Greetings on Sunday, December 26, 2021, the second day of Coynezaa and, of course, National Candy Cane Day. These confections are much of a muchness, with one exception: King Leo® Peppermint Sticks. These are packed with peppermint flavor and aren’t much softer than the usual canes, so you can either suck or chew the Leo Sticks. They’re head and shoulders above the others, and come packed in a lovely old-fashioned tin (they were created in 1901):
If you’re a peppermint fan, try a tin; you won’t be sorry, believe me. You can buy them on Amazon.
Finally, it’s also these holidays:
- The first day of Kwanzaa, celebrated until January 1 (United States)
- The second day of Coynezaa, celebrated until December 30 (worldwide)
- The first day of Junkanoo street parade, the second day is on the New Year’s Day (The Bahamas)
- The second day of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Western Christianity)
- Second day of Christmas (Public holiday in the Netherlands, Poland and Slovakia)
- Wren Day (Ireland and the Isle of Man)
News of the Day:
*Desmond Tutu died at 90 in Capetown on Christmas Day:
The statement did not mention a cause of death. Archbishop Tutu had fought an on-and-off battle with prostate cancer since 1997.
As leader of the South African Council of Churches and later as Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Tutu led the church to the forefront of Black South Africans’ decades-long struggle for freedom. His voice was a powerful force for nonviolence in the anti-apartheid movement, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
*I hope you were up early enough (in America, at least) to see the launch of the James Webb space telescope, an amazing fold-out device that will land in an orbit around the Sun a million miles from Earth.
Below is a video the successful separation of the folded-up scope from its booster, taken by a camera on the booster. We will not see it again, but fingers crossed that it works well and helps us learns amazing new things.
As I say below, what amazes me the most is that all this technology and material was wrested from the Earth and its atmosphere. Maybe that’s what Gregory Robinson meant in the first sentence below:
“The world gave us this telescope and we’re handing it back to the world today,” said Gregory Robinson, the Webb telescope’s program director, during a post-launch news conference in French Guiana.
The telescope, named for the NASA administrator who led the space agency through the early years of the Apollo program, is designed to see farther in space and further back in time than the vaunted Hubble Space Telescope. Its primary light gathering mirror is 21 feet across, about three times bigger than Hubble, and seven times more sensitive.
The Webb’s mission is to seek out the earliest, most distant stars and galaxies, which appeared 13.7 billion years ago, burning their way out of a fog leftover from the Big Bang (which occurred 13.8 billion years ago).
Here it is: humanity’s final look at @NASAWebb as it heads into deep space to answer our biggest questions. Alone in the vastness of space, Webb will soon begin an approximately two-week process to deploy its antennas, mirrors, and sunshield. #UnfoldTheUniverse pic.twitter.com/DErMXJhNQd
— NASA (@NASA) December 25, 2021
To me this is the biggest story of the day, but it gets below-the-fold treatment in media like the NYT. It’s SCIENCE, Jake!
*The NASA launch was somewhat marred by a celebratory speech by NASA administrator Bill Nelson, who blathered on and, at the end, made some religious remarks about Jesus, God, and the Star of Bethlehem. His sermon begins at 2:00:39 in the official NASA video below, with the goddy stuff intruding at 2:02:45. He says that the telescope is going to visualize “the handiwork of God,” mentions Psalm 19, ending with “God bless you, and God bless planet Earth.” This guy is a government official and doesn’t know about the separation of Church and Space!
*At first I thought this Washington Post headline (below)was overblown, but, after reading the piece, there’s something to it. (Click on screenshot to read). It turns out that Bing Crosby’s classic rendition of “White Christmas” (the best-selling song of all time (100 million records sold), was first presented live on the radio on Christmas Day, 1941—less then three weeks after Pearl Harbor and the beginning of the American war against Japan.
For the many young men away at war, the song hit home. The early days of World War II were not good for the United States. Beginning with Pearl Harbor, the country suffered a string of defeats in the first few months of combat. Morale was low, and people needed something to hold onto. “White Christmas” and “Holiday Inn” became a lifeline for many Americans — especially overseas servicemen who heard it played on the Armed Services Radio Network.
But what’s odd about this is that the archetypal Christmas song was composed by Irving Berlin, who was Jewish—the son of a rabbi.
“White Christmas” was the brainchild of one on America’s greatest songwriters. Born Israel Beilin in western Siberia in 1888, Irving Berlin grew up on the mean streets of the Lower East Side of New York City. As a child, this son of an Orthodox rabbi [JAC note: Wikipedia says his dad was a cantor, not a rabbi.] learned about Christmas from an equally poor Irish Catholic family, the O’Haras. Young Izzy, as his childhood companions called him, was welcomed into their home, where they introduced him to what could best be described as a Charlie Brown tree. It left a lasting impression.
