Posts Tagged Christmas

Recording: Te Harinui


When Europeans colonised New Zealand, they brought not only mammals to drive many of the native birds to extinction, but also their religion to exterminate the native theodiversity. This began with Reverend Samuel Marsden on Christmas Day 1814, and there is a Christmas carol about it called Te Harinui. Since it just turned Christmas day about an hour ago in New Zealand, here‘s a recording of Te Harinui I just made.

It’s sung by the voice Vicki from my robot choir (an app I wrote to make my Mac sing using the built-in speech synthesis.) It has a couple of little glitches, and I couldn’t get it to pronounce the Māori words exactly right, but otherwise, I think this is the best Vicki has ever sounded. Usually I switch to Victoria because Vicki’s singing sounds weird. I made a couple of tweaks to the time allocated to consonants, and I think they helped. I used the music in the New Zealand Folk Song page, with a few small changes to the ‘glad tidings’ line to make it sound more like how I remember it.

You can see the effect of widespread hemispherism in the fact that the song opens by saying it isn’t snowy, as if being snowy were the default state and any deviation from it must be called out.

Now, I must get some good Christmas sleep.

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Hemispherism: Is it time for a War on Winter?


The Holidailies writing prompt for today is:

Tomorrow is the first day of winter. What do you consider the perfect winter day?

Well. Once again somebody has forgotten about the ‘worldwide’ part of the worldwide web. The first day of winter depends on the region. For example, this time last year I was heading to Norrköping, Sweden, where it was still warm enough even a week later to be officially autumn. This time in 2011 I was in Geneva, where according to the canton’s official chestnut tree, it was already spring. But those are edge cases. There’s also approximately an entire hemisphere where it’s summer. An entire hemisphere, without which Earth would be quite a bit smaller than Venus.

I can’t speak for that entire hemisphere, but I did grow up in New Zealand, where summer officially started on December 1. Even when people remember that the Southern Hemisphere exists, they often forget about New Zealand. I also can’t speak for New Zealanders who don’t celebrate Christmas in some way, and so must fend off assumptions of Christmas as well as assumptions of that Christmas being white. I do celebrate Christmas, and I’m going to tell you what that’s like in New Zealand.

Sometimes we have barbecues. Sometimes we go to the beach. Because that’s the logical thing to do in the summer. We usually eat pavlova and ice cream, because that’s pretty much always a logical thing to do. Strawberries are in season and go with pavlova, so we eat them too.

But a lot of the time we have a big roast dinner with turkey, chicken, ham, or lamb. Most of the time we listen to wintery songs about Christmas, forever dreaming of a white Christmas that will never come. Often we sing winter songs such as Jingle Bells and Winter Wonderland, which make no mention of Christmas whatsoever. Like people in the Northern Hemisphere, we sing them thinking they are Christmas songs, so thoroughly indoctrinated with Northist culture that we don’t realise there’s anything illogical about it. We do not sing the winter songs in winter, unless we’re having a mid-winter Christmas party. We have mid-winter Christmas parties because we’ve been repeatedly told that Christmas is a winter event, so in an attempt to have a ‘real’ one, we’ll sometimes have one in June.

Outside, pohutukawa and feijoa trees bloom red on green, sometimes turning our roads and driveways red with fallen stamens. Inside, we decorate with plastic holly and mistletoe, and Christmas cards of snowy driveways. Sometimes we spray fake snow on our windows. Some of us cover our entire sweaty bodies in what I hope is the thinnest red, faux-warm fabric we can find, and ask little kids to sit on our laps and tell us what they want for Christmas. Oh yes, Santa Claus: he lives at the North Pole, of course. Because Christmas belongs to the North. There isn’t even land at the North Pole. Well, we’ll see who’s jolly when we burn all that coal he gave us and cause the Arctic ice sheets to melt.

