Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Til Old Acquaintance be Forgot

Hey the only advice I can give you is - Drink til you drop and drop where you drink - Don't drink and drive

Here's your Today in History -

Tonight's the Sixth night of Kwanzaa. Tonight celebrates Kuumba (Creativity) - To do always as much as one can, in the way one can, in order to leave their community more beautiful and beneficial than one inherited it.

Hope you all have wonderful plans for this evening Here a brief overview of New Years Celebrations

Although the new year has been celebrated since prehistoric times, it was celebrated on the vernal equinox rather than what we now consider the first of the year. The Romans were the first to recognize New Years Day on January first. Rather than tie the day to some significant astronomical or agricultural event, in 153 BC the Romans selected it for civil reasons. It was the day after elections in which the newly elected assumed their positions.

Years later, Julius Caesar wanted to change the date to a more logical date but that year, January 1, 45 BC was the date of a new moon. To change it would have been bad luck. He did, however, change the calendar system from the Egyptian solar calendar to the "Julian" calendar, named for Caesar. July, the month of Caesar's birth, was also named after him to recognize him for his calendar reform. And look what it got him.

Up unto 1582, Christian Europe continued to celebrate New Years Day on March 25. Pope Gregory XIII instituted additional calendar reforms bringing us the calendaring system of the day. The Gregorian calendar was adopted by Catholic countries immediately while the reformists, suspect of any papal policy, only adapted it after some time. Today most countries around the world have adopted this calendaring system.

From primitive man to today, it has been recognized as a day in which rites were done to abolished the past so there could be a rejuvenation for the new year. Rituals included purgations, purifications, exorcisms, extinguishing and rekindling fires, masked processions (masks representing the dead), and other similar activities. Often exorcisms and purgations were performed with much noise as if to scare away the evil spirits. In China, Ying, the forces of light fought Yang, the forces of darkness with cymbals, noisemakers, and firecrackers.

Early European-Americans adopted the New Year celebrations from their homelands. However, it was noted by early settlers that native Americans already honored News Years Day with their own customs. Their rituals coincided with those around the world including fires, explosions of evil spirits, and celebrations. Today many of the New Year celebrations actually begin with a countdown to the New Year on the evening prior. It is customary to kiss your sweetheart when the clock strikes midnight as one of the customs of these New Years Eve parties.

Around the world, different cultures have their own traditions for welcoming the new year. The Japanese hang a rope of straw across the front of their houses to keep out evil spirits and bring happiness and good luck. They also have a good laugh as the year begins to get things started on a lucky note. Iraqis like to hang evil bastards to try to keep bad luck out of their country.

In West Bengal, in northern India, the people like to wear pink, red, purple and white flowers. Women favor yellow, the color of spring. Hindus also leave shrines next to their beds so they can see beautiful objects when they wake up to the new year.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, Canadians enjoy the traditional polar bear swim. People of all ages don their swim suits and take the plunge, an event that is sure to get you started in the new year with eyes wide open.

In Scotland, they celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year, usually with great exuberance. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow host street parties for 100,000 people. At midnight, there is the celebration of "First Footing," where gifts are exchanged.

New Year Resolutions is simply another way to wish away the past in exchange for hopes of the future. It is where the phrase "turning over a new leaf" originated.

I hope 2009 brings a damn sight better luck to all than 2008.

So everyone turn the wheel of your life. Make complete revolutions. Celebrate every turning. And persevere with joy!!!

And so it goes.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Patti

Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith, singer-songwriter, poet, artist, Godmother of Punk, Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was born on this date.

Tonight is the Fifth night of Kwanzaa. Tonight celebrates Nia (Purpose) - To make collective vocation the building and developing of community in order to restore the member's of the community to their traditional greatness.

Today in History -

December 30, 1853 -
Kids, follow along, it gets bumpy.

After the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, border disputes continued between the United States and Mexico. Land that now comprises lower Arizona and New Mexico was part of a proposed southern route for a transcontinental railroad. U.S. President Franklin Pierce (considered one of the worst Presidents) was convinced by Jefferson Davis, then the country's Secretary of War, to send James Gadsden (who had personal interests in the rail route) to negotiate the Gadsden Purchase with Mexico. Under the resulting agreement, the U.S. paid Mexico $10 million (equivalent to about $230 million in 2006 dollars, 2008 dollars are just not worth that much anymore) to secure the land.

The matter about the money was to be very contentious: even though the agreement specified $10 million, the US Congress agreed on only $7 million ($163 million in 2006 dollars). When the money finally arrived in Mexico City $1 million ($23 million in 2006 dollars) was missing, thus resulting in a total of only $6 million ($140 million in 2006 dollars). The treaty included a provision allowing the U.S. to build a transoceanic canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, though this option was never exercised. With a few exceptions, such as the resolution of the Chamizal dispute, acquisition of land in this purchase defined the present boundaries of the continental United States.

