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Now I Know is a great daily email, especially if you like little bit-sized nuggets of history. Today’s email was about Times Square and how valuable the space there is for ads. My favorite part was this little tidbit from the end:

Every New Year’s Eve, a million or so people gather in Times Square and count down to the new year together as a ball, now made of crystal triangles, descends down the flagpole of One Times Square. This tradition began with the Times’ party in 1903 (which attracted 200,000 people) but didn’t involve the ball yet — that was added in 1908 — and (except for 1942 and 1943, to conserve energy to support the wartime efforts) has occurred since. But where did the idea come from? According to TIME, ball drops were commonplace in the U.S. — not for New Year’s, but hourly, as a way to keep everyone on schedule: “For decades, residents of U.S. cities would synchronize their pocketwatches using a giant globe that would descend from a pole in a public space to mark the exact hour.”

I’m picturing groups of people standing around the town square saying, “Synchronize your watches.”

Osborne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios

One of my favorite things about this time of year is Christmas music. When I was in school I spent November and December at choir practice getting ready for a Christmas concert. So this afternoon, I spent some time shuffling through Christmas tunes and put together my 2013 Christmas mix. Here it is with the reason I included each one, and you can find the entire list on Rdio and Spotify.

Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a classic, and was something I still look forward to watching every year. When I moved to Nashville to finish college was the first time I spent Christmas time away from my family. This song came on the radio one day while I was at work and it felt like I was at home for 3 minutes.

The Christmas Waltz – Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra is the unironic and original hipster. His rendition of this song in 3/4 time stood out as the crooner classic of my shuffle today.

Marshmallow World – Darlene Love, A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector

Maybe I’ve heard this version of Marshmallow World before, but I don’t see how I could forget it if I had. Classic wall of sound Phil Spector delivers the definitive recording of this song.

Santa Clause Is Coming To Town – The Jackson 5, Ultimate Christmas Collection

No disrespect to the Boss, but Michael Jackson and the rest of the Jacksons own this arrangement of Santa Clause Is Coming To Town.

O Come All Ye Faithful – Weezer, Christmas With Weezer

A Weezer Christmas album should be a head scratcher of an album. Instead you get a set of Christmas classics wrapped up in the signature Weezer sound.

Hark, The Herald Angels Sing – Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas

My favorite Christmas hymn, delivered by the less than perfect voices of the Charlie Brown kids.

Go Tell It On The Mountain – James Taylor, James Taylor at Christmas

James Taylor doesn’t really spin his own version, and fools us in to believing he has stripped this down to the simplest possible arrangement. The video here is a different take than in both playlist, so if you are super into James Taylor be sure to check out both versions.

O Holy Night – Aaron Neville, Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas

One time in Nashville I almost bumped into Aaron Neville. He was coming out of the mall. When he said hello it sounded just like you imagine it would coming from Aaron Neville. I turned around and watched him climb into his Bentley.

When I heard this version, I thought of that story but listened to the whole song. It belongs on this list.

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – Johnny Cash, Christmas with Johnny Cash

First, if you’ve never read Cash by Johnny Cash stop what you are doing and order it for yourself for Christmas. It’s his autobiography and it’s a classic.

This version is different from the playlists, I grabbed this video from a late 70′s performance that included June Carter Cash.

Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter, A Classic Soul Christmas

I don’t have a dirty uncle, but if I did I think Clarence Carter would be his favorite singer. When this came on I just left it on for a gag, but included it because I had never heard this one and it made me smile.

White Christmas – Otis Redding, A Classic Soul Christmas

I’ve never seen Love Actually. Every year I mean to sit down and watch it, because my wife loves it. I’ve got a few days off coming up, so maybe I can finally watch it with her.

Otis Redding could sing me my math text book from high school and I’d want to listen. This is required Christmas listening.

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? – Ella Fitzgerald,
Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas

This New Year’s Eve song sneaks on to the list because it was included on Ella’s Christmas/Holiday album. This song made me glad I don’t have to worry about my plans for New Years any more.

What songs are in your Christmas mix this year? If you have something you’ve been listening to non-stop share it below.

Princess Diana vs. Princess Leia by JD Hancock.
Shopping for Star Wars toys is an exercise in futility in our house. Actually it’s a challenge to find many of our favorite characters when we’re out. Try finding a Princess Leia, Padme, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, or just about any other token girl characters.

Now, my 6 year old doesn’t think too much about the ratio of strong female characters in some of the shows she watches but it’s bothered my wife and I as parents as she has gotten older and shown interest in Star Wars, comic books, and other genre entertainment. We love to share stories with her where girls save themselves, the world, and generally kick ass all on their own.

Growing up I didn’t spend much time wondering why only one of the Thundercats was a girl, or why She-ra had to appear on her own separate show. Honestly, I didn’t like She-ra and I don’t remember specifically why I disliked it but it was probably because it was ‘for girls.’ Over the  years I learned to appreciate great characters that were ladies, but I wasn’t too concerned if they didn’t show up in a story I was interested in.

All of that changed when I started to see the world through the eyes of my baby girl. I wanted her to have heroes that were active in their own rescue, that planned and responded to adversity on their own, women who confront the world the inhabit and not just live passively waiting for their “prince.”

When I saw comments from Paul Dini about notes he got from Cartoon Network on how to “improve” his show by dumbing down the girls it really bothered me. If you don’t already, be sure to follow TV Network Notes on Twitter to get an idea of just how clueless some TV execs can be. Dini was on Kevin Smith’s Fat Man on Batman podcast where he told this story:

That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, ‘we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’ — this is the network talking — ‘one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.’ And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]‘s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘F***, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t — ‘ and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down — ‘Yeah, but the — so many — we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.’ (emphasis added)

You can read a transcript of this entire exchange over at BoingBoing. I doubt the person who said this was twirling their mustache while they hurled kittens off the roof of their skyscraper. Those notes are from a more mundane sexism. Girls fit this market box, and boys fit this one.

Boys buy toys, we can sell toys, so let’s just market our show to boys. 

Girls don’t buy toys, so we can’t sell them toys, let’s make our show only appeal to boys.

If I didn’t have a little girl, I don’t know if I would get worked up about the stories we tell our daughters. I’m glad she has changed my perspective. The stories we tell our children shape how they see themselves, the world, and each other. Cartoon Network can tell better stories.

SOURCE: Paul Dini explains why execs don’t want girls watching their superhero shows on BoingBoing