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Hey, I know that monkey!

After today, I'm imposing a self-moratorium on blogs about monkeys and the internet, despite the many letters, text messages and e-cards I've received urging me to continue mining this admittedly deep vein. (Thank you, faceless Blogospherians, I am humbled by your enthusiasm.) But this, I just had to share. Many of you may be aware of the little website that could: YouTube. For those of you who are not, YouTube is a video hosting website that

  • Was only started in December 2005, but is already the 13th most popular website on the internet, according to Alexa.com.
  • So popular is it -- with more than 100 million videos viewed, and 65,000 added, per day -- that major trad-media TV networks have approached YouTube to forge content-sharing agreements, and even apologized for a few of the copyright infringment lawsuits it slapped on them earlier this year. (Who's your daddy, CBS?)
  • Although estimates of YouTube's value are pretty much entirely speculative, that's not stopping anyone from speculating. CNET and the New York Post guess it could be worth between $650 million and $2 billion.

So what drives this burgeoning media empire? Anyone who's performed more than a cursory exploration of the site will tell you: videos of baby animals falling asleep, bums fighting, and the desperately lonely videoblogging about either of the aforementioned. Anyway, point is: the sister of a guy who acted in a film I made owns the baby monkey who is by far the most popular animal-falling-asleep on YouTube (something like a million people have seen it), which puts it in the running to be the internet's most celebrated animal. And while "Sleepy Baby Monkey Named Mercutio" may not sweep next year's Oscars, don't be surprised if by then it's been seen by more people than whichever arthouse indie which inevitably takes home the little golden guy.

What's that? One more monkey picture before I go? Well, okay.
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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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