December 30, 1862 -
The Union ironclad ship USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., during a storm. While the design of Monitor was well-suited for river combat, her low freeboard and heavy turret made her highly unseaworthy in rough waters. Sixteen members of the crew were lost.

The Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago, Illinois, claimed 602 lives on December 30, 1903. It is, as of 2008, the single-building fire in U.S. history with the most fatalities, claiming over 100 more fatalities than the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston. The Iroquois Theater, at 24-28 West Randolph Street, was advertised as "absolutely fireproof." The theatre opened on November 23rd and burned 37 days later on December 30th. Over 1,900 people were in attendance at a matinée showing of the popular musical Mr. Bluebeard.

Of the 300 or so actors, dancers, stagehands, etc., only an aerialist (Nellie Reed), an actor in a bit part, an usher, and two female attendants died. The aerialist's role was as a fairy. She flew out over the audience on a trolley wire, showering them with pink carnations. She was trapped above the stage while waiting for her entrance. Comedian Eddie Foy was hailed as a hero for attempting to calm the crowd. Foy's role in this disaster is recreated by Bob Hope in the film The Seven Little Foys.

After the fire, it was revealed that fire inspectors had been bribed with free tickets to overlook code violations. Accusations began to appear that the asbestos curtain was not asbestos. The curtain had disappeared, which meant it was either viewed as incriminating evidence and removed or had burned, in which case it could not have been asbestos, which does not burn.

A result from the Iroquois fire was the development of the first panic exit device by the Von Duprin exit device company, now a part of Ingersoll Rand. Panic exit devices are now required by building codes for high-occupancy spaces.

December 30, 1916 -
Kids, you know I love discussing early 20th Century Russian history as much as the next person but this item is so good, it has to span over the course of two days (but it will reside on December 30th - you'll see why shortly. Grigory Rasputin, a self-fashioned Russian holy man, whoremonger, very unbathed and alcoholic was a very unpleasant man. And yet he held tremendous influence over the royal family (which probably hastened their downfall).

On December 16, 1916 O.S. ( Old Style, i.e. - Julian Calendar, so it's really December 29), having decided that Rasputin's influence over the Tsaritsa had made him a far-too-dangerous threat to the empire, a group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (one of the few Romanov family members to escape the annihilation of the family during the Red Terror), apparently lured Rasputin to the Yusupovs' Moika Palace, where they served him cakes and red wine laced with a massive amount of cyanide. According to legend, Rasputin was unaffected, although Vasily Maklakov had supplied enough poison to kill five men. Conversely, Maria Rasputin's (one of Rasputin's four children) account asserts that, if her father did eat or drink poison, it was not in the cakes or wine, because, after the attack by Guseva, he had hyperacidity, and avoided anything with sugar. In fact, she expressed doubt that he was poisoned at all.

Determined to finish the job, Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin might live until the morning, which would leave the conspirators with no time to conceal his body. Yusupov ran upstairs to consult the others and then came back down to shoot Rasputin through the back with a revolver. Rasputin fell, and the company left the palace for a while. Yusupov, who had left without a coat, decided to return to grab one, and, while at the palace, he went to check up on the body. Suddenly, Rasputin opened his eyes, grabbed Yusupov by the throat and strangled him. As he made his bid for freedom, however, the other conspirators arrived and fired at him. After being hit three times in the back, Rasputin fell once more. As they neared his body, the party found that, remarkably, he was still alive, struggling to get up. They clubbed him into submission and, after wrapping his body in a sheet, threw him into an icy river, and he finally met his end there on the morning of December 17th O.S. (December 30th) - as had both his siblings before him.

Three days later, the body of Rasputin, poisoned, shot four times and badly beaten, was recovered from the Neva River and autopsied. The cause of death was hypothermia. His arms were found in an upright position, as if he had tried to claw his way out from under the ice. In the autopsy, it was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him.

Yet another report, also supporting the idea that he was still alive after submerging through the ice into the Neva River, is that after his body was pulled from the river, water was found in the lungs, showing that he didn't die until he was submerged into the water. So, apparently, you can't keep a very bad man down.

And so it goes

Monday, December 29, 2008

You can always find good news if you look hard enough

Oil company executives have received a late Christmas gift: tensions generated by a widening conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants sent crude prices up sharply to above $40 a barrel Monday, with gasoline and heating oil also making sizable gains.

Prices also were supported by indications that key OPEC members were acting on commitments to cut back production, in line with a decision earlier this month to take a daily 2.2 million barrels off the market.

Doesn't warm your heart that some people are not suffering during these economic hard times.

