'Tis the season to be jolly, and if you haven't anything better to do tonight, why not pop along to a Cheese Festival at the O2? Sorry, that should read a festival of cheese, as classical promoter Raymond Gubbay is pushing Myleene Klass as the acceptable face of low-brow Christmas rent-a-crowds. Also appearing, Classic FM, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sopranos (probably not from New Jersey) and Metro Voices.
Alternatively, at the Royal Albert Hall, you've got: "magical Christmas music with Santa and his elves" featuring the Southend Boys Choir and a finalist from 'Off By Heart' (no, me neither); the BT Christmas Concert featuring Angela Rippon, indoor fireworks and the BT Steel Orchestra; and the Barbican has Natasha Kaplinsky and Jenni Bond with a host of orchestras and choirs.
We're so close to Christmas and there's loads of cool stuff we haven't shown you yet! So first up are three design gifts that would look good on anyone's tree, mantlepiece or cuffs:
The first is a set of decorations in the shape of video game controllers, available from the Use Your Digits Etsy shop.
Then a set of Modernist Christmas cards (pictured is the Pasmore Pavilion in Peterlee) designed by Things You Can Buy.
Finally some gorgeous cufflinks in Pantone colours from Sonia Spencer.
And finally, this photo of the cast of 'Clueless' is in memory of Brittany Murphy, who played Tai.
A miraculous event is happening in this part of the universe today: the winter solstice. The sun will return to the North [yeah right] and Winter will change into Spring. At 5.47pm the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun, so that all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south receive 24 hours of daylight. For an observer in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight for those living north of the Tropic of Cancer. Those living or traveling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year.
Today's picture is "Winter Solstice Circle" by Richard Long (2002). Made of white Rhone Valley river stones and green Marmorera. More of Long's land art can be seen at www.therichardlongnewsletter.org
We're heading up North soon for Christmas, and as well as seeing friends and family, Adam will be making his annual pilgrimage to the car park in Gateshead. Immortalised in the film 'Get Carter', condemned to be demolished, but given a stay of execution by Tesco's failure to get planning permission, this brutalist edifice was designed by Owen Luder in the 1960s.
One of the lovely things about Christmas is the sound of a brass band playing Christmas carols. If you're in Winchester today you'll be able to hear Jubilee Brass featuring our friend Catherine - they played a mean version of 'Do You See What I See', which you can see in the video below. Do have a wonderful Saturday!
Mr T is obviously hip again. After appearing in an advert for Snickers, you can now get a whole range of toys (or 'dolls', as several websites describe them). We love the plush Mr T above, he looks very huggable. There's also the Pity The Fool Weenicon:
available alongside some cleverly-named characters to avoid ever being sued for copyright (a bit like the Tom Cruise calendar from a few years back).
And these look very like the Observer Music Monthly characters that our friend Craig Robinson designed, only to be ripped off by loads of other people:
The most boring Christmas card received this year was not the one from the exam board Edexcel, hoping to "work with you in the coming year ... advancing learning, changing lives", because at least that had penguins on the front.
No, the little monstrosity above takes the prize for having the lame seasonal relevance of a tree on each graphic calculator, and the Texas Instruments logo on the back is wearing a Santa hat. And all to advertise that the TI-nspire now features an interchangable keypad. Their corporate motto? "Your Vision. Our Technology. Learner Success."
Right, I'm all calculatored out. Tomorrow, I pity the fool ...
If only ..! This is Adam's dream present, hours of fun with a binary calculator. We found this on another advent calendar, at The Framley Examiner. If you browse around, you may soon discover that all is not quite what it seems...
We are so lucky to have such talented friends. Maxnugget has contributed this fantastic photo she calls "Seasonings Greetings", as the two little Santas are also salt/pepper pots. You can see more of her Christmas photos, amongst many others, on her Flickr stream.
There's still time for you to contribute, either a picture, photo or suggestion of something you'd like to see. But we're more than halfway there, which means it will soon be competition time!
This year's Tate Tree has been a bit of a shock. After recent years with fighter planes, upside down trees and a tree in a skip, the one on display at Tate Britain is terrifyingly traditional. "Weihnachtsbaum" by Tacita Dean is covered with yellow candles, in holders with spherical weights hanging beneath. These, Dean points out, were the origin of the now ubiquitous Christmas baubles. At the top is a century-old German decoration Dean found in the flea market of Berlin, where she lives and which features in many of her recent artworks.
It's the third Sunday in Advent so we've been lighting our advent crown at church, which puts us in mind of Blue Peter and how as good British middle-class kids they had a candle to light every week as well. Here's a video from Christmas 1990 with John Leslie, Diane-Louise Jordan and Yvette Fielding. You can see their PURPLE advent crown about 6 seconds in, with real lit candles. You think they'd never get away with that nowadays (Elf & Safety), but wait until you see tomorrow's Tate Tree...
It's time for a musical entry on the advent calendar, and this is a great cover of the classic Kate Bush song "December will be magic again". It's sung by Pieros Kezou, a runner-up in the Cypriot pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. The piano is played by Adam's brother, Guy Creen, a music teacher in Cyprus.
