December 26, 2006 tues.
December 26th, 2006

Birthdays:Charles Babbage,Admiral Dewey, Mao Tse Tung, Richard Widmark is 91, Steve Allen, Henry Miller, Alan King, Phil Spector is 65, Fred Schepsi

In Britain this is BOXING DAY, from the Victorian English custom of boxing up the leftovers of your Christmas feast and giving it to the poor.

First Day of the Kwanza Festival. Kwanza is from the Swahili words “Matunda ya kwanzaa” meaning “first fruits” of the harvest. See below-1966.

In the Middle Ages this was the Feast Day of the Pagan god Jul, when good Guildsmen would gather in their Guild Halls to eat themselves sick and drink themselves silly. Then in a total stupor they would swear oaths on their patron saints to stick by each other in the new year. Churchmen bristled at the licentious nature of the festival and tried to ban it, but there was no stopping a good rowdy party. Nobody really knew who the pagan god Jul was, just that it was fun to see the priests get so pissed off.

1924- Baby Frances Gumm first appeared on a stage at 2 1/2 years old. Grown up she would change her name to Judy Garland.

Al Hirschfield as a young man

1926- Young artist Al Hirschfeld does his first caricature. A drawing of actor Sasha Guitry. A friend takes it to a newspaper and sells it, soon he's under contract to the New York Times. He will keep doing caricatures of Broadway greats into the millennium and has become a legend himself. In the American Theater a Hirschfeld caricature of you meant you had arrived and were a real star. At age 94 he remarried and drew the cast of Ally McBeal for TV Guide. In 2001 he died at age 100, drawing to the end.

Al Hirschfield as an older artist

Back on Aladdin in 1992 Eric Goldberg and I had the chance to have lunch and interview Al on the Walt Disney studio rotunda. He was a wonderful and gracious man, very giving with his ideas about technique. We joked about longevity. He loved to tell about an article he read about George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill and their long lived. He said Shaw was vegetarian, chaste and didn't drink. Churchill woke up to a sherry, smoked 22 cigars a day and liked his steaks bloody. Al's conclusion was there was no secret to long life. Either it's in your genes or not. Then he asked for more wine.

1938- Young playwright Thomas Williams moved from Saint Louis to New Orleans and changed his name to Tennessee Williams.

1939- Walt Disney Animation moves from Hyperion to the new Burbank Studio lot. The buildings are designed like hospital wards, so in case he hits economic trouble, Disney could sell them to the planned St. Joseph's Hospital across the street. Animator Ward Kimball said it was the first time he worked in a studio where all the furniture matched. The old Hyperion Studio was bulldozed in 1966, the year of Walt Disney’s death.

1944- Tennessee Williams play the Glass Menagerie premiered in Chicago.

1946- The Gala Opening day of the Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas. Mobster Bugsy Siegel's $ 4 million dollar gamble in the desert. Despite booking top talent like Jimmy Durante and Xavier Cugat the promised Hollywood society types failed to materialize. The hotel part of the casino wasn't ready for guests yet so the high rollers couldn't see making the long trip. A violent rainstorm kept still more people away. Also the casinos formal dresscode discouraged the local yokels who liked to gamble in ten gallon hats and bluejeans. The Flamingo casino made a profit eventually but not before the angry Mafia riddled Siegel with bullets and cut the throat of his manager, Moe Greenberg.

1963- The death of Gorgeous George Wagner, the first wrestler to adopt a flamboyant character.

1966- The first Kwanzaa Festival was organized by African studies professor Dr Marulanga Karenga at Cal State Long Beach to celebrate African-American culture.

1973- Murakami-Wolf's t.v. special "The Point" with Dustin Hoffman narrating and Harry Nilsson's music. Hoffman's track was later rerecorded by Ringo Starr for some reason.
“Me and my Ar-row…”

1973- The horror film The Exorcist starring Linda Blair premiered. Merry Christmas! Have some pea soup!

1985- Gorillas in the Mist author and ape anthropologist Diane Fossey was murdered by machete in her lab in Africa.