“This was my first sight of a Christmas tree,” Berlin told The Washington Post in 1954. “The O’Haras were very poor and later, as I grew used to their annual tree, I realized they had to buy one with broken branches and small height, but to me that first tree seemed to tower to heaven.”
Later, after incredible success as a writer of the American songbook, Berlin turned his attention back to those days to compose “White Christmas.” According to Kaplan, he probably tinkered with the idea for years before inspiration struck in early January 1940, when he said to his secretary, “I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”
Berlin later said he intended to use “White Christmas” in a revue he planned to produce, but then decided to hold it for the movie “Holiday Inn,” which starred Crosby and Fred Astaire. That film, about a couple of country inn owners who put on musicals for each holiday, spawned several Berlin hits, including “Easter Parade,” “Happy Holiday” and “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.”
“White Christmas” was aded to “Holiday Inn”, and the rest was history. Try to listen to this as if you’ve never heard it before; it’s a great song:
“White Christmas” won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1942.
Israel Beilin as a soldier in 1918. He lived to be 101.
*This is what we’ve come to, at least in the Wall Street Journal. Food and now drink are not pleasures, but medicine. Click on the screenshot if you want wines without alcohol:
*Reader Geoff sent in a link to a short BBC article and a 3-minute video of Polly Verity, a Welsh woman who does the most extraordinary paper folding. It’s not like classical origami, but what she creates is stunning. Cliick on the screenshot below (showing one of her works) to go to the article and video. (Her website is here, and you can buy her artwork. Another video is here.)
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 814,891, an increase of 1,345 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,414,808, an increase of about 3,500 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on December 26 includes:
- 1489 – The forces of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, take control of Almería from the Nasrid ruler of Granada, Muhammad XIII.
- 1776 – American Revolutionary War: In the Battle of Trenton, the Continental Army attacks and successfully defeats a garrison of Hessian forces.
This is why George Washington crossed the Delaware with his men on Christmas Day.
- 1799 – Henry Lee III’s eulogy to George Washington in congress declares him as “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen”. (This is not to be confused with Washington’s funeral on December 18.)
- 1825 – Advocates of liberalism in Russia rise up against Czar Nicholas I but are suppressed in the Decembrist revolt in Saint Petersburg.
- 1862 – The largest mass-hanging in U.S. history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, where 38 Native Americans died.
The crime? Killing settlers. Here’s a photo of the hanging, still the largest number of people executed in one day, and a partial list of the hanged below that. They designed a special scaffold to hang all 38 at once. 4,000 people showed up to watch.
After the execution, it was discovered that two men had been mistakenly hanged. The Minnesota Historical Society reports that “Wicaƞḣpi Wastedaƞpi (We-chank-wash-ta-don-pee), who went by the common name of Caske (meaning first-born son), reportedly stepped forward when the name ‘Caske’ was called, and was then separated for execution from the other prisoners. The other, Wasicuƞ, was a young white man who had been adopted by the Dakota at an early age. Wasicuƞ had been acquitted.”
- 1871 – Thespis, the first Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration, debuts. It does modestly well, but the two would not collaborate again for four years and the score has been lost.
- 1898 – Marie and Pierre Curie announce the isolation of radium.
Here are the pair, who won the Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1903. The family itself won five Nobel Prizes, as their daughter and son-in-law each won one (shared) and Marie won yet another. I believe this is the most Nobels garnered by a single family.
Photo from 1895:
- 1919 – Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox is sold to the New York Yankees by owner Harry Frazee, allegedly establishing the Curse of the Bambino superstition.
My late friend Kenny King regarded the Bambino as the best player in the history of baseball, as he was a great pitcher as well as a great slugger. Here he is starting his career in school:
- 1941 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
- 1944 – World War II: George S. Patton‘s Third Army breaks the encirclement of surrounded U.S. forces at Bastogne, Belgium.
Patton died in an automobile accident in December 1945. Paralyzed from the neck down, he lived for two weeks before he died, saying, “This is a hell of a way to die.” Here’s his simple grave in Luxembourg City:
- 1963 – The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” are released in the United States, marking the beginning of Beatlemania on an international level.
- 1966 – The first Kwanzaa is celebrated by Maulana Karenga, the chair of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach.
Like mine, this is a recent holiday, with considerable overlap of the times.
- 1991 – The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union meets and formally dissolves the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War.
