Last year I finally watched the entire Twilight Saga movie series. My review first appeared on SERENDIPITY.

A Late Review, By Rich Paschall

Yes, I know. I am late for the party. It is good to be late for some parties. For other parties, it might be better to have not shown up at all. This is one of those.

It started in the pre-pandemic era when I was in Best Buy one day. In the discounted DVD bin was a copy of Twilight, the first of 5 Twilight Saga movies. It was such a sensation when it first came out that I thought I would watch the first one and if I liked it, move on to the others. Like a few other movies and TV series I own on DVD, it sat on a shelf for the past few years.

Since we still have to Hunker in the Bunker to protect ourselves against those who still believe the coronavirus is a hoax, I have decided to consider all my entertainment options. If you have stumbled into our cave in the past, you would have seen some of my TV and music lists and reviews. I finally decided to give Twilight a try and report back to you. I don’t want any of you old-timers to confuse this with the excellent television series, The Twilight Zone. It is weirder and nowhere near as entertaining.

The five movies are based on the four Twilight novels by Stephenie Meyer. Somehow you have to think that the popular novels series made more sense than this collection of films. Four directors perpetrated this drawn-out series on the public to huge financial success. As I was watching these films I kept asking myself, “What am I missing here?” It certainly was not just teenage girls that helped them rake in billions of dollars worldwide. Yes, billions. I guess teenage boys like handsome vampires and cute werewolves too; not so cute when they are angry, I guess.

In the first outing (2008), Bella (Kristen Stewart), a forlorn teenager, goes to live with her father in the Pacific Northwest. You know, where the deer and the werewolves roam. At her new high school, she makes some new friends but becomes smitten (not bitten) by the pale-looking teenager, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). When Bella discovers that Edward is a vampire, she too would like to be a vampire so she can be with Edward for all eternity. Edward, of course, thinks this is a bad idea and refuses to bite her on the neck. Bela (Lugosi) would certainly have bitten Bella but that is another story for another time.

Have you got this so far? Keep in mind that the Cullen family are good vampires and they end up having to protect Bella from bad vampires because Edward has been hanging around with Bella, a human! Bella is saved, evil vampires are vanquished, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) gets introduced into the storyline. Lautner has a small part in the first movie, but don’t worry. He is a major character in the rest and will have plenty of opportunities to take his shirt off. Perhaps that was the real attraction of the series, but I digress.

In the second movie, New Moon (2009), not a full moon, Edward tries to leave as a way of keeping Bella safe and she does increasingly stupid things as a way to get him back. She also learns that her friend with the buffed-up body, Jacob, is actually a werewolf who tries to keep her safe. It seems the werewolf pack does not need a full moon to turn into wolves. Getting mad will do it. This film kept the CGI (Computer Generated Images) department busy. So did the rest of the series.

Film three, Eclipse (2010), saw even more evil vampires coming for Bella. At this point, I was rooting for the vampires, but the good vampires and their natural enemies, the werewolves made a pact (not a pack) in order to protect Bella from the large horde of vampires on the way for an overwhelming CGI and green screen battle. In the massive battle, Jacob, aka werewolf boy, was massively injured. Bella, of course, rushed to his side to comfort him. This was after she was spending all of her time with the vampire boy.  The series finishes with Bella seemingly torn between a werewolf and a vampire.  What’s a teenage girl to do?

The fourth book gave us two movies that could easily have been just one. Movie four, Breaking Dawn, part 1 (2011) begins with Bella marrying Edward the vampire right after high school. The first 50 minutes are the wedding and honeymoon. There is nothing salacious here. It is PG-13 after all. We do find out later on that Bella is pregnant with some sort of fast-growing demon child. That’s going to cause a problem. If the pregnancy doesn’t kill her, maybe the demon child will.

The final movie, aka part 2 (2012), has another group of upset vampires preparing to come and kill the half-human, half-vampire child out of concern the child will grow up to have superpowers and kill them all. The first half of the film has the Cullens trying to round up some allies against the Volturi who seems to be some sort of ruling vampire family with a very large army. They have a nice castle, anyway. Since the Cullens and friends are severely outnumbered, you know who they will recruit to help them again.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson must have gone to the same coach for mumbling lessons. If you watch the series be sure to turn on the captions in English, if that’s your language, so you can follow along. This is indeed the same Kristen Stewart who is nominated for an Oscar this year for Spencer. Robert Pattinson will next be up as The Batman. Yes, from vampire to Batman. Taylor Lautner will show up in a sports comedy movie this year, Home Team, his first film in 6 years.


