Happy Christmas Sunday Reads!

Vintage Ad, Lucky Strikes Santa...It's Toasted!

Good Morning, did Santa make a visit to your house last night?

Late last night, or perhaps it was early this morning, I was walking toward a cup of water I had resting on my night stand…and what do you think I saw? It was my own twisted version of the T-Rex water cup ripple scene from Jurassic Park. Only instead of a big huge hungry T-Rex making the water ripple as he walked towards the tasty Jeeps with the soft gooey filling, you know, the kids being the chewy center…my water cup ripples were caused by the weight of my fat ass as it walked across the wood floor of my bedroom…oh the horror.

Yes, I was actually causing a tremor of T-Rex proportions…And I have to say, that tremor was not due to holiday goodies and treats…I’m blessed with this sonic wave boom boom year round!

So, let’s get down to the bits of seasonal cheer…here are your morning reads for this Christmas Day, 2011.

I will start with some newsy links, and then get to a host of good holiday fun.

Airlines cleared to use Santa’s short-cut

Hard-pressed airlines have been handed the perfect Christmas present: permission to fly twin-jet aircraft over the North Pole, saving millions on fuel costs, opening up new destinations and reducing damage to the environment.

The easing of rules about how close twin-jets must keep to diversion airports means faster, cheaper and cleaner flights.

Until now, America’s aviation regulators have insisted that the nearest suitable place to land must be no more than three hours away. That has now been extended to five-and-a-half hours – so long as the airline meets a series of criteria, from additional equipment to special training.

That should make folks like Sir Richard Branson happy…

The latest news out of New Orleans: New Orleans Gets a Good Defense Lawyer

The New Orleans public defense system used to be famous. Or, more accurately, infamous: attorneys not showing up for trial or doing puzzles during hearings. A man convicted because his lawyer didn’t bother to track down the video that would have confirmed his alibi. Another man jailed for stealing $50 waiting more than 400 days to be interviewed by his court-appointed defender. Thanks in part to the Big Easy, Louisiana has the distinction of being the state with the highest rate of wrongful convictions and one of the highest reversal rates of capital convictions in the country. As one public defender cracks, “It’s no coincidence that a lot of the major Supreme Court criminal cases end with ‘v. Louisiana.'”

But that was before Katrina. “When the storm hit, it certainly did better than any lawsuit could have done to show the problem,” says Derwyn Bunton, the chief of the Orleans Public Defenders. Katrina demolished the city’s public defense system: The lawyers were funded by traffic fines, and there was no traffic anymore. Civil rights activists, lawyers, and the Justice Department stepped in, and by August 2007, a brand new OPD office was ready to do things differently.

Hmmm…maybe Dakinikat can give us the inside scoop on what she is hearing about the “new and improved OPD.”

Gorbachev is trying to give Putin some good advice: Gorbachev urges Putin to step down after protests

The 80-year-old Gorbachev carries little weight in Russia today. And while many Russians have grown weary with Putin’s rule, his opponents are split among numerous groups. They have no clear leader who could challenge Putin in the March presidential election.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators cheered opposition leaders and jeered the Kremlin in the biggest show of outrage yet against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s 12-year rule.

The Moscow demonstration was even bigger than a similar rally two weeks ago, signaling that the protest movement ignited by the fraud-tainted 4 December parliamentary election may be growing. Protest were also held in dozens of other cities and towns across Russia.

Rally participants densely packed a broad avenue, which has room for nearly 100,000 people, about 2.5 kilometers (some 1.5 miles) from the Kremlin, as the temperature dipped well below freezing. They chanted “Russia without Putin!”

A stage at the end of the 700-meter (0.43 mile) avenue featured placards reading “Russia will be free” and “This election Is a farce.” Heavy police cordons encircled the participants, who stood within metal barriers, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Alexei Navalny, a corruption-fighting lawyer and popular blogger, electrified the crowd when he took the stage. A rousing speaker, he had protesters shouting “We are the power!”

I wish that the US press would cover more of these protest in Russia, you get the feeling that the MSM does not want to open a big can of worms.

Did you hear about some new evolution discoveries: 600-Million-Year-Old Microscopic Fossils Upend Evolution Theory

A remarkable new fossil discovery of amoeba-like micro-organisms that lived 570 million years ago could make scientists rethink some widely-accepted theories about how complex life on Earth first evolved from a single-celled universal common ancestor.

