Welcome to Christmas Eve: Saturday, December 24, 2021: National Eggnog Day. I’ve never had a version I’ve liked: this is the libation equivalent of Christmas fruitcake. Nobody likes them, but they are proffered anyway.
Don’t forget to send me one good photo (and a few words) showing your cat or cats with a Christmas theme. The deadline is 5 pm Chicago time today.
It’s Christmas Eve, of course, with these related holidays:
- Christmas Eve (Christianity) and its related observances:
- Aðfangadagskvöld, the day when the 13th and the last Yule Lad arrives to towns. (Iceland)
- Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian Americans)
- Juleaften (Denmark)/Julaften (Norway)/Julafton (Sweden)
- Nittel Nacht (certain Orthodox Jewish denominations)
- Nochebuena (Spain and Spanish-speaking countries)
- The Declaration of Christmas Peace (Old Great Square of Turku, Finland’s official Christmas City)
- Wigilia (Poland)
- Quviasukvik, the Inuit new year (Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia)
And it’s also Last-Minute Shopper’s Day.
Wine of the Day: The top of the label (not shown) has the year: 2016—a very ggod year for red wines in Europe, including Rioja. Muga makes top-of-the line-Riojas, and the Selección Especial is their top of the top. It was pricey ($37), but this is my special Christmas treat with a rare ribeye steak, so I figured I deserve it. I bought it because the 2016 vintage was rated highly by all sources.
And it was (I have half a bottle left): rich but not tannic, and one of the best Riojas I’ve ever had, made in the old-fashioned gutsy style. I decanted it, but five years weren’t enough to produce much sediment. I’d like to try this puppy again in four or five years, but alas, I had but one bottle, and it’s a dead soldier.
News of the Day:
*Guilty: Kimberley Potter, a former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April (after the stop, the cops found that he had an outstanding warrant). The case made extra headlines because Potter is white and Wright was black, and because Potter claimed that the shooting occurred because she mistook her gun for a taser. The jury, which deliberated for 27 hours, didn’t buy that, convicting Potter of first- and second-degree manslaughter. Potter, 49, faces at least 11 years in prison, but the d.a. has asked for a longer sentence.
*Now Putin is rattling his saber even more loudly. Yesterday the evil Russian President held a four-hour press conference in which he quite emphatically blamed the U.S. and NATO for “the situation”, the “situation being that Russia continues to mass troops on the border between that country and Ukraine, while demanding notarized promises, signed in blood, that NATO won’t expand further into Eastern Europe:
Russia’s Foreign Ministry last week published sweeping demands it presented to the United States and NATO that would effectively bar all other former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, from joining or cooperating with the alliance.
Putin described the U.S. response to Russia’s proposals — what Moscow refers to as “security guarantees” — as “positive.” He added that he expects to hold negotiations with a White House delegation about Ukraine and NATO in Geneva next month.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki underscored Putin’s comments about diplomatic talks and said the United States also believes that diplomacy is the “best path and the right path.” She dismissed the idea that either NATO or Ukraine was threatening Russia, noting that NATO is a “defensive alliance, not an aggressive alliance.”
“Facts are a funny thing, and facts make clear that the only aggression that we are seeing at the border of Russia and Ukraine is the military buildup by the Russians and the bellicose rhetoric from the leader of Russia,” Psaki said.
In an interview with a Sky News reporter, Putin got all worked up and said that Ukraine really belongs to, yes, LENIN!
*Jurors are deliberating for the third day in the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos trial, but there’s no sign of a verdict yet. Holmes faces up to 20 years in jail. Likewise for the Ghislaine Maxwell trial for procuring women for underage sex with Jeffrey Epstein and his pals. That jury has deliberated for 16 hours with no verdict, and will resume deliberations on Monday. Maxwell is charged with six federal counts and faces up to 70 years in prison. Even half of that would be a life sentence, as she’s 59.
*The New York Times is still osculating the rump of faith with an unctuous op-ed by former Republican speechwriter and full-time believer Peter Wehner. The title: “Why Jesus never stopped asking questions.” Wehner has not a scintilla of doubt that Jesus existed and did and said what the New Testament reports:
Twenty centuries after his birth, Jesus still holds a revered place in the hearts of billions of people. I am among them. I imagine that it has influenced almost every area of my life, like food coloring dropped in water.
Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him.
So why so many questions, Mr. Jesus?
Kerry Dearborn, a professor emerita of theology at Seattle Pacific, told me that in terms of the ways in which Jesus communicated, “I’m convinced he used questions and stories as a means of connection and transformation — to awaken us, to whet our appetites, to invite us to draw nearer, that we might open up more fully to God and to God’s purposes in and for us.”
