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December 21st, 2005

The Seventeen Days of Xmas

Nothing's as mean as giving a little child something useful for Christmas. 
Kin Hubbard

Merry Everything Folks,

This is Part One of my annual Christmas newsletter to you. Part Two, as in previous years, is on the SANTA JOSEPH WEBPAGE, where there are some lovely Christmas songs, including the mind-numbingly irritating counterpoint 'Twilight Zone Theme/Marx Brothers Sanity Claus Routine,' that you have come to love and expect from past years, the Italian language version of 'Shaddap You Face', (Ali Ali Ale, by Franchi & Ingrassia), and other pungent stuff.

As the very First Christmas was celebrated on December 25, AD 336, in Rome, you will find a peppering of some handy Latin phrases, in amongst all the Christmas thoughts, to give you a proper historical je ne sais quoi. . . . (And I don't.)

This may be my last newsletter for a month or so! Shock. Horror. I know. It's just that overseas work is ganging up on me for awhile and it's not possible to produce a quality newsletter while I'm on the road. Don't fret though. The music business is Running and Waiting so when the Waiting sets in again, the presses will roll.

On the FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
LEON NOEL was born on Christmas Eve in 1908 and became a child celebrity in his hometown of Valparaiso, Indiana. He was included in Robert L. Ripley's Ripley's Believe It or Not. Noel lived most of his life in St. Petersburg, Fla. He died in Largo, Fla., on Christmas Day 1999.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 1
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Favourite Reader Comments of the Week

I wish you a peaceful & joyous Christmas season, and may your home be filled with laughter and the sound of guitars! My simple solution to world peace: The leader of every country must learn to play a musical instrument. When they meet for G8 or other major international summits, every leader performs their favorite song, and all meetings end in a jam session. Well, I think it's a nice idea
Michael Fix

Dear Joe,
I love you. You (and a few other outlets such as the Onion) make me realize that I am sane after all. Have a very happy holiday!

Ciao Joe,
Carmelina here and in the spirit of 'giving' I thought I'd let you know about La Befana. In Italia, she was the Giver of gifts, on the eve of the epiphany, children (my parents and grandparents generation) would hang out their socks, the next morning they would find, from Befana, an orange, a few lollies and home-made biscuits, some coal and garlic if they had been naughty . . . so every child got some of that .... they were simple home-made gifts, put into simple home-made socks. Her story became linked to the three wise men, but pre-Christianity she was a Pagan spirit, part of the magical, fairy world, patron of plants and animals, an ancestral spirit whose sacred totem is the Woven Stocking - every year reaffirming the bond between family and ancestors. The simplicity of the gifts is what really inspires me about her and that we all should get some 'coal' to remind us to do better. Saluti,
Carmelina Di Guglielmo

Friday 6th January 2006
La Befana Scampagnata
(picnic in the park! From 4 pm to 7 pm)
The Legend of La Befana
6 pm
Argyle Square south,
Lygon Street and Pelham Street

Hi Joe,
Re: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!
. . . You don't know me, but I receive your email newsletters, and I thoroughly enjoy them. Thank you for having a social conscience and for not just sitting back and resting on your laurels, but actually doing something about it!  I find myself challenged, educated and encouraged every time I read your newsletter.  Hope you and yours have a good one!!! Cheers,
Toni D.

Here's what I wrote for a holiday card I sent out about 10 years ago. The [American] winter holidays are a five part purification.

Halloween: Express your subconscious
Thanksgiving: Acknowledge your blessings
Christmas: Give something away
New Years: Resolve to do better
Valentine's Day: Speak from the heart

I LOVE December.  Grownups put sparkly things all over the place.  Classical music is played in hardware stores.  People start thinking about what the people they love would like to receive.  People sing together. My inner child thinks its all for her. My absolute favorite holiday event occurs at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco: the Dance-Along Nutcracker, presented by the Gay-Lesbian Alliance.  Scores of little girls in tutus and a Fellini film's worth of outrageously costumed adults, not all as characters from the Nutcracker. Holiday Hugs, Alicia Bay Laurel

On the SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
When visiting Finland, Santa leaves his sleigh behind and rides on a goat named Ukko. Finnish folklore has it that Ukko is made of straw, but is strong enough to carry Santa Claus anyway.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 2
Cogito, ergo doleo. I think, therefore I am depressed.