[…]

The scientists say they were surprised when the results indicated the fossilized cell clusters were not animals or embryos. That is because it had long been thought that fossils showing this apparent pattern cell division represented the embryos of the earliest animals.

Instead, they say the finely detailed X-ray images exposed features pattern that led them to conclude the organisms were, “the reproductive spore bodies of single-celled ancestors of animals.”

The scientist claim that what has been written about microscopic fossils for the last ten years is “flat out wrong.” More in-depth explanations at the link.

And this last newsy link, Just say no to Christmas?

Susan Lee, a divorced mother of three in New York City, is taking a drastic step this year. “No Christmas for me,” she says. “No gifts, no turkey, no tree, no kidding.”

Lee, 41, a marketing consultant, says she needs a break from the stress and spending that are integral parts of the holiday. Her kids will celebrate a traditional Christmas with their dad, but she’s ignoring all the rituals.

“I start dreading Christmas from the time the decorations go up in the stores,” she says. “It stopped being fun for me, so I’ll find out this year if I can do without it altogether. I think it will be a relief. It already is.”

Oh, what a joy it must be to get out of the Christmas celebrations all together.  This year I was lucky, my daughter wrapped all the presents…even her own, which is something of a tradition in my family, I started wrapping all the presents when I was about 9 or 10.

Alright, now we get to the good stuff…hope you enjoy these links after the jump!

I don’t know about you, but the winter season makes me think of one thing…penis icebergs…h/t Susie MadrakGiant ice penis – is climate change to blame?

Penis iceberg

The cockberg was photographed by Andy Rouse* in the Bransfield Strait near Antarctica.

Experts now believe** that it is only a matter of time before an armada of penis-shaped chunks begin to break off the Antarctic ice floes, and then roam the oceans wreaking havoc and luring sailors to their doom.

Now for some real beautiful pictures, not that I don’t enjoy a phallic shaped ice flow every now and then. (Funny, this Christmas cockberg is obviously of the Jewish faith…)

Uh, wait a moment, if the myth is true… shouldn’t a cockberg that size be a different color than white? ;)

Check out these Photo Galleries:

BBC Nature – In Pictures: Your winter wonderland

(By the way Wonk, there is a cool picture of a flying owl in the snow…you will love the wise golden eyes on that bird.)

BBC – Travel – Slideshow – Holiday lights across the globe

This image from Shorpy is lovely:  Winter Lights: 1909 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive

Winter Lights: 19091909. “Mid-winter carnival, ‘storming the fortress,’ Upper Saranac Lake, New York.” 8×10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

For some real beautiful and cool ass pictures of Christmas Lights…I give you the Lovejoy Christmas Comet: Lovejoy survives encounter with sun and becomes Christmas comet | Space | EarthSky

I know I wrote a bit about this earlier this week, but this link has some new images, and new info about Comet Lovejoy, that was spotted during this near death experience as it flew by the sun.

Comets are often described as dirty snowballs, and we all know what happens when ice meets extreme heat. The week of December 12, 2011 began with great anticipation for a few planetary scientists and amateur comet hunters as they prepared to witness the death plunge of the recently discovered Comet Lovejoy into the sun. But, by week’s end, this comet had defied expectations so spectacularly that it garnered the attention of the press all around the world. And now the comet has gone on to become a Christmas comet for 2011, spectacular from Earth’s southern hemisphere, beloved by all.

Grahame Kelaher shot this sequence of Comet Lovejoy, near Perth, Australia, rising before the Sun on December 22, 2011. Image credits: Grahame Kelaher.

Be sure to check out the red animated image from STEREO data, it is a moving image of the comet as it gets closer to the sun.

The animated image below, created from STEREO data obtained between December 11 to 13, 2011, shows Comet Lovejoy speeding towards the sun. As the comet gets closer, notice how its tail starts to wiggle due to interaction with solar wind emanating from the sun. (The line seen left of the comet is a detector artifact caused by saturated pixels from the planet Mercury that was cropped out of this image sequence.) Image credit: NASA and Karl Battams/USNO.

Kind of has a sperm like quality to it…

Oh oh, I don’t want this to be a male obsessed post…lets get to some other interesting images.

