Quotulatiousness

December 25, 2017

WW1 Christmas Truce: Letters from the Trenches – Extra History – #2

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, WW1 — Tags: — Nicholas @ 06:00

Extra Credits
Published on 24 Dec 2017

Sponsored by World of Tanks! New players: Download the game and use the code ARMISTICE for free goodies! http://cpm.wargaming.net/ivmqe6kc/?pu…

PLUS! In the spirit of the Christmas Truce, World of Tanks has prepared a gift box for EVERY PLAYER. Redeem the bonus code: HULSE14

“Yesterday there was a fierce and terrible onslaught… of Christmas packages into our trenches.” So began one soldier’s letter home after the Christmas Truce of WWI. These letters give us a peek at the joys and sorrows experienced by troops on deployment, from the pleasure of a surprise holiday truce to the pain of being too long apart from families.

Repost – The market failure of Christmas

Filed under: Economics, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Not to encourage miserliness and general miserability at Christmastime, but here’s a realistic take on the deadweight loss of Christmas gift-giving:

In strict economic terms, the most efficient gift is cold, hard cash, but exchanging equivalent sums of money lacks festive spirit and so people take their chance on the high street. This is where the market fails. Buyers have sub-optimal information about your wants and less incentive than you to maximise utility. They cannot always be sure that you do not already have the gift they have in mind, nor do they know if someone else is planning to give you the same thing. And since the joy is in the giving, they might be more interested in eliciting a fleeting sense of amusement when the present is opened than in providing lasting satisfaction. This is where Billy Bass comes in.

But note the reason for this inefficient spending. Resources are misallocated because one person has to decide what someone else wants without having the knowledge or incentive to spend as carefully as they would if buying for themselves. The market failure of Christmas is therefore an example of what happens when other people spend money on our behalf. The best person to buy things for you is you. Your friends and family might make a decent stab at it. Distant bureaucrats who have never met us — and who are spending other people’s money — perhaps can’t.

So when you open your presents next week and find yourself with another garish tie or an awful bottle of perfume, consider this: If your loved ones don’t know you well enough to make spending choices for you, what chance does the government have?

Repost – “Fairytale of New York”

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Time:

“Fairytale of New York,” The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

This song came into being after Elvis Costello bet The Pogues’ lead singer Shane MacGowan that he couldn’t write a decent Christmas duet. The outcome: a call-and-response between a bickering couple that’s just as sweet as it is salty.

QotD: Sir Humphrey’s bureaucratic holiday wishes

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Sir Humphrey: I wonder if I might crave your momentary indulgence in order to discharge a by no means disagreeable obligation which has, over the years, become more or less established practice in government service as we approach the terminal period of the year — calendar, of course, not financial — in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Week Fifty-One — and submit to you, with all appropriate deference, for your consideration at a convenient juncture, a sincere and sanguine expectation — indeed confidence — indeed one might go so far as to say hope — that the aforementioned period may be, at the end of the day, when all relevant factors have been taken into consideration, susceptible to being deemed to be such as to merit a final verdict of having been by no means unsatisfactory in its overall outcome and, in the final analysis, to give grounds for being judged, on mature reflection, to have been conducive to generating a degree of gratification which will be seen in retrospect to have been significantly higher than the general average.

Jim Hacker: Are you trying to say “Happy Christmas,” Humphrey?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister.

December 24, 2017

Repost – Atheist’s seasonal dilemmas

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

David Harsanyi looks at the plight of the non-believer during the Christmas season:

Unlike many of my fellow atheists, however, I’m not a fundamentalist on the issue of nonbelief. Though my rock-ribbed skepticism is, I hope, driven by reason, my unwavering desire to avoid saying “amen” in a group setting is a real driver, as well.

“Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas?” Homer Simpson once asked. “You know, the birth of Santa.”

Like Homer, I enjoy the birthday of Jesus — or Santa. So it pains me to witness fellow atheists acting like a bunch of irritating ’80s televangelists and defeating the entire purpose of unbelief by organizing, grousing, wagging their fingers and, worst of all, proselytizing.