The combination of a useful tool and a figural form with a human appearance must have been well accepted by the mid-18th century. In the toy making center of Sonneberg in the Thuringian Forest there was mention in 1735 of "nut-biters" that operated according to the principles of leverage. These nut-biters were described as sturdy, energetic forms with large heads. Two moving arms on the back of the head allowed the lower jaw to push the nut against the upper jaw. In a carnival parade in 1783, students from Freisingen, Germany presented large models of Berchtesgaden wares, including a nut-biter in the form of a little man whose mouth and stomach were one and the same. In 1971 Nutcrackers were listed in the storehouse records of the Berchtesgaden (Bavaria) wholesaler Anton Wallner. By the time the Brothers Grimm put together their first dictionary of "High German" (the dictionary was begun in the 1830s), the term Nussknacker was defined as "often in form of a misshaped little man, in whose mouth the nut, by means of a lever of screw, is cracked open."

The Nutcracker King would appear 1891 as an enchanted prince in Peter Tschaikowsky's Nutcracker Suite and continue to win children's hearts. The ballet contributes to the ever- increasing popularity of the nutcrackers as collectible objects. The nutcracker appears as a central character in Heinrich Hoffmann's story "King Nutcracker and the Poor Reinhold" (1851). In this story the poor Reinhold becomes acquainted with the Nutcracker King in a dream.

The nutcracker did not always play the role of the good-hearted fairy tale king. More often he wore a monk's robe or was made into the form of a mean-looking policeman, a Turk, master of the watch, a cavalry man or some other grotesque helmeted figure with a long nose. He appeared, for example, as a caricature of Napoleon on a 1813 Parisian picture-sheet. By the end of the 19th century he appeared almost consistently in the catalogs of the toy wholesalers as a representative of the contemporary authorities. It must have been fascinating for both manufacturer and user to transfer the trouble- some task of the nutcracker to particularly unloved figures. What started out as a practical tool often ended up as an expression of light irony and a social critique by the common people. . .
(Excrepts from Dr. Konrad Auerbach, Museum Director, the Erzgebirge Toy Museum Seiffen.)

On the THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
Roast turkey did not appear consistently on royal Christmas Day menus until 1851 when it replaced roast swan. The medieval dish of Boar's head remained popular with Royals for much longer.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 3
Raptus regaliter. Royally screwed.


Pre-Christian Celebrations
(which helped create the template for Christmas)

In the Roman Empire, Saturnalia was a religious festival celebrated in Rome and the provinces between December 17 and 24. It commemorated the reign of Saturn, god of grain and agriculture. It was the manifestation of the festivals of liberty (libertas decembris) and the Underworld. Roman slaves had a day of freedom when they became the masters and were served by their own masters who acted as slaves

The Festival of Madmen took place on Christmas day, December 25, New Year's day or Epiphany and recalls the Roman Saturnalia. It is a time of liberty when servants become masters and masters servants. For the space of a single day, society's values are turned upside down and religions derided.

In some towns, the Festival of the Ass was commemorated on Christmas Eve or during the second vespers on December 25: recalling the flight into Egypt, a young girl with babe in arms entered a church riding an ass or donkey. During the mass, all the prayers ended with "hee-haw". The Church quickly banned these celebrations which took on a sacrilegious character.

The Cult of Mithras came from Persia and spread during the IIIrd and IVth centuries B.C. The cult has many similarities with Christian ceremonies and rites: baptism, communion wafer, Sunday rest. On December 25, the sacrifice of a bull celebrated the Sol invictus (the invincible sun) and signalled the birth of a young sun god who sprang from a rock or a cave in the form of a newborn infant.

The Festival of the Sigillaria, or terra-cotta seals, was a pagan Roman holiday. At the end of the Saturnalia, Romans used to give gifts especially to children: rings, seals and tiny objects. This festival was the time for great feasts during which houses were decorated with green plants.

On the FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
St. Nicholas (Sankt Nikolaus) was bishop of the Turkish town of Myra in Asia Minor, who died on December 6th, 343. The Dutch first made him into a Christmas gift-giver, and Dutch settlers brought him to America. In Eastern Europe, Southern Italy and among the Greeks, he is revered most of all as the patron saint of seafaring men.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 4
Sona si Latine loqueris. Honk if you speak Latin.

