Real face of St Nick revealed! Also Hanukkah explained, gaming good for you, India kicks plastic cups

Dec 9, 2020 Episode 24

Updated face of Saint Nicholas revealed, why Hanukkah is 8 days, study says video games good for you, India Rail gets rid of plastic cups and three oddballs make you smile.

Digital facial reconstruction of Saint Nicholas courtesy of Image Foundry.

And thank you to Yuching and Yule Liu for helping with this week’s episode art! Ho, ho, ho!

Episode Transcript

OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”




LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi a whirlpool of news and information.

I’m your host, Leela Sivasankar Prickitt. And this is my mama. I mean my co-host…


MAMA: Hello. I’m Lyndee Prickitt.


LEELA:  And because we are recording from our fabulous studio (under my parent’s bed, that is) in India…




LEELA: In this week’s episode, you won’t believe the big news we have on the big man…


MAMA: Ho, ho, who?


LEELA: Not Santa Claus, but Jolly Old Saint Nick. And, of course, it’s not just the Christmas season Happy Hanukkah!


Since it’s the “happy holidays,” we’ll have a big gift to video game lovers as we reveal a study that says playing video games especially during lockdowns is good for your mental health!


We’ll also hear how India has boarded the anti-plastic train. And finally, our oddball story is, well, there are a LOT of oddball stories coming out of the lucky dip machine, so you’ll just have to listen till the end to hear our oddball wrap.


So, let’s dive in and whirl around the Newsy Pooloozi. First up is the…


STING: “The Big NEWS story of the week!”

LEELA: (Sings) So…

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town!


MAMA: And when YOU sing that song, what do you imagine?


LEELA: Oh, well, of course the jolly, fat man in the red suit, with a long, curly white beard, chubby red cheeks and a twinkle in his eye.


MAMA: Santa Claus! Otherwise known as Old St Nick. And I’m not going to take that image away at all. I will, though, tell you that Santa wearing the red suit was first recorded by Victorian drawings in an American magazine, called Harper’s Weekly, about a 140 years ago. But the red suited-up Santa didn’t really become iconic


LEELA: Coming super popular that you see it everywhere, right?


MAMA: Right. And that wasn’t until it was part of an ad an advertisement put out by Coco-cola whose colors are –


LEELA: Red and white!


MAMA: Yep. Now while many believe Santa Claus is the magical reindeer driving man who lives in the North Pole with his elves, Saint Nicholas was a real Christian Saint that lived just around 300 years after the birth of Christ.


LEELA: And he was the rich bishop who went around secretly leaving gifts to the poor, right?


MAMA: So, the story goes, yes. And his special Saint’s Day to remember him is December 6 for the Dutch people in the Netherlands, who exchange their gifts on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day or Sinterklaas day, as they say.


LEELA: Saint Nicholas, Sinter-class, Sinterkloss… Sinter-clause… Santa Claus!


MAMA: See how it’s all connected… But, because the real Sintercloss, or Saint Nicholas, was a man of the church back in the 300s, he more likely wore the robes of a priest.


LEELA: No red suit, then, huh?


MAMA: ‘Fraid not. That’s not all! He had a beard, yes, as most religious leaders at the time did, but its kind of wasn’t flowing down to his chest or anything.


LEELA: Uhhhhh… How do we know this? Nobody took selfies back then. Did, they?


MAMA: You’re right. But they painted portraits. And when someone important died… they would keep their bones!


LEELA: Huh?! OH, yeah, like mummies and all that.


MAMA: Well, sadly, he wasn’t mummified only a few of his bones remain and 700 years after his death, his bones were stolen!


LEELA: Huh? By who?


MAMA: Whom. Well actually, he was actually a Greek man, though he lived in a place that is now part of Turkey, and his remains, or relics as they’re called, were a big tourist attraction back in the day. They were said to release a fragrant watery substance, would you believe. And so, water containing that fragrance used to be sold.


LEELA: Uhhhhh? Like, “Step right up, step right up, get a sniff of old St Nick, folks! Have some ‘Santa Scent.’”


MAMA: (laughs) OK…? Well, not quite! Anyway, after the area became part of Turkey, under Muslim rule, in 1087 a group of Italian merchants crept in and stole his bones which they said did have a lovely fragrance.




MAMA: So, the story goes. They took the bones – considered precious – to a shrine in southern Italy, in the city of Bari, thus helping his memory spread across Europe and then America and live on today.


