Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A serious start to August: Clergy Sexual Abuse Awareness & Prevention Day

We'll pick up all the usual lightweight junk at the end of this post, but Thursday, August 1 has a serious docket entry: Clergy Sexual Abuse Awareness & Prevention Day. This particular observance is sponsored by a group that calls itself The Hope of Survivors.

This is not a Catholic issue, or a Jewish issue, or a Protestant issue -- although the linked site seems to be Protestant-tinged -- abusers cloak themselves in the traditions of many faiths. They can be anywhere where there are children.

This does not mean parents should keep their children away from all priests or ministers. We should never, ever tar the many, many good God-fearing men and women who try to do the Lord's work according to their best understanding. But be smart. Abusers can be the most charming people -- the (seemingly) nicest, most easy-going, spiritual creatures. However, no matter how wonderful you think Fr. Murphy is, or Pastor Jensen, or Rabbi Greenberg, no one ever needs to be alone with your child. Not for "prayer," not for "sleepovers" or "camping," not to keep him or her company on a long auto trip. Anyone who tries to isolate your child should be viewed with suspicion and alarm.

And don't be bamboozled by religious hooey. Luke 18:15-17 provides:
15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.

16 Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, "Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

17 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it."
You may remember this saying as 'suffer the little children to come to me.' But in a group, with other adults welcome, not one at a time. Never, ever one at a time.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now that we've cleared that up, Thursday is also National Girlfriends Day. (The Blog of Days is not responsible for the consequences to any married men caught participating in this observance.)

Safer for married men might be Lughnasadh, a Celtic harvest festival -- and a warning, therefore, that the Summer, so soon begun, is almost done.

You're on your own as to how to pronounce Lughnasadh, and this Wikipedia entry on the subject will no doubt confuse you further.

August 1 will also be National Raspberry Cream Pie Day and, in England, according to Usual Suspect Days of the Year, Yorkshire Day

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wednesday is Mutts Day, Uncommon Instruments Day

Wednesday, July 31 is pegged as Mutt's Day by a number of the Usual Suspects. Mutt's Day is a celebration of the randomly mixed breed dog, the product of some nocturnal fence jumping or hole-digging, and has nothing whatsoever to do with designer mixed breeds like Cockapoos or Labradoodles.

There are still mutts out there somewhere, aren't there?

Glass armonica photo obtained from the Franklin Institute.
Wednesday is also Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day. The linked site suggests that cornets and valve trombones are both uncommon. We'd agree with the latter, but not so much with the former. We'd suggest that, if one is going to go for uncommon, why not consider the glass harmonica? Benjamin Franklin invented it (he called it the "glass armonica"). According to Wikipedia, Marie Antoinette took glass harmonica lessons (though not from Ben Franklin); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, George Frideric Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Richard Strauss all composed for the instrument.

Not sufficiently uncommon? Well, how about the Electro-Theremin? That was the source of the unique sound of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations." The Electro-Theremin was created by Paul Tanner, a trombonist who'd played with Glenn Miller, and Bob Whitsell, an amateur inventor -- and apparently they only made the one machine. Tanner passed away this past February, at the age of 95. You can get to an 2000 interview Tanner gave to NPR by clicking here.

Gary Lewis, of the 1960s group Gary Lewis and the Playboys, turns 67 on July 31. Yes, Gary Lewis is the son of Jerry Lewis. And actor Barry Van Dyke turns 62 on Wednesday. Barry Van Dyke is the son of Dick Van Dyke. This makes some of us feel very old.

Monday, July 29, 2013

On Tuesday, get your father-in-law a paperback, or maybe a nice cheesecake

Most of the Usual Suspects agree that tomorrow, Tuesday, July 30, will be Father-in-Law Day. Usual Suspect is among those who also suggests that tomorrow will be Paperback Book Day.

We don't know about you, but, when we think of this, our internal soundtrack automatically cues up a song by the Beatles:

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer....