Tonight is the Fourth night of Kwanzaa. Tonight celebrates Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain the community's stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Today in History -

December 29, 1170 -
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is slashed to death by four of King Henry II's knights at the altar of the Virgin Mary. "Is there no one who will rid me from this turbulent priest", cried Henry in frustration earlier that month. It was apparently not a serious demand for Becket's death, but that did not stop his brains from being splattered in Canterbury Cathedral.

So kids, remember, don't ask for things that you don't really want.

December 29, 1851 -
It's fun to stay at the YMCA. Formation of the first YMCA in the United States in Boston, on this date.

No, I'm not going to play that song.

December 29, 1890 -

The Wounded Knee Massacre took place in Wounded Knee, South Dakota as over 200 Sioux were killed by US troops sent to disarm them.

Another proud moment in American history.

December 29, 1946 -
Baroness Sacher-Masoch (Marianne Evelyn Faithfull), an English singer, songwriter, actress and inventor of the Mars bar tampon, was born on this date.

December 29, 1965 -
"Thunderball", the best James Bond title, premieres in US.

December 29, 1993 -
Former child star Todd Bridges (who played Willis on "Different Strokes") arrested for transportation of methamphetamine.

What the hell was in the water on that set.

December 29, 1959 -
Paula Poundstone, comedian, was born on this date.

And so it goes.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Now, this is an interesting way to hear a movie

Man Allegedly Shoots Talker at Movies

A man enraged by a noisy family sitting near him in a movie theater on Christmas night shot the father of the family in the arm, police said. James Joseph Cialella, 29, of Philadelphia, faces six charges that include attempted murder and aggravated assault. He remained in custody Saturday.

Police said Cialella told the man’s family to be quiet, then threw popcorn at the man’s son. The victim, whom television reports identified as Woffard Lomax, told police that Cialella was walking toward his family when he stood up and was shot.

Now, I like an Adam Sandler movie as much as the next guy but this is ridiculous.

Hanukkah is finally over, I think.

Tonight's the third night of Kwanzaa. Tonight celebrates Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) - To build and maintain the community together and make the members of the community's problems, everyone's problems and to solve them together.

December 28, 1869 -
Patent for chewing gum granted to William Semple (patent number 98,304), on this date.

Does YOUR chewing gum lose it flavor on the bed post overnight?

December 28, 1895 -
Auguste and Louis Lumiere opened the first movie theater at the Grand Café in Paris, on this date . Other inventors, including Thomas Edison, were working on various moving picture devices at the time. But most of those other devices could only be viewed by one person at a time. The Lumieres were the first to project moving pictures on a screen, so that they could be viewed by a large audience.

The first film they showed to a paying audience was called Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory. It was a short, single shot with an immobile camera and it showed a concierge opening the factory gates from which dozens of workers walked and bicycled into the street. It ended with the concierge closing the gates again.

It wasn't a movie in the modern sense. It had no characters, no storyline. It was just an animated photograph. Much like most French New Wave films. The Lumiere brothers went on to make more than 2,000 films like this, each one less than a minute long depicting various scenes of human activity with titles like The Arrival of a Train, Boat Leaving the Harbor, and Baby's First Steps. They didn't call these "movies" or "films," they called them "views."

It took other filmmakers to turn movies into a medium for storytelling. The Lumieres were primarily documentary filmmakers. But in their film Demolition of a Wall they added a reverse loop to the film so that after the wall falls to the ground it miraculously picks itself back up. It was the first special effect ever uses in the history of motion pictures.

The Lumieres' movie house was a big success. Within a few months of its opening, more than 2,000 people lined up every night to buy tickets. But the Lumieres themselves thought that movies would be a passing fad. They told their cinematographers not to expect work for more than six months. Auguste went on to become a medical scientist and Louis went back to working on still photographs.

December 28, 1983 -
Dennis Wilson, original drummer of the Beach Boys, drowned while diving from a boat near Marquesas Pier. He was rather drunk at the time. You would think that someone in the Beach Boys could swim.

December 28, 1991 -
Jack Ruby's pistol, used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, sells at auction at Christie's for $220,000.

The perfect gift for the man who has everything.

And so it goes.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm not even going to lie to you

(I've posted this on Christmas eve. I've consumed three martinis, a bottle of white wine and a rum toddy. - that I can even remember my name is a miracle!)

seriously, isn't Hanukkah over yet.

Here's your abbreviated Today in History -

Tonight's the second night of Kwanzaa. Tonight celebrates Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) - To define oneself, name oneself, create for oneself and speak for oneself.

December 27, 1831 -

For some unknown reason, naturalist Charles Darwin begins his famous voyage onboard a beagle, on the date. He immediately swims back to shore and boards the HMS Beagle once the dog drowns.

The 12 acre complex in midtown Manhattan known as Rockefeller Center developed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on land leased from Columbia University opened to the public on December 27, 1932. Radio City Music Hall (named for one of the complex's first tenants, the Radio Corporation of America) opened with a spectacular stage show, featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. The opening was meant to be a return to high class variety entertainment.

