Christmas Links #13

Zodiac ‘340 Cipher’ cracked by code experts 51 years after it was sent to the S.F. Chronicle:
"The solution to what’s known as the 340 Cipher, one of the most vexing mysteries of the Zodiac Killer’s murderous saga, has been found by a code-breaking team from the United States, Australia and Belgium."

Tech gift guide: ideas for last-minute Christmas presents:
"From speakers to watches through to tablets and games, there are lots of options."

Taylor Swift Has Her Second Great Album of 2020 With ‘Evermore’: Album Review:
"Taylor Swift appears to be waging war over the serial resale of her old master recordings on two fronts."

We Buy a Lot of Christmas Trees:
"'Tis the season for Americans to head out in droves and bring home a freshly-cut Christmas tree. But decorative evergreens don't just magically show up on corner lots, waiting to find a home in your living room. There are a bunch of fascinating steps that determine exactly how many Christmas trees get sold, and how expensive they are."

Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You finally reaches UK Number 1, sets Official Chart record:
"Mariah's 26-year in the making festive chart-topper sets a new Official UK Chart record."

The First (And Hopefully Last) Quarries:
"In which we award the most scrappy, absurd, ingenious works that shaped our year in quarantine."

The Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe is being torn apart:
"The Princess Switch: Switched Again ripped a hole in the NCCU. The implications are profound."

Xmas at the Natural History Museum (De La Rue Company):
"A couple of folk have asked for these, so time to put them all in one place. One year, the de la Rue company, which I’ve talked about before, put out a series of cards for the Natural History Museum of London."

Ghosts that haunt Cornwall at Christmas:
"Headless horsemen, white ladies and ghostly lights that spook fishermen are among the sightings."

Revealed: the cheapest supermarket for your Christmas food shop:
"Plus Christmas click-and-collect order deadlines for each supermarket."

[the video up top is via @paulwhitelaw]

Christmas Links #12

Empty Sets: Christmas:
"Give your video calls a festive flourish, with this selection of Christmas sets from the BBC Archive."

Full Metal Jacket to Rocky IV: the least festive Christmas movies ever:
"Bored of the endless ‘is Die Hard is a Christmas movie’ debate? Here are some other films for us to argue about instead."

Queen Elizabeth's favourite film to watch at Christmas is... surprising:
"Where's the festivity, Your Maj?"

20 Albums That Put a New Spin on the Holidays:
"Standards? Sure! But a crop of seasonal records from Dolly Parton, Tinashe and others introduce fresh original songs, too."

Warrington family's Christmas tree put up every year since 1922:
"When this Christmas tree was first put up King George V was on the throne, American Prohibition was in full force and the British Broadcasting Corporation had only just been founded."

I'm Curious To See If You Can Name More Than 15 Christmas Songs:
"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

Taylor Swift’s new album ends on a hopeful note – with echoes of Emily Dickinson:
“I've been down since July,” the pop star announces at the start of the title track for “Evermore,” her surprise new CD that dropped at midnight. “I had a feeling so peculiar that this pain would be forevermore.”

The Most Faithful Adaptation of A Chrismas Carol is Narrated by Gonzo:
"Sorry, Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott and the rest of you dramatic Scrooges — you can’t hold a candle to the Muppets."

Go Absolutely Wild Decorating for the Holidays this Year:
"Banish the gloom of 2020 with as many trees, treats, and twinkles as you can manage."

"All things holly, jolly, and odd-ly."

Christmas Links #11

Christmas decorations: Essex man, 78, carves polystyrene Santa in lockdown:
"A 78-year-old man spent lockdown carving an elaborate festive display from polystyrene for his front garden."

Morrisons launch Christmas dinner box for two containing everything for just £20:
"As it stands, we’re expecting the festive period to be a little different this year but, that doesn’t mean your traditional Christmas dinner has to suffer. Morrisons are launching a new service to to ensure self-isolating customers can get everything they need for Christmas dinner for two people, for under £20."

An Unwelcome Silent Night: Germany Without Christmas Markets:
"Across the country, city and town squares stand empty of the usual huts, sounds, scents and lights, as the coronavirus has forced the country to skip its beloved annual Christmas markets."

The fascinating story of the most infamous necklace in British portraiture:
"B is for Boleyn. The now iconic single-initial lavaliere, immortalised in Anne Boleyn’s portrait as Queen consort to King Henry VIII, has become synonymous with the scandalous royal and her untimely end. Lore connects it to both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II."

The king of Strava art is back with another amazing Christmas drawing:
"If there’s one thing us cyclists unanimously absolutely love – it has to be Strava art. And riding-your-bike-in-circles-until-your-GPS-markings-create-a-picture is even better at Christmas, when veteran GPS artist Anthony Hoyte comes out to play and impress us all."

Deck Your Tree With the Best Pop Culture Christmas Ornaments:
"All products and services featured by Variety are independently selected by Variety editors. However, Variety may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links, and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes."

We could all use a little ‘merry and bright’ these days. These holiday light shows make the season sparkle:
"December is the perfect time for lights."

