Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 15 best Christmas songs for 2014

It’s been awhile since I last compiled a list of my favorite Christmas songs. I previously published lists in 2008, 2009 and 2011, so it’s time for a refreshed compilation.
My song choices reflect my personal tastes, of course. So, keep your comments to yourselves, haters.
  1. “Underneath The Tree” (2013) by Kelly Clarkson
  2. “Last Christmas” (2008) by Taylor Swift
  3. “Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord” (1981) by Boney M.
  4. “2000 Miles” (1983) by the Pretenders
  5. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1963) by Darlene Love
  6. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)” (1957) by Elvis Presley
  7. “Sleigh Ride” (1963) by the Ronettes
  8. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (1992) by Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper
  9. “Winter Wonderland” (1983) by the Fabulous Thunderbirds
  10. “Carol Of The Bells” (1958) by Percy Faith
  11. “Where Are You Christmas” (2000) by Faith Hill
  12. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (1989) by Vince Vance & the Valiants
  13. “Do You Hear What I Hear” (2007) by Carrie Underwood
  14. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (2004) by LeAnn Rimes
  15. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (2006) by Sarah McLachlan
Let me make a few comments about my selections this year.
Every year during the holiday season in the U.K. there’s a competition on the radio for the most popular new Christmas song. This was a plot point in the modern Christmas movie classic “Love Actually.”
It’s often a novelty song, but sometimes it’s a tune with real staying power. Last year’s runner-up was “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson. It’s a great pop song and should be getting airplay for years to come.
Taylor Swift is having a great year and songs from her Christmas album are in heavy rotation on WASH-FM in Washington, D.C., which is playing non-stop Christmas music.
Her version of “Last Christmas” is a winner. Where the 1984 Wham original used a lot of synthesizers, Swift’s version uses Christmas bells. Plus, the lyrics are perfect for the unlucky-in-love songstress.
I have sweet memories of hearing the Caribbean-infused “Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord” by Boney M. at the airport in the Bahamas on Christmas day a couple of years ago.
I put on this list “2000 Miles” by the Pretenders because it doesn’t get played enough.

Here are my picks from previous years:

  1. “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” (2004) by the Barenaked Ladies, featuring Sarah McLachlan
  2. “Christmas Canon” (1998) by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  3. “2000 Miles” (1983) by The Pretenders
  4. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958) by Brenda Lee
  5. “A Holly Jolly Christmas” (1962) by Burl Ives
  6. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (1943) by Bing Crosby
  7. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1944) by Judy Garland
  8. “White Christmas” (1947) by Bing Crosby
  9. “Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)” (1950) by Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters
  10. “Christmas in Killarney” (1951) by Bing Crosby
  11. “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” (1977) by Bing Crosby & David Bowie
  12. “Last Christmas” (1984) by Wham!
  13. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994) by Mariah Carey
  14. “Our Love Is Like a Holiday” (2001) by Michael Bolton
  15. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1987) by U2
  16. “Linus & Lucy” (1964) by the Vince Guaraldi Trio for “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
  17. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1987) by John Mellencamp
  18. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (2001) by Bruce Springsteen
  19. “Jingle Bell Rock” (1957) by Bobby Helms
  20. “Oi to the World” (1997) by No Doubt
  1. “Happy Holidays/It’s the Holiday Season (Medley)” (1953) by Andy Williams
  2. “Believe” (2004) by Josh Groban from the soundtrack of “The Polar Express”
  3. “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays” (1959) by Perry Como
  4. “Sleigh Ride” (1959) by Leroy Anderson
  5. “Somewhere in My Memory” (1990) vocal version by John Williams from the “Home Alone” soundtrack
  6. “Carol of the Bells” (1990) by John Williams from the “Home Alone” soundtrack
  7. “Jingle Bells” (1943) by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
  8. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (2006) by Sarah McLachlan
  9. “Christmas Is Coming” (1965) by the Vince Guaraldi Trio from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
  10. “O Tannenbaum” (1965) by the Vince Guaraldi Trio from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
  1. “Winter Wonderland” (1963) by Darlene Love
  2. “Jingle Bells” (1946) by Frank Sinatra
  3. “Ring Christmas Bells” (1962) by Ray Conniff
  4. “Christmas Wrapping” (1981) by The Waitresses
  5. “Mary’s Boy/Oh My Lord” (1981) by Boney M.
  6. “Happy Xmas” (1998) by Celine Dion
  7. “Carol of the Bells” (2008) by August Burns Red
  8. “Last Christmas” (2010) by the cast of “Glee”
  9. “Hey Santa” (2008) by Carnie and Wendy Wilson
  10. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (2011) by Michael Buble