The weekend the Thai comedy mini-series begins running in Thailand on broadcast television. Up until now, it has only been available in that part of the world on Disney+. Now seems a good time to revisit my review which ran recently on SERENDIPITY.

A Midnight Series review, by Rich Paschall

Yes, I have been watching another Thai mini-series, and this time it is just for laughs. The Midnight Series is three separate mini-series, Dirty Laundry, Midnight Motel, and Moonlight Chicken. The first two are six episodes apiece and the last is eight episodes. If you are willing to suspend disbelief, as the saying goes, and laugh along, then these might be for you. The loose tie-in among the three is that the most significant action occurs at night.

Dirty Laundry stars Nanon Korapat as an aspiring murder mystery novelist named Night, who is doing his dirty laundry at a late-night laundromat and writing his mystery story as he waits. On the night shift at the laundromat is Neon (Film Rachanun). She envisions Night as her dream guy and loves watching him work. Neon has to put up with quite a collection of odd-ball late-night characters. One night Night saves her from an upset patron after her boyfriend has been coming on like a bright light to Neon.

Foei Patara plays Nick, an aspiring rock star, who is guilty of flirting with others. Jenny Panhan plays his girlfriend Smile who wants Nick to give her solos at his performances. Their fights and absurd attempts to play rock music at the laundromat give the GMM TV veterans an opportunity to “chew the scenery,” as yet another cliche saying goes.

Night’s flow of creativity is interrupted by the rockers, so he invites Neon to go get something to eat with him. “Is this what you call a date?” she asks.  Night replies, “You can call it that.”

Night (Nanon Korapat) [L] and Judo (Pond Naravit)

When they return from the “date” they find Judo (Pond Naravit) taking off his clothes and throwing them into a washing machine. They stop him before he goes too far. He says he is used to taking off his clothes. Later we find out he is an exotic dancer.

When Night leaves the laundromat he leaves a unique shirt behind. When he does not return to the laundromat, it will be Neon’s only lead to finding him. She gets the help of a friend to search the neighborhood by day looking for Night.

When she finds her way to the right apartment building she learns Night has not been there. She tricks her way into Night’s apartment looking for clues. When mobsters arrive, she hides in a closet where she finds a briefcase full of money. Of course, she leaves with the briefcase. Night figures out Neon stole it and he demands its return. That’s when we learn someone has stolen the stolen suitcase which was obviously already stolen. Got it?

Night and Neon will try to figure out who stole the suitcase while going through the list of characters who populated the late-night laundry. Night’s life could depend on returning the money to “Mama-san,” the leader of illegal businesses.

Behind the scenes (Nanon and Film)

In addition to the rockers and the exotic dancer, they will have to consider Chompoo (Godji Tachakorn) the caretaker at the apartment building where Night lives. Also in the mix is a tone-deaf karaoke singer who is actually worse than the alleged rockers. They will need to track them all down, and of course, this will include going undercover, so to speak.

Night and Neon hatch a series of plans to try to find the stolen briefcase at each suspect one at a time. The misadventures and failed attempts will lead them to a final showdown in episode six.

Nanon Korapat has already proved his acting skills in a variety of roles and now gets to tackle a somewhat silly comedy adventure. Film Rachanun is the perfect partner in search of the real thief. Pond Naravit gets a turn at broad-based comedy and the chance to show off his…uh, dancing skills.

Foei Patara has played a large variety of characters at GMM and others. Here is a chance at some outrageous comedy. Foei has appeared in some serious stories recently including “10 Years Ticket” starring Ohm Pawat and the soon-to-be-released Double Savage, also starring Ohm.

Jenny Panhan is a go-to performer in comedic roles. She is also a frequent host and presenter on GMM. The entire cast has done well with this one and you will find no weak performances. Enjoy the adventure and the search for the stolen cash.

Find the Midnight Series including Dirty Laundry on the GMMTV YouTube channel with English subtitles. In Thailand and other SE Asia countries, you may need to find it on Disney+ Hotstar. Dirty Laundy began its run on GMM TV 25 on March 11.


Broadcast, cable, and satellite television as well as various streaming services have opened up television to endless options. The following thoughts and memories ran last year on SERENDIPITY.

