Happy Year of the Rat, everybody! Barak and Durnik have already celebrated by going to the vet.

See, we had company over the holidays. Guest Rat Relg needed meds while his mommy was out of town, so while her boyfriend could handle food, water, and the occasional bedding change for the other three miscreants in their mischief, I had Relg in a travel cage on the floor of my room for two weeks.

Relg was not especially happy with this arrangement, unfortunately. I was not Mommy, he was not home, and he definitely did not want his medication twice a day. Barak and Durnik were also not especially happy with this arrangement, as neither of them have any constructive way to cope with the existence of other rats. Even each other. I have to have one of them out for runarounds in the morning and one in the evening, because when I plop them on the bed one right after the other, chaos ensues. If Durnik goes first, Barak wombles around the blankets huffing for a fight, and if Barak goes first Durni…

Advent Calendar: The Star Wars Holiday Special [video]

Now that we've got all the good stuff out of the way, behold what is widely held to be the worst holiday special ever produced.

If you want some warning, here's a brief explanation of what in God's name is wrong with this thing. If you're brave and/or masochistic... well, here you go:

Advent Calendar: Celtic Folk & Fairy Tales [full audiobook]


Advent Calendar: "A Visit From St. Nicholas" [audio]

Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas", aka "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", as read by Vincent Price.

Advent Calendar: "The Rabbi's Game of Cards"

From From The Heart of Israel: Jewish Tales And Types, collected by Bernard Drachman. James Pott & Co., New York, 1905.

At the time this book was published, "Israel" was more a concept than an official place; the independent state of Israel wasn't established until after WWII, in 1948. Most collections of "Jewish folklore" are comparatively modern stories from the Jewish populations of Europe. (I'm pretty sure the 'province of Posen' referenced here is present day Poznań, which sets this story in then-Prussia, now-Poland.) I tried finding something older, but there's almost nothing out there from the Middle East between the Bible and the printing press in age. I would be very surprised if there weren't Jewish variations of the tales of Nasruddin, a figure in Arabic-language lore that spreads from North Africa all the way into Turkey, who is alternately portrayed as a very wise man and a complete wiseguy. A lot of the same clever "wel…

Advent Calendar: "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" [video]

I feel compelled to point out that stories need not be old to qualify as folk tales. Though the popular notion that Santa's sleigh was drawn by flying reindeer dates back at least to "A Visit From St. Nicholas", published 1823, the story of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was written by an employee at Montgomery Ward in 1939, at the request of his boss, for distribution as a Christmas season promotion. Ten years later, the poem was set to music by country singer Gene Autrey. The famous Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation special linked below dates to 1964, and has been imitated -- but never quite matched -- many times since.

Advent Calendar: Old Peter's Russian Tales [full audiobook]