Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: My Year in Review

Well, another year is coming to an end. If you’d asked if I thought I’d still be writing this blog almost two years later, I would’ve said “HELL NO I HAVE COMMITMENT ISSUES.” While it’s true that I do have commitment issues, I guess they’re not as bad as I thought.

Last year I just made up a bunch of stuff, and did it badly, besides. I mean, I don’t know, I’m not gonna re-read last year’s “year in review” post because my initial feeling about it was that it was bad, and I don’t wanna risk going off on a failure-induced drinking binge. I know we’re all aware of major world events that have occurred over the past 12 months, so I’m not going to insult your intelligence by reminding you that stuff happened. No, this year I’m gonna get personal, and talk about What Happened to Me, which I’m sure you’ll all find fascinating.

Please, calm yourselves.

I Quit Smoking

As regular readers will have noticed, I quit smoking on 19 January 2011. I had been a smoker for an embarrassingly long time. Even though I’ve stopped, I’m still convinced that every cough, sneeze, sore throat and random chest pain means I’ve got lung cancer. I’ve also been informed that I will probably still get cancer, emphysema, COPD or some other nasty lung disease when I get old. Yay.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't quit, kids!

My Grandmother Died

RIP Grandma :'(

My Right Leg Shriveled Up, Then Grew Back

Okay, that’s not as bad as it sounds. When I say “shriveled up,” I really mean, “atrophied,” which occurred because of a pinched nerve in my back. I had to buy a standing desk and everything.  The leg muscle grew back, but I’m still having nerve pain and numbness in my legs and feet, and hip pain, and back pain, and walking is kind of hard sometimes, so if you see me with a cane, PLEASE DON’T ASK.

I seriously refrain from using one so I won't have to explain it to people.

I Bought a House

Sometimes I wish I’d bought an RV instead of a house, and by sometimes, I mean fucking daily. Don’t get me wrong, I like my house. I like having rooms and a bed that does not also convert into a kitchen table. Living in a stationary dwelling has some advantages. My stuff doesn’t fly out of my cupboards when I take a sharp turn. I don’t get drunk and forget where I left my place of residence. But it’s so goddamned boring, you know?

My cake: I want to eat it, too.

I Turned 30

That’s right, I’m a dried up old hag now, and my life is over. Please, feel free to make insulting remarks about my age and question my life choices. Here are some suggestions:
  • So, did you decide you want a baby yet?
  • Why aren’t you married?
  • You’re not getting any younger, you know.
  • You have to grow up sometime.
  • Don’t you think you’re a little old for __?
  • Oh, you’re 30 again?
You could also take a stab at guessing my age, or ask if the fully-grown adult in my company is my son or daughter.

I'm not so crippled I can't beat you with this.

I Got a New Cat (*SIGH*)

Yes, yes, my stars aligned and out came a cat. He bites. I’m bleeding as a write this.

My Facebook friends say he's cute, he's just photogenic.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #57: New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Happy New Year everybody! Don’t get too excited, there are still three more days of stupid old 2012 to get through. But hey, at least the world didn’t end, right?

What if it did, and I slept through it?

1) In Austria, people celebrate the New Year by eating suckling pig and decorating the table with candy pigs called marzipanschwein.

Look at this cute shit. ~ Alice Weigand

It’s possible that the mid-Atlantic peppermint pig tradition evolved from this one.

2) Many countries, including France, traditionally eat a special cake on New Year’s Eve, Christmas or Epiphany (6 January). In France, the cake is a puffy pastry filled with almond paste (frangipane), and looks like this:


The cakes, known as “king cakes” in the cultures where they are eaten, are served to “draw the kings” to the Epiphany.

"Oooh, I didn't realize there would be cake!"

A trinket, historically a broad bean but now more often a small plastic or porcelain figurine, is baked into the cake. Throughout the Middle Ages, whoever found the bean in their slice of cake was named the King of the Bean and given to preside over the rest of the evening’s festivities. By the 19th century, many cultures began putting symbolic tokens in their cakes, meant to tell the fortunes of their finders. Finding a ring in one’s slice of cake, for instance, foretold of a marriage in the coming year, while a thimble doomed the finder to spinsterhood.

I chose this picture because I liked it.

