Christmas

The Writer’s Room: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like a Tee Bone Man Christmas

December 6, 2022. The Writer’s Room.

I sat down at the table of the Writer’s Room, with a mild case of Grinchiness.  I had been asking these guys for their parts for weeks, and gotten nowhere!  They were all seated around the table, waiting for me to speak.  There was Harrison to my immediate right, and he was twitching with eagerness to start work on his Lego artwork.  Next to him was John, drinking a bottle of Gene Simmons’ “Moneybag” soda, a premium offering from the Kiss demon.  To my left were Aaron, and Michael, the 80sMetalMan.  They seemed to be confused as to the urgency of this meeting.

They just didn’t get it.  Pressure, deadlines!  I tried to act like a frustrated coach of a sporting team.

“OK guys, listen up!” I began, taking a sip of my coffee.  “Christmas is only a few weeks away.  I know everyone at this table is aware of the backlog in Lego art.  Harrison is sitting there with nothing to do while he waits for us to get our acts in gear!”

John Snow raised his hand.  With his southern gentleman demeanour, he asked, “I’m a little confused here, what is the problem exactly?  And why are you acting like such a Scrooge?”

“No questions until the end!” I barked.  Snow put down his Simmons ginger ale, taken aback by my tone.

“Now pay attention because I’m only going to say this once!  Right now, Santa’s cracking the whip on his elves, to make sure he gets all the toys in all the stockings by December 24!  Can you imagine the disappointment if Santa didn’t deliver?  There’d be so many heartbroken children all over the world, that White Lion’s ‘When the Children Cry’ would become a Top Ten charting single again!  But we know Santa won’t let that happen!  He’s going to work those elves until they’ve built all the Nintendos and Playstations or whatever the hell kids are asking for these days!  When I was a kid we’d be lucky to get a Luke Skywalker and two Jawas!”

I paused to take a breath as I noticed the other guys were quite shocked at my aggressiveness today.  Aaron rubbed his eyes as a headache induced by the volume of my voice set in.  Michael just looked patiently.  As the newest member of the Writer’s Room, he didn’t want to rock the boat.  Harrison appeared concerned while Snow seemed engulfed in his next bottle of Simmons soda.

“We cannot let our readers down, guys.  They expect a great Tee Bone Man adventure every month!  They want to see top-notch Lego art from the Australian Wunderkind over here.  They want music references, they want inside jokes, and they want Scotch on the rocks!  And what have I got back from you guys??  Nothing!!”

All four guys’ eyes went wide as they stared at me in shock.  John’s jaw may have dropped slightly, or it could have been the cola he was now drinking.

“But Mike, as you know, I got my part to you first, a long time ago in fact,” said Aaron gently.  “You even told me you got it.”

I owed him an apology.  “Yes, I’m sorry, you are right about that.  I’m excluding you from this lecture Aaron.”  I then turned to the rest of the table.  “Why can’t you guys be more like Aaron?  Sure, his portion was little more than a bunch of ‘Wahoos!’ but at least he did the work.  Don’t you guys understand what we’re trying to do here?”

I walked around the table.  “We are trying to write a Tee Bone Man episode for Christmas, a special one like none we’ve attempted before!  We are determined to do a seasonal story, in time for the holidays!  Not late!  With each one of us contributing our own section of the story, with our own characters!  A unique gift for Tee Bone and Deke, a single story written by all five of us!  Each injecting our own styles, characters, and gifts for our heroic duo!  Don’t you guys understand the concept?  We can’t finish until we get every single section in so Harrison can do the art!  And time is running out!”

Harrison coughed and asked to speak.  “Can I add a few words here?” said the Australian.

“Yes, please do, tell these guys how strapped we are for time!” I invited him.

“Umm, I was actually going to ask you to check your email.  I submitted my part of the story several weeks ago.  Perhaps you should look in your spam folder?”

With a gruff smirk on my face, I reached for my phone in my shirt pocket.  I opened up my email and looked in spam.

“Well, unless you sent it to me with the title ‘Viagara on sale’ then no, it’s not in spam Harrison,” I said with self satisfaction.

“What about your general inbox?  Maybe it’s in your unread items.  You usually have several thousand of those in your inbox,” he said.

I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled.  I then put my phone back in my pocket, took another drink of my coffee, and looked at the group.