2004-TSUNAMI- One of the stronger earthquakes 9.1, recorded in the last 100 years hit the Indian Ocean. The earthquake sent giant tidal waves covering the coastlines of Sumatra, Thailand, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, killing over 215,000. Whole beach communities were wiped out without warning.

December 25, 2006 Christmas Day
December 25th, 2006

Birthdays: Emanuel Ben Joseph or Yesuah. Called in Greek Jesus the Christ, 6-4 BC? or Four Before Himself-(traditional date.)
Sir Issac Newton, Clara Barton, Cab Calloway, Helena Rubinstein,, Rod Serling, Charles Pathe, Jimmie Buffet, Quentin Crisp, Mike Mazurki, Conrad Hilton- Paris’ granddad, Alice Cooper, Sissie Spacek, Tarzan cartoonist Burne Hogarth, Ishmail Merchant, Barbara Mandrell, Dame Rebecca West, Annie Lennox, Humphrey Bogart- born in 1899 liked to call himself the Last Child of the Nineteeth Century, animator Howard Beckerman

885AD- Pope Gregory I formalized what Christians had already been doing for 500 years, namely celebrating the birth festival of Jesus or "Christ’s Mass", on December 25th.

1428- During the Hundred Years War, at the siege of the city of Orleans, a six hour truce was declared for Christmas. English warlords Sir William Gladesdale and Sir John Talbot expressed a wish to hear French music, so a band of enemy trumpeters serenaded them from the city walls.

1541- At the Christmas mass Michelangelo’s fresco The Last Judgement was unveiled, done for the Altar wall of the Sistine Chapel beneath his famous ceiling.

1734- Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio first performed at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Bach pioneered writing sacred music in German instead of Latin or Italian despite the opinions of King Frederick the Great in Berlin:" German singers? I’d rather hear my horse whinny!"

1836- According to the novel Moby Dick, today is the day the Pequod set sail from Natucket.

1855- Ice hockey first played in North America at Kingston, Ontario, Canada

1914- During World War One German and British soldiers facing each other across the Western Front held a spontaneous Christmas truce. After midnight the German guns ceased and the sounds of Christmas Carols drifted over the barbed wire. The British and French responded with serenades from their regimental bands. At dawn without any official sanction or orders the soldiers of both sides came out of their trenches and in the middle of No-Man's Land exchanged laughter, Schnapps, Scotch, tobacco and even played a good natured soccer game together. Next morning the shooting resumed and the officers who allowed the fraternization were reprimanded.

1929- The Fox Atlanta Theater opened on Peachtree St. A wild Moorish fantasy in part financed by the Shriners so they could use it for their meetings.

1931-The first BBC World Service Network broadcast. An address by King George V called "Around the Empire".

1937-NBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the legendary Arturo Toscanini premieres with its first radio broadcast.

1946-Comedian W.C. Fields died of alcoholism at 67. While in his hospital bed someone saw him reading a Bible. They said:" W.C. what are you doing with that? "Fields replied:" Looking for loopholes!"

1949- Artists at the Disney studio machine shop presented Walt Disney with his own miniature steam train. Walt could now ride his guests around. This gets the Old Man interested in theme parks...

1955- Chuck Jone's 'One Froggy Evening' premiered. Director Steven Speilberg calls it the "Citizen Kane of Cartoons." If you wonder why you never heard the old time ditty 'The Michigan Rag' anywhere else but here was because Carl Stalling wrote it specifically for the cartoon.

1977- Charlie Chaplin died quietly in his sleep at Vevey, Switzerland.

1980- Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns finished reading Simon Schaara’s novel about the Battle of Gettysburg called The Killer Angels. He tells his father he is inspired to make a documentary about the Civil War. The Civil War took six years to make and ran in 1990, but it was one of the most popular documentary films in the US and redefined the medium of documentary filmmaking.

