Christmas Playlist 2018 – 33 Days of Music

Christmas Playlist 2018 – 33 Days of Music

In 2011, I winnowed a growing iTunes holiday music catalog into a song-a-day Christmas Playlist. It was a fun project that sustained conversation, debate, and good cheer on Twitter for the month of December. Thanks to @pipcorin, @dhudgins, @seani@dowbiggin@timlauer, @fally@jenfloyd08@mwacker, and @MaggyTheBrave for the camaraderie that year.

I’m doing it again. The only rule is that the 2018 list can’t include any duplicates from the 2011 list. This year, it’s 33 days between the holidays, but I’m staring with a “day zero” bonus tonight: Santa Stole Thanksgiving, Jimmy Buffet — This was a surprise find on my final pass through this year’s possibilities. “Santa, he’s the turkey after all.”

You can hear the full #RachelChristmasPlaylist2018 on Spotify.

And now, this year’s list, one song shared per day:

  1. Friday, November 23: You’re Mine, Jeremih — Connor and Miles had Chance the Rapper and Jeremih’s Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama on repeat last Christmastime. I fell in love hard with Stranger at the Table. That led to listening to both artists throughout this year and it seemed perfect to start with a fellow Chicagoan, Jeremih today.
  2. Saturday, November 24: Mele Kalikimaka, Kacey Musgraves — I like her voice and the guitar slaps/handclaps that modernize Bing’s classic version.
  3. Sunday, November 25: Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight), Ramones
  4. Monday, November 26: All My Christmases, Jillian Edwards Chapman
  5. Tuesday, November 27: Merry Christmas Darling, Leslie Odom, Jr — Happy birthday to my little sister, Laura! Sing it, Leslie.
  6. Wednesday, November 28: No Te Pongas Triste, Carlos Vives — My favorite sing-a-long the past few years.
  7. Thursday, November 29: Run Run Rudolph, Chuck Berry
  8. Friday, November 30: A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives
  9. Saturday, December 1: If We Make it Through December, Merle Haggard — Happy December! I love the weight of this song (and the The Hag’s one-of-a-kind voice).
  10. Sunday, December 2: The Chanukah Song, Adam Sandler — Happy Hanukkah
  11. Monday, December 3: Jingle Bells, Wynton Marsalis — Wynton’s young daughter, Oni, is on vocals in this version. She’s fantastic. Brooks Brothers posted a nice video of the set on YouTube.
  12. Tuesday, December 4: Candy Cane Lane, Sia
  13. Wednesday, December 5: Brothers, Paul Williams — Today’s pick is in memory of our mom, who made every Christmas warm, bright, and over the top. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas was her annual favorite. <3
  14. Thursday, December 6: Man with the Bag, Jessie J — Kay Starr does a great original track of this song, but Connor helped me settle on Jessie J’s recent version after eleventy billion listens on our drive to PDX after Thanksgiving.
  15. Friday, December 7: Winter Wonderland, Allen Toussaint — I remember waking up three years ago to the news that Allen Toussaint had died. I spent the rest of that week listening again to his albums I had purchased over the years (yes, my Allen Touissaint musical crush is as old as “purchasing music”). I originally had Shirley Horn’s Winter Wonderland for today and stumbled on Touissaint’s version as a related listen. It’s 90 seconds of piano bliss. A happy find.
  16. Saturday, December 8: Christmas Fais Do Do, Marcia Ball
  17. Sunday, December 9: Ocho Kandelikas, Pink Martini
  18. Monday, December 10: We Need a Little Christmas, Lucille Ball — I was so very excited to find the original Mame film and broadway versions on Spotify this year.  Lucille Ball’s film rendition made the final cut, with all due respect the legendary Angela Lansbury’s Broadway recording.
  19. Tuesday, December 11: Melancholy Christmas, Amy Grant — For the happy season that can be lonely too, a song that captures the insecurity and isolation….
  20. Wednesday, December 12: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Brett Eldredge — This didn’t make the final list until the run-through with Connor on our drive to PDX. It’s growing on me.
  21. Thursday, December 13: The Christmas Song, The Raveonettes — When I heard this song, I immediately thought it was one Corin would put on her Christmas Playlist.
  22. Friday, December 14: Frosty the Snowman, Willie Nelson — Pretty Paper is the obvious choice for a Willie Christmas pick, but I like his Frosty version.
  23. Saturday, December 15: May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas, Irma Thomas — I got to see Preservation Hall Jazz Band in concert this fall. I stood for a couple hours to keep my spot in the front row, at the stage; it was so worth it. Irma Thomas adds the perfect vocals.
  24. Sunday, December 16: Father Christmas, The Kinks
  25. Monday, December 17: Petit Papa Noël, Mary J. Blige — The prettiest song on this year’s list, from one of my favorite artists. I catch myself singing or humming it often during the day.
  26. Tuesday, December 18: Santa Claus is Back in Town, The Mavericks — One week until Christmas! Todays was a battle between the Mavericks and Jimmy Fallon and The Roots’ Wonderful Christmastime mash-up. Both great picks.
  27. Wednesday, December 19: Please Come Home for Christmas, B.B. King — The very best version of this song—from another legend who we lost in 2015. He and Allen Toussaint are surely jamming together again now.
  28. Thursday, December 20: Santa Tell Me — Ariana Grande
  29. Friday, December 21: That Spirit of Christmas, Aloe Blacc and LeAnn Rimes — It’s the first day of holiday break, our annual night for watching Christmas Vacation. Miles is away at a basketball tournament, so it’ll keep for a few days this year, but this song has been a favorite since I heard it watching Christmas Vacation the first time with my parents thirty years ago. The original, by Ray Charles, is my favorite…but this Aloe Blacc/LeAnn Rimes version has been growing on me this December.
  30. Saturday, December 22: Do You Hear What I Hear, Heather Headley — I got to know Heather and her family in Fort Wayne, when she was stunning us all with her voice and stage presence at Northrop High School. Soon after those years, she came back home a Tony-award winning artist. I love her voice and the cadence she brought to one of my longtime Advent meditations.
  31. Sunday, December 23: Home, Blake Shelton, Michael Bublé
  32. Monday, December 24: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Loretta Lynn — There are dozens of artists who have recorded this, including a gem by David Hasselhoff, Yancey! Wynton Marsalis does an amazing version, Chris LeDoux too. But none of them top Loretta’s grace and lilt in her reading. Merry Christmas Eve.
  33. Tuesday, December 25: Joy to the World, Aretha Franklin — And heaven and nature sing. Merry Christmas.

