357th day of 2010 - 8 remaining
Thursday, December 23, 2010

“He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.” There’s hardly a soul alive who couldn’t identify this as the description of Santa Claus. These words were published for the first time on this day in 1823 in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel (now the Record). The poem we know as The Night Before Christmas or A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore, was published anonymously under the newspaper editor’s title, Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.

Moore’s poem, which he had written on Christmas Eve one year earlier, took a circuitous route to the Troy paper. The story has it that Moore penned the poem, inspired by the bells on the sleigh in which he was riding, the sleigh’s jolly driver, and the new fallen snow on the streets of New York City, as he was running a last minute errand for his wife. That evening, he read his now-famous words to his six children as they sat in front of their fireplace where “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” The children were so delighted with their father’s images of “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,” that they saved the poem, showing it to a family friend, Harriet Butler, who was visiting from Troy. Moore allowed Miss Butler to copy the poem in her keepsake album.

Miss Butler was so taken with the charming work that she sent it in to the Troy newspaper shortly before the following Christmas, unbeknownst to Moore, who never intended to publish the poem as it was out of character for a strait-laced professor of classics.

The poem captured the imaginations of young and old alike … indeed, its popularity can be measured by the many editions still in print … so Clement C. Moore finally consented to being recognized as its author when the poem appeared in The New-York Book of Poetry in 1837.

Some say Moore took his inspiration from his past readings of the Knickerbocker History and The Children’s Friend, borrowing a little here and a little there. Others say that since he wasn’t writing for publication, but for his own children, they can believe that the author of A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language, a linguist and an elite Episcopalian could also write: “More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name; Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On Comet! On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!”

We believe! We believe! We “ … heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!.”

Events December 23

1783 - George Washington returned to Mount Vernon, after the disbanding of his army following the Revolutionary War. His first words upon returning home, “Hey, Martha - what’s for dinner?” And, in a very deep voice, she replied, “BEEF!”

1834 - Joseph Aloysius Hansom patented his Patent Safety Cab on this day. The 2-wheeled, horse-driven cab (cabriolet) with the driver seated above and behind the passengers (he talked with the them through a trap door) became known as the hansom cab. Hansom was also a well-known architect. The Englishman designed the Birmingham Town Hall, Plymouth Cathedral and many other churches, convents, schools and mansions. And it is a good thing he had his architectural business to fall back on. He never made any money from those hansom cabs, even though you can still spot them on the streets of many cities around the world.

1888 - Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh arrived at House of Tolerance (brothel), asked for one Rachel, and handed her -- his ear, saying “Keep this and treasure it.” Then he disappeared. Informed of this action, which could only be that of a poor lunatic, the police went to the man’s address the next morning and found him lying in bed and giving almost no sign of life. The unfortunate artist was admitted to hospital as an emergency case.

1913 - The Federal Reserve Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. It established 12 Federal Reserve Banks.

1919 - The first ship designed to be used as an ambulance for the transport of sick and wounded patients was launched. The hospital ship was named USS Relief and had 515 beds.

1920 - The Government of Ireland Act became law on this day. Ireland was divided into two parts, each with its own parliament.

1930 - An unknown actress, like so many others, arrived in Hollywood, under contract to Universal Studios. She was Ruth Elizabeth Davis. Universal changed her name for the movies. Five years later, the actress won an Academy Award for her performance in Dangerous; followed by another Oscar in 1938 for Jezebel. We remember Bette Davis. Nice eyes!

1938 - Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch was heard for the final time on the radio. The program was about life in a Kentucky shanty town. It had been on the air for three years. Maybe if they had changed the title a little...

1942 - Bob Hope agreed to entertain U.S. airmen in Alaska. It was the first of his many famous Christmas shows for American armed forces around the world. The tradition continued for more than three decades.

1943 - The first complete opera to be televised was aired on WRGB in Schenectady, NY. (WRGB was named after GE engineer Dr. W.R.G. Baker. It was not named, as many have thought over the years, for red, blue and green, the three primary colors of a TV picture tube.) Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel was the opera presented. (And that’s not Engelbert, the singer. Hansel and Gretel’s creator was the original Engelbert Humperdinck.)

