Illustration by John Leech. Public domain.
On 2 January, 1840, Dickens wrote to his printers, Bradbury and Evans, to thank them for their annual Christmas gift of a turkey.
Four years later, Dickens had written something that possessed still more “astonishing capabilities.” A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas was first published just before Christmas in 1843, and since then it has never been out of print.
Originally written as a tract for the times, this cautionary tale about the ongoing tussle between greed and goodness has been thought of as timely whenever it has been read.
Enjoyed by its first readers as a modern expression of the spirit of Christmas—as modern as Christmas cards, which were sent for the first time in the same year as the Carol’s publication—it has since become popular for quite different reasons: the sense of tradition it is thought to embody, a reminder of the simple pleasures that seem to have been lost sight of in the seasonal scrum of shoppers, an annual invitation to the pleasures of nostalgia.
Reproduced so often, and in so many different forms, it has become as much a part of Christmas as mince pies or turkey, with the key difference that, as Martin Heidegger argued was true of all classic works, it has never been “used up.”
There have been dozens of films, starring everyone from Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson to Mr. Magoo and Mickey Mouse, operas and ballets, an all-black musical (Comin’ Uptown, which opened on Broadway in 1979), Benjamin Britten’s 1947 Men of Goodwill: Variations on ‘A Christmas Carol,’ even a BBC mime version in 1973 starring Marcel Marceau.
So regular are the annual returns of the Carol to our stages and screens, in fact, that it has become something like a secular ritual, an alternative Christmas story to its more obviously religious rival, in which the three wise men are replaced by three instructive spirits, and the pilgrimage to a child in a manger is replaced by a visit to the house of Tiny Tim.
Even people who have never read the Carol know the story of Scrooge, the miserable old skinflint who repents after being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
So widely and deeply has this story entered the popular imagination that phrases such as Bah! Humbug! have floated free of their original context and acquired the force of common proverbs, while Scrooge himself has entered the language as a piece of cultural shorthand “used allusively to designate a miserly, tight-fisted person or killjoy” (OED, “Scrooge”).
Continue reading via Source: The Endurance of ‘A Christmas Carol’
‘At the end of 2017, Iceland got its second female prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, a 41-year-old with three young sons.’
Image Credit: Photograph: Birgir Thor Hardarson/EPA
On 24 October 1975, the women of Iceland refused to show up for work. They refused to cook, clean or look after their children. Basically, they went on strike. And that day, the shops in Iceland ran out of the only convenience food available at the time: sausages.
Call it symbolism, but by going on strike the women of Iceland were calling for men to respect their work and demanding equal pay.
This week Iceland became the first country in the world to make companies prove they are not paying women less than men for the same work. Employers are rushing to comply with the new rules to avoid fines.
Companies and government agencies with more than 25 staff must obtain government certification of their equal pay policies.
On the ‘women’s day off’, as it’s known, 90% of women stopped work and refused to do any household chores
Iceland has long been deemed the best place in the world to be a woman.
For the past nine years, the country has topped the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index; the UK comes in at 15th.
In Iceland men get at least three months’ paternity leave, and 90% of them take it. This gives them time to become comfortable with child-rearing, encouraging them to share the workload with their partners.
Women in Iceland are highly educated, a high percentage hold managerial positions and they don’t give up their careers to have children: they do both.
Christmas is coming and How to Eat is chewing over a mince pie.
But hot or cold? Brandy butter or cream? And does it matter which hand you eat it with?
Mince pies: don’t mess about with them. Photograph: Magdalena Bujak/Alamy Stock Photo
In 1733, the Gentleman’s Magazine carried a short reflection on mince pies – née Christmas pyes – that, among other observations, noted how puritanical Quakers swerved them on the basis that they are an “invention of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon, an Hodge-Podge of Superstition, Popery, the Devil and all his Works”.
Sounds exciting, right?
But, in 2018, the mince pie, lacks that transgressive edge.
We may buy a staggering 370m every Christmas but we also throw a shameful 74m away, indicative of how innocuous they now are.
Any tingle of forgive-me-father-for-I-have-wolfed-four excitement has gone.
Mince pies are mundane. We take them for granted.
Part of the problem is that most shop-bought mince pies are clumsily spiced, collapsing air-pockets of disappointment.
But this is a treat of diminishing returns for other reasons, too.
We routinely abuse the mince pie. We fail to treat it with reverence.
Which is why it is best to read on and learn how best to eat one of Britain’s favourite dishes.
Now Read On via Source: How to eat: mince pies | Food | The Guardian
Alex, Polly Waffle, Jenny, Jude and Me wish you all
A HAPPY AND SAFE CHRISTMAS 2020
What a Year 2020 has been mega bushfires, covid 19, unemployment, grinding poverty and the rich get richer.
AND two times we tried to organise an Old Guv Get Together, only to be torpedoed both times by the virus.
Let’s hope we will be on a winner in March 2021.