Perhaps paperback books are viewed today as somewhat quaint -- nearly obsolete -- given that so many books can be crammed into those ubiquitous reading devices one sees while riding the bus or train.

But for all their advantages,
those Kindles and Nooks
can draw the attention of villains and crooks

Well, perhaps we won't branch into poetry.  But, the point is that no thief is likely to snatch a paperback from your hands as you read in the subway.  And a paperback book ruined at the beach is a lot easier to replace than a reader.  Just sayin'....

Tuesday is also National Cheesecake Day. Cheesecake would make a nice gift for your father-in-law, too.

In Chicago, Eli's Cheesecake is perhaps the place to go for cheesecake.

We mentioned Eli's last year on National Cheesecake Day and soon thereafter received one of our first real emails, from Eli's President, Marc Schulman. He offered to send us a sample -- which was very nice. We couldn't accept, of course, but we were thrilled that our then-brand new site had already attracted some attention. We take this opportunity to thank you publicly, Mr. Schulman.

Jimmy Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975. Despite a flurry of rumors earlier this year, and some new excavation, Mr. Hoffa is still missing.

Casey Stengel was born on July 30, 1890. Also celebrating birthdays on July 30 are MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Paul Anka.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Garfield the Cat would be happy on Monday

Garfield the Cat would be happy on Monday, July 29. The Usual Suspects tell us that Monday will be Lasagna Day.

Usual Suspect suggests that Monday will be Chicken Wing Day. The City of Buffalo decreed the first Chicken Wing Day on July 29, 1977.

And Monday is Rain Day in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Follow the link. The good people of Waynesburg really want it to rain on their parade Monday....

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Parents' Day, July 28. If you missed Mother's Day or Father's Day, here's your chance to make good.

Parents' Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in July, which is July 28 this year. But... didn't we have Mother's Day in May and Father's Day in June?

We think this must be a make-good day -- if you're one of those rotten whelps who failed one parent or the other on their designated day, here's a chance for redemption.

Don't blow it.

July 28 is also the anniversary of the birth of Rudy Vallée, born July 28, 1901.

How do we explain Rudy Vallée?

Hmmmm. The young girls these days go for Justin Bieber, right? Or Harry Styles or one of the other boys of One Direction?

Well... their mothers went for the New Kids on the Block or the Back Street Boys or Justin Timberlake and 'N Sync, right?

And their moms, the Baby Boomers, screamed for the Beatles or, if they were a little younger, for Bobby Sherman or David Cassidy -- or, maybe, if they were a few years older, for Elvis. You've heard stories, anyway.

And their moms -- the Bobbysoxers -- swooned for Frankie Sinatra, right?

Well, before Frank Sinatra came Bing Crosby.

But Der Bingle wasn't the first.

Rudy Vallée was the first.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Saturday is National Bagpipes Day, Scotch Day... and Take Your Pants for a Walk Day?

No, it's not St. Patrick's Day again. But some of the Usual Suspects claim that Saturday, July 27 will be National Bagpipes Day, also referred to as Bagpipe Appreciation Day.

Well, we appreciate bagpipes. We even like bagpipes -- at least in moderation.

Someone once said that the only thing better than 30 minutes of rousing bagpipe music was 15 minutes of rousing bagpipe music.

That seems about right.

And, speaking of moderation, Usual Suspect includes Scotch Day among its lists of observances for Saturday -- but it doesn't give that top billing.

Actually, a little scotch (or, if you prefer, a little Irish whiskey) makes bagpipe music sound all that much better.

Too much whiskey, though, and you may find yourself celebrating Take Your Pants for a Walk Day. This sounds like a microminihoidayette invented by Anthony Weiner. If you must take your pants for a walk Saturday, stay in them. Please. Unless, we suppose, you're wearing a kilt?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

All or Nothing Day, Aunts and Uncles Day, and talking in elevators may not be as subversive as it once might have been

Several of the Usual Suspects suggest that Friday, July 26 will be All or Nothing Day -- a day to remember to live each day as if it were your last. That's fine advice, of course, but we can't find out why July 26 should be singled out for the purpose of making this reminder.