“OK so none of this applies to Aaron and Harrison.”  I glared at Snow, now drinking a root beer, and Michael sitting there quietly.

There was an ominous, very unseasonable quiet around the table.

“Well, don’t you have anything to say you two?” I demanded.

John raised his hand again.  “I do.  Is it time for questions now?”

“Yes it’s time for questions now!” I exclaimed in exasperation.

John gently asked, “When you were looking for Harrison’s chapter in your inbox, did you happen to see mine in there too?  Remember, I told you to make any changes you needed to fit it into the story.”

Did he?  “I thought that you were talking about your new space story that you’re working on John?”

“I sent you both, remember?”  John waited for my response.

I didn’t bother checking my phone this time.

“Alright, so it seems I definitely owe three of you an apology.  My mistake.  I’m sorry guys, I stand corrected.  Your chapters are submitted.  But Michael, Harrison will need you to finish yours in order to do the Lego art!”

Michael the 80sMetalMan was about to open his mouth, when Harrison interrupted.  “Actually,” he raised his hand, “Since we’ve already discussed the ending, and all the major events of the story, I can do the Lego art without much issue,” he corrected me.

I looked down at the table.  Was I wrong about everything at this meeting today?  Did I berate this fine group of writers for nothing?

“So what are you saying…that we’re actually in good shape to get the story done ahead of schedule?” I asked.

Michael smiled.  “It sounds to me like we’re in excellent shape and all on the same page.  Except for you that is!”

Everyone laughed.

“Well I certainly wish I could take back 90% of what I said back there!” I said, a little ashamed at myself.

“Only 90%?” asked Aaron.  “What would you have still said?”

“Well, I notice John Snow is on his fourth bottle of Gene Simmons soda and hasn’t offered any of us a bottle.  And he even knows I love Kiss and soda pop.  So I’d probably still berate John at the beginning there.”

Everyone laughed but John, who reached under the table and lifted up a huge box.

“Merry Christmas, Mike,” he said with a huge grim.

“Is this what I think it is?” I asked feeling even more ashamed of myself.  I ripped open the paper.  “Gene Simmons Moneybag soda!!  Enough for everyone to share.  It’s even cold!”

“It sure is, I kept it outside last night!” explained Snow.  “I can’t believe how cold it is in Canada!”

With that, the Christmas spirit had finally arrived.  The five men grabbed fresh bottles of soda and raised a cheer.  Each one of them looked forward to the Tee Bone Man Christmas special, a first-time event:  a special story co-written by all five writers.  Each one lending his own unique style and characters to the story, in celebration of our heroes Tee Bone and Superdekes.

Look for the Tee Bone Man Christmas episode in time for your holiday egg nog, and to all a good night!

 

THE ADVENTURES OF TEE BONE MAN

Chapter One: A Friend in Need (by LeBrain)

Chapter Two: Hell Freezes Over (by Harrison Kopp)

Chapter Three: Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be (by LeBrain)

Chapter Four: Tee Bone Man and the Rink of…Doom? (by Aaron KMA)

Chapter Five: The Super Duper Vault (by John Snow)

Chapter Six: Tee Bone Man Goes to Camp (by LeBrain)

Chapter Seven:  The Revenge of Common Knowledge (by LeBrain)

Chapter Eight:  Tee Bone & Deke’s Time Travelling Adventure (by 80sMetalMan)

Chapter Nine:  Castle Communications (by Harrison Kopp)

Chapter Ten:  The Case of the Lost Iron Maiden Socks (by LeBrain)

COMING SOON!  Chapter Eleven:  A Tee Bone Man Christmas (by all five of us)

 

THE EXTENDED LEBRAINIVERSE

The Writer’s Room: chapter one

The Adventures of Edie Van Heelin’:  Edie vs. Tommy Lee in the Bouncy Castle of Doom!

 

VIDEO: Christmas 2021 Village Tour – Judas Priest – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music Unboxing

Enjoy a tour of the best Christmas Village I’ve seen yet — complete with carnage and baby Yoda. Or, skip ahead to watch the unboxing at 3:43!

Yes — it has arrived. Judas Priest’s 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music. 42 CDs of music. Limited to 3000 copies. And in 2022 we will be reviewing this monstrosity front to back.


#962: Santa Came!

