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"We sing a few Christmas songs, 'Jingle Bells,' things like that. There's lots of good rap Christmas songs but nobody knows the words."

-- Coolio, after distributing gifts to the needy in L.A.

Changing of the guard

The beauty of the Festival of Lights is that Niagara Falls doesn't know where to stop. First there were a few lights. Then there were more, and more, until it started to resemble the Griswolds' house in "Christmas Vacation," times 1,000. Poking around the festival Monday night, we basked in the excess: the sparkling "Good Ship Lollipop," the stripes on the glass cube building that throbbed to "The First Noel" (vying with Bach and Handel, which emanated from some nearby location). As we were leaving, we saw the ultimate touch. A security guard, running to disperse loitering kids, wore a hat festooned with twinkling lights. Decorating the authorities -- how festive! Next year, let's string lights on the mayor and plug him in! Tonight's the last chance to catch the Festival of Lights -- at 11 p.m., it sputters out till next year.

Holiday humbug

Speaking of Christmas music, we all reach that "Bah, humbug" point of saturation. The question is only when that moment arrives. A friend reports that on Christmas Eve in Fletcher's Grill in Tonawanda, the yule tunes were wordlessly dumped sometime around 11 p.m., and replaced by generic classic rock. A sure sign that somebody had had enough. And at about 4 a.m. Christmas Eve, when we tuned in to WNED-FM, we were surprised to catch the classical station taking a breather from what had been starting to look like a 72-hour-long orgy of choral Christmas selections. The wee-hours announcer must have reached his breaking point. "That was Mozart's Symphony No. 18," he reported, when the music ended. "Which, as far as I know, has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas."

Getting the ax

The January question: When does the tree come down? Nietzsche's jumped the gun Sunday while the Thirds held their annual reunion. The bar's front room sported a big fir, which was sawed kind of funny, with a wide gap in its branches to serve as a peephole for people stuck sitting behind it. Annoyed bar patrons decided the gap wasn't enough. The whole tree had to go. So the ornaments were removed and the Thirds, on break, were pressed into service to carry the tree themselves out into Allen Street and dump it. "Nietzsche's planned it this way," one listener said. "They've got all the help tonight they need."

Touching display

At last, an art exhibit on our level. Hallwalls' Member Show, set for Jan. 24, is called "Black Velvet and Other Tactile Delights. "It will celebrate not only black velvet as a ground for starving-artist painting and Tijuana tourist trade, but the very idea of velvetyness," says the gallery newsletter. "So don't only think black velvet Elvises. Think Blue Velvet, Velvet Underground, Velvet Fog, Velvet Revolution, Velveteen Rabbits, Velveeta, Velcro..." Work is solicited from all Hallwalls members (you can join in time to participate), and drop-off days are January 19 and 20. Buzz is working on a painting we're sure will qualify: a black velvet portrait of Mel Torme, Velcroed to the wall, snacking on Velveeta.
the buzz

A strange sight: tourists in the Hard Rock Cafe spotted taking pictures of the jacket worn by Guns 'n' Roses' Slash, of all people. Who would snap that, when there's Tammy Wynette's dress right around the corner? ... Speaking of rock, Pamela Anderson Lee has named her new baby Dylan Jagger Lee. A friend of Buzz' suggests that the kid'll probably take Lennon/McCartney as his Confirmation name. ... What was with those holiday gift baskets at Wegman's? We saw powdered pudding mix in one. Bottled water in another. What's next? Bleach? Canned peas? This isn't what's meant by wassail!

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