3) In the Philippines, it’s traditional to wear fabric with circular prints, like polka dots, to attract good luck and wealth in the New Year. Revelers may also throw coins into the air at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to ensure prosperity in the year to come, and eat round or circular fruits on New Year’s Day. People who are, presumably, too short may ensure vertical growth by jumping high into the air on the stroke of midnight.

Now that's just silly. ~ Marco Gomes

4) People in countries all over the world, including Spain, Italy, China and Venezuela, traditionally wear red underwear on New Year’s Day. In Spain, Italy and China, wearing red underwear on New Year’s Day brings good luck and wealth. In China, you’re advised to wear red underwear daily for best results. In Venezuela, wearing red underwear on New Year’s Day will bring you true love, while wearing yellow underwear will bring you wealth. So, if you’re a gold digger, I guess you’d wear orange.

It looks better on the model.

5) In Japan, people prepare for the coming year by cleaning the house thoroughly, paying all of their debts, and resolving all of their arguments. This is, incidentally, the most sensible tradition I’ve heard of yet.

On 1 January, people observe hatsuhinode, or the “firsts” of the year. They begin by watching the year’s first sunrise and perhaps going to a shrine or temple, if they’re so inclined. They also lend special significance to other firsts of the new year, such as the first laugh or smile, the first letter, the first dream, the first work, the first tea ceremony and the first shopping trip.

I like to spend New Year's Day nursing my first hangover.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #56: Apocalypse Edition Round Two

As faithful readers will have noticed, this isn’t the first apocalypse we’ve seen since I started this blog. I dutifully covered the Harold Camping Judgment Day of May 2011, and, when that didn’t happen, I covered the Harold Camping Rescheduling of Judgment Day for October 2011. I also totally called it RE: the apocalypse not actually being today, but as usual, nobody ever listens to me.

I wasn’t going to do an apocalypse facts post again, becauseI’ve already done one before, to commemorate the last apocalypse. Then I thought, well, you know, there have been enough apocalypses (is that the proper term? Should it be apocalypsae?) to do another post, and I’m kind of running out of Christmas-themed ideas, anyway. One of my friends was all, “Well, we might not get another apocalypse” and I was all “Oh come on, we totally will,” I mean, shit, I can personally remember at least five, and that’s not even counting the ones that happened when I was still too little to notice that the world was about to end.

What if it did end, and the government covered it up?

So I guess I’m risking not having anything to blog about the next time the world ends, but whatevs. I’ll take that chance.

1) Many Biblical scholars believe that, when Jesus said He was coming back, he meant soon. Albert Schweitzer, Johannes Weiss, Alfred Loisy, Dale Allison, E.P.Sanders and others who have studied the Bible pretty hard feel that some of Jesus’s statements seem to indicate that He expected to be bringing the Kingdom of God a long time ago. Specifically, Matthew 16:28 and Matthew 24:34, where he seems to indicate the Second Coming will occur within one generation of his “death”. Early, first-century Christians, including Paul the Apostle, would have expected the Second Coming to occur within their lifetimes.

How disappointed they must have been.

Early Christians didn’t give up on the idea of an imminent Second Coming. A second century sect, the Montanists, believed that Christ would be back any day now. So did Saint Hilary of Poitiers, a third century bishop who had the Second Coming slated for 365 AD. A contemporary, Saint Martin of Tours, agreed that Christ would return before the year 400 AD. And on and on and on, with somebody predicting the Second Coming at least once a century ever since.

2) Cotton Mather, the Puritan dude from my last post, predicted the end of the world no less than three times, in 1697, 1716 and 1736. Now, I know he’s not the only person to have predicted the Apocalypse more than once, but you’d think you’d just give up, you know?

He also totally backed witch-burning.

3) The Millerites were followers of Baptist lay preacher William Miller. In 1822, Miller predicted the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world “on or before 1843.” Eventually he gave in to pressure from his ever-growing following and narrowed it down to sometime between 21 March 1843 and 21 March 1844. When the entire year passed without apocalyptic events, Miller announced that he had miscalculated the Apocalypse by using the wrong calendar, and convinced his followers that new, correct calculations led to a new, correct prediction of the End of All Things on 18 April 1844.