LEELA: Jolly Old Saint Nick’s memory sure did get around!


MAMA: And about that jolly bit… Recorded stories of him reveal that while he was generous and looked after the weak and vulnerable, he wasn’t one to shy away from an argument or fight. In fact, his bones reveal a broken nose.


LEELA: Uh-oh!


MAMA: And he didn’t have ruddy red cheeks, but swarthier, darker skin.


LEELA: Wait. How do we know all this from his bones?


MAMA: I was hoping you’d ask me that! In fact, that’s the big news! An updated image of what Saint Nicholas probably looked like is being released this very week!  Thanks to an Indian-British company run by the parent of our very own…


LEELA: Oh, oh, oh, I know this!


MAMA: Sorry don’t you mean ho, ho, ho!


LEELA: Ha! Good one. I do believe we are now going to Aarav Skills for this major development.


ARAV: Thanks to new technology the face of the Real Santa OK, Saint Nicholas! has been updated. You see, back in 2006, there was a big BBC documentary about Saint Nicholas.


For that, they worked with people who are experts at using bones to figure out how someone might have looked. They also work with Image Foundry, the UK-partnered Indian company that specializes in computer generated imagery. And that’s where my dad’s company, Image Foundry, comes in 16 years ago, they released an image of Saint Nick that shook people up! Because he didn’t look like the jolly, chubby-cheeked man we associate with Santa Claus.




ARAV: His skin was darker, for a start.  And his nose was large and crocked, showing it had been broken. That version was cool, but it lacked the details of the skin, eyes and hair to make it look really REAL. Not anymore. The technology has come a long way since then, thanks to Artificial Intelligence and better image editing tools.


Here’s what they did. Thousands of pictures of human faces were fed into a computer, “teaching” it about the human face. The team could then use something called “Deep Learning AI algorithms” to create the realistic textures and imperfections in the skin, eyes and hair.


Then a 3D modeling app and image editing software were used to re-create a more realistic looking face. Pretty cool, huh?


But don’t take my word for it. Have a look on the Newsy Pooloozi website to see it for yourself!

It’ll definitely make you think twice about being naughty or nice! In New Delhi I’m Aarav Skills reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.


LEELA: Thanks a lot, Aarav!


MAMA: Would the real Santa Claus please stand up, please stand up.


LEELA: Huh? Mama…!


MAMA: Sorry I couldn’t resist. It’s Xmas we gotta sing.


LEELA: Well, actually, it’s not JUST the Christmas season. Hannukah begins this week too.


MAMA: Of course, and that lasts for eight days, right?


LEELA: That’s right.


MAMA: But do you know why?


LEELA: I think so… But I know someone who can tell us for sure. Ananya Kazmin Roy, it’s over to you.


ANANYA: Well, Hannukah is the festival of lights for Jewish people. It celebrates a big miracle that happened to the Jewish people after a war a long time ago. In the fighting the Jewish temple was destroyed and the sacred lamp went out.


Jews found a pot of oil that was enough to light the lamp for one night. But a miracle happened. Instead of one night, that tiny amount of oil burned for eight nights. Today, Hannukah is celebrated by lighting a special candle holder, called a menorah.


The festival lasts for eight days. We light a candle each night until all 8 candles are lit. We also play games with a special four-side top, called a dreidel. On each side there are Hebrew letters to remind us of the Hebrew words, “Ness Gadol Haya Sham,” or a great miracle happened here.


And of course, we eat yummy treats, like fried potato pancakes, called latkas, or stuffed jelly donuts. Why do we eat these oily foods? Well, to remember how important oil is in the Hannukah story! Happy Hannukah! I’m Ananya Kazmi Roy, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!




LEELA: Thank you very much, Ananya! And as a special Hannukah and Christmas treat to all our listeners, who love video games… this one’s for you!


RUN STING: “It’s time for…. Technology News, technology news, tech news!”


MAMA: So, we’ve all heard those reports that playing video games for long periods of time just isn’t really good for us, right?


LEELA: And that too much screen time playing video games makes us unhappy.


MAMA: But guess what?!


LEELA: That might not be true!


MAMA: It’s hard to believe, but gaming could be good for you, as our very own technology correspondent Jackson Hosking is about to tell us.


LEELA: Take it away, Jackson!


