Advent Song for December 15: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

This is just a lovely warm hug of a song. And Perry Como = Christmas anyway, because they used his recording of Magic Moments in a Quality Street advert and Quality Street are the main type of Christmas chocolate, or at least they were until Nestlé bought them. Let’s not talk about the world of chocolate mergers and acquisitions; it’s liable to make me riled, which is the opposite of what this advent calendar is for. Did you know Magic Moments is a Burt Bacharach/Hal David number? I didn’t, and I’m still not quite sure I believe it, but it is apparently so.

Did you go to a Christmas party this weekend? I didn’t; I spent Friday night watching The Apprentice with the dog and Saturday night watching the Strictly final with my family (and the dog). (Karim was robbed.) But if you are a partygoing sort of person you will know that Christmas party outfits are the kind you buy and then wear at best three times before stuffing them back into the cupboard for next year, which is why it is excellent news that the Stockholm branch of H&M is trialling a clothes rental service this Christmas, so you pay a subscription, borrow what you need and then give it back so the next person can do the same, thus saving money, waste and another little bit of the planet. It would be Stockholm, wouldn’t it? Shall we all move to Scandinavia?

Advent Song for December 14: Step Into Christmas

I said yesterday that I don’t listen to much music, which is true but it means that when I have a few days of listening to something obsessively, which I do do, it always ends up as that year’s top song on my Spotify history. The only song to have topped the list in multiple years is ABBA’s My Love, My Life, which I snobbishly lost interest in slightly after it featured in Mamma Mia 2 (which I haven’t seen) but it is an incredible song and you should listen to it today if you don’t know it.

This year that slot is occupied by Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which I listened to over and over again after it was used to dazzling effect in the opening credits sequence for Rocketman, the part-biopic, part-musical-fantasy version of Elton’s life which came out earlier this year. I should admit that I was also a bit obsessed with the film; an obsession which petered out a little after I read his autobiography (also this year; the Elton John publicity machine has excelled itself promoting his goodbye tour which yes, I am also going to) and discovered his actual life was quite a lot funnier and more interesting than the movie (but you should still see the movie).

Anyway this isn’t one of my absolute favourite Christmas singles, although the interlude at 1:57 is glorious, but I do love the video, so today you must watch as well as listen, please. (Nothing in particular happens; it’s just Elton doing Elton.)

Today’s good news should serve as a reminder, among other things, that everything going to shit here doesn’t mean everything going to shit everywhere. In Mexico, some of the poorest families in the state of Tabasco are starting to move into flood-resistant 3D-printed houses which can be built for $4000 in 48 hours. Back when I thought I might be interested in academic research in the future of housing on a planet with reducing resources and an increasing population, I don’t think I’d have ever imagined this as a possibility. (In the event, I got a job in a bookshop instead.)

Advent Song for December 11: Winter Wonderland

I’ve got two versions of this song for you today, because the Bing Crosby below is the perky, lilting version we all know but there’s a gorgeous version by Doris Day, with an equally gorgeous video, which only doesn’t win out because it’s a little too slow to be truly uplifting. So take your pick.

I’ve also got two pieces of good news for you! The first is that despite a cold, three nights of eating and drinking, Scottish-style, followed by an evening out with internet weirdos last night, I am feeling almost as jaunty as Bing today, for reasons which remain unclear but I’m taking advantage of it by getting a lot of work done (except for just now).

The second, probably of more value in the long term, is that 2019 is set to see the biggest ever reduction in coal consumption.

Advent Song for December 10: Boas Festas

One of the nicest things about eleven years of advent music has been discovering songs I’d never heard before and growing to love them just as much as I do the trusted and reliable classics. Boas Festas is a Brazilian song from 1933 which I found the year of Christmas Songs From Around The World and which is now firmly on my Christmas rotation because it’s so jaunty. In my sample of two this morning, nobody failed to start dancing to it when I played it.

It’s only fitting, then, that today’s not of good news should also come from Brazil, where there hasn’t been much good news recently, but this plan by Brazilian state leaders to partner with France to save sections of the Amazon rainforest is, at least, a sign of something hopeful. Perhaps this is the week that Bolsonaro, Trump and Johnson are all toppled. Let’s at least allow ourselves to entertain the delicious possibility, shan’t we?

Advent song for December 6: Little Saint Nick

You may think this is late in the day, but I haven’t even opened day five on my actual advent calendar yet, so I’m doing pretty well to get it up (just) before dusk (if you’re in London or the south of England).

I sometimes think the Beach Boys are my favourite band of all. They just make a sound like nobody else, don’t they? And this video is a dream – a film of a live performance, synced perfectly with the actual album audio, because nobody actually wants to listen to a live performance. Do watch out for the dancers  suddenly appearing at about 1:30.

In even better news, did you know that a boom in battery storage is giving the UK a fighting chance of meeting the net zero emissions target? Well, you do now.

Advent Song for December 3: Skating

I have four separate ways to cheer you up today, depending on how much time you have. If you have 25 minutes, you can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, right here and now. If you only have two minutes, you can listen to the Vince Guaraldi Trio perform Skating from the same film; if you have thirty seconds you can read this story (on Dezeen, which is one of the most interesting and thoughtful sites about design that I know) about Prada being the first luxury brand to take out a loan whose repayment terms are directly linked to sustainability targets; and if you only have five seconds you can just read the headline and skip the story itself. I do recommend the first one, though, and you might as well click below anyway, now you’re here.