Good morning and Merry Christmas!  It sure looks like Santa Claus was here.

As usual I’m the first one up.  Jen is happily snoring away, while I play with my new Kenner action figures – Johnny Storm the Human Torch, and the Silver Surfer complete with board.  Probably my favourites thus far.

There’s still lots of Christmas to come, but even if there wasn’t I’d be pretty happy right now.

For Christmas Eve, I had a traditional Christmas activity of playing some classic Atari games while passing the time.  Then we went over to mom & dad’s for a visit while Aunt visited Grandma in the hospital.  It all worked out OK.  I got to watch some TV with my dad which is all I really wanted.  We were going to watch the Mr. Bean Christmas episode, but the one with him in the hotel started playing, and so we had to stick with that one.

I normally don’t post on Christmas Day but this isn’t really a normal year, is it?  Besides, even though we’re kind of on Christmas vacation, we’re not on vacation from connecting with friends.  So I say to you my friends:  Merry Christmas.  I hope you’re safe, sound, and happy this year.

 

#961: Christmas in the Hamster Wheel

RECORD STORE TALES #961: Christmas in the Hamster Wheel

I always wanted a hamster when I was a kid.  I used to love looking at the neat setups that other kids had in their homes.  Hamster wheels, tunnels, all kinds of neat stuff for the little guys to run around in.  I never saw them use the hamster wheels.  They seemed to sit idle near the back of the cage.  A forgotten amusement.

These days, the hamster wheel in my head is running overtime.  Is this really the second Christmas of Crap?

One thing that’s concerning to me.  The last two years have blurred together in my mind.  I used to pride myself on knowing exactly when any life event occurred.  If I could remember the life event in terms of the music I was listening to, or a movie I was into, I would always be able to pinpoint the year.  But with the last couple years being such a blur, I find I can’t tell 2021 memories from 2020 memories a lot of the time.  That’s worrying to me.  Remembering these things is important.

I feel like Jen and I haven’t been able to catch many breaks at Christmas in the last five years.  2017…she had cancer.  2018…first Christmas without her mom (also cancer).  2019 was the one where I felt like we were getting back on our feet a little.  Then the carpet got pulled from under us in 2020 for the weirdest Christmas ever.  2021 looks a little better in some ways, a little worse in others.

I haven’t been as creative this Christmas as I was in past years, including 2020.  We do what we can.  I have my annual end-of-year list that I’ll be posting on the 31st.  I have the LeBrain Train drop-in New Year’s Eve party (message me if you’d like to join the fun).  I’m still working on the Def Leppard review series (15 parts written).  I’ll also be starting a Judas Priest box set review series in the new year.  Spoiler!

Y’see, I asked my parents if they’d be willing to part with a lot of money and buy me a Priest box set.  And, my dad let the cat out of the bag.  Even if 2021 is a bit of a downer compared to past years, it’s going to be pretty awesome opening that bad boy.  A know a certain Kontrarian (Kopp) who is eager to see inside its contents.  I’ll be showing off that box set and other goods on the New Years Eve live stream.

Things I’m grateful for:

  1. Health.  Nobody in our family has had Covid (knock wood).
  2. A roof over my head.
  3. Jen
  4. Family
  5. Friends

If I were to add a 6th thing to that list it would be “thank God I’m not working retail during Covid.”  I think I would have snapped long ago.

It’s funny — we have a friend named Michael who has been on the LeBrain Train a couple of times.  (We call him Max the Axe’s stunt double.)  He is absolutely thrilled to be working at the same Record Store chain that I used to work for.  His uncle Tom used to own a branch.  So things have come full circle in the world of the Record Store.  25 years ago this Christmas was my first one managing my own store.  I had a tradition of wearing a tie every Christmas Eve.  It was something the Boss originated that I liked.  So I kept it going.

Michael tells me that retail during Covid is much better working at the Record Store than it was at Giant Tiger.  Gratefully, they will be closed Boxing Day this year.  I had to work 80% of Boxing Days over the years, and truthfully they were one of the hardest.  Stock on everything was pretty picked over by then, and of course you had people doing returns and selling boxes of CDs for store credit.  Big sales, big crowds.  Including putting up signs and taking them down at the end of the day — a very long one.

So I’m grateful for that.