Special Christmas Release from the Dalai Lama
Dharamsala, India

The Dalai Lama today announced the official release of Yellow Hat GNU/Linux. Produced by the Gelugpa or "Yellow Hat" sect of Tibetan Buddhism, this GNU/Linux distribution is designed to encourage benevolence and cooperation. The Dalai Lama said, "The experience of sharing free software will teach all human beings the principle of benevolence toward other beings. Software is formalized knowledge, and sharing knowledge in the GNU spirit is a human duty. The GNU/Linux system offers beings a way to follow the path of benevolence while using computers."

Yellow Hat GNU/Linux not only supports the Tibetan language, it also comes with a full library of Buddhist texts in Tibetan, Chinese and English. The Tibetan and Chinese versions are in the public domain; the English translations are newly made and released under a free license. "Users will advance in programming skill and advance towards enlightenment at the same time," said the Dalai Lama. To encourage users to move toward nirvana, a chain of users groups known as GELUGPA (GNU-Enlightened-Linux User Groups for Passion Abatement) is being established.

Programmers who have achieved enlightenment become capable of what is called "egoless programming", and can then use the Dbu debugging environment. As an integrated development environment, designed specifically for egoless programming, it also serves as a reminder of the essential unity of all things. Dbu is named after the Tibetan province of Dbu, whose name is pronounced "oo" as in "food". If you see a programmer look at a screen and say "oo!", he is probably using
Dbu, or wishing he were.

Source code for Yellow Hat GNU/Linux is available on CD-ROM; selected beautiful passages of code can also be ordered as hand-painted tankhas for display on your office wall.

The Chinese authorities immediately banned the distribution, claiming that it includes a photo of the Dalai Lama; however, the Yellow Hat development group says it is really a photo of Phil Silvers, included so that DeCSS can display it before playing a film.

Chinese spokesmen firmly insisted that "Yellow Hat GNU/Linux will never catch on in China." When confronted with reports that a prerelease version is already widely used in parts of Siquan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces, they said that "This means nothing - those areas are really part of Tibet."

When asked what response they expect from Red Hat, the Dalai Lama's spokesmen said that "The Nyingma or Red Hat sect disagrees with us on various points, but all Tibetan sects regard the Dalai Lama as the leader of the Tibetan people. So we don't expect them to criticize the Gelugpa sect for venturing into the software field."

The Dalai Lama's spokesmen refused to comment on rumors that the Yellow Hat sect plans to merge with the Church of eMacs.

On the FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
In Syria, Christmas gifts are distributed by one of the Wise Men's camels. The gift-giving camel is said to have been the smallest one in the Wise Men's caravan.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 5
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam. I have a catapult. Give me all your money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.


Cat's Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse.

'Cuzz the cat had pounced on him
And tore him apart -
Ate his mouse intestines
And chewed up his heart.

Kitty thought he heard sleighbells,
Which made him take pause -
He stopped daintily licking
The blood from his claws.

"Must be Santa," thought Kitty
(That quite clever cat)
'Cuz nobody else climbs down
The chimney like that.

Indeed it was ol' Santa
So jolly and fat
With a huge load of presents
And all for the cat!

"Wow, the best Christmas ever!"
Kitty thought with a purr,
Then he coughed up a hairball
And shed some more fur!

On the SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
Guatemalan adults do not exchange Christmas gifts until New Year's Day. Children get theirs (from the Christ Child) on Christmas morning.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 6
Sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare. I think some people in togas are plotting against me.

HOW TO MAKE A SNOW GLOBE (click here!)

On the SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
In 1647, the English parliament passed a law made Christmas illegal. The Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell, who considered feasting and revelry on what was supposed to be a holy day to be immoral, banned the Christmas festivities. The ban was lifted only when Cromwell lost power in 1660.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 7
Noli me vocate, ego te vocabo. Don't call me, I'll call you.

Have Yourself a Scary Little Solstice

 Enjoy the horror of the holidays with twenty-five of your favorite seasonal songs infused with an insane dose of the Cthulhu Mythos. A collection of holiday songs rewritten to include the dark forces lurking at the boundaries of perception:

Great Old Ones Are Coming to Town
Freddy the Red Brained Mi-Go
Oh Cthulhu Chorus
Do You Fear What I Fear?
Awake Ye Scary Great Old Ones
I'm Dreaming of a Dead City
Cthulhu Lives
It's the Most Horrible Time of the Year
Have Yourself a Scary Little Solstice
Here Comes Yog-Sothoth
I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog Sothoth
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fish-Men
Oh Come All Ye Olde Ones
The Shoggoth Song
Silent Night, Blasphemous Night
and many more . . . (site)

On the EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
When distributing gifts in Holland, St. Nicholas is accompanied his servant, Black , who is responsible for actually dropping the presents down their recipients' chimneys He also punishes bad children by putting them in a bag and carrying them away to Spain.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 8
Canis meus id comedit. My dog ate it.