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Defunct entertainment awards: The Flixies, Blockbuster Awards and more

NBC on Thursday is airing the first-ever People Magazine Awards. The two-hour special will spotlight the year in pop culture.
The award categories were not announced except for the one fan-voted award: Best People Magazine Cover of the Year.
Ratings likely will determine whether this becomes an annual awards show.
In May, NBC aired the “first annual” iHeart Radio Music Awards. The ratings were good enough for NBC and Clear Channel Media to agree to do the second annual show in 2015, the Hollywood Reporter said.
The entertainment industry loves to honor its own, so there’s never a shortage of awards shows.
But here’s a list of awards that are no longer given.

The Flixies

In February 2013, Netflix announced the Flixies, awards given to TV shows and movies on its streaming video service. The awards were in seven tongue-in-cheek categories including “Best Marathon TV Show,” “Best Tantrum Tamer” and “Best Commute Shrtnr.” (See articles by the Los Angeles Times, Hero Complex and AV Club.)
But after one go-round Netflix apparently gave up on the Flixies. The website is now blank.

Blockbuster Entertainment Awards

Video rental store chain Blockbuster had its own awards, which were designed to celebrate audience favorites rather than critic’s darlings.
For example, Jennifer Love Hewitt won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for favorite actress in a horror film for “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” in 1999. (See UPI article.)
The Blockbuster awards ran for seven years and were broadcast on television from 1995 until 2001. (See Wikipedia entry.)
Now, like the rental chain itself, the Blockbuster awards are history.

CableACE Awards

The CableACE Awards were given from 1978 to 1997 to honor excellence in U.S. cable television programming. They were created by the National Cable Television Association to serve as a cable television counterpart to the Primetime Emmy Awards, which before their 40th ceremony in 1988 did not recognize cable programming.
The CableACE Awards ended when cable programming began to dominate the Emmy Awards. (See Wikipedia article.)

Slammy Awards

The Slammy Awards were presented by the WWE to professional wrestlers and other noteworthy individuals within the organization, such as commentators and managers.
The awards were first handed out in 1986 and four more times over the next 10 years. After an 11-year hiatus, the Slammy Awards returned for seven consecutive years through 2014. (See Wikipedia entry.)
But the WWE isn’t holding the awards this year, according to Uproxx.
The Slammy Awards might be down for the count. But they could just as easily return.

American Television Awards

The American Television Awards was held only once, in 1993. It was an awards show recognizing the top performances and programs seen on American television from April 13, 1992, to April 12, 1993, as determined by a survey of television critics, columnists and journalists.
It was filmed on May 23, 1993, at the Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica, Calif.
IMDb has a list of winners from that one and only show.

Vibe Awards

The Vibe Awards, produced by Vibe magazine, ran from 2003 through 2007. The R&B and hip-hop awards are best remembered for a stabbing incident and fight that broke out at the ceremony in 2004. (See Wikipedia entry and stories by MTV and Associated Press.)