Notables born on this day include:
Somerville and Caroline Herschel were the first women elected to the Royal Astronomical Society. An early portrait of Somerville, after whom Somerville College in Oxford is named:
She’s also on the Scottish £10 polymer note:
- 1791 – Charles Babbage, English mathematician and engineer, invented the Difference engine
- 1872 – Norman Angell, English journalist, academic, and politician, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1967)
- 1883 – Maurice Utrillo, French painter (d. 1955)
Sadly, Utrillo was a d*g lover and painted no cats. Here he is with his wife Suzanne Valore:
Miller in his house at Big Sur:
Here’s the Chairman in 1908 at age 15 or so:
- 1939 – Phil Spector, American singer-songwriter and producer (d. 2021)/
Convicted of murder, Spector died in prison in January of this year. Below: Spector in court with a dreadful wig, and his mug shot:
- 1956 – David Sedaris, American comedian, author, and radio host
Those who bit the dust on December 26 include:
- 1530 – Babur, Mughal emperor (b. 1483)
- 1890 – Heinrich Schliemann, German-Italian archaeologist and author (b. 1822)
Schliemann excavated (badly) the ruins of what seems to be Troy, giving some credibility to Homer’s writings. Here’s his wife Sophia wearing some of the treasures they found at “Troy”:
Remington was famous for his Western art depicting cowboys and Native Americans. Here’s one of his paintings, “The Flight”:
Born Arthur Feilig, Weegee specialized in photos of NYC’s Lower East Side, specializing in murders, accidents, bizarre things, and everyday life of which the photo below is an example. He must have used a flash to get it. . .
- 1974 – Jack Benny, American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, and violinist (b. 1894)
- 1996 – JonBenét Ramsey, American child beauty queen and prominent unsolved murder victim (b. 1990)
- 2006 – Gerald Ford, American commander, lawyer, and politician, 38th President of the United States (b. 1913)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is having a bit of fun with Szaron. (there are two photos in this dialogue):
Hili: I will jump on him in a moment.A: It’s not funny.Hili: It depends on one’s viewpoint.
Hili: Zaraz na niego skoczę.Ja: To nie jest śmieszne.Hili: Jak dla kogo.
Below: a cat footprint on the stairs leading to Andrzej’s and Malgorzata’s house. As Malgorzata relates,
This morning we went out and found this footprint on the first step.There were no more footprints. Andrzej’s caption is “This step and no more. Too cold.”
Clearly one of the three cats gave up on going out!
From Jesus of the Day. Can you spot the cat? (Click photo to enlarge.) It’s easy for some (but not for me). Answer is below the fold at the bottom of this post.
I was SO thrilled to see the rocket lift off successfully, and so far all has gone well. It still stuns me to realize that every bit of this rocket and the technology needed to forge it was created out of things taken from material pried from the Earth and its atmosphere. The takeoff:
The moment we've all been waiting for… you can now watch again and again as many times as you want! 🤩🚀
Video credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace pic.twitter.com/4GUzhoSziq
— ESA Webb Telescope (@ESA_Webb) December 25, 2021
Titania McGrath plays Scrooge:
Reasons to abolish Christmas:
• The exchange of “gifts” normalises capitalism.
• “Comfort and joy” are signifiers of privilege.
• Turkeys are murdered en masse.
• Snowmen are symbols of white patriarchy.
• Jesus wasn’t vaccinated. pic.twitter.com/08wGGp6gnv
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) December 25, 2021
From Simon, who says, “This is a bit like using rope circles to trap cats!” I’m not sure what the arthropods are. Sound up if you want to hear the animals scream (in human voices. I’m not quite why this is like a thesis proposal. . . .
Thesis proposals pic.twitter.com/CHEgIjiMKp
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) December 23, 2021
From Ginger K. WHY did somebody do this?
The war on christmas just took a nasty turn. 😏 pic.twitter.com/gWezWtygrW
— TimTheEnchanter 🏳️🌈🏴☠️⚛️💉💉💉✊🏼 (@TimTheGodmocker) December 14, 2021
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
26 December 1911 | A Czech Jewish woman, Zděnka Roubičková, was born in Prague.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 26, 2021
Tweets from Matthew:
I am very lucky to have so many people who are kind to me
I know that this time of year can be difficult for many
Please don’t feel alone.
You can #JoinIn for some friendship & company #Christmas2021 #CatsOfTwitter pic.twitter.com/udKNqXeJbt
— George The Stourbridge Junction Station Cat (@TheStourbridge) December 25, 2021
This commercial is pretty good, but isn’t nearly as good as The Cat Herders!
The French title of "March of the Penguins" was "March of the Emperor," which led to perhaps my favorite commercial of all time. If you've never seen it, I am begging you: do yourself the kindness of watching this glorious piece of advertising: pic.twitter.com/KD3UWvizad
— hey, i am adorable. (@weiyikes) December 24, 2021
A batty Christmas! But it’s a sad Christmas without Statler, the aged fruit bat, who died this year.
Merry Christmas from the bats! 🦇
On Holidays, all caretakers and a couple volunteers will come in to help get the bats taken care of. We work together to get everything cleaned up for them so we can all enjoy our day. We have just finished up! 🎄 pic.twitter.com/CLRVC1eNkb
— Bat World Sanctuary (@batworld) December 25, 2021
Click “continue reading” below to find out where the cat is.
THE REVEAL (I’ve circled the cat):