Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Yuletide celebration 2019

Hall√≥, loyal readers! For a Christmas Eve treat, I've been hoarding, like a squirrel with acorns, some seasonal items to share all at once. Speaking of squirrels, we begin with a Holiday Nature Enjoyment Tip™ passed along by Wendyvee of Roadside Wonders.

She shared a YouTube video titled "Christmas With Squirrels & Relaxing Christmas Music (1 Hour)." This is precisely as advertised. It involves:

  • 1. Squirrels
  • 2. Christmas music
  • 3. A duration of one hour

So if that's what you're seeking this Christmas, you're in luck. Watch the squirrel frolick around the tree, fireplace and stockings. Watch some birds appear as special guest stars. Now back to the squirrel! Those content producers think of everything these days!

Apparently this is a bit of a cottage industry on YouTube. There is "A Very Happy Yule Log," which features a cat and dog in what appears to be a Yuletide hostage situation not unlike Die Hard; "Christmas Cats Snuggle by the Fireplace," which features minimal snuggling; and "Snoozing Yule Log Bulldog Full HD Fireplace With Crackling Sounds," which is very impressively on point.

Finally, let's just say that I clicked on "Freshpet Holiday Feast - 13 Dogs and 1 Cat Eating with Human Hands" so that you don't have to. Seriously. Do not click on that link. If you accidentally clicked, please seek out some strong wassail immediately.

Of course, our society knew how to do this kind of programming long before YouTube. The Yule Log — it's a fireplace on your TV screen! — dates to 1966. Learn about its history in this Mental Floss article by Suzanne Raga.

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You might soon be able to get Skynet to handle the time-consuming holiday tradition of writing out Christmas cards. That's according to "The art of imperfection: People are turning to robots to write their ‘handwritten’ cards," a recent article in The Washington Post by Abha Bhattarai.

I have written often about the seemingly looming death of handwriting. And the personal connections that would vanish, too. I shared a bunch of links on this topic in 2013. Ironically, I bet some of those links are now 404's. Anyway, here's what Bhattarai writes:
"These robot-scribed cards and letters are testing the proposition that machines can generate the intimacy of a handwritten note. Some services include smudges and ink blots in their mailings. Others program the robots to be imprecise — varying the pressure on the pens, for example, or inconsistently sizing characters and spacing — to make the writing appear believably human."
So future ephemeraologists, in addition to trying to figure out spellings and bizarre words — which can be half the fun here on Papergreat — will also have to try to determine whether the writer was a human or just a clever AI.

* * *

Who's this dashing and furry figure?

According to the Open Graves, Open Minds Research Project on Twitter, it's none other than Finnish folklore creature Nuuttipukki: "These evil spirits go from door-to-door demanding left over Yule food, punishing those who don't provide. On St Knut's Day, 13th Jan., people dressed in furs and horns carry this tradition on by taking on the role of the nuuttipukki."

I can certainly dig the idea of Leftovers Police after the holidays. Especially here in America, where food waste is a serious problem and, according to a 2018 article in The Guardian, "Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day – equal to a pound per person."

Let's rebrand Nuuttipukki in the U.S.A. and turn him into a superhero who battles the evils of food waste! Make Baron Von Papergreat his sidekick.

* * *

If you're going to see a movie for the holidays, I highly recommend that you skip Cats (or Cats 2.0 at this point) and The Rise of Skywalker and instead see if you can find a theater that's still showing Knives Out. It's a tremendously entertaining 130 minutes.

When I saw that a lead character in Knives Out was named Harlan Thrombey, I knew writer/director Rian Johnson must have been making a reference to the 1981 Choose Your Own Adventure book Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? Because the similarities are just too great. I had most of the first dozen CYOA books as a kid; Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? was the murder mystery of the lot.

But, in retrospect, it perhaps wasn't among the better CYOA books. Sean Munger, who has written extensively about the series, states:
"It’s fairly competent for a bare-bones murder mystery for kids, but the problem is that it’s too formula. Packard chooses to ignore the single biggest possibility that the interactive/CYOA format holds for a mystery story: the possibility of multiple resolutions, which means more than one murderer, more than one way the crime was committed, and multiple paths to solving the case. As it is, there is only one resolution. After one, or at most two, read-throughs of the book you’ll know exactly who iced Harlowe Thrombey, who was the accomplice and how the murder was committed. The only question is whether you reach that resolution or not. The book utterly wastes the whole hypertext format. This is all the more disappointing because you get the sense that the possibility of multiple murderers or multiple resolutions never even occurred to [author Edward] Packard."
In Knives Out, there is also only one solution. But you'll have a hell of an enjoyable time weaving your way to it.

Final note: If you grew up with the Choose Your Own Adventure series, you might like the parody book Who Killed John F. Kennedy?, which nails the tone and illustrations of those older books perfectly. Plus, you get to rub shoulders with David Ferrie.

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Sharing awesomeness from the @TweetsofOld Twitter account (aka R.L. Ripples) is a holiday tradition at Papergreat. The account features excerpts from real children's letters to Santa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I shared a batch in 2014 and another batch in 2016. Here are some of this year's gems...

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