Unfortunately, the show bombed and on January 11, 1933, the Music Hall rushed to show the first film on the giant screen, installed in the theatre: Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen starring Barbara Stanwyck.

Again, the film was not critically well received

December 27, 1937 -
Middle aged, stout and possible transvestite performer, Mae West and Don Ameche as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden appeared on the radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour. She told Ameche in the show to "get me a big one...I feel like doin' a big apple!"

The FCC later deemed the broadcast "vulgar and indecent" and "far below even the minimum standard which should control in the selection and production of broadcast programs. West would not perform in radio for another twelve years until January 1950, in an episode of The Chesterfield Supper Club hosted by Perry Como.

Wow, do I wish I could play the radio broadcast for you.

December 27, 1947 -
Hey kids, what time is it? A bleary eyed world, fresh from the horrors of a second World War awaken to the sight of a freaky marrionette on NBC - Howdy Doody premieres.

Thought of the Day:
"The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means." - Tom Stoppard

And so it goes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's Boxing Day

Today is "Boxing Day" (St. Stephen's Day) and citizens of the British Commonwealth celebrate by putting on trunks and gloves to beat each other bloody silly. Another reason to appreciate the American Revolution - a peaceful December 26th.

If you are starting your Christmas shopping for next year, you're either way ahead of the curve or cheap.

isn't Hanukkah over yet.

Here's your abbreviated Today in History -

Tonight's the first night of Kwanzaa. Tonight celebrates Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

December 26, 1776 -
American forces under Gen. George Washington, having crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, defeated Hessian mercenary troops fighting for the British at the Battle of Trenton, N.J.

On this day in 1913, the author of the short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and his satirical dictionary, The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce disappeared into Mexico while traveling with the army of rebel Pancho Villa. In one of his final letters, the 71-year-old Bierce wrote to his niece, Lora,

"Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia!"

December 26, 1919 -
Red Sox owner and Broadway Producer, Harry Frazee believes he has solved one of his many headaches when he sells, an overweight, drunk, whoremongering baseball player to the New York Yankees.

Sports Videos, News, Blogs


And so it goes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas folks

If you haven't finished all of that last minute shopping, you're too late,

tonight is still another night of Hanukkah, by now you're trying to figure out how to get rid of all of your relatives.

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Here's your Today in History -

History of Christmas

Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, although the form of its observation varies widely from nation to nation. In America, our cultural kleptomania has allowed us to assimilate the most enjoyable of those traditions while discarding any stupid superstitions associated with them.

But it's worth reviewing those superstitions along with our traditions, if only to amuse ourselves yet again at the expense of our ancestors.

The winter solstice had long been celebrated by ignorant barbarians throughout the northern hemisphere as the time of the year when the sun stopped getting smaller and smaller and finally started getting bigger and bigger. The sun was important to these poor primitive bastards, in much the same way that we poor modern bastards find it so important. It was, after all, the sun.

To avoid having to go out much during the darkest and coldest days of the year, the poor shivering Nordic bastards of Scandinavia would bundle up and sally forth into the woods to bring home great big logs which would often burn for as long as twelve days. As long as the log burned they would stay in and eat and drink and fornicate. They believed that every spark their log set off foretold the birth of a calf or pig in the new year, which only underscores the irony of the Nobel prize being awarded in Sweden.

They believed the sun was a big wheel (hwoel) that rolled away from the earth until the winter solstice, at which point it began rolling back toward us. This quaint ignorance charmed the weak and flabby peoples over whom the Vikings later swept like an apocalyptic affliction. However, these peoples could not pronounce hwoel and therefore called it "yule." This irritated the Vikings and eventually forced their retreat.

While the Norse were hauling those logs into their houses, others throughout Europe were enjoying some of the finest dining of the year. Since it was too expensive to feed and shelter animals through the cold weather, those in northern climes killed their livestock at the onset of each winter. This provided their only steady supply of fresh meat all year, and went nicely with the wines and ales which had finally become fermented. The inevitable gastrointestinal distress that followed these binges is probably responsible for the primitive Germans' fear that the god Odin was flying around the sky above them during the solstice, deciding who was naughty and who was nice. It was not entirely academic: Odin's invariable sentence for the naughty was death.

Primitive bastards everywhere also liked to bring sprigs and boughs of evergreens into their homes around the time of the solstice to remind themselves that sooner or later all that awful cold and snow would end and it would get warm enough to eat, drink, and fornicate outdoors. The Druids of the British Isles brought evergreen boughs into their temples every winter as a sign of everlasting life, and the Vikings thought that evergreens were the particular plant of their own sun-god, Balder (so-named because they mistook the sun for his shiny, hairless cranium). Even the Egyptians worshiped their sun-god Ra's "recovery" by bringing palm rushes into their homes. It's not clear how this was intended to help poor Ra, but he always pulled through.