When, again, the world steadfastly continued to exist, Miller’s followers became antsy. Many of them had given away everything they owned in anticipation of the Rapture. Miller managed to hold them off for another few months by announcing that the Rapture had already begun, and that they were experiencing the “tarrying,” a period of waiting for things to really kick off. A third and final calculation, Miller said, placed the real, actual date of the Rapture on 22 October 1844.

When the date came and went without Rapture, Miller’s followers, and people in general, were so upset that the fallout came to be known as the Great Disappointment. Millerites experienced harassment and assault at the hands of the general public. Their churches were burned, some of them were tarred and feathered, and, it’s said, even little children taunted them in the streets. Most of the Millerites abandoned their leaders to return to their previous churches or join the Shakers. Others continued to wait for the return of Christ, as did Miller himself until his death in 1849.


Some advanced varying theories of what had happened – the world had entered a “Great Sabbath” during which no believer should work for a thousand years (ha ha, nice one); the saved should behave like children, based on the words of Jesus, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it;” Christ was waiting to be “prayed down” to Earth, because He’s pouty like that. The Advent Christian Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church eventually emerged from the chaos.

4) Halley’s Comet passed by the Earth in 1910 and 1987, and both times, people predicted dire consequences. In 1910, Camille Flammarion predicted the end! Of all life! On Earth! Apparently the comet did come especially close that year, so I won’t tease him like I was planning to.


In the 1980s, Leland Jensen, religious leader and known failed apocalypse predictor, predicted that Halley’s Comet, the comet that has passed through the inner solar system every 75-76 years for millennia without bothering anybody, would suddenly up and collide with the Earth in 1987. It did not.

It did shout "Fuck you Leland Jensen" as it went by, though.

5) Seventeenth-century Irish bishop James Ussher predicted the end of the world would occur on 23 October 1997, because, according to him, that date would mark 6,000 years since the creation of the world. I’m not sure why he thought 6,000 years was a good expiration date for the world, but I’m guessing it’s easy to predict Armageddon when it’s three or four hundred years away.


6) I think most of you will remember the Heaven’s Gate cult founded by Marshall Applewhite in the early 1970s. Followers believed that the Earth was about to be “recycled,” or, you know, wiped clean of all life. Furthermore, they believed that they were, in fact, extraterrestrial beings who would be saved from the destruction of Earth when they advanced to the “Next Level” by rejecting all earthly attachments and shedding their physical “vehicle.”  When Comet Hale-Bopp passed by the Earth in 1997, Applewhite convinced his followers that a space ship was following the comet and that they all needed to commit suicide so that their souls could board the ship.

On 26 March 1997, police discovered 39 dead cult members, including Applewhite himself, in a San Diego mansion. They committed suicide by swallowing sedatives and vodka, mixed with pudding or applesauce. Most of the victims were also smothered with plastic bags. Creepily, the mass suicide took place in three shifts over three days, with the survivors helping their friends (kill themselves!) and cleaning up after them. Two groups of fifteen offed themselves on the first two days, and a final group of nine on the last day. They were all found lying neatly in their bunk beds, dressed in identical costumes. Each one carried a five dollar bill and three quarters, which is just the kind of morbid detail I find fascinating.

Was it for cab fare?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Won the War

Well, it’s Christmastime again, and you know what that means – it means at least some of your Facebook friends are shitting great big glittery, festive bricks because, apparently, there are people out there who – brace yourselves – people out there who – gasp! – don’t say Merry Christmas!

There, there, just take a moment to catch your breath.

Feeling better? Great!

The issue, of course, is that not everyone celebrates Christmas, or some people celebrate only for secular reasons, but many of the 73% of Americans who identify as Christian just can’t sleep at night knowing that other people are going around blithely and happily not worshipping Christ, and even worse, having that choice respected by society and the law.


That’s got to be the issue, because no one has ever knocked on my door and told me that I can’t say “Merry Christmas” anymore or have a “Christmas” tree or give “Christmas” presents, and I haven’t seen anything in the news about there being any new laws against Christmas or anything, and you damn well know you would have, because Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

To hear some people tell it, Christians are more offended by people not saying “Merry Christmas” than non-Christians are by people saying it. Of course, as I’ve said before, 91% of the people in this country celebrate Christmas, including more than half of atheists, probably because it’s much, much easier to shut up and be jolly than it is to spend like, the rest of your life arguing over whether or not you should be “allowed” to skip a holiday you don’t believe in or, for that matter, go around not believing in God like some kind of chump.