You can hear the full #RachelChristmasPlaylist2018 on Spotify.

The coda: It’s late evening on Christmas. We’ve celebrated, cooked, eaten—and eaten, and eaten—and are now all settled in the family room with dogs and video games and the last of the Christmas movies. I have a few extra songs to round out the playlist. The first is my favorite song for Christmas afternoon: 364 Days to Go, by Brad Paisley. The next, with no prompting by my friend Darren Hudgins, is Andy Williams’ It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. As my sons finish up this busy phase of school, sports, and activities, they’re spreading their wings to fly away. I’m grateful for a few quiet days together for reconnection and recharging. The final song of this coda is What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve. Here’s to 2019.

A Visit to Charleston

A Visit to Charleston

Unity, a watercolor print in the Harmon Foundation Collection, shared via the U.S. National Archives.

I joined my sister Laura and her family in South Carolina for a beautiful vacation week this summer. We stayed on one of the barrier islands and enjoyed days on the beach with swimming, sand castles, books, naps, and great local food. It was a relaxation vacation, not a sightseeing one, with the exception of a day trip to Charleston. Laura and I have both wanted to visit Charleston since we were young and were excited to walk the streets together.

I knew a fair amount about Charleston and its role in the American slave trade from elementary school through graduate school history lessons and research. And I was fully unprepared for the emotional weight of walking through downtown streets and seeing the reminders around each corner. We walked for hours. I’m sure the historic architecture we were excited to see was beautiful, but I can’t say for sure. We had encountered the Old Slave Mart early in the day. The nauseau and sense of haunting stayed with me the rest of the trip and lingers still today.

Walking through that slave mart (now museum), I imagined standing on one of the pedestals being examined and then auctioned. And heaven help me if I had a child that was separated from me during the sale, as two images depicted. I am embarrassed, mad, horrified, and angry that the whole of American slavery existed. And I’m bewildered—and angry again—that racism in America is once again generating headlines and sorrow and rage.