So Many Choices, So Little Time, by Rich Paschall

Test pattern for hours

When both television and I were young, I recall that we only had four stations on most of the time with one added in sometimes. The network affiliates for CBS, NBC, and CBS, channels 2, 5, and 7 were on day and night but not overnight. They ended around midnight most days. I think the broadcast day ended with the national anthem followed by the infamous television “test pattern.”  We also had the independent channel 9, WGN, as in “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” It was owned by the Chicago Tribune.

But I am watching this!

A problem then, which still persists to this day, is that channel two was hard to get via broadcast television.  Back in those days, I might have had to stand at the television adjusting the antenna for a long time in a vain effort to capture a good image on channel two. Fortunately, it bounces off a satellite to our house now for the living room television. I don’t even try for it in the bedroom.

WGN was very important in our lives for noontime (Bozo’s Circus), after school (Garfield Goose), and baseball. WGN carried the home games for the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox. There were no road games on television. We had the radio for that. They also carried plenty of Three Stooges programming and old movies. For some reason, I do not find the Three Stooges as funny today as I did back then.

A few hours a day might include educational television on channel 11, NET (National Educational Television). It was the predecessor to PBS and ran until 1970. The few hours of programming usually included adult education classes that did not interest us. One of its last program efforts continues today, Sesame Street.

All the TV channels were on VHF (very high frequency) channels 2 through 13. Channel 1 VHF had problems conflicting with radio bands and was ultimately eliminated. Can you imagine just 12 television channels? Along came UHF (ultra-high frequency) television channels. The problem was that we did not have a television that had these higher channels. In fact, almost no one had such television sets as these channels started to get added. This was good news for television makers. Locally Zenith, Motorola, and Sears were selling a lot of new televisions. By 1964, television makers had to include UHF channels.

We needed channel 32 WFLD as in Marshall Field. It competed for broadcast rights for some White Sox games. It is now the FOX affiliate. Channel 44 became a party to the first pay-per-view with OnTV.  If you paid the subscription fee, you could get a box to unscramble a broadcast signal. It was the predecessor to Cable. OnTV might also include Sportsvision. When WGN started picking up road Cubs games, the White Sox tried a number of television options. I recall there was a black market for those subscription boxes for your television. Clever guys with a few electronics skills figured out how to put them together. No one could imagine actually paying for some channels. Now we have a long list of UHF channels. If you get them, you know there is a limit to that too. Channels 13 to 82 were for UHF but channel 37 frequency was ultimately reserved for radio astronomy. Can you imagine having just 80 channels?

As the years wore on and options increased, we awaited cable in the neighborhood. We just could not imagine that they could wire up every home in a big city. That would take years we thought. The city was divided up and handed off to several companies who paid the city fees to run around and put new cables everywhere, mostly using existing telephone poles. We got Group W for our neighborhood. It’s XFinity now but I dropped them for satellite.

Now there are more channels beaming into my living room than Captain Kirk could ever imagine. After all, he had a flip phone. I am not sure of the number of Spanish channels, but neither was my Colombian roommate John. He watched most things on his iPhone.

The Bluray player I have had for a few years now is hard-wired to the router, and I can get a variety of services via the internet including Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Opera TV store (Vewd) where you can connect a variety of other apps. It also has YouTube. Since the Bluray is connected to 40-inch television, I am now wondering why I was not watching “Bad Buddy” there.

I bought a 24-inch television last year for the bedroom. I confess I did not know all of the features when I bought it. It is connected to the internet via WiFi as well as to broadcast television with a flat antenna. The remote has buttons for six services including Prime which I have. Prime will connect me with Here, which I also have. There is also a button that has “Watch Free TV+” and it will find you all categories of television on a variety of services. The number of apps can take you all over the world.

Smart TV

I can not possibly watch all of the channels I can get in English, not to mention all the Spanish channels John did not watch. I have now discovered that YouTube and other platforms have opened us up to television from a number of countries. I found Chinese television series via YoYo English Channel and a popular Thai series on GMM TV. There are seemingly unlimited options in just about every language. With my limited French, I can watch the news on France 24 and other channels.

If you are willing to invest in a VPN (Virtual Private Network), you might be able to access broadcast options from other places not now available to you. I ran through a server in Thailand and watched some trailers on WeTV. Your connection will be encrypted end to end so probably be more secure than what you have now. I am paying on average just over 6 bucks a month for that.

Now changing the channel means more than walking to the set and moving a dial with a couple of clicks. It can literally mean moving to the other side of the world.


A Mini-series review.