The whole “War on Christmas” thing came about as a result of government and corporate entities deciding to show some respect to the irreligious and members of other religions, by doing the absolute bare minimum, which is acknowledging that they exist.  Those who coined the term “War on Christmas” did so in the time-honored tradition of Americans declaring “war” on things that can’t actually be bombed or shot at, like Poverty, Drugs, Terror and Women.

Well, okay, women.

Certain people use this handy phrase to get a lot of attention from the sort of people who really would get angry if told to have a Happy Non-Specific, Possibly Secular but Most Likely Religiously Significant Holiday If You’re Into That Sort of Thing, and it helps boost ratings and book sales for certain people who, if you believe them, are smarter than you.

The rest of us are rolling our eyes. Christmas is a federally recognized public holiday, after all. Kids sing Christmas carols in secular public schools. The freaking President even puts up Christmas trees in the White House – so many, in fact, that the same people who bitch about the “War on Christmas” also bitch about Obama having too many Christmas trees, as if this made any sense at all.

They all face Mecca, is what I hear.

Some people claim that godless heathens invented the abbreviation “Xmas” in order to “take the Christ out of Christmas” so that they can keep on wantonly co-opting the holiday while still totally shitting those who find it sacred. I don’t really understand why you’d bother celebrating a holiday you don’t like, unless you’re being forced to, which is a whole nother issue.

Fortunately, those "keep the Christ in Christmas" people don’t have to get offended, because they’re wrong. The letter X has been used as a Christogram, or symbol for Christ, since at least the 1500s. It stands for the Greek letter chi, the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, Χριστός. That link goes back to the Hot Word blog, instead of to the relevant article on Snopes, because the kind of people who believe there’s a war on Christmas are the same kind of people who think that Snopes is a slave to the liberal agenda.


I’m not even getting into the pagan origins of Christmas. I once mentioned the subject to a friend in public and then turned around to find a random person glaring daggers at me, so if I blog about it I’ll probably find dead cats in my mail tomorrow. Suffice to say that the celebration of Christ’s birth, in the modern fashion and at this particular time of year, does have its origin in pre-Christian religious practices, which was enough to get it banned in a real War on Christmas that occurred in the New England colonies back when we were British and the Puritans were mucking everything up with their boring clothes and witch-burning.

At the time, England itself was led by a Puritan Parliament, and traditional Christmas celebrations like dancing, drinking and singing were banned. Rioting followed, not surprisingly, and Christmas was reinstated in 1660. In the Puritan colonies, Christmas was banned from 1659 to 1681. In Plymouth colony, celebrating Christmas was a crime, Christmas decorations were considered unholy, and town criers even made a point of hollering “No Christmas!” through the streets of the town on Christmas Eve, just to be dicks about it. 

Even after pressure from non-Puritan colonists led to the reinstatement of Christmas, Protestants continued to view the celebrations as blasphemous until late in the 19th century. In New England, some schools and businesses remained open on Christmas Day until the holiday earned federal recognition in 1870. Some historians think that, even then, it only gained acceptance because contemporary culture had relabeled it as "for the children."

So, if you’re pissed that someone wished you “Happy Holidays,” shut up.

This guy wants a word, blasphemer. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fun Friday Facts: #55: Christmas Tree Edition

I didn’t want to write this blog post. When I heard about the shootings in Connecticut today, and especially when I watched Facebook react to the shootings in Connecticut today, I was angry, and I wanted to write a rant. But then I drank some tea and calmed down instead. It’s not as if I was going to say anything that hasn’t already been said, far more eloquently than I would say it, and using far fewer “fucks.” It happens, and everyone argues about gun control for a day or two, but in the end nothing’s done about it and all we can do is hope it’s not our kids next time, because this is America, where people get shot because freedom.

 Here are your Christmas tree facts:

Fact one: They are a fire hazard.

1) 30 million Real Christmas Trees are sold in the US every year. This fact comes from the National Christmas Tree Association, the USDA and “your local Christmas tree professional.” I don’t know why these people feel the need to capitalize the term, but they do.