15 Christmas dishes from around the world:
"Your festive meal needn’t be the classic British roast this year. Why not try a spicy stew or smoked meat? Explore Christmas culinary celebrations from Puerto Rico to Poland in our roundup of festive dishes from every corner of the globe."

The Danish Christmas Porridge That Appeased a Vengeful ‘House Elf’:
"In the winter of 1984, Timothy Tangherlini worked on a dairy farm on the Danish island of Funen. One day, while brushing cattle in the barn, he spotted a tiny man in a hat sitting on the back of one of the cows. When Tangherlini tried to speak to the stranger, the little man jumped out the barn window. Assuming it was a trick, he told the couple that owned the farm about the encounter. They both shrugged. “That was the nisse,” they explained."

Italian Pudding Cake:
"by Nigella."

Christmas Links #10

How a small theater in Amsterdam became the most influential American comedy factory you’ve never heard of:
"It’s late 1997. Seth Meyers is not yet Seth Meyers, but you can see the outlines of him in the skinny 23-year-old onstage at a scruffy Amsterdam theater. In a white button-down, dress pants, and a dark tie, with his hair pulled back tightly into a small ponytail, he looks a bit like a high-schooler whose parents made him dress up nice for Dad’s company Christmas party. Two-hundred-odd people are clustered at tables, eating, drinking, chatting, and not quite paying attention as Meyers strides to center stage." [Editor's note: Blimey. I saw Boom Chicago at the Edinburgh Festival in 1998 so it's entirely possible that Meyers was part of the group back then.]

Lost Muppet Christmas Carol song rediscovered:
"A lost song cut from the original The Muppet Christmas Carol movie has been found and reinstated, director Brian Henson has revealed."

NPR's A Jazz Piano Christmas 2020:
"This year's edition of A Jazz Piano Christmas almost didn't happen."

Boyfriend’s Crumbling Mess Of A Life Provides Woman With Rich Array Of Christmas Gift Ideas:
"Marveling at the veritable bonanza of choices offered by his current situation, local woman Alessa Harding revealed Wednesday that the crumbling mess of her boyfriend Tom Etheridge’s life provided her with a rich array of Christmas gift ideas."

Why Icelandic Yule Lad Are You?
"Take our quiz and find out which Icelandic Yule Lad matches your personality!"

Scrooge on a Screen Just Can’t Be the Same:
"The joy of “A Christmas Carol” isn’t merely the story; it’s the ritual of communion and reflection with family and fans. This year that’s not possible."

45 Fun and Festive Christmas Starters That Serve 2 People:
"The best part about Christmas dinner is the snacks beforehand, and if that statement is wrong, we don't want to be right."

TV’s gay Christmas movies are as benign, charming and cliche as we always hoped they’d be:
"In olden times, the people behind the so-called gay agenda wanted nothing more than what everyone else already had: marriage, kids, suburban bliss, job security and equal access to all the benignly merry things in life. Some in the LGBTQ sphere fretted that this wish list, once granted, strips away some of the qualities that set us uniquely apart. What happens to the innovation, the rebelliousness, the tawdry fun that can only come from living on society’s fringe? Does getting all the basic things make us too . . . basic?"

Various Cassette Tapes:
"A collection of digitized commercial and amateur mixtapes recorded on cassette format, dating over the last 30 years."

22 Details From Kids Christmas Movies That You Won't Believe You Missed:
"They gave us Easter eggs in Christmas movies."

Christmas Links #9

The Nightmares Before (And After) Christmas:
"If you’ve heard the edition of Looks Unfamiliar with Anna Cale (and if you haven’t, you can find it here), then you will have heard me talking with a suspicious degree of authority about having to scroll really deeply into Netflix in order to find the sort of gloriously bad Christmas Film that you used to pretty much have to get out of the Video Shop because everyone else had already rented everything even halfway watchable."

BBC Online: 2020 in review:
"2020 has clearly been a very unusual and oftentimes painful year in many ways for just about everyone on the planet. Like many organisations, we’ve had to shift the majority of our staff to working from home in a very short timeframe — this was easier for some teams and people than others."

Happy new normal: Christmas 2020 around the world – in pictures:
"From Santa bubbles to drive-through decorations and Nativity scenes made of pizza, the socially distanced year like no other is giving us a masked Christmas like no other. Guardian picture editors look at Christmas around the world in a year upended by the coronavirus pandemic."

John Lennon: I was there the day he died:
"Forty years ago, on 8 December 1980, the former Beatle John Lennon was shot dead as he returned to his home at the Dakota apartment building in New York. The BBC's Tom Brook was the first British journalist to report live from the scene. Here he recounts how Lennon's death has haunted him ever since."

Michael Morpurgo's Tales from Shakespeare:
"Celebrated author Michael Morpurgo's fresh retellings of Shakespeare's timeless stories for schools and families."

Christmas Trees — an Elusive Bit of Happiness for Canadians:
"There’s been a run on Christmas trees as Canadians, trapped inside because of the pandemic, try, in record numbers, to shoehorn joy into their lives."

