Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July ends with a sleepy anticlimax

T.S. Eliot's poem, The Hollow Men, ends with what amounts to a gloomy chant: "This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whisper."

Well, we here at The Blog of Days can't say for sure how the world may end, but July sure ends with a whimper. The Usual Suspects offer competing suggestions: Mutt's Day (for the dog of random heritage in your life) -- or Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day (for the afficionado of the euphonium or valve trombone in your life, per brownielocks.com) -- or Fill-in-the-Blanks Day (which sounds a whole lot like 'insert your own made-up, microminiholidayette here').

I suppose Mutt's Day must win, if only because there are so many mutts out there.

And these are the "Dog Days of Summer."

And... every dog must have it's day?

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30 is Father-in-Law Day and Paperback Book Day

Brownielocks.com proclaims today as Father-in-Law Day and Paperback Book Day.

We here at The Blog of Days will be waiting, probably in vain, for our sons-in-law to shower us with gifts today. A paperback book might be nice -- thieves aren't likely to grab a paperback from your mitts as you sit on the subway. For all their many advantages, Kindles and Nooks can attract unwanted attention from crooks, especially if the holder of said device is too much absorbed in the book on display to note the peril.

Hallmark agrees that today is Father-in-Law Day, but it also suggests National Cheesecake Day as an alternative. Cheesecake makes a nice gift, too. In Chicago, Eli's Cheesecake is perhaps the place to go for that.

We here at The Blog of Days could go for that right now.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

August is Back to School Month

It's also Black Business Month. African-Americans owning school supply businesses should be particularly happy to see the page turn on the calendar.

In keeping with the Back to School theme, August is also National Truancy Prevention Month and Get Ready for Kindergarten Month.

Not enough Back to School stuff for you yet? Well, click here for more about Children's Eye Health and Safety Month and National Immunization Awareness Month.

That same link, however, will also give you information about Psoriasis Awareness Month, and National Breastfeeding Month.

August is Win with Civility Month -- but this is an election year. Don't get your hopes up.

July 29 is Rain Day in Waynesburg, PA

No, seriously: You could look it up.

From the Rain Day website:
Rain Day got its beginning in the Daly & Spraggs Drug Store, located in the center of Waynesburg. Legend has it that one day a farmer was in the drugstore and mentioned to Byron Daly that it would rain the next day, July 29. Mr. Daly asked him how he knew and he replied that it was his birthday and that it always rained on his birthday. He had a journal for several years in which he recorded the weather and always had noted rain on July 29th. Mr. Daly thought this was too sure a thing to let pass, so he started betting salesmen who came into his drugstore that it would rain in Waynesburg on July 29. The bet was usually a new hat, which of course he would win.
It's apparently rained on 113 of the 137 "Rain Days" in Waynesburg so far.

With so much of the United States in drought right now, The Blog of Days wishes that this was one day that could literally catch on nationwide.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hamburger Day or Buffalo Soldier Day

The all-American hamburger is the subject of today's gustatory observance.

Interestingly, the "Hamburg Steak" was a dish created by the poorer classes in Hamburg, Germany: Poor people couldn't afford better cuts of meat, so they ground up what they could afford and mixed it with whatever spices they could to make the dish more palatable.

Nature's most perfect food -- pizza -- was once strictly a peasant dish as well. Sophia Loren was shocked by all the pizza parlors when first touring the United States -- to her, pizza meant poverty -- and all the pizza joints she saw seemed to contradict what she'd been told about America's wealth.

Today is also Buffalo Soldier Day. Although there is some disagreement on the specifics, the appellation "Buffalo Soldier" seems to have been bestowed by American Indians who faced the African-American 10th Calvary in battle in the 1870s. The term Buffalo Soldier has come to apply to any African-American unit that could trace its lineage to the 9th or 10th U.S. Calvary Units. Then-Chief of Staff General Colin Powell presided at what may have been the first Buffalo Soldier Day observance at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1992 (the culmination of an idea he'd pushed from the time he'd served at that post while only a Brigadier General, many years before).

Here's a trivia point for you: General "Black Jack" Pershing -- the commander of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I -- got his famous nickname because of his early service as a lieutenant in the 10th Calvary. According to the Wikipedia article on Buffalo Soldiers, the nickname was anything but complimentary. Pershing was apparently not sufficiently racist enough to suit his brother officers; the actual name by which Pershing was called had to be cleaned up for the newspapers when Pershing became famous.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27: Somebody didn't hear something quite right

That was the conclusion of our crack research staff after discovering that Hallmark would designate today Take Your Pants for a Walk Day while gone-ta-pott.com says today is Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day.

