Do Not Go Gentle Away from that Frenzy

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This past Monday, September 19, the Japanese celebrated Respect for the Aged day.  It is called “keiro-no-hi,” chosen as the third Monday in September.  The celebration recommends sharing a special meal for the elderly, providing perhaps a musical presentation, and giving presents. The ecommerce website Rakuten, for example, suggests giving a kumquat tree or a hydrangea wreath.

The older I get, the more it seems we need this day. In America, we celebrate holidays that glorify the military, the labor force, religion, harvest, love, our country, our country’s dead presidents, our country’s dead inspirational leaders, the change of the season and the calendar—as well as the day that people are born. But we have no celebration aimed at the 1/6 of our population who are the wise elders. We celebrate “Grandparents,” but as an event the way that we celebrate “Secretaries” or “Administrative People” – primarily as a limited commercial boon for florists and card shops. We don’t respect the aging. We don’t celebrate getting older – we run and hide from it. Continue reading “Do Not Go Gentle Away from that Frenzy”

Madison, Our Best President

This weekend, flags will be a-flyin’, firecrackers a-poppin’, politicians a-pontificatin’, and barbecues a-grillin’ as our nation celebrates its 240th birthday amid the usual pomp and turmoil. Our national patriotic selves are in particularly high dudgeon this election year, when we all play the game of Why Do We Have an Electoral College, Again? Some you will be tourists, traveling to national parks, or perhaps to our nation’s capital (I hear there’s some GCLS thing coming up soon?)  ‘Tis also a fine time to play another fun game of history, Who’s Your Favorite President?

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Was Lincoln your favorite because he believed in the equality of all individuals and the strength that can come from a united people under a good central government? How about FDR shepherding the country through the miseries of the Depression and anxieties of world war? Jefferson, articulating the freedoms that prompted us to start our grand experiment of independence? Or is it some prez that you lived through more recently? (Though I’d argue anybody after 1976 doesn’t give us enough perspective to evaluate fairly.) Or do you think picking the best president is Uncool, too Nerdy for you?

Nerdy or not, I submit for discussion, Mr. James Madison. He deserves his own carving on Rushmore. He should have his own obelisk on the National Mall, his own memorial next to the Potomac. And it should be the biggest.

Continue reading “Madison, Our Best President”

A History of Fools

The origin of April Fools’ Day is kind of like April Fools’ pranks themselves. If you read through the history, it’s hard to tell truth from fiction. The celebrated tradition of pranking might have started as part of a festival to praise the humble OR it might have been a way to ridicule a captured enemy before his execution or – no, wait – it was because some people got confused about when to celebrate the new year.

It might have started in France. Or maybe England. Or Rome. For certain. Maybe. It’s kind of hard to say…

12mrtAccording to Infoplease, one convincing explanation was provided by Joseph Boskin, a Professor of History at Boston University. He linked the practice to the Roman emperor Constantine, when a group of court jesters told Constantine that they didn’t get enough respect and could do a better job ruling the land. The emperor decided to appoint a jester named Kugel as king for the day, and Kugel took the opportunity to pass an edict created an annual absurdity day. When Boskin’s story was widely reported in 1983, it sounded convincing. But, as it turned out, he was just being feisty with an Associated Press reporter who wouldn’t take “I dunno” for an answer to “Where’d the tradition start, professor smartypants?” So as a joke he’d made up the story and used the reference to “kugel” because the reporter was in New York and he thought, well, everyone in New York eats kugel, don’t they?… When the AP fellow asked him to spell “kugel,” he wondered if the joke would be taken seriously. It was.

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Happy St. Urho’s Day!

St. Urho is the patron saint of Finland, and March 16th is a celebration day for great merriment and drinking throughout all of the North. As it says on www.sturho.com, St. Urho was the saint who drove the grasshoppers out of Finland, saving the wine crop. His colors are Royal Purple and Nile Green. He did this by uttering the phrase: “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen” (roughly translated: “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!”).

sturhoNow, you might perhaps suggest that there are no grasshoppers in the coniferous forests and ice lands of Finland, where 25% of the land lies above the Arctic Circle. Thank to St. Urho, of course! You might perhaps suggest that Finland is not particularly known for its great wines, but neither is Ireland known for its vodka despite the ballyhoo about the potato crop. And Finland is known for its great drinking, as it ranks 9th in the world for death by alcoholism, compared with the US which is a mere 39th and Ireland which is way down at #63.

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Stay Together for 39 Years with this One Simple Trick…

Let’s throw away anxiety, let’s quite forget propriety,
Respectable society, the rector and his piety,
And contemplate l’amour in all its infinite variety,
My dear, let’s talk about love

–Cole Porter

It’s February and there’s spring in the air. That means this past Sunday there were long lines of men standing outside the See’s candy store, roadside stands full of red hearts and teddy bears, and women with a particular gleam in their eye and a knowing smile. February is also the month that Karin and I celebrate our anniversary, so it’s the love month for us, too. This upcoming one is #39 – poor 39, such a lonely number, being right under the shadow of 40 and neither even nor prime. It’s still a pretty good number as longevity goes, so it seems appropriate to discuss the question I often get: What’s the secret to such a long relationship?

lastinglovehandsOddly enough, I feel both expert and novice in this. I can speak with superior knowledge about how to make it last, and I have the statistically significant number of years to prove it. Having been in only one relationship, though, I don’t really have a clue about what attracts people to each other in the first place, so I can’t offer any advice on that. (Sorry, I won the multi-billion dollar lottery on that one.) I only know how to get your hooks in good and tight once you got ’em.

Continue reading “Stay Together for 39 Years with this One Simple Trick…”