Signing up for the War on Christmas | Street Jazz

Signing up for the War on Christmas

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Well, the political opportunistic among us, all too willing to manipulate people once again for perverse reasons of their own, are about to start their annual warnings about the “War on Christmas.”

It does, after all, hang on by a fingernail; remember all the years Christmas never arrived, because the forces of Darkness prevented it - at least in this country - from coming? The years when Santa Claus was almost shot out of the sky, the years when singing Christmas carols in public was punishable by 30 days in the county jail?

The days when roving gangs of liberal toughs roamed the streets and tarred and feathered any store clerk who dared utter the words, “Merry Christmas!”

Yes, eternal vigilance is the price of imbecility, my friends, and we must be ever watchful.

I’ve always been a sort of Little Switzerland in the War on Christmas, not taking sides, but glad to accept any gifts or cards (but not those stupid e-cards) that come my way each year.

But this year I have decided to enlist, to do my small part.

Yes, I’m becoming a foot soldier in the War on Christmas.

I suppose it all really started years ago, when I developed a loathing for “Little Drummer Boy” - though I can actually stand to listen to some versions of the song, it still strikes me as one of the most insipid songs of any time of the year, ranking right alongside “Honey,” by Bobby Goldsboro.

Every year it seems that as soon as midnight as struck on Halloween night, the annual Christmas ads hit the air waves, featuring actors who must be well into their dotage by now.

And, of course, many featuring my favorite Christmas song, “Carol of the Bells,” with the many variations:

Hark how the bells
Sweet silver bells
Meet me the mall
Where we’ll spend it all

Well before Halloween this year, Christmas trees were popping up in the background in commercials, and sort-of holiday music began tinkling over the airwaves.

My inner Elvis Presley is already surging through me every time I hear Andy Williams booming through my TV.

So I am joining the vast army of those who have declared war on Christmas.

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I will keep Christmas in my own way.

I will send out Christmas cards, buy Christmas gifts, and watch the handful of holiday movies I truly love every year. I will say “Happy Holidays” to store clerks, and “Happy Festivus” to the real jerks among us.

I will emulate Sheridan Whiteside ( a true American hero) to my heart’s delight.

I will not be manipulated into any sort of political/religious war on fellow Americans, though, nor will I complain to management every time a busy store clerk forgets to say “Merry Christmas.”

I mean, what kind of jerk would do that?

******

If you really wanna hear a good version of “Carol of the Bells”

This is a song that gets mangled every year, all in the name of commercialism. Every damn commercial I hear it on screws it up even more than the one before.

There is a really lovely jazz version by David Benoit that you should seek out. No War on Christmas is complete without fortifying yourself a few times a week by listening to this great arrangement.

*****

Ark II: So this is what Al Gore was warning us about . . .

“Well,” my wife said after I persuaded her to watch a couple of episodes of Ark II with me, “it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a show that cheesy.”

As I tried to explain to her, if you were looking for science fiction on television in the 1970s, you didn’t have a whole lot of options. Space 1999, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Wonder Woman were pretty much the top SF shows of the time. There was no SYFY Channel, and science fiction movies - especially before Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind - were few and far between.

We had to catch our science fiction wherever we could. One of the places many people found interesting science fiction programming was Saturday morning television. Filmation Studios had already had a hit with the animated Star Trek, and in the process had discovered that a lot of adults watched along with the kids - or even without the kids.

Accordingly, they took a chance and decided to produce a live-action series, Ark II. Set in the year 2476, the planet has become that ever-popular environmental wasteland. Humans live in tiny communities, terrorized by various warlords.

But there is hope in this time of despair. Somewhere - in a place we never see - the Ark II has been built, and three young scientists have been trained to go out into the world and bring hope.

And, boy, is it a world in need of some hope. Besides the meager existence the survivors of the earth face, they manage to concoct a few rules that don’t lend themselves to long-term survival.

One tribe might rid themselves of the old and the infirm, while another night use a lottery to banish folks. And then you’ve got Jonathan Harris (Doctor Smith, Lost in Space) to deal with.

The crew of the Ark II was made up of Jonah, a twenty-ish leader, accompanied by Ruth and Samuel, two younger scientists. Along with them travels Adam, a talking chimpanzee. The Ark itself is a sort of mobile lab.

Not to forget Jonah’s cool jet pack, which is same model used in the James Bond film Thunderball.

Yes, it’s cheesy, but hey, it’s pretty much all we had. More to the point, it actually holds up pretty well. The stories are simplistic, but told well-enough, and many of the plot lines are still likely to wind up being used on science fiction programs today.

And compared with some of the crap - that’s a technical term - that runs on the SYFY Channel these days, Ark II holds up well by comparison.

Ark II also benefited from its roster of guest stars, ranging from Malachi Throne (It takes a Thief) to Helen Hunt (Mad About You) to Marshall Thompson (Daktari). Even Robby the Robot shows up on one episode.

It’s not great science fiction, but it doesn’t pretend to be. It does deliver some entertaining stories that can be enjoyed even today, and that’s not something you can say about every SF series from the past.

The stars later moved on to other parts. Terry Lester made a name for himself in soap operas, and Jean Marie Hon starred on The Man from Atlantis. Jose Flores still acts today, in small roles.

Trivia note: Ted Post, who directed several episodes, also directed Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

****

Quote of the Day

The United States is not nearly so concerned that its acts be kept secret from its intended victims as it is that the American people not know of them. — former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark

rsdrake@cox.net

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