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One Scary Film: COLLAPSE

Collapse is a 2009 documentary about the ideas and predictions of a man named Michael Ruppert, a former police officer and investigative journalist. Some people call him a crackpot, others a prophet -- regardless, his ideas demand attention. Primary among them is an argument that the profound and absolutely unprecedented population spike of the last 150 years or so was a direct result of the discovery and exploitation of oil. Oil and petrochemicals have made many, many things possible -- oil is in a lot more of what we use every day than just our gas tanks -- and all signs point to the fact that we're running out of it. And when we do -- when the commodity that precipitated the population spike is gone -- there's only one way for that spike line on the world population graph to go. Down.

As a sort-of-hopeful coda to the film, Ruppert recalls the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. There were several nations who depended entirely upon Soviet oil, the flow of which stopped abruptly after the USSR dissolved. Two of those nations were Cuba and North Korea, which Ruppert uses as examples of the right way and wrong way to react to the end of oil.

North Korea froze. Their political structure was far too rigid and they didn't move quickly enough to address the crisis. They had this top-down food distribution system where most people got their groceries from the government -- and when the oil stopped, and their economy collapsed, the food distributions stopped, too. People starved to death at an amazing rate. Something like three million people died. Kim Jong Il stationed army units in every town in the country just to collect and dispose of the bodies, but even they were overwhelmed. And even while this was going on, the North Korean government ordered many of its farmers to grow non-food crops, like opium poppies, for export.

Cuba, on the other hand, responded quickly. Food production went local. It was mandated that every bit of arable land in Havana be used to grow crops. As a result, they made it through the collapse, and now the Cubans are eating better than ever -- they have plentiful, organic, locally-farmed food, which is more than even many Americans have. So as Ruppert sees it, the post-collapse world will also be a post-globalization world, in which the communities that fare best embrace what is local and sustainable.

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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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