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Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: These holiday songs tower over the others

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

“I’ll tell you what, if I hear Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer one more time, I’m gonna go up on a tower with a high-powered rifle.’’

Those were the words of wisdom from Peter Buck in REM’s holiday tune “Christmas Griping,’’ which is a sort of rap set to the beat of a poor man’s “Tusk” while the boys talk about throttling the person who invented fruitcake and having nightmares about Burl Ives.

Like Buck, a lot of people are driven crazy by some Christmas carols. Many of them are lame and sung lamely by lame artists. My daughter Lauren makes me listen to Justin Bieber’s version of “The Christmas Song” in which he sings “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” and the word “fire” seems like it has 13 syllables. If I have to hear that one again, I may join Buck on the tower.

But there are some good Xmas tunes out there. I have about 100 or so in my iPod, including the aforementioned REM gem. Like most people, I listen to a batch of them around this time of year. Unlike a lot of people, I will play some of them on days when the temperatures are in the 90s and 100s. But only for a few minutes.

Last week, we asked people in our Viewfinder to tell us their favorite Christmas carols. Today, it’s my turn. Out of the 100 or so holiday songs from my collection of oddball and traditional songs, here are my 12 favorite in reverse order.

12, The 12 Gifts of Christmas by Allan Sherman

This novelty song features Sherman merrily singing about the 12 gifts he will return including a statue of a woman with a clock where her stomach ought to be and a Japanese transistor radio. Over the years, I haven’t enjoyed the song as much when I found comedy’s Santa Claus was really sad and miserable most of the time. It’s still a fun song, though.

11, I Saw Three Ships by Blackmore’s Night

Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar riff in “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple is a classic and lately he’s been heavily involved with a project in which they play a bunch of songs in a Renaissance style. Break out the mandolins and flutes. This Christmas ode is no “Smoke on the Water” but it is special.

10, Let Me Sleep by Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder’s haunting voice sings about a lost soul – possibly a hobo – thinking about the magic of Christmas when he was younger. But this Christmas he just wants to sleep. It’s kind of a downer with a trace of sentiment.

9, Silver Bells by REM

The Athens boys are just horsing around here, singing this classic with a hillbilly twang but for some reason, it works!

8, Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys

Dismiss them as just a hot rod and summer band if you will, but these guys save some serious harmonic chops and show it on their “Christmas Album.” This song was the best of the batch with “Merry Christmas Baby” not far behind.

7, The Christmas Song by the Ravonettes

I am not a big fan of the Ravonettes and less of a fan of slow songs but for some reason, this original song has an old 50s or 60s-ballad feel that strikes me just right. It really should be a classic. Maybe in 20 years. 

6, Jingle Bells by Yello

It’s basically the Swiss electronic pioneers’  hit “Oh Yeah”  meets Jingle Bells but it works. The group probably just mailed this in as a song for the soundtrack for the 1995 film “The Santa Clause” but it’s fun and bouncy in which sleigh bells meets electronic gizmos.

5, Feliz Navi-nada  by El Vez

The Mexican Elvis Presley impersonator turns out a wicked version of this song with the punky “Public Image” riffs in the background. Wild stuff. It should make even the Scrooge-like Johnny Rotten smile, since he wrote the background tune.

4, Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) by the Ramones

My favorite group of all time came up with a novelty tune in which the so-called brudders dialed down the punk guitars and added sleigh bells. The song is about a couple who are fighting during the holidays and the video of the tune ends with an elf throwing up in a toilet. Nothing says Christmas more like an elf barfing!

3, Jingle Bells by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters

Crosby is insanely famous for his version of “White Christmas” but for my money, his bouncy version of “Jingle Bells” with the iconic Andrews Sisters is superior. Aside from the great vocal talent, we have a hot band swinging away toward the end of the tune.

2, Little Drummer Boy by Sparks

One of the quirkiest musical acts around (“Eaten by the Monster of Love,” “Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls,” “Angst in My Pants” and “Pretending to Be Drunk” are just a few of their song titles) play it straight on this live BBC rendering of the classic. It’s always been one of my favorite Christmas songs growing up and the Mael brothers make it greater. 

1, Blitzkrieg Santa by Divide and Kreate

Some mashups work. Many don’t. This one is great as it mashes the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” with the Jackson 5’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.’’ No, I never thought that high-voiced Michael Jackson before puberty would ever be able to blend in with the Ramones, but there you go.