T’was a week before Christmas,
And all through the town,
People wore masks,
That covered their frown.
The frown had begun
When a global pandemic
They called it corona,
But unlike the cigar
It didn’t bring good times,
It didn’t bring cheer.
Air flights were grounded,
Travel was banned.
Borders were closed
Across air, sea and land.
As the world entered lockdown
To flatten the curve,
The economy halted,
And folks lost their nerve.
We rode the first wave,
People stayed home,
They tried to behave.
When August emerged
The lockdown was lifted.
But away from caution,
Many folks drifted.
Now it’s December
And cases are spiking,
Wave two has arrived,
Much to our disliking.
It’s true that this year
Has had sadness a plenty,
We’ll never forget
The year 2020.
And just ‘round the corner –
The holiday season,
But why be merry?
Is there even one reason?
To decorate the house
And put up the tree,
Who will see it,
No one but me.
But outside my window
The sun gently blazes
And I think to myself,
Let’s deck the halls!
So, I gather the ribbon,
The garland and bows,
As I play those old carols,
My happiness grows.
Christmas is not cancelled
And neither is hope.
If we lean on each other,
I know we can cope,
To the naked eye Vitry-sur-Seine is just another suburb of Paris.
But the town of 86,000 has a little known secret.
It is home to over 100 of the top street artists in the world.
London was in the news this summer for putting a strict ban on this form of art but Vitry-sur-Seine actually ENCOURAGES their creative spirit allowing the artists to use the city as a canvas and bringing them in as faculty to teach workshops in the public schools.
Embracing art like a boss. Well done Vitry-sur-Seine’
Photograph: National Gallery, London
The Adoration of the Kings – Jan Gossaerts (1510-15)
This colourful Christmas tree decoration of an altarpiece was painted for an abbey near Brussels and is evidently not intended to be ascetic.
The Magi who journeyed from the east to give gifts to the newborn Messiah gave wealthy people in Renaissance Europe reason to hope their riches made them virtuous.
Contrary to the early Christian message that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven, Gossaerts gratifies the rich by showing how they can use their treasures to adore Christ.
The superb deep blue of the sky, the reddish ruins in which Christ has been born and the green, pink, blue and gold robes of angels and mortals all add to a chromatic carol of joy and jubilation.•
National Gallery, London
It’s hard to believe that anything as jaw-droppingly futuristic could be 57 years old, but the lava lamp (or astro lamp as it was originally known) has been around that long.
Invented by a British accountant named Edward Craven -Walker in 1963, the lava lamp quickly became an icon of 1960s psychedelia, with news of the product spread by worth-of-mouth.
The lamps work by using a light bulb to heat a bottle containing coloured oil and water (and some other minor chemicals – but those are the main two). The oil and water have similar densities but are insoluble to one another, meaning they don’t mix.
When the bottle is heated the oil absorbs the heat first, expanding in size as it does so. The expansion means that it becomes less dense and begins floating upwards.
As it floats up it cools, contracts and falls back to the bottom of the bottle, starting the chain of events all over again.
This continual slow motion process is based around very slight differences in density between the oil and water – the balance between them is like a very sensitive pair of scales, with small amounts of heat tipping the balance back and forth.
Bizarrely, the assembly line robots who help the humans have come from Detroit’s collapsed motor industry.
The sea monkeys you ask?
Back in the 1970s there was a fad for things like pet rocks, long hair, floral shirts, pink flares, platform shoes, glowing oil lava lamps, cheese fondue parties, Daddy Cool, Skyhooks and bloody sea monkeys.
You bought the sea monkeys in a packet, chucked them in water and then after quite some time they started to turn into some sort of creature.
They were actually brine shimp.
Big Den loved his pet sea monkeys who swam happily around in their bowl in the work room.
But, there were some extremely jealous and psychotic compositors who hated seeing Big Den enjoying the company of his newfound tiny friends.
Den’s precious little sea monkeys suffered a shocking and terrible fate, just ask him what those bastards did.
An ambitious hobbyist, turned accomplished baker, turned cookbook author steps into her crafting niche by creating a decadent holiday castle.
Christine McConnell, expert baker and architecture-savvy aesthete, completes a massive, intricate gingerbread house. Putting in nearly 270 hours of work spread over 20 days, as well as pounds and pounds of icing, McConnell forms an edible chef d’ oeuvre without a single cardboard support in sight.
Fine-tuned with impeccable detail and realistic, epochal design, the creation towers over typical gingerbread houses with its castle-sized proportions and dark, romantic feel.
All of the ingredients required for the artistic creation include “simple stuff you can find at any grocery store,” McConnell shares. “This project was a huge undertaking for me.
I usually try to limit projects to two weeks, but I got so excited about this that I ended up getting a little carried away.”
“I love architecture,” she continues, “always have. When I was ten years old, I had a dream about a weird house and when I woke up, I had to build it out of cardboard and whatever else I could find, so I guess I’ve been fiddling with this sort of thing for a while.