While we here at The Blog of Days are reluctant to insert ourselves into any controversy, this one seems easily resolved, doesn't it?

If you spend today (or pretty much any other day) going for walks without your pants, tomorrow will almost certainly be "Ask Your Friends for Bail Money Day."

Therefore, we recommend that you don't take a walk anywhere in public without your pants today or any other day. However, if you're so inclined, take your philodendron or African violets out for a nice stroll.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Liberian independence, Blessed Andrew Phu Yen, and a milestone in American civil rights

A lot of the Usual Suspects say that today is All or Nothing Day. Some say that today is a day on which you should remember to live each day as if it were your last. That's not a terrible idea. But none say why today is singled out for this observance. So we move on.

Today was the last day, in 1644, for Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen, the "protomartyr" of Vietnam. (Protomartyr is a term bestowed on the first Christian martyr in any given country. "The Protomartyr," without geographic restriction, refers to either St. Stephen, the very first martyr, or to St. Thecla, the first female martyr. St. Paul had a hand in Stephen's death. It's a long story.)

Blessed Andrew Phu Yen was baptized at 16 by Jesuit missionaries and thereafter worked with them, as an assistant. When the local authorities booted the Jesuits out (the Jesuits have been kicked out of most places they've been), Andrew Phu Yen was arrested. After refusing to renounce his new faith, he was executed. He was only 19 or 20 at the time of his death. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Today is also Independence Day in Liberia.

It was also on this day, in 1948, that President Harry S Truman signed Executive Order 9981, desegregating America's armed forces.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bob Dylan, Mars, and Thread the Needle Day

Brownielocks.com and others among the usual suspects say today is Thread the Needle Day. Apparently Thread the Needle Day commemorates a game. Children can play it anytime (the lucky devils) but grownups are restricted to one day a year. Today, apparently.

What game you ask? Brownielocks.com links to this source, which describes says that this as a game in which two of the players hold their arms up in an arch and the others run through -- threading the needle. This is done repeatedly, with different couples taking turns to form the arch.

Gosh, Jane Austen, that sounds like fun.

Bob Dylan apparently didn't have fun on this day on 1965 when he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival. Audiences were used to their folk music straight, but Dylan plugged in that day (with Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, Al Kooper on organ, Jerome Arnold on bass, Sam Lay on drums, and Barry Goldberg on piano) and (most observers say) the aficionados booed.

It was also on this day in 1976 that NASA's Viking I probe snapped this photo of the Cydonia region of Mars.

The "Face on Mars" has been the subject of any number of insipid cable documentaries ever since.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24: Amelia Earhart Day and lots of other stuff

A lot of the Usual Suspects proclaim today Amelia Earhart Day. Earhart was born on this day in 1897. She disappeared, of course, while attempting a round-the-world flight with Fred Noonan. Exactly where their Lockheed Electra 10E went down is not known; a lot of current speculation focuses on Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro) in the Phoenix group, roughly 350 miles southeast of Howland Island, where the plane was supposed to stop.

(Updating: In its July 24 editions, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery -- TIGHAR -- has concluded its most recent expedition to Nikumaroro without finding the conclusive proof that it sought. The Sun-Times quotes TIGHAR president Pat Thrasher as saying, "This is just sort of the way things are in this world. It's not like an Indiana Jones flick where you go through a door and there it is." TIGHAR's website is more optimistic. Although the current expedition's time on-site was cut from a planned 10 to a mere five days because of "equipment problems directly attributable to the severity of the underwater environment at Nikumaroro," the expedition did recover "volumes of sonar data and many hours of high-definition video [that must be reviewed] before we’ll know the results of this expedition definitively." In other words they didn't see anything for sure, but they sure may have seen something. Time will tell.)

Amelia Earhart was a pioneer of women's aviation, but today's celebration of Pioneer Day in Utah has nothing to do with her. In Utah, Pioneer Day honors the arrival of Brigham Young and the first group Mormon settlers in the Salt Lake Valley on this day in 1847.