As a bonus, my favorite Christmas song title is “I Farted on Santa’s Lap (Now Christmas is Going to Stink For Me) by the Little Stinkers but it didn’t find its way to the Top 12.

If you have any suggestion of odd favorite carols, let me know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Our own Sports Center

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Page-1-simeon-coach

 

File photo by Jeff Vorva

Simeon coach Robert Smith, left, talks with a referee during a game against Stagg at the Shepard Sectional in March. His powerhouse Wolverines will be back in the area, facing St. Rita Friday at Moraine Valley Community College’s new gym.

By Jeff Vorva

Reporter Editor

Bill Finn loves basketball.

The Moraine Valley Community College athletic director played at Richard High School and coached the sport at Moraine for 22 years and racked up 506 wins. He has a laundry list of great contacts in the inner circles of Illinois college and high school basketball and loves watching a matchup of power teams facing each other.

But don’t expect Finn to be glued to his easy chair on Friday when Simeon plays St. Rita on a game that will be broadcast live across the world on ESPN2.

That’s because he'll be busy. He and his facility will be hosting the event.

The Moraine Valley Community College Health, Fitness and Recreation Center officially opened in March. Nine months later, it will be featured for the world to see.

The new gym inside the facility, which seats 3,200 people, will be the host site of the game, which tips off at 5:30 p.m. But Finn figures to be working all day with preparation. The crew will be stopping by early in the morning to set up. Finn can’t wait.

“I am beyond excited,” he said. “I’ve been here 33 years and we’ve never had anything happen like this before. After my meetings, I would tell people ‘yeah, I just met with ESPN’ like it was a common occurrence.

‘’This fit the bill for them. They want to fill the place. They didn’t want UIC or Chicago State or Rosemont. This ended up being the perfect venue for size. We’ve had full-day showcases here before but nothing like this. This is requiring tons of more work but it’s worth it. The attention and exposure for our college and athletic program will be tremendous.’’

Finn said former players of his have connections with the Paragon Marketing group, which has ties with ESPN and the two sides came together in recent months to make this event work.

The talent on the floor will be special.

Simeon coach Robert Smith has coached stars Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker in his tenure.  He may not have players of that caliber this year, but he has three Big 10 Conference signees in Edward Morrow (Nebraska), D.J. Williams (Illinois) and Isiah Moss (Iowa). The Wolverines opened the season 3-0 including Sunday’s 71-66 victory over Morgan Park at the CPS Rivalry Showcase at Whitney Young High School.

Simeon has won six Class 4A state titles in nine seasons including a historic four-year run that ended last season.

St. Rita won three of its first four games including last Friday’s 80-61 victory of St. Joseph.

Charles Matthews is heading to college powerhouse Kentucky while Armani Chaney is heading to Tennessee State while Myles Carter has Northwestern, Notre Dame, De Paul, Illinois and others still on his wish list.

Tickets are on sale now at the Palos Hills school’s rec center and will be available at the door. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for high school students with identification.

Finn hopes the thousands of fans at the game and many more watching the game on ESPN2 will enjoy the school’s new venue.

“This is not the Taj Mahal,’’ Finn said. “But it’s the Taj Mahal for me.’’

 

No quint for Quintos, but rest of Ridge board votes for new fire truck

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chicago Ridge trustees Tuesday accepted a recommendation from Fire Chief George Sheets and approved the purchase of a new fire apparatus.

 

The village board voted 5-1 to purchase a quintuple combination pumper, or quint, an apparatus that serves the dual purpose of an engine and ladder truck.

 

The truck will replace three older fire trucks thereby reducing costs and improve efficiencies, Sheets said.

 

Trustee Bruce Quintos cast the lone “no” vote, saying the fire department’s three lieutenants should appear at a board meeting to discuss the purchase.

 

“I think we should bring them in,” Quintos said. “Ask questions. Get it all out in the open.”

 

Sheets told Quintos that the lieutenants already have weighed in on the purchase.

 

“We’ve absolutely listened to the firefighters,” Sheets said. “Those who are doing the job absolutely have a say on what the vehicle is.”

 

He said the lieutenants were waiting to meet with Quintos, but the trustee never followed through and scheduled one.