1947 - John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain and William Shockley invented the transistor (they shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics for their work). The device was referred to as the electronic engineer’s dream. In its original form, the transistor wasn’t the tiny silicon component we know today. It took up a lot of space in the lab in New Jersey where it was invented. Today, thousands of transistors can be packed into an incredibly minute space, smaller than a pinhead; and used in electronic applications such as computers, radios, TVs and video games, to name just a few.

1950 - Pope Pius XII announced that St. Peter’s tomb had been located far below the high altar of St. Peter’s basilica in the Vatican.

1954 - The classic movie, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, was released. The film was one of Walt Disney’s most successful. Kirk Douglas and James Mason starred.

1957 - Actor Dan Blocker made his debut on television in the Restless Gun production of The Child. Two years later, Blocker starred in the very popular Bonanza on NBC, as Hoss Cartwright.

1964 - Radio Caroline and Radio Atlanta (later known as Caroline South and North) were joined at sea by Radio London, which arrived off Frinton (northeast of London) this day. The new ship/station brought a team of ‘Americanised’ deejays, experienced in the art of selling themselves as much as the music. With catchy jingles and contagious slogans like ‘Wonderful Radio London’ and ‘Big L’, Radio London soon became king of the U.K. pirate-radio scene.

1968 - Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr. & William A. Anders became the first men to orbit the Moon. The crew of Apollo 8 moved from the Earth’s realm of influence to the Moon’s in preparation for a lunar-orbit injection.

1968 - The crew of the U.S. Navy ship Pueblo walked across the Bridge of No Return (between North and South Korea), following their release by North Korea. The Captain of the Pueblo, Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, and 82 of his crew had been held for 11 months after the ship was seized by North Korea because of suspected spying by the Americans.

1969 - B.J. Thomas received a gold record for the single, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head -- from the motion picture, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Raindrops hit number one on the pop charts on January 3, 1970 and stayed there for 4 weeks.

1969 - Elton John met with arranger Paul Buckmaster, writer Bernie Taupin and producer Gus Dudgeon. The collaboration marked the start of one of the most successful milestones of music in the 1970s. Together, they created Your Song, Friends, Levon, Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and many more.

1972 - The world record for consecutive sit-ups was set by Richard Knecht in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He did 25,222 -- on a hard surface without pinned feet. It took the eight-year-old 11 hours and 14 minutes.

1972 - Some 11,000 people died and 20,000 were injured when a series of earthquakes left the Nicaraguan capital of Managua in ruins.

1975 - The Metric Conversion Act was adopted by Congress to make the metric system America's basic system of measurement. This act, along with the Savings in Construction Act of 1996 directed U.S. federal agencies to convert to the metric system, to the extent feasible, including the use of metric in construction of federal facilities.

1982 - Chaminade defeated previously unbeaten Virginia at home in Honolulu. Chaminade was a school hardly anyone had ever heard of until that upset. Ralph Samson, one of the ‘twin Towers’ of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, was held to 12 points, as the school of only 850 students won, 77-72. Even Chaminade’s students were at a loss as to how they won. After all, they were never known for their sports. Chaminade alumni still talk about this one.

1982 - 62-year-old actor Jack Webb (Joe Friday on Dragnet) died of a heart attack.

1983 - Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was named Offensive Player of the Year by the National Football League.

1986 - **** Rutan and Jeana Yeager became the first airplane pilots to make a non-stop trip around the world without refueling; 216 hours of continuous flying; breaking their own record of 111 hours set a year and a half earlier. The couple guided their Voyager on the record-setting, but harrowing and uncomfortable, flight to and from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.

1990 - Slovenians voted overwhelmingly in favor of their republic’s secession from Yugoslavia.

1991 - Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll retired after 23 seasons. He was the only coach to have four Super Bowl wins (1975-1976, 1979-1980) and was the fifth winningest coach in the NFL (209-156-1).

1994 - U.S. Professional baseball owners imposed a salary cap fiercely opposed by players.

1995 - A fire killed some 540 people, including 170 children, in Dabwali, northwest of New Delhi, India. A tent caught fire during a year-end school party.