Actually, the National Christmas Tree Association would really, really like us all to buy Real Christmas Trees every year. One for every room, it sounds like. They point out that Real Christmas Trees are grown in “all 50 states and Canada,” just in case you’re originally Canadian and really patriotic when it comes to sourcing Christmas trees. They go on to point out that 80% of artificial trees are made in China (gasp!) and furthermore, that are not biodegradable and might contain lead, which honestly wouldn’t surprise me.

In case you’re worried about the environmental ramifications of Christmas tree farming, Real Christmas Trees are renewable and recyclable. Not sure what you recycle them as…mulch? Yeah, probably mulch.

100,000 people are employed in the Christmas tree industry in the US, so, it’s a job creator. The average growing time is seven years (holy shit!). There are currently at least 350 million Real Christmas Trees growing in the United States at any given time, and one to three new trees are planted to replace each one that is harvested.

They're not taking any fucking chances.

2) The practice of using a Christmas tree dates back to pre-Christian times. Back in the day, people used to drag in evergreen plants because it made them feel better about all the other plants being dead. The ancient Egyptians, who are practically the poster-children for sun-worship, decorated their homes with green palm rushes during the winter months to symbolize their particular brand of the “life triumphs over death” mythology.

Early Romans also used evergreen boughs as home décor in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Druids and Vikings also shared the belief that evergreen plants symbolized everlasting life, and believed that the solstice was a good time to display them since the days start getting longer again at that point.

Is that right? I always get confused about the solstice thing.

3) As I’ve mentioned before, Christmas wasn’t popular in early America, because it was seen as a British thing and because Puritan settlers weren’t so big on “pagan” Christmas traditions. In fact, Puritan colonists in New England even made laws against celebrating Christmas for a time. Oh, if they could see us now.

German-Americans brought the Christmas tree tradition with them, and used it in their own homes from the 1700s on, although much of the rest of America still regarded them as pagan and probably evil until the 1840s, when German Prince Albert brought Christmas trees to court in London. By that time, apparently, the distaste for British customs had already turned to the sort of fascination that makes little kids dress up in their parents’ clothes, because we couldn’t wait to get us some Christmas trees and by the 20th century, they were all the rage.

4) Early Christmas trees were decorated with cookies, nuts, apples or handmade ornaments. Before electricity was invented, small candles were used to light the trees. According to Wikipedia, the Christmas tree skirt originated as a means of catching the wax drippings.

5) One of the things that has always bothered me is weird colored Christmas trees, which basically means any kind of tree that isn’t green. Artificial trees go back to the 1840s in Germany, when deforestation forced the Germans to improvise by crafting “feather trees” using turkey, ostrich, goose or swan feathers. Some Victorians built trees by wrapping cotton batting around dead branches. When Christmas was over, the branches could be burned or thrown away, and the cotton batting stored for another year.  In 1959, aluminum trees came into fashion, and were soon available in pink, of all fucking colors. At least you can say the white ones look like they're covered in snow.

What fuck is wrong with you people? ~ Kirsten Skiles

The latest craze is upside-down Christmas trees which are bolted to the ceiling, because putting up a Christmas tree was too easy as it was. I have seen them billed as “cat proof” by people who don’t understand cats.

At least it's not pink. ~ amberdeel

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Gifts that Sucked

Every year at Christmastime, people around the world gather together to celebrate the birth of Jesus/winter solstice/school holidays/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/the day off from work, and part of that celebration involves exchanging gifts. Of course, buying a gift for someone else can be harder than it sounds. It’s often difficult to know what someone else will enjoy, especially if, like me, you spend the rest of the year avoiding the people you must now buy gifts for, or you’ve got one of those “man who has everything” situations to deal with.

Hint: The man who has everything wants a singing fish. Go get him one right now. ~Toby Dylan 

Over the years, I’ve gotten my share of Christmas gifts that kinda sucked. Seriously, I’d rather get nothing than:

Clothes That Are Too Big

It seems like every time someone gives me clothes for Christmas, they’re too big. I don’t mean they’re a size too big. I mean I wear a small/medium and I get an XXXL. When I point out that the clothes are much too big, I get an irritated “Well you weren’t always so thin you know Marjorie” in response.