In ancient Rome, the festival of Saturnalia began the week before the solstice and lasted a full month. Romans ate and drank and fornicated during this festival in honor of Saturn, the god of Agriculture. They filled their homes with evergreen boughs to remind themselves that everything would be green again eventually. They also let slaves become masters for the duration of the festival, and the plebeians were put in charge of the city. It was a crazy, topsy-turvy time, with all sorts of nutty mix-ups (cf. Gibbon, op. cit.). Overlapping with Saturnalia around the time of the solstice was Juvenalia, a feast to honor the children of the city.

The winter solstice fell on December 25 in the year 274, and the pagan Roman Emperor Aurelian declared that day a holiday: the festival of the Birth of the Invincible Sun. The Invincible Sun was also known as Mithra. Mithra was an infant god who had been born from a rock (presumably virgin rock). The Roman upper classes, with their special fondness for rocks, honored this holiday as one of the most sacred in the year.

Meanwhile, the noisy little sect of Christianity had started to gather some steam.

St. Nicholas was born around this time in what is today Turkey, but was then just another primitive desert backwater full of bickering barbarians. One popular story about St. Nicholas was that he had saved three sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution, or both, by sneaking money for dowries into their shoes and socks. He died on December 6, and this was subsequently celebrated as his feast day. It came to be considered a lucky day on which to buy things or get married. He was honored as a protector of children and sailors. By the Renaissance he had topped all the European charts to become the most popular saint ever, probably on account of widespread sailors and children.

In the fourth century, church leaders decided to begin celebrating the birth of Jesus, since it seemed morbid just celebrating his death. No one is really sure when Jesus was born, although most scholars are pretty sure it wasn't late December and most astrologists are quick to point out that Jesus doesn't seem like a Capricorn.

Pope Julius I chose to declare December 25 as Jesus' birthday, since people were already used to celebrating at that time of year. The holiday was called the Feast of the Nativity, and by the end of the eighth century it had spread across all of Europe, even to those remote and primitive corners where people still thought the sun was a big yellow wheel.

By the middle ages Christianity had penetrated almost all of Europe, but Christmas was still a blend of ignorant barbarian superstitions and unbearable religious seriousness. Christians would attend a Christmas mass on December 25, then eat, drink, and fornicate like they did in the old days. They would crown some wretched beggar the "lord of misrule," and the drunken revelers would happily and laughingly obey his every command. The poor would show up at the doors of the rich and demand food and drink, and if they were denied they would often laughingly burn down the house, beat its inhabitants, and rape the womenfolk before moving on to the next house. It was a very jolly holiday.

Devout Christians of sixteenth century Germany began trying to outdo the rest of Europe with their usual humorless Teutonic ambition. Instead of hanging a few little evergreen boughs about the hearth at Christmastime, they began hauling whole trees into their homes. According to legend, Martin Luther himself was walking home from a sermon one night when he was struck by the beauty of the glittering stars among the pines. When he got home he promptly decorated his own tree with candles. Despite the obvious fire hazard, this quickly became a popular tradition.

After the Reformation, puritans decided there was too much eating, drinking, and fornication associated with Christmas and that it was therefore bad. Many rulers outlawed it altogether. This was not usually popular: in England, for example, Oliver Cromwell cancelled Christmas, resulting in the restoration of Charles II and the retaliatory cancellation of Mr. Cromwell's head.

All of this was bad for Christmas, but such was St. Nicholas's popularity that it did little to deter from his reputation. He remained on top of the charts. Nowhere was he more popular than in Holland, where he was venerated as Sint Nikolaas, or more familiarly as Sinter Klaas.

The puritan bastards who settled America avoided Christmas as part and parcel of their longstanding commitment to No Fun. Massachusetts Colony actually penalized anyone caught celebrating Christmas with a five-shilling fine. Since it was considered an English holiday, it was ostentatiously ignored in the years during and after the Revolution, and wasn't made a federal holiday until after the Civil War (on June 26, 1870).

Washington Irving had done his part in sorting through barbarian superstitions for things that were wholesome, pleasant, and commercial enough to be made officially American, and in 1809 he referred to St. Nicholas as the Patron Saint of New York. In 1822 an Episcopalian minister named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a frivolous poem for his daughters entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Mr. Moore cleverly ignored all elements of the good saint's biography involving slavery, prostitution, dowries, and sailors. He focused instead on sleighs, reindeer, and presents for good little American boys and girls. It was so silly and frivolous that it became one of the most popular American poems ever—second only to the one about the guy from Nantucket.

By 1820, American stores had begun to advertise Christmas shopping, and by 1870 children were flocking to Macy's to see Santa Claus. And so it was that America began applying its curious collective genius for assimilation to the vast storehouse of silly and primitive traditions from throughout the world.