This sixteen-part Thai drama is a complex tale of crime, hate, anger, and murder that tears apart the friendship of four families and sends us on a ten-year journey for truth, revenge, and redemption.  At the very opening of the first episode, before we even see the opening credits, Mai’s family is called to Marcus Theater where they are asked to identify a body. Mai has been shot and killed. Following this dramatic opening, we see some of Mai’s story leading up to his death. More will be revealed through flashbacks in future episodes.

In episode one, we see little Phukao (Phoo Phooripun Kruthirun), a boy of about 8. He idolizes his older brother Mai (Pluem Purim) who is about ten years older.  Even though their father owns an outdoor theater, Mai takes Phukao to the Marcus Theater to see movies. Mai has other reasons to go there which we will learn throughout the series.

Phukao is protective of the younger Kongkwan, a girl from a neighboring family, and he looks after her when she starts school. Kongkwan’s older sister Sutthilak (Pahn Riety), a new teacher, is secretly in a relationship with Mai, still a high school student. It is a forbidden romance.

Lokzo is the daughter of a single father and is friends with the other children. Plu is a few years older than the others and tries his best to keep the younger generation together, despite all that happens. In addition, when he is older (Off Jumpol) he tries to take care of his grandparents who he lives with.

We get to know the families and the younger children in the first episode and see them all together at the outdoor theater, Santi Movies, which has fallen on hard times and is going to close.

Later in the episode, we return to the opening scene. Mai’s girlfriend surprisingly admits to murdering him. Little Phukao is completely traumatized by the scene.  His terrified screams are absolutely gut-wrenching.

Even from the little that we have seen of what happened at Marcus Theater, we will soon begin to doubt that “Lak” actually killed her boyfriend. Because of the scandalous event, Lak’s family moved away.

10 Years Ticket

The second episode begins 10 years later. Phukao (Ohm Pawat) is still hurt by the loss of his brother 10 years earlier. The return of Lak’s family so that Kongkwan (Tu Tontawan) can attend the same high school that Phukao is attending brings back pain and anger to Phukao. The sight of Kongkwan and her family is a reminder of Lak’s killing of Mai.  As time goes on, Phukao forces Kongkwan to take him to the prison to see Lak. He has to know why she killed his brother. Instead of learning anything, seeds of doubt are planted that she committed the crime.

As we progress through the early episodes the circle of suspects who might have actually killed Mai begins to widen. It is not immediately apparent who are the bad guys and who are not.

There is a large cast of characters and storylines here. You will have to watch carefully to keep up with who is who. There will be several moments along the way when you will admit, “I didn’t see that coming!”

The parents and Plu’s grandparents all have stories that affect other characters. Mai and Phukao lived with their father (Bank Pawalit) and Phukao’s mother (Nicole Theriault). Mai had a different mother from an earlier marriage. Phukao’s mother tries to be a parent to both boys but has her own complicated backstory. She had a relationship with Pin (Tai Penpak), a woman we see delivering films to the theater.

Sor (Gunsmile Chanagun) is Mai’s best friend and is involved in some sort of intrigue with Mai. Later, Plu will take Mai’s place. Chalee (Marc Phuan) is the son of drug dealers and the older Phukao’s classmate.

Piak (Chalad Na) is the Marcus Theater owner who has taken in Sor and given him jobs. The police Inspector (Foei Patara) appears to be the son of the local mob boss. Many others populate the story. It is why you must pay close attention from the outset.

A short review such as this could never touch on all the characters and storylines. The interconnectedness of all things is exactly the element that will keep you hooked.


Mainly the story is about Phukao and his need to know why his beloved brother was murdered.  Phoo Phooripun and Ohm Pawat turn in stellar performances as Phukao. Often when we see children playing the younger versions of someone, it is hard to accept them as the same person. Phoo looks enough like young Ohm for you to believe him, but more importantly, he holds his own against this large crew of seasoned GMM TV actors. He is seen in frequent flashbacks in the series which help to explain what was going on 10 years earlier.  Ohm embodies the pain and anger Phukao has been feeling for ten years.

You will have found out almost everything about the various crimes, including the murder of Mai, by the end of episode 15. What follows is a protracted denouement for episode 16. This attempt to tie up all of the loose ends and present an odd speech by Sutthilak gives us the only awkward moments of the series.

You may find another surprise during the closing credits. If you have followed Ohm Pawat, you may know that he started taking singing seriously at the beginning of last year, likely the result of the encouragement and coaching from his good friend, Nanon Korapat.  It was due to their frequent public appearances together that Ohm learned to sing together with Nanon. His hard work at singing for the Fan Meeting in Thailand (ON Friend City) is well reported.