Police Hunt 'Father Christmas' Killer
Press Association

Police were today hunting a man who stabbed to death a 25-year-old accounts manager while disguised as Father Christmas. Sikandar Shaheen was killed in his home in Leytonstone, east London, on Saturday. A Metropolitan police spokesman said the suspect was spotted near the scene on Grove Green Road wearing a red Santa hat and fake white beard. Detective Chief Inspector Keith Garnish said: "We believe the suspect wore this hat at the time of the attack." (article)

On the NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
Snowmen fall from Heaven unassembled.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 9
Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione. I'm not interested in your dopey religious cult.


War on Santa
by Philip Kovacs

After returning from the mall, I've decided that the "War on Christmas" is being waged in the wrong place, in the wrong way, and at the wrong time. The enemy is not "Happy Holidays," the enemy is Santa Claus, and if you'll bear with me, I think it's time for progressives and conservatives, and all the wise refusing such nonsense labels, to unite against this elf.

Santa is Satan and his nefarious goal is replacing the spirit of Christ (open to a great deal of interpretation) with crass consumerism. "What are you getting for Christmas? What do you want for Christmas? What do you want from Santa? What's Santa bringing you? What's in Santa's bag this year?" Goodies, that's what's in Santa's bag. Goodies massed produced by, well, a bunch of enslaved minority workers secreted away in a hard to reach location.

Eight Compelling reasons for the Satan-fication of Santa.

1. The guy comes into your house under cover of darkness, appearing in the fire for goodness sake, and he doesn't get burned. He likes fire, and indeed, is fire.

2. He's jolly all right; how many shots can you do in a night? The drunken glutton (leave cookies out for him do you?) then proceeds to scatter "presents" as if they were worth anything compared to the actual presence of spirit. Think "Dress Me Up Barbie" left under a tree vs. spending an hour contemplating or living the Sermon on the Mount. It's hard to wrap the latter, and even harder to wrap sitting mindfully and appreciative with family and friends. Or, for you Zen masters, how does one wrap a walk down the street with your forty year old, but still functional, rod-o-enlightenment?

Is your child asking for a greater appreciation of life and love this year? Are you?

3. Christmas today is about letters to Santa and praying for commodities. Unless I'm horribly mistaken letters to Santa generally go something like "This Christmas I want, and I want, and I want." Rarely, I venture to say, does a letter get to Santa along the lines of "Dear Santa, how about peace in the Middle East?" Or, "Dear Santa, how about genuine participatory democracy here before we 'give' it to others?" Or this rare one, "Dear Jesus, this Christmas, I was wondering if you could feed the 20,000 people who will die of malnutrition on your birthday. If it helps, you can tell Santa to take my presents, sell them, and use the money to help rebuild a home destroyed by a hurricane or war of his choice."

How about an America where one million people wrote that letter?

4. Elves. Where are they from? How are they paid? I bet it's seasonal, so no health care. Is there a union? Doubtful. Please picture Santa as CEO, a fat Bossman in a red leisure suit complete with sealskin boots. Where Jesus has disciples spreading the gospel, Santa has elves, manufacturing rewards for good behaviour. In rags travels one, in riches travels the other.

5. Enchanted, flying, glowing, deer. How many miracles involve flying deer? Let's see, there's water to wine, brilliant, but no flying deer. While the resurrection was impressive, maybe even frightening, no flying deer. Now if you turn to Harry Potter, a source for a number of hot commodities this Christmas season, well flying deer are just the beginning.

"Thanks Jesus for the wand and robes and my first-person shoot-you-up video game, but you forgot the broom."

6. In Dante's Inferno Satan is depicted as frozen because he is so far from God's love. Why the North Pole? If you had access to the hearts, minds, and homes of every kid in America would you live in an ice-castle? No, you'd live in Disney World. The North Pole is the only place you can keep an army of elves and enchanted deer, that's why the North Pole. And even more importantly, it's the only place Satan can reside without burning up. He's too hot to live anywhere else, and if he stops longer than a nanosecond, he combusts, which explains why you never see him. This brings us to his untraceable global presence.