If you observed Cousins Day on the 24th, your cousins' parents -- i.e., your aunts and uncles -- may have felt left out.

They needn't have worried. Salve the unintended rift in your family by making a big fuss over Aunts and Uncles Day. No, seriously. Several of the Usual Suspects put that on the docket for Friday as well.

But the big microminiholidayette for Friday appears to be Talk on an Elevator Day.

Ooooh, subversive, right? Rebuild that lost sense of community, one elevator car at a time....
We tend to think not. Have you been on an elevator lately? If you do talk chances are no one will hear you because your fellow elevator passengers are grooving out on their headphones or earbuds. If someone does hear you, they'll probably figure you're just talking to your phone. People do.

Burns and Allen
Even if it is rude.

Friday is also Independence Day in Liberia.

And it was on July 26, 1948, that President Harry S Truman signed Executive Order 9981, desegregating America's armed forces.

George Bernard Shaw was born on July 26, 1856 in Dublin. It was Shaw who said, "England and America are two countries separated by a common language."

Gracie Allen (of George Burns and Gracie Allen) was born on July 26, 1895. Say goodnight, Gracie.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thread the Needle Day has nothing to do with sewing, the face on Mars isn't real, and other disappointments is among the Usual Suspects to identify Thursday, July 25 as Thread the Needle Day. Usual Suspect Holiday Insights is among those that suggest (not unreasonably) that Thread the Needle Day must have something to do with sewing. (The one day a year when one's hands are steady enough to thread a needle, perhaps?) But Brownielocks says 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. To prove her contention, Brownielocks 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.

You may find this disappointing.

Many found it disappointing to realize that the "Face on Mars" wasn't really a face.
It was on July 25, 1976 that NASA's Viking I probe snapped this photo of the Cydonia region of Mars. (You mean that John Carter and Dejah Thoris don't live happily ever after on Barsoom?)

And folk purists were disappointed by Bob Dylan July 21, 1965 when he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival -- The audience wanted 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). He wanted to 'electrify' the audience, perhaps, but, according to most observers, the aficionados booed.

And, speaking of folk music, Steve Goodman was born on July 25, 1948. His music didn't disappoint -- but he left us far too soon (in 1984).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Amelia Earhart Day, Cousins Day, Tequila Day...

A lot of the Usual Suspects proclaim Wednesday, July 24 as Amelia Earhart Day. Earhart was born on July 24, 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. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) is the leading proponent of the Nikumaroro hypothesis. Will anything ever be proven? Who knows? Last month CNBC reported on the discovery of some forgotten photos in a New Zealand museum that show Nikumaroro -- and may just show evidence of someone (Earhart?) living there, or having lived there, as a castaway.

We don't know all there is to know about Amelia Earhart's last days, but we do know that Wednesday is Cousins Day, a good excuse to call your cousins without there being a wedding... or funeral... involved.

Wednesday is also National Tequila Day. We're not sure why. We're also not sure it matters.

Never officially canonized by the Catholic Church, but revered as a saint down the centuries, Usual Suspect notes that Wednesday is 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 22, 2013

National Hot Dog Day, Gorgeous Grandma Day

Tuesday, July 23 is National Hot Dog Day. Pictured above is a Chicago style hot dog (image obtained here). Trust us, there is a hot dog in there somewhere.

You can find almost anything on a Chicago-style hot dog. There is one big exception: What you won't find on a Chicago style hot dog is ketchup. There are places in Chicago where -- if you are older than about 10, at least -- you will be publicly shamed if you attempt to put ketchup on a hot dog. (No, we don't know why this is.)

Nor do we know why Tuesday is Gorgeous Grandma Day. We just know that, the older we get, the more appealing the idea is to us.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pied Piper Day, Hammock Day, Casual Pi Day, Spoonerism 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. Whatever you choose to call it, it is observed on Monday, July 22.