Teleportation Considerations

Teleportation Considerations

In the Hyper Tunnel
Experience Music Project, Seattle, 2014

The drive home from Seattle is about six hours. It’s just long enough to have that one fidgety spot. When we approach that spot, I start hearing wishes for teleportation from the backseat.

“Just imagine…. We could be home already.” “We could transport ourselves to the pyramids for a weekend.”

“We could catch March Madness games in different arenas. On the same day.”

Usually I join the “we could” game, but this week I started thinking about the whole country zinging back and forth for March Madness games. We’d need bigger arenas. And the idea of needing bigger arenas led me to ask a lot of questions of my teenage-travelers-turned-quantum-scientists. We ended up talking quite a bit about the societal adjustments that follow an advance in technology, e.g. not wearing Google Glass in public restrooms.

So, out of the mouths of babes, here is a beginning list of considerations about teleportation: Practical Concerns about Teleporting
  • Would travelers experience jet lag?
  • How many people could simultaneously teleport from a single location to a single destination?
  • What happens when everyone wants to go to a warm location at the same time in the winter? Or concerts or sporting events? Will traffic control be required?
  • How would luggage work? Clothes? Jewelry? Prosthetics?
  • What about hackers and glitches? Would teleportation make it easier to be a cat burglar? What if we teleported into a brick wall?
  • Would GIS engineers need to develop more sophisticated three-dimensional coordinate maps to account for multi-story buildings?
Societal and Legal Concerns about Teleporting
  • We would need rules about not teleporting into homes without the owner’s permission. We talked about having an accept process for incoming travelers, similar to what we do now for Bluetooth files and collect phone calls.
  • No teleporting into bathrooms. (This seemed to be an important one for teenage boys. I, on the other hand, thought it would be lovely to teleport to an underutilized bathroom. They’ve never stood in the girls’ line at a stadium.)
  • Would there be a data log of where we transported? How long would it be stored? Who could access the log?
  • How would this change war? If a country could teleport its entire army across the globe in the blink of an eye, that changes things, right?
  • Would passports be sufficient enough for international teleportation travelers?
  • As the technology moves from a station-based teleportation (think airport and air traffic control) to individual devices/portals, what new concerns are discovered?

We only have questions. No answers.

Just so I don’t leave anyone thinking this is a super-serious group of boys, watch this clip that is a perhaps more honest representation of the drive. Somebody invent that teleporter, please.
Flickr Is Dead. Long Live Flickr.

Flickr Is Dead. Long Live Flickr.

Flickr on the porch. Photo by Miles.

Flickr’s redesign caught the world a bit unawares last week. Surprise notwithstanding, it took only moments for people to declare their love or hate for the new look. I sat on my hands for a week, absorbing the changes slowly. 

I like it.

I think it’s safe to say the design team will continue to make changes, like Delicious is doing throughout its also-sudden redo and like what Google does for nearly everything. As Fred Brooks would say, “Design, design, and design; and seek knowledgeable criticism.”

Here is my plus/delta list for now:

Plus (hurrah!)

  1. Social — I like seeing large photos from my contacts when I hit the home page. This is an improvement over the recent activity that occupied the above-the-fold in old Flickr.
  2. Scroll — I can scroll easily through those photos and my search results. (Yay!)
  3. Sets — I like this update the best of all. I share sets of event photos frequently. The new layout makes me happy.
  4. Captions on hover — Gorgeous implementation.
  5. Flickr blog and Explore — They’re not new. I just like both a lot…so many great photo and photographer discoveries.