7. His sleigh moves faster than the speed of light so Satan can return to the North Pole, his frozen den if you will, without combusting. Environmentally friendly? I think not.

"Dear Santa, this Christmas, when you are flying over the oceans and the cities and the mountains and the rivers, would you mind looking down and asking yourself, what would Jesus do? You do make judgements, right Santa?"

8. How does Santa know if I've been good or bad? Ten thousand spies scattered throughout malls across the country helps. But who is he to judge? Only the most judgmental angel in the history of angels, Lucifer himself. Patriot Act my ass, the CIA has loads to learn from Santa. You want to talk about social control? Then let's talk about a nation of children disciplined by one phrase: "Stop or Santa won't be bringing you anything this year."

Let the above argument settle in for a minute and ask yourself, "is this a guy I want my children writing?"

Progressives who are against consumptive culture should find a welcoming ear amongst conservatives (conservatives - not extremists) troubled by the loss of Christian values as Santa upsets both. Are conservatives up in arms about what Christmas has really become? And are progressives who moan about consumptive culture actually doing anything about it?

My modest proposal: nothing brings people together like a disaster. This Christmas, why don't we all celebrate the true spirit of giving by giving our children and our money to a War on Santa? We must unite and end Santa's reign with a full invasion of the North Pole. The elves will certainly greet us as liberators; we'll be out in less than 6 months; it won't cost more than a few billion dollars; and it will stabilise the region. (article)

On the TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
Nikolaus traditions vary as widely from region to region as his guise and name. He appears as Ruhklas, Pelznickel, Klasbur, etc. He is afoot or astride a white horse, a mule, or even a goat. More diverse than those of the saintly Nikolaus are the many legends and traditions surrounding his often wild companions (Krampus, etc.). The pagan origin of all of these figures is evident although difficult to trace. His best known companion is Knecht Ruprecht (poem), "Knecht" meaning servant. Historically, Ruprecht was a dark and sinister figure clad in a tattered robe with a big sack on his back in which, legend has it, he will place all naughty children.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 10
Utinam barbari spatioum proprium tuum invadant! May barbarians invade your personal space!


Christmas Poem From The Pennsylvania Dutch
(must be read with the appropriate accent)

Der night next vas Christmas
Der Night it vas still;
Der shtockings ver hung
By der chimney to fill.
Noddink vas shturring
At all in der house
For fear do Saint Nicholas
Vas nix komm heraus.

Der childrun ver dried
Und gone to der bed
Und mutter in night-gown
Und I on ahead
Vas searching around
In der trunk for der toys
Und ve crept around kviet
Not to make any noise.

Now mutter vas carrying
All der toys in her gown
Und showink her person
From up her vaist down
Venn as ve komm near
Der crip uff our boy
Our youngest und shveetest
Our pride und our choy.

His eyes ver vide open
As he peeked from his cot
Und seen efferytink dot
His mutter has got.
But he didn't even notice
Der toys in her lap.
He chust asked, "Vot is
Dat liddle fur cap?"
Und mutter said, "Hush"
Und den laffed mit delight
"I tink I giff dot
To you fotter tonight."

On the ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
Elmo and Pats, 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer' (Stiff, 1980).
In 1979, a San Francisco veterinarian called Elmo Shropshire was moonlighting in bluegrass band when he came across a song written by his friend Randy Brooks. 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer' tells a cautionary tale of festive excess that any drink-driving campaign would be proud of. It details how Grandma falls over in the snow after too much eggnog and is found with "hoof-prints on her forehead." The goofball country song - picked up by Stiff for UK release - became a phenomenon in America, despite Elmo and (now former) partner Pat's performances being picketed by "anti-ageist" protesters.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 11
Utinam logica falsa tuam philosophiam totam suffodiant! May faulty logic undermine your entire philosophy!