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.)

Monday will also be Hammock Day -- a day to lay back and relax in the backyard hammock... except that it will be Monday. The Blog of Days is not responsible for any action that may be taken by your employer should you decide to stay home tomorrow in observance of Hammock Day.

Regular visitors will remember that March 14 is Pi Day... a celebration of that handy irrational number that begins 3.14. But July 22 is referred to as Casual Pi Day because, back in the slide rule days, we sometimes expressed π as 22/7. It was a rather informal, "casual" way of expressing the constant, but still useful in many calculations. What's a slide rule, you ask? You know what, forget we mentioned it.

Monday is also Spoonerism Day, honoring the anniversary of the birth of William Archibald Spooner (July 22, 1844 - August 29, 1930), the Oxford don whose occasionally garbled syntax inspired the word "spoonerism." Usual Suspect links to an amusing 2006 post on a blog called Word Daze: The Word Lover's Almanac that explains what spoonerisms are and how to translate (or construct) your own.

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 20, 2013

Altogether now, scream: Ice Cream Day is July 21

Get it?

I scream / You scream / We all scream for ice cream: Sunday, July 21 is Ice Cream Day.

Don't care for ice cream? Teeth sensitive to cold? Well, Sunday is also National Junk Food Day.

And Sunday is Legal Drinking Age Day -- because it's the 21st, see?

Not enough? Sunday is considered Monkey Day by some of the Usual Suspects because it was on July 21, 1925 that the Scopes trial ended -- with a finding that high school teacher John Scopes had violated Tennessee law by teaching the theory of evolution to his students. Fortunately, we've progressed quite a bit (evolved, you might say) since then: We don't know of any state where it's actually illegal to teach evolution in the schools. Of course, there are more than a few states where the teaching of evolution appears to be frowned upon. A 2012 Gallup poll revealed that 46% of Americans believe that God created mankind in our present form -- and somewhere in the last 10,000 years to boot. Maybe we've not evolved as much as some of us would like to think.

And today, July 20, is Moon Day, commemorating mankind's first tentative steps on another world (our own Moon). As you saw from yesterday's post, we gave up on the Moon in 1972 -- haven't been back since. The American Space Shuttle program, which ferried astronauts to and from Low Earth Orbit, was itself abandoned on July 21, 2011, when the Shuttle Atlantis touched down in Florida at the end of STS-135.

Come to think of it, maybe we should reconsider this evolution thing. We seem to be going backwards....

Friday, July 19, 2013

Another gloomy Moon Day

It was July 20, 44 years ago, that a human being first left footprints on a heavenly body other than Earth. Thus, Saturday, July 20 is Moon Day.

It's a bittersweet occasion. Neil Armstrong has passed away since we observed Moon Day 2012 (he died last August 25) and Buzz Aldrin is 83. It is now 41 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.

There are two Americans in the six-person crew currently on board the International Space Station (this crew is referred to as Expedition 36). One of these is Karen L. Nyberg, a PhD in mechanical engineering, currently serving as a flight engineer aboard the station. Dr. Nyberg is pictured at right. The other is CDR Christopher J. Cassidy, USN. An Italian and three Russians, including Expedition 36 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, round out the current crew.

Our astronauts get to and from the space station these days by hitching a ride with the Russians.

Saturday. Moon Day.

What went wrong?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 19: Daiquiris, the Great Fire in Rome, and triple plays

How's that for a potpourri of things to commemorate on Friday, July 19?

Most of the Usual Suspects call Friday Daiquiri Day, to commemorate the cocktail, invented in 1898 in the small mining town of Daiquiri, near Santiago, Cuba. Ernest Hemingway is credited with helping to popularize the drink in the United States (or, according to Usual Suspect, inspiring "the creation of the frozen variety at El Floridita in Havana in the 1940s").

Some of the Usual Suspects also identify July 19 as Raspberry Cake Day. Ernest Hemingway seems to have had nothing to do with this one.