Take the billboards popping up in Las Vegas this year that read “Reason’s Greetings” and “Heathen’s Greetings.”

The man behind the billboards claims to only want to make people think — because only atheists can really think, after all. “People that drive by who have an open mind may think to themselves, ‘Maybe I should question some of my dogmatic beliefs,’ ” Richard Hermsen, a local atheist activist, explained.

Granted, atheists have some reason to be annoyed by the general public. A USA Today/Gallup Poll in 2007, for instance, found that more than half of Americans would, under no circumstances whatsoever, vote for an atheist.

No group fared lower than heathens. Not Mormons. Or even the Jews — and we probably killed Christ.

The Dangerous Toys of Christmas: Debunked!

Filed under: Media, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

ReasonTV
Published on 22 Dec 2017

Author Lenore Skenazy says today’s holiday toys are so risk averse that there’s almost nothing left to warn about. But still, the warnings come every year from consumer groups.

——–

Are you sick of being warned about anything and everything when it comes to the holiday season?

Me too. That’s why I’m ready to throw an icicle at a group called World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH). Every year since 1973, they’ve published a paranoid list of the “10 Worst Toys” at Christmastime.

These warnings may have been necessary back in 1973 when companies were still selling toy ovens that could smelt ore and chemistry sets that could actually blow things up.

In fact, the toy world was littered with bad ideas — from the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls with mechanical jaws that chewed everything — including chunks of hair from kids’ heads — to lawn darts — sharp metal things you’d toss at your friends’ toes that caused over six thousand injuries.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission eventually banned those items — and it’s hard to disagree with them — but today’s toys are so risk averse, so super safe, that there’s almost nothing left to warn about. But still the warnings fall like cookie crumbs onto Santa’s beard.

It is this zero tolerance for “risk” that WATCH and other consumer groups exploit every Christmas. Among its top 10 dangers this year are the popular fidget spinners.

Also on this year’s list is the Wonder Woman Battle Action Sword, which, the WATCH team says, encourages young children “to bear arms” — as if you get a Wonder Woman toy and immediately deploy to Yemen. They also say that the “rigid plastic sword blade has the potential to cause facial or other impact injuries.” Yeah … and so does a fork. In fact, so does a candy cane, if you suck it to a sharp point.

Even an innocent looking Disney-themed plush toy did not escape WATCH’s nannying notice. The group warns that the toy could be dangerous due to “fabric hats and bows that can detach, posing a choking hazard.”

That’s a lot of coulds, especially considering the Consumer Product Safety Commission notes on its website that it has had ZERO reports of injuries.

The Toy Association, which is an industry trade group, says WATCH’s dangerous toys list is “full of false claims that needlessly frighten parents and caregivers.”

It’s obvious that toys that explode and toys that are just plain dumb — a boomerang made out of razor blades — are bad. But if they only worked a little harder, I’ll bet WATCH could stop kids from playing with toys. Any toys. Ever.

You want a really great gift for the kids? How about they wake up Christmas morning, unwrap the giant package under the tree to find their very own product liability lawyer? Wind him up and watch him sue all the other toys. Hours of fun!

And when the kids get bored, they lock him in the toy chest, and go play with a great toy. A stick.

Written by Lenore Skenazy. Produced by Alexis Garcia and Paul Detrick. Camera by Jim Epstein, Alex Manning, and Paul Detrick.

Repost – Hey Kids! Did you get your paperwork in on time?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

If you hurry, you can just get your Santa’s Visit Application in before the deadline tonight!

