Thursday, 26 November 2020

¡no lupita!

Released on this date in 1959 in Mexico (in October of the following year internationally, in America markets  under the same title though sometimes distinguished as Santa Claus versus the Devil), this Renรฉ Cardona and Adolfo Torres Portillo collaboration premises that Santa has a workshop in outer space and defeats a demon called Pitch who was dispatched to Earth by Lucifer to spoil Christmas by killing its spirit and cause all of humanity to do Satan’s despondent and joyless, and by defacto  evil, bidding. The movie received the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (see previously) on Christmas Eve 1993 and one can watch the lampoon in its entirety below.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

o tannebaum

Much like that bellwether tree stood up in Rome four years ago, the poor sacrificial spruce (with stowaway, another climate refugee) left to slowly desiccate and die at Rockefeller Center, already bedraggled and reflective not only of this dreadful year but of our seemingly incipient and insurmountable toxic relationship with the environment, ought to be accorded the single dignity of being the last offering to this tradition born out of bleak austerity into this genuflexion before capitalism and conspicuous consumption. We could deck the place with a nice hologram instead.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

all this trouble over a fat little man in a red suit

As our faithful chronicler informs, the sci-fi comedy (self-descriped as “yuletide science fiction fantasy” and hoped to find a niche for a perceived market gap) by Nicholas Webster and Paul L. Jacobson, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians—universally panned though significantly debuting the figure of Mrs Claus a full three weeks before appearing on the Rankin and Bass (previously) television special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, premiered in cinemas on this day in 1964. It was to receive the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 treatment on 21 December 1991—shortly after MST3K was syndicated by the Comedy Central cable network and thus solidifying its enduring popularity aside from making the movie a cult classic. A young Pia Zadora has her film debut as Girmar—the Martian Girl.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

coal in your stocking

Though apparently tabled or scrapped, there was bizarrely, negotiated and budgeted out to the tune of a quarter-billion dollars, a stimulus plan concocted by the undersecretary of the US department of Health and Human Services to save Christmas by inoculating mall Santas (and their entourage of elves and consort Clauses) with untrialled, experimental vaccines, enabling kids to have the experience of sitting on Kris Kringle’s lap and having their photograph taken. Jesus wept. Not only are Santa’s helpers risking their health by taking a preventative therapy that may not be effective and possibly detrimental to their health, they also risk becoming full-on disease vectors, bio-weapons after chatting with scores of asymptomatic carriers per day in the run-up to the holiday season, which is far from universally celebrated. I think Santa would rather be a model citizen and encourage social-distancing, practise good hygiene and avoid unnecessary risks, including forgoing milk and cookies from strangers. This addle-brained proposal is likely to be cancelled but one wonders how close it was to being pushed forward and what other horrors that the Trump administration might try to sell as a Christmas miracle.

Monday, 13 January 2020

dansa ut julen

Literally dancing out Christmas, some Swedish communities are celebrating Knut’s Day (previously) as the end of the holiday season by “plundering” the tree of its ornaments and ceremoniously tossing it out on this twentieth day (imagine that carol) of Yule—Tjugondag jul—set aside as Knut’s name day (see also).

Transposed from the date (except in Denmark) of the regicide of the Danish duke at the hand of his rival and cousin on 7 January 1131 due to it failing too close to the Feast of the Epiphany, for the past century and the present one, Saint Knut’s Day coincides with Malanka (ะœะฐะปะฐะฝะบะฐ—that is ะฉะตะดั€ะธะน ะ’ะตั‡ั–ั€, Generous Eve) or since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1918 and putting aside the Julian one, Old New Year’s Eve for Ukraine, Russia and other Slavic lands. A syncretism of a far older folktale with instruction on how to herald the coming return of Spring and renewal and the observation that the Sun begins to turn toward the Tropic of Capricorn (the sidereal solstice and Midwinter for those in the Northern Hemisphere), it is also the last opportunity for partying and abandon before Carnival.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

hark the herald ai’s carol

Reprising a 2017 experiment this time with more powerful machines, Janelle Shane (previously) had her neural network try its hand at composing Christmas songs, drawing from a dataset of two hundred and forty carols compiled by the Times of London, and the output really underscores how profoundly strange that the holiday with its strange fossilised language would be for outsiders.
With verses for Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer like “Its heart was full of sugar / And the most prized food item was its head” and “For sinful men such a deity doth appear / And wink and nod in reply.” If you subscribe to AI Weirdness at the link above, you can sign up to receive the full text of these and other experiments—which as an occupational hazard feature an inordinate amount of cusses and references to gun-violence. Grandma got run over by a reindeer.

