I’d say it was the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode for which I’ve been training my entire life, except we just did the Die Hard episode. Anyway, I was glad to be part of the elite panel of holiday song-pickers summoned to the National Public Radio today to argue which Christmas song is the Muhammad Ali Greatest of All Time yulejam, and which one is our individual favorite at this particular moment. The stakes in the latter instance are lower, but that only complicates the emotional work of choosing, because the shackles of convention are all the way off!
It says something about the company I was in—PCHH regular Stephen Thompson, plus two very smart NPR Music staffers, Lyndsey McKenna and Marissa Lorusso—that my selections were somehow the most uptempo of the lot. (They’re all lovely people, whose affection for mopey holiday songs is one I very much share. Click on “Musics of Christmas,” above, for years and years of evidence.)
Have mercy! This is just getting ridiculous now. For the lucky thirteenth iteration of my Yuletunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series, I thought that instead of releasing it in two indefensibly long parts, as had been my habit since I stopped burning and printing physical CDs of this thing—a nice bauble to thrust into some unsuspecting person’s hand, but expensive—I thought I would do a sort of podcast limited series of four episodes, released weekly, counting down to the Feast of Christmas. Because four is more than two—one hundred percent more, from a numerical perspective. And I believe in always giving one hundred percent, Christmaswise.
I learned of my former boss’s passing last Saturday via a text from my friend Brian just after midnight:
“My sincere condolences on your friend Ricky Jay.”
I worked for RJ for eight months, 13 years ago. He was kind to me, and I recall many moments of warmth between us, but it would be disingenuous for me to imply we were buddies. I was his employee. Then again, people who knew him for much longer than I did spoke of being very conscious of minding those kinds of boundaries with him, too.
I didn’t think I was going to write anything about him. I didn’t see how I could without also writing about me, and a rough patch in my life, which seemed perilously narcissistic/self-pitying/starfucking/all of the above.
Then old buddy Glen, who is also, happily, my editor, prodded me to start and I couldn’t stop.
It had been too long since I got to appear on a PCHH panel with the great Gene Demby from Code Switch, so I was very happy to find myself sitting beside him for this episode dissecting Creed II, which frustrated each of us in different ways. You can hear the episode here; my review of the movie is here.
Creed II is either an inferior follow-up or a superior one, depending on whether it’s a sequel to Creed or to Rocky IV, respectively. (It’s both.) I sure enjoyed seeing all these characters again, but I am, as I say, disposed to view these movies forgivingly. My review of Creed II is here.
We had to do a Pop Culture Happy Hour discussion of Die Hard because it’s holiday time and because the beloved classic turned 30, uh, back in July and because we just had to. I thought I was being punk’d when I got the invitation but I’m so glad it was real. This was the awkward Christmas Eve holiday party/attempted spousal reconciliation I’ve been waiting to be invited to since I was 11 years old. Yippie kai yay, podcast lovers. (My punishingly long Die Hard Dossier is here.)
I’ve got a feature in today’s Washington City Paper about Raghad Mahklouf, a Syrian asylum-seeker—and veteran actor—who’s appearing in The Welders’ new riff on Pericles. Only 34 seats are available for each performance, so don’t sleep on those tickets if this appeals to you.