I’ve lived in the Northern Hemisphere for almost ten years now, and I’ve never seen anyone have a midsummer Christmas party, or hang up plastic pohutukawa. When I went out in the snow and warmed my hands on mulled wine at my first Christmas market, I didn’t think about how strange it was to have Christmas in winter, the way people from the Northern Hemisphere say it is when they first experience or even think about Christmas in summer. I thought about how much more Christmasy it seemed. How it finally seemed like a real Christmas, like in the movies, on the internet, on TV, in songs, in books, in even my own mind. About how I’d been subtly led to believe that my own Christmases were abnormal. And finally, as a boring overprivileged white middle class whatever, I understood what it was like to be marginalised and not even realise it.

My Christmases were never abnormal. Just outnumbered. Isn’t it about time people in the Northern Hemisphere started hanging up pohutukawa? Isn’t it time they dreamed of a red Christmas? Isn’t it about time we looked at them funny and remarked on how strange it must be to have cold weather in December? Isn’t it about time we reminded people to at least think before wishing someone a happy winter? The next time somebody complains that the shops have their Christmas decorations up before it’s even cold outside, or feels the need to to include snow even in a Christmas song set on an asteroid, send them this ‘Christmas song’ and ask how they’d like hearing it on radios and in shops throughout the Christmas season:

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Video: Christmastime is Wunnerful (Robot Protectors cover)


I felt a bit bad about having to truncate the full-length instrumental that Colleen and Joseph made for JoCo Day is Wunnerful, so, having already taught my robot choir the main melody, I decided to record my own cover of Christmastime is Wunnerful. I was toying with the idea of making it a mashup with Jonathan Coulton’s other Christmas classic, Chiron Beta Prime (since the source tracks for that are available), when I realised that even without modification, Christmastime is Wunnerful is quite amusing to listen to while watching Tom Ellsworth‘s music video for Chiron Beta Prime. So I decided to edit that video (with Tom’s permission) to match my cover. Here is the result:

For comparison, here’s the original Chiron Beta Prime video. I didn’t have to change very much, really:

I had to pretty much abandon the ‘daily’ part of Holidailies because ended up flyng to New Zealand, which in itself takes more than a day without internet. But here’s some more holiday for you.

The voices I used were, in order of appearance:

Adult human male: Alex

Standard robots: Zarvox

Festive holiday figure robots for the purposes of augmenting human morale and productivity: Trinoids

Adult human female: Victoria

Human male emulation for the purposes of undetectable redaction: Ralph

Juvenile human: Junior

I also used the bells and ‘Message redacted’ tracks from Chiron Beta Prime, and the ‘Machines’ track from The Future Soon.

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A video, full of sound and light, signifying Christmas


Last weekend I was on my way to a concert in Lausanne when I came across a building with a light show projected onto it. I stopped to film it in high resolution with my fancy new camera. Later I added appropriate music to the different scenes, to make it a bit more interesting. Here is the result:

Most of this music is explicitly released under a Creative Commons license, and most can be downloaded for free (there are links below), and most comes from artists who generally don’t mind people using their music and don’t have labels that are likely to sue me, but there are a few tracks I didn’t make 100% sure I was allowed to use, so I hope those artists don’t mind being included.

I tried to include as many different artists as possible so that people will discover someone new. The only ones I used twice are Jonathan Coulton (well, he only got a short bit at the beginning) Jonathan Mann (I planned from the beginning to use Penguins Having a Party, not suspecting that he’d written a song in which he said ‘building’ over and over, which is the perfect space-filler in a video of a building) and The Cow Exchange (I had many possibilities for the last song, but this one followed better musically from the one before it.)

I did this fairly quickly, to get it ready by Christmas, so most of the time I just searched my music library for keywords relating to a scene and picked the first song I found that seemed to fit. There may be better matches in songs which don’t happen to have the right keywords in the title, or which I don’t have yet, or which I ignored because I didn’t know what the artist’s or their label’s policy on reuse was.

You can get most of the songs for free, but I encourage you to support the artists if you can, and if you like what they do, of course. The songs are: Read the rest of this entry »

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