The Super Bowl party at the Castle was pretty good. Puter did a nice job cooking some brats on the grille (it is indeed one way to get rid of mouthy, spoiled kids), and everyone loved the Volkwagen commercial. Mandarin, truth be told, was a little spooked by the Black Eyed Peas and left the room until we assured him it was over. We have no idea why; curious readers should email him for his explanation.
But the Volgi has a memory like a goddamn trap, and he remembers each year that the Czar hates the exaggerated melisma in the National Anthem. Look, a little creativity is okay, but the crazy amount of melisma (what the kids call modulation) when singing The Star Spangled Banner is insane. And the Czar loathes it. Loathes.
Maybe it started before the singing. Fox decided there was a chance you might forget you were watching Fox (because it looks so similar to PBS), and they promotionally throw out the kid from Glee to sing one of the Czars favorite hymns, America the Beautiful. The girl only knows show tunes, of course, so she tries to be the next Kate Smith, but sang it like the next Kate Capshaw. The Czar knows this song is written specifically to stimulate visual imagery in the listener, but rows of saluting sailor suits was a bit tawdry.
So then we see Christina Aguilera, who is evidently undergoing expensive surgery to look more like Cyndi Lauper every year. Hey, Christina, why not just follow Cyndis regimen: a crate of chocolate and a home Botox kit? But that isnt the only 1980s throwback we saw: she opened her mouth and sang the anthem like a warbler bird being swallowed by a highly dyspeptic and equally vocal cat.
Advice to Ms. Aguilera: if you are somehow invited back to sing the National Anthem at a future venue, realize that the Mariah Carey version was done a while back. Its. Been. Done.
To death, frankly. Heck, The Simpsons made fun of this in 1990, when Bleeding Gums Murphy sang a 20-minute version of it. Yes: twenty-one years ago, it was already the stuff of satire. This is why there is never a dry eye in the house when a group of high school kids do a sweet, a capella version of it, or a singer does it as a hymn, or freaking Bobby McFerrin did it with a simple click track on a handheld cassette player. The pop star hyper-coloratura version is the worst way to do it. The right way? Catch a YouTube clip of Jim Cornelison doing it at the Madhouse before a Blackhaws game. No one sits. No one is silent. Everyone is transported to the numinal world.
But the Czar knows why you did it. And knows why screwed up the lyrics. And why no matter how much he begs for pop stars to get a clue, youre all going to continue to do it this way since you mistakenly think Jimi invented the genre back at Woodstock.
You really have no idea what the song is about or how it should sound. Just as there are professional political pundits who think the Constitution is a hard-to-understand relic from a hundred years ago, most pop stars actually hate The Star Spangled Banner as a trite, boring song about bombs and spangles. To you, it begs to be updated with fancy riffs, and how many syllables can be crammed into the word free.
Because it is a living song! Oh, sure, anyone can treat it with respect and dignity: but we can really ramp it up with a little sizzle. But the reality remains: you dont get what the song is about, or what it represents.
So the Czar will tell you in a short paragraph: the song takes place in 1812, when the Britishthe greatest military power in the worldunleashed a devestating attack on an American fort; and not could even the full power of the British Navy fail to knock down our flag after an entire night of bombardment, their rockets actually illuminated the flag for all to see our defiance of the odds. And today, the song means simply this: no matter how horrible the odds, the American flag will still be there for everyone to admire.
Think about that. Now tell us how you would sing that song.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.