Yule Log 2.014


Yule Log 2.0 is a collection of short films created by illustrators, animators, directors, and creative coders. Each video is only a few seconds long, and completely silent, save for the crackling sound of the fire.

Did I mention that each video is of a burning log? Don’t let that deter you. There are some amazingly creative entries in this year’s group of videos.

This is the second year for the project, and you can also watch last year’s videos.

The Yule Log 2.014

50 Years of A Charlie Brown Christmas

There’s another Christmas special anniversary this year: This year marks the 50th year in a row that A Charlie Brown Christmas has aired on network television.

NPR covers the occasion with a story that includes archived recollections by many of the people involved in the creation of the classic special. You’ll hear from producer Lee Mendelson, Jerry Granelli of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, and Charles Shulz himself.

If you’re having trouble with the Flash audio embed, you can read the transcript.

Note for pedants: While this year marks the 50th consecutive airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, next year marks the fiftieth anniversary.

50 Years of A Charlie Brown Christmas

Everything that’s wrong with the CBS version of Rudolph, and how to fix it

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Rankin/Bass’s classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special. While fans have always loved Rudolph, the television broadcasts haven’t been so kind. Over the years, the special has been chopped up, restored, chopped up again, and left in pretty bad shape. You can get a perfectly restored copy on DVD or Blu-Ray, some fans of the special look forward to sitting down and watching it on TV, as they’ve been doing for the past half-century.

One YouTube user has had enough of CBS’s mistreatment of his favorite misfit, and has put together a nicely annotated and narrated video detailing all the problems. Any one of these problems would probably go unnoticed by most viewers, but taken together, they really add up into a degraded experience.

The video clocks in at an hour long, but the major problems with CBS’s current broadcast cut are documented in the first 10 minutes or so. I recommend checking it out if you’re interested in learning just what you might be missing.

The remaining 50 or so minutes are taken up by a cut of the special that fixes the problems while still fitting within the same length of time as CBS’s flawed version.

The Nativity 1952 live teleplay

Many television shows of the 1950s started as radio programs, and the production of early programming reflects this. Studio One is a great example of this. If you’ve got an hour to spare, you can put on a pair of headphones and just imagine you’re listening to an old radio drama. If you don’t have an hour to spare, the sponsorships for Westinghouse televisions and dryers at the beginning and end are pretty interesting by themselves.

And if you like Christmas ads by giant industrial conglomerates, remember that one of Westinghouse’s biggest competitors went on to sponsor one of the most memorable TV specials of all time.

El Santo Claus

Christmas is only a few days away, and you’ve probably got some time off coming your way. So why not kick back and relax with a classic Christmas movie? White Christmas is probably a bit played out by this point, and the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story is just about ready to kick off. So how about something a little different?

I humbly recommend “El Santo Claus“.

Hear me out on this. 

I know what you’re thinking: “Ugh, not some rip off of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians“. 

Well let me reassure you: “El Santo Claus” came out five years before Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. And, on top of that, while Martians is #86 on the IMDb Bottom 100 list, El Santo Claus is currently sitting pretty at #54.

While it’s easy to look at El Santo Claus and make fun of how insane it is for Santa and Merlin to fight the devil, it’s also worthwhile to look at this film in context. At the time of its release in 1959, Santa Claus was a relatively unknown concept in Mexico  It wasn’t Santa, but the Magi, who brought gifts to children on Christmas morning. The creators of this film hoped to introduce Santa to Mexico, but to do so required hitting a few notes that would make sense to the intended audience (such as fighting the devil).

If this all seems like a bit much to you, and you don’t have the energy to ironically enjoy a terrible foreign children’s Christmas movie, maybe Mystery Science Theater 3000′s riffing will help it go down a little easier.

Why are there no new classic Christmas songs?

All I want for Christmas is YouEvery Christmas, we’re hit with an avalanche of new music. Some of it is good, some of it is bad. And some of it is really good. So why are so many of the most popular Christmas songs—the ones we hear over and over again, year after year, come from the 1930s through the 1950s?

Writing at Slate, Chris Klimek tries to get to the bottom of why so many original Christmas songs, some excellent, fail to become classics.

The yule canon, it seems, isn’t just closed—it’s a location-undisclosed black site that’s locked down tighter than Santa’s workshop. In 2006, when the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers released a list of the most-performed holiday songs in the U.S., the newest song to crack the top 10 was “Jingle Bell Rock,” from 1957. The most recent song in the top 25 was “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” an all-star charity single from 1984.

All I Want for Christmas Is a New Christmas Song (Via NPR)

A Christmas Carol (1910 silent film)

One of the first adaptions of Dickens‘ classic tale of Christmas redemption. This 1910 silent film was produced by Edison Studios and directed by J. Searle Dawley. It stars Marc McDermott as Ebenezer Scrooger and Charles Ogle as Bob Cratchit and was directed by J. Searle Dawley.

This version of the film has been remastered, with the titles cleaned up and an appropriate soundtrack added. It’s interesting to see how quickly film technology and technique advanced from the 1901 film adaptation, just nine years earlier. If you compare the two, you’ll notice that this adaptation uses much more realistic sets, as compared to the the primitive stage-like sets of the 1901 film. When Marley’s face appears on Scrooge’s door knocker, it’s clearly more advanced effect.

White Christmas Outlook

While many areas currently have significant snow cover, warm air moving up the U.S. East Coast may push temperatures as far north as New England into the 60s this weekend.

White Christmas Map

Check out the Washington Post for a full analysis of the chances of a white Christmas. Long story short: Unless you usually have snow cover at Christmas, don’t count on any Christmas weather miracles.

What U.S. cities will have white Christmas dreams realized or shattered?

Christmas on Wednesday poses a challenge for employers

As a kid, Wednesday was the holy grail day of the week for Christmas (1985, 1991 and 1996 for me) because it was possible you could have your last day of school on Friday, Dec. 20, and not go back until Monday, Jan. 6. Turns out employers aren’t so crazy about that arrangement.

“We’re talking the day before Christmas,” says Kimberly Stiener-Murphy, branch manager of Accountemps in Sacramento. “People aren’t thinking about what they can accomplish at work. They’re thinking, ‘How can I get out of work?’ “

Eh, it’s Christmas. They’ll get over it.

Christmas on Wednesday: A test for employers