Video flag in Times Square, reflected

January 1, 2018

Reuters photo, at the Baltimore Sun’s “Darkroom” blog.

Baltimore Sun caption: The U.S. flag is reflected in the window of a police car as a police man stands guard in Times Square ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York, December 31, 2013. Security has been stepped up in the area around where the celebrations will take place. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Baltimore Sun caption: The U.S. flag is reflected in the window of a police car as a police man stands guard in Times Square ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York, December 31, 2013. Security has been stepped up in the area around where the celebrations will take place. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Of course you’re flying your flag today, as the U.S. Flag Code recommends.

Is every holiday going to be taken over by flag-waving?

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Rare, Alternative and New Christmas music: Pogues, “Fairytale of New York”

December 19, 2017

Cover for a version of The Pogues,

Cover for a version of The Pogues, “Fairytale of New York. Wikipedia image

If you think Joni Mitchell’s “River” represents a turn to blue for Christmas songs, what does “Fairytale of New York” show?

I must admit, this is one I was not familiar with — I’d heard it before, but not paid much attention. Surprised to learn it was written and rewritten 1985 to 1987, with a first recording by the Pogues in 1987. Judging by its popularity in the UK, it’s a song we all should be familiar with.

Fairytale of New York” is a song written by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan and first released as a single on 23 November 1987[1] by their band The Pogues, featuring singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl on vocals. The song was written as a duet, with the Pogues’ singer MacGowan taking the role of the male character and MacColl the female character. It is an Irish folk-style ballad, and featured on The Pogues’ 1988 album If I Should Fall from Grace with God.

Originally begun in 1985, the song had a troubled two year development history, undergoing rewrites and aborted attempts at recording, and losing its original female vocalist along the way, before finally being completed in summer 1987. Although the single never reached the coveted UK Christmas number one, being kept at number two on its original release in 1987 by the Pet Shop Boyscover version of “Always on My Mind“, it has proved enduringly popular with both music critics and the public: to date the song has reached the UK Top 20 on fourteen separate occasions since its original release in 1987, including every year since 2005, and was certified platinum in the UK in 2013.[2] The song has sold 1.18 million copies in the UK as of November 2015.[3] In the UK it is the most-played Christmas song of the 21st century.[4] “Fairytale of New York” has been cited as the best Christmas song of all time in various television, radio and magazine related polls in the UK and Ireland.[5]

Is it a downer of a song? Voices in the lyric do not appear happy, but rather angry with each other for imagined slights that put each of them where they did not wish to be, when they met years ago.

But still the bells ring out on Christmas Day. (Remember that, if I get around to posting the Chieftans’ recording I have in mind for this series.)

I found the song this year on Twitter, improbably, in something called the World Cup of Christmas Songs, sponsored by UK radio guy Richard Osman (@RichardOsman). It’s not a serious competition, and it excluded most Christmas music we all know, which tips the scales a bit, it seems to me. But here it is, and the vox populi rings out.

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Juneteenth

June 19, 2008

The Texas State Archives offers a succinct history:

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is the name given to emancipation day by African-Americans in Texas. On that day in 1865 Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order #3 to the people of Galveston. General Order #3 stated “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Large celebrations on June 19 began in 1866 and continued regularly into the early 20th century. The African-Americans treated this day like the Fourth of July and the celebrations contained similar events. In the early days, the celebration included a prayer service, speakers with inspirational messages, reading of the emancipation proclamation, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, rodeos and dances.

The celebration of June 19 as emancipation day spread from Texas to the neighboring states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. It has also appeared in Alabama, Florida, and California as African-American Texans migrated.

In many parts of Texas, ex-slaves purchased land, or “emancipation grounds,” for the Juneteenth gathering. Examples include: Emancipation Park in Houston, purchased in 1872; what is now Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia; and Emancipation park in East Austin.

Celebration of Juneteenth declined during World War II but revived in 1950 at the Texas State Fair Grounds in Dallas. Interest and participation fell away during the late 1950’s and 1960’s as attention focused on expansion of freedom for African-Americans. In the 1970’s Juneteenth revived in some communities. For example, in Austin the Juneteenth celebration returned in 1976 after a 25 year hiatus. House Bill no.1016 passed in the 66th legislature, regular session, declared June 19, “Emancipation Day in Texas,” a legal state holiday effective January 1, 1980. Since that time, the celebration of Juneteenth continues across the state of Texas with parades, picnics and dancing.

Texas State Library Reference Services 3/95

Celebrations across Texas started last Saturday, and will continue for another three or four days, I gather. Thought it’s an official State of Texas holiday, few people take it off. So celebrations are scheduled when they can be.

The great mystery to me is why the holiday seems to have spread so far outside Texas. Juneteenth is based on a uniquely Texas event — it involved notifying only the slaves in Texas that they had been freed. Celebrations go much farther today, even to places the Civil War didn’t touch.

Resources:


Fly your flag today, for Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 21, 2008

MLK with U.S. flag

Fly your flag today, the third Monday of January, set aside to celebrate the birth and life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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