Friday, February 10, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #28: Valentine's Day Edition

That's right, kids, Valentine's Day is almost here!

Yep, that's the one!

As far as I'm concerned, Valentine's Day is good for only two things:

  1. Identifying the emotionally stunted and/or embittered, and
  2. Having lots of hot sex.

Since you can have lots of hot sex any day of the year, that means it's really only good for one thing. Besides, I can't approve of any holiday that seems designed to create hard feelings and misery. If you're single on Valentine's Day, you're almost obligated to hate yourself (and your meaningless existence) for at least that 24-hour period, even if you're perfectly happy the rest of the year. If you're not single on Valentine's Day, you might nevertheless feel bewildered, panicky, confused, and even secretly (or not so secretly) resentful. Seriously, I've never met anyone who claims to like this holiday. Well, except for children, but that's because they always receive valentines. It's required.

By law.

So why do we celebrate Valentine's Day? Actually, no one really knows.

This whole situation is dodgy as hell. ~ Abigail Batchelder

1) The Saint Valentine in question could be one of at least three, or possibly more, people. “Valentine” was a popular name back in the day.

The two most likely candidates are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Valentine of Terni was martyred first, in about 197 AD. Valentine of Rome was martyred about 269 AD. Both were buried on the Via Flaminia, supposedly on 14 February. A third Valentine was martyred along with some of his friends somewhere in Africa, but we don't know where or when. Yet another Saint Valentine, Valentine of Genua, was a bishop who died in 307 AD and has a feast day on 2 May.

Legend has it that Saint Valentine (of Rome, probably) was martyred by Emperor Claudius II for performing marriages in secret. Apparently, Claudius II had outlawed marriages for young men in an effort to strengthen the military, in the belief that bachelors make better soldiers.

Valentine disagreed.

This may, of course, be bullsh*t. It's certainly bullsh*t that Valentine himself wrote, on the night before his death sentence was carried out, the first-ever Valentine's card to his sweetheart, signed, “From your Valentine.” American Greetings made that up. You know, to sell more cards. 

2) Some trace the practice of Valentine's Day as a celebration of romantic love back to Geoffrey Chaucer, who, in 1382, wrote a poem memorializing the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. Chaucer's poem is the first historical mention of a Saint Valentine's Day. The betrothal treaty was signed on 2 May 1381, the feast day of Saint Valentine of Genua, which is not our Valentine's Day, because we would've noticed that.

3) The practice of celebrating Saint Valentine's Day on 14 February, and its associations with romantic love, may go back to the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was a fertility rite that occurred from 13-15 February and probably involved lots of hot sex. According to this dubious website, young Roman men drew the names of young women from a lottery, and then got to bang whoever they picked all year long.

I know the Romans were total pervs, but I'm not sure I believe that.

4) The oldest existing valentine was poem from Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife. It dates back to the 1400s. If I remember my historical novels correctly, Charles was taken prisoner by the English at the battle of Agincourt and spent a sh*tload of years locked up in the Tower of London. That's where he sent the valentine from.

5) Up until the 19th century, most people wrote out their valentines by hand. Books such as The Young Man's Valentine Writer, published in 1797, offered love poems for those without literary talents. The 19th century brought cheaper postal rates and the proliferation of mass-produced valentine cards in the UK. The tradition traveled to America in 1847, when Esther Howland, daughter of a stationer, began producing and distributing them in Massachusetts.

Americans today send 190 million valentines, half of which are exchanged between parents and children or other family members, other than spouses. The nation's schoolchildren produce about almost a billion valentines each year; teachers and children therefore receive more valentines than anyone else.

See, I told you. Didn't I tell you?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Quitting Smoking: Day Twenty-One

That's three weeks today, kids! But I'm going to keep counting the days instead, because it's a bigger number and that's more impressive.

After consuming an entire bag of Jolly Ranchers in less than a week, I have moved on to Dum-Dum lollipops. It only took me three weeks to locate a bag of Dum-Dum lollipops in my town. Apparently, they're impossible to keep in stock for some reason.

Progress so far:

I am now officially addicted to lollipops.


Seriously, I've gone lollipop-crazy. Not only that, but my aunts/housemates keep dragging sweets into the house, which I'm having a hard time resisting. For some reason, I just want to stuff things into my mouth.

I'm not going to have teeth for much longer.

I'm still trying the toothpicks, and it's still not the same. They're somewhat satisfying, but I fear I've swallowed a bushel of splinters by now.

That counts as dietary fiber, right?

I've continued making time to jog, but the lungs don't seem to be getting any better. I've been given to understand that it takes a few months. In any case, the jogging here is all uphill, and I'm accustomed to jogging on the flat. What kind of moron jogs uphill, anyway?


Besides, when I say “making time to jog,” I really mean it. These days I seem to have less time than ever, even though I still have the same amount of time. Funny how that happens.

Jogging doesn't happen quickly around these parts, either, and not just because jogging uphill is a slow and painful endeavor. It also involves lengthy chats with the neighbors, who don't seem to understand the concept of jogging, perhaps because they've never seen a jogger before. Some of them just wander on out of their houses when they see me puffing by, but others stop their cars in the middle of the road to talk to me. If I don't stop as well, they slow down to my pace. I'm like, what the f*ck are you doing? I know you haven't seen me around here before and you're just bursting with curiosity, but can't you just ask around? While we're on the subject, will you please keep your huge aggressive farm dog under control? Thanks, neighbor.