The OST (official soundtrack) for 10 years Ticket includes a closing song, “Unlovable,” performed by Ohm. It is his first performance on an official series number.  There is also a music video that includes scenes from 10 Years Ticket.  He gives an excellent performance and may give his close friend Nanon some competition in the best OST category.


Thai performers Ohm Pawat and Nanon Korapt held a Fan Meeting in the Philippines. It was a good opportunity to travel Halfway Around The World to visit with a friend and see the show. Following are a few pictures captured with my camera and with my Phone (Motorola G5).

Click on any picture to go through the larger versions of each picture.

See also: “A Trip to Manila,” photo gallery, “rjptalk,” Sunday Night Blog, February 4, 2023.


Do you have a favorite song? Wedding song perhaps? The following nostalgic look at songs ran last year on SERENDIPITY.

The Soundtrack of Your Life, Rich Paschall

You have probably heard that phrase before. Oldies radio stations love to use it. They want you to think they are playing the soundtrack of our lives. You know what they mean. They want you to think that they are playing the songs you remember from when you were younger. That could mean a few years ago or a few decades ago, depending on who they are pitching their playlist to. What is the soundtrack of your life?

After you leave your twenties, your soundtrack is probably set with the most often played and most often heard music. We inevitably love the music of our teens and twenties. It is linked to those big moments that never leave our memory banks. That could be our high school dances and proms. It could be college concerts and parties. They might include weddings and select family events. It certainly includes your record, tape, or CD collections, and maybe even some digital playlists. In future years our soundtracks will all be held in digital form in a cloud that you can download when you feel nostalgic.

Chicago at Ravinia Festival

It is certain that people from 16 years old to those who saw the beginning of the rock era can tell you the songs that meant the most to them, that held the greatest memories. I feel confident in saying that these songs will come from your early years. This is not just because it holds true for me, but it does for many of my friends as well. It is reflected in the crowds that show up to concerts. In the last dozen years or so, I have seen Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Chicago, and Reo Speedwagon as well as Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, and Brian Wilson. These stars could fill concert venues across the country with people who may have seen them generations ago. The reason is not a mystery. They wrote and performed our soundtrack, and the people who connect with that music continue to go to see those who are still around.

Fleetwood Mac at the UC Chicago

Of course, I have gone to see current acts. They included One Republic, Maroon 5, David Archuleta, Hunter Hayes, Lifehouse, Bruno Mars as well as MAX Schneider, fallout boy, and a few others. I like their music, but their songs do not hold the nostalgic connection I feel when I see Paul McCartney, Frankie Valli, or Neil Diamond.  When I saw The Monkees, minus Davy Jones, I heard screaming inside the Chicago Theater as I came through the door. It was as if the place was filled with teenagers, and I rushed in to see what was the commotion. Mickey Dolenz was just starting Last Train to Clarksville and the AARP set was reacting as if it was 1966 and they were teenagers. Yes, there were younger people in the crowd. These songs were not on their soundtrack, however, but they were on ours.

While leaving the Davy Jones songs to a couple of music videos from their 1960’s television show, The Monkees delighted a crowd with an evening of hits. The band’s recording of a Neal Diamond composition, I’m a Believer, was the last number 1 song of 1966 and the biggest-selling song of 1967. Since that performance, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith have also passed. I am glad I saw them while we could.

One thing the Rolling Stones do not lack after all these decades is energy. Maroon 5 may want to Move Like Jagger, but only Mick can do that, and he still does. Here I have taken a few moments from the show at the United Center. They were true rock stars of a previous era. They went on an hour late. Since this performance, Charlie Watt passed away.

The opening of Moves Like Jagger is shaky as everyone jumped to their feet, so of course, I had to also.  The venue is The Woodlands.  I should have known everyone in the crowd would try to move like Jagger too.

Without a doubt, the number 1 song on my soundtrack is Beginnings by Chicago. The 1969 song, written by band member Robert Lamm, failed to chart on its first go around. A re-release in 1971 when the band was red-hot brought success to a song that was featured at dances, proms, graduations, and weddings for many years to come. The album version ran 7 minutes and 55 seconds while the “radio version” ran about 3 minutes. In July 2010 I did not have a camera that could zoom in close or record in HD, but it got decent sound, so I have this piece of nostalgia:

Chicago will be appearing this summer in Chicago (or suburbs). They always return.