Merry Christmas everybody.  See you on the other side.  And please, join me New Years Eve for a rock and roll party!  Again!*

* I’m even re-using the exact same art as last year.

 

Die Hard by Shooting Your Eye Out: The Christmas List LeBrain Train

A great quartet of fellows and a wonderful set of lists!  Tonight’s list of favourite Christmas movies ranged from the 1930s to the present day, and spanned multiple genres.  I’m sure you’ll find something to love here!

Your panel of merry-making Xmas Xperts:

This was the last show until the New Year’s Eve drop-in party on December 31.  If you’d like to participate in that, let me know and I will make sure you get the link to join!  Have a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday!

 

Merry Christmas! Top Five Xmas Films on the LeBrain Train

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Episode 91 – Top Christmas Films

No need to explain this one!  As a followup to the popular Top 5 Horror Films show, we just had to do a list of Top Christmas Movies!

The panel tonight is as epic as the Christmas cheer we will be spreading:

There will also be two bonus lists:  one submitted by Scott Peddle and one by John T. Snow!

This will be the last show until the New Year’s Eve drop-in show on December 31.  If you’d like to participate in that, let me know and I will make sure you get the link to join!  Have a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday!

Friday December 17, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on YouTubeFacebook and also Facebook!  (We decided to discontinue Twitter as Facebook is preferred by most.)

REVIEW: The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003)

JETHRO TULLThe Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003 Fuel 2000)

With an actual new studio album, The Zealot Gene, due in 2022, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album is no longer the final record by the storied band!  It is however the last one with Martin Barre, putting a (night)cap on the largest part of Tull’s discography.  Although it’s a seasonal album, it is very Tull and would not have been a bad farewell if it was indeed the last record (as we all thought it would be).  16 tracks, over an hour in length…but how Christmas-y is it?

With a blast of flute, “Birthday Card at Christmas” addresses those whose birthdays fall during the holiday.  A fine acoustic Tull tune (as they all are), it doesn’t sound particularly seasonal.  Which will suit many of us just fine.  Flute acrobatics stun the senses, trickling out the speakers like little blasts of hail.  Moving on to “Holly Herald”, this instrumental medley has more of the Christmas flavour.  Recognizable carols, with the flute providing the main melody.  Andrew Giddings’ accordion is a lovely touch.  Pure winter delight!

“A Christmas Song” is a Tull original, a re-recording of a 1968 B-side.  It has always been an intriguing song, sparse and stark.  Mandolin and acoustics ring true with the march of a drum behind.  It is logically followed by a re-recorded sequel tune, “Another Christmas Song”, which has its own modern flavour based on keys, flute and electric guitar.  This soft ballad is like the sound of a clean snow on Christmas day, though the lyrics offer more depth.

A jazzy instrumental “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen”, led by flute, reminds of the old Mr. Bean sketch where he conducts the Christmas band, and goes all jazzy.  Barre’s guitar here is sublime.  When Tull get jazzy, they never disappoint.  Just dig it and get down, in the snow!  It’s impossible not to like, especially if you love instrumental acrobatics.  The bass work by Jonathan Noyce just rolls.  Next is the re-recorded “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow”, a 1982 original B-side.  A little less direct, a little more progressive.  A very Tull-sounding “Last Man at the Party” is another acoustic original.  The lyrics relay images of a traditional Christmas party even if the music is just Tull being Tull.  Bouncing flute, speeding acoustics.

“Weathercock” is a new version of the closing track from Heavy Horses.  It’s more about traditional country living, but with winter imagery.  Not an immediate song by any means, but fitting the vibe of the album.  Moving on to “Pavane” composed by Gabriel Fauré, this lovely tune has exotic, smooth and challenging sections, but it’s not very Christmas-y.  The original was a piano work, but this version balances the spotlight between players.  More seasonal sounding is “First Snow on Brooklyn”.  “I could cut my cold breath with a knife,” sings Ian.  A beautiful string section backs this original song, somewhat epic, warming the soul like a hot coffee at Christmas.