The X(mas)-Files

- We're too late! It's already been here.
- Mulder, I hope you know what you're doing.
- Look, Scully, just like the other homes: Douglas fir, truncated, mounted, transformed into a shrine; halls decked with boughs of holly; stockings hung by the chimney, with care.
- You really think someone's been here?
- Someone or some THING.
- Mulder, over here - it's a fruitcake.
- Don't touch it! Those things can be lethal.
- It's O.K. There's a note attached: "Gonna find out who's naughty and nice."
- It's judging them, Scully. It's making a list.
- Who? What are you talking about?
- Ancient mythology tells of an obese humanoid entity who could travel at great speed in a craft powered by antlered servants. Once each year, near the winter solstice, this creature is said to descend from the heavens to reward its followers and punish disbelievers with jagged chunks of anthracite.
- But that's legend, Mulder -- a story told by parents to frighten children. Surely you don't believe it?
- Something was here tonight, Scully. Check out the bite marks on this gingerbread man. Whatever tore through this plate of cookies was massive -- and in a hurry.
- It left crumbs everywhere. And look, Mulder, this milk glass has been completely drained.
- It gorged itself, Scully. It fed without remorse.
- But why would they leave it milk and cookies?
- Appeasement. Tonight is the Eve, and nothing can stop its wilding.
- But if this thing does exist, how did it get in? The doors and windows were locked. There's no sign of forced entry.
- Unless I miss my guess, it came through the fireplace.
- Wait a minute, Mulder. If you're saying some huge creature landed on the roof and came down this chimney, you're crazy. The flue is barely six inches wide. Nothing could get down there.
- But what if it could alter its shape, move in all directions at once?
- You mean, like a bowl full of jelly?
- Exactly. Scully, I've never told anyone this, but when I was a child my home was visited. I saw the creature. It had long white strips of fur surrounding its ruddy, misshapen head. Its bloated torso was red and white. I'll never forget the horror. I turned away, and when I looked back it had somehow taken on the facial features of my father.
- Impossible.
- I know what I saw. And that night it read my mind. It brought me a Mr. Potato Head, Scully. IT KNEW THAT I WANTED A MR.POTATO HEAD!
- I'm sorry, Mulder, but you're asking me to disregard the laws of physics. You want me to believe in some supernatural being who soars across the skies and brings gifts to good little girls and boys. Listen to what you're saying. Do you understand the repercussions? If this gets out, they'll close the X-files.
- Scully, listen to me: It knows when you're sleeping. It knows when you're awake.
- But we have no proof.
- Last year, on this exact date, SETI radio telescopes detected bogeys in the airspace over twenty-seven states. The White House ordered a Condition Red.
- But that was a meteor shower.
- Officially. Two days ago, eight prized Scandinavian reindeer vanished from the National Zoo, in Washington, D.C. Nobody - not even the zookeeper - was told about it. The government doesn't want people to know about Project Kringle. They fear that if this thing is proved to exist the public will stop spending half its annual income in a holiday shopping frenzy. Retail markets will collapse. Scully, they cannot let the world believe this creature lives. There's too much at stake. They'll do whatever it takes to insure another silent night.
- Mulder, I --
- Sh-h-h. Do you hear what I hear?
- On the roof. It sounds like . . . a clatter.
- The truth is up there. Let's see what's the matter.
(Adapted from Shouts & Murmurs, "The X-mas Files," by Frank Cammuso and Hart Seely.)

On the TWELVETH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
Our family was so poor that for Christmas we got batteries with a note attached saying "Toy not included."

Handy Latin Phrase No. 12
Radix lecti. Couch potato


Reindeer Candid Camera

A FUNNY video of a great practical joke - a fake deer tied to the front fender of a car - that twitches, talks and insults passerbys. (video)
(thanks to Frank Dolce)

(singing card)
(thanks to Margret RoadKnight)

On the THIRTEENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me (based on the original Sicilian folk song, originally called The 17 Days of Xmas, but five days were dropped during the Great Olive Famine of 1212 A.D. . . . ok ok shaddaaaap!!!!!)

One of the most amazing myths is that of a tree that had barnacles that opened to reveal geese. The legend of this tree was of great antiquity, and although Albert Magnus in the 13th century denounced it as false, the tales of this tree were popular among herbalists up until the 18th century. William Turner, a 16th century English herbalist accepted the idea, as did John Gerard in his Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, published in 1597, in which he wrote: "...there is a small llande in Lancashire called the Pile of Foulders...whereon is found a certaine spume or froth, that in time breedeth unto certaine shels." These mussel-shaped shells would grow until they split open, revealing "the legs of the Birde hanging out...til at length it is all come foorth." The bird would hang by its bill until fully mature, then would drop into the sea "where it gathereth feathers, and groweth to a foule, bigger than a Mallard, and lesser than a Goose."