This next series of links comes from one of my favorite blogs: BibliOdyssey

BibliOdyssey: On The Nile (There is a link coming up that relates to this…)

On the Nile - titlepage 1874

BibliOdyssey: Butterfly People Lovely image of Christmas…

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

BibliOdyssey: Board Games Wouldn’t these be interesting games to play?

The Swan of Elegance - A New Game Designed for the Instruction and Amuseument of Youth (1814)

The Swan of Elegance -
A New Game Designed for the Instruction and Amuseument of Youth

John Harris published this linen-backed, hand-coloured etching in 1814. Each of the game board’s compartment shows a child engaged in a moral or an immoral deed. A twelve page rulebook had four lines of verse explaining each scene. The medaliions in each corner represent Apollo, Minerva, Wisdom and Genius.

The Noble Game of the Swan (1821)

The Noble Game of the Swan

Another linen-backed etching – presumably for the children of the elite – from 1821, published in London by William Darton. The nineteen compartments of the swan game board includes the British Museum (No. 3). The game board came complete with a rule book, an etching of some swans and a slip case.

Now a series of links on Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern England History…

First, in honor of the Virgin Mother, this bit of Motherhood from Ancient Egypt:

Motherhood and Childbirth in Pharaonic Egypt

For the ancient Egyptians, the prime purpose of marriage was to establish a family. Early marriage was considered desirable in order to have children while young. Several medical papyri have survived which deal with aspects of pregnancy and gynecological problems and although these are often obscure and some of the terms are not fully understood, they contain a lot of information. There were several tests to see if a woman was capable of conceiving. One of these was to place either an onion, or garlic in the woman’s vagina and note whether her breath smelled of it the next day. Other tests included milk from a woman who had born a male child mixed with other ingredients; if the woman who swallowed this vomited, then she was not sterile.

Click here to read this article from the History of Medicine: ASJOG

And this…Hanukkah in the Middle Ages

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee and his followers after the Maccabean Revolt against Greek rule around 160 BC. The festival, which is celebrated between late November and later December, gained more prominence in the Middle Ages, becoming one of the most important dates on the Jewish calendar.

While early texts reveal little information about this festival, by the medieval period more literature emerged, such as the Scroll of Antiochus, which provided new legends and details about the event. This includes the tradition of the Hanukkah menorah, which involves lighting eight lights, one for each night. Many medieval examples of the menorah have been preserved.

In medieval times, Ḥanukkah became a popular festival. It was said that “Even he who draws his sustenance from charity, should borrow, or sell his cloak to purchase oil and lamps, and kindle” the Ḥanukkah light. Special foods, like cheese and pancakes, were eaten during feasts, gifts of money were exchanged, children would play with dreidels, and adult men would play with cards.

More articles on Medieval Hanukkah at the link.

Of course I want to remind you of Sima’s post last year: Once Upon a Time: Christmas in Medieval England « Sky Dancing

Next up: Early Modern England…Dickens’s Haunted Christmas: The Ethics of the Spectral Text

The famous beginning to perhaps the most famous ghost story in the Anglophone world insists first upon the distinct line between life and death. 1 Marley was dead, and his death had been witnessed by representatives of the religious, legal, social and business worlds—especially the business world, for the almost absolute authority conferred on Scrooge by his economic status (his choice, his hand) is especially emphasized. The categorical and metaphysical differentiation of life and death defines the field in which the following story will unfold. That Marley was dead, we are told, “must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate”. There is nothing surprising in a ghost story wishing to establish clear delineations between the worlds of the living and the dead; in fact, the genre requires it and we, as readers, presuppose it. This particular introduction, then, initiates and invites us into the tale’s ghostly world, prepares us for its hauntings.

Of course, the question of haunting itself has its own interest, but one might also wonder why a Christmas story should be at all haunted. While some connection between Christmas, winter and the supernatural can be traced back through Shakespeare and no doubt beyond, Dickens seems especially interested in the manifestation of ghosts and phantoms at Christmastime. Indeed, by publishing his own and many others’ seasonal ghost stories in his magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round, he can be attributed with making the ghost story a sort of Victorian Christmas tradition. Moreover, in his Christmas tales, Dickens saw no contradiction in combining the Gothic effects of ghost stories with sentimental scenes to present his religio-social message of charity, compassion and communal affection.