JACKSON: OK, so during lockdown, I admit I’ve done a fair amount of gaming. I’ve also felt it’s been good for me, as every day I’m able to chat to my mates online and have fun.


My Mum noticed this too and became a little more lenient on how much time I spent gaming, despite having always thought it wasn’t good for me.


Well, turns out we might have been on to something. The Oxford Internet Institute in England has reported that gaming may actually be good for your mental health. Not really.


And get this even if played for long periods of time. In fact, they reckon it can have a positive and calming effect on the player! During the study researchers investigated two games, one Animal Crossing a Nintendo Switch only game, the other, a version of Plants vs Zombies an Electronic Arts, or EA, game.


Over 3000 gamers took part, all over 18 years old, and Nintendo and EA both gave information on how long the players spent gaming. All the participants then had a questionnaire to fill out, like how they felt when gaming. And guess what?! The study showed that gamers who played often and for longer periods of time tended to feel happier than those who didn’t!


One reason for this could be that playing video games where you can talk to friends, or interact with characters played by other real people can feel like a positive thing. Especially during lockdown.

And think about it…  Being able to influence and change storylines while gaming is way more creative than just watching videos. This research proves I’ve had a point all along!


And makes my mum more relaxed too. It’s a win-win situation. Well… for now, anyway!! (laugh)

In England this is Jackson Hosking, reporting for Newsy-Pooloozi.


LEELA: Thanks, Jackson – I’m happy for you!


WORLD WRAP STING: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… it’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”


MAMA: A massive farmer’s protest is choking the roads in and out of India’s capital, New Delhi, with calls to turn the protest into a nationwide strike. The farmers are unhappy with government plans to get rid of an old system that guaranteed prices for their produce.


That same protest made it to London, as thousands of friends and family of farmers living in England voiced their anger outside the Indian High commission as well.


In a big blow to astronomers and alien watchers, the world’s oldest and largest radio telescope – the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico – collapsed. There’s only one other giant, single-dish, radio telescope left in the world, which is in China.


Back in India, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, nearly 500 people have been hospitalized due to a mystery illness. Nope, it’s not COVID-19, but it’s creating a burden on an already stressed health care system. Thankfully, 200 people are well enough to be sent home.


Time magazine have announced their first ever “Kid of the Year” and it’s Indian American Gitanjali Rao,

who created a device to detect lead in drinking water? The 15-year-old said she’s been using science and technology to create social change including tackling cyber-bullying since she was 8 years old.

And the Teacher of the Year goes to a primary, or elementary, school teacher from India. Ranjith Disale, who was awarded for his efforts to promote education for girls. And, in a touching gesture of generosity that’s bound to bring tears to your eyes get this, he’s decided to share half of his 1-million-dollar prize with his nine finalists, saying their incredible work must be supported too.


LEELA: Wow – I think that was more Indian 80 seconds, than the world!


MAMA: You know, I think you’re right. While a lot of the world is gearing up for the Xmas holiday… India’s at full speed ahead. And we have more too! Speaking of trains


LEELA: Oh, yes, I think I need we need a cup of chai for this next story.


MAMA: Ooooooooohhhh, yeah.


LEELA: But not in plastic.


MAMA: I should think not. Not if it can be avoided.


LEELA: Well, until now you had no choice, but to sip your tea, from cheap little plastic cups if you were on an Indian train.


MAMA: And you can imagine what a lot of litter that left behind…


LEELA: Well, not for much longer. India’s getting on the no-plastic train. Choo- choo! For more let’s go to our reporters in Mumbai, Nyla Farooqi, and her little sister Nuwera.




NYLA: We all know how bad plastic is for the environment.


NUWERA: Very bad!


NYLA: And in India we have a real big problem with it.


NUWERA: Because there are so many of us in this country!


NYLA: Many who are not good at throwing away plastic responsibly. And even when they do plastic is very hard AND expensive to recycle. So that’s why the Indian Railways decided to ban all plastic cups and cutlery that can only be used one time.


NUWERA: That was last year!


NYLA: But now it’s actually happening.  At twenty-five stations there will be no more plastic cutlery or cups for your tea. Instead, they’re going back to basics using traditional “kulhads” or clay cups instead.

So far, it’s just 25 stations but soon there will be no plastic at 400 stations across India.  The Rail Minister says it will not only help the environment, but also create jobs. Not everyone agrees. They argue clay cups aren’t great for the environment either. But most people think it’s a good start on India’s “plastic-free journey.”