July 19 is also the anniversary of the day on which the City of Rome caught fire, in A.D. 64.

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 not only accused Nero of having the fire set, he also claimed 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." Of course, Dio Cassius lived from A.D. 150-235 -- well after the fall of Nero and his Julio-Claudian dynasty.

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. (It is in this persecution that Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred.)

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.

July 19 may also be called Triple Play Day. It was on July 19, 1909 that the first unassisted triple play in major league history took place: Neal Ball, the shortstop for what were then called the Cleveland Naps, caught a line drive, touched second (doubling off the runner who'd left before seeing if the ball would get through) and tagged the runner coming in from first. (The opposing manager presumably had called a hit and run on the play.)

Anyway, Ball's feat is noted on the Baseball Hall of Fame website. And, according to there have only been 14 other unassisted triple plays in major league history -- making it the rarest feat in baseball, rarer even than a perfect game (there have been 23 of those).

You can see video on some of the more recent triple plays on the site. Not to be outdone, however, Wikipedia has explained how each of the 15 major league triple plays happened. Not surprisingly, the player who made the play was, in each case, a shortstop or second baseman.

But -- get this -- on July 19, 1911 an unassisted triple play was made in a Pacific Coast League game by a center fielder. According to the linked page on the Baseball Hall of Fame site, Walter Carlisle, playing for Vernon of the PCL, caught a fly ball at his shoe tops. Noticing that the runners at first and second had broken on the play, anticipating that the ball would fall safely in, "Carlisle ran to second to force one, and proceeded to first base, stepped on the bag, and finished the rare triple play."

How about that?

And there have been only two players in major league history to start a playoff game as a pitcher and hit a home run in another playoff game as a position player. You can probably guess that Babe Ruth was one (pitching the Red Sox in the 1918 World Series before being traded to the Yankees).

Can you guess the other? It was Rick Ankiel; he was born July 19, 1979, which means he'll turn 34 on Friday. In 2000, Ankiel finished second to Rafael Furcal in Rookie of the Year voting, winning the Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award. Tony La Russa gave Ankiel the ball in Game One of the NLDS against the Braves -- but things went badly for the young star. Things went so badly that Ankiel lost his confidence and his control and eventually went back to the minors to reinvent himself as an outfielder, eventually getting back to the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals. He left the Cardinals for the Royals as a free agent a couple of years later, and then the Royals traded him to the Braves -- and it was with the Braves, in 2010, that he hit a post-season home run for the Braves, against the San Francisco Giants.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

International Mandela Day, John Glenn's Birthday, Asterisk Day

As this is written, Nelson Mandela remains hospitalized in South Africa, gravely ill. If he makes it to Thursday, Mr. Mandela will turn 95. He was born July 18, 1918.

From time to time, some promising change will be reported in Mr. Mandela's condition. But the man is old. He is ill. He is frail. He will die, as all men must die.

Many think of Mr. Mandela as the George Washington of South Africa. We consider the comparison apt. The brand new United States was afraid to let Washington lay down his office and retire to Mt. Vernon. Washington had to insist. He rejected any talk of a third term because he did not want to set a precedent of presidents serving for life. As usual, Washington was right: He did not live three full years after retiring. When he died, in 1799, Americans were terrified: Washington so embodied the spirit of the new nation that many feared the nation would not survive without him. We wonder if something similar is not happening right now in South Africa: People there may be afraid that the nation he created from the ashes of Apartheid can not long endure with Mandela gone. But, surely, if he could muster the strength, Mr. Mandela himself would insist that it can. That must be among his dearest wishes as the twilight draws near.

Since 2009, the United Nations has promoted Nelson Mandela's birthday as Nelson Mandela International Day, joining the call of the Nelson Mandela Foundation to urge all the people of the world to commit 67 minutes of time Thursday to public service (one minute for each year of Mandela's public life). That seems like a fitting tribute.