Thus we need not concern ourselves with St. Lucia, the patron saint of the blind, whom Scandinavians honor each December 23 ("Little Yule") with elaborate pagan rituals involving candles, torches, and bonfires.

We need not worry about the witch Babouschka, who visits Russian children with gifts each Christmas to compensate for a nasty little joke she once played on the wise men,

or the Italian witch La Befana.

We need not trouble ourselves with the construction of piñatas each holiday season, as Mexican parents must.

We don't have to sit around our tables as they do in Ukraine, waiting for the evening star to appear before we begin our meal. We need not fear the kallikantzeri of Greece, nasty little goblins that cause mischief for the twelve days of Christmas.

Let's all take a moment during these troubled times to express our gratitude and admiration for our American traditions, which are so much better than the traditions of every other country.

I wish all my friends a happy, healthy, joyous holidays.

Merry Christmas!

And so it goes

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

...It could be perhaps that his shoes were too tight...

It's still Hanukkah and after all of the fried food you've probably consumed because of the holiday - you might want to consider some fresh fruit tonight.

I will not try to overwhelm you with so much history this morning, I'm sure you all have to hit the stores for all of that last minute shopping so,

Here's your Today in History -

December 24, 1865 -
Southern whitefolk unite together to form a service organization wherein they consort with other southern whitefolk. Members participate in festive cruciform fire ceremonies and lively negro butcherings.

By the 1920's membership in the Ku Klux Klan reaches an astonishing 2 million.

December 24, 1954 -
Rock musician Johnny Ace plays a little .45 calibre solitaire (Russian Roulette) at City Auditorium in Houston after a concert.


He thought it would impress his girlfriend, perhaps it did.

December 24, 1985 -
Fidel Castro announces that he has given up cigars.

Santa still leaves him a lump of coal in his stocking every Christmas.

Alright, I won't leave you on Christmas Eve with all of these fun facts, so I'll leave you with these thoughts from Henry Van Dyke (and no it's not Dick and Jerry's dad) -

There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing...

To forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;
To ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;
To put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground;
To see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy;
To own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;
To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness.

Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing...

To stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
To remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
To stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;
To bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
To try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you;
To trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;
To make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open -

Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing...

To believe that love is the strongest thing in the world -
Stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death -
Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?

But you can never keep it alone.

Now get back to shlepping through the stores trying to find that last gift before I explain to you how the War of 1812 was resolved by the Treaty of Ghenet in 1814 and yet the Battle of New Orleans happened after the treaty was signed.

And so it goes

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Festivus for the rest of us!

Tonight is the third night of Hanukkah, hopefully you're all not too bloated.

- A Brief Festivus Primer -

As not to embarrass yourself Sunday night at your Festivus family gathering, here are the four tenets of the holiday:

The Festivus celebration includes four major components:

The Festivus Pole: During Festivus, an unadorned aluminum pole is displayed. The pole was chosen apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, because it is "very low-maintenance," and also because the holiday's patron, Frank Costanza, "find[s] tinsel distracting."

Festivus Dinner: The Festivus dinner menu is flexible, but it should consist of filling, non-holiday comfort food (no turkey, duck, goose, or ham). The televised dinner featured what may have been meatloaf or spaghetti in a red sauce. (Presumably, an entree in a red sauce is more festive.) Kruger took a flask out from his jacket and took a swig; so one might interpret that drinking is optional.

The Airing of Grievances: At the Festivus dinner, each participant tells friends and family of all the instances where they disappointed him or her that year.

The Feats of Strength: The head of the family tests his or her strength against one participant of the head's choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead.

A Healthy and Happy Festivus to you and your family.

Christmas video countdown -

December 23, 1823 -
The famous poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" was first published on this date. It begins, "Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

Fourteen years after its first publication, an editor attributed the poem to a wealthy professor of classical literature named Clement Clarke Moore. In the last few years, new evidence has come out that a Revolutionary War major named Henry Livingston Jr. may have been the actual author of "The Night Before Christmas." His family has letters describing his recitation of the poem before it was originally published, and literary scholars have found many similarities between his work and "The Night Before Christmas." He was also three quarters Dutch, and many of the details in the poem, including names of the reindeer, have Dutch origins.

December 23, 1888 -
After an argument with fellow painter Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh takes a razor and removes a portion of his left ear. Their quarrel regarded the prostitutes in Arles who seemed to prefer Gauguin over Van Gogh; the painter delivered his ear a startled prostitute. She fainted.

Some women get very emotional when they receive that special gift.

December 23, 1948 -
Japanese Premier Tojo and 6 others hanged by the War Crimes Commission at Sugamo Prison, Tokyo, for the crime of starting an aggressive war.

Now, that's not a necktie you want for Christmas.

