Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Remarkable Dream by Mark Twain

Note: Regular posting will resume in January.  Enjoy the holiday season!

The Remarkable Dream by Mark Twain

I dreamed last night that I was sitting in my room smoking my pipe and looking into the dying embers on the hearth, conjuring up old faces in their changing shapes, and listening to old voices in the moaning winds outside, when there was a knock at the door and a man entered – bowed – walked deliberately forward and sat down opposite me. He was dressed in a queer old garb of I don’t know how many centuries ago. He said, with a perceptible show of vanity:

“My name’s Ananias – may have heard of me, perhaps?”

I said, reflectively, “No -no – I think not, Mr. Anan

“Never heard of me! Bismillah! Och hone! gewhil – . But you couldn’t have read the Scriptures!”

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Mr. President, Don’t Let The Russians Kill Santa!

jfk-caroline-kennedyIn this Nov. 9, 1960 photo, Caroline Kennedy gets a piggy-back ride from her father, Sen. John F. Kennedy, in Hyannis Port, Mass. (The Associated Press)



In 1961 at the height of the Cold War, eight-year-old Michelle Rochon of Marine City Michigan overheard her parents talking about the Russians testing bombs at the North Pole. Worried that this would prevent Santa  from visiting her home on Christmas Eve she wrote a letter to the president.

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The New Zealand Christmas Tree

NZ Christmas Tree

The Pohutukawa tree is possibly one of the best known and most loved New Zealand native trees.

Pohutukawa flowersPohutukawa flowers are bright red, smothering the tree in December (right: Pohutukawa in bloom), hence its common name: the New Zealand Christmas Tree.

Why not try something different next Christmas…instead of bringing out the plastic tree, or buying a sad-looking pine, why not plant your very own New Zealand Christmas Tree, which will last for many a Christmas to come!



Note: Normal posting will resume in January.

North Polar Bear’s Leg Got Broken: Letter From Father Christmas (via J.R.R. Tolkien)

Note: During December, we’ve been focusing the blog on the holiday season.  In January, it’ll be back to normal fare.  Please take time to enjoy your family and friends.  Afterall, that’s what this holiday season is all about.


In December of 1920, J. R. R. Tolkien secretly began what would become an annual event in his household for the next 20 years: in the guise of a shaky-handed Father Christmas, he lovingly handwrote a letter to his 3-year-old son, John, placed it in an envelope along with an illustration of his home near the North Pole, and planted it in the youngster’s bedroom.

From then on, until 1943, Father Christmas never failed to write to all four of Tolkien’s children, and with each passing Winter his enchanting stories from the North Pole became more elaborate and character-filled. In 1976 many of the letters and illustrations were compiled and released in book-form; in 2004 a far more comprehensive and beautifully crafted version was published: Letters from Father Christmas; 25th Anniversary edition.

Continue reading North Polar Bear’s Leg Got Broken: Letter From Father Christmas (via J.R.R. Tolkien)

Dinner for One (aka The 90th Birthday)

by Mike Peake, London Telegraph


In the big book of international stereotypes (which is, of course, forever being updated, Russian poisoners take note), Germany is not a country known for its vice-like grip on humour.  It is undoubtedly a sin that it has been so cruelly separated from comedy. This, after all, is the country which gave us stand-up legend Helge Schneider, who reached Number One in the German charts with Katzeklo (“Kitty litter-box, kitty litter-box, it makes a cat so happy”).

But it may yet turn out that our German cousins have the last laugh.  Well, for one day a year at least, because New Year’s Eve, in Germany, is marked by a hallowed tradition with which we just can’t compete. “New Year, without Dinner for One, would be like Christmas without It’s A Wonderful Life,” says Kathrin Haarmann, a German expat who lives with her husband and two young children in south-west London. “I saw a DVD of it for sale on the internet and we simply had to have it.”

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Letter from the Recording Angel by Mark Twain

from Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine

We have come to the season of angels. Suddenly they are everywhere: standing in front yards, department store windows, draped around streetlights, gazing from cards in the mail and keeping vigil atop Christmas trees. There are tall, slender, white-winged angels, and short pudgy cherubim and many other variations. But among all the angels, I have a personal favorite, the Recording Angel, and particularly the one who made an appearance in the February 1946 issue of Harper’s.  He stems from the pen of the magazine’s top contributor at the end of the nineteenth century, Mark Twain:

recording-angel-elihu-vedder-1883Office of the Recording Angel
Department of Petitions, Jan. 20

Andrew Langdon
Coal Dealer
Buffalo, N. Y.

I have the honor, as per command, to
inform you that your recent act of benevolence
and self-sacrifice has been recorded
upon a page by itself of the Book
called Golden Deeds of Men: a distinction,
I am permitted to remark, which is not
merely extraordinary, it is unique.

As regards your prayers, for the week
ending the 19th, I have the honor to report
as follows:

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Take One Income, Please: The simplest welfare program imaginable, brought to you by the Swiss

by Annie Lowrey, NYT

basic-income-posterThis Fall, a truck dumped eight million coins outside the Parliament building in Bern, one for every Swiss citizen. It was a publicity stunt for advocates of an audacious social policy that just might become reality in the tiny, rich country. Along with the coins, activists delivered 125,000 signatures — enough to trigger a Swiss public referendum, this time on providing a monthly income to every citizen, no strings attached. Every month, every Swiss person would receive a check from the government, no matter how rich or poor, how hardworking or lazy, how old or young. Poverty would disappear. Economists, needless to say, are sharply divided on what would reappear in its place — and whether such a basic-income scheme might have some appeal for other, less socialist countries too.

The proposal is, in part, the brainchild of a German-born artist named Enno Schmidt, a leader in the basic-income movement. He knows it sounds a bit crazy. He thought the same when someone first described the policy to him, too. “I tell people not to think about it for others, but think about it for themselves,” Schmidt told me. “What would you do if you had that income? What if you were taking care of a child or an elderly person?” Schmidt said that the basic income would provide some dignity and security to the poor, especially Europe’s underemployed and unemployed. It would also, he said, help unleash creativity and entrepreneurialism: Switzerland’s workers would feel empowered to work the way they wanted to, rather than the way they had to just to get by. He even went so far as to compare it to a civil rights movement, like women’s suffrage or ending slavery.

Continue reading Take One Income, Please: The simplest welfare program imaginable, brought to you by the Swiss