Friday, December 21, 2012

It's Winter Wonderland time again

In the northern hemisphere, today (actually at 6:12 A.M. in NYC) is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night.

It's officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest known holidays in human history.

Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.

It is therefore a good time to do things you wouldn't want the sun to hear about. The Pagans, for example, wisely celebrate their Yule holiday on the Winter Solstice.

Ancient peoples believed that because daylight was waning, it might go away forever, so they lit huge bonfires to tempt the sun to come back. The tradition of decorating our houses and our trees with lights at this time of year is passed down from those ancient bonfires.

In Ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated with the festival of Saturnalia,

during which all business transactions and even war were suspended, and slaves were waited upon by their masters.

Hey, Get Naked, Paint Yourself Blue and Dance around the Fir Tree. It's party time!!!

December 21, 1932 -
The movie musical Flying Down to Rio premiered on this date.

Originally conceived by RKO as a vehicle for Dolores del Rio, this film is most notable for its star-making pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The two relative unknowns smoked up the screen in a dance number called "The Carioca" that generated such a positive response form critics and fans that they were eventually reunited in nine subsequent films.

December 21, 1937 -
The first feature-length color & sound cartoon, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered on this date.

The animation took over two years and a then astronomical $1.5 million to create. Disney had to mortgage his house to pay for the film's production.

December 21, 1940 -
Hot?! Who's afraid of hot?

Another classic Porky Pig cartoon, The Timid Toreador, premiered on this date.

December 21, 1959 -
The Orpheus legend set in Rio de Janeiro (with the fabulous music by Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Carlos Jobim,) Black Orpheus, premiered in the US on this date.

Although this won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, ironically it is not terribly well regarded in its native Brazil where some object to the depiction of their country as being a non-stop party.

Make sure you tune into The David Letterman Show tonight to catch Darlene Love's annual holiday appearance.

Today in History -
The pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620 (Their stepping ashore onto a large rock that later became known as the Plymouth Rock probably is a myth .) Their boat was the Mayflower.

They wore black and white clothes with big shiny buckles.

The crew of the ship did not have enough beer to get to Virginia and back to England so they dropped the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock to preserve their beer stock.

Josif Djugashvili was born in the Gori District of Tiflis Province in Georgia, Imperial Russia, on December 21, 1879

(or December 18th or the 22nd. When you're an evil bastard dictator, you get to choose your own birthday).

December 21, 1914 -
The first feature-length silent film comedy, Tillie's Punctured Romance, starring Marie Dressler, Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand, was released on this date.

This film marked the last time that Charles Chaplin would be directed by someone other than himself.

December 21, 1945 -
World War II General George Patton died in a car accident at Heidelberg, Germany on this date.

Patton was investigating the theft of Nazi gold by US Army men at the time. My grandfather was convinced that it was a conspiracy and he was killed by the men he was investigating.

My grandfather was a small time numbers runner but that's another story ...

December 21, 1970 -
Paranoid, alcoholic President Nixon meets with prescription drug addict Elvis Presley at the White House to discuss The King's becoming a special drug enforcement agent.

He presents Nixon with a pistol, and receives a special DEA badge in return.

December 21, 2012 -
The Mayan "long count" calendar is based on great cycles of 5125 years, the current cycle ending on this date today.

Endings of cycles are punctuated by cataclysmic singularities on a deluge scale, so be prepared. This is the end of time! Or the end of massive sales at Amazon and remember to ask for a refund on all the calendars.

4 more shopping days until Christmas, (2 more shopping days until Festivus,) and in case of alien invasion - our new overlords are from Nibiru.  Remember, get your list of family grievances together.

And so it goes

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