It is my great pleasure to unveil now for your hall-decking enjoyment entry No. 007 in my Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable series. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the future of Christmas merry-making enforcement, Stay Hungry to Feed the World. In keeping with the perpetually inflating ethos of this project, it’s the longest one yet. When it comes to Christmas, less is less. And more? Is just the most.
(You may have read the essay I wrote about this project recently in the Washington Post. If you haven’t, please do.)
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to learn one of my boyhood heroes — seven-time Mr. Olympia, five-time Mr. Universe, living tissue-over-a-microprocessor-controlled-hyperalloy-combat chassis former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger — was available and willing to serve as master of ceremonies for this year’s yulmemix.
I don’t like to brag, but Arnold and I have been friends for years, ever since he brought me in to do an emergency script polish on his 2001 action thriller Collateral Damage. NOW IT CAN BE TOLD.
Look, I don’t need you to tell me that Collateral Damage, as released, is no Predator, or even — let’s be honest — Raw Deal. All I can tell you is you should’ve seen the Ambien-shooter of a script they were going to make before I got there. It would’ve made Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life seem like, I dunno, Taylor Hackford’s Proof of Life. (Full disclosure: I have never actually watched a film in its entirety that did not star Arnold Schwarzenegger.)
Anyway, Schwarz — that’s what his good friends call him — and I got to be very close. We used to tease one another: “How much did you squat this morning?” And the answer was always, “How much did you squat?” Invariably the other person would reply, “I asked you first!” And then we’d both be like, “Let’s both say it at the same time — JINX!” And then we’d laugh until we wept.
I have fond memories of those long, languid Sunday afternoons when we’d ride our Harleys up the Pacific Coast Highway to Neptune’s Net. Sometimes just for a laugh Schwarz would strip naked in the parking lot, then saunter into the bar, face down the 200-ood bikers inside, and announce, “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.” And the bikers would just be trampling one another to give him the keys to their hogs. I swear that Schwarz could never get one of these guys to actually fight him. He used to get really frustrated by that. I’d do my best to cheer him up: “Hey Schwarz, don’t let it get you down man, you were Mr. Olympia for like 15 years. And we’ll always have Collateral Damage.” Except we didn’t, really, not in the end. Hey, Andrew Davis had made The Fugitive. How were we supposed to know he would phone this one in?
But I digress. Schwarz was a big part of the success of my 2007 yulemix, Santa’s Got a Big Old Bagge, so I was thrilled to offer him an expanded role here. The Austrian Oak favors us with his recollections and musings on success throughout the album. In celebration of his return, I have reprised a handful of songs from five years ago, but they only add up to about 11 minutes out of 130. When Rhett Miller very gamely agreed to sit for an interview about writing Christmas songs, how I could not play “Here It Is, Christmastime,” the Old 97’s (sic) yulejam that I first used upon its release in 2007?
LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This set has some. Lets, actually! Poetry and prose. But there’re also a few stray F-bombs bandied about. Parental whatever whatevered.
Total Recall, Schwarz’s revelation-packed autobiography, is in stores now.
NOW PLAY THIS CHRISTMAS LOUD! I command it! These halls ain’t gonna deck themselves.