Donald Knuth's Christmas pi surprise

Jon Cog writes, "For Christmas, mathematician Donald Knuth shared some great geeky fun. He revealed how for the last 57 years, he's been incorporating the digits of pi into the exercises of his computer programming books -- a whopping 1,700 times. And before long his annual 'Christmas Tree' lecture 'had turned into a kind of intellectual funhouse,' sharing other mind-boggling pi-related miscellanies." Read the rest

Does the creepy Santa mask from "It's a Wonderful Life" exist somewhere?

"What's even the point of having an Internet if I can't buy a replica kid's plastic Santa Claus mask from 'It's a Wonderful Life'?" That's the question my friend Evan Prodromou recently posed on Facebook. He then tagged me in the comments, "I'm pretty sure Rusty Blazenhoff could find these if I asked her."

Well, I don't anything about them or where to find them but I'm always up for a challenge. So, I went to my expert-in-all-things-novelty friend David Wahl, the Director of Awesome for Archie McPhee, and asked if he knew anything about the masks. I figured if anyone would know, it would be him. His response made me chuckle. He told me it's something he and Shana Iverson, the company's High Priestess of Rubber Chickens have already discussed. Because, of course they have!

This is what he knows:

"It’s papier mâché, so it probably wouldn’t have survived unless someone took special care of it. We haven’t seen them anywhere in any catalog or weird show. I think it was made just for the movie. It also could just be a local item to LA during Christmas that year. There were tons of small companies doing stuff like that."

Sounds right. Just to see, I searched on the internet for any mention of the masks.

In a Movieweb interview from 2006, Jimmy Hawkins, the child actor who played Tommy Bailey in the 1946 film, recalls the masks being uncomfortable:

"...I also remember sitting on Jimmy Stewart's lap.

Read the rest

The world's first Christmas movie is a silent one made in 1898

While looking up something else on YouTube, I came across Santa Claus, the world's first Christmas movie! This British silent film, a little over a minute long, was made in 1898 and was directed by George Albert Smith, a "stage hypnotist, psychic, magic lantern lecturer, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, inventor" and noted film pioneer. It was considered a technical marvel in its time and definitely worth a watch.

Michael Brooke of BFI National Archive reports that the movie had "considerable technical ambition and accomplishment for its period," and that it "uses pioneering visual effects in its depiction of a visit from St. Nicholas." He also writes that it is "believed to be the cinema's earliest known example of parallel action and, when coupled with double-exposure techniques that Smith had already demonstrated in the same year's The Mesmerist (1898) and Photographing a Ghost (1898), the result is one of the most visually and conceptually sophisticated British films made up to then."

In this picture you see two children being placed in bed by a maid, lights are then shut off. Santa Claus enters the room from the fireplace and proceeds to trim the tree. He then fills the stockings that were previously hung on the mantle by the children. After walking backward and surveying his work, he suddenly darts at the fireplace and disappears up the chimney. This film surprises everyone and leaves them to wonder how old St. Nicholas disappears.

Read the rest

Listen to the Christmas Eve message from the first humans orbiting another world (1968)

On Christmas Eve, 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, the first humans to orbit another world, delivered a Christmas Eve message from above the lunar surface. From NASA:

"We were told that on Christmas Eve we would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice," recalled Borman during 40th anniversary celebrations in 2008. "And the only instructions that we got from NASA was to do something appropriate." "The firs

t ten verses of Genesis is the foundation of many of the world's religions, not just the Christian religion," added Lovell. "There are more people in other religions than the Christian religion around the world, and so this would be appropriate to that and so that's how it came to pass."

The mission was also famous for the iconic "Earthrise" image, snapped by Anders, which would give humankind a new perspective on their home planet. Anders has said that despite all the training and preparation for an exploration of the moon, the astronauts ended up discovering Earth.

Read the rest

In 1986, MTV reunited the Monkees for a "Christmas Medley"

Former MTV Veejay Martha Quinn is now a deejay and blogger for iHeart80s. On Friday, she posted a bunch of holiday videos from her MTV days, including this gem that reunites the Monkees for a weird medley from Christmas Eve 1986. She writes:

This Monkees video is historic for Monkees fans as it reunited Monkee Mike Nesmith with Monkees Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz!

In the world of MTV this video gives a peek into a new era. We’re welcoming VJs Carolyn Heldman and Downtown Julie Brown, but by this time we’d said good-bye to original VJs JJ Jackson and Nina Blackwood which was part of the transformation to MTV phase 2, that would include Head Banger’s Ball host Adam Curry, VJ Kevin Seal, and Yo! MTV Raps hosts Ed Lover and Doctor Dré. This was our last Christmas video.

