Friday, December 04, 2009

Holiday music

There are probably fewer than 100 really standard Christmas songs in the world. The ones that truly stick are very simple tunes, things that non-musical, drunk relations can approximately remember and sing, with moderate ranges and few accidentals. Large books of 100+ Christmas standards seem to end up resorting to nonstandard songs. The standard songs get repeated endlessly in stores and shopping centers around this time of year.

I probably also dislike Christmas music more than most people because I've played lots of it. Anyone who plays music invariably ends up in a holiday concert or two, and because most standard Christmas tunes are relatively short and simplistic, they get crammed together into cheesy medleys, often with jarring key and tempo changes. The only other challenges to playing such pieces in a group are agreeing with the others in the group as to how many times to repeat the choruses, and not getting too bored rehearsing them.

A couple of years ago, Scott and I were in Italy around the holidays. On the whole, it was a great trip. All the churches, big and small, and all the towns put up elaborate creches and try to outdo each other. Venice also had a gorgeous Murano glass tree in the main square, lighted from inside. And because it's not really the tourist season, it's less crowded at the major landmarks, which also suited us fine.

There were also lots of buskers in Italy, folks on street corners playing music, hoping for tips. From Pompeii to Milan, they all played Jingle Bells, which has even fewer notes than most and requires no particular talent or finesse. One particularly dreadful rendition was from a saxophonist honking it loudly in one train car, then the next. It was getting on my nerves, so I told Scott that we should tip the first guy who was playing something besides Jingle Bells.

It was towards the end of our trip from south to north that we crossed one of the larger bridges in Venice. At the top of the arch, at night, in the cold, was a violinist playing Silent Night, decently well. Scott pointed out that he wasn't playing Jingle Bells, and we tossed a coin in his case.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Selling thrift

These folks are selling "high frugality dish towels." In case the link vanishes someday, the attached screenshot will enlarge if you click on it.

I'm basically in favor of the sentiments printed on these dish towels: drink tap water, compost, grow and cook your own food at home. I generally do these things already, and have for years.

But did you see the price? They want $45 for the set of four dish towels. Doesn't that strike you as something less than frugal? Even after we grow the cotton in an environmentally responsible manner and pay somebody, somewhere fair wages to spin and weave and sew it (presumably by machine), doesn't $12 strike you as a bit much for a dish towel?

Here is my idea of a frugal kitchen towel: all those already in my drawer. They came from wherever they came from, but I'm sure they're all at least three or four years old. I plan to keep on using them for quite some time to come. I may even mend small holes. I won't replace them to be trendy or to look good in my kitchen. They're still dish towels, and as far as I'm concerned, they look fine in my kitchen already. I will continue to wash and reuse them and avoid using paper towels, and if ever they reach the point where they're just too stained or full of holes to be worth continuing to use in the kitchen, I will relegate them to rag duty and go on using them for rags. When I get to that point, I may read the label to see where they came from, but I don't think I'll pay $12 a towel for cutesy designer ones.