Hilarious History: That Time Cadets at West Point Rioted Over Eggnog

Filed under: Education, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 6 Dec 2017

In this video:

From the beginning, heavy drinking was fairly commonplace among the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point (founded in 1802). In an attempt to stem this in 1826, the academy’s strict superintendent and the “Father of West Point,” General Sylvanus Thayer, began a crackdown by prohibiting alcohol on campus. As Christmas approached and the cadets realized that the prohibition would put a damper on their traditional Christmas Eve festivities that included consumption of a fair amount of eggnog, a bold few began to plan away around the problem.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.p…

December 23, 2017

Repost – “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” versus “Happy Midwinter Break”

L. Neil Smith on the joy-sucking use of terms like “Happy Midwinter Break” to avoid antagonizing the non-religious among us at this time of year:

Conservatives have long whimpered about corporate and government policies forbidding employees who make contact with the public to wish said members “Merry Christmas!” at the appropriate time of the year, out of a moronic and purely irrational fear of offending members of the public who don’t happen to be Christian, but are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Rastafarian, Ba’hai, Cthuluites, Wiccans, worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or None of the Above. The politically correct benediction, these employees are instructed, is “Happy Holidays”.

Feh.

As a lifelong atheist, I never take “Merry Christmas” as anything but a cheerful and sincere desire to share the spirit of the happiest time of the year. I enjoy Christmas as the ultimate capitalist celebration. It’s a multiple-usage occasion and has been so since the dawn of history. I wish them “Merry Christmas” right back, and I mean it.

Unless I wish them a “Happy Zagmuk”, sharing the oldest midwinter festival in our culture I can find any trace of. It’s Babylonian, and celebrates the victory of the god-king Marduk over the forces of Chaos.

But as anybody with the merest understanding of history and human nature could have predicted, if you give the Political Correctness Zombies (Good King Marduk needs to get back to work again) an Angstrom unit, they’ll demand a parsec. It now appears that for the past couple of years, as soon as the Merry Christmases and Happy Holidayses start getting slung around, a certain professor (not of Liberal Arts, so he should know better) at a nearby university (to remain unnamed) sends out what he hopes are intimidating e-mails, scolding careless well-wishers, and asserting that these are not holidays (“holy days”) to everyone, and that the only politically acceptable greeting is “Happy Midwinter Break”. He signs this exercise in stupidity “A Jewish Faculty Member”.

Double feh.

Two responses come immediately to mind, both of them derived from good, basic Anglo-Saxon, which is not originally a Christian language. As soon as the almost overwhelming temptation to use them has been successfully resisted, there are some other matters for profound consideration…

Repost – Kate Bush – Christmas Special 1979 (Private Remaster)

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Oct 2013

I know there’s a good few copies of this out on YouTube, but here it is, again! The other copies were either split up into individual tracks, the best complete one (from BBC Four’s rebroadcast in 2009) had the wrong aspect ratio, which annoyed the hell out of me! So, here this is…

Video and audio have been tidied up very slightly, not much was needed!

Kate Bush – Christmas Special
Tracklist:
(Intro) 00:00
Violin 00:29
(Gymnopédie No.1 – composed by Erik Satie) 03:44
Symphony In Blue 04:44
Them Heavy People 08:20
(Intro for Peter Gabriel) 12:52
Here Comes The Flood (Peter Gabriel) 13:22
Ran Tan Waltz 17:02
December Will Be Magic Again 19:43
The Wedding List 23:35
Another Day (with Peter Gabriel) 28:05
Egypt 31:41
The Man With The Child In His Eyes 36:21
Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbreak 39:24

“I was recently asked about this BBC TV special and I thought I’d share my comments here. Kate: Kate Bush Christmas Special is a stage performance by Kate Bush with her special guest Peter Gabriel. Though most of the songs are not holiday ones, they come from Bush’s first three albums (Never for Ever her third album would be released in 1980 after this 1979 TV special was taped). The performances include costumes, choreographed dances and a wind machine, creating an eclectic music TV special to say the least.

This is one of the programs that makes my research quite difficult — because it calls itself a Christmas Special yet it contains only one performance of a Christmas song “December Will Be Magic Again” (a song that wouldn’t be released as a single by Bush until the following year, in 1980). TV programming that calls itself a Christmas Special and yet contains little to no Christmas entertainment is actually quite common — especially on the BBC.