You could celebrate Pioneer Day with a shot of tequila, I suppose, but observant Mormons won't. Nevertheless, today is also National Tequila Day.

On this day in 1985, Fr. Ezechiele Ramin was gunned down for standing up for farmers and the Suruí natives of the Rondônia area, against the local landowners. The Wikipedia article on Fr. Ramin notes that Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Italian missionary a "martyr of charity" only days after his murder. Fr. Ramin's order, the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, is promoting his cause for canonization.

Never officially canonized by the Catholic Church, but revered as a saint down the centuries, today is also the unofficial feast day of Christina the Astonishing. The Wikipedia article on Christina, sometimes referred to as Christina Mirabilis (1150-1224), relates how
she would throw herself into burning furnaces and there suffered great tortures for extended times, uttering frightful cries, yet coming forth with no sign of burns upon her. In winter she would plunge into the frozen Meuse River for hours and even days and weeks at a time, all the while praying to God and imploring God's mercy. She sometimes allowed herself to be carried by the currents downriver to a mill where the wheel "whirled her round in a manner frightful to behold," yet she never suffered any dislocations or broken bones. She was chased by dogs which bit and tore her flesh. She would run from them into thickets of thorns, and, though covered in blood, she would return with no wound or scar.
She actively sought out opportunities to suffer because of a vision she'd had after suffering a seizure in her early 20's. It was thought she had died, and that is indeed what she said had happened -- after she revived during her funeral Mass.

She described how, after she'd 'died' angels took her to a very gloomy place, filled with souls:
"I saw among them many of my acquaintances," [she said] and, touched deeply by their sad condition, asked if this was Hell, but was told that it was Purgatory. Her angel guides brought her to Hell where again she recognized those she had formerly known. Next she was transported to Heaven, "even to the Throne of Divine Majesty" where she was "regarded with a favorable eye" and she experienced extreme joy and these words were spoken to her, "Assuredly, My dear daughter, you will one day be with Me. Now, however, I allow you to choose, either to remain with Me henceforth from this time, or to return again to Earth to accomplish a mission of charity and suffering. In order to deliver from the flames of Purgatory those souls which have inspired you with so much compassion, you shall suffer for them upon Earth: you shall endure great torments, without however dying from their effects. And not only will you relieve the departed, but the example which you will give to the living, and your continual suffering, will lead sinners to be converted and to expiate their crimes. After having ended this new life, you shall return here laden with merits.
Despite her subjecting herself to all these various torments (sort of a medieval version of "Jackass"), the prioress at the abbey where Catherine resided said that Catherine was always completely obedient to the orders of the prioress.

Catherine the Astonishing is considered a patron saint of the mentally ill.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23 is Gorgeous Grandma Day

You youngsters out there may not be too excited about the prospect of celebrating Gorgeous Grandma Day today... but just wait. The idea will grow on you.

If you insist on something else, I suppose you could celebrate National Mosquito Day.

This observance has been recognized by the Smithsonian (from whence this image was filched), although our crack research staff found this Gone-ta-pott.com site first.

Besides, if you really want to celebrate mosquitoes, you can start planning now for World Mosquito Day on August 20.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pied Piper Day

Pied Piper Day sounds a little better than National Ratcatcher's Day, doesn't it? But we're talking about the same observance, really.

And if you know the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, you know that it's not a not a cheery tale no matter what you call it. Wikipedia publishes all the theories about what may have happened in Hamelin to the town's children, but apparently something bad did occur there, back in 1284... or 1386... or maybe 1484. Whenever it happened, the lesson is clear: Don't stiff the pest control person.

(Especially if he's one of those catch-and-release types.)

The artwork with today's post is an image of a painting by Patrick Hiatt obtained from Fine Art America. You can buy copies of the painting by clicking on this link and (if our crack research staff has not bungled it) you can even buy the original painting from the artist.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Did we miss Woodie Wagon Day? And controversy swirls around Monkey Day, too

Some Internet sources say today is Woodie Wagon Day -- but others say it was July 15.

Here at The Blog of Days we try and avoid controversy and bill collectors both, so we'll not recommend Woodie Wagon Day this year. Perhaps next year, if the competing claims can be resolved....

We were going to suggest Monkey Day as a suitable alternative, but it turns out that there are at least two of these as well.

If you're planning ahead, the "serious" Monkey Day, the one with its own Wikipedia page, is December 14. Today's even more obscure observance is about more about 'monkeying around' than calling attention to medical research on our simian cousins.

