item 1 >>> Answer from yesterday…The Russian Orthodox Church has a worldwide membership of around 135 million, of which 65% are ethnic Russians. The Roman Catholic Church numbers over a billion, and the ROC is said to be the second largest Christian denomination, depending on how you categorize them. “Protestantism” taken as a whole has more, but no single Protestant denomination has as many. And of course, the ROC must be distinguished from the Byzantine and other Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church…they are in communion with Rome and are fully Catholic, while the ROC is not. Anyway, here’s the unique Orange vestments for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul…

item 2 >>> I wrote a while back about the last time there was a strike in pro football, and the aborted attempt to substitute Canadian Football League games on TV. Well, we’re facing a strike or lockout in 2011, hate to say it. In case the networks try that tack again, you might consider getting your football fix from the Great White North, and even if they don’t, games are probably on the net…I’m sure the CFLers would love the attention. Thing to keep in mind is the season is shifted ahead 2 months, July to November…there are other differences, but one I wanted to touch on today is what they do in Overtime, or what they call the Fifth Quarter.

item 3 >>> And what they do is, each team gets 2 tries to score from their opponents 35-yard line. A coin-toss determines which goes first. Each try ends when a team either scores, or loses possession, then the other team gets a chance, again starting at their opponents 35. If the game is still tied after the first tries, they do it a second time, with the order of the teams reversed, so its A-B-B-A. If there’s still no winner, it’s a tie. This past season 8 teams played an 18-game schedule, and there were no ties. One catch…if you score a touchdown in OT, you have to try for the 2-point conversion, I guess to make it more interesting. So what happens if the 2nd team scores a defensive touchdown on the 1st team’s 1st try? Dunno for sure, but I’d guess it’s game over.

item 4 >>> To give you an example of how it works, the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders were knotted at 40-40 after regulation, opening day this past season (mind you, this was on July 1st, Canada Day.) In the Fifth Quarter, the Riders scored a TD and 2-point conversion on their first try, Alouettes matched it. The Alouettes then scored a field goal on their 2nd try, but the Riders scored a TD, in which case they didn’t have to go for the conversion, as in the NFL, and won 54-51. It was the 3rd highest scoring game in CFL history, and top scoring season opener.

item 5 >>> Are the sins of the father visited upon the son? Not in baseball, where Pete Rose Jr. has been named manager of the Red’s Bristol, Virginia team in the rookie level Appalachian League. He played 21 seasons in the minors, batting .271 in 1,918 games. And he had just a sip of coffee with the Reds in 1997…going 2 for 14 in 11 games.

item 6 >>> Calls to mind Carl Yastrzemski’s son Mike, who played for 5 seasons in the minors in the 1980s, but never made the Bigs. He died in 2004. His son Mike, Carl’s grandson, was drafted by the Red Sox out of St. John’s Prep in 2009, but chose to go to Vanderbilt, where he’s an outfielder.

item 7 >>> Christmas Myth #9…Not so much a Myth as a Mystery…In Gene Autry’s song “Hardrock, Coco and Joe,” why are Santa’s 3 helpers referred to as dwarfs, instead of elves? Cute little tune, especially the part where they’re “a-snowballin’ Joe,” altho that’s probably slang for something we don’t want to know about. But they should be elves, right? In that famous poem, even Santa is called an elf. Our concept of Santa’s helpers is based on German, Dutch and Scandinavian folklore, derived from “house gnomes,” magic little dudes who live in your house and help you with chores, if you treat them right. Dwarfs also exist in Teutonic mythology, but they live underground and specialize in metallurgy: smelting, forging, and the like.

Christmas Dwarfs are few and far between…in his song “Santa Doesn’t Cop Out on Dope,” Martin Mull talks about the dwarfs he met at the North Pole, but that’s just Mull being Mull. An obscure Christmas single by Cliff Martin and the Neighborhood Kids, I’d guess early 60s maybe, is called “Three Little Dwarfs and Santa Claus”…they are toy-makers, but no hint as to why they’re not elves. And of course in movies today, real dwarfs sometimes play Santa’s helpers.

I thought I had this one nailed when I discovered that Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” originally out in 1937, was re-released to theaters in February 1952, and “Hardrock etc.” came out later that year. Gene and his crowd were Hollywood insiders, not prairie cowpunchers, so maybe they had dwarfs on the brain. Trouble is, come to find out the song, along with its delightful B-side “32 feet and 8 Little Tails of White,” was recorded in July 1951. Still, if Variety was already reporting the forthcoming return of Ms. White, that could explain it.

item 8 >>> Speaking of Christmas music, one I used to like to sneak in there, just to be snarky, was Diamond Rio’s 2000 tune “Stuff,” which I was surprised wasn’t a bigger hit, only up to #36 on Billboard’s Country chart. Check out the video on YouTube, altho I wish the dancing UPS ladies had more screen time. Treasure till it’s mine, then it ain’t worth a dime, it’s Stuff…STUFF!!!…stack it on, stack it on up…STUFF!!…

item 9 >>> And while I’m thinking of it…did you ever wonder why Andy Williams sings in that song “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” these lines: There’ll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago. It’s because long, long ago in England and all across Europe, Wintertime, and especially Christmastime, was a time for spooky tales. Perhaps because the season represented death, hard times, the longest night of the year, etc. Today, the only remnant is Charles Dickens, Jacob Marley, et al. But folklorists and story-tellers are keeping the tradition alive, and it’s out there if you search for it.

item 10 >>> But it reminds me of when they used to have Godzilla and King Kong movie marathons on Thanksgiving. Some might have found it somewhat incongruous, but I loved it, on the theory that holidays are the times for stuff that you like. So for an offbeat flick to watch this Christmas, I recommend you hunt down “The Stuff,” from 1985.  It’s a satirical horror film about this white Stuff, sort of the Blob’s cousin,  that runs amuck…and stars Michael Moriarty, Garrett Morris, Andrea Marcovicci and Paul Sorvino.

Wicked Ballsy

Nice lady seems spellbound…a random picture from long ago that someone posted on the net…and it just struck me the right way, that’s all…

I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have some shameless plugs…

Podcasts at http://stolfpod.podbean.com and   http://thewholething.podbean.com

Daily blogs at http://stolf.wordpress.com and  https://deepfriedhoodsiecups.wordpress.com

More bloggage at http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com and  http://www.examiner.com/retro-pop-culture-in-watertown/mark-john-astolfi

Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi

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