 

A brief exchange between Sheets and Quintos led the fire chief say he took offense to Quintos’ implication that he was not fully informed about the purchase.

 

“There’s no reason for me to tell you anything other than the facts. I’m not sure where you’re going with this. I’m your fire chief, and I’m making this recommendation,” Sheets said.

 

The quint refers to the five functions that the apparatus provides: pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device and ground ladders.

 

Purchase of apparatus means the fire department will remove from the fleet an aerial truck and two pumper trucks, one that is badly rusted and requires significant repair, Sheets said.

 

Those vehicles will be sold and the proceeds will be used to help pay for the quint, he said.

 

“It’s more efficient. It’s the way to go,” Sheets said.

 

The department currently spends about $60,000 to maintain 11 vehicles, a figure that is too high considering that the Oak Lawn Fire Department has a $50,000 maintenance budget for 18 vehicles, said Sheets, who also serves as fire chief in Oak Lawn.

 

The quint will cost $685,000, which will be offset by the $250,000 the village expects to receive for the sale of the three vehicles it is removing from the fleet. A $350,000 state loan could be used to pay for the bulk of the balance, Sheets said.

 

 

Early birds hope to catch the term

  • Written by Bob Rakow

PAGE-1-ElectionOak Lawn Trustee Bob Streit and two other hopefuls for the Oak Lawn Village Board gathered outside the village’s clerk’s office Monday morning waiting to submit their nominating petitions for the 2015 municipal elections.

 

The same scenario occurred in village halls throughout the suburbs this week as candidates for local offices took the first critical step in their bids to achieve local office.

 

Candidates have until Monday to submit petitions for the April election.

 

In Oak Lawn, Streit was joined at village hall by Dan Johnson and Bud Stalker, both who are running for the District 5 seat being vacated by two-term incumbent Carol Quinlan.

 

Streit, meanwhile, is being challenged by J. John “J.J.” Zurek, who also submitted his petitions Monday.

 

District 1 Trustee Tim Desmond signaled his intentions to run for a four-year term by turning in his petition signatures on Monday. Desmond was elected to a two-year term in 2013.

 

As of noon Tuesday, neither Scott Hollis, a relative newcomer to the village, nor Steve Loulousis, who previously ran for trustee, submitted petitions. Both have said they planned to challenge Streit in the 3rd District.

 

Additionally, Paul Vail, who announced his candidacy in March, had not yet filed petitions to run in District 5. Vail is a member of the village’s planning and development commission.

 

While Oak Lawn residents can expect an eventful campaign season, residents of the other communities in the Reporter coverage area also can look forward to some interesting races.

 

In Evergreen Park, incumbents Mary Keane, Mark Marzullo and Jim McQuillan are running for re-election to the six-member village board. They will be joined on the ballot by challenger Christopher Trzeciak, president of the Evergreen Park High School District 231 school board.

 

In Chicago Ridge, incumbents Jack Lind and Dan Badon have submitted nominating petitions, as has Fran Coglianese, a long-time clerical employee at the Chicago Ridge Village Hall.

 

Bill McFarland, a paid-on-call firefighter and a member of the Our Lady of the Ridge school board, and Don Pratl, a former trustee and member of the School District 218 board, have indicated they will run for trustee but had not submitted petitions as of Tuesday.

 

In Palos Hills, there are contested races for alderman in two of the city’s five wards.

 

Mike Lebarre and Sonia Khalil are running for the 3rd Ward seat vacated by Ald. Bill Hansen. In the 5th Ward, Dawn Nowak is challenging incumbent Frank Williams. Additionally, incumbents Marty Keefisch (1st), Pauline Stratton (2nd) and Joseph Marrotta (4th) have turned in their petitions.

 

Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley, City Clerk D’Lorah Catizone and Treasurer Dan Schramm submitted petitions on Monday.

 

Additionally, Joe Mancuso has filed to run for alderman in the 2nd Ward and Colleen Kelly, a member of the Lyons Township Town Board, turned in signatures for a run in the 4th Ward.

 

In Worth, trustees Mary Rhein and Warren Soldan along with challenger Bruce LeBeau have submitted petitions.

Evergreen Park group charges Jackie Robinson West used illegal players

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chris Janes is crying foul but his grievances appear to be falling on deaf ears.