You’ll love “Greensleeved” (a take on “Greensleeves”).  It’s an instrumental version of the traditional classic.  Its ties with Christmas go back to 1686 so it is not out of place here.  But man does it swing!  This is just fun, with monstrous instrumental mastery.  Get up and dance to this brilliant little tune.  Then it’s a remake of Tull’s “Fire at Midnight”, one of their most memorable Songs from the Wood.  This take is more laid back, but is unmistakable as the Tull mainstay.  Somewhat obviously, “We Five Kings” is Jethro’s version of “We Three Kings”, once again rendered in a laid back jazzy instrumental vibe.  Challenging to play, easy to listen to.  Check out Barre’s acoustic guitar solo work.

The excellent single “Ring Out Solstice Bell” conveys that Christmas joy.  It’s likely the most Christmas-y of all the music on this album.  Anderson has an occasional knack for a universal melody and “Ring Out Solstice Bell” lets them float in the cold winter air.  A magical seasonal tune for anybody, even the Scrooges or Grinches on your list.  If there’s only one tune you need on this album, making it “Solstice Bell”.  It is, of course, an update of the original on side one of Songs from the Wood.  (The 2004 single from this album had two exclusive B-sides as well.)

One of Tull’s greatest instrumentals in their long illustrious history was J.S. Bach’s “Bourée”.  There is a new version on the Christmas Album.  It’s different.  Less swing, more relaxed.  Still Tull but not repeating the exact same track from the past.

Finally the album closes on a rare Martin Barre original called “A Winter Snowscape”.  Quiet, gentle, yet determined.  Barre’s acoustic work is shadowed by Ian Anderson on flute.  It is a perfectly understated closer to a unique Tull album.

Of course, like anything else, this album was reissued later on with a bonus live album called Christmas at St. Bride’s 2008.  As a live album it deserves its own standalone review, but it’s unfortunate that to get it, some will have to buy the album twice.  Not very Christmas-y…or perhaps the pinnacle of modern Christmas tradition?

On it’s own, this is a pleasant seasonal album to play while wrapping your gifts or celebrating with friends.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Suicide Star – “The Day that Christmas Comes” (2021)

SUICIDE STAR “The Day that Christmas Comes” (2021)

Suicide Star recorded a Christmas song?  Then you know it’s going to rock heavy!  To make it even more interesting, this is not some overplayed Christmas pop hit from years past.  It’s a brand new original song, and the first new single since their excellent debut album Isolation.  Let’s celebrate!

As soon as singer Rob Barton opens his mouth, you know it’s Suicide Star.  He makes the band easy to identify even on shuffle.  Anchored by a melodic guitar line from Les Serran, “The Day that Christmas Comes” relays the bright hopeful feeling of the Christmas season.

There will be presents underneath the tree…
But the only thing I need, is you and me.

Lyrically the song captures the spirit and magic of Christmas.  Most importantly, the melodic tune (complete with jingle bells) makes it a delight to rock out to.  Production is stellar – up there with the album or even exceeding it.  There is even a fun and hilarious music video that really nails the Christmas vibe.  Well done, Suicide Star, and may your trees be overloaded with joy this Christmas!

Get in on yer iTunes or Spotify!

5/5 stars

Christmas gallery of goodness 2020

Boxing Day Live Stream — “Christmas Memories” — Hang out Dec. 26 if you’re locked down!

The LeBrain Train:  2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Episode 43

Nobody “wanted” lockdown to happen in Ontario, but here we are.  You don’t have to be alone on Boxing Day, no matter where you are.  This Saturday December 26, join the LeBrain Train for a special holiday episode called “Christmas Memories”.  Special memories such as:

  • Waking my dad up with Lego
  • Getting Luke’s X-Wing
  • Finding a Millennium Falcon under the tree
  • Waiting for a train from Stratford in a blizzard
  • Killing time…
  • The Atari years
  • The year I woke everybody up at 1 AM playing GI Joe
  • The dawn of the Rock N’ Roll era:  cassettes, cassettes, cassettes!
  • Boxing Day with WWF’s Demolition
  • 1989:  The first CD player
  • 1990:  Led Zeppelin
  • …and on and on!

There might be guests — or I might just open it up for anyone to join the show.  You’ll just have to tune in and see.

It’s OK if you’re upset or just not in the mood.  Who is these days?  We have been here for each other since the start and the hope is to spread some positive feelings this week.

I’ll be on break for the next couple days.  Have a drink or two, and we’ll see you Saturday December 26.  Let’s get into the sweet nectar of nostalgia!

7:00 PM E.S.T.
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