Thursday, December 31, 2020

Reflections on a New Year - Farewell 2020, Welcome 2021

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's await another voice."

- T.S. Eliot
From Four Quartets ("Little Gidding")

Farewell to 2020 and good riddance!  I really tried to make the best of a bad year and, thankfully, I was able to find some silver linings in the midst of this terrible pandemic.  After all, you can't wish your life away.  Still, no matter how you slice it, 2020.was a wretched year for humanity.  The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has truly been a nightmare.  Many have suffered greatly.  My heart goes out to those who have lost family members or friends to this scourge.

I realize that January 1, 2021 is an arbitrary date on a calendar.  It's just one day after December 31, 2020.  All the problems of the world won't be solved overnight.  However, I still look forward to the changing of that calendar.  It represents a clean slate and a fresh start to me.  Of course, the calendar effect is strictly psychological.  I know that there are no guarantees about 2021.  I just hope it's a better year than 2020 and that the virus is brought under control.  The vaccines will help, but enough people have get inoculated for them to be effective.  It will also help that the four lost years of the Trump presidency will come to a merciful end on January 20, 2021.  That's an added bonus.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the world, but we can only hope for some better days ahead.  These tough times have given us some true heroes - health care workers on the frontlines.  For years, they have been undervalued and underpaid.  Due to COVID crisis, they are finally receiving some much-deserved praise and gratitude.  They have put their lives on the line for the sick and the elderly.  When the worst is finally over, will they still receive as much recognition?  The least we can do is pay our health care workers more.  They deserve it.  

Unfortunately, in contrast to our health care workers, some people have shown themselves to be selfish and uncaring.  I am referring to those who refuse to wear masks because they believe they should have the freedom to infect others.  I am also referring to those who have gone on unnecessary vacations.  I was dismayed to see so many travellers at airports during this holiday season.  Why can't people sacrifice one time so that we can all have a better Christmas and New Year next year? 

The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.  The finance minister of my home province of Ontario, Rod Phillips, took a Caribbean vacation during this time - with the knowledge of Premier Doug Ford.  Phillips apoIogized, but only because his hand was caught in the cookie jar.  If politicians want to be respected,  they have to lead by example.  

This pandemic has really highlighted the gross inequalities in our society.   Lower income people are finding themselves unemployed and facing eviction.  Large companies such as Amazon are having a field day because of all the online purchases.  It's boom time for them.  Small businesses and restaurants, however, are struggling.  It's bust time for them.

After this pandemic subsides, I hope that there will be more focus on the environment.  Thank goodness U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to return his country to the Paris Climate Accord.  After the Trump years, there is no more time to waste.

File 2020 into the dustbin of history.  It will be gone but certainly not forgotten.  Some day we will look at it with 2020 hindsight.  We'll talk about how we lived through the Great Pandemic.  For now, I'm just grateful that I haven't contracted COVID-19.  

So, I welcome 2021 not with unrealistic expectations, not with false optimism, but with hope.  Happy New Year to you and your family.    




- Joanne

Friday, December 25, 2020

Reflections on a COVID Christmas


Today is Christmas Day and this Christmas is undoubtedly the strangest and saddest I have experienced in my lifetime.  Still, the joy of Christmas always shines through.  The Christmas spirt endures forever and the message of the season is everlasting.  It can never be taken away, even in these uncertain times.  It is truly heart wrenching, though, to see all the suffering in the world right now.  It's only human. to be discouraged and dismayed at times.  The key is not to be overwhelmed by despair.

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair . . ."

 2 Corinthians 4: 8-12

There is no sugarcoating it.  COVID-19 is a nightmare, but I have tried to make the best of a terrible situation.  I have found some silver linings, for which I am grateful.  Fortunately, no one in my family has been struck by the virus and I am luckier than many people.  I cannot, however, pretend that the past nine months have been easy.  They have been extremely challenging.  As Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, "These are the times that try men's souls."

I firmly believe we will all  persevere, though.  This COVID era shall pass because the world is ever-changing.  The pendulum swings and life goes on.  It moves in cycles.  Human beings are resilient.  A century ago, in 1920, people were recovering from the devastation of World War I, followed by a pandemic of influenza known as the Spanish flu.  The Spanish flu was deadly, killing as many as 100 million or about a third of the world's population at the time.  Some 50,000 Canadians died from that pandemic.  It lasted from about February 1918 until April 1920.  Since World War I didn't end until November 1918, it was still raging when the pandemic began.  Imagine a world war and a pandemic at the same time!  

