When you think of the arts at Christmas, two things come to mind: The Nutcracker, a mainstay for ballets large and small around the world, and A Christmas Carol, which has become its equivalent in the theater world. The Charles Dickens classic is not only sentimental, it’s a centerpiece of many American theater company budgets well beyond the holidays.
That’s especially true for the Goodman Theater in Chicago, where A Christmas Carol has been on the annual bill for the last 35 years. Performances of A Christmas Carol, by far its biggest production of the year, often sell out at the Goodman’s theater center in the Loop. And, for the past six years, a celebrity performer has joined the cast one night to trod the boards for charity.
This year, the moment comes on Friday night, when former Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen will don a Victorian costume to take part in select scenes of the show. He’ll be joined by seven-year-old La’Ren Kimble, whose participation is being made possible through Make A Wish Chicago.
Pippen joins a lineup of Chicago sports and television figures who’ve taken part in A Christmas Carol, including Chicago White Sox Manager Robin Ventura and Blackhawks star Bobby Hull. Meanwhile, actors who’ve performed in it include ER’s Laura Innes, Elizabeth Perkins of Big fame, and respected Broadway performer Raul Esparza.
Choosing which wine to serve over the holidays is a task one either relishes or fears. For the wine lover, it is a joyous, indulgent treat that begins weeks before and requires hours of research. Websites, merchant catalogs and wine columnists’ tips are all read, choices are circled, calls are made and orders placed. When the day finally arrives, family and friends are in for a thrill as the avid oenophile debates the merits of a Chablis reviewed in the press or a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon recommended by a friend. For the majority, the task can be a complex and overwhelming experience.
Whereas the ingredients for a traditional Christmas lunch have changed very little—turkey, goose, guinea fowl, beef or roast ham—followed by a rich fruit pudding, tart or gingerbread, the landscape for wine has been transformed beyond recognition.
Thirty years ago, our choice was limited to a handful of European wine-producing countries and California. These days, choosing a red wine to pair with your turkey could take you to the foothills of the Andes, the vineyards of Oregon or the sunny valleys of Australia. Such is the swathe of wines on offer that one could be forgiven for asking whether there is a country in the world that doesn’t produce wine. From Chilean Merlot to Tasmanian sparkling wine, the unlimited choice is, in reality, confusing and paralyzing. The good news is that in today’s fiercely competitive wine market, with savvy buyers, improved winemaking techniques and considerable capital investment, buying a bad bottle of wine is surprisingly difficult. For the modern consumer, the challenge isn’t to avoid the undrinkable but to find that interesting bottle that will inspire the taste buds and impress your guests.
It’s that season again, when parents begin the scramble for the next toy their child can’t live without.
While there’s no breakout hot toy for Christmas this year — so far — as parents know, that doesn’t mean the most popular presents will be easy to find. This year, stores are being cautious with inventory, so some toys might be scarce on store shelves when the holidays get nearer.
But never fear: Here are some strategies to make sure that whatever toy your child wants, from the latest Monster High doll or robotic Furby pet to the child-size LeapPad Explorer, is under the tree — without having to pay exorbitantly on eBay or elsewhere.
SHOP EARLY: Toy makers and retailers are working more diligently than ever to ensure that there won’t be a large oversupply of toys after the holidays are over, which ends up costing them money. Jim Silver, an analyst at Timetoplaymag.com, predicts the hottest toys will be scarce by Dec. 1 — a time when many people are just starting to think about Christmas gifts. So even though you’re child’s thoughts may still be on Halloween, now is the time to figure out what he or she wants and start shopping.
MAKE A RESERVATION: Fortunately, this year stores are making it easy to shop early, with layaway services and other offers. So even if you don’t have the cash yet, you can still start shopping. Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and Kmart have dropped fees, minimum balances, and other requirements to make it easier than ever to use layaway programs. In addition, Toys R Us this year launched a “hot toy” reservation system, which lets parents reserve hot toys before they even hit shelves.
Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse (the end of humankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt.)
Strange Random Consumerism Quote:
You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy. – Eric Hoffer
- Consumerism with no criticism (sugar0kat.wordpress.com)
- Me, You, & Christmas (mejonez.wordpress.com)
- Rev. Billy: What you don’t need to buy for Christmas (or Hanukah, or whatever) (forbes.com)
- The – only – good thing about Christmas. (lindeay.wordpress.com)
- Putting Christ Back into a Consumer-driven Christmas? (bobcornwall.com)
- Eric Hoffer Award (digitalebookformatting.wordpress.com)
Each year, Jan. 1 falls on a different day of the week, and the entire following year shifts accordingly. Schools, sports teams, businesses and banks spend many hours and millions of dollars calculating on what day of the week certain dates will fall, to schedule holidays and set interest rates.