Handy Latin Phrase No. 13
Quo signo nata es?
What's your sign?

 Women's Underwear
(Sung to the tune of 'Winter Wonderland')

Lacy things -- the wife is missin',
Didn't ask -- her permission,
I'm wearin' her clothes,
Her silk pantyhose,
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear.

In the store -- there's a teddy,
Little straps -- like spaghetti,
It holds me so tight,
Like handcuffs at night,
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear.

In the office there's a guy named Melvin,
He pretends that I am Murphy Brown.

He'll say, "Are you ready?" I'll say,"Whoa, Man!"
"Let's wait until our wives are out of town!"

Later on, if you wanna,
We can dress -- like Madonna,
Put on some eyeshade,
And join the parade,
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear!

Lacy things... missin',
Didn't ask... permission,
Wearin' her clothes,
Her silk pantyhose,
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear.

On the FOURTEENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
" Christmas and Deficits. Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it.  Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it."  ~ Richard Lamm

Handy Latin Phrase No. 14
Fac me cocleario vomere! Gag me with a spoon!


by Roy Zimmermand

" Friends, I'm about to release an album called "Peacenick." You won't find it in the Christmas bin at Tower Records because they don't have a bin for Lefty-Pacifist-Humanist-Seasonal satire. It's music to listen to while the presents get unwrapped and the Bush administration comes unglued. It's music to laugh at to keep from crying at the violence, ignorance and greed of the world in this season of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."

Sample Lyric:

Two Brothers

He said, Abraham and Sarah could not conceive, and they began to despair
For the Lord had blessed them in their union, and promised them an heir
And yet they were childless, and in the waning years of their lives
But fortunately, in Mesopotamian tradition, a man may have many wives

So Sarah chose an Egyptian slave, and gave her over to Abraham
And she said unto him, 'I hope you are well pleased,' and he said unto her, 'I am'
And a son was born of this union between Abraham and Hagar..."
And I said, "I'm just here to, you know, get some new tires put on my car."

I'm just here
To put some new
Tires on my car

He said, "This was Ishmael from whom the Arab nations claim descent
According the promise of God to Hagar which, strictly speaking, went
Against the promise He'd given to Sarah, who now conceived
Miraculously, she said unto Abraham, and he believed

And this was Isaac, progenitor of the Hebrew people, such was his fate
And Ishmael and Isaac began to quarrel over birthright and Abraham did separate
These two brothers, chosen by God, spared by God, forever in God's debt..."
And I said, "I'm just gonna see if they've done my alignment yet."

I'm gonna see
If they've done
My alignment yet

And he said, "Moses as an infant was hidden in the rushes and forgotten
And grew in monotheistic faith, which some say Ahkenaton
Had put forth a century before, and Moses, as we know, went
On to speak directly to God at Sinai and bear the covenant

And to be cited by Mohammed in the Glorious Koran
Mohammed, who spoke to God through the angel Gabriel in the month of Ramadan
And Jesus was born of the line of David in Bethlehem to give
His life in a new covenant, a new promise of God that Man might live

And Mohammed said that, verily, they who believe in the Lord
Be they Muslim or Jewish or Christian, and do what is right, shall have their reward
And so you have all these religious factions of this prophet or that king
But descended from two brothers and one God, and here's the thing

It seems like a really stupid reason to blow up anyone..."
And I said, "Hey, you're right. You're really right. I think my car is done."


On the FIFTEENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
"In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank.  People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!'  or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'"  ~ Dave Barry

Handy Latin Phrase No. 15
Te audire no possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure. I can't hear you. I have a banana in my ear.


Star Anise vs Bird Flu

I LOVE Star Anise and have given a few recipes with it over the months such as Vietnamese PHO, GOULASH WITH BRANDY AND STAR ANISE, and CHITARRA BOLOGNESE WITH STAR ANISE AND FRESH CORIANDER, all available in my Recipe Archives. I didn't know however that it was highly sought after as one of the prime ingredients for the anti-bird flu drug, Tamiflu.

Star Anise (Illicium verum) is named from the stellate form of its fruit. It is often chewed in small quantities after each meal to promote digestion and sweeten the breath. The fruit is used in the East as a remedy for colic and rheumatism, and in China for seasoning dishes, especially sweets. Medicinal Action and Uses---Carminative, stimulant, diuretic.