1991- General Party Secretary and Premier Mikhail Gorbachov resigned and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, aka the Soviet Union, ceased to exist. In it's place is the Confederation of Independent States led by the Federation of Russia under Boris Yeltsin.

2006- James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, died at age 73.

As you sit back in your chair this Christmas –Christ’s Mass ( the biggest holiday of the Ancient Roman World called Saturnalia and the birth of the Persian Sun God Mithras was named the birth festival of Jesus by Pope Leo the Great in 885 A.D. December 25th was also the Feast of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun, a cult popular to Romans like Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Modern estimates based on the census records of Augustus and astronomy calculate Jesus' actual birth may have occurred in July although Christians had started to use the Saturnalia as the birthday feast as early as the 300's A.D. ) by your yule log (German Norse custom, the Yule Festival lasting twelve days), wrapping your presents in pretty paper ( Roman Saturnalia custom) with your house all decorated with lights ( Roman New Year custom) under your mistletoe (Druid custom), drinking from your Wassel Bowl (Anglo-German hot beer with toast floating in which is why we "toast" with the words "was-heil"-hail to you. Egg Nog was a drink of Elizabethan sailors which means 'Eggs with Grog".)

You're admiring your Christmas Tree ( besides Druid tree worship, the 24th of December was the feast day of Saints Adam & Eve when Medieval Churches act out the Genesis story and set up a tree representing the "tree of life" with glass balls representing the fruit. Some attribute the idea to Martin Luther and others to a legend about devils trying to undermine the Tree of Life and they succeed at end of the year so decorating a tree helps the Tree of Life grow back. They began to appear in private homes in the mid-1500s. The Christmas Tree custom was taken from Germany to England by Queen Charlotte of Mecklenberg Streilitz, the wife of King George III and to America by Hessian soldiers and later German immigrants in the 1850’s. In an 1883 editorial about the newfangled custom the New York Times called the Christmas Tree-" A rootless, lifeless corpse -unworthy of the Day..", Thomas Edison first strung electric Christmas lights around the tree replacing candles in 1882. Holly bloomed only at this time of year and to Medieval people looked like the Crown of Thorns with the little red berries symbolizing blood droplets. Poinsettas were introduced in the 1850s by the US consul to Mexico, Jacob Poinsetta.

And you dream of a visit from Santa Claus ( a hybrid of Anglo-Dutch customs appearing in it's modern form in New York in the late 1850's. The English form was St. Nicholas, a big jolly Bishop in a red suit and the Dutch had Kris Kringle, the elf who dropped down your chimney and was also known as 'Klaus-in-the-Cinders' or 'Cinder-Klaus". The Welsh had a Druid priest who distributed magic mushrooms wore a red robe with white fur trim. To avoid the more toxic qualities they fed these mushrooms to Reindeer and drank an ale fermented from their urine. yeah, that’s where the Reindeer come from. The first image of him was drawn in 1859 in the New York Sun by cartoonist Thomas Nast for the anonymously published poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. Nast also created the Democratic Donkey and Republican elephant. In 1866 Nast originated the idea that Santa was from the North Pole to stop post Civil War squabbling as to whether Santa was a Yankee or a Southerner. The modern Santa Claus image was created for a 1930's Coca Cola ad by illustrator Haddon Sundblom

The song THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS was a secret code from an unknown author in the XVIII Century. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ, don’t ask me why. Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments. Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Pentatuque, the first five books of the Old Testament. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control. The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments. The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples. The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed. The carol “Silent Night” was composed by Austrian minister Rudolph Scribner in 1848. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer appeared in 1939 in a story by a Montgomery Ward Department Store ad exec named Mayo- Gene Autry the Singing Cowboy recording the famous song.