Actually, I was, bitch.

A Bottle of My Elderly Aunt’s Favorite Perfume

More than once in the past, my oldest aunt has given me a bottle of her favorite perfume for Christmas. I’m not sure if she genuinely thinks I like the perfume, if she isn't aware that other types of perfume exist, or if she simply wants me to re-gift the perfume back to her the following year.

Every year for Christmas, my oldest aunt gets a bottle of her favorite perfume.

Some Bright Red Hooker Lipstick

I got this when I was twelve, and it was “time [for me] to start acting like a lady.”

As far as I'm concerned there are only two shades of lipstick -- "Streetwalker" and "Serial Killer."

Twenty Pounds of Knitting Wool

To be fair, I had asked for some knitting wool that year. I see now that I should have been very, very specific about what I meant by “some.”

Overboard: You went there.

A World Almanac for the Year 1996

To be fair, it was 1996 when I received this gift. It was still kind of a weird thing to get.

My grandma gave it me “because [I was] always calling and asking questions.” She had a set of encyclopedias, which were these things we used to look up information in before there was an Internet.

You've probably never heard of them. ~ Surya Prakash S.A.

For the record, I don’t think I ever managed to find any useful information in the almanac. I was 14, so it wasn’t like I was getting in pub arguments every weekend.

A Washcloth and a Bar of Soap

Really, guys? Really?

Cherry Cordials

When my granddad was alive, bless him, he used to buy everyone the same gift every year – a box of cherry cordials. I, for one, always hated cherry cordials. I should have known he was on his last legs the year he unexpectedly broke the lifelong cherry cordial pattern and gave me twenty bucks instead.

R.I.P Grandad

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #54: Funerals Edition

Okay, so I think I’ve already exhausted all my holiday Fun Facts options with Christmas, Santa Claus, Black Friday and Weird Christmas Traditions. I chose funerals on the advice of Sarah E. Melville because I really needed an idea, but also because the holidays make me want to kill someone.

Which is why I avoid them.

1) Human sacrifice was apparently pretty common in the ancient world, especially in “less civilized” parts of it like everywhere but Europe.  The inhabitants of pre-Christian Fiji believed that their souls, after death, would encounter a demon named Nangga-Nangga who would ask them if they’d been married. If they could prove that they had been, they would be allowed to move on to the afterlife, but if they couldn’t, they would be turned away. A woman who died would be buried with her husband’s beard in order to prove to the demon that she had been married. A dead man, however, would need to be accompanied by the ghost of his actual wife, who would be ritualistically strangled at the funeral and placed in the grave.

But wait, it gets more complicated. The Fijians believed that all spirits were the same age, and furthermore that the demon Nangga-Nangga was kind of gullible, so, often, instead of strangling the dead man’s wife, they would strangle his elderly mother or grandmother instead. She would pose as his wife when they encountered the demon, and so they would both journey into the afterlife together. This was considered more practical than strangling a young, able-bodied widow, especially if some other man had his eye on her. If this were the case, there might be a ritualistic fight between the widow’s brother (or other close male relative) and the potential suitor, in which it was common practice for the male relative to accept a bribe in order to throw the fight. 

If a man died while still a bachelor, and had no acceptable female relatives to be ritually strangled on his behalf, his spirit would be compelled to loiter around until a random woman died, so that he might implore her spirit to accompany him and pose as his wife in front of Nangga-Nangga.

This woman is not my grandmother.

2) Some groups in southern China, the Philippines and Indonesia use hanging coffins, which are coffins that are carved from a single piece of wood and suspended from a sheer cliff face. They’re balanced on natural projections in the rock, hung from beams, or sometimes tucked into small caves. The practice is said to keep animals from defiling the bodies of the dead, and to bring blessings to the soul of the deceased.

...and attract tourists. ~ Kok Leng, Maurice Yeo

3) Beginning in the 17th century and lasting until the dawn of the 20th century in Europe, people would hire “funeral mutes” to stand around at the funeral, looking sad. The funeral mute served as a symbolic champion of dead person, and usually took up a place near the door of the church during the service.


4) In ancient times, and still today in some cultures, professional mourners could be hired to weep, wail and generally grieve excessively at people’s funerals.