What fitting tribute can we devise for an American nonagenarian? As Mr. Mandela turns 95, the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, turns 92.

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.
John Glenn had the Right Stuff to launch the American space program. He was among those who helped redeem President Kennedy's promise to go to the Moon in the 1960s. The anniversary of that first lunar landing is only a couple of days off, on July 20.

Do you realize no one has walked on the Moon since 1972?

John Glenn Day (which we hereby proclaim) is a day to celebrate American achievement in opening the New Frontier -- and to demand that we seize the initiative -- and our birthright -- the stars themselves.

When human pioneers do move into space, we hope baseball will accompany them.

You may have noticed a baseball segment in each of the posts this week on The Blog of Days in honor of All Star Week. Well, Thursday, July 18 has its own place in baseball history. On the plus side, on July 18, 1970, Willie Mays got his 3,000th hit. On the dubious side, July 18 may be referred to as Asterisk Day: It was on July 18, 1961 that Commissioner Ford Frick decreed that, since his record was set during a 154-game season, baseball would not deem Babe Ruth's all-time record of 60 home runs as broken unless the feat were accomplished within the first 154 games of the season. Later that season, Roger Maris would hit his 61st homer in the 4th inning of Game 162, the last game of the regular season, against the Boston Red Sox. Wikipedia insists that there was no "asterisk" -- that the asterisk next to Maris's feat is mere urban legend -- but we are inclined add Asterisk Day to the calendar of microminiholidayettes nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Yellow Pig Day and -- just in time for the All Star Game -- a remarkable coincidence regarding two MLB shortstops

Usual Suspect is among the many sources that recognize Wednesday, July 17 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 increasing cultural acceptance) and its own catalog of Yellow Pig Carols. The Blog of Days is not responsible for your getting tossed out of your local neighborhood tavern tomorrow evening should you decide to warble any of these linked Yellow Pig ditties.

Meanwhile, July 17 is also the birthday of two prominent major league 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, both born on July 17, and both player-managers on teams owned by Bill Veeck. (Veeck was the Indians owner in 1948; his second go-round as White Sox owner was between 1976 and early 1981. When Kessinger resigned as Sox skipper on August 2, 1979, Veeck replaced him with a kid named Tony LaRussa. LaRussa turned out to be a pretty good manager, too.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Today is Get Out of the Doghouse Day -- but what about tomorrow?

Monday, July 15 is Get Out of the Doghouse Day. But does this mean that one who is in the doghouse today should be given a break or a pass by the one who put him there? Or is this just a day for someone who is chronically in the doghouse to refocus his efforts on getting out?

Today is also St. Swithun's Day in Britain. Legend has it that the weather on St. Swithun's Day will set the pattern for the next 40: If it rains on St. Swithun's Day, get ready for weeks of wet weather. If the weather is dry and fair, the next 40 days will be largely dry and fair as well.

According to Usual Suspect, Swithun was originally buried outdoors. However, in 871, one of Swithun's successors as Bishop of Winchester decided to move the saint's body into a shrine in the cathedral. "Swithun apparently did not approve as it started raining for 40 days" -- and the legend was born.

Of course, there are a couple of different stories about when his bones were moved. itself links to Butler's Lives of the Saints which suggests that the move from an outdoor grave to an in-church shrine took place in 964, not 871. According to this source, the move triggered a string of inexplicable, miraculous cures, not good or bad weather.

Although the year is in dispute, Swithun's bones were moved on July 15, which is why his feast day is celebrated then in Britain. In the rest of the world, however, his feast is July 2, the date of this death.

In addition to being a bishop, Swithun was confessor to King Egbert of the Wessex, and tutor and spiritual adviser to his son, King Ethelwulf.

As for tomorrow, it was on July 16, 1941 that Joltin' Joe DiMaggio extended his hitting streak to 56 straight games, setting a major league record that still has not been broken.

The world's first parking meter was installed on July 16, 1935 in Oklahoma City.