So here's wishing you hopes for a White Christmas (song written by Russian-Jewish composer Irving Berlin) and a very Happy New Year (courtesy of the 12 month calendar reformed in 45 B.C. by the Hellenic-Egyptian scientist Sosigenes for Julius Caesar, modified by Pope Gregory in 1582 and not accepted by English speaking lands until 1752, else we'd be celebrating New Years in March.- the stubborn Old Believers were called April Fools )

Merry Christmas, Freylich Chaunnakah, Happy Ramadan, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Washing of the Buddha, Happy Birth of Mithras- who was born in the wilderness and adored by shepards, Io, Io, Saturnalia, Joyeux Noel, Bozego Narodzenia, Frohe Weinacht, Prettig Kerstfeest, Nadolig llawen, Selamat Hari Krismas, Happy Birth of Sol Invictus the Sungod, Happy death and rebirth of Baldur son of Odin, Happy beginning of the rise of Persephone back from Hades to her mother Demeter, and please pass the reindeer pee !

Tom & Pat Sito 2006

December 24th 2006 Christmas Eve
December 24th, 2006

Birthdays:, Roman Emperor Servius Galba, English King John Ist Lackland, Dr Benjamin Rush, Kit Carson, Howard Hughes, Ava Gardner, Michael Curtiz real name Michali Kertesz, I.F.Stone, Robert Joffrey of the Joffrey Ballet,Susan Lucci, Nicholas Meyer, Ricky Martin is 36

This was the birth festival of Mithras, the Persian sun god. Mithraism was Christianity's chief competitor for converts during the late Roman Empire. It professed a dualistic theology, that God and the Devil battled equally for the souls of men: light and dark, hot and cold, day and night, etc. It was very popular among the troops of Rome’s Legions. There were Mithraic temples from Scotland to Iran, and even into the Middle Ages it resurfaced as a Christian heresy, Manicheanism and,later, Catharism. There are 200,000 Zoroastrians around today and 18,000 in North America. Legend says Mithras was born in the wilderness and was adored by shepherds. Hmmm.
Mithras slaying the bull
In the Middle Ages this was the Feast of Saints Adam and Eve. The western theatrical tradition survived in the form of Mystery Plays, acting out stories from the Bible. So this day they would do a play about the temptation and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. A tree was brought into the church and decorated to represent the Tree of Life, glass balls representing the fruit. This is one of the origins of the Christmas Tree, The Feast of Adam and Eve was dispensed with during the Counter-Reformation.

1247- Sir Robin of Loxley, called Robin Hood, died. Legend has it that he fired an arrow out his window with instructions to bury him where it fell. There's been books written on just who the heck this Robin Hood guy was anyway. He's sort of a composite of several notable rogues. Robin of Loxley was a Saxon bandit, but evil King John liked crooks so he gave him a job. A few decades later there was Will of the Weald called Windikin, Fulk the Black and other woodsmen fighting for England's poor in King Henry III 's reign. But the problem was Henry was a good king- well, kind of an okay-middle-of-the-road-could-have-done-better king. So it's convenient to combine them with Loxley and King John the Bad king.
Death of Robin Hood by N.C.Wyeth

1652- In England the Puritan Parliament of Oliver Cromwell forbade any celebration of Christmas. Their brethren, the Puritans of Massachusetts, would arrest anyone found making merry and fine them three shillings. But after the restoration of King Charles II the partying came back.

1848-the song Silent Night composed by an Austrian minister named Rudolph Scribner.

1888- Vincent Van Gogh cuts off a piece of his left ear after an argument with Paul Gaugin over the affection of a prostitute named Rachel. He sent his ear to the prostitute. She fainted.

1889- Daniel Stover & W. Hance of Freeport Ill. invented the bicycle backpedal brake.

1922- The BBC presented it’s first radio play:" The truth about Father Christmas."

1951- Gina Carlo Menotti’s opera "Amal and the Night Visitors" premiered on NBC TV.

1964- First day of shooting on the “Cage” a pilot for a new TV show called Star Trek. The project was greenlit by Lucille Ball as part of her Desilu production company. Jeffrey Hunter was the first captain, later replaced by William Shatner when Hunter’s wife advised him to skip the series. She was worried he’d be typecast.

1985- Fidel Castro announced that on doctors’ orders he has given up smoking cigars.

