do not send in accounts of personal mystical experiences.'

Ha. Yes, that sounds like a similar impulse--or maybe fear. :-)

"I think I could say more or less the same about myself as you say about Tate..."

Yes, me too, and that is what struck me about the quote. It seems that most of us who have major disagreement with liberalism/modernism have a fear and loathing of seeing things that we cherish destroyed. Or instrumentalized, which amounts to the same thing. Before reading that piece I had never thought of it that way, but it makes a lot of sense.

That's something that liberalism never sees about conservatism: that much of it is about defending cherished things that are being attacked. They see the negative reaction to the attack as "hate".

"That tree is in the way, let's cut it down."


"You're so angry and hateful."

Unfortunately in the case of trees specifically American ideological conservatism is likely to be in favor of cutting it down.

I prefer the old Christmas albums too. Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis are probably my two favorites. However, that Mariah Carey song is a very good one, though she is an annoying diva.

I did hear it once, because somebody on Facebook posted it after I said I'd never heard it. It didn't make an impression.

Johnny Mathis had kind of an incredible voice.

Yesterday I listened to the Christmas tape that I mentioned in this post. Well, played it while I was working, so not exactly listened. I don't have a listing of the contents but there are half a dozen or so songs that seem to be sung by Nat King Cole that are really good.

"specifically American ideological conservatism is likely to be in favor of cutting it down"

Heh. Sad but true.

My sister has a Xmas CD that is a collection of songs by Cole, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin (3 or 4 each). Cole's struck me as the best of the three.

My favorite non-religious Christmas song is probably "Silver Bells." Obviously there are a lot of versions of it floating around, but I'm partial to Doris Day's.

One of my favorites is Sleigh Ride, and this is why. When I was a little girl, I was probably about 4 or 5, my parents had three 45s that were red, and one of them was Sleigh Ride. I think I probably like the music, but the red was the crowning touch. So, I used to sit in the foyer with the record player and a bunch of 45s and listen to them, and I would play Sleigh Ride over and over, and when it got to the crack of the whip, (I hope this doesn't give anyone heart failure.) I would take two other 45s and smack them together.


I don't like any nonChristian Christmas music that I can think of. Its not because its nonChristian. It has no memories for me. No one I knew in childhood listened to nonChristian Christmas music. The only one I can tolerate, I must confess is Lennon & Yoko, 'And so this is Christmas' - it takes me back.

It didn't give me heart failure but I did wince.

Does "Sleigh Ride" even mention Christmas? I can't remember. I remember at some point, when I was maybe 11 or 12, after having heard "Winter Wonderland" for years, why it was considered a Christmas song. Same goes for "Jingle Bells" of course. The persistence of that whole sleigh bells thing is pretty odd. How many people today and for some generations in the past have ever even heard them?

I was replying to Janet and her crashing 45s.

John & Yoko's song is kind of nice. It strikes me that it's an instance of the sort of living off the past that we often talk about--it seems to depend on associations with a more or less traditional Christmas, which younger people are not going to have.

That "sense of wonder" at Christmas is tied up a lot for me with the winter season. And that makes it really, really hard to achieve now that I'm living in New Zealand. I need the cold and the early dark nights for the tree and the lights and the shiny baubles to work their magic. And it doesn't help that ads for a Christmas barbie (BBQ) on the beach are plastered everywhere. ;-)

I have to listen to the Van Morrison album in order to achieve A Sense of Wonder. Though Christmas Eve Mass comes close...

The original Leroy Anderson Sleigh Ride didn't have words.

Right. The red record didn't have words.


Bet you two win trivia contests.

Marianne, I've felt sorry for people in the southern hemisphere on that count ever since I learned about it. Most of the U.S. doesn't have snow in December, but those of us who didn't were at least in the right season.

"Bet you two win trivia contests."

My son is a musician and a big fan of Leroy Anderson. He hates the version with lyrics and says so every time he hears it.

I'm no more than very vaguely aware there was a musician named Leroy Anderson.

Nothing I say is ever trivial. You just fail to grasp the deeper meaning.


It's not what you said as such, it's that you had that fact in your memory. It's like somebody remembering that a guy named Dallas Taylor played drums on the Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) album(s), and also was the drummer for a little-known psychedelic band called Clear Light.

I did have to look up Tinidril. I was hearing Tenniel but I knew that was not right.


My parents had a Leroy Anderson album when I was little but I don't recall if 'Sleigh Ride' was on it or not. I do remember the "typewriter song" though, which was pretty well-known at one point.

Oh man! I could have had so much fun smacking my 45s to the typewriter song.


Its hard to wipe something from your memory if you hear it over and over again during the Christmas season.

It's well lodged in my head at the moment, except that there are a couple of words, which is annoying me enough that I'm going to have to look them up, which will only make sure the song stays in my head longer.

I vaguely remember there was a typewriter song.

I also remember a song about a clock that said "tock-tick" instead of "tick-tock."


And then there was the Alka-Seltzer song, which was also a hit single. Not sure whether the commercial or the single came first.


I am not sure where we had the discussion about The Crown (and fake stuff in recent movies) but I heard a few podcasts which are relevant to our discussion.