RJ Paschall music videos here.  See my concert videos and “liked” performers.


Not long ago we reviewed Paris, Je t’aime, about the neighborhoods of Paris. The following originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.

Paris, je t’aime, by Rich Paschall

Paris is divided into 20 neighborhoods or arrondissements. They are numbered with the 1st Arrondissement being in the center of old Paris.  From there, they spiral out in an ever-widening circle until we get to number 20. The 1st Arrondissement is also known as Louvre. I guess we do not have to tell you what famous museum is located there.

When we would arrive in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we would take the train to Gare du Nord. The location is convenient and not far from the center of the city. You can find hotels here at a much more reasonable rate than Paris Centre. Gare du Nord is near Gare de l’Est if you should be headed toward the East of France or even out of the country.

Gare du Nord – 10th Arrondissement.

It has been my good fortune to travel to Paris four times. I do not like the long plane ride from O’Hare International airport to Paris, but I always found the visit to the city to be worth it. Over several trips, we managed to see the major tourist stops.

Eiffel Tower – 7th Arrondissement.

With an excellent metro system, it is easy to find your way around Paris. Each of the neighborhoods is well served by public transit so there is no need to hail a cab or use your rideshare app.

Taking the Metro

Most movies set in Paris will stick to the most romantic areas. You will see locations along the River Seine. You will find the Eiffel Tour or Arc de Triomphe in the background. You may see the Jardins des Tuileries or Jardin du Luxembourg. Moves prior to 2019 may include Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame – 4th Arrondissement.

Imagine a movie that would include all of the neighborhoods of Paris. What if you get get a postcard from each? That is the ambitious idea behind the 2006 film, Paris, Je t’aime. Some of the world’s biggest stars and best-known directors came together for this anthology. There was to be a short film set in each of the neighborhoods. They were to have different directors, writers, and stars. This may sound like a bit of a crazy idea. Anthologies of this type often do not work.

These vignettes are strung together by scenes of the Paris neighborhoods. Most of the episodes are of course in French. A few are in English. You will also hear some Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic in the stories.

First, we find French director and actor Bruno Podalydes looking for a place to park on the Paris streets in the 18th Arrondissement, Montmartre. He notices that the women passing by all seem to be taken, then…OK, I decided on no spoilers.

Steve Buscemi is featured in a bit of a comedy sequence directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It plays out at a metro stop in the 1st Arrondissement. The episode is titled Tuileries.

Bob Hoskins, Nick Nolte, Elijah Wood, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Magie Gyllenhaal, and a long list of European and American stars appear. Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands, and Gerard Depardieu are in a scene together in the 6th Arrondissement, aka the Latin Quarter. It is directed by Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin.

Gus Van Sant directs a scene in the 4th Arrondissement, La Marais. A young man tries to strike up a conversation with another young man who does not seem to know what he is saying. You will know what everyone is saying thanks to subtitles.

The film is available to buy or rent online.  A few of the scenes are posted on YouTube in their entirety. The film runs for two hours and is only 18 stories. Alas, the 11th and 15th Arrondissements ended up on the cutting room floor.


Each year we enjoy music from Christmas Past. My following top ten list has been shared on SERENDIPITY on several Christmases Past. We felt we could share it every few years because each time we look at it, we discover that these dead artists are still dead.

My Top Ten Christmas Songs

Dead Artists Edition, by Rich Paschall

Marshall Field’s at Christmas

Whenever I listen to holiday songs on the local Christmas music radio station, one fact becomes apparent to me. Almost all of the songs I hear are performed by artists who have gone on to that great holiday party in the sky. This is, of course, a nice way of saying they are dead. Nevertheless, we continue to listen to their songs year in and year out. In fact, some of these have been flying across the airwaves for many decades and there is no sign they will ever stop being played.

It is safe to say that all of these songs have been covered many times over. Any singer with staying power in the industry has a Christmas album. It is true that a few of these songs received great success from other artists, but there are certain versions of these holiday hits with the ability to live on long after the artist has gone. It is these well-remembered and honored songs that fill my playlist.

Your 8-track and cassette tape versions of these may have become tangled and broken, and your records and CDs may have become scratched and broken, but you can still download and stream these hits because they are not going away. First I will offer up an honorable mention.