" Although it is produced in most autotrophic organisms, star anise is the industrial source of shikimic acid, a primary ingredient used to create the anti-flu drug Tamiflu. Tamiflu is regarded as the most promising drug to mitigate the severity of bird flu (H5N1); however, reports indicate that some forms of the virus has already adapted to Tamiflu. A shortage of star anise is one of the key reasons why there is a worldwide shortage of Tamiflu (as at 2005). Star anise is grown in four provinces in China and harvested between March and May. The shikimic acid is extracted from the seeds in a ten-stage manufacturing process which takes a year. Reports say 90% of the harvest is already used by the Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche in making Tamiflu, but other reports say there is an abundance of the spice in the main regions - Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan. (article)

China's growers of star anise giddy over its connection to Tamiflu
By Mei Fong
NANNING, China ­ Taking a lunchtime break from examining his fields, a flushed Chen Jinning tipped a tumbler at fellow farmers and bellowed, "To bajiao," the Chinese word for star anise, the coin-size fruit used in everything from Asian soup to French alcoholic drinks. Farmers at the table offered toasts to prosperity, to traditional agricultural methods, even to Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG, splattering foamy beer onto the plastic tablecloth. . . . (article 1) (article 2)


Warning: Don't give infants "teas" brewed from star anise. Brewed "teas" containing star anise have been associated with illnesses affecting infants. The illnesses ranged from serious neurological effects, such as seizures, to vomiting, jitteriness, and rapid eye movement. A 2004 report in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. concluded that the effects may have been caused by overdoses or contamination of teas with Japanese Star Anise. For more information: (article)

Japanese Star Anise (Illicium anisatum) is a tree similar to Chinese star anise. It is highly toxic, therefore it is not edible; instead, it has been burned as incense in Japan, where it is known as sikimi. Cases of illness, including "serious neurological effects, such as seizures", reported after using star anise tea may be a result of using this species.Illicium anisatum is native to Japan. It is similar to Illicium verum, but its fruit is smaller and with weaker odor, which is said to be more similar to cardamom than to anise. Japanese star anise contains anisatin, shikimin and sikimitoxin, which cause severe inflammation of the kidneys, urinary tract and digestive organs.It is impossible to recognize Chinese and Japanese star anise in its dried or processed form by its appearance only, due to morphological similarities between the species. (article)

Star Anise Cherry Reduction

This sauce is delicious served with boneless pork loin. (For friends, use the Chinese Star Anise, for enemies, the Japanese variation.)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 small onions, peeled and diced
4 sprigs crushed thyme
10 peppercorns, cracked
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
14 pieces star anise, toasted and ground (reserve 4 pieces for garnish)
1 liter red wine
2 cups port wine
2 cups dried cherries
2 quarts chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add celery, carrot and onion and saute until soft. Add thyme, peppercorns, garlic and star anise and saute for 2 or 3 minutes. Add wine and port and stir well. Reduce by half. Add dried cherries and stock and reduce by three-quarters, until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4. (created by Dirk Flanigan, Blue Water Grill, in Chicago)

On the SIXTEENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
- In the Middle Ages, long before the age of refrigeration, it was common for Europeans to add alcoholic beverages, such as brandy, wine or ale, to milk and egg drinks to preserve them. American settlers replaced these with the much cheaper rum, which came from the Caribbean.

Handy Latin Phrase No. 16
Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem! Stand aside plebians! I am on imperial business!


Written on Christmas Eve, 1513

I salute you. 
I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. 
There is nothing I can give you which you have not. 
But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. 

No heaven can come to us
unless our hearts find rest in it today. 
Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future
which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. 
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
There is radiance and glory in darkness,
could we but see. 
And to see, we have only to look. 
I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. 
But we, judging its gifts by their covering,
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. 
Remove the covering, and you
will find beneath it a living splendor,
woven of love by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it,
and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty,
believe me, that angel's hand is there.
The gift is there and the wonder
of an overshadowing presence. 

Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. 
They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have,
and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time,
I greet you,
not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you,
now and forever, the day breaks
and shadows flee away.

~ Fra Giovanni ~

On the SEVENTEENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, My True Love Gave to me:
"People can't concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December."  ~Ogden Nash

Handy Latin Phrase No. 17
Vah! Denuone Latine loquebar? Me ineptum. Interdum modo elabitur. Oh! Was I speaking Latin again? Silly me. Sometimes it just sort of slips out.