The wretched world is run by ox and ass
The wretched world is run by ox and ass,
And in vain build I.

Monday, 23 December 2019

o come, o come, emmanuel

With the evening prayer of the last week of Advent (previously) denoted as the hortatory Antiphons—a short chant with refrain textually based on the Book of Psalms and a call to meditate on one of the aspects of Jesus as Saviour, the last and final falling on the eve of Christmas Eve exhortation that O God is With Us, expanded into the carol.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

simpsons roasting on an open fire

On this day in 1989, the Fox network debuted The Simpsons, characters spun-off from a regular, animated interstitial from The Tracey Ullmann Show, with a Christmas special.
Intended as the eighth episode of the season, production delays had already pushed back release dates to the holidays and the producers decided to open with this show—which was a remarkably smart move in retrospect (The Waltons had a similar start with its pilot episode back in 1971) for the expository and establishing opportunities that come with such tropes.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Via the always glamorous Everlasting Blรถrt, we are treated to the third collection of Dublin-based designer Jen Nollaig’s third seasonal showing (and here we thought we just had to make due with wearing the tree skirt like Bernice on the sitcom Designing Women) of eyewear, jewelry, headdresses and entire costumes created out of repurposed Christmas decorations, positing that we should be as willing, excited and committed to trim ourselves as much as the tree and decking the halls. Much more to explore at the links above.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

8x8

it putteth away dumpishness & sadness, and bringeth mirth: a 1559 recipe for mulled wine

fox and liberty forever: the chaotic General Election of 1790, the polling and purdah lasting from 16 June to 28 July, via Strange Company

the power of youth: the photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva behind the iconic image of Greta Thunberg’s TIME cover—we personally found this honour to be pretty moving as well

link in bio: the insidious nature of Walled Gardens (see previously) and social media’s attempts to corral the free Internet

the land of the asuras: a Buddhist monk leads a solemn ceremony to eulogise untaken time off from work in Japan—hardly done despite legislation that all workers take a minimum of five paid vacation days per year

๐Ÿ™€: this feline face filter underscores how poorly we understand our cats’ cognition

flight and blight: a survey of some of the historic character lost in New York City over the past decade

your branches green delight us: a tour of London’s Christmas trees 

Sunday, 1 December 2019

thumpety, thump, thump

Via Boing Boing, we are treated to a musical duet of Leon Redbone and Dr John performing “Frosty the Snowman” from the former’s 1988 holiday album Christmas Island. Both musicians passed away earlier this year within weeks of each other.  Redbone also voiced the Narrator Snowman (inspired by the Rankin and Bass characters) in the 2003 Christmas comedy Elf.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

winterval or five gold rings

Probably the most famous example of a cumulative song—The Barley Mow (Oh the company, the brewer, the drayer, the slavey, the daughter, the landlady, the landlord, the barrel, the half-barrel, the gallon, the half-gallon, the quart pot, pint pot, half a pint, gill pot, half a gill, quarter gill, nipperkin, and a round bowl
—Here's good luck, good luck, good luck to the barley mow) and Green Grow the Rushes O being other examples—the Twelve Days of Christmas enumerates a progression of increasingly grander, more ostentatious (generally of the avian variety) gifts exchanged during the interval between Christmas Day and the Feast of Magi.
The standard tune is sourced to a 1909 arrangement by baritone and composer Frederic Austin, prolonging the verse of the fifth iteration that is often rendered golden nowadays. While there has been much speculation without a definitive answer as to the symbolic meaning of the gifts, it is worth noting that there are a round three hundred and sixty-four gifts given all told—one for every day of the year minus Christmas—and the presents may represent a device for memorising the important things that go on in each month over the course of a year (the original French verse was something about ‘‘five rabbits a-running” and probably not a coded mnemonic for a Christian catechism—in which case the rings would represent the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, the expository ones.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

merry christmas!

We here at PfRC wish you all a have happy and healthy holiday season.  We hope and trust you are able to give and receive all the gifts on your Christmas list.  Thanks as always for stopping by and tune in for more to come.