In 1977, David Bowie (1947-2016) was to appear on the Bing Crosby Christmas television special recorded in London. He was asked to sing Little Drummer Boy, but did not like the song and asked for something else. As a result, a counterpoint to the song called Peace on Earth was written for Bowie and Crosby sang Little Drummer Boy. We could simply say the rest is duet history, but that would not exactly be true. The now well-beloved version may have died away if not for the popularity of a bootleg recording. As a result, RCA released the song as a single in 1982. Sadly Crosby died after the show was recorded and before it was ever played for the public.

Now if you will put the yule log on the fire, get a glass of eggnog, and some Christmas cookies, we will present my top Christmas tunes from artists whose songs continue to echo down your decked halls.

10.  Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) The song was first recorded in 1948, but the 1957 recording by Elvis remains the most popular.

9.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Gene Autrey (1907-1998) The 1949 song hit number 1 on the charts.

8.  A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives (1909-1995) The song was released in 1965 after being featured the previous year in the animated cartoon classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

7.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland (1922-1969) The tune was written for the 1944 film “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

6.  Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms (1933-1997) The 1957 “Rockabilly” sound was an immediate hit and eventually went gold for Helms.

5.  Christmas Time Is Here, Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) The jazz musician is best known for composing the score to 17 Peanuts animated television specials and a feature-length film. The first of these was A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965. Words to this jazz tune were provided by the Charlie Brown television producer, Lee Mendelson (1933-2008). The network, as well as the producers, thought the show was too depressing and predicted a failure with the public. It won an Emmy, a Peabody, and the love of generations of kids.

4.  The Christmas Song, Nat “King” Cole (1919-1965) The tune was written by Bob Wells (1922-1998) and another will known singer, Mel Torme (1925-1999), in 1945. In June 1946 Cole recorded the song, then recorded it again in August with more instruments. The second version was released. There was a third recording, then a fourth in stereo in 1961. It is that last version you hear so much today. Torme also recorded The Christmas Song some years later, but it is the Nat King Cole version that is best remembered.

3.  (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, Perry Como (1912-2001)  The popular crooner recorded the song in 1954 and sang it for the next 40 years.  “Mr. C” recorded it in stereo in 1959 and it is this version you probably hear today.  Like many popular television variety stars of his era, Como continued holiday shows after his weekly TV shows ended.  This video is from his 1969 Christmas special.

2.  It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams (1927-2012).  Williams was another popular television crooner.  The song was written in 1963 and recorded by Williams for his first Christmas album.  It was used on his television show the same year and became a Christmas standard over time.  It is one of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time.  In this video, Williams appears to be singing along with the popular recording.

1. White Christmas, Bing Crosby (1903-1977) The Irving Berlin hit was apparently written for the movie Holiday Inn (no-telling with the prolific Mr. Berlin). Crosby first sang it on his radio show in 1941 but recorded it in 1942 for the Holiday Inn movie. It was recorded again in 1947 as the original master wore out from frequent use. The song appeared in two other movies and Crosby sang it for the rest of his life. This video is the final performance. He died soon after, doing what he liked best, playing golf.

Click on any song title above to hear the song or click here for the entire Christmas past playlist.


Last year on SERENDIPITY we brought you this faux review of a fictional series. We are happy to say it has not been renewed for another season, but like many other tired series, it could always be brought back for another run. Let’s hope we do not see it on the schedule again.

Season Two, a faux review by Rich Paschall

Last year at this time we were hoping this depressing story would not be renewed for a second season. By mid-July, it looked like there would be no new episodes. But one of the networks actually worked hard to have it continue and by Fall there were all-new episodes on the schedule. These not only had elements of the previous season to contend with, but also variants the viewing public did not expect. Here we are again, with the same heroes and villains bringing new plot twists.

The Grinch has nothing on the evildoers of this storyline. They have worked to keep the pandemic going much to the chagrin of the other characters, and of course, the audience too. No one can miss the element of irony introduced this year, as the work of the villains is actually killing off many of their supporters. Nevertheless, they persist in the actions that add more episodes to the second season.

Everywhere from the Small Village to the large metropolis, theaters were closed. Many restaurants were closed too. Some schools were forced to return to remote learning. Live events had to once again limit the audiences. Sports saw cancellations and delays. This is the “freedom” the antagonists had convinced the people they all wanted. Many of the characters in the show cheered these developments.

This leads to some sad story arcs that do not seem appropriate for holiday-themed shows. Hospitals were overwhelmed which introduced us to the characters of overworked doctors and nurses. Courtroom dramas became a new element as the guys in black hats took their battles to the conservative courts. With the programs going off in so many directions, it would only seem right that the Neilsen ratings begin to turn against this show.

