A government shutdown. A polar vortex. An Academy Award Best Picture nomination for Bohemian Rhapsody.
The year is off to a terrible start, but here’s a bit of good news.
Since the federal government has re-opened, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Panda Cams, which feed live, 24/7 coverage of the zoo’s three giant pandas, are back in service. Now you can once again watch America’s favourite (rented) pets—like the one pictured above, in warmer, happier days—without leaving the comforts of your expensively heated home.
Panda from the National Zoo, as He Eats Shoots and Leaves.
Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Bei Bei, the Zoo’s resident giant pandas, don’t seem to mind the cold.
As longtime readers may recall, I’m a loyal supporter of the Renoir Sucks at Painting movement, which calls on museums and galleries to remove and banish the works of that loathsome French hack, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. That’s why I had mixed emotions when I saw this headline on the Artdaily website:
I was happy because yet another insipid piece of Renoir-created eye-torment had been taken out of circulation, removing a blotch on the art world, and on Western civilization as a whole.* At the same time, I was a little afraid, because I was in Vienna when the theft occurred, and Interpol’s International Art Theft Squad: Renoir Subset: Potential Thieves Division almost certainly has me in its database.
Fortunately, I have an alibi: At the time of the theft, I was at an exhibition of the works of a much more talented and original painter. When the police show up to interrogate me, I’ll show them my ticket to “The Life and Works of Thomas Kinkade”.
The Onion reports on the earlier liberation of another public nuisance.
*You know who owns a Renoir? Donald Trump.
Except it turns out that his is probably a fake, and another con artist apparently took him for $10,000,000. See Donald Trump’s Fake Renoir: The Untold Story.
An annual tradition.
It’s customary to stand during the Queen’s Speech.
The most popular Christmas Market in Budapest is on Vörösmarty Square, right in front of Café Gerbeaud. It’s one of my favourites—I’ve been there more than a dozen times, by day and by night. Day visits are a joy, and nights are even better.
Repeat visits are easy, since the market is open every day from early November through New Year’s Day, usually from 10 AM – 9 PM.
Like most Christmas Markets, this one has booths selling anything and everything even vaguely related to the holidays, or to winter in general, or to the seasonal decoration of houses, preferable in shades of red and green. Where it really excels, though, is in the quality and variety of its food offerings.
If you aren’t currently in Budapest, Look on these Booths, ye Hungry, and despair!*
*Shelley wrote “Ozymandias” in 1818, so this year is its 200th anniversary. My trivia fact du jour.
In the same way that American advertizers screen some of their most creative (and expensive) ads during the Super Bowl, British department stores and supermarkets go all out on television advertizing at Christmastime. While this year’s crop isn’t as memorable as some of the ads in recent years—that 2014 John Lewis Penquin ad!—this one stands out.
It’s this year’s ad from Sainsbury’s, which is one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains. The ad is an early favourite for the Best Christmas Ad of 2018.
Full screen recommended.
The song, btw, is the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give”.
Here are some pictures from the Christmas Market in front of Vienna’s Rathaus, or “Townhall”. You can find smaller markets in almost every public space in the old city, but this one is probably the most famous and popular.
I wonder why Christmas Markets, so popular throughout Europe, have never really caught on in the US. There are a scattering of them here, especially in places with large German-American communities, but nothing on the scale of what you’d find in Germany and Eastern Europe.
Despite the lights and the music and the food and the mulled wine, visiting one of these markets always leaves me a little sad.
I’m not a Christmas person, but my mother was. She started decorating for the holidays about the same time that the leaves in Pennsylvania began to change colour, and didn’t stop until every room looked like a Santa’s workshop.
I think of her whenever I walk through a Christmas Market like this.
She would have loved it.
It’s that time of year again, and I’m off to see the Wizard. Postings will resume in the first week of December.
In the meantime, watch this toddler have what would be a high point of anyone’s life. Best viewed full screen.