That’s truly profound! But wait! Yes, WAIT! There’s still more, but waiting is the point:
. . . Kate Bowler, an associate professor at Duke Divinity School who was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 35, told me, “Jesus’ tender birth and violent death leave the problem of suffering unanswered until the end of days. We must learn to live and die in the not-yetness of suffering and empire, fear and uncertainty. But our questioning hearts in the face of evil is not an affront to faith. Jesus simply says: Wait. All will be revealed.”
No thank you, Jesus. Nothing will be revealed, and I don’t much like not-yetness.
*The writer Joan Didion, whose nonfiction I much admired, died in Manhattan yesterday at age 87. The cause: complications of Parkinson’s Disease. My favorite books of hers were her two early essay collections, Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album, and her later heartbreaking account of the death of her husband and the concurrent illness of her daughter, The Year of Magical Thinking.
The Associated Press has an outstanding selection of Photographs of the Year at its site. I’ll show just two of the many, but look at all 154. Captions below are from the AP:
*The Guardian reports the depredations of another genuine cat burglar. Click on the headline below to read about the thieving moggy (h/t Matthew)
This cat is a perv! An excerpt:
A New Zealand cat with a reputation as a talented thief has taken his habit to new lows by bringing home drugs and a pair of lacy black knickers, according to his owners.
Keith’s crime wave started three years ago, when he began stealing bras from nearby clothes lines and bringing home live eels from the local Heathcote river in Christchurch.
But his ambitions have grown. According to owners Ginny and David Rumbold, in recent weeks the five-year-old black cat has brought home a bong and a ziploc bag containing unidentified white powder. He also left a pair of knickers on the back fence.
. . .The Rumbolds have resorted to filling two plastic boxes outside their front gate with their cat’s ill-gotten gains so that neighbours can swing by to retrieve them. But returning the goods has proven to be little deterrent to Keith, who has a habit of repeatedly stealing the same items.
A particular favourite are the steel-toed boots of a local tradesperson. Despite the man weighing down his shoes with fluorescent green 2.5 kilogram weights, Keith still manages to haul them home unseen – one shoe at a time.
I have no idea why cats do this, unless they’re bad at hunting and need to bring something home.
Speaking of New Zealand, if you want a snarky take on the big kerfuffle about whether indigenous “ways of knowing” should be taught coequal to modern science in science class, read this short article in BFD, “Is there something in the water?”
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 813,790, an increase of 1,369 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,403,154, an increase of about 7,100 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 24 includes:
- 1737 – The Marathas defeat the combined forces of the Mughal Empire, Rajputs of Jaipur, Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Awadh and Nawab of Bengal in the Battle of Bhopal.
- 1777 – Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, is discovered by James Cook.
Kirimati is local argot for “Christmas.” Here’s the 150-square-mile island and its location:
- 1818 – The first performance of “Silent Night” takes place in the church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria.
This isn’t one of my favorite Christmas carols but here’s some Wikipedia information about it:
- 1826 – The Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy begins that night, wrapping up the following morning.
The cadets got drunk and brawled after they smuggled a barrel of whisky into the Academy, which was forbidden. When the dust settled, 70 cadets were implicated and 20 were court-martialed.
- 1865 – Jonathan Shank and Barry Ownby form The Ku Klux Klan.
The Klan marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. in 1928:
- 1871 – The opera Aida premieres in Cairo, Egypt.
- 1906 – Reginald Fessenden transmits the first radio broadcast; consisting of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
Here’s a video about Fessenden’s work:
This happened in several years when soldiers on opposing sides met, unarmed, in no man’s land. Here’s a photo that Wikipedia labels ”
- 1943 – World War II: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is named Supreme Allied Commander for the Invasion of Normandy.1
- 1968 – Apollo program: The crew of Apollo 8 enters into orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed ten lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures.
- 1973 – District of Columbia Home Rule Act is passed, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to elect their own local government.
Notables born on this day include:
Carson wearing a beaver hat. His exploits included engaging in the genocide of Native Americans:
- 1822 – Matthew Arnold, English poet and critic (died 1888)
- 1868 – Emanuel Lasker, German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher (died 1941)
Lasker, born in Germany as the son of a Jewish cantor (religious singer), held the world’s chess championship for the longest period of anyone to date: 27 years. Here he is in Berlin in 1933:
- 1903 – Joseph Cornell, American sculptor and director (died 1972)
Cornell was famous for his “art boxes”: assemblages of stuff in wooden, glass-fronted boxes. Here’s one:
Hughes became a recluse and an eccentric. As Wikipedia notes,
Dietrich wrote that Hughes always ate the same thing for dinner, a New York strip steak cooked medium rare, dinner salad, and peas, but only the smaller ones, pushing the larger ones aside. For breakfast, Hughes wanted his eggs cooked the way his family cook, Lily, made them. Hughes had a “phobia about germs”, and “his passion for secrecy became a mania.”