Click here to read this article from the Forum Journal

Minx’s Missing Links Files:  Now I know that this is Sunday, and I have a couple of links for you from the Missing Link File…these are from earlier this year, I saved them for Sunday post and never got a chance to use them.

Samurai warriors examined by Japanese and British scientists

Gruesome evidence of medieval Japanese Samurai warriors being decapitated, so that their heads could be taken as trophies by their enemies, is being examined by Japanese and British scientists.

In a bid to fully understand the nature of warfare in medieval Japan, Dr. Michael Wysocki, a specialist in forensic anthropology at the University of Central Lancashire, and Japanese scientists from Santa Marianna University, School of Medicine, near Tokyo, have been examining battle and decapitation trauma suffered by Samurai warriors in a 14th century Japanese civil war.

“The skeletal material is of huge importance in helping to understand the nature of warfare in medieval Japan,” said Dr. Wysocki of the University’s School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences.

The Norman Kings of Sicily and the Fatimid Caliphate

The de Hauteville rulers of Sicily were parvenus. Tancred, lord of Hauteville-la-Guischard near Coutances, had owed only ten knights’ service to Duke Robert. It was Tancred’s inability to provide for his twelve sons that drove eleven of them south to seek their fortunes. None of these eleven vaunted his patrimony, and it was left to their sons to adopt the style de Altavilla. The de Hautevilles hastened to add nobler blood to the line. The first emigrant generation tended to marry into the families of their leading allies in Italy. Only in the second generation did they begin to ally themselves with the royal houses of Europe.

Thus, when Roger II had himself crowned king of Sicily on Christmas Day 1130, he had inherited from his ancestors no trappings of monarchy in which to robe himself. Nor, in Sicily had he conquered an ancient kingdom which he could assume intact merely by ascending to the vacant throne. The Sicilian monarchy, its constitutions, laws, ceremonies, regalia, had to be built ex novo, and, once the foundations had been laid in 1130, King Roger and his ministers exercised an eclectic taste in furnishing the new royal structure. Monarchies past, including the tyrants of Magna Graecia, and present, including the Capetian kings of France and the emperors of Byzantium, all contributed elements to the new monarchy.

Click here to read this article from the University of Oxford

Spectacular Northern Lights Display Leaves Skywatchers Spellbound

This spectacular photo of red, pink and green auroras on Oct. 24, 2011 was taken by photographer Shawn Malone of Marquette, Michigan, from the shore of Lake Superior
This spectacular photo of red, pink and green auroras on Oct. 24, 2011 was taken by photographer Shawn Malone of Marquette, Michigan, from the shore of Lake Superior
CREDIT: Shawn Malone

Getting back to the Christmas Day articles…The next link is another history themed article, this time about The Annals of Christmas Diplomacy

Before Kim Jong-il’s death, the last big story out of North Korea had to do with Christmas lights. “North Korea has warned South Korea of ‘unexpected consequences’ if it lights up a Christmas tree-shaped tower near their tense border,” the BBC reported. At issue, apparently, was “psychological warfare” — standard North Korean lingo for anything deemed insolent or provocative.

The annual Korean Christmas light drama, several years old now, may be one of the weirder stories of Christmas diplomacy, but it’s hardly the only one. History has seen, in fact, many international events in which this winter holiday, whether in timing or tradition, has played a role. Here are just a few instances in which Christmas has figured into international relations, whether as an excuse, a peg for action, or a moment for reflection.

The stories are alternately troubling and heart-warming: just as the holiday has occasioned some of the more touching displays of camaraderie — including amid devastating warfare — it has also served to maximize casualties in carefully planned attacks. As always, events are what we make of them.

From the Battle of Trenton to Apollo 8, give that link a read through…and see what little tidbits of Diplomacy was used during these Christmas time historical events.

For a more focus article/op/ed on Christmas presidential political diplomacy, A Fateful Christmas Meeting

On Christmas morning 1861, the steps of all three Lincoln sons could be heard pounding on the floorboards of the White House. The eldest, Robert, had recently arrived home from Harvard, to join his brothers, 8-year old Tad and 11-year-old Willie. The reunion of the Lincoln clan was a bright spot on what was proving to be a less than cheery Christmas. The Union had lost several key battles, while the Confederacy seemed no closer to collapse. Then, before the president could sit down to Christmas dinner with his family, he had yet another matter to attend to: deciding whether the Union could risk war with Britain.