Family Television Awards

The Family Television Awards ran from 1999 to 2007. The show honored family-friendly TV programming. It was produced by Dick Clark Productions.
The 9th annual Family Television Awards, which aired on Dec. 27, 2007, was apparently the last one.
Here’s a photo of now disgraced actor (and accused pedophile) Stephen Collins accepting an award at the 5th annual Family Television Awards in 2005. (See Zimbio article.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hey, Twitter, don’t do anything stupid

Twitter is by far my favorite mobile app. With it, I keep track of the news and people I’m interested in using my smartphone. I also can join in on the global conversation, whether it’s about a news event or a television show.
I also love the Twitter website on my desktop PC. It’s a great service.
But I’m worried about Twitter’s future.
Twitter as a business faces a lot of questions. (For the uninitiated, Twitter is a microblogging service that lets people and organizations post short messages called tweets that are limited to 140 characters. These tweets often include weblinks and photos.)
To keep investors happy, it needs to grow its user base and increase revenue from advertising. Changes to its service to address either of those things could piss off existing, hard-core users like me.
Twitter made some changes this year that improved the service. Most notably, it spruced up user profile pages.
But it also started tinkering with users’ timelines. This summer, Twitter started showing users tweets from people they didn’t follow in their timelines.
“These weren’t retweets, but favorited messages from other people that they followed,” Hootsuite writer Evan LePage said in a blog post. “The change itself is clearly an effort by Twitter to open up the timeline, making it easier for people to discover other users based on interactions with the people they already follow. Many people weren’t fond of this particular idea though, especially those that use favorites casually.”
I agree with the critics. I use the favorite button both as a placemark to show where I finished reading tweets in my timeline and as a way to mark links that I plan to check out later. In no instances do I favorite tweets because they are my “favorites.” In fact, a better name for the tool would be a bookmark.
I’m concerned that Twitter may start limiting the tweets that show up in users’ timelines in the same way that Facebook messed with its newsfeed.
I already limit the tweets in my timeline by only following 22 accounts. Some users follow many more (often hundreds) and so interesting tweets are bound to get buried.
The chronological timeline of tweets is sacred. If Twitter wants to expose interesting tweets, it should do so in the Discover section of the app and website.
I don’t mind minor changes such as keeping retweets and replies out of the timeline, but Twitter should not mess with tweets.

Related stories:

Can Tantalizing Twitter Rock Wall Street? (; Dec. 5, 2014)

Twitter: Of course it’s junk, Blodget says (Yahoo Finance; Nov. 14, 2014)

Almost As Many Twitter Quitters As Active Users (; Nov. 10, 2014)

Twitter Initiation Report Cautious On User Growth (; Nov. 3, 2014)

Photo by Marisa Allegra Williams for Twitter.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

7 more fun this-or-that quizzes

Following yesterday’s list of 14 this-or-that quizzes from CollegeHumor, here are seven more fun this-or-that quizzes from other sources on the Internet.

Who said it: tech executive or evil dictator?

This quiz from the Verge compares quotes from tech executives with those of evil dictators.

Line from “The Great Gatsby” or a New York Times profile of Lena Dunham?

The Washington Post noted that the Grey Lady likes to use “flowery, excessively descriptive prose” in its profiles of actress Lena Dunham.

Hemingway or a children’s book?

BuzzFeed put together a quiz comparing lines from Ernest Hemingway books with those from children’s books.

Drug or programming language?

This quiz from Slate compares the names of drugs and programming languages?

Who said it: Justin Bieber or Johnny Manziel?

Sports Illustrated noticed that singer Justin Bieber and Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel say similar things.

Who said it: John Mayer or Pepe Le Pew?

Comedian Billy Eichner challenged actress Olivia Wilde to identify quotes as being from either singer John Mayer or cartoon lothario Pepe Le Pew. (See articles by the Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly.)

Celebrity child or Kentucky Derby winner?

Eichner quizzed Late Show host David Letterman with this challenge.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

14 fun this-or-that quizzes from CollegeHumor

In April, I spotlighted 13 fun this-or-that online quizzes. This-or-that quizzes are Internet memes that compare information from two wildly different subjects that could be confused.
Lately, CollegeHumor has become the king of this kind of online fun.
What follows are 14 this-or-that quizzes from CollegeHumor.

Zapf Dingbats font character or One Direction member’s tattoo?

This quiz compares nonsensical tattoos on One Direction boys to crazy font characters from Zapf Dingbats.

Game of Thrones scene or Creed music video?

This quiz compares scenes from Creed music videos to scenes from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Town in Wales or fantasy castle?

