Christmas Playlist ’20

I’ve been carefully building a Christmas playlist for over a decade, adding one track a year. There are now nineteen songs on the list.

  1. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love
  2. “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
  3. “The Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues
  4. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland
  5. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee
  6. “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives
  7. “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby
  8. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” By Dean Martin
  9. “Christmas Time is Here (Instrumental)” by Vince Guaraldi Trio
  10. “The Christmas Song” by Nat “King” Cole
  11. “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson
  12. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon
  13. “I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard
  14. “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Elvis Presley
  15. “What Christmas Means to Me” by Stevie Wonder
  16. “All I Want For Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey
  17. “What a Wonderful World” by Joey Ramone
  18. “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie & Bing Crosby
  19. “Father Christmas” by The Kinks
  20. “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade

This year’s addition is “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” It’s been a long time since this playlist moved from “here are some cool Christmas songs” to “here’s this year’s standard,” but so be it. My goal is just to pick my favorite Christmas songs, and every time I come across a new one, I add it to a list, but year after year a classic song beats the newer additions onto the list.

Listen on Apple Music

A few thoughts on yesterday’s Apple event.

The iPhone has now reached a point, I think, where it’s an established platform and its updates aren’t “run out and get it day one” essential any longer. This is a good thing. New innovations will come, but the phone is much more a reliable tool rather than a shiny gadget at this point.

The speed of the A14 is sort of interesting. A 5nm chip in a telephone is bonkers, but it seems like a lot of that speed is being used only in ways you don’t really ever appreciate. All the computational photography is impressive, but Apple has managed to make it all happen in the background to such a degree that you don’t really ever realize or appreciate what’s going on under the hood. And on the iPad side, the lack of advanced software means I don’t have many opportunities to take advantage of the processor power I do have. How much faster would my iPad transcode video than my Mac if I could run Handbrake on it?

MagSafe looks like a handy upgrade to Qi charging. If you plug it into a larger brick, it seems like it’ll charge a good bit faster, too (though in practice I always just charge my phone at night so charging speed is rarely relevant). I’ll probably get one of the duo chargers for my bed stand and might get another to keep in my travel bag. (Travel tip: For everything you can, get a redundant copy and just keep it in your bag. You’re less likely to forget it when you’re packing if it never leaves your travel kit. Travel tip 2: On the topic of charging speed, getting a 20W charger for fast fill-ups for your travel bag is nice for when you’re not on your normal routine or need to share chargers with family.)

The magnetic wallet is interesting, but presumably you have to detach it whenever you wirelessly charge the phone, which sort of diminishes the “keep everything in one handy place” idea. Obviously it’s only for people who can get away with carrying just 2–3 cards.

I had to laugh at Apple trying to pass off League of Legends as an innovation on iPhone. As a graphics showcase, the game is over ten years old, and a MOBA with onscreen controls is terrible fit for touch.

My current AT&T plan won’t give me access to 5G. Moving to one of their unlimited plans—which I don’t need, data quota-wise, even in months when I do leave the house—would cost me something like $25/month.

HomePod Mini looks great. I have an original HomePod and like it a lot. It wasn’t cheap but it sounds fantastic, and does exactly what I want, which is to play music when I ask it to with the added ability to pick songs directly from my phone. Echo and Google Home obviously do this for much cheaper, but I really don’t trust those companies. Even after the story about Apple keeping Siri recordings, I still prefer their stance on privacy over the competition.

Apple Music Hits is doing a block of songs about cars. They just played “The Passenger” and I thought, “lol, that song’s not about a car, it’s about heroin. The passenger is the addict.” Then I looked up the lyrics and… it really just might be a song about riding in a car.

Old Times There are Not Forgotten

The story yesterday about Good Humor hiring The RZA to write a new jingle to replace “Turkey in the Straw,” which has racist lyrics, reminded me of something that happened in middle school.

When I was in 8th grade—or maybe 7th, but I think 8th—this would have been ’92 or ’93—the middle school band prepared several pieces for our twice-yearly concert. One of the selections was a medley that included Dixie. The song, if you’re not familiar, is sort of—well, no, it is—an anthem to the antebellum south. It wistfully longs for the old days. Its least objectionable lines include “In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand to live and die in Dixie.” You’re welcome to look up other versions that specifically call for southerners to take up arms against the United States.

A week or so before the concert, word got out that “Dixie” was part of the medley the band was going to be performing, and a few parents and teachers complained. At twelve or thirteen, I really didn’t get it. It was just one song in a medley, and we weren’t going to be singing it, just playing the tune. Plus, we’d worked hard to prepare the piece. Without it we’d have a hole in the program. But instructions came down that we shouldn’t play the song, so it was dropped.

I remember at the time really not getting it. Now, of course, I do. But then, we were in the era (still are, probably) when we were taught that the American Civil War had a complex series of causes only partially rooted in slavery. I really can say that I’ve honestly never understood “southern pride.” I’ve always found it shameful. And yet, I was surrounded by it, and here and there, it soaked in. “Dixie” was just a song! You can’t erase history! Why not be proud of your heritage? And so on.