The Great Depression began in 1929, followed by World War II.  The world was hit with another double dose of death and destruction, but  we endured and we will endure again.  As 2020 draws to a close, vaccinations for COVID have begun, starting with health care workers and the elderly.  I recently heard a news commentator say, 'There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a long, dark tunnel."  Christmas is all about light and life.

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."

 Isaiah 9:2


This Christmas is one of sacrifice, so that future ones will be better.  Yes, I definitely miss being with all my family and friends   I definitely miss Christmas concerts and other Yuletide festivities, but times will change, as they always do.  So, joy to the world.  I am hopeful that we will be able to celebrate next Christmas with all our family and fiiends.

- Joanne

Thursday, December 24, 2020

A new novel titled "Children of Dieppe"


I am pleased to announce that my first novel, Children of Dieppe, is now available as an ebook on Smashwords.(smashwords.com).

Children of Dieppe is the story of Denise Nair, whose father, Jim Nair, died during the tragic raid on the French port of Dieppe in 1942.  The repercussions of that raid are life-changing for Denise's family, friends and acquaintances, They are forced to come to terms with Jim's past on the Isle of Wight, where he trained for the Dieppe invasion.  Denise is determined to uncover what happened there.  Along the way she must deal with her best friend, the Rosemary Tillis' infatuation with hockey goalie Mark Steeles, to whom she is also attracted.  Denise's friendship with the troubled Rosemary is chronicled in the novel, as well as her encounters with the mysterious Gordon Sloane, a childhood friend of her father.  Children of Dieppe is a sweeping drama that spans a time period from World War II until the 21st century.

I completed Children of Dieppe while at home during the pandemic of 2020.  It was my way of being creative and productive during these difficult days.  My hope that those who choose to read it will really enjoy it.  I believe it is a thoughtful but easy read.  If you have any questions about the novel for me, I would be pleased to answer them.  Just email me at jmadden16@yahoo.ca

For those who are interested in checking out my novel, here is the link.

-Smashwords – Children of Dieppe – a book by Joanne Madden

Thank you Number 16 readers.  Stay safe and have a Merry Christmas / Happy Holiday.  


- Joanne

Friday, December 18, 2020

Songs of Christmas Quiz

So, you think you know your Christmas music.  Well then, why not test your knowledge and try Number 16's Songs of Christmas Quiz.

SONGS OF CHRISTMAS QUIZ 

1.  Complete this lyric from "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  

"On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me . . ."

A. three calling birds

B.  three French hens

C.  three golden rings

D.  three geese a-laying

E.  three ladies dancing



2.  What Christmas song did Judy Garland sing in the film Meet Me in St. Louis?


A.  "The Christmas Song"

B.  "Silver Bells"

C.  "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"

D.  "I'll Be Home for Christmas"

E.  "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays"



3.  What is the name of the Beach Boys' Christmas song?

A.  "California Christmas"

B.  ""Sufin' Santa Claus"

C.  "Under the Mistletoe"

D. " Little Saint Nick"

E.  "Christmas USA"



4.  Which well-known Christmas hymn has the following line? 

"Radiant beams from they holy face / With the dawn of redeeming grace."

A.  "Silent Night"

B.  "The First Noel"

C. "Hark! The Harold, Angels Sing"

D.  "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"

E.  "O Holy Night"



5.  What was the first film in which Bing Crosby sang "White Christmas?"

A.  White Christmas

B.  The Bells of Saint Mary

C.  Holiday Inn

D.  Going My Way

E.  Blue Skies


6.  Which Christmas song has the following lyric?

"Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams."

A.  "White Christmas"

B.  "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

C.  "Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

D.  "The Christmas Song"

E.  "l'll Be Home for Christmas"



7.  In which country did the song "O Christmas Tree" originate?

A.  England

B.  Germany

C.  Wales

D.  Austria

E.  France



8.  In what year did Brenda Lee record "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree?"

A.  1956

B.  1960

C.  1956

D.  1958

E.  1961



9.  The song "A Holly Jolly Christmas" is from which classic television Christmas special?

A.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

B.  Frosty the Snowman

C.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas

D.  A Charlie Brown Christmas

E.  None of the above



10.  Name the Christmas song which contains the following words:    

"In the air there's a feeling of Christmas / Children laughing people passing / Meeting smile after smile"

A.  "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"

B.  "The Christmas Song"

C.  "Silver Bells"

D.  "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

E.  "Christmas in Kilarney"



11.  What year was the calypso Christmas song "Mary's Boy Child" recorded?

A.  1960

B.  1952

C.  1956

D.  1925

E.  1935



12.  Who first released "Jingle Bell Rock??"

A.  Elvis Presley

B.  Buddy Holly

C.  Billy Haley and His Comets

D. Chuck Berry

E.  Bobby Helms



ANSWERS

1.  B.  


The correct lyric for "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  is "three French hens."