This quiz compares the names of towns in Wales to those of fantasy castles.

NFL player or Key & Peele character?

Can you tell the difference between actual NFL Players and fake names from the Key & Peele “East-West Bowl” sketch?

Weed strain or Dubstep DJ?

Can you correctly identify which of these names are marijuana strains and which are Dubstep DJs?

Justin Bieber tweet or kindergarten classroom poster?

This quiz compares Justin Bieber’s tweeted aphorisms with the simplistic sayings on kindergarten classroom posters.

Startup, bar, or indie band?

Think you can tell the difference between a New York City startup company’s name, a bar in Portland, and an indie band? Just try.

Gap ad or stock photo?

Which of these dead-eyed monsters are attempting to sell reasonably priced wardrobe staples?

Cocktail or sex move?

This quiz compares the names of cocktails with sex moves.

Obscure poison or Chicken McNugget ingredient?

Can you guess which chemical is an ingredient in a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget and which is an extremely harmful poison?

Pokemon city or Crayola color?

Can you tell which of these you can buy more Repel in and which are colors in your crayon box?

Obscure Star Wars character or U.N. representative?

This quiz compares the goofy names of Star Wars characters with the names of United Nations representatives.

Failed NBC sitcom or reality star’s book?

This quiz compares failed NBC sitcoms with books written by reality TV stars.

Cocktail or wrestling move?

Here’s a bonus video that you can play along with.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Apple iOS has become like Windows Vista

Remember Microsoft’s Windows Vista? PC users hated that computer operating system in part because it kept interrupting them with annoying alerts and prompts.
Apple’s iPhone operating system lately has become like Windows Vista with all its damn alerts and prompts. Turn on your iPhone and the iOS software flashes alerts about needing to buy iCloud storage space or to reconfirm your email or iTunes password. It’s really annoying.
I don’t know why my iPhone 5S keeps asking me to type in my passwords. It should remember those after I type them in once. Maybe each iOS version install wipes out the passwords. It shouldn’t, but that’s my best guess.
Here are a few of the many iOS messages I’ve gotten on my phone recently.

Not Enough Storage.
This alert comes with a handy button to buy some iCloud storage. Thanks, but no thanks.

iPhone Not Backed Up.
I know, I know. I’ve been meaning to do that.

iCloud Backup: This iPhone hasn’t been backed up in 3 weeks.
Probably because I don’t have enough iCloud storage.

Cannot connect to iTunes Store.
Why not? I’ve got Wi-Fi and cellular data service.

Location Accuracy: Turning on Wi-Fi will improve location accuracy.
It will also drain my battery when I’m out and about. So, no.

Photo Stream cannot be accessed.
Why the hell not?

Sign in to iMessage.

Sign in to iCloud.

Sign in to iTunes Store.

Software Update.
Here we go again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Open letter to Verizon FiOS: Stop your annoying pop-up ads

Dear Verizon FiOS:
When I turn on my television set after a long day at work, I just want to watch TV.
What I don’t want is a bunch of pop-up ads that I have to click through to get to my shows.
For instance, when I press the DVR menu button after turning on my set, I invariably get a pop up ad from your guys trying to sell me a pay-per-view movie, a more expensive tier of cable service or some router.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I’m not interested in whatever you’re trying to sell me. I just want to watch the TV service that I’m paying you for.
Most websites learned years ago that pop-up ads are super annoying. So why are you doing them now?
If you want to promote things, do so in the ad sections of the TV listings page or DVR menu. Please don’t get in the way of what I’m trying to do.
Annoyed Customer

What follows are some of the many pop-up ads I’m had to deal with lately on Verizon FiOS television.

Buy the FiOS Quantum Gateway!

Buy FiOS Quantum and get HBO free for a year!

Buy FiOS Quantum TV!
(See screenshot up top.)

Get more DVR storage with FiOS Quantum!

Buy Internet device security service!

Join the Verizon rewards program! Connect your wireless devices to the home network!

Rent “How to Train Your Dragon 2”!

Thanksgiving movie sale!

Enough already.
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