Watching The Grammys

For me the highlight was Kanye West’s electronic suit. The still photo attached doesn’t do it justice. The little lights raced up his chest. His glasses glowed as if they were pulled from the surface of the Sun.

kanye_suit.jpgI sat with Helaine tonight as she watched the Grammys.

These phrases, uttered by me, put my night in context: “Who is she?” “I don’t know that song.” “Never heard of him.”

Helaine, answering one query, said, “They don’t play him on NPR.”

Touché mon petit!

Yes, Tina Turner was on… and dancing. Just as big a deal, maybe bigger, was Keely Smith, still hitting the notes and staying on key with Kid Rock on the classic “Old Black Magic” (sans Louis Prima and Sam Butera and the Witnesses)&#185.

Ringo Starr looks great. So does Cher. Andy Williams looked old and pasty. Stevie Wonder looks heavy.

How many hits did Ann Marie Calhoun’s website get tonight? More than last night… or last year?

For me the highlight was Kanye West’s electronic suit. The still photo attached doesn’t do it justice. The little lights raced up his chest. His glasses glowed as if they were pulled from the surface of the Sun.

He would not have been able to bring his outift had he flown commercially, passing through TSA screening!

&#185 – Of course, Youtube has a classic, 50 year old Louis Prima/Keely Smith video. It’s easy to forget how talented she was. God bless the Internet and poor copyright enforcement.

Working Christmas Eve

I have been in broadcasting 35 years. This is probably the 33rd or 34th I’ve worked Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. This is my choice. I have top seniority in the newsroom and get first choice on any day off.

In radio it was pretty awful. Usually I was living alone, away from home. Christmas isn’t a good time to be alone.

I remember one Christmas morning tracking Christmas albums. During the Christmas season you can play the ‘hits’, but when you’re playing wall to wall Christmas songs there are lots of inside tracks from old Jackie Gleason and Andy Williams albums that get played.

Now, in TV, we make more of an effort. I was surprised to find a full compliment of producers this afternoon when I walked in. They will have their hands full because there really isn’t a lot of news today (an explosion in Baghdad will get more play than it normally would). Politicians and even criminals (sometimes one and the same) are home with their families.

I always get requests to track Satna. This year I’m using very cool animations from Analytical Graphics. These are folks who normally create visualizations of missile launches or space probes. They’ve really done a nice job on Santa and his sleigh.

I’ll be working tomorrow, Christmas Day, as well. It was a scheduled day off but Gil (our weekend nighttime meteorologist) wanted to go to North Carolina to spend some time with a friend… a marine… who is shipping out.

I normally feel good about letting co-workers spend time with loved ones. This year I’m very glad Gil got to go to see his friend. Isn’t that the spirit of Christmas?

Being Jewish at Christmas

I had to work later than normal tonight. We’ve just installed a new computer graphics system. It needed a little last minute tweaking… what is sure to be the norm for a few weeks, at least.

Darlene Love was scheduled to be on David Letterman tonight. Though I finished my work before she was on, I waited until Darlene sang so I could hear “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

This was her 19th trip to the Letterman show – or so said Dave. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is certainly the best Christmas song ever written by a Jewish guy under a murder indictment (Phil Spector). Even up against “White Christmas” (Irving Berlin), it might be the best Christmas song written by a Jewish guy, period.

The hell with it. It’s just the best Christmas song and Darlene Love is unbelievable singing it. It has become a tradition for Letterman to bring in a full string section and large gospel choir… and she was born to sing this song.

I’m glad that I can appreciate Christmas songs. There was a time I couldn’t – when I was totally divorced from Christmas. Being Jewish, it’s not my holiday, but I have come to embrace the secular aspects of Christmas and the general warmth and good feeling that goes around.

Growing up Jewish, around Christmas, is very difficult for a kid. It is a holiday with exceptionally powerful images. Families get together. Houses get beautifully decorated. You get presents.

As a kid, I remember Christmas Day being very isolating. Nothing was open, not even gas stations (as my father found out 40 some years ago). All the ‘good’ shows were off TV, replaced by religious or holiday oriented programs. Of course you couldn’t go to friend’s houses or have them over either. We were circumspect on December 25th, trying to fade in with the woodwork.

It wasn’t until “Animal House” (1978) that I realized a good Jewish Christmas included Chinese food and a movie.

I’m not sure when I began to embrace the Christmas spirit, but I do remember always volunteering to work. Once, in radio, I pulled an 8 hour shift (radio shifts are like dog years in that they are multiplied by a constant before they’re comparable to real life) so others could spend the day with their families. By my rough count, I’ve worked 34 of the last 35 Christmases and will work again tomorrow.

The New York times did an article Monday about the unwritten pact that brings Jews to work on Christmas, and has gentile’s covering for us on the High Holy Days. Thursday, our newscasts will be produced, anchored, directed and primarily staffed by Jewish people.

It wasn’t always this way, but today I love the lights and the decorations. I like to see the tree at neighbor’s houses. I love egg nogg, though I had never tasted any until I was well into my twenties. I once sat slackjawed as I watched Andy Williams sing “Sleighride” and realized just how good he/it was.

Even more, I love the thought of people traveling so they can be close to their relatives and parents. Marianne, a waitress at the little luncheonette next to the station, is flying to Chicago where she’ll meet her granddaughter for the first time. What could be more Christmas than that?

There’s a line, somewhere, that defines how far I will go in celebrating Christmas. Steffie has always wanted a Christmas tree. That’s over the line, though I understand why she wants it.

It used to be, I’d shy away from saying Merry Christmas. I don’t any more. I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Personally, I’m going to enjoy working so others can have one.

However, if you’re not celebrating, I’ll see you at the Chinese restaurant.