Between the end of November and the end of December each year, there is quite a bit of special programming on television. Remember Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special — it aired in December that year and includes only one holiday song, a performance of “Blue Christmas.” Is it considered a Christmas special? No, not really. And so, despite its title, the lack of holiday programming in Kate Bush’s 1979 TV special means it shouldn’t be considered a Christmas special either. But the Kate Bush Christmas Special is certainly worth watching!”

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

QotD: Charles Dickens’ ability to portray happiness

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The thought of Christmas raises almost automatically the thought of Charles Dickens, and for two very good reasons. To begin with, Dickens is one of the few English writers who have actually written about Christmas. Christmas is the most popular of English festivals, and yet it has produced astonishingly little literature. There are the carols, mostly medieval in origin; there is a tiny handful of poems by Robert Bridges, T.S. Eliot, and some others, and there is Dickens; but there is very little else. Secondly, Dickens is remarkable, indeed almost unique, among modern writers in being able to give a convincing picture of happiness.

Dickens dealt successfully with Christmas twice in a chapter of The Pickwick Papers and in A Christmas Carol. The latter story was read to Lenin on his deathbed and according to his wife, he found its ‘bourgeois sentimentality’ completely intolerable. Now in a sense Lenin was right: but if he had been in better health he would perhaps have noticed that the story has interesting sociological implications. To begin with, however thick Dickens may lay on the paint, however disgusting the ‘pathos’ of Tiny Tim may be, the Cratchit family give the impression of enjoying themselves. They sound happy as, for instance, the citizens of William Morris’s News From Nowhere don’t sound happy. Moreover and Dickens’s understanding of this is one of the secrets of his power their happiness derives mainly from contrast. They are in high spirits because for once in a way they have enough to eat. The wolf is at the door, but he is wagging his tail. The steam of the Christmas pudding drifts across a background of pawnshops and sweated labour, and in a double sense the ghost of Scrooge stands beside the dinner table. Bob Cratchit even wants to drink to Scrooge’s health, which Mrs Cratchit rightly refuses. The Cratchits are able to enjoy Christmas precisely because it only comes once a year. Their happiness is convincing just because Christmas only comes once a year. Their happiness is convincing just because it is described as incomplete.

George Orwell (writing as “John Freeman”), “Can Socialists Be Happy?”, Tribune, 1943-12-20.

December 22, 2017

Repost – ‘Tis the season to hate the senders of boastful holiday letters

Filed under: Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Gregg Easterbrook receives the perfect, perfect holiday letter:

Don’t you hate boastful holidays letters about other people’s fascinating lives and perfect children? Below is one Nan and I received last week.

Dear Friends,

What a lucky break the CEO sent his personal jet to pick me up from Istanbul; there’s plenty of room, since I have the entire aircraft to myself, to take out the laptop and write our annual holiday letter. Just let me ask the attendant for a better vintage of champagne, and I’ll begin.

It’s been another utterly hectic year for Chad and I and our remarkable children, yet nurturing and horizon-expanding. It’s hard to know where the time goes. Well, a lot of it is spent in the car.

Rachel is in her senior year at Pinnacle-Upon-Hilltop Academy, and it seems just yesterday she was being pushed around in the stroller by our British nanny. Rachel placed first this fall in the state operatic arias competition. Chad was skeptical when I proposed hiring a live-in voice tutor on leave from the Lyric Opera, but it sure paid off! Rachel’s girls’ volleyball team lost in the semifinals owing to totally unfair officiating, but as I have told her, she must learn to overcome incredible hardship in life.

Now the Big Decision looms — whether to take the early admission offer from Harvard or spend a year at Julliard. Plus the whole back of her Mercedes is full of dance-company brochures as she tries to decide about the summer.

Nicholas is his same old self, juggling the karate lessons plus basketball, soccer, French horn, debate club, archeology field trips, poetry-writing classes and his volunteer work. He just got the Yondan belt, which usually requires nine years of training after the Shodan belt, but prodigies can do it faster, especially if (not that I really believe this!) they are reincarnated deities.