Despite the convincing roles played by the villains of this drama, we give this series just one star. There is nothing redeeming about the presentation and we are hoping that this is the final season. Unfortunately, the FAUX network has pledged to bring it back until they have enough episodes for a syndication run.

Last season the holiday episode brought just one bright moment, as one of the heroes looks back on the crazy year. It was the closing number of the show.

The fictional review above is just a bit of satire running around in my brain. However, David Archuleta really did drop the above song on us right before Christmas last year. It seems like it fits the holiday season again this year.


Once again it is that time of year in the northern states. The cold weather is here and that means snow will be falling all too soon. To help you weather the season, so to speak, we present our top Cold Weather songs. The following article previously appeared on SERENDIPITY in past winters.

My Top 10 Cold Weather Songs, by Rich Paschall

If you live in the northern half of the nation you have probably brought out your sweaters and sweatshirts. You may even have located your winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. So, it seems like a good time to bring on the winter tunes. Songs by any band with “Cold” in their name are not what we mean here. Nor shall we include songs about lovers who are as “Cold As Ice” or running “Against The Wind.” Our tunes are really songs about winter, cold, and snow.  Some are a bit more symbolic than others, but they will do nicely for my purposes.

Let’s be clear, they are not holiday songs, although some of them only get played in the holiday season. Since the Christmas holiday season seems to start around Halloween and go until New Year’s Day, I guess there is already ample opportunity to hear some of them. You will discover that there is no holiday greeting included in the cold and snowy lyrics.  In fact, we will give you some instrumental music just because you can already place it in your winter memory.

Let me start you off with an honorable mention from the movie White Christmas.  No, I am not sneaking in a Christmas song.  This is strictly two minutes of wishing for snow by four big-name performers:

There are a number of other songs about snow that may not be classics but are good nonetheless. Track down “Snow” by Harry Nilsson, for example. Type in “Snow” in a YouTube search and you will certainly see “Snow (Hey Oh)” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. On second thought, you better type in “snow songs” so you can avoid all those homemade videos of people stuck in a snowdrift.

Here’s our bottom 5 with everything from a Classical sound to rock and a traditional pop wonderland.  There are winter birds of all kinds if you just let it snow:
10. Wizards of Winter – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
9.  Winter – Rolling Stones
8.  Winter Wonderland – Alexander Rybak
7.  Snowbird – Anne Murray
6.  Let It Snow – Frank Sinatra, but there are probably a thousand versions of this by now

The next one earns a place here as much for the back story as anything.  This symbolic “A Winter’s Tale” was written by Freddie Mercury from his hospital room overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland.  The visions he describes are what he could see from his room.  He laid down the keyboard tracks and vocals in a Swiss studio two weeks before his death.  Queen later finished the song with their parts.  It was released as the second song on a posthumous album four years later.
5. A Winter’s Tale – Queen

Winter imagery can be found in a lot of songs by Paul Simon, especially from the Simon and Garfunkel years. A Hazy Shade of Winter was certainly one of their biggest hits and earns a spot on my songs of Arctic Weather. You will find an intriguing version by the Bangles from years later, but let’s stick with the original.
4. Hazy Shade of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel

One of the most popular songs of the Christmas season is Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. Although often played only as an instrumental, the lyrics say nothing of the holidays. There is, however, “a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray.” They are rather seasonal as they “pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie,” but the song really is about a sleigh ride through the snow. Find a version with someone singing, if you must. Nothing says “Sleigh Ride” like the Boston Pops Orchestra:
3. Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson – John Williams & The Boston Pops

Some songs just have the right feel for the theme. That is the case with this tune by singer-songwriter David Archuleta. Can you feel the winter in the air?
2. Winter In The Air – David Archuleta

When I think of cold and snow outside, this is the song. There is nothing that will inspire me to go out in a storm. While I enjoyed seeing Joseph Gordon-Leavitt do this with Lady Gaga, and nothing compares to Ricardo Montalban’s crooning at Esther Williams or Red Skelton at Betty Garrett in the movies, the best version is Dean Martin and anyone. He recorded the song with a number of people over the years. Here’s the original.
1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin

This Frank Loesser-penned tune won the Academy Award for the 1949 romantic comedy musical Neptune’s Daughter.

Click on any title to get the song, or hear them all on my playlist here.