1996 - Russian President Boris Yeltsin returned to his office at the Kremlin after a six-month bout with a heart ailment.

1997 - A jury in Denver convicted Terry Nichols for conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the Apr 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

1997 - Carlos the Jackal, aka Ilich Ramirez Sánchez, was convicted in France of the murder of two French agents and a Lebanese informant in June of 1975. Sanchez was sentenced to life in prison.

1998 - Two days of severe cold in California caused some $700 million in agricultural damage. The lemon and navel orange crops of the central San Joaquin Valley were hard hit.

1999 - And, speaking of kids born in 1999: Saul Bellow, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Literature, was the father of a baby girl. Bellow’s fifth wife, Janis Freedman, 41, gave birth to Naomi Rose Bellow this day. So, what’s the big deal, you ask? Bellow was 84 years old at the time.

1999 - U.S. President Clinton pardoned Freddie Meeks, a black sailor court-martialed for mutiny during World War Two. Meeks and other sailors refused to load live ammunition following a deadly explosion (more than 300 lives lost) at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine near San Francisco.

2000 - Actor Billy Barty died in Glendale, CA at the age of 76.

2000 - Musical humorist Victor Borge died. He was 91 years old. Victor Borge’s 1953 Comedy in Music ran for 849 performances at the Golden Theater on Broadway.

2002 - U.S. Senate Republicans unanimously elected Bill Frist to succeed Trent Lott as their leader in upcoming Congress.

2003 - The George Bush (II) administration reversed a 2001 Bill Clinton policy and opened some 300,000 acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to possible logging or other development.

2003 - Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that marijuana possession would remain a criminal offense even as Prime Minister Paul Martin pressed to eliminate jail sentences for people caught with small amounts of the weed.

2003 - New York Governor George Pataki posthumously pardoned comedian Lenny Bruce for a 1964 obscenity conviction. The pardon was granted in response to a campaign mounted by Bruce’s daughter and former wife, and entertainers such as Robin Williams, the Smothers Brothers, and Penn and Teller.

2004 - Washington state election officials announced that Democratic candidate Christine Gregoire was the winner in the governor’s race by 130 votes over her Republican opponent Dino Rossi.

2005 - The Ringer debuted in U.S. movie houses. The comedy stars Johnny Knoxville, Katherine Heigl, Brian Cox, Zen Gesner, John Taylor and Jed Rees.

2005 - Astronomers announced that they had discovered new moons and rings around Uranus using the Hubble Space Telescope.

2006 - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger broke his leg while skiing with his family in Sun Valley, Idaho.

2007 - Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson died at his home in Mississauga, Canada. He was 82 years old. Peterson hard-driving swing and melodic improvisations made him one of the world’s most influential jazz pianists. His career that spanned seven decades.

2008 - Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it would pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 lawsuits over wage-and-hour violations. The announcement ended years of disputes.

2008 - U.S. President George Bush (II) granted pardons to 14 people and commuted the prison sentences of two others convicted of misdeeds ranging from drug offenses, tax evasion, and wildlife violations to bank embezzlement. One pardon, that of Isaac Robert Toussie, was reversed the next day after it was learned that Toussie's father had donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party a few months ago.

2009 - Movies debuting in U.S. theatres: The animated Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel, featuriang the voices of Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate, Amy Poehler; and Police, Adjective (Politist, adj.), with Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov, Irina Saulescu, Ion Stoica, Marian Ghenea, Cosmin Selesi, George Remes, Dan Cogalniceanu, Serban Georgevici and Alexandru Sabadac.

2009 - An unusually high tide in Italy flooded most of Venice. The tide forced tourists and residents to wade through knee-high waters or take to improvised, elevated boardwalks.