Delta (my hopes for what’s next)

  1. Social (yeah, it’s up above, also) — Kudos on the repositioning of content. I’m hoping for more integration into networks; more internal communication and linking tools (vis-à-vis tags, hashtags and such); and maybe, just maybe the next big thing in curating and sharing. I don’t know what it is yet, but think Yahoo and Flickr are as good as a bet as any for figuring it out.
  2. Ads — Meh. I realize they are the modern deal with the devil. I love Flickr for its paid pro community. I plan to renew forever and not worry about the ad crisis. (I’m one of those people. I prefer to pay a reasonable fee for web services in lieu of ads.) For those who don’t want to pay-to-play, I hope Flickr forces its advertisers to create cool photo ads that integrate into the stream like artwork, with only a discreet ad tattoo.
  3. Comments and sharing on hover — I have to think this is coming. Right now, it’s a clear break to the old Flickr. I’m looking forward to seeing the UI when it’s finished. (I’m sure this will also include better link clues and typography consistency.)
  4. Better data portability — I’d like to be able to download sets. (Maximum size limits are okay.)
  5. Slideshow — Auto Ken Burns. Ergh.
  6. Guest pass — How about we just adopt more granular sharing permissions instead, like sharing via link?


So…. Not bad. Change is good. This change is good. It’s how we move forward. Flickr is dead. Long live Flickr.

**And, um yeah, I have one final request (please, oh please Flickr gods)…. I need an Instagram auto-import killer. I’m thinking something as simple as an EXIF/metadata filter that will allow me to hide the photos from Instagram. Because this is Flickr, right? Not Instagram. I get why my friends are doing the backup to Flickr. It makes sense. And I treasure you both, Jeremy Macdonald and Tim Lauer, but you’re killin’ me here.

Internet as Conscience

Internet as Conscience

photo of man with binoculars

Thanks, ºNit Soto, for licensing your CCFlickr photo (binoculars) for remix.

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking. —H.L. Mencken

For this invention [writing] will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise. (Egyptian King Thamus to Theuth, as told by Socrates. Plato’s Phaedrus, section 275a-b)

Sounds familiar, right?

Strip out the cast of characters, replace the word writing with Internet and you have the premise of several best-selling books and well-regarded articles. You also have the complaint and worry we share as parents, educators, politicians, thinkers, and doers.


The Internet is not making us stupid. Smart is not making us dumb.

Nicholas Carr, Evgeny Morozov, and others disagree. They are the Socrates of our age. This comparison works for me in a couple ways. First, I may not agree completely with Carr and Morozov, but value their dialectic approach to this latest era of change. Second, Socrates was no dummy, but he was as skeptical of the written word as Carr is of the Internet. (To be fair, Morozov usually ends with a more balanced, if cynical, view.)

I don’t believe we are becoming more stupid than we were already. I don’t think filter bubbles and self-selection bias are more troubling now than before. I have evolving views on digital dualism, augmented reality, and the singularity. But…in a fit of Pollyanna, I have hopes the Internet and increased connectedness are making us more aware, or maybe even kinder, or at least more tolerant.

So far, I have to doubt my own thesis as much as I doubt Carr’s and Morozov’s. For each step forward (the kindness of a stranger caught on YouTube or clean water for millions via viral campaign), there are as many steps back—or steps sideways, perhaps.

King Thamus chided Theuth for his elixir of reminding, warning his pupils would be, “for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.” Morozov says it more eloquently in his Twitter bio: “There are idiots. Look around.” That, if nothing else, is true.

Mencken’s view on the conscience becomes even more relevant now. We’ve moved beyond somebody may be looking to somebody is probably looking…and filming. Cases in point:

Dateline: March 2013, Oregon

University of Oregon adjunct law professor James L. Olmsted was arrested following a confrontation that turned physical. The professor was being an ass—and that was before he crossed any legal lines. It was caught on video (of course…duh).

Dateline: February 2013, Bangkok

DKNY used Humans of New York photos in a window display, even after HoNY’s Brandon Stanton had turned down their licensing request. He heard about it from a fan. “Every time one of my photos get picked up, I get notified about it.”

Dateline: January 2013, St. Louis

Pastor Alois Bell wrote a snarky message on an Applebee’s receipt. “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” A photo of the receipt went viral. Religious debate ensued; people were fired; and, I’m guessing one Pastor Alois Bell wanted to crawl in a hole.

Dateline: Pick a Year, Washington D.C.

Politician __________ did something stupid and left a digital footprint of it. Insert Anthony Weiner—pun not intended (well, maybe)—or John Ensign or….

So, just as I don’t blame the Internet for making us stupid, I admit I can’t expect it to be our conscience. Sadly, Morozov is right. There are idiots. I guess my question now is are there more or fewer than the pre-Internet days?