While there are a number of sites that proclaim today as National Tug-of-War Contest Day, we here at The Blog of Days will go with one of Hallmark's recommendations today and proclaim today National Junk Food Day.

Hop in your woodie and buy yourself some chips today.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Feeling a little gloomy on Moon Day

It was on this day, 43 years ago, that a human being first left footprints on a heavenly body other than Earth. Thus, today is Moon Day.

I'm just finding it hard to celebrate. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are old men now -- not yet as old as John Glenn (I hope you did celebrate his birthday this week) but it's 40 years and counting since anyone has been to the Moon. Here's the complete list (complete with links to Wikipedia entries on each astronaut and mission):

Name Mission EVA dates
1 Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 July 20, 1969
2 Buzz Aldrin
3 Pete Conrad Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969
4 Alan Bean
5 Alan Shepard Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971
6 Edgar Mitchell
7 David Scott Apollo 15 July 31–August 2, 1971
8 James Irwin
9 John W. Young Apollo 16 April 21-23, 1972
10 Charles Duke
11 Eugene Cernan Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972
12 Harrison Schmitt

In all the years since, we've flown no higher than the International Space Station. Yes, it is a remarkable achievement to build even a small outpost that's technically in Outer Space -- but the ISS is in Low Earth Orbit -- it's just camping in Earth's backyard compared to the wonders that lie before us.

You probably didn't know this, but a new crew just arrived on the Space Station -- launched from Kazakhstan on July 14. Yes, the new crew includes one American, CAPT Sunita L. Williams, U.S.N. Williams flew to the Space Station from Russia because we have no operational manned spacecraft in the United States today.

Today. Moon Day.

What went wrong?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nero didn't actually fiddle while Rome burned

But today is the anniversary of the start of the Great Fire of Rome in 64 A.D.

We may acquit the Emperor Nero of the charge of fiddling while Rome burned mainly because the fiddle had not yet been invented.

While some sources say Nero was out of town when the fire happened, and that he rushed home to launch a personal public relief campaign, the Roman historian Dio Cassius, however, not only accuses Nero of having the fire set, he also charges that, "While the whole population was in this state of mind and many, crazed by the disaster, were leaping into the very flames, Nero ascended to the roof of the palace, from which there was the best general view of the greater part of the conflagration, and assuming the lyre-player's garb, he sang the 'Capture of Troy,' as he styled the song himself, though to the enemies of the spectators it was the Capture of Rome."

What happened after the Great Fire is not disputed. The Great Fire provided an excuse for the first major persecution of Christians at Rome. In addition all other sorts of public executions, since Nero wanted the Christians blamed for the fire, some unlucky Christians were burned as torches.

Also undisputed is that a large tract of land was set aside from the burned out areas for use by Nero himself. Among other things, he built himself a truly gigantic, luxurious palace, the Domus Aurea.

This was a bad move from every conceivable public relations standpoint -- and as soon as Nero was eliminated, the Domus Aurea began to be eliminated, too, the area being rededicated to public uses including the Flavian Amphitheater (you know it as the Coliseum) and the Baths of Trajan.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Birthdays of Nelson Mandela and John Glenn

There's not a lot else to choose from today. Hallmark suggests National Caviar Day, but that claim seems fishy, and American Greetings' suggestion that today is Wiener Day strikes us as a loser.

On the other hand, the United Nations has promoted Nelson Mandela's birthday as Nelson Mandela International Day since 2009, joining the call of the Nelson Mandela Foundation to urge all the people of the world to commit 67 minutes of time today to public service (one minute for each year of Mandela's life). So that qualifies as a holiday, and maybe even a notch or three above the sort of micro-mini-holidayette so often featured here.

As Mr. Mandela turns 94 today, the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, turns 91.

Nobody has declared Mr. Glenn's birthday any sort of holiday -- yet -- but maybe somebody should.

Perhaps you've forgotten that, in 1998, as his career in the United States Senate wound to a close, John Glenn went back into space, aboard the Shuttle Discovery, as part of the crew of STS-95. He was then 77, the oldest person ever to fly in space.