December 23, 1968 -
on the first day of the first flight ever by astronauts to orbit the Moon, Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman suffers from the first documented case of motion sickness. Previous astronauts had reported nothing -- partly because their ships were too small for them to move around a lot and get queasy, partly because they kept their mouths shut for fear they'd never fly again.

There is nothing worse than barfing into your own spacesuit. Oh, wait a minute, yes there is - barfing into someone else's spacesuit.

December 23, 1985 -
In a Lutheran school playground, James Vance and Raymond Belknap acted upon a drunken suicide pact forged while listening to Stained Class by Judas Priest. Belknap shot a 12 gauge shotgun under his chin, dying instantly, and Vance followed, but survived with a severely disfigured face. He later dies from painkillers on Thanksgiving three years later. Both kids' parents file suit against the band, but a judge ultimately rejects their subliminal message theory.

I believe anyone would kill themselves being forced to listen to Judas Priest.

2 more shopping days until Christmas. At this point, if you haven't started shopping, may I suggested that fresh fruit makes an attractive gift basket.

And so it goes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Lincoln Tunnel

December 22, 1937
The center tube of the Lincoln Tunnel was opened to traffic today, charging $0.50 per passenger car.

Some of those cars are scheduled to make it through the tunnel later this week.

Tonight is the second night of Hanukkah, hopefully you're all not too bloated. And kids, know when too much candy becomes an addiction - please put the gelt down. Overeaters Anonymous 845-426-1028 - ask for Marcia.

Christmas video countdown -

Today in History -

December 22, 1879 -
It's Stalin's birthday (again)! Hey, when your a dictator, you get to celebrate your birthday on more than one day. Unfortunately, the proper way to celebrate - oppress, torture and murder millions of your fellow country men - is frowned upon.

So smack someone upside the head for no reason.

December 22, 1955 -
The corpse of Evita Peron is stolen by anti-Peronistas. 29 years later (to the day), Madonna's "Like a Virgin" single goes #1 for 6 weeks.

Make of the coincidence what you will.

December 22, 1984 -
Bernhard Goetz shoots 4 teenage boys on the NYC subway after one of them asks him for money.

Again, this practice is frowned upon, so smack someone upside the head.

December 22, 1965 -
David Lean's "Dr Zhivago" premieres .

December 22, 2001 -
Richard Reid attempts to blow up an American Airlines transatlantic flight by igniting a plastic explosive concealed in his shoe. Other passengers beat the living daylights out of him.

They knew, they smacked him upside the head.

3 more shopping days until Christmas (1 more shopping days until Festivus).

And so it goes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice

Hey, Get Naked, Paint Yourself Blue and Dance around the Fir Tree. It's party time!!!

In the northern hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It's officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun. It is therefore a good time to do things you wouldn't want the sun to hear about. The Pagans, for example, wisely celebrate their Yule holiday on the Winter Solstice.

Ancient peoples believed that because daylight was waning, it might go away forever, so they lit huge bonfires to tempt the sun to come back. The tradition of decorating our houses and our trees with lights at this time of year is passed down from those ancient bonfires.

In Ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated with the festival of Saturnalia, during which all business transactions and even war were suspended, and slaves were waited upon by their masters.

Hanukkah starts tonight, get the loose pants out. And kids, know when a simple game becomes an addiction - please no actual gambling while playing with your dreidels. Gamblers Anonymous (718) 352-1671

Christmas Video Countdown

Here's your Today in History -

The pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620. Their boat was the Mayflower. They wore black and white clothes with big shiny buckles.

They made friends with Squanto and had Thanksgiving.

December 21, 1937 -
It Barbarella's birthday today. Jane Fonda, an anti-war activist, also holds the title "Miss Army Recruiting" of 1965.

December 21, 1945 -
World War II General George Patton dies in a car accident at Heidelberg, Germany. Patton was investigating the theft of Nazi gold by US Army men.

December 21, 1970 -
Paranoid, alcoholic President Nixon meets with prescription drug addict Elvis Presley at the White House to discuss The King's becoming a special drug enforcement agent.

He presents Nixon with a pistol, and receives a special DEA badge in return.

December 21, 2012 -
The Mayan "long count" calendar is based on great cycles of 5125 years, the current cycle ending on this day in 2012. Endings of cycles are punctuated by cataclysmic singularities on a deluge scale, so be prepared. This is the end of time!

Remember to mark the date in your calendar.

Josif Djugashvili was born in the Gori District of Tiflis Province in Georgia, Imperial Russia, on December 21, 1879 (or December 18th or the 22nd. When you're an evil bastard dictator, you get to choose your own birthday). His father was a drunken and often unemployed cobbler, illiterate, and like Josif’s mother, Ekaterina, had only been emancipated from serfdom in 1864. Mr. Djugashvili was a violent man, and often beat little Josif, whose left arm was permanently injured in a childhood "accident." Josif was also afflicted by small pox at the age of five, and this left his face a crosshatching of pockmarks.