It doesn’t need to be that complicated, say an astrophysicist and applied economist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They have a proposal to make schedules simpler: a permanent calendar in which each 12-month period is exactly as the year before, on into perpetuity.
The extra days created by the Earth’s inconvenient 365.242-day orbit around the sun would be dealt with not by adding Feb. 29 for leap years, but by a leap week tacked onto the calendar at the end of December every five to six years.
“It would simplify things enormously,” says Richard Conn Henry, the professor of applied physics at Johns Hopkins who first proposed the idea in 2004. This past year he began to discuss the idea further with a colleague, Steve Hanke, a Johns Hopkins economics professor.
The result is the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, which they proposed in December. In it, March, June, September and December would have 31 days, all the rest 30. Christmas would always fall on a Sunday. Halloween would become Oct. 30 and always fall on a Monday.
Hanke, who has helped seven countries introduce new currencies, estimates the change could save “roughly $130 billion” merely by decreasing the chance of interest-calculation errors resulting from incorrectly counting the number of days in a given month.
Strange Random Calendar Quote:
Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. – Charles Richards
- Johns Hopkins Professors Want To Ditch Leap Year, Overhaul Calendar (inquisitr.com)
- Why researchers want to overhaul the Gregorian calendar (mnn.com)
- Is It Time to Overhaul the Calendar? (scientificamerican.com)
- The Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar (halfblog.net)
- Scientists’ proposed calendar synchronizes dates with days (edition.cnn.com)
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Strange Random Santa Quote:
- NORAD Santa Tracker 2011: Google Maps Helps You Keep An Eye On Santa This … (huffingtonpost.com)
- Where’s Santa Claus? The 2011 Santa Tracker List, From NORAD To Your Phone! (searchengineland.com)
- Santa Claus is the internet! (aleksandreia.wordpress.com)
- Norad Santa tracker 2011: Santa Claus visits the South Pacific (VIDEO, photos) (examiner.com)
- Tribal DDB San Francisco : SiriClaus [Video] (scaryideas.com)
- NORAD ready to track Santa Claus again (news.cnet.com)
- The psychedelic origins of Santa Claus (boingboing.net)
- Santa Claus: How-To Send A Message From Santa’s Phone to Your Kids, Friends or Family (ibtimes.com)
- Last.fm Trends Christmas Classics: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (wcbsfm.radio.com)
- We’ll be watching you, Santa (vancouversun.com)
- Secular Santa Claus is Coming to Town: What’s so Christian about Santa Claus? (witchesofthecraft.com)
- Santa Claus More Important Than Ever, Poll Confirms (newsfeed.time.com)
There might not be enough snow for snowmen, but there’s a straw man who returns at this time of year no matter the weather. It’s the “war on Christmas,” the tedious complaint of a few politically sensitive Christians who simultaneously insist a) that every home or business owner, regardless of his or her own religious beliefs, should decorate and otherwise make public gestures of support for this Christian holiday, and b) that the holiday is becoming too watered down, too secular, too divorced from Christian theology.
Every decision not to decorate or sing is interpreted as a “ban.” The well-meaning coworker who chirps, “Happy Holidays!” is labelled an anti-Christian bigot. Everyone must decorate. There can be no exceptions. When a school bus company operating in Eastern Ontario forbids decorations in its buses for safety reasons, it isn’t enough for MPP Randy Hillier to criticize the policy, which is indeed overzealous and over-broad. No, he mounts a “pro-Christmas protest” against “this attack on and erosion of our traditions.”
Christmas seems to be doing just fine, with or without Randy Hillier’s support. And there isn’t any lack of people saying “Merry Christmas” in stores and workplaces.
Strange Random Christmas Quote:
Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home. – Carol Nelson
- Merry CHRISTmas! (rubythursdays.wordpress.com)
- What’s in a name (redux) (middleschoolap.wordpress.com)
- Merry Christmas and, Yes, Happy Holidays (gasp!) (rghernandezpen.com)
- James Peron: Why I Gave Up Christmas (huffingtonpost.com)
- Merry Christmas! Where is My Gift? (socyberty.com)
- One Jew’s Christmas (themoderatevoice.com)