He wasn't traveling as mere cargo or window dressing. From the Wikipedia article linked in the preceding paragraph:
Since the aging process and a space flight experience share a number of similar physiological responses, a series of experiments sponsored by NASA and the National Institute on Aging was conducted on Glenn during the STS-95 mission. The investigations gathered information which may provide a model system to help scientists interested in understanding aging. Some of these similarities include bone and muscle loss, balance disorders and sleep disturbances. Data provided from Glenn during this mission was compared to data obtained from Glenn's Friendship 7 orbital mission in 1962.
At your favorite gin mill tonight, lift a glass of the Right Stuff in celebration of John Glenn and those heady days when America was determined to lead in space exploration.

Then go home and wonder what went wrong.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Yellow Pig Day and a remarkable birthday coincidence involving major league shortstops

Usual Suspect brownielocks.com is among the many sources that recognize today as Yellow Pig Day, a holiday for mathematicians.

Yellow Pig Day has its origins in the sleep-deprived musings of a couple of then-Princeton students, Michael Spivak and David C. Kelly. Back in the early 1960s Spivak and Kelly began listing interesting properties of the number 17... and somehow wound up imagining a yellow pig with 17 toes or 17 eyelashes, or maybe both. Today, Yellow Pig Day boasts its own Wikipedia page (a sure sign of cultural acceptance) and its own catalog of Yellow Pig Carols. If you follow that last link, you can sing some of these songs at your local tonight. If you do attempt to sing Yellow Pig songs in the tavern tonight, please remember that The Blog of Days is not responsible if you are tossed out your keesters.

Meanwhile, July 17 is also the birthday of two prominent shortstops with Chicago connections, Lou Boudreau (1917-2001) and Don Kessinger (1942- ).

Lou Boudreau was born in south suburban Harvey, Illinois. A Hall of Famer, Boudreau was the 'boy wonder' player-manager of the 1948 World Champion Cleveland Indians. When his playing and managing careers were over, Boudreau came home to Chicago and became a long-time broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs.

Indeed, Boudreau was broadcasting Cub games when Don Kessinger was in his prime as a shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. Cubs fans, sad, limited persons that they are, might think that this is the extent of the coincidence, but it's not.

For most of the 1979 season Kessinger served as player-manager of the Chicago White Sox. So Kessinger and Boudreau were both shortstops with a Chicago connection born on July 17 and both player-managers on teams owned by Bill Veeck. (Kessinger was replaced as Sox skipper on August 2, 1979 by a kid named Tony LaRussa. He turned out to be a pretty good manager, too.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Talk to a Telemarketer Day

The accompanying Dustin comic, by Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker (from April 17, 2012), seems particularly appropriate to today's featured observance, Talk to a Telemarketer Day.

Have a couple of belts on your way home tonight or pour yourself a snifter when you get in the door. The phone will ring when you're about ready to sit down to dinner, just like always, but you'll have that liquid courage fueling you. Pick up the phone. Make small talk. Ask about the caller's family. Just keep the call going as long as possible. If (and the odds strongly favor this) your annoying caller has a political pitch, ask if he or she can't help you unravel the difference between the Socialist Workers' and Socialist Labor Parties. He or she doesn't know? Well can your caller help you explain how syndicalism differs from anarchism?

There are other things to observe today, arguably.

Did you know that the very first parking meter was installed on this day in 1935 -- in Oklahoma City?

Shoeless Joe Jackson was born on this date in 1888.

Orville Redenbacher was born on this day in 1907.

The schism between Rome and Constantinople (between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy) is generally considered to have begun on this date in 1054.

And there are a great many sources claiming today is World Snake Day. Hey... here's an idea to tie things together: Maybe you can speak in Parseltongue when the telemarketer calls tonight....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

St. Swithin's Day

July 15 is St. Swithin's Day. Swithin, also spelled Swithun, was Bishop of Winchester from 852 to 862. In England many people still believe that, if it rains on St. Swithin's Day, it will rain for 40 days consecutively. On the other hand, if it is clear on St. Swithin's Day, nice weather will prevail for 40 days thereafter.

Organizers of the forthcoming London Olympics are out, even now, doing their anti-rain dance.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bastille Day or International Nude Day -- even the French will have a hard time deciding what to celebrate today

Maybe even especially the French. Ooh la la.

Our crack research staff here at the Blog of Days has logged hours and hours and hours searching for just the appropriate illustrations for today's celebrations.

