This time next week it'll all be over; see if this lot will get you through till then:
Greg Jenner of Horrible Histories uncovers the facts about the festive season: ”All things considered, the modern Christmas is pretty bizarre. However, this is entirely in keeping with tradition - as far as we can tell, Yuletide has always been a curious head-scratcher. For the historian like me, teasing out what Christmas used to be like, and why it even exists, is a blooming nightmare. So much has been written, and so little of it is supported by evidence, that you end up with a jumbled mash of wishy-washy blather. So, this blog will attempt (and inevitably fail) to point out what we know, and what we don’t know, about the earliest origins of Christmas. It will then demean the whole thing with some poorly-executed jokes.”
- A Weird History of Christmas, Part One - Christ’s Birthday or Roman Carnival?
- Part Two - Who on Earth is Santa?!
- Part III - Bizarre British Traditions!
- 'Space Jam' Forever: The Website That Wouldn't Die - "How a ragtag group of young coders skirted the studio and created a pop culture sensation that's still standing two decades later.” Erik Malinowski tracks down the people who created the website for the film that, unlike so many promotional sites, just never went away.
- “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in Anglo-Saxon meter, by Philip Craig Chapman-Bell. - Just that: ”Hwæt, Hrodulf readnosa hrandeor – / Næfde þæt nieten unsciende næsðyrlas! / Glitenode and gladode godlice nosgrisele.”
- Finding North America’s lost medieval city - Archaeologist Annalee Newitz has been part of a dig to excavate the largest pre-Columbian city in what is now the USA: ”At the city's apex in 1050, the population exploded to as many as 30 thousand people. It was the largest pre-Columbian city in what became the United States, bigger than London or Paris at the time. Its colorful wooden homes and monuments rose along the eastern side of the Mississippi, eventually spreading across the river to St. Louis… Despite its greatness, the city’s name has been lost to time. Its culture is known simply as Mississippian. When Europeans explored Illinois in the 17th century, the city had been abandoned for hundreds of years.”
- Radio Garden - HT to v8gaz for this world map providing direct links to hundreds of radio stations streaming all over the globe. Handy if you’re learning a foreign language, or just wondering how the playlists of the American Mid-West or Kazakhstan differ from your local radio station - or don’t; Radio Tengri, in Almaty, was playing Bob Marley when I gave it a listen
- These are the most unacceptable Christmas presents - ”Christmas isn’t Christmas without some eleventh-hour retail anxiety, so here are a few things that will NEVER make acceptable Christmas presents – whether you’re giving or receiving.” With only a few days to go, most men will be starting to think about sorting out the Christmas shopping sometime soon; The Guyliner offers a useful list of what not to get people you like.
- Streetside Shocks - "Carlos Victorino clutches a stiff brown briefcase and clinks together two metal rods as he wanders the dusky streets of Mexico City’s historic centro. He eyeballs the families and revelers out on a busy Saturday night, beckoning them to approach with the clink-clink-clink of his hand. For a small fee, he’ll fill them with enough electricity to knock out a small dog." James Frederick and Natasha Pizzey meet the Mexican street vendors of electric shocks
- At Christmas time, I read children’s books. They give me hope - "Through the worlds narrated in children’s books, we can build a perfect Christmas for ourselves, no matter if we’re at home with family – or on a cancer ward, says Ella Risbridger.”
- The Story Behind Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” - Ray Padgett uncovers the months-long process of creating the classic Dylan cover: ”In fact, accordingly to his father Al Hendrix, a main reason the established guitar ace tried singing in the first place came from hearing Dylan, a sort of “if he can succeed sounding like that, why not me?” outlook. “I thought, you must admire that guy for having that much nerve to sing so out of key,” Jimi once said. He would in fact frequently defend Dylan’s voice in interviews, attacking those who accused him of sounding like a “broken-leg dog.””
- Odd Vintage Postcards Document the Propaganda Against Women’s Rights 100 Years Ago - "Each time historic social change occurs, reactionary counter-movements resort to threats, appeals to fear, and demeaning caricatures… propaganda against the women’s vote tended to fall into three broad categories: Disturbingly violent wish-fulfillment involving torture and physical silencing; characterizations of suffragists as angry, bitter old maids, hatchet-wielding harridans, or domineering, shrewish wives and neglectful mothers; and, correspondingly, depictions of neglected children, and husbands portrayed as saintly victims, emasculated by threats to traditional gender roles.”