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November 13 is Sadie Hawkins Day

Sadie Hawkins DayToday is Sadie Hawkins Day, an American rite-of-passage for generations of teenagers. Misogynistic, antiquated and awkward for all involved, the Sadie Hawkins Dance supposedly empowers girls to switch gender roles and ask out the boys. Did we mention it’s misogynistic and antiquated? The true origin is much, much worse.

Sadie Hawkins was a character created in 1937 by Al Capp in a cartoon called Li’l Abner, set in the fictional hillbilly town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. Sadie was the “homeliest gal in all them hills.” She waited in vain for a suitor to show up at her door, but not a single prospective husband came a-courting. After fifteen years, Sadie was in full panic mode and her father didn’t want to support a spinster daughter for the rest of her life.

After fifteen long years, Sadie’s dad decided to get creative. He called all the unmarried men of Dogpatch together and declared it Sadie Hawkins Day. The town’s bachelors would run for their lives with Sadie in hot pursuit. The “lucky” man she caught would have to marry her. As her Pappy explained, “Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.”

Sadie_Hawkins_Day origin lil abner comic strip

The rest of the spinsters in Dogpatch (how many were there?) thought the race was an excellent idea and made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of the bachelors in town, who had no say in the matter.

The Sadie Hawkins Dance appeared in the strip sometime later, taking place the night before the race. The spinsters wore hobnail boots to stomp on the feet of the single men, potentially making them easier to catch in the next day’s race.

The Li’l Abner comic strip debuted in 1934. From the start, it was bawdy and filled with sexual innuendo, not to mention scantily-clad, pneumatically-chested women. But it was apparently considered wholesome family fare. In 1939, Life magazine ran a story stating that 201 colleges were celebrating Sadie Hawkins Day.  By 1952, it was reportedly celebrated at over 40,000 different locations. Capp wrote of the phenomenon:

It’s become my responsibility [to include Sadie Hawkins Day every year in the strip.] It doesn’t happen on any set day in November; it happens on the day I say it happens. I get tens of thousands of letters from colleges, communities, and church groups, starting around July, asking me what day, so they can make plans.

Eventually, it evolved into an all-day event that occurs during the second week of November.

sadie hawkins day life magazine

Li’l Abner was an enormous success for its creator, who grew rich from merchandising and movie deals, product tie-ins and a short-lived TV puppet show. In the 1960s, he underwent an ideological transformation from New Deal Democrat to hippie-hater and close friend of Richard Nixon. He became a highly paid speaker on the college campus lecture circuit. His routine was to insult and provoke his audience into a shouting match.

sadie hawkins day al cappCapp attempted to use his fame to “seduce” young women. The biography Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary characterized him as something of a failed serial rapist since the few women who reported him to the authorities always got away. (Capp had lost one of his legs as a boy and routinely removed his prosthetic leg along with his pants.) One would-be victim described tipping him over like a floor lamp, as he crashed into the hotel furniture.

Of course, grotesque slapstick aside, there was nothing funny about his sexual assaults on young women. In 1971, Capp succeeded in physically forcing a 20-year-old Wisconsin college student to perform oral sex on him. To her credit, and against overwhelming pressure, the student pressed charges.

Capp was not charged with rape, but with three lesser counts: indecent exposure, sodomy and “attempted adultery.” He was only found guilty of the latter. Although his career and reputation never recovered, he continued to publish the Li’l Abner comic strip until 1977. He died two years later.

Sadie Hawkins Day is not what it seems. She wasn’t a real person. It has nothing to do with women’s emancipation. Who uses the word spinster? What do you think? Does it matter what its origin is if no one realizes it–or cares, for that matter? Should it continue to be celebrated or be retired?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Chaos Never Dies Day: Part Two

In Which I Inadvertently Prove that Chaos Never Dies

Chaos Never Dies Day proved all too true for me today, November 9, 2017,  when I was briefly interviewed by Michael S. Robinson on Microbin Radio. I had been invited to be a guest on the radio show only the day before so I dutifully spent a day cramming the online equivalent of Chaos Theory for Dummies to prepare.

I’d been told I’d be quizzed on how I came to write about weird holidays and asked about holidays taking place before the end of the year. I gathered information on two of the wackiest: Start Your Own Country Day and Tió de Nadal, which involves a Christmas log that craps out presents. I’ve never been on the radio before and was wargaming it all out until three minutes before I went on-air.

