“Tetris” theme played on organ of St Joseph’s Church, Glasthule by Rónán Murray

The title says it all….though the piece is more properly called Korobeiniki

 

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Have a Julie London Christmas: I’d Like You For Christmas / Warm December

Julie London was a singer / actress blessed with a beautifully understated voice that combined clarity with a husky warmth. She was possibly rather typecast into singing “bearskin rug music”, as described by Mark Steyn here:

One of my first disc-jockey gigs many years ago was a late-night slot. I asked the program director what he wanted me to play, and he said, “Bearskin rug music.” I was sufficiently young and callow that I wasn’t familiar with the term, so I asked him what he meant. And he told me to go away and listen to Miss London’s record, Julie Is Her Name. Which is a classic bearskin-rug album: “Cry Me A River”, “No Moon At All”, “I’m In The Mood For Love”, “Gone With The Wind”… It’s a very spare accompaniment – Barney Kessel on guitar, Ray Leatherwood on bass. When you put her with a full orchestra, I never feel Miss London smolders quite so bearskin-ruggily.

London’s career may have been overly defined by an image based on her physical appeal. From what I have read, she was a shy, reserved woman who abjured publicity.

As far as I can make out, she didn’t record a Christmas album as such. Which on one level seems surprising, given the warm, cosy atmosphere of her singing. On the other hand, her music has a certain sensuality which might jar with much of the Christmas repertoire.

Still, here are two cosy London numbers for the Christmas season.

London was married to songwriter Bobby Troup (and also acted with him in a 70s medical drama) and he also wrote “I’d Like You For Christmas” for her:

Here is “Warm December”:

A thought on bookshops.

I had a recent visit to The Winding Stair bookshop in Dublin. It was a highly pleasurable experience – which was reassuring, because I had found recent trips to bookshops (no names mentioned) actually quite unpleasant.

There is a rather crushing sense of being not only sold to (which is the whole purpose of the enterprise) but being sold to in a hectoring, rushed way. Celebrity authors and blaring book covers seem to be more common than they were. Book titles and subtitles partake of the language of clickbait – hyperbolic, categorical, imperative.

Do I have any empirical evidence for this? Well, no.

Perhaps it is some sensory issue on my part, I thought. And perhaps it is nostalgia for bookshops past. The Dublin of my childhood was replete with now vanished bookshops. Years ago it seemed record stores were taking their place (and Tower Records has replaced Waterstone’s on Dawson Street) After all, who can resist the march of progress and Dublin’s march into a glorious vibrant future. So what if one eccentric ageing dilletante fuddy-duddy misses the languorous bookshops of yore, with their random discoveries and unpredictable stock? If you want random, Amazon has an algorithm for that.

My visit to The Winding Stair changed this, being a purely pleasurable experience. Some was no doubt due to the stock being a little different. Some was to due with occasion, ambience, my own mood at the time, the overall situation. Ultimately however much came down to the atmosphere being one of bookishness and reflection, rather than simply selling.

And of course I bought more books there than I had in a bookshop for quite a while.

Arthur Benjamin speed calculation video

I’m not an almighty fan of TED talks, which can reek of solutionism and can privilege a certain slick, clickbait-y style of communicating in which sleekly presented ideas drown out less sexy ones. However, there are some highly entertaining and enlightening talks from TED – and here is one from “mathemagician” Arthur Benjamin which definitely falls into the former camp:

A family holiday with David Mamet

David Mamet’s reputation seems to have taken a bit of a nosedive in recent years. His “coming out” as an unapologetic free market conservative may have something to do with this. I have always had somewhat mixed feelings about what I have seen of Mamet – which in my case is exclusively cinematic, specifically Glengarry Glen Ross (of course) and State & Main. While both are interesting (no more damning phrase!), and Glengarry Glen Ross is highly powerful in its depiction of a certain kind of desperate male brutality, I must admit to finding both a little too mannered and stylised.

 

However, one of the things I like about Mamet is the sudden, rather unexpected touches. Indeed, his recent public political conservative leanings mark him out quite starkly from his peers. Aside from this, there always has seemed a strain rather counter to what we expect from “Mamet” the public figure, as opposed to Mamet the actual person.

From a 1994 New York Times profile of David Mamet:

YOU may not think of David Mamet, the prolific author of angrified and angrifying plays and films, as an insecure fellow. But there was a day not so long ago, he says, that in an agonizing fit of self-doubt, he sought out his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, an actress and singer, and in a sort of desperate way, proclaimed his consuming love for her. What, he asked, could have persuaded her to marry him, save him from himself, miserable wretch that he obviously was?

“She looked at me,” Mr. Mamet says, shifting his mimicry from his own earnest pleading to his wife’s deadpan. “And she said, ‘Well, I don’t know, you seemed like a nice guy.’ ”

It’s a funny story for Mr. Mamet to tell on himself, a twinkly-eyed acknowledgment of his reputation as difficult, thorny and impatient. But then, you might not think of Mr. Mamet, a native Chicagoan, as a homebody either, or as a lover of quietude, isolation and coziness. And that’s what comes across here. The center of his universe is a lonely hilltop farmhouse that he shares with Ms. Pidgeon, his wife of three years, and their tiny daughter, Clara, who was born on Sept. 29.

 

Mamet’s prose is clear and limpid and one cannot accuse him of obfuscation. Recently I came across a Picador anthology, Worst Journeys from 1991. Edited by Keith Fraser, it has a Canadian tilt. It’s quite a mixed bag, but I enjoyed Mamet’s piece on a family holiday. And like the above NYT profile, it has passages that seem quite un-Mametlike, if all you know of Mamet is Glengarry Glen Ross:

I thought: we are an Urban people, and the Urban solution to most any problem is to do more: to find something new to eat in order to lose weight; to add a sound in order to relax, to upgrade your living arrangements in order to be comfortable, to buy more, to eat more, to do more business. Here, on the island, we had nothing to do. Everything had been taken away but the purely natural.

We got tired as the sun went down, and active when it rose; we were treated to the rhythm of the surf all day; the heat and salt renewed our bodies.

We found that rather than achieving peace by the addition of a new idea (quality time, marital togetherness, responsibility), we naturally removed the noise and distractions of a too-busy life, and so had no need of a new idea. We found that a more basic idea sufficed: the unity of the family.

 

It seems a little churlish to point out that family whose unity Mamet is extolling is in fact a prior one to the NY Times profile above – and in any case the point about the modern drive to do more and more, even turning doing less into doing more, still stands.