Monday, 24 December 2018

stille nacht

Composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber and set to lyrics by Father Joseph Mohr in Oberndorf bei Salzburg and first performed in the parish church of Saint Nikola on Christmas Eve two centuries ago, residents are expecting twice the number of holiday tourists to descend on their town for this anniversary spectacle of Silent Night.
Declared an intangible work of cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011, schoolmaster and amateur organist Gruber was only rehabilitated and acknowledged for creating the melody of the carol in 1995 when the lost, original manuscript was recovered, credit having been traditionally attributed to more famous Austrian composers like Haydn or Beethoven. The venue this year’s concert is not exactly made clear as the original choir was demolished around 1890 after a devastating flood sweep through the area, but the chapel curiously (or predictably) was rebuilt as a full-sized replica in the city of Frankenmuth, Michigan, a place settled by a group of disaffected Lutherans from Fürth, near Nürnberg—which bills itself as the Christmas capital of the world. Most of the over three hundred different languages versions of the song are more or less true to the German original though “Round you Virgin Mother and Child, Holy Infant so tender and mild” is better translated “Round yon godly tender Pair, Holy Infant with curly hair”—Nur das traute hoch heilge Paar, Holder Knab’ im lockigen Haar

Saturday, 22 December 2018

5x5

their santatanic majesties request: the Rolling Stone album had the working title of Cosmic Christmas

tinsel: a gallery of Mid-Century Modern aluminum Christmas trees

tinsel town: 1930s Hollywood in its heydays recreated as a diorama

brick & mortar: a bookshop in Tokyo now has a cover-charge

aรฐventuljรณs: a handy guide to the holidays in Iceland

Friday, 21 December 2018

twelfth night

Driving home for the holidays, we really enjoyed listening to this Royal Christmas Special from Rex Factor (previously) that examines the celebration, traditions and historical happenstance—births, coronations, etc.—from a courtly point of view. We think you’ll like this entertaining and informative episode as well, travelling or otherwise.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

joyeux noรซl

We enjoyed reading through this handy guide from the local’s French edition deciphering the holidays—especially taken with learning that there is a chant profane (a Christmas carol not on the subject of the Nativity) called “Vive le Vent” (Long Live the Wind) that’s sung to the tune of Jingle Bells and has lyrics about Father Time, Baby New Year and New Year’s Day. Entitled “One Horse Open Sleigh,” the original jingle by composer James Lord Pierpont was incidentally the first musical piece performed in space by humans during a Gemini mission in 1965, the astronauts having smuggled a harmonica and bells on board to the surprise of Mission Control.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

8x8

bouquet: floral masterpieces recreated with living flowers

plenary session: climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers a powerful message to those gathered at Katowice

coming attractions: a mashup of all the biggest movie trailers of 2018

the notorious rbg: supreme court justice is amazingly resilient

rebel scum: gorgeous, retro Star Wars style propaganda posters

hot neptune: researchers locate an exoplanet that’s slowly being evaporated by its host star—via Slashdot

patchwork pojagi: the beautiful kimonos and accessories of South Korean textile artist and educator Chunghie Lee

please enjoy responsibly: funny suggestion for a Christmas time drinking game

Thursday, 13 December 2018

6x6

shorthand: deaf researchers are innovating science communication

inventas∙vitam∙iuvat∙excoluisse∙per∙artes: the questionable rebranding the of the Nobel prize (see also)

the shape of water: aerial photography reveals the beauty of meandering streams, rivers and water courses

fairytale of new york: an appreciation of The Pogues’ classic ballad

kobe hyakkei: more on the woodblock print artist Hide Kawanishi’s impressions of post-war Kobe compared to contemporary photographs

the glories of science: winners of the Royal Society photography contest—a scholarly association for the advancement of knowledge of the natural world 

Sunday, 9 December 2018

hallmark holiday or that’s what christmas is all about, charlie brown

Our faithful chronclier, Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet, informs that today in 1843—coinciding with the serial publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which very much rehabilitated the festive season in England and beyond, industrial designer and museum administrator Sir Henry Cole (*1808 - †1882) too busy to pen personalised messages to all his friends and colleagues for the holidays commissioned Royal Academy illustrator John Callcott Horsely to create for him a set of pre-printed greetings on cardstock.
Still working out its franking system—the first postage stamp only introduced two and a half years earlier, Horsely also designed pre-paid postages envelopes that allowed well-wishers to post the cards for a penny throughout the Empire. Also on this day in 1965—perhaps with this bit of history in mind, CBS first aired the A Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Reportedly, producers and the network were convinced that the special would prove to be a monumental failure and threaten the Peanuts franchise, fretting over the pacing, tones, lack of canned laughter (a television standard at the time), the unconventional, jazzy soundtrack and the rather incongruent moment of reading Bible verse. The first commercial Christmas cards were mired in controversary and considered blasphemous in part for depicting a child imbibing an adult beverage along with his parents, probably contributing to their commercial success. Enjoy the Vince Guaraldi Trio perform the Linus and Lucy suite and other songs for the programme.