 

The vice president of the Evergreen Park Athletic Association is accusing the Jackie Robinson West Little League of cheating by violating residency rules when it put together the team that competed in the 2014 Little League World Series and won the U.S. title.

 

It doesn’t appear that the team will have its title stripped anytime soon.

 

A spokesman for Little League International, Brian McClintock, which organizes the Little League World Series, said in an emailed statement the organization is “confident that the documentation provided to the organization from Jackie Robinson West Little League meets the residency regulations for the 2014 Little League Baseball tournament season" and the issue is considered "closed at this time,” according to reports.

The story was first reported by DNAinfo.com Tuesday and has grown into a firestorm.

 

Jackie Robinson West’s success was the feel-good story of the summer as a team from Chicago’s South Side came together and rolled through the sectional and state playoffs before winning the U.S. title. They lost the title game to a team from Seoul, Korea.

 

Their season included a playoff slaughter-rule win over Evergreen Park Little League by a score of 43-2 in four innings, DNAinfo reported.

The team enjoyed significant recognition when they returned to Chicago from Williamsport, Pa., including a downtown pep rally and appearances at both Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field.

But the EPAA insists that the team was not made up exclusively of boys from Chicago’s South Side. Rather, they were chosen travel teams that hail from nearby suburbs, Janes said.

 

In an email to Little League International, EPAA officials called on Little League officials to investigate whether Jackie Robinson West engaged in “manipulating, bending and blatantly breaking the rules for the sole purpose of winning at all costs,” DNAinfo reported.

Janes said Tuesday that the all of the association’s officers agreed to go public with the accusation, though the decision may “open a big can of worms,” he said.

He added that decision was not made overnight.

“We have been working with Little League since early in the tournament,” Janes said. “It’s not as though I waited four months to spring this on everybody.”

Additionally, he said, Little League requires the accuser to prove wrongdoing. He believes he’s done that.

“I’ve given them compelling evidence,” he said.

Some of that evidence was not that difficult to find.

“It was just a Google search. That’s all it was,” Janes said.

DNAinfo reported that an Internet search found that a congresswoman, a suburban mayor, an elite traveling baseball league and Sports Illustrated posted details about the players' suburban roots.

Specifically, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly took to Twitter to cheer on Jackie Robinson West players who live and attend school in suburban towns within her district, DNAinfo said.

Additionally, South Holland village officials congratulated the two as “alumni” in a village newsletter, and Sports Illustrated reported in its feature “Faces in the Crowd” that one player attended a school in suburban Homewood.

Lynwood Mayor Mayor Gene Williams also was quoted as in a newspaper about plans to celebrate our own Jackie Robinson West player.

According to the rules posted on the Little League International web site, each local little league determines its own geographic boundaries from which it can select its players.

But, according to a map obtained by DNAinfo.com, the Jackie Robinson West boundaries include sections of the Morgan Park, Washington Heights, Auburn Gresham, Englewood and New City neighborhoods of Chicago — but do not include any suburbs.

Residence must be established and supported with three forms of documentation, the rules say, which include items like a driver's license, voter registration and copies of utility bills.

 

Jackie Robinson officials deny cheating.

 

“Oh my goodness, we did not cheat. We did not recruit these guys,” Jackie Robinson West president Bill Haley told DNAinfo. “Nothing was done to put these kids together. We absolutely did not cheat.”

Janes said Evergreen Park baseball officials and those from other leagues have long suspected Jackie Robinson West of violating residency rules to recruit the top players from the suburbs.

He even recalled an occasion when he talked with a coach from Kankakee who knew about the alleged cheating by Jackie Robinson West.

Nothing was ever made of the suspicions in the past because the team did not enjoy the success it experienced this summer, he said.

“Nobody was ever comfortable going on the record,” said Janes, the father of four boys, three who play Evergreen Park Little League.

 

Additionally, he said, there was a hesitancy to quash the feel-good story of the summer.

 

Janes said he and the league has been the target of some criticism for raising the issue, but nothing too serious.

 

“I haven’t gotten a lot of negativity in terms of people knocking at my door or calling me,” he said.

 

Despite potential negative feedback, raising the issue is important, Janes said.

 

“It’s about fair play. What are we teaching our kids? How is it fair and equitable?”