Last night on the most recent 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' Charles Cooke and Kevin Williamson compared the mad up stuff in Wolff's book about Trump with Tom Wolfe and the new journalism. It was a bit inconclusive but an interesting analogy. No one seems to care much that the Wolff book is full of howlers - eg he says that Trump didn't know what 'Brexit' is, whereas in fact, as some people pointed out on Twitter, Trump not only knew what it was but called the result correctly in March 2016.

The other podcast is more highbrow. Its called Entitled Opinions. Its a guy at Stanford University called Robert Harrison who discusses literature and philosophy and such with various intellectuals. On this podcast, he talks to Werner Herzog about The Peregrine, which is a non-fiction book about a bird, and if it matters whether some things in the book are not true. Herzog says not. He talks a bit about how he made things up in his documentary films. It is totally fascinating, because Herzog comes across - to me at least - as totally admirable but simultaneously somewhat disturbing.

Here is the Herzog one - well worth an hour of your time if you are cooking or driving or ironing


I'm sure Cooke and Williamson can be pretty entertaining. I think I listened to one of their podcasts, but in any situation where I'm free to listen to something I usually choose music instead.

Anyway--were they saying that Wolfe made things up? I always thought he was factual, just with a lot of decoration.

I don't think I've ever seen any of Herzog's films though I recognize the name. I don't care how unsophisticated it makes me look, I'll never agree that making things up and presenting them as facts is okay. I'm afraid his practice is not unusual now in documentaries. Michael Moore's movie about the GM guy (Roger and Me, I think it's called) was presented as simple truth, but no less than Pauline Kael, who surely sympathized with his politics, slammed it pretty hard for its misrepresentations. It's pretty funny that suddenly the sort of people who think Moore is great are sounding the alarm about "the end of truth" now that Trump has adopted the post-modern gospel.

I've always said that Bannon and Moore are flip sides of the same coin. None of their fans would believe that though.


I expect you're right. Moore earned my contempt with Fahrenheit 911. At a time when truth-telling was crucial, he seems to have gone at it with the mentality of someone making a TV commercial.

I think I watched Fahrenheit 911. I have a vague memory of not being able to make head or tale of it.

If it's the one I'm thinking of, it just seemed to jump around a lot, without ever really making clear why (or even whether) any of the details were relevant.

I like Michael Moore a lot, but he is entertainment in the same way FOX News is, greatly exaggerating with nuggets of truth, so you need to know that going in and not accept it as gospel.

Donald Trump tells 5 lies every day before noon, so he can go ahead and enjoy the Wolff book which his tweeting and complaining about have made a huge bestseller.

Werner Herzog is a hero of mine. Again, what is the absolute truth? There is journalism, and then there is artistic license. I find more truth in literary fiction than in supposed non-fiction. However, journalism should be the truth.

Michael Moore, Michael Wolff, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, Werner Herzog .... none of these people are journalists, and each (with I think the exception of Herzog) have some sort of agenda.

The problem with Moore and a lot of his fans is similar to the Dan Brown problem: wanting to have it both ways. You can't simultaneously set up shop as the guy who dares to give you the facts and the guy who gives you the deeper truth unconstrained by mundane facts.

No one would accept this for an instant in any normal everyday interaction. "Well, no, this 300 hp car doesn't actually get 50 mpg, but the larger truth here is that it's a very good car."

I haven't watched Fox News for a long time, but when I did I didn't think its *news* coverage was all that bad. The problem was not so much that it was biased as that it was shallow and sensationalistic. The opinion stuff of course made and makes no pretense of being anything but right-wing.

Paul, I think the attempt in Fahrenheit 911 was more to paint a persuasive picture than to inform, so your impression is probably accurate. Apparently with you he wasn't succeeding in painting the picture.

Stu, you should listen to the podcast. It is quite splended

"Go become an accountant!" :)

Mac:"Marianne, I've felt sorry for people in the southern hemisphere on that count ever since I learned about it."

Really? Please don't worry on my account. There are charms of summer Christmases, especially if you're brought up with it. It's about Jesus, not the seasons per se.

Of course. It's just that for us so much of the natural season is so thoroughly mixed up with the liturgical season.

I mean, how can you appreciate the great Christmas carol, "Sleigh Ride," if you don't have winter at Christmas?

I don't even know that one

Oh sure, Maclin. It must seem weird to you. I must say though that all the Christmas cards with snow etc were just accepted, along with everything else. I must have known from a young age that in the northern hemisphere it was winter at Christmas and that's why it features so much. I loved that Christmas coincided with the end of the school year and the long summer holidays. I actually miss that, but I'm enjoying the experience of "winter" Christmases.

Stu: exactly!!

I looked at the page for that podcast (the Herzog one). I have seen one of his films: Aguirre. It was a long time ago. It was impressive. Not sure how much I liked it. Haven't seen any of the others mentioned in the text.

Louise, that's funny, I didn't think the winter motif would have persisted there.

When I think of Werner Herzog, I mostly think of him as the man who brought us Klaus Kinski. Who was one spooky guy. As is Herzog himself as an actor. I came across one of his scenes in the movie Jack Reacher while flipping through channels one night a few months ago when it was on TV here. The scene is up on YouTube, so you can take a peek if you're courageous; the first 25 seconds pretty much did it for me. He exudes pure evil.

Without even watching the clip, I think I understand. Kinski was in the one Herzog film I've seen, and I still have a pretty vivid image of his face in my mind.

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