Birthdays December 23

1805 - Joseph Smith
Mormon leader, founding prophet, first elder/president of the church; murdered June 27, 1844

1812 - Samuel Smiles
writer: Thrift: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”; died Apr 16, 1904

1860 - Harriet Monroe
poet: founder of Poetry magazine; died Sep 26, 1936

1862 - Connie Mack
Baseball Hall of Famer [catcher, manager]: Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington [Statesmen, Nationals, Senators)], Buffalo Bisons; manager: Pirates, Milwaukee Western League and Philadephia A’s; holds records for wins [3,731], losses [3,948], and games managed [7,755]; died Feb 8, 1956

1903 - Fredi (Fredericka Carolyn) Washington
actress: Imitation of Life, Ouanga, One Mile From Heaven; died June 28, 1994

1907 - Don McNeill
radio host: The Breakfast Club [The Pepper Pot], ABC Radio, 34 years with Eddie Ballantine, Sam Cowling and Fran Allison; died May 7, 1996

1911 - James Gregory
actor: The Manchurian Candidate, Barney Miller, PT 109, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Captain Newman, M.D.; died Sep 16, 2002

1918 - José Greco
flamenco dancer, actor: Ship of Fools, The Proud and the ****ed; died Dec 31, 2000

1921 - Gerald O’Loughlin
actor: The Rookies, Our House, Ensign Pulver, A Matter of Life and Death

1924 - Dan Devine
football coach: Green Bay Packers, Univ. of Notre Dame

1924 - Floyd Kalber
newscaster: NBC-TV News, WMAQ-TV, WMAQ-TV [Chicago]

1925 - Harry Guardino
actor: Hell is for Heroes, Dirty Harry, The Enforcer, Fist of Honor; died July 17, 1995

1926 - Robert Bly
author: What Have I Ever Lost by Dying?, Iron John: A Book About Men

1929 - **** Weber
bowler: shares record for most wins [4] in US Open Bowling Tournament [1962-1963, 1965-1966]; founding member of the Professional Bowlers Association; died Feb 13, 2005

1933 - Akihito
Emperor of Japan; first son of Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako

1935 - Paul Hornung
‘The Golden Boy’: Pro Football Hall of Famer: Green Bay Packers’: NFL Individual Record for points [176] scored in season [1960]; Notre Dame: Heisman Trophy winner [1956]

1935 - Johnny Kidd (Frederick Heath)
singer, songwriter: Please Don’t Touch; group: Johnny Kidd & The Pirates: You’ve Got What It Takes, Shakin’ All Over, Restless, Linda Lu, A Shot of Rhythm and Blues, I’ll Never Get Over You, Hungry for Love, Always and Ever; killed in car crash near Manchester, England Oct 7, 1966

1935 - ‘Little’ Esther Phillips (Esther Mae Jones)
pianist, singer: Release Me, What a Diff’rence a Day Makes; Grammy nomination: Best female R & B vocalist [1973], Aretha Franklin won but gave award to Esther; died Aug 7, 1984

1936 - Willie Wood
Pro Football Hall of Famer [safety]: Green Bay Packers: career: 48 interceptions for 699 yards and two touchdowns, 187 punt returns for 1,391 yards and two touchdowns, played in eight Pro Bowls

1940 - Jorma Kaukonen
musician: guitar: groups: Jefferson Airplane: It’s No Secret, Runnin’ Round This World, Somebody to Love, White Rabbit, Triad, Greasy Heart, Lather, Meadowlands, Wooden Ships, We Can Be Together; Hot Tuna: LPs: Thirty Seconds Over Winterland, Early Flight, Flight Log, Black Kangaroo

1940 - Eugene Record
singer: group: Chi-Lites: Give It Away, [For God’s Sake] Give More Power to the People, Have You Seen Her, Oh Girl, Homely Girl, Too Good to Be Forgotten; died Jul 22, 2005

1941 - Tim Hardin
singer, composer: If I Were a Carpenter, Reason to Believe, Hang on to a Dream, Misty Roses, Tippy-Toein’; died Dec 29, 1980

1942 - Jerry (Jerome Martin) Koosman
baseball: pitcher: NY Mets [all-star: 1968, 1969/World Series: 1969, 1973], Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies

1943 - Elizabeth Hartman
actress: Secret of NIMH, Full Moon High, Walking Tall, Patch of Blue; died June 10, 1987

1943 - Harry Shearer
actor: The Return of Spinal Tap, The Fisher King, Portrait of a White Marriage, This is Spinal Tap, The Right Stuff, One Trick Pony, Saturday Night Live, voice of Smithers & Otto the Bus Driver: The Simpsons