Modeling for Gap cuts into Nick’s schoolwork, but how could I deprive others of the chance to see him? His summer with Outward Bound in the Andes was a big thrill, especially when all the expert guides became disoriented and he had to lead the party out. But you probably read about that in the newspapers.

What can I say regarding our Emily? She’s just been reclassified as EVVSUG&T — “Extremely Very Very Super Ultra Gifted and Talented.” The preschool retained a full-time teacher solely for her, to keep her challenged. Educational institutions are not allowed to discriminate against the gifted anymore, not like when I was young.

Yesterday Rachel sold her first still-life. It was shown at one of the leading galleries without the age of the artist disclosed. The buyers were thrilled when they learned!

Then there was the arrival of our purebred owczarek nizinny puppy. He’s the little furry guy in the enclosed family holiday portrait by Annie Leibovitz. Because our family mission statement lists cultural diversity as a core value, we named him Mandela.

Chad continues to prosper and blossom. He works a few hours a day and spends the rest of the time supervising restoration of the house — National Trust for Historic Preservation rules are quite strict. Corporate denial consulting is a perfect career niche for Chad. Fortune 500 companies call him all the time. There’s a lot to deny, and Chad is good at it.

Me? Oh, I do this and that. I feel myself growing and flowering as a change agent. I yearn to empower the stakeholders. This year I was promoted to COO and invited to the White House twice, but honestly, beading in the evening means just as much to me. I was sorry I had to let Carmen go on the same day I brought home my $14.6 million bonus, but she had broken a Flora Danica platter and I caught her making a personal call.

Chad and I got away for a week for a celebration of my promotion. We rented this quaint five-star villa on the Corsican coast. Just to ourselves — we bought out all 40 rooms so it would be quiet and contemplative and we could ponder rising above materialism.

Our family looks to the New Year for rejuvenation and enrichment. Chad and I will be taking the children to Steamboat Springs over spring break, then in June I take the girls to Paris, Rome and Seville while Chad and Nicholas accompany Richard Gere to Tibet.

Then the kids are off to camps in Maine, and before we know it, we will be packing two cars to drive Rachel’s things to college. And of course I don’t count Davos or Sundance or all the routine excursions.

I hope your year has been as interesting as ours.

Love,
Jennifer, Chad, Rachel, Nicholas & Emily

(The above is inspired by a satirical Christmas letter I did for The New Republic a decade ago. I figure it’s OK to recycle a joke once every 10 years.)

Learning To Be Yourself With Buddy The Elf

Filed under: Economics, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Foundation for Economic Education
Published on 7 Dec 2017

The classic holiday film Elf offers a lot more than a good time and a bunch of laughs. It teaches you how to get the most out of your life by finding your comparative advantage – the intersection between what you’re good at and what people need.

After watching this video, download our free ebook “Your Life, Your Work” to learn more about how to find your own comparative advantage and build a life you’re excited about.

Get it here: https://info.fee.org/your-life-your-work

December 21, 2017

Repost – The Monkees – “Riu Chiu” HD (Official Music Video) – from THE MONKEES – THE COMPLETE SERIES Blu Ray

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Uploaded on 15 Dec 2015

The Monkees perform “Riu Chiu” from Episode 47, “The Monkees’ Christmas Show”.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

December 20, 2017

WW1 Christmas Truce: Silent Night – Extra History – #1

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 17 Dec 2017

Sponsored by World of Tanks! New players: Download the game and use the code ARMISTICE for free goodies! http://cpm.wargaming.net/ivmqe6kc/?pu…
PLUS! In the spirit of the Christmas Truce, World of Tanks has prepared a gift box for EVERY PLAYER. Redeem the bonus code: HULSE14

On Christmas Eve in 1914, soldiers in the trenches sang together across the wastes of No Man’s Land. Some were brave enough to step out of their trenches and meet face-to-face, forming an unofficial truce that lasted (with a few blemishes) until the end of Christmas Day.

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