Symbol of 2020 angst or sophisticated style choice? What to make of black Christmas trees:
"There is a decorating trend that has slowly been creeping, Grinch-like, into the holiday season. People across the country have been ditching their very green evergreens for artificial black trees. It makes sense for right now: With a still-raging pandemic, millions out of work and food pantries inundated, a black tree seems like the perfect symbol for our plagued 2020. But for black-tree lovers, it’s not a symbol at all. It’s a stylistic choice, one that devotees say is classic, glamorous and extremely versatile."

“Broadcast on all known frequencies, and in all known languages…”
"I really need to get back to watching Orange is the New Black, you know. I got bogged down at the end of Season 4. Is she gonna shoot him? Is she? IS SHE? So in order to get back on track, recently I… erm, watched an old IBA Engineering Announcement from 1990 instead."

'Emotional But Rational': Ikea Discontinues Its Long-Running Catalog:
"Swedish furniture giant Ikea is ending production of its famous catalog, saying the thick compendium of affordable sofas, knickknacks and housewares will leave "a phenomenal 70-year legacy.""

Christmas Links #8

BBC Music Sound of 2021 longlist revealed:
"The longlist for BBC Music Sound of 2021 has been unveiled, tipping ten new artists for success next year."

Lower Burrell family keeps Italian nativity scene tradition alive, new pieces added yearly:
"An Italian Christmas tradition encompassing a couple generations continues in a Lower Burrell household."

Australia Gears Up for the Great Koala Count, Using Drones, Droppings and Dogs:
"The marsupials are not easy to find, or count accurately, so officials will deploy new methods."

These Two Words Will Strike Fear Into Gadget Makers This Christmas:
"Sold out."

Christmas dinner made easy as Scotland’s national chef reveals his top five tips for festive food without the fuss:
"If you've never cooked Christmas dinner before or it's something you dread each year, fear not because Gary Maclean is on hand to help keep things simple."

Christmas Food Safety Checklist:
"Use our food safety checklist to reduce the risk of food poisoning at Christmas."

History Of Milwaukee's Schuster's Parade Includes Live Reindeer And Streetcars:
"Parades are an essential part of the holiday season. Whether it’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or a local parade full of friends and neighbors, parades allow communities to celebrate through music, costumes and over the top floats."

Anna Kendrick on Her Disney+ Movie 'Noelle' and What She Learned from Shirley MacLaine:
"I want to be working when I'm 83 and looking at her is really inspiring, because it seems like she hasn't taken shit from anybody at any point in her life."

Mistletoe has a long and somewhat sordid history:
"The pagan custom of decorating with winter greenery was readily absorbed into early Christian culture despite a resistance from some church leaders who opposed anything heathen."

The Night of the Doctor (new volume from Obverses The Black Archive by James Cooray Smith):
"Released as a webcast in the prelude to Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, The Night of the Doctor (2013) revisited Paul McGann’s eighth Doctor 17 years after his sole TV appearance. In just seven minutes, showrunner Steven Moffat’s characteristically revisionist return to the series’ past blends Doctor Who lore from diverse eras and media with images of rebirth and resurrection, and questions of identity."

Christmas Links #7

'Crappy half-dead' poinsettia from grocery store just won't stop growing:
"The holiday plant has so far survived three Christmas seasons and is now huge."

‘This is Music Hall’, 1955:
"I am increasingly fascinated by British television in the early to mid-1950s. This was a moment when the medium was becoming increasingly confident and an ever more significant presence in both public life and in the private lives of viewers. But it was also when the BBC’s television monopoly, which – with a break for the war – had been protected since late 1936 was challenged by discussions about and then the establishment of a new commercial service, ITV, which went on the air in London in September 1955."

The quirky Christmas tree forest in Liverpool's Georgian quarter:
"'We wanted to give people some joy after a difficult year'"

Italy lights up the world's largest Christmas tree:
"Each year people 'adopt' a light from the world-famous Christmas tree display in central Italy."

Anya Taylor-Joy: 'I likened Beth's passion for chess to my passion for acting. It's a calling':
"It’s been an amazing year for the 24-year-old star of The Queen’s Gambit. She reflects on Netflix’s unlikely chess drama hit and her next film, an Edgar Wright psychological thriller."

Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn Reportedly Hated Each Other So Much They Refused to Film a Sex Scene for This Christmas Comedy:
"In the 2008 comedy Four Christmases, Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn play a self-involved couple who typically spend the holidays on an exotic vacation rather than with their dysfunctional families."

Star Trek and Hell on Wheels actor Colm Meaney stars as Santa in new Christmas ad for Aldi Ireland:
"If you live in the U.K. or Ireland, there’s a good chance you have heard of Kevin the Carrot. For the rest of the world, here’s a little primer: Kevin the Carrot is a popular holiday mascot used in Christmas advertising for Aldi grocery stores."

Retro gaming at Christmas … the essential collection:
"After browsing through the latest Christmas TV Times I am seeing less originality than another Flappy Birds game, it’s like being in 1987 again."

Paris's Champs-Élysées switches on its Christmas lights:
"Paris's iconic Champs-Élysées avenue switched on its Christmas lights on Sunday, welcoming the festive period in the French capital."

Microsoft releases Windows 95 ugly Christmas sweater:
"Microsoft has released a line of ugly Christmas sweaters with retro Windows themes."