2.  C

Judy singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" was originally sung by Judy Garland in the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis.



3.  D


The Beach Boys "Little Saint Nick." is a Christmas-themed hot rod song about Santa and his sleigh.  It  It was composed by Brian Wilson and Mike Love and was released as a single on December 9, 1963.  In 1964, it was the opening track on The Beach Boys' Christmas Album.


4.  A.

Those lines come from the Christmas hymn "Silent Night."  The words to "Silent Night" were originally written in German by an Austrian Roman Catholic priest, Father Joseph Mohr.  On Christmas Eve 1818, , Father Mohr needed a carol for Midnight Masst.  He took his poem, "Stille Nacht," to his friend Franz Xaver Gruber.  Within hours, Gruber composed the melody to "Stille Nacht."


5.  C

Below is a photo of Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds singing "White Christmas" in the 1942 film Holiday Inn.


Bing Crosby first recorded "White Christmas" in October of 1942.  It was played often during the 1942 wartime Christmas season, on the Armed Forces Network and on commercial radio.  Crosby introduced the song to the public on The Kraft Music Hall radio show on December 25, 1941.  The first movie in which Bing sang "White Christmas" was the 1942 musical Holiday Inn.  The film also starred Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale.  Composer Irving Berlin wrote 12 songs specifically for Holiday Inn.  

Bing Crosby's other Christmas-themed movies were released after Holiday Inn.  Going My Way, starring Bing and Barry Fitzgerald was released in 1944.  The Bell's of St. Mary, starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman was released in 1945.  The film White Christmas, starring Bing, Danny Kaye Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen was released in 1954.  White Christmas was not a sequel to Holiday Inn, but it too featured songs by Irving Berlin.  Bing also sang "White Christmas" as part of a medley in the 1946 comedy Blue Skies, another Irving Berlin musical in which he co-starred with Fred Astaire and Joan Caulfield.

According to Guinness World Records, "White Christmas," as performed by Bing Crosby, is the best-selling single worldwide.


6.  E

The lyric "Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams." comes from the song  "l'll Be Home for Christmas."  "I'll Be Home for Christmas" was originally released in 1943 by Bing Crosby with John Scott Trapper and His Orchestra on Decca Records.  The song was written by lyricist Kim Gannon to honour World War II overseas soldiers who yearned to be home for Christmas.


7.  B

"O Christmas Tree" is a Christmas carol based on a traditional German folk song called "O Tannenbaum."  A "tannenbaum" is a fir tree.


8.  D

Brenda Lee recorded "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" in 1958, when she was only 13 years old. (She was born December 11, 1944).  The song was written by Johnny Marks. the man who also wrote Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas."  "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" did not catch on until it was re-leased after Brenda's 1960 hit "I'm Sorry."  After that, it became a Christmas standard.  It was featured in the 1990 film Home Alone.


9.  A

Burl Ives provided the voice for the song "A Holly Jolly Christmas" in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the 1964 Christmas special.


10.  C

"Silver Bells" is the song that contains those words

"In the air there's a feeling of Christmas / Children laughing people passing / Meeting smile after smile"

"Silver Bells" was composed by the songwriting duo of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.  It was written for the 1951 film The Lemon Drop Kid, starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell.


11.  C

Jester Hairston

"Mary's Boy Child," is a 1956 Christmas song written by American composer songwriter Jester Hairston.  It is often performed as a Christmas carol.  Hairston composed "Mary's Boy Child" after a friend asked him to write a song for a birthday party.  He wrote it with a calypso rhythm because the people at the party would be mainly West Indians.  Singer Harry Belafonte heard the song performed by Schumann's Hollywood Choir and recorded it in 1956.


12.  E

Bobby Helms

Bobby Helms first released "Jingle Bell Rock" in 1957.  Helm's version is the best known.  The song's title, of course, comes from the old Christmas standard "Jingle Bells."  "Jingle Bell Rock" also includes 1950s references to "Rock Around the Clock" and "Jingle hop."


- Joanne