"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Sarah Palin’s book about the so-called war on Christmas, “Good Tidings and Great Joy,” dropped this week; we anticipated its central argument, about Palin’s grievances with a culture that acknowledges that not everyone celebrates Christmas. Don’t tell her “happy holidays”!
But there were a few fun nuggets — not all of them related to Christmas, even! — that Palin revealed in “Good Tidings and Great Joy,” that livened up the usual Christmas-warrior arguments about the right to public creches and Christ falling out of Christmas. Here are the book’s biggest lessons.
She’s a futurist. Palin takes her readers to Anchorage in the year 2028, where her attempts to celebrate Christmas with her grandson, a college hockey player, are stymied. Karly, the college’s “Vice Dean of Respect and Inclusion,” informs Palin that Christians have been excluded from campus life, but pagan celebrations are open to all, which is certainly one way one could see the future. Less likely Palin predictions about 2028: Mitt Romney will be elected president, and both Palin herself and Tina Fey will be forgotten. (Karly asks future-Palin: ”Were you the lady in the old sitcom, say about twenty years ago, about some defunct television network on 30 Rock Street?”)
She still loves that one apocryphal “Dancing With the Stars” anecdote. Palin has repeated, over and over, the story of Bristol Palin telling her privately, “The critics are going to criticize anyway, and the haters are going to hate, so you might as well dance!” during her run on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2010. This doesn’t quite jibe with how millennials speak — nor does it have much to do with Christmas (it gets into the book because Bristol’s Christmas stocking depicts a bear in a tutu).
She’s really into her birthday. Palin equates people referring to the Christmas season as “the holidays” to her husband lumping in her birthday with other February events: “Today is the day,” her fictional Todd Palin intones as he refuses to celebrate his wife’s getting a year older, “General Eisenhower was chosen to command the Allied armies in Europe, Bill Parcells was named head coach of the New York Jets, and Janet Reno was chosen to be the first female attorney general.” Her birthday’s ruined! It’s a good thing she has another man in her life — a straw-man argument, her one true love.
Her resignation as governor of Alaska relates to Christmas, too. Palin stepped down as governor in July 2009, but — perhaps in order to defend her record yet again in a book nominally about Christmas — she rehashes the putative ideas behind her resignation again, alleging that she was thinking about them a lot during Christmas 2008. “My heart has always been — and is — full of love for Alaska,” Palin writes. “But during that Christmas, it was heavy.”
Her chili recipe is really simple! “Merry Christmoose Chili” can be cooked for “1 to 5 hours” and contains five ingredients: “moose hamburger (or caribou or, heck, I suppose you can use beef),” “regular chili seasoning mix,” “hot chili seasoning mix,” tomato sauce, and kidney beans. No cumin for this lady! This actually sounds delicious but is so self-explanatory as to seem like word-count padding — an impression aided by the fact that the next recipe is for Rice Krispies Treats.
Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_More Daniel D'Addario.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)