Tuesday is also Corn Fritters Day, for reasons best known to those in the corn fritter industry. It will also be Talk to a Telemarketer Day. But... why?

Barbara Stanwyck was born on July 16, 1907; Ginger Rogers was born on July 16, 1911.

And going back to baseball, Shoeless Joe Jackson -- who should be in Baseball's Hall of Fame -- was born on July 16, 1888.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sunday is International Nude Day, Pandemonium Day

Sunday, July 14 will be International Nude Day.

What? You were expecting pictures?

Sunday will also be Pandemonium Day, a day, according to Usual Suspect Holiday Insights, "of sheer bedlam, and utter chaos." Celebrate International Nude Day too publicly and you may cause pandemonium.

English comedian Terry-Thomas was born on July 14, 1911. American folk singer, Woody Guthrie, was born on July 14, 1912. Yes, Arlo Guthrie is Woody Guthrie's son. Sarah Lee Guthrie is Woody's granddaughter.

Sheriff Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid on July 14, 1881.

July 14 is also Bastille Day, commemorating the birth of the modern French nation -- and the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789. It was the start of the French Revolution. That was a time when, the famous saying of Mel Brooks notwithstanding, it was not so good to be the king.

Friday, July 12, 2013

French Fries Day, Embrace Your Geekness Day

Saturday, July 13 is French Fries Day, although we here at BOD are partial to french fries on just about any occasion. If our significant others aren't watching too closely, we'll even sneak on some extra salt. Perhaps on Saturday, in celebration of the occasion, we should just do so openly....

Saturday is also Embrace Your Geekness Day.

We here at The Blog of Days were somewhat confused as to precisely what a "geek" is. The Urban Dictionary lists several definitions. According to the most popular definition, geeks are "[t]he people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult."

Another says that "geek" should not be considered interchangeable with "nerd," that intelligence is not necessarily part and parcel of the geek's make-up, but that geeks are generally not athletic, and enjoy video games, comic books, and being on the Internet.

Still another definition traces the origin of the term to carnivals, where geek used to mean a performer who bit the head off of bats or ate glass. Eventually, according to this definition, the term became associated with anyone who gets paid "to do work considered odd or bizarre by mainstream society." More recently, according to this theory, the
term now enjoys a special status within the technical community, particularly among particularly knowledgeable computer programmers. To identify oneself as a "geek" indicates a recognition that most people still consider programming computers to be a bizarre act....
To recap, therefore, if you are a computer programmer, Saturday is your day. But even if you are not a computer programmer, but merely enjoy hanging out here in the ether, visiting quality websites like The Blog of Days, Saturday is your day, too.

Saturday is also Barbershop Music Appreciation Day -- but we are not certain how you will be able to harmonize (*ahem*) your affinity for barbershop quartets with your inner geekness....

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Friday is Simplicity Day

Friday will be the 196th anniversary of the birth of Henry David Thoreau (born July 12, 1817), and the back-to-basics, back-to-nature philosophy of Thoreau is at the core of Friday's observance, Simplicity Day.

Friday will also be Different Colored Eyes Day -- an observance not necessarily limited to persons with two different eye colors in their very own eyes. The idea (or eye-dea?) is that Friday is a day to celebrate the fact that some people have brown eyes, others blue, others green... does that sound a little like a stretch to you? Blink and you'll miss it entirely.

Bill Cosby turns 76 on Friday (born July 12, 1937). Milton Berle was born on July 12, 1908.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Slurpee Day, Bowdler Day

Tomorrow, July 11, will be Slurpee Day -- 7-11, get it? -- and USA Today reports that the chain will be giving away 12 oz. Slurpees at participating locations. The Blog of Days makes no warranty in this regard.

Thursday is also Bowdler Day, for Thomas Bowdler, an English doctor, born on July 11, 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. Perhaps it is time to re-think the pejorative nature of the verb 'bowlderize.' Some media conglomerate stands to reap a fortune if it can release tamer versions of its more popular entertainments.