What I didn’t know ahead of time was that the guests on the docket before me were scheduled to talk about the mass shooting in Texas and the difficulties of parenting. The theme for the day was “Are we Stuck in a Bad News Hell?”

The Michael S Robinson Show banner

When Mr. Robinson introduced me, I launched into a description of the beauty of the order that dwells in chaos even though we can’t perceive it.

I gave the example of football, which can’t be predicted in strictly linear terms by the sum of the players’ and team’s rankings because of variables like team chemistry, whether it’s a home or away game, the quarterback’s attitude, etc. Since I’m confident that you’ll never hear this, I’m going to say it was brilliant.

But Mr. Robinson wanted to talk about the chaos we deal with every day. Of course. I have a lot to say about the unprecedented amount of chaos we’re experiencing nowadays, but I ended up being woefully unprepared. I should have known that was what he would want to discuss.

How did I make such a mistake and overshoot what should have been an interesting and informative conversation? I didn’t just strike out. I left my bat in the dugout and brought a cello to the plate. I’d like to credit chaos in some artful way, say it created a perfect trajectory I can’t identify. That’s hogwash, of course—or is it? (It is.)

Also, I had feedback blasting my words back at me, making it almost impossible to speak normally. There’s nothing worse than hearing your own voice faltering in near-real time. Again, chaos. I don’t think I’ll get invited back. It’s probably just as well that they spelled my name Kathlene Zaya.

$99,000 Answer The Honeymooners Ralph KramdenAll this reminds me of the $99,000 Answer, an episode of The Honeymooners in which Ralph Kramden prepares to go on a game show where he’ll be required to identify songs by the first few bars.

He rents a piano and has Ed Norton play musical selections all week to prepare for the event. Ed always warms up by playing the first few bars of “Swanee River,” which never fails to annoy Ralph.

The night of the show, the first tune played is “Swanee River,” which he can’t name. He loses in spite of all his preparation. I laughed but felt bad for Ralph, perpetual loser.

It also reminds me of every Curb Your Enthusiasm episode when Larry David does something stupid or thoughtless by misunderstanding the context of a situation—or just because he’s a jerk. (That’s every episode.)

Fictional chaos theorist David Malcom said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” So do laughs but not always the ones you want or on the schedule you’d prefer.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 9 is Chaos Never Dies Day

chaos never dies dayToday is Chaos Never Dies Day. That much is certain. But should it be called National Chaos Never Dies Day? It seems like there’s enough chaos to call for an international celebration. No reason to have Chaos Awareness Month, though: we are in touch with it on a daily basis.

Why today? No one has claimed responsibility for the holiday, so there’s no one to ask that question. November 9th might have been selected because it coincides with the date of the Northeast blackout of 1965. Why not?

What is chaos? We’re reminded of  Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s response when asked to describe obscenity. He couldn’t define it, he said, “but I know it when I see it.”  Chaos can be equally hard to explain, depending on myriad factors such as timing, location, and circumstances.

In Greek mythology, Chaos was the first primeval god to come into existence at the universe’s creation. Her name comes from the Latin khaos, meaning  “gap” or the space between heaven and earth.

Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics that describes the behavior of non-linear systems and attempts to find underlying order in what appear to be random events or data.

Here are few quotes that illustrate different views of chaos.

We live in a rainbow of chaos. – Paul Cezanne
Freedom is just chaos, with better lighting. – Alan Dean Foster
Chaos is the score upon which reality is written. –  Henry Miller
I like order. It allows me to have chaos in my head. – Dwight Yoakum

Perhaps we should give the last word to the dictionary.

Chaos
noun
1. A state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order.>
2. Any confused, disorderly mass: a chaos of meaningless phrases.
3. The infinity of space or formless matter supposed to have preceded the existence of the ordered universe.
4. The personification of this in any of several ancient Greek myths.>
5. Obsolete. A chasm or abyss.

Whether you choose to fight chaos today or welcome it with open arms, have a wonderful day. If you want to, that is. No pressure.

CHAOS NEVER DIES DAY, PART TWO:

Speaking of chaos, I experienced a flurry of it myself today, November 9, 2017,  when I was briefly interviewed by Michael S. Robinson on Microbin Radio. I had been invited to be a guest on the radio show only the day before so I dutifully spent a day cramming the online equivalent of Chaos Theory for Dummies to prepare.

