Inventing Xmas

Christmas is over but “the holidays” continue.

As you recover from over-eating, you might enjoy reading about how America’s modern Christmas traditions were born. About.com has a concise guide. One interesting tidbit on the first depiction of the modern Santa:

Santa’s suit features the stars and stripes of the American flag, and he’s distributing Christmas packages to the soldiers. One soldier is holding up a new pair of socks, which might be a boring present today, but would have been a highly prized item in the Army of the Potomac.

Beneath Nast’s illustration was the caption, “Santa Claus In Camp.” Appearing not long after the carnage at Antietam and Fredericksburg, the magazine cover is an apparent attempt to boost morale in a dark time.

If you saw the Colbert Christmas Special, you might remember Toby Keith singing “Santa Claus and Uncle Sam are one and the same.” I guess there was more truth to that than is widely recognized!

Burying the lede?

The NYT has a new article explaining in a decent length how currency-finagling led to a codependent financial relationship between China and the US over the last few years. Yes, that’s all very informative, but as is often the case they slip the best part in towards the end, where most readers will have already given up.

In a glassed-in room in a nondescript office building in Washington, the Treasury conducts nearly daily auctions of billions of dollars’ worth of government bonds. An old Army helmet sits on a shelf: as a lark, Treasury officials have been known to strap it on while they monitor incoming bids.

With a line like that, it’s criminal that the photograph for the article was Secretary Paulson and President Hu wearing boring suits.

Best poll ever?

Friday, December 26, 2008
Teens Skipping Breakfast Tend To Have Sex Earlier In Life: Poll
TOKYO (Kyodo)—A recent national poll of around 1,500 people has shown that those who skipped breakfast in their early teens first had sexual intercourse at an average age of 17.5 years, earlier than 19.4 for those who had breakfast every day and an average 19 for all those polled, according to a health ministry study panel.