But guess what…out of the blue along would come something called “The Internet” and “YouTube.” Thanks to them we can enjoy these videos all over again!!

Eighties fans will enjoy following Martha on Twitter. Read the rest

Robot Reindeer Happy Holidays

A classic robotics video from Boston Dynamics in 2015.

Think of how much more developed the robots are now!

Yikes.

[YouTube] Read the rest

The Fruity Pebbles Christmas commercial that implies Fred poisoned Barney

This commercial packs a lot of narrative into 29 seconds. Fred feeds Santa, Barney burglarizes Fred's home to steal food, and Santa convinces Fred to forgive Barney. Well, Fred seems to forgive Barney, but watch him only pretend to eat a mouthful of cereal at the end:

Spotted by Michael Blaiklock, who has correctly been haunted by the implications of the commercial for years:

Read the rest

And now, eight hours of vintage department store holiday music

Consider your every waking moment to be haunted, from this point on. Read the rest

My annual Daddy-Daughter Xmas Podcast: interview with an 11-year-old

Every year, I record a short podcast with my daughter, Poesy. Originally, we'd just sing Christmas carols, but with Poesy being nearly 12, we've had a moratorium on singing. This year, I interviewed Poe about her favorite Youtubers, books, apps, and pass-times, as well as her feelings on data-retention (meh) and horses (love 'em). And we even manage to squeeze in a song! Read the rest

Santa Claus is a psychedelic mushroom

One fantastic and wonderful origin theory of Santa Claus involves psychedelic mushrooms and shamanic rituals of the indigenous Sámi people who live in northern Finland. Paul Devereux wrote about this incredible hidden history in his fascinating 2008 book The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia. Then, Brooklyn filmmaker Matthew Salton blew mainstream minds with this fantastic New York Times "Op-Doc" short video on the topic.

For more on psychedelic Santa, check out the following pieces by Greg Taylor at the Daily Grail:

• "Santa is a Psychedelic Mushroom: Were Modern Christmas Traditions Influenced by Shamanic Folklore?"

• Santa's Long Trip Read the rest

Trump impeachment heads to Senate, but...

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald J. Trump last night. The 45th President of the United States became the third ever to be impeached last night, on abuse of power, and obstruction of justice.

What's next? The impeachment process goes to the Senate, where the President goes on trial. Read the rest

New Jersey waitress surprised with $1200 tip in Christmas act of kindness

“I really hope this shows people that there’s power in community and all it takes is a group of friends to come together and change someone else’s life.”

3D printed "model kits" as Christmas cards

McChristian says, "Rather than send/give out Holiday Cards this year, I decided to make punch and assemble Holiday 'kits.' The sleigh and reindeer were models found on Thingiverse, and I designed/printed the evergreen tree and the label." Read the rest

Airport security made a Christmas tree out of confiscated items

Security officers at Lithuania's Vilnius Airport built a Christmas tree from "items that are prohibited to carry in hand luggage and which were taken away from passengers during screening."

"With knives, scissors, lighters, blades and all other sorts of dangerous goods on it - this Christmas tree has it all," they wrote on LinkedIn.

Read the rest

'I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth' and other Cthulhuian Yuletide classics

Oh tidings of madness and woe. Gather 'round the Necronomicon, little cultists, and let's all sing these beloved holiday odes to Elder Gods. All the classics are here: "I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth," "Freddy the Red-Brained Mi-Go," "All I Want for Solstice is my Sanity," and "Awake Ye Scary Old Ones." And who can ever forget that rubber-room holiday favorite "Away in a Madhouse?"

These songs were all created by members of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. You can hear more via this YouTube link.

[H/t Geeks Are Sexy] Read the rest

Church nativity scene puts the holy family in cages, because that's how America deals with asylum-seekers like Christ

Jesus and his fam were refugees, so it's only fitting that the folks at Claremont United Methodist Church decided to put its nativity figures in cages behind razorwire. Read the rest

Bid on the "Neural Network Reindeer" and other one of a kind Christmas tree ornaments for charity

WorkOf recruited 50 independent designers to create one-of-a-kind holiday ornaments for auction at website Paddle8. Proceeds will be donated to Scope of Work, "a social impact company with the purpose of making the creative industry more inclusive."

In addition to RUD-075, The Neural Network Reindeer by Art and Guile, my favorites include Waterdrop Miniture Ornament, The Dark Crystal, Bag in a Tree, and Moonrise:

See all the ornaments Paddle8">here.

(Via Fast Company.) Read the rest

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