Somehow, I think they found this illustration of the Storming of the Bastille rather quickly and spent the rest of their time looking for (and at) images for International Nude Day. As the publication deadline approached, all we could get in repeated calls to the research staff was heavy breathing. And giggling.

There is a consensus on the Internet that Nude Day started in New Zealand some years ago, which seems odd given that it's winter there. Since the observance has also taken off (*ahem*) in recent years here in the United States, it may truly be said that today's observance is international.

Maybe we can just combine the celebrations: Liberte, egalite, nudite!

Friday, July 13, 2012

If you're triskaidekaphobic today may not be your day

Are you triskaidekaphobic? Triskaidekaphobia is simply fear of the number 13 -- and Friday the 13th has long been considered an unlucky day.

If bandying the words triskaidekaphobia or triskaidekaphobic around the workplace all day will be insufficient to completely alienate your fellow laborers in the vineyard, try tossing "friggatriskaidekaphobia" around instead. (I do hope you're giving a dramatic reading of this post to a group gathered around your cubicle).

Figgatriskaidekaphobia is a very windy term (which I stole from Wikipedia) relating to the specific fear of Friday the 13th.

Sounds like a barely concealed bit of cussing, too, doesn't it? But "frigga" in this usage is not a barely concealed mispronunciation of an all-too-familiar four letter word; rather, it refers to the Norse goddess, Frigg (sometimes rendered Frigga), whose name may or may not have inspired the name of the this day of the week (as Thor inspired Thursday, and Odin -- or Woden -- inspired Wednesday).

Of course, if you're going to get immersed in that discussion, you'd best be prepared to take a position on the ways in which to distinguish Frigg and Freyja, if at all.

Perhaps it would be better to deny any superstitious fears and celebrate instead National French Fries Day. Here is a classic example of a prototypical micro-mini-holidayette: "Honoring" a particular food? Check. Importance inflated by sticking the adjective "National" on the name? Check.

Of course, if you know any French persons, you can probably put their teeth right on edge by suggesting that National French Fry Day is a perfectly appropriate way to get right in the mood for Bastille Day....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12: Simplicity Day

Today is the 195th anniversary of the birth of Henry David Thoreau, and the back-to-basics, back-to-nature philosophy of Thoreau is at the core of today's observance, Simplicity Day.

Simplify your life today: When you head to the local after work, order your whiskey straight (over the rocks at most) -- eschew mixers, at least until tomorrow.

Which is not, by the way, Hangover Day -- even if it is Friday the 13th.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If you have an interview today, we hope it goes better than Alexender Hamilton's 1804 Interview at Weehawken

You thought Vice President Dick Cheney was careless with firearms?

Vice President Aaron Burr was aiming at Alexander Hamilton on the morning of July 11, 1804... and he didn't miss.

Of course, if you don't understand that "interview" was (if not an actual synonym) a polite euphemism for "duel" none of this may make any sense to you.

So, for you, we advise that today is also Bowdler Day.

Thomas Bowdler was an English doctor, born on this day in 1754. He is remembered today, not for any medical accomplishment, but for his attempt to 'improve' on Shakespeare by removing all offensive words and phrases from the Bard's collected works. Bowdler's magnum opus, The Family Shakespeare was first published in 1807; he also prepared 'family' editions of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published posthumously) and certain books of the Old Testament.

Bowdler's efforts are remembered in the verb 'to bowdlerize,' meaning to expurgate, to prune, to edit, with particular attention to removing any naughty bits that might bring the slightest blush to younger or more sensitive readers (or viewers).

In modern usage, the verb is never bestowed as a compliment.

But is that fair? Bowdler was not a censor, not in the sense of someone trying to bring the power of the state to bear against a movie or book, to purge it of portions deemed offensive or to ban it outright. Rather, Bowdler considered himself Shakespeare's biggest fan. "I acknowledge Shakespeare to be the world's greatest dramatic poet," Bowdler wrote, "but regret that no parent could place the uncorrected book in the hands of his daughter, and therefore I have prepared the Family Shakespeare."

Many of us of a certain age can cite popular television programs or movies that would be, in our opinions, improved considerably by toning down, eliminating, or substituting a euphemistic reference for a full-frontal, in-your-face 'comic' bit. I have it on good authority, for example, that the Curmudgeon has never yet been able to get through an entire episode of Family Guy. We don't mean to destroy your right to enjoy vulgarity; we stand foursquare against censorship. We wish, though, sometimes, that a Bowdler might be found today to tone down some of the excesses of popular shows so that we, too, can enjoy them.