Pieros's website shares the following facts: "Pieros showed early signs of maturity and a high interest in music; instead of playing with the kids of his age, he would lock himself in his room with a voice recorder and a small synthesizer." "It was very clear to him that he didn't want to follow the usual musical norms in both the music and the lyrics, thus he's trying to create a more pioneer and authentic sound for his work." "His recent work of the last couple of years, is concentrating in song writing. Influenced by Kate Bush, David Bowie, Suede, Depeche Mode, Antony and the Johnsons, he's writing songs with very personal and revealing, mainly in English lyrics, finished with interesting orchestrations and sensitive vocal touches. He is often in his work self sarcasting, other times observing, demonstrating and challenging taboo issues."
10th December is Human Rights Day across the world, because in 1948 the United Nations ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many people around the world are still denied those rights by corrupt or unfair political systems. Amnesty International asks you to send encouragement to someone in danger or unjustly imprisoned. If you've got a pack of greetings cards at home, could you keep one aside to send a friendly greeting? Your personal message will mean the world to a prisoner in a cell or a family waiting for news of a loved one.
Here are two of the messages received back last year: "You have giving me hope and shown me a lot of love. When I read some of your letters they make me so happy that I forget about the deplorable living conditions here in Aba prison." Patrick Okoroafor, Nigeria. "Whenever I am feeling depressed my eye falls on these cards and the loving caring feelings by thousands of supporters elivate my spirits in a second... Why should I worry in the presence of overwhelming support from all over the world." Amina Janjua, Pakistan.
Today's picture is a card drawn by mistertumnus, a friend from Northern Ireland. She writes: "My card will be sent to Rita Mahato in Nepal- a woman who works as a health advisor in Siraha. She works with women who have been attacked and provides them with medical care and legal support. Her work is dangerous; in Nepal female human rights defenders are frequently harassed and sometimes killed for their work in tackling domestic and sexual violence. Christmas is a time when we wish each other love and hope. We try to remember those who are having a hard time and we enjoy the festivities as much as we can with our friends and family. It takes very little time to remember someone like Rita who works so hard to bring hope to vulnerable people. A greetings card, like the ones we send to each other, helps to say 'You're not alone. We care.' "
There's a great bit in 'The IT Crowd' where someone says that if you type 'Google' into Google, the Internet will break. So what happens if you open your Advent Calendar to find another Advent Calendar?
Here's a round-up of the best other online calendars that I've found so far. If you want to recommmend any more, just leave a comment!
Dachshunds are the dogs of the season. In Paperchase is this lost looking doggy who at least has got a nice jumper to keep him warm.
In Muji you can get a patchwork dachshund or bulldog, both as a keyring and as an almost-life-size companion.
But king of the dachshunds is Waldi. He was the mascot for the 1972 Munich Olympics and represents the attributes required for sporting success - resistance, tenacity and agility. Waldi was designed by Otl Aicher and modelled on a real dog called Cherie von Birkenhof.
The Copenhagen conference on climate change, COP15, starts today. Its logo was designed by Troels Faber and Jakob Wildschiødtz from Copenhagen's Studio NR2154. They write, "The design is based on graphs of scientific climate data, showing predicted temperature changes, and there are 192 lines, one for each UN member state. It is simple, because the symbol is a stylised globe. It is complex, because the visual expression allows many different interpretations. The network of lines can be seen as connections between UN's 192 member states, but can also be seen as an expression of vulnerability, atmosphere and dynamic connections."
This editorial will be on the front page of 56 newspapers in 45 countries in 20 languages. Please read it and debate the issues with your friends. Whatever you believe about climate change, inaction is the thing that will surely destroy us.
Special request in from our friend Sloop John B, who wanted a picture of a snow-dalek. Happy to oblige, John! In fact, there seem to be HUNDREDS of these all over the web so it sounds like a popular idea. What's the best snow-figure you've ever created? Send us a photo or link and we'll post the best! Here's one of our Calvin & Hobbes favourites:
Advent Calendar best wishes go to our lovely friends Matthew and Penny, tying the knot today to become Dr & Dr Brookes! They have a bit of a Lego theme to the wedding, and sent out minifigs of themselves in the invites.
Today's photo is of Joe and Kristin Sparano of Nebraska. To propose, he mocked up a whole BOX of Lego that made the proposal scene, '7813 Engagement Picnic', and gave it to Kristin along with a Lego engagement ring. Of course she said yes!
For those who love Lego, this next photo is of a Japan-only collaboration between Lego and Muji. It's a box of bricks with some pre-cut paper so you can make little animals and people. Hope they sell it in the UK soon!
Phil Vickery is the UK face of Aldi, the German discount supermarket. In his most recent Christmas advert (filmed in July) he plugs their 89p chocolate reindeer range (seen here converted to Australia dollars). I know the expensive Lindt chocolate reindeer are basically their Easter bunny model with extra antlers, but these Aldi ones are strangely similar. I hope Lindt don't sue!
Special request from the Mansell family who say 'The Sound of Music' is a special part of Christmas for them. Our favourite bit is where Christopher Plummer sings 'Edelweiss' (even if it is dubbed by Bill Lee), oh and of course the children dressed in curtains.
You can choose what's behind tomorrow's window if you want - favourite film, food, photo or whatever you want. Let us know what YOU'D like to see!
We went Christmas shopping in London's West End yesterday and agreed that if we were going to buy our Panettone anywhere, it would have to be at Carluccio's in St Christopher's Place. It's a great shop (and restaurant) and a great cake, and has firmly replaced Stollen as our favourite seasonal delicacy. Caffe Nero have some great little mini-panettones, perfect for a teatime bite.