I’d been told I’d be quizzed on how I came to write about weird holidays and asked about holidays taking place before the end of the year. I gathered information on two of the wackiest: Start Your Own Country Day and Tió de Nadal, which involves a Christmas log that craps out presents. I’ve never been on the radio before and was wargaming it all out until three minutes before I went on-air.

What I didn’t know ahead of time was that the guests on the docket before me were scheduled to talk about the mass shooting in Texas and parenting. The show’s theme was “Are we Stick in a Bad News Hell?”

The Michael S Robinson Show banner

When Mr. Robinson introduced me, I launched into a description of the beauty of the order that dwells in chaos even though we can’t perceive it.

I gave the example of football, which can’t be predicted in strictly linear terms by the sum of the players’ and team’s rankings because of variables like team chemistry, whether it’s a home or away game, the quarterback’s attitude, etc. Since I’m confident that you’ll never hear this, I’m going to say it was brilliant.

But Mr. Robinson wanted to talk about the chaos we deal with every day. Of course. I have a lot to say about the unprecedented amount of chaos we’re experiencing nowadays, but I ended up being woefully unprepared. I should have known that was what he would want to discuss.

How did I make such a mistake and overshoot what should have been an interesting and informative conversation? I didn’t just strike out. I left my bat in the dugout and brought a cello to the plate. I’d like to credit chaos in some artful way, say it created a perfect trajectory I can’t identify. That’s hogwash, of course—or is it? (It is.)

Also, I had feedback blasting my words back at me, making it almost impossible to speak normally. There’s nothing worse than hearing your own voice faltering in near-real time. Again, chaos. I don’t think I’ll get invited back. It’s probably just as well they spelled my name Kathlene Zaya.

$99,000 Answer The Honeymooners Ralph KramdenAll this reminds me of the $99,000 Answer, an episode of The Honeymooners in which Ralph Kramden prepares to go on a game show where he’ll be required to identify songs by the first few bars.

He rents a piano and has Ed Norton play musical selections all week to prepare for the event. Ed always warms up by playing the first few bars of “Swanee River,” which never fails to annoy Ralph.

The night of the show, the first tune played is “Swanee River,” which he can’t name. He loses in spite of all his preparation. I laughed but felt bad for Ralph, perpetual loser.

It also reminds me of every Curb Your Enthusiasm episode when Larry David does something stupid or thoughtless by misunderstanding the context of a situation—or just being a jerk. (That’s every episode.)

Fictional chaos theorist David Malcom said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” So do laughs but not always the ones you want or on the schedule you’d prefer.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 6 is National Nachos Day

Today is National Nachos Day and should not be confused with International Day of the Nacho (October 21) or with the International Nacho Festival (October 13-15). To be honest, we’re a bit confused ourselves. To get to the bottom of this delicious mystery, let’s dig in (sorry).

Although we’re not sure why it’s celebrated on November 6th, the origin of National Nachos Day is this: In 1943,  Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya inadvertently invented nachos at a restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico. (To pinpoint the exact date it happened would strain credulity, wouldn’t it?)

A group of officers’ wives whose husbands were stationed in Fort Duncan Airbase in Texas crossed the border to have dinner at the famed Victory Club. The women were more than fashionably late: the restaurant had closed and the cook had gone home. The ladies were hungry.

Anaya’s son related the legend in an interview on the History Channel.

“My father was maître d’ and he said ‘Let me go quick and fix something for you.’ He went into the kitchen, picked up tostadas, grated some cheese on them – Wisconsin cheese, the round one – and put them under the Salamander [a broiling unit that quickly browns the top of foods]. He pulled them out after a couple minutes, all melted, and put on a slice of jalapeno.”

Whether Mamie Finan, one of the wives, or Anaya himself christened the dish Nacho’s Especiales is a matter of debate among snack historians. This much is certain: the dish was a hit. Somewhere along the way, the name was shortened to nachos. Anaya’s original recipe appeared in St. Anne’s Cookbook in 1954.

national nachos day

Ignacio Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses his original recipe. He later opened his own establishment called, appropriately, Nacho’s Restaurant, also in Piedras Negras.

By 1960, when he sought to claim ownership of the nacho, it had already been around for seventeen years and was in the public domain. To honor Anaya’s creation, Piedras Negras hosts the International Nacho Festival every year.

The snack’s popularity grew in 1976 when businessman Frank Liberto began selling a modified version at sporting events in Arlington Stadium, home of the Texas Rangers. That first year, sales totaled $800,000.

Liberto’s secret