Not a good look, McConnell

For the third time in two weeks, today Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) blocked legislation to open part of the Federal government.

The Senate GOP leader didn’t explain his objection from the Senate floor but he has warned for weeks that he will not bring up a government funding bill unless it’s the product of an agreement between congressional Democratic leadership and President Trump.

I keep thinking at some point there are going to be 10-15 Republican Senators who go to McConnell and say “we have to vote to open the government. My constituents are broke through no fault of their own, and sucking up to that idiot in the White House is killing us.”

McConnell has done more damage to American democracy than any other politician I can think of, and that includes Richard Nixon. McConnell has had no compunction about destroying norms for the advancement of his party and its goals, and history will not (I hope) remember him kindly.

Batteries not required

Just for fun, here are Peter Paul and Mary singing the most playful of songs, one about a toy. But not just any toy! Nope, this one is a Marvelous toy!

Tom Paxton composed the song in the 1950s. When legendary producer Milt Okun heard him play it Okun made Paxton the first writer signed to Okun’s Cherry Lane Music Publishing Company, which went on to publish and copyright approximately 150,000 separate works of music.

Bonnie Raitt in her youth

I remember buying every one of Bonnie Raitt’s albums in the 1970s and wondering when the rest of the music-listening world would catch on to her brilliance. It took until 1989 when she put out “Nick of Time” for that to happen. I’ve kept buying her records, too. My iTunes Library says I have 21 albums on which she appears, and I think 17 of them are ones she released under her own name.

This is from 1976.

Waste Fraud and Abuse

Ah, but not by those moochers out there in the heartland and the inner cities. Nope, nope, nope. Right here in Washington DC, all of them the rich and famous or aspirants to that status. This is part of the story of how Trump’s inauguration committee spent the money it solicited to put on the parties it felt were needed to show America just who they’d elected.

Private donors put up $107 million to usher Donald J. Trump into office in style two years ago, and it is now clear just how enthusiastically his inaugural committee went to town with it.

There was $10,000 for makeup for 20 aides at an evening inaugural event. There was another $30,000 in per-diem payments to dozens of contract staff members, in addition to their fully covered hotel rooms, room service orders, plane tickets and taxi rides, including some to drop off laundry.

But wait! With that much money floating around, surely the newly-inaugurated President must have ensured some of it stuck to him, right?

The bill from the Trump International Hotel was more than $1.5 million.

Read the whole thing. It’s a stunning example of ostentation run amok.

Three ships, possibly Irish

Violinist Lindsey Stirling plays a rousing version of “I Saw Three Ships” Thanksgiving Week of 2017. She and her colleagues do a goodly bit of Irish step dancing during the performance. All the while she continues to play her violin. It’s quite a show.

The song itself has been around since the 17th century. The meaning of the ships in the title is somewhat obscure.

My Namesake’s Day

Sung by the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, here is the story of

a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the Second Day of Christmas). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow.

Other Christmas stories

I have posted two of these nearly every year for the past ten:

“Yes Virginia”, the story of Francis P. Church’s New York Sun newspaper editorial responding to Virginia O’Hanlon’s question about Santa Claus’s existence.

Jo Walton’s wonderfully imaginative story of Joseph, faced with a newly-pregnant girlfriend and a sudden requirement to travel to Bethlehem.

The third story, new this year, is John Scalzi’s interview with Marta Pittman, Santa Claus’s lawyer.

Sing, O Glorious Host

The King’s College Choir sings “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The song and melody are similar to the one originally composed in 1739 by Charles Wesley (yes, the same Wesley family. John was his brother), but there were modifications done over the past 200 years. For example, the melody is from a Mendelssohn cantata written in 1840 to celebrate Gutenberg’s invention of movable type. Charles Wesley was prolific: he published words to more than 6,000 hymns.

This choir is far older than the hymn; it was established in 1441 by King Henry VI when he founded King’s College in Cambridge. He wanted daily singing in his chapel. That’s still the choir’s principal job.

The Night Before Christmas

Rosemary Clooney and Gene Autry sing “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” After 150 years of assuming it was written by Clement Clarke Moore, there is now some question as to whether he did so. It first appeared in 1823 anonymously; Moore claimed it in 1837. I don’t really care whether he or Henry Livingstone wrote it. I just enjoy the imagery.

En Français, s’il vous plaît

I learned this song in French III at Thomas Jefferson High School in 1965-1966 from Mr. Adair McConnell, who played it on an autoharp.

Diane Taraz sings “Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabella.” From Wikipedia:

“Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” (French: Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle) is a Christmas carol which originated from the Provence region of France in the 17th century. The song is usually notated in 3/8 time.

The carol was first published in France, and was subsequently translated into English in the 18th century. The song was originally not meant to be sung at Christmas; it was considered dance music for French nobility.

It seems likely that the melody was written by Charpentier, derived from the air à boire Qu’ils sont doux, bouteille jolie from the now lost Le médecin malgré lui.

The song title refers to two female farmhands who have found the baby and his mother in a stable. Excited by this discovery, they run to a nearby village to tell the inhabitants, who rush to see the new arrivals. Visitors to the stable are urged to keep their voices quiet, so the newborn can enjoy his dreams.

To this day, on Christmas Eve in the Provence region, children dressed as shepherds and milkmaids carry torches and candles while singing the carol, on their way to Midnight Mass.

Taraz is a Boston musician who’s recorded a lot of traditional music. She recorded this on her 1999 album “Hope! Says the Holly.”