1944 - Wesley Clark
4-star General of the U.S. Army; Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO [1997-2000]

1945 - Ron Bushy
musician: drums; cofounder of Iron Butterfly: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Possession, Unconscious Power, Get Out of My Life Woman, My Mirage Soul Experience

1946 - Susan Lucci
Daytime Emmy Award-winning actress: All My Children [1999]; Dallas, French Silk, Lady Mobster, Mafia Princess, Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, Invitation to Hell, Secret Passions

1948 - Jack Ham
Pro Football Hall of Famer [linebacker]: Pittsburgh Steelers: Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, XIV

1951 - Johnny Contardo
singer: group: Sha-Na-Na, formerly Eddie and The Evergreens, Dirty Dozen

1951 - John McDaniel
football: Washington Redskins

1951 - Kevin Restani
basketball: Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs

1956 - DAVE Murray
musician: guitar: group: Iron Maiden: Run to the Hills, Running Free: LPs: Killers, Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Power Slave, Live After Death, Somewhere in Time

1958 - Joan Severance
model, actress: Wiseguy, Black Scorpion, Aftershock, The Lost Gold of Khan, Last Sunset, Cause of Death, Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story, Matter of Trust

1963 - Jim Harbaugh
football: Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts QB; head coach: Univ of San Diego Toreros

1964 - Eddie Vedder (Mueller)
songwriter, singer: group: Pearl Jam: LP: Ten

1968 - Lucy Bell
actress: The Wog Boy, Through My Eyes, My Husband My Killer, Sydney: A Story of a City, Oscar and Lucinda, Swinger, The Nostradamus Kid

1968 - Rick White
baseball [pitcher]: Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians

1969 - Greg Biffle
NASCAR race car driver: first driver in history to win both the NASCAR Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series titles, 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion; 2001 NASCAR Busch Series Rookie-of-the-Year, 2002 NASCAR Busch Series Champion

1969 - Martha Byrne
actress: Mergers and Acquisitions, When the Cradle Falls, The Beniker Gang, He’s Fired, She’s Hired, Drop-Out Father

1971 - Corey Haim
actor: Life 101, Dream a Little Dream series, Oh, What a Night, Fast Getaway, Dream Machine, The Lost Boys, Lucas, A Time to Live, Silver Bullet, Murphy’s Romance, First Born, Demolition University, Without Malice

1973 - Adrien Brody
Academy Award-winning actor [The Pianist (2002)]; Angels in the Outfield, The Undertaker’s Wedding, The Thin Red Line, The Singing Detective, King Kong

1976 - Brett Clark
hockey [defense]: NHL: Montreal Canadiens, Atlanta Thrashers, Colorado Avalanche

1975 - Vadim Sharifijanov
hockey [right wing]: New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks

1978 - Victor Martinez
baseball [catcher]: Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians

1978 - Estella Warren
champion swimming champ, model, actress: I Accuse, Kangaroo Jack, Planet of the Apes, Perfume

Chart Toppers December 23

1949I Can Dream, Can’t I? - The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (vocal: Jack Leonard)
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Gene Autry
White Christmas - Bing Crosby
Blue Christmas - Ernest Tubb

1958The Chipmunk Song - The Chipmunks
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - The Platters
One Night - Elvis Presley
City Lights - Ray Price

1967Daydream Believer - The Monkees
I Heard It Through the Grapevine - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Woman, Woman - The Union Gap
For Loving You - Bill Anderson & Jan Howard

1976Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright) - Rod Stewart
The Rubberband Man - Spinners
You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show) - Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.
Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous - Johnny Duncan

1985Say You, Say Me - Lionel Richie
Party All the Time - Eddie Murphy
Alive & Kicking - Simple Minds
The Chair - George Strait

1994Here Comes the Hotstepper - Ini Kamoze
Another Night - Real McCoy
Always - Bon Jovi
Pickup Man - Joe Diffie

2003Hey Ya! - Outkast
It’s My Life - No Doubt
Invisible - Clay Aiken
There Goes My Life - Kenny Chesney

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Happy Birthday Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam


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