Monthly Archives: December 2009

LIVESTREAM: Watch The Ball Drop LIVE In NYC: Times Square

Who doesn’t love to watch the ball drop? One of the most popular traditions for New Year’s Eve is to count down the final minute with loved ones and watch the ball drop LIVE at Times Square in NYC to usher in the new year.

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If you know the Auld Lang Syne lyrics, you can sing along when midnight ushers in 2010.

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

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Happy New Year Around the World-2010

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Watch Sydney’s New Year’s fireworks display–awesome!

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44-D’s Picks for Best Books of 2009


Looking for a New Year’s Resolution? Reading more is a great resolution.

The number one rule to follow if you want to read more is to SIT down and do it. From October 2008 through October 2009 I read one book a day and along with all the pleasure and wisdom, laughs and tears, I became an expert on how to find time to read. Some tricks to reading more are obvious: ignore the dishes and the laundry and the Internet. Some tricks are surprisingly effective: don’t ignore friends and family, but instead invite them to sit down and read, too. ~~Nina Sankovitch
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Fiction


Under the Dome by Stephen King

King’s return to supernatural horror is uncomfortably bulky, formidably complex and irresistibly compelling. When the smalltown of Chester’s Mill, Maine, is surrounded by an invisible force field, the people inside must exert themselves to survive. The situation deteriorates rapidly due to the dome’s ecological effects and the machinations of Big Jim Rennie, an obscenely sanctimonious local politician and drug lord who likes the idea of having an isolated populace to dominate. Opposing him are footloose Iraq veteran Dale “Barbie” Barbara, newspaper editor Julia Shumway, a gaggle of teen skateboarders and others who want to solve the riddle of the dome.
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Strain-Book-One-TrilogyThe Strain-Volume One by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Who better to reinvent the vampire genre than Guillermo Del Toro, the genius behind Pan’s Labyrinth, and Chuck Hogan, master of character-driven thrillers like Prince of Thieves? The first of a trilogy, The Strain is everything you want from a horror novel–dark, bloody, and packed full of mayhem and mythology. But, be forewarned, these are not like any vampires you’ve met before–they’re not sexy or star-crossed or “vegetarians“–they are hungry, they are connected, and they are multiplying. The vampire virus marches its way across New York, and all that stands between us and a grotesque end are a couple of scientists, an old man with a decades-old vendetta, and a young boy. This first installment moves fast and sets up the major players, counting down to the beginning of the end.
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The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Everyone off the bus, and welcome to a Washington, D.C., they never told you about on your school trip when you were a kid, a place steeped in Masonic history that, once revealed, points to a dark, ancient conspiracy that threatens not only America but the world itself. Returning hero Robert Langdon comes to Washington to give a lecture at the behest of his old mentor, Peter Solomon. When he arrives at the U.S. Capitol for his lecture, he finds, instead of an audience, Peter’s severed hand mounted on a wooden base, fingers pointing skyward to the Rotunda ceiling fresco of George Washington dressed in white robes, ascending to heaven. Langdon teases out a plethora of clues from the tattooed hand that point toward a secret portal through which an intrepid seeker will find the wisdom known as the Ancient Mysteries, or the lost wisdom of the ages. This is just the kickoff for a deadly chase that careens back and forth, across, above and below the nation’s capital, darting from revelation to revelation, pausing only to explain some piece of wondrous, historical esoterica.
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evilatheartthumbEvil At Heart by Chelsea Cain

Gretchen Lowell strikes again—or does she?—in bestseller Cain’s grisly third thriller to feature the female serial killer who takes sadistic pleasure in taunting Portland, Ore., detective Archie Sheridan (after Sweetheart and Heartsick). A violent attack that leaves body parts in a rest stop bathroom, along with Lowell’s signature heart design, persuades Sheridan, a recovering Vicodin addict, to leave rehab and rejoin the hunt for Lowell. As he and newspaper reporter Susan Ward dig deeper, they discover that while the corpses cropping up around town are reminiscent of Lowell’s nasty handiwork, they might also point to one of the myriad fan clubs dedicated to the killer, who has become a media sensation since she escaped from prison in Heartsick. Even though readers may wonder how much longer this extended game can play out, Cain delivers her usual blend of organ-ripping, blood-soaked gore and compelling flawed heroes—and antiheroes. Hey, when characters from True Blood start reading your books, its on…
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Bloods A Rover by James Ellroy

Ellroy’s astonishing creation, the Underworld USA Trilogy, is complete. Its concluding volume, Blood’s a Rover, has just been published. The three long thrillers that make up the trilogy (American Tabloid, 1995; The Cold Six Thousand, 2001; Blood’s a Rover, 2009) present a brutal counterhistory of America in the 1960s and 1970s — the assassinations, the social convulsions, the power-elite plotting — through the lives of invented second- and third-echelon operatives in the great political crimes of the era. The trilogy is biblical in scale, catholic in its borrowing from conspiracy theories, absorbing to read, often awe-inspiring in the liberties taken with standard fictional presentation, and, in its imperfections and lapses, disconcerting
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The Winterhouse by Robin McGrath

