Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 13 is Ear Muffs Day

The Usual Suspects are in rare accord on this one: Wednesday is Ear Muffs Day -- although there is some dispute as to whether the item should be rendered as two words (ear muffs) or one (earmuffs). There has to be some controversy at all times.

We were unable to ascertain why March 13 should be designated Earmuffs/Ear Muffs Day. After all, in most populated northern climes, the first tentative portents of the coming spring can be discerned. The time for earmuffs, however spelled, is rapidly drawing to a close.

Wednesday will also be the anniversary of the day in 1781 when British astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, surely the planet with the most unfortunate name.

Don't blame Herschel for the name, by the way. According to Wikipedia, he wanted to name his discovery "Georgium Sidus (George's Star), or the 'Georgian Planet' in honour of his new patron, King George III." But other countries were cool to this idea.

Eventually, astronomers settled on Uranus because of its placement beyond the orbit of Saturn. No, wait, we can explain: In Roman mythology Saturn is the father of Jupiter. In the Solar System, Saturn is the next planet out from Jupiter. Thus, it was not entirely illogical to name the next planet out from Saturn for Saturn's father.

There was just one small problem. Uranus was the Latinized form of the Greek Ouranos -- the mythological father of Chronos (Saturn) -- but, though the Romans borrowed extensively from the Greek pantheon, they didn't steal everything. According to Wikipedia, the counterpart of Ouranos in Roman mythology was Caelus. No cult of Ouranos-Uranus appears to have survived into Classical times. Thus, while all the previously known planets of the Solar System were named for proper Roman gods, Uranus was named for a long-abandoned Greek god. It was a long stretch to make for a debatable mythological point -- the questionable value of which is surely outweighed by the snickers of ill-mannered children down through the decades.

Good Samaritan Day is offered by some of the Usual Suspects as an alternative for Wednesday. This, it turns out, is a somber observance, recalling the terrible events of March 13, 1964, when Catherine Susan "Kitty" Genovese was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City.

Many tragedies are played out every day on the streets of our great cities, but this one is remembered specially because no fewer than 38 bystanders allegedly witnessed Genovese's murderer pursue and stab the girl -- all refusing to get involved. This was the slant taken by Martin Gansberg in a famous March 27, 1964 article in the New York Times, although (as the linked Wikipedia article relates, footnotes omitted) "[a] 2007 study found many of the purported facts about the murder to be unfounded. The study found 'no evidence for the presence of 38 witnesses, or that witnesses observed the murder, or that witnesses remained inactive'."

Programming Note: We have lost one of our Usual Suspects. Hallmark's Ultimate Holiday Site has apparently been shut down. We've removed the site from the Sidebar..

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