That dinner doesn’t sound too bad, except the part about the big peas.
- 1907 – I. F. Stone, American journalist and author (died 1989)
- 1922 – Ava Gardner, American actress (died 1990)
It is my considered opinion that Ava Gardner was the most beautiful movie actress of all time, and one of the world’s most beautiful women. She married three times, all to famous people: Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra (during that marriage, she had an affair with Robert Mitchum and, before that was involved with Howard Hughes and many other notables [see above]). Unfortunately, she died young (67) because she had lupus but also chain-smoked and drank like a fish. She was an atheist later in life.
Here she is in the movie Show Boat (1951). Maybe I like her because she has a feline appearance.
Here’s an informative video biography:
I was once going to ask readers to list their most attractive actress and actor. Here are my choices:
Most attractive actress: Ava Gardner
Most attractive actor: Robert Redford
Please add you choices in the comments below; I really want to know them!
- 1940 – Anthony Fauci, American physician, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
“Dr. Fauci” (it’s always “Dr.”) is 81 today.
- 1960 – Carol Vorderman, English television host
Voerderman was also a great beauty, and went to Cambridge University; how many men watched the t.v. show “Countdown”, which she co-hosted, just to see her? (I was one.) Here she is in action:
- 1962 – Kate Spade, American fashion designer (died 2018)
Those whose relatives thought would meet their maker on December 24 include:
- 1524 – Vasco da Gama, Portuguese explorer and politician, Governor of Portuguese India (born 1469)
- 1863 – William Makepeace Thackeray, English author and poet (born 1811)
- 1984 – Peter Lawford, English-American actor (born 1923)
- 1993 – Norman Vincent Peale, American minister and author (born 1898)
- 1994 – John Boswell, American historian, author, and academic (born 1947)
As I’ve said before, John (known as “Jeb” because his initials were J.E.B.) lived across the hall from me sophomore year at William and Mary. It was whispered then that he was gay, but he later came out and became a famous historian at Yale, writing about the history of homosexuals. He was also a pious Catholic. Sadly, he died of AIDS at only 47. A photo of Jeb:
- 1997 – Toshiro Mifune, Chinese-Japanese actor and producer (born 1920)
Here’s an overview of Mifune’s many samurai roles:
2008 – Harold Pinter, English playwright, screenwriter, director, Nobel Prize laureate (born 1930)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the pessimistic Hili looks out the window at the night:
A: What do you see there?Hili: Darkness, my dear, darkness.
Ja: Co tam widzisz?Hili: Mrok, mój drogi, mrok.
From The Far Corner Cafe of reader Pliny the in Between:
I can’t remember where I got this, but thanks to whoever sent it to me:
And a cat meme from Pyers, who points out that the cat is Larry, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office at 10 Downing Street:
A tweet from Titania:
I’m just relieved they didn’t misgender her. pic.twitter.com/jVPLOryp56
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) December 23, 2021
From Ginger K., but I added one funny tweet in the thread (soccer lovers will understand):
Tweeting 'Neymar' in response to this tweet is a blockable offence. Go on, fucking try me.
— Paul Bronks for Lovina Animal Welfare (@slender_sherbet) December 14, 2021
From Barry: “How Christians think evolution workd.”
How Christians think Evolution works pic.twitter.com/XU6SdssEHd
— Saint Brian The Godless (@AWorldOutOfMind) December 23, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
24 December 1920 | A Czech Jewish woman, Herta Reicherová, was born in Ostrava.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 24, 2021
Tweets from Matthew: Now here’s a female walrus where she’s not supposed to be. She should meet up with the errant walrus Wally, head north, and breed:
Freya – the WALRUS first seen in Germany, Netherlands & Northumberland – spending her second week with us here in #Shetland. This morning she was at Muckle Roe where we watched her feeding in the shallows and hauling out on offshore rocks. An absolutely magical experience. pic.twitter.com/djiMjdeNOY
— Hugh Harrop Wildlife (@HughHarrop) December 23, 2021
This is just RONG!
Interspecies friendship of the day. pic.twitter.com/9lTFTHNmtB
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) December 23, 2021
Well. . . . it’s clearly aposematic!
this frog evolved to be nearly invisible in his natural habitat, the energy drink aisle pic.twitter.com/v73SK2yBIr
— tweety (@weirdwithwords) December 22, 2021