SFX: of train whistle


NUWARA: All aboard!!!


NYLA: In Mumbai this is Nyla Farooqi,


NUWARA: And Nuwera Farooqi,


NUWARA AND NYLA TOGETHER: Reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: Thanks Nyla and Nuvi. And finally, the lucky dip machine is spitting out a lot of oddballs this week.


STING: Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? And odd ball, no doubt!


LEELA: Indeed, and a lot of them too. First up shoes! How does one cobbler…


MAMA: That would a shoe maker…


LEELA: Yep, Do his bit for the pandemic? By making massively large shoes and boots, of course. Well, large flaps in the front.


MAMA: Ummm, why?


LEELA: To help people keep their distance of course


MAMA: Oh….


LEELA: Quack, quack, quack… Admittedly, they look a bit like you’re wearing a duck’s beak on your feet, but whatever it takes to keep safe, right?


MAMA: Well, you won’t go anywhere fast wearing those…


LEELA: Nope! And if you want a peek, we’ll post a picture of the, Romanian cobbler, Grigore Lup’s designs, on our Facebook page. You might also want to see the scorpion man…


MAMA: OK… What does he do?


LEELA: Well, in this photo he lets scorpions crawl all over his face!


MAMA: Scorpions, as in those highly poison creepy crawly things with 8 legs, sharp pincers and a poisonous tail?


LEELA: The very one. Or thousands… if you’re 25 years old, Mohamed Hamdy Boshta, whose company keeps 80,000 scorpions in farms across Egypt. As well as, a range of snakes.


MAMA: Why?


LEELA: Because, it turns out if you catch them and expose them to a tiny electric current, they’ll release their venom that’s the poisonous bit which is worth about $10,000 dollars, per gram!


MAMA: Ok I’ve one got for you and its less creepy


LEELA: Whew. The lucky dip machine is going crazy this week…


MAMA:  Ever had a late library book?


LEELA: Uhhhhh… fraid so.


MAMA: Yeah, I once had a book out for a whole year. The fine cost more than the book so unfair. But someone in Australia has me beat! A book about an adventuring sailor a yachtsman to be precise went on its own journey for 33 years being passed from yachtie to yachtie, as they called themselves in the notes, they left in the book


LEELA: Ewww… My librarian would not be pleased with notes left in the book.


MAMA: I know… One even said, “your mission, should you choose to except it, is to get this book back to Townsville.” Well, it took three decades, but it finally arrived, with another little note that reads “To the librarian, we are sorry that this book is a little overdue.”


LEELA: A little?!


STING: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top… five fab facts heard today. Here goes”



MAMA: Saint Nicholas was a real Christian Saint, who lived around 300 years after the birth of Christ and was known for secretly giving gifts to the poor.



LEELA: Santa Claus wasn’t really documented in a red suit until such drawings of him appeared in the American magazine, Harper’s Weekly, about a 140 years ago.



MAMA: Santa-in-the-red-suit though, became iconic after the American drink company, Coco-cola, used such images in a massive advertising campaign in the 1920s.



LEELA: Hanukkah is the festival of lights for Jewish people that celebrates the lighting of a scared lamp after the destruction of temple, with a tiny amount of oil that miraculously burned on for 8 days.



MAMA: Jewish people traditionally eat yummy, oily treats, like fried potato pancakes, called latkas, or stuffed jelly donuts, to remember how important oil is in the Hanukkah story.


LEELA:  And we’re almost at the end, but it’s time for our thank you… This time to our Indian listeners who’ve kindly taken the time to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.


MAMA: First up is Alexis 206 who writes: The narrators are adorable, especially little Leela. The podcast is all fun, positive news a breath of fresh air compared to regular depressing news.”


LEELA: Thanks, Alexis! And here’s one from Airs and Graces, who writes: “So much fun! This mother-and-daughter duo have found a great way to explain current events to kids. So much useful info on science, arts and entertainment too!”


MAMA: Thank you, thank you thank you!


LEELA: So, what are you waiting for? If you’re listening and you like what you hear, please, pretty please with sugar on top, leave us a review.


MAMA: It helps others find us too and, well, gives us reason to keep doing it, doesn’t it?


LEELA: You said it! And with that… we are over and out on this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!!!!!


See you next week in the whirlpool of news and information!