As depicted on this stele.

The practice was presumably intended to encourage others to express their grief.

5) Some of you are probably aware that you can now be buried in space. Sadly, they don’t just shoot your whole corpse into orbit, like they did with Spock in The Wrath of Khan. No, they just stick a sample (a sample!) of your cremains into a little tube and shoot that into orbit instead. Like, they can’t even shoot your entire cremains into orbit. What a rip-off.

The company that does this, Celestis, offers several packages, starting at the very reasonable price of $995. For $995, however, you have to come back. If you want to stay in orbit, that costs five grand.

You can send up to seven grams of yourself to space, or seven grams of yourself and seven grams of a loved one (costs triple). For $12,500, they’ll send your dead ass to the Moon, or, if you prefer, straight off into deep space.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #53: Weird Christmas Traditions

A Mother Life

It’s that time of year again – time to put on weight, spend money you don’t have, hang around with people you can’t stand, wear ugly sweaters, drink egg-based cocktails, and argue about religion. That’s right! It’s Christmas!

Yay! ~ Yumi Ang

1) Every year at Christmas time, in the Swedish city of Gävle, the residents erect a goat. The goat is 43 feet (13 meters) tall, 23 feet (7 meters) long, and weighs three tons.

It's a damn bit goat. ~ Tony Nordin

The Gävle goat is a local version of the traditional Yule Goat, a custom which harkens back to the yearly slaughtering of a goat at Yuletide, in honor of the Norse gods. The custom of building a gigantic straw goat goes back to 1966. That first goat was erected on the first of December. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, someone burned it down.

Despite the fact that burning the goat is a crime punishable by imprisonment, it has been burned down roughly every other year since then. Fireproof construction materials and even armed guards have been implemented, to no avail. It’s gotten to the point where the Goat Committee makes provisions for a backup goat, so they can replace it if it gets burned down early in the season, as did the 2011 goat, which lasted only six days.

Goats that have not been burned have been hit by cars, sabotaged and made to collapse, and kicked to pieces. In 1968, a couple allegedly made love inside the goat. To date, the goats have a survival rate of about 45%.

2) Krampus is a Christmas demon who, in Austria and other Alpine regions, accompanies Santa on Christmas Eve.

He's the naughty elf. ~ Anita Martinz

Legend has it that Krampus stuffs naughty children into his sack, carries them away, and EATS THEM FOR CHRISTMAS DINNER.

Austrians: THEY DO NOT FUCK AROUND. ~ Mathias Kabel

It is customary to offer Krampus alcohol. No word on whether that keeps him from eating you.

3) In Catalonia, southern France, Andorra, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and some parts of Italy and Portugal, nativity scenes contain a figurine known as the caganer. It’s generally placed in a discreet corner of the manger, because it’s a little statue of a man taking a shit.

We needed that after the other thing. ~ Steve Cobell

No one knows where the tradition comes from, but you can buy one that looks like Dora the Explorer. Your kids will love it.

4) Berrien Springs, Michigan, is the Christmas pickle capital of the world. A Christmas pickle is a Christmas tree ornament made of glass. On Christmas morning, the children of the family try to spot it amongst the greenness, and the winner gets a prize. Legend has is that the tradition comes from Germany, where “legend” means “marketing gimmick.” Another story goes that German-born Civil War soldier John Lower was imprisoned in the infamous Andersonville POW camp by the Confederates in 1864. On Christmas Eve of that year, the starving soldier begged his guard for a pickle, which the guard provided, and which, the story goes, saved the man’s life.

It was a Christmas miracle.

5) In Wales, around Christmas and New Year’s, wassailing merrymakers go from door to door, singing happily, in the company of a person dressed as a horse.


The horse is known as the Mari Lwyd, which I have no idea how to pronounce, and is most often found in southern and south-eastern parts of the country. The tradition probably goes back to ancient celebrations of the goddess Rhiannon. The Mari party sing traditional songs and Christmas carols, or may engage in lengthy rhyming contests with the inhabitants of the houses they visit. The Mari party always hopes to gain entrance to the house, where they will be plied with food and drink. Entrance is usually granted, since the Mari Lwyn is believed to bring luck to the household.

Merry Christmas. ~ Jan Mehlich