To say that the cobbler’s son had no shoes would be the grossest of understatements.

At the Gori Elementary School, little Joey Djugashvili was unexceptional in terms of grade point average, aptitude, and physical education. His self-esteem was in tatters. He was a moody, sullen boy, but even in the benighted educational environment of nineteenth century Imperial Russia, his teachers knew that beneath his brooding exterior there beat the heart of a wounded, frightened child.

"Joey only needed a little encouragement," one teacher recalled in an interview published shortly before her disappearance. "He’d never speak up in class, but if you took the time to talk to him one-on-one he’d blossom like a flower."

Another teacher recalled Djugashvili’s difficult home life. "His parents never came to our Meet the Faculty suppers," the pedagogue reflected from his cell not long before his execution. "So I visited his home on several occasions. His mother was not very affectionate, but his father was a brute and a tyrant and would only address him as ‘dumb-ass.’ You knew even then that the cards were stacked against the poor kid."

His peers taunted him mercilessly at school, and his high school class voted him "most likely to die alone and unloved." But one cannot help but be startled by the Djugashvili staring out from the photograph in his high school yearbook. The overall look is haunted, but even then there could be seen the galvanization of will, the hardening of determination, that in a few short years the world would learn to know and fear as Josif Stalin.

One can only feel pity for this troubled soul, this poor, sweet child who never wanted anything more than a little love and attention. Even as one watches the same old familiar footage of a laughing Stalin quaffing a martini while marching over a path paved with human skulls, even then if one looks closely one can see the eyes of the child he once was: frightened, sad, and alone.

Was Little Joe truly a wellspring of bloody malevolence, or was he perhaps a victim himself, a frightened and insecure little boy who wanted nothing more than a little approval and a few kind words? It’s easy to hold him responsible for the thirty to forty-five million deaths that occurred on his watch, but was it really all his fault? Can we not properly lay some, if not all, of the responsibility for the sins of the son on the deeds of the father?

I hopes that parents everywhere will give their children a little extra love and attention this holiday season, because the world needs another little Joe like I need a samovar up my ass.

3 more shopping days until Christmas, 1 more shopping days until Festivus (Make sure you get your an unadorned aluminum pole before they run out.)

And so it goes.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You see, George, you really had a wonderful life.

December 20, 1946 -
The Frank Capra film "It's A Wonderful Life" had a preview showing for charity at New York City's Globe Theatre, a day before its official premiere. The film is regarded as a classic and is a staple of Christmas television around the world, although, due to its high production costs and stiff competition at the box office, financially, it was considered a flop.

Next time you get a chance to watch the film, notice what a truly strange little film it really is.

December 20
Christmas Video Countdown

Today in History
December 20, 1802 -
The United States buys the Louisiana Territory from France.

The wisdom of this purchase was not fully appreciated at first but after Mardi Gras it was warmly embraced. (It was not for nothing that Thomas Jefferson collected beads.)

December 20, 1879 -
Thoman Edison privately demonstrated light bulb to a rapt audience on this date.

Unfortunately, it takes 27 of his assistances to screw in the bulb and many believe the light will never take off.

December 20, 1892 -
According to Jules Verne, On October 2nd Phileas Fogg steps out of the Explorers Club in London, England and decides to take a little trip.

Due to the incompetence and laziness of transit workers, completes his trip on this date.

Adolf Hitler was released from prison on December 20, 1924, after serving less than a year against a five-year treason sentence. Hitler became a prolific author while in prison, where he penned the infamous political autobiography "Mein Kampf." ("How I Intend to Enslave or Kill Millions of People Immediately Upon My Release").

He also outlined a series of children’s books which have sadly been lost to history as a result of his having chosen upon his release to pursue a path of demonic world conquest instead of pedagogical literature. One can only wonder what sort of success Hitler would have experienced with titles such as "The Little Engine That Was Betrayed by Jewish Usurers," "Where the Wild Things Are and How to Eliminate Them," and "Every Little Aryan Child’s Bedtime Book of Insidious Evil and Global Domination."

December 20, 1957 -
Elvis receives orders from the draft board to serve in the United States Army, which to his credit he does without complaint.

Imagine what Justin Timberlake would have done.

December 20, 1996 -
Carl Sagan, the effervescently lugubrious astronomer, dies when billions and billions of bone marrow cells disease in his body go bad at age 62.

December 20, 1997 -
Sotheby's auctions off the loincloth worn by Kirk Douglas in the 1960 film Spartacus for $2,990.

You can't get those at Robery Hall, aisle five.

1 more shopping days until Hanukkah, 4 more shopping days until Christmas (2 more shopping days until Festivus). Make sure you get your an unadorned aluminum pole before they run out.

And so it goes.