I can see, now, how this event could have been an opportunity for the school to teach us how to move forward. They could have gone through the lyrics of the song and said, “See how these words are meant to paint the slaveholding era as the ‘good old days?’” We could have had discussions about how you can be proud of your heritage while still admitting the truth of what happened in the past. There’s pride in knowing your society has improved, too. A town that built itself on the legacy of Thomas Jefferson would do well to be able to honestly say, “Here are the ideals we believe in. Here’s how we haven’t always lived up to them, here’s how we’ve moved closer to them, and here’s what we still have to do.”

You don’t heal by singing “Look away! Look away!”

As much as I like His Dark Materials, it took me a while to get around to its spinoff series The Book of Dust. I’m not sure why, but I’ve just finished La Belle Sauvage. Will start The Secret Commonwealth tonight.

Okay, Doom Patrol, I like your show a lot, but I’m halfway through and you’ve blown two chances to have choreographed dance fights. (When Dr. Harrison tells her patients to dance, and the drag queen vs. g-men face-off.)

Legion got this right.

I’ve had Apple’s Magic Keyboard for a few months now and thought I’d write a bit about it. In short, it’s a remarkable accessory, but not one I think I’d recommend widely.

I have a 27″ iMac that I use for programming. I wanted a portable machine to use for writing (when it’s safe to leave the house), but didn’t want to buy a whole laptop just for that purpose. The iMac is my home computer, the iPad is my portable one. It seems silly to buy a second portable computer when the iPad already fills that role. So, while the Magic Keyboard is expensive, it’s much cheaper than a MacBook of any variety. It takes my iPad, which does well for a number of functions, and turns it into a pretty good writing device.

The thing about writing is, a lot of it isn’t typing. I spend a good deal of time looking at my notes, flipping back to previous chapters to remember what I’d named a side character, looking stuff up in ebooks I’ve saved as research, going online to figure out what the currency in Austria in the 1770s was, and so on. On a Mac, I’d have each of things things open in a window and could easily switch between them. On an iPad, doing that is cumbersome. So while the Magic Keyboard’s keyboard is fantastic (I’m using it right now), iPad OS just isn’t Mac OS.

Nor do I want it to be. I love being able to tear the iPad off the keyboard and use it in regular tablet mode for most of its functions. I wouldn’t want iPad OS to lose its comfort and simplicity. I have a Mac for that.

Putting that all together, it’s likely that the right setup for me might be a good laptop that stays docked to a big screen most of the time. I could unplug it and take it on the go when needed, but would have all the monitor’s space for Xcode use when I’m at my desk. In the meantime, the iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard is a great compromise. But it is a compromise.

I’ve been expecting the Mac line to get a redesign as rumored here for a quite a while. The iPhone and iPad Pro have been symmetrical for years while the Macs still have uneven screen bezels.

A short thought experiment: Imagine that walled garden social networks never caught on. Instead, people post things to their personal blogs or use services like Tumblr, Blogger, Flickr, or newer sites that had come along for their thoughts and photos and such. People still have timelines where they read their friends’ posts, but they’re less centralized, backed behind the scenes by RSS, maybe with some extensions to make replying and such work nicely. (Though people don’t need to actually know what RSS is; this is how podcasts have always worked.)

In this setup, when Trump or any other white supremacist posts something, he does it to his own site ( or or whatever). People who follow him still see it in their timeline, but it’s not owned by the same entity that runs the timeline.

The provider of your timeline is just an aggregator. They scrape up posts from your friends and combine them into a timeline for you, but they don’t own the posts; they’re hosted elsewhere. As such, it’s not their problem if someone posts misinformation. It’s that person’s host.

The government could require that anything posted by the president use the official feed, which would have associated guidelines and an appropriate understanding of what force of law it’s communicating.

Again, as far as you the user is concerned, you’re still just reading a timeline containing the stuff the people you follow post. We’re just talking about where those posts are hosted, who owns them, and who’s responsible for banning those users who post stuff they deem objectionable.

The difference, I think, would be that instead of having just two social media giants making these decisions, we’d at least have a wider breadth of hosting services in the mix.

Doom Patrol has good music. By which I mean music that Gen X types who read the Grant Morrison & Richard Case comic would like.

If you’ve never seen the original Japense Godzilla (not the Americanized version), you should. It’s on HBO Max. It’s not as much about goofy rubber-suited actors as a horror movie about an atomic monster made fewer than ten years after the bombs dropped.

At the start of this century I had a magic box attached to my TV with a well-designed remote. I’d turn it on and it would give me a friendly list with all my unwatched shows and movies in one place, accompanied by pleasant bonks and boops.

The Up Next list in the Mac Music app should really be a source list like your playlists, which would let you drag and reorder multiple songs at once. Except it has to have feature parity with iOS where that sort of interaction isn’t possible.

I feel like every store I go into should be selling 5-packs of cloth masks but I’ve seen exactly zero for sale. Isn’t there money to be made here? (Plus, you know, saving lives.) 😷

I like that two of the best mainstream comics being made right now are Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.