“My father has married me to a mad old man.” These words, written on a slip of paper inside a fading brocade collar, are a clue to the unlikely marriage of a Jewish remittance man and a 14-year-old orphan in a remote Newfoundland fishing station. More curious still are the connections that entangle a retired school teacher and an Israeli scholar almost two centuries later. When the bereaved Rosehannah Quint and her mysterious “mister” retreat into winter quarters at the back of Ireland’s Eye, the two begin to develop an understanding based on curiosity as well as upon need – an understanding that works its way down the years. The Winterhouse is a compelling novel about finding oneself and creating one’s own community.
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2666: A Novel by Roberto Bolaño (Author), Natasha Wimmer (Translator)

To say that 2666 is a novel is like calling a Beethoven symphony a collection of songs. If we must, though, this novel in five parts is without doubt Roberto Bolaño’s masterwork, epic in scope, labyrinthine, frustrating, disjointed, maybe a bit pretentious, always somewhat aloof—and brilliant. The novel’s parts are interrelated only to the extent that the author wants them to be, and his intention isn’t always clear (witness the title, which has little, if any, connection to the text itself). Reading 2666 is a daunting task, though once accepted, the result might be something akin to what readers felt in 1922 when, faced for the first time with the disquieting modern vision of James Joyce, they picked up Ulysses and were changed by the experience. Perhaps we’ll know in 657 years.
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The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein: A Novel by Peter Ackroyd

Medical student Victor Frankenstein imbibes fellow student Bysshe Shelley’s belief in the perfectibility of mankind and strives to create a being of infinite benevolence in this recasting of Mary Shelley’s horror classic from Ackroyd (First Light). When Victor reanimates the body of acquaintance Jack Keat, he’s so horrified at the implications of his Promethean feat that he abandons his creation. Outraged, the Keat creature shadows Victor as an avenging doppelgänger, bringing misery and death to those dearest to him. Ackroyd laces his narrative intelligently with the Romantic ideals of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, and deftly interweaves Victor’s fictional travails with events of the well-known 1816 meeting between the poets that inspired Mary to draft her landmark story. His hasty surprise ending may strike some readers as a cheat, though most will agree that his novel is a brilliant riff on ideas that have informed literary, horror and science fiction for nearly two centuries.
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Non-Fiction


True Compass: A Memoir by Edward M. Kennedy

Often touching . . . After a life chronicled in tabloid chatter and often vicious editorial cartoons, Kennedy tells his own story here, expansively yet selectively, portraying himself as a dedicated, loving, flesh-and-blood figure who, despite being born well, had to prove himself. And the person, to whom he most had to do that is clearly etched in these pages. It was neither his famous brothers, nor his pious mother, Rose, nor even himself, but his controversial father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. . . This is a book that all but the most toxic Kennedy critic could love . . . Later, there is much substance about his political life. His accounts are richly detailed. As a reporter covering Kennedy decades ago, I learned that he was keeping a diary and knew what a treasure it would someday be. It is. The best insights are perhaps his accounts of Senate maneuverings prior to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, his advocacy for peace in Northern Ireland, the misgivings that he and Robert both had about Vietnam, and the run-up to the latter’s presidential campaign and subsequent murder in 1968 . . . He writes with great affection of dating and marrying the warmly elegant Vicki Reggie. The memoir is dedicated to her.

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The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia by Mike Dash

Decades before the Five Families emerged and more than half a century before Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather, Giuseppe Morello and his family controlled all manner of crime in New York City. Bestselling historian Dash (Satan’s Circus; Tulipomania) presents an enthralling account of this little-known boss of bosses, ‘dubbed the Clutch Hand‘ because of his deformed arm. Arriving with his family from Corleone, Sicily, in 1892, Morello soon set up a successful operation counterfeiting American and Canadian bills. Dash depicts the balance between loyalty and betrayal as an ever-changing dance and nimbly catalogues the endless gruesome murders committed in the name of revenge and honor. Readers may think they know the mob, but Morello’s ruthless rule makes even the fictional Tony Soprano look tame.
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This Is Why You’re Fat: Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks by Jessica Amason