This is a long op/ed piece, give it a few minutes of your time…and remember that this year marks 150th Anniversary of the first Christmas the Citizens of the United States were at war with each other.

Here is a real good link for you, because it goes to the Naked Santa Spectacular in Vanity Fair!

We lay the holiday season bare with stories, comic strips, and humor essays by hilarious writers like Sloane Crosley, Martin Marks, Teddy Wayne, Mike Sacks, Ben Widdicombe, Bruce Handy, and Michelle Collins.

Cold Shoulder: Live from the North Pole, with pinup Santa as our M.C. All apologies to Miley. Painting by Daniel Adel for Vanity Fair.

Give that webpage a star on your bookmarks, because you can go back and forth and read the articles at your leisure.

Easy Like Christmas Sunday Morning Links of the Week:  Yes, two bookish literary links for you… Bears, Dolphins and the Animal Stories We Tell This has some small reviews of books that focus on animals…from animal rights to prehistoric bears, you may find one of the reviews so enthralling, you have to get the book!

Sticking with Literature: The Book of Books – What Literature Owes the Bible

The Bible is the model for and subject of more art and thought than those of us who live within its influence, consciously or unconsciously, will ever know.

When I was in college, I took a humanities course in Literature, the Bible and Sex…it was a great class…I hadn’t thought about that term until I read this discussion of the Bible in the New York Times Book Review.

And now for the big finish!

I wanted to end with something funny, so here are two clips from Seinfeld…Kramer as Old Saint Nick and Mickey, his Elf of Wisdom…and Santa Job Connections.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, may your day be spectacular, and may the Spiked Egg Nog give you just the right amount of “buzz” needed to see the day through.

Happy Holidays!

Season’s Greetings!

Ho, Ho, Ho and all that shit!


11 Comments on “Happy Christmas Sunday Reads!”

  1. foxyladi14 says:

    Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Solstice and a Very Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year to all
    of our Skydancers.
    Santa left me an extra lump.goody!!!!!. :)

  2. Minkoff Minx says:

    I wanted to post some new items, but didn’t want to put up the links to the first two…

    A right wing Governor’s site pronounces Scott Walker Gov. of the year.

    Barbara Walters ask Obama what super power he would like to have…his response, China.
    (That answer is a joke, but the ridiculous question is not.)

    There was a bomb explosion at a church in Nigeria, info still coming in: Islamist militants explode five bombs in Nigeria | Reuters

    Horrible shooting in Tenn: Police: 9 Shot At Tenn. Nightclub Christmas Party – From the Wires – Salon.com

    Some may find this post about Wally World interesting…and sad. At Wal-Mart a Microcosm of U.S. Inequalities: Jeffrey Goldberg

    Prince Phillip is feeling better, the picture at the link makes him look like death warmed over: Prince Phillip ‘getting better’ and ‘in good spirits’ after heart scare – Telegraph

    And for some Christmas Funnies:

    Cagle Post » Christmas
    Here is a good one:

    • dakinikat says:

      Wow. That is a lot to read. It is cold and rainy here and my neighbour woke me up with his chain saw. I don’t even want to know what that is all about.

  3. foxyladi14 says:

    I hope this cheers everyone up. ;)

  4. Roofingbird says:

    Lol , I agree Dak, Minx, you have presented us with an odysseyean challenge. Just the thing for keeping us sane through the family functions today! Thank you all for your efforts and Happy Holidays!

  5. ralphb says:

    I’ve to the cold and rainy here but thankfully missed out on the chainsaw. Hope everyone’s Christmas is bright.

    Thanks for the reads. The Wal-Mart piece was very good.

  6. Minkoff Minx says:

    Watching the Bolshoi Ballet perform the Nutcracker…beautiful!

    Nina Kaptsova and Artem Ovcharenko

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Happy day everyone! I’m so relieved it’s almost over with!

    • northwestrain says:

      Two down — and New Years — then 2012 — and the idiot games begin (or continue). Watching more politicians making fools of the system.