Something serious for you to discuss tonight at your local as you contemplate Bowdler Day....

The illustration used at the top of this piece was obtained from the Saturday Evening Post website. We didn't know that the Saturday Evening Post still existed... but apparently it does.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lady Godiva Day -- the most famous tax protest of all time

Lady Godiva was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman whose husband's oppressive taxation policy in the town of Coventry was crippling the local economy. She tried repeatedly to convince her husband to adopt a more moderate approach. Aggravated by her repeated pleas, Godiva's husband finally snapped that he'd lower taxes when she rode through the town naked.

So she did.

This being the very straitlaced Middle Ages (11th Century, to be precise, possibly in A.D. 1040), Godiva gave warning to the good people of the town of her intent, imploring them to stay indoors and away from their windows.

Almost all of them did -- all except for Tom, a local tailor, who bored a hole in his shutters and peeped through as Godiva went by. Legend has it that he was struck blind as a result -- but he was the first "Peeping Tom."

Supposedly, after the famous ride, Godiva's husband actually lowered the oppressive taxes.

That may also have been the last time a politician was shamed into doing anything.

Our crack research staff is persuaded that Lady Godiva was a real person (meaning, basically, that they found an article in Wikipedia, from which the accompanying image is taken). But they are not entirely certain that July 10 is actually the anniversary of the ride, even though this date is usually given as such.

So, if you're a stickler for exact dates, or if you like paying oppressive taxes, maybe you'd rather celebrate Teddy Bear Picnic Day.

One suggestion, though: You probably won't want to take Mark Wahlberg's friend Ted (pictured below) on such an outing -- at least not if you're looking for anything resembling the innocent Teddy Bear Picnic of the familiar children's song.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Martyrdom of the Báb

The Báb is a central prophet of the Baha'i faith.

The story the Báb's execution is told, from the perspective of the Baha'i faithful, in this post on Planet Baha'i.

The picture with this post is of the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois, just north of Chicago, along Sheridan Road. If you're in the Chicago area, it's a sight well worth seeing in person. (The picture was obtained here).

If this seems too exotic for you, I suppose you could observe National Sugar Cookie Day instead -- but, if you've already done Chocolate Day and Ice Cream Sundae Sunday, you probably need a break from all those sweets, don't you?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Video Game Day?

Hallmark says that July 8 is Video Game Day.

It doesn't say why.

For the American teenager, isn't every day Video Game Day?

Brownielocks.com says today is Math 2.0 Day. Our crack research staff followed the links from Brownielocks.com in an effort to figure out what "Math 2.0" might be.

It was a futile effort. Of course, our crack research staff didn't pass Math 1.0 either.

American Greetings suggests that today is best observed as Ice Cream Sundae Day -- and sundaes on Sunday are nice... or would be if you're not nursing a stomachache after overindulging in yesterday's Chocolate Day celebrations. Or if your kid didn't eat all your ice cream while playing stupid video games.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chocolate Day! Truthfully!

Today is Chocolate Day. Tell the truth, now, do we really need anything else?

(Oh, yes, today is also Tell the Truth Day. But shouldn't that be every day? Our crack research staff was working on a hypothesis that today's observance is intended particularly for politicians, just so they can remember what telling the truth feels like... but they were unable to find any recent instances of political truth-telling in time for today's deadline.)

The Running of the Bulls is underway (through July 14) in Pamplona, Spain. If this suggests a possible place to put all the world's lying politicians... well, I can't say it's a terrible idea.

Not if I'm trying to tell the truth today.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 6 is Take Your Webmaster to Lunch Day

It's a grave temptation among bloggers, especially ones who are desperate to, er, attempting to build traffic.

Sure, I could tell you that today is National Fried Chicken Day -- or remind you that today is the anniversary of the execution of St. Thomas More. American Greetings says today is Fweep Day and that might be interesting if anyone had the first clue what "fweep" might be.

But our crack research staff reports that today is also Take Your Webmaster to Lunch Day. Gosh, people who actually use the Intertubes in their business lives may want to know about this.

And now you do.
Image obtained from this site.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

When choosing a micro-mini-holidayette, choose one that someone might actually celebrate

Today, July 5, provides a perfect illustration.