1990- Tom Cruise married Nicole Kidman.

1997- 62-year-old Film director Woody Allen married 27-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his former lover, Mia Farrow. When asked to explain himself the director said: " The Heart wants what it Wants.."

Merry Christmas!—t.s.

December 12/23/2006 Saturday
December 23rd, 2006

Birthdays; Joseph Smith -Founder of Mormonism, Ruth Roman, Otto Soglow -cartoonist creator of 'the Little King', Frank Morgan (the Wizard of Oz actor was also the first president of the Screen Actor's Guild),Harry Guardino, Claudio Scimone, Vincent Sardi of Sardi’s restaurant in NY, Harry Shearer- Mr Burns in the Simpsons, Bob Barker,Japanese Emperor Akihito is 73

1823- SANTA CLAUS BORN. This day the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was published anonymously in The Troy Sentinel, a New York newspaper. The poem completed the synthesis of English and Dutch folk traditions that were merging in New York into our modern concept of Santa. The Dutch Klaus-in-the-Cinders" or Kris Kringle was an elf who climbed down chimneys to give children toys. He merged with the British Father Christmas or Saint Nicholas who was a big, fat, jolly bishop with a white beard in a red suit. The reindeer names Donner and Blitzen come from the Dutch words for thunder and lightning “Dunder und Blixem” Both cultures also had him use a whip on bad children but that part was edited out. In an 1859 reprint of the famous poem, famed cartoonist, Thomas Nast (who created the Republican elephant and Democratic donkey) drew the first likeness of Santa Claus. Because of residual rivalry from the Civil War claiming Santa was a Yankee or came from old Dixie, in 1867, Nast ended the argument by declaring Claus’s true address to be the North Pole. The likeness we all recognize was created by illustrator Haddon Sundblom for a Coca-Cola ad campaign in 1934. Several years after A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS success, the authorship was claimed by a Bronx Bible teacher, the Reverend Clement Clarke Moore, and he was celebrated in his time as the father of Santa Claus until his death in 1863. In 2000, a literary-forensic specialist from Vassar named Foster has challenged Moore's authorship and claims an obscure Revolutionary War veteran from Poughkeepsie, NY. named Major Henry Livingston, actually wrote the poem. He uses as evidence the poetry style of Livingston being much closer to the anonymous poem than Rev Moore's. But unless a literary smoking gun can be produced, we may never know.

1834- In London, Joseph Hansom patented Hansom cabs. This is the one-horse, two-wheeled cab with the driver in back. Cab is shortened from Cabriolet, a type of springed horse-carriage.

1857- Ex-army officer, failed businessman and town drunk, Ulysses Grant pawned his watch so he could buy Christmas presents for his wife and kids. From this rock bottom he would eventually rise to win the Civil War, become President of the United States and the most famous American of his time.

1893- Humperdinck's opera "Hansel und Gretel" debuts in Weimar Germany.

1894- Claude DeBussey’s “Afternoon of a Faun” premiered in Paris.

1912- The Max Sennett short comedy “Hoffmeyer’s Release” premiered, the first comedy featuring the Keystone Cops.

1913- Young Italian Rudolph Valentino arrived in America to seek his fortune. He was so poor that after a year he sent his parents a photo of himself in a borrowed tuxedo to allay their fears. He worked as a nightclub dancer and gigolo until becoming a Hollywood film star in 1921.

1930- Struggling young actress Betty Davis signed her first contract with Universal Studio.

1935- Walt Disney sent a detailed memo to art teacher Don Graham outlining his plans for retraining his animators to do realistic feature films.

circa-1935- This was the traditional day for Republic Pictures to fire all their employees and hire them back after New Year's so they wouldn't have to pay them holiday pay. Republic billed itself on its business cards as The Friendly Studio.

1972- The Immaculate Reception. Football’s Pittsburgh Steelers were trailing the Oakland Raiders 7-6 with one second to go when they scored a touchdown and won 13-7.

1973- Soap Opera “Young and The Restless” premiered.