I am no longer picturing myself smoking in the future, although I still think about smoking from time to time, especially in the morning. I still feel quite a lot like slapping someone, but am beginning to understand that that's because the people in question deserve – nay, need! – a good slap now and again. I think this is why I started smoking in the first place.

I'm still using the patch, but I keep forgetting to scrub off the adhesive left by the old ones. So I have little black squares all over my back. Probably. I can't actually see my own back. I'm talented, but I'm not that talented.

Give me a few more weeks of yoga, and I will be.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #27: Saturday Edition

Ok, I have to apologize for this week's edition of Fun Friday Facts being late. I forgot it was Friday yesterday. I thought it was Thursday all day. I blame it on lack of nicotine and general stress.


As you know, it's February, that bleakest and most depressing of months. Nothing good happens in February. It too cold, it's too dark, and it doesn't even have any good holidays (and if you just said, “What about Valentine's Day?” you are hereby banned from the blog). Even its spelling is f*cked up. It's almost as if February wants us miserable.

And don't say Fat Tuesday either because LENT. ~ Infrogmation of New Orleans

Thankfully, February is also the shortest month, and always will be, in spite of that leap year bullsh*t it keeps trying to pull on us. So, as crap as it is, it could be worse. We only have to deal with February for 29 days this year, and then we can move on and life will be oh so much brighter.

No one likes you, February.

Being the kind, generous, compassionate, and all-around awesome person that I am, I couldn't just let you all suffer through February without trying to cheer you up first.

1) Did I just say February has no good holidays? I was wrong.


25 February is World Sword Swallower's Day, which is appropriate, because that's exactly what I feel like doing by the last week of February. To celebrate, sword swallowers will gather at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditoriums across the world at 2:25 PM, to swallow swords.

Sword swallowers will also perform at nursing homes, hospitals, and orphanages throughout the day, to entertain the old, sick and alone in the world.

Not only are sword swallowers just plain good folks, they also want some recognition for their collective contributions to medical science. In 1868, German Dr. Adolf Kussmaul developed the first rigid endoscopy techniques with the help of a sword swallower. In 1906, Welsh doctors enlisted the help of a sword swallower to perform the first esophageal electrocardiogram. Sadly and unjustly, the names of these sword swallowers have been lost to history.

Sword swallowers also use the occasion to raise money for esophageal cancer research and contribute to the Injured Sword Swallower's Relief Fun. According to Sword Swallower's Association International (SSAI) and Ripley's Believe It or Not!, World Sword Swallower's Day is in February because February is National Swallowing Disorders Month.

I'll just let that sink in for a minute.

2) February is also Black History Month, Electrical Safety Awareness Month, Termite Awareness Month, National Pet Dental Health Awareness Month, Low Vision Awareness Month, Body Awareness Month, Heart Disease Awareness Month, National Cancer Prevention Month, Heartworm Awareness Month, Sinus Pain Awareness Month, School-Based Health Center Awareness Month, Safety Awareness Month, Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month, and National National Awareness Month Awareness Month, but you know, we ran out of months loooooong before we ran out of things to be aware of.

3) Groundhog Day was two days ago, but you knew that, cause you've seen the film. I spaced it this year (the holiday, not the film), but those groundhogs don't know what they're talking about anyway. The National Climactic Data Center has given the groundhogs an accuracy rating of 39%.

What do you expect from a rodent?

Apparently, the tradition originated with Pennsylvania Germans in the 18th century. It may have its roots in ancient European pre-Christian practices. I wished they'd called it Whistlepig Day, but maybe that's just me.

4) 29 February is Sadie Hawkins Day, or the day when women are allowed to propose to men. At least, that's what I've always heard. I've already mentioned how I feel about these kinds of carryings on.

The folk tradition of female proposals during the leap year supposedly dates back as far as 5th century Ireland, although it doesn't begin to appear in historial records until the 19th century. Some traditions allowed women to make their proposals on any day of the leap year, while others restricted them to 29 February or another specific day in February. The women in question may have been obligated to wear breeches or a red petticoat (remember, this is the 19th century), so that they didn't take any poor fellas unawares. The men may have been asked to pay recompense – anything from a kiss to a small sum of cash to material goods such as fabric or gloves – if they were so bold as to refuse the poor lady's proposal.

5) The name “Sadie Hawkins Day” originates from a November 1937 L'il Abner comic strip. In the strip, character Hekzebiah Hawkins cooks up a plan to marry off his butt-ugly daughter, Sadie, a 35-year-old spinster. Somehow, he convinces all the unmarried men of his town to take part in a footrace. After the men are given a fair head start, Sadie sets off in their pursuit. The one she catches and drags over the finish line will be legally bound to marry her.

But what do pistols and bear traps have to do with it?

The other spinsters decide this is a f*cking great idea and the event becomes an annual occurrence in the fictional town of Dogpatch.

Al Capp, the L'il Abner artist, had no way of knowing how deeply his funny little plot would resonate with the young people of the nation. In 1938, Morris Harvey College borrowed the idea to host the first Sadie Hawkin's dance, to which young ladies were encouraged to ask young men for dates. Remember, this was a novel idea for 1938.

By 1939, more than 200 colleges across the nation had hosted similar events. Capp, who had intended to use the idea once and move on, became inundated with fan mail, as well as yearly missives from colleges, churches and community organizations, begging to know when the next Sadie Hawkins Day would be so that dances could be planned in advance. At length, Capp set the date on the first Saturday after 9 November. The tons of approving fan mail he received moved Capp to repeat a Sadie Hawkins-themed strip every year – for forty years.

Let's end on this note.