Hallmark and a number of the other Usual Suspects proclaim today National Workaholics Day.

Let's just suppose that's true.

Would anyone interested in such an observance actually do something to celebrate it? How about the rest of us? Should we all stay at work a half-hour longer?

That's just not going to fly, is it?

But, fear not, there is a viable alternative. Brownielocks.com says that today is Bikini Day: It was on this day, in 1946, that the bikini was introduced to the world by French fashion designer Louis Reard. Fortunately, he didn't model his invention; he left that to Micheline Bernardini, an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I hope you don't need the Blog of Days to decide what to celebrate today

Yes, in America we still celebrate the 4th of July on the Fourth of July -- even when the 4th doesn't fall on a Monday.

A lot of the other holidays are jealous.

But here's a little patriotic nugget for you to use at your barbecue this afternoon: It was on this day in 1826 that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died.

Jefferson had been fading for awhile and he'd been bedridden for some time before his death. A fever proved to be the last straw. He woke up, briefly, on the evening of the 3rd, and asked his doctor if it was the 4th yet. No, he was told, but it soon would be. Jefferson held on for another 17 hours.

Meanwhile, up in Massachusetts, John Adams, 90 years young, deaf as a post, had been alert until nearly the last. From Wikipedia, "Told that it was the Fourth, he answered clearly, 'It is a great day. It is a good day.' His last words have been reported as 'Thomas Jefferson survives.'" For the very last time, poor Adams was wrong again: Jefferson had expired a few hours earlier.

And not even George Lucas has tried to change that.

You already knew that one?

Then you probably also knew that John Adams lived long enough to see his son, John Quincy Adams, elected President of the United States (even if Andrew Jackson's embittered supporters charged that Adams, Jr. only won because of a 'Corrupt Bargain.')

But you may not have known that James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, and the last of the so-called Virginia Dynasty, died on this date in 1831.

And it's a cinch you don't know that Calvin Coolidge was born on this date in 1872.

Silent Cal was became president on the death of Warren G. Harding. Elected to a full term in his own right in 1924, Coolidge was succeeded in office by Herbert Hoover.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A terrible disappointment, if true

You may be planning a screening of Yankee Doodle Dandy, the George M. Cohan biopic starring James Cagney, over the coming Fourth of July holiday. After all, who could be more all-American than the Yankee Doodle Dandy, born on the 4th of July?


Well, we here at The Blog of Days hate controversy, but sometimes we must face it squarely.

Wikipedia advises that Cohan may have actually been born on July 3, 1878: "A baptismal certificate (which gave the wrong first name for his mother) indicated that he was born on July 3."

We're not certain that we feel like celebrating Cohan's birthday today, even if it that's what it is.

But the alternative pickings are pretty slim: How about celebrating National Compliment Your Mirror Day instead?

Put on Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" when you do -- or perhaps this classic... from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (for maximum relevance to the observance in question, fast forward to the 2:00 mark):

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy 2nd of July!

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha,
in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated,
by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought
to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by
solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be
solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games,
Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one
End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

-- John Adams (in a July 3, 1776 letter to his wife, Abigail)

Well, not even the Founding Fathers were right all the time.

But July 2, 1776 was the day on which the Second Continental Congress declared independence. The Declaration of Independence, the document that explained why independence was being declared, was adopted on July 4.

So... with the greatest respect to Mr. Adams... maybe we should look for something else to celebrate today instead.

Today is also World UFO Day.

And you know all about why UFO Day is set in July, don't you? Because of what happened at Roswell, New Mexico somewhere around this date in 1947, right?

Hey... wait... we don't actually know what happened in Roswell then... not for sure... do we?

Adjust your tinfoil beanie and celebrate. And hope the Grays and the Greens aren't watching....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Today is Canda Day

So, to celebrate, let's all act just like Canadians and be real polite, eh?

Actually, despite what you may have heard, today is not considered Canada Day because the last of the Canadian snow-birds has finally left Florida. Rather, this is the day on which Canadian independence from Great Britain began: On July 1, 1867, Canada became a kingdom in its own right (under the British Crown, of course). The Province of Canada became Ontario and Quebec. The British colonies of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland also became part of the new Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. (Our crack research staff insists that Canada did not become fully independent of Great Britain until 1982.)

Because Canada Day falls on a Sunday this year, Canada will be closed tomorrow.