Food was once the providence of celebrated chefs and critical connoisseurs. Cooking shows featured all gourmet creations and web sites displayed artfully photographed delights. Then something changed. Perhaps it was the desensitizing of web culture or perhaps it was a cry for help from the food-loving public. But by God – there came a day when fancy vegetable towers came crashing down and $50 mushrooms were no longer acceptable. Amason and Blakley wanted see the old stand-bys, the carnival foods of their childhoods, the sticky mess of a deep-fried candy bar, the indulgence of a greasy burger with all the fixin’s. It was the birth of the nasty food web-trend. And it was delicious. The website This Is Why You’re Fat is an ode to this trend – whether seen as a commentary on North American dietary habits or a celebration of the deliciously bad – and Amason and Blakeley are devoted to the world’s newfound obsession with over-the-top food. Within its first month the site pulled in over ten million eyeballs, and attracted major nation media including CNN. The world cooked, they listened.
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Last Words: A Memoir by George Carlin

As one of America’s preeminent comedic voices, George Carlin saw it all throughout his extraordinary fifty-year career and made fun of most of it. Last Words is the story of the man behind some of the most seminal comedy of the last half century, blending his signature acer-bic humor with never-before-told stories from his own life. George Carlin’s journey to stardom began in the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of New York’s Upper West Side in the 1940s, where class and culture wars planted the seeds for some of his best known material, including the notorious “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” His early conflicts, his long struggle with substance abuse, his turbulent relationships with his family, and his triumphs over catastrophic setbacks all fueled the unique comedic worldview he brought to the stage. From the heights of stardom to the low points few knew about, Last Words is told with the same razor-sharp honesty that made Carlin one of the best loved comedians in American history.

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Gabriel García Márquez : A Life by Gerald Martin

The great Colombian novelist—winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize, the chief exponent of “magic realism,” and the author of, among other celebrated works, One Hundred Years of Solitude—has continuously offered both challenges and delights to his readers. This well-researched, authorized biography offers a total immersion into the author’s life and career, and, unlike many of García Márquez’s novels, it is a relatively uncomplicated and quick read. Unearthing facts never before presented to the reading public, Martin tracks the evolution of a small-town, “susceptible” boy from the steamy Caribbean region of Colombia into a novelist whose work, while remaining grounded in Colombian history and culture, reflects a worldview transcending local interest. Discerning explication of García Márquez’s fiction (especially in terms of its autobiographical component) finds its grounding in an understanding of the man’s uneasy relationships with his family and his inveterate interest in politics. García Márquez, an international star, lived many places in the world, but Martin makes clear that, in the end, while the man could be taken out of Colombia, Colombia was never taken out of the man. His intense political consciousness—he was a leftist and good friend of Fidel Castro—always found its sounding board in the tumultuous politics of his homeland. A brilliant and lasting biographical treatment.

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JibJab’s 2009 in Review

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

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Welcome to 44’D’s Happy Holiday’s Special

We here at The 44 Diaries would like to say Thank You for participating in our blog and we hope that you all have a happy holiday and a prosperous new year. We also hope that you get to spend plenty of time with the people you love the most…

Please note: We will be keeping this up all week in celebration, but will be posting political news in the top section next to ‘Home’.



History of Christmas




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Origins and Traditions of Hanukkah

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Celebrating Kwanzaa



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Santa Claus Through History



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Famous and Not-So Famous Christmas Movies List

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The History of Christmas at the White House 1789-2009

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Twenty-Five Days of Christmas Music Videos

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Christmas Around the World



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Fun Filled Christmas Facts



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Christmas in the Age of Dickens

Christmas in the Age of Dickens



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Amazing Christmas Truce of 1914



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Holiday Season at the White House with the Obama’s 2009




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The History of Christmas

People all over the world celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. But why is the Nativity marked by gift giving, and was He really born on that day? And just where did the Christmas tree come from? Take an enchanting tour through the history of this beloved holiday and trace the origins of its enduring traditions. Journey back to the earliest celebrations when the infant religion embraced pagan solstice festivals like the Roman Saturnalia and turned them into a commemoration of Jesus’ birth. Learn how Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to the English-speaking world in 1841, and discover how British settlers in the New World transformed the patron saint of children into jolly old St. Nick.

We’re going to explore the origin of Christmas and how it came to be the way we know it today.

An Ancient Holiday

Norse God Oden

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

The Yule Log

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.
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Saturnalia

Ancient Romans Celebrating Saturnalia

In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

Lord of Misrule

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.
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An Outlaw Christmas

In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, canceled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
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Christmas Reinvented

It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. But what about the 1800s peaked American interest in the holiday?

The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.

In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status. Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving’s book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended – in fact, many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.
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A Christmas Carol

Also around this time, English author Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story’s message-the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind-struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday.

1881 illustration by Thomas Nast who, with Clement Clarke Moore, helped to create the modern image of Santa Claus.

The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to “spoil” them.

As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.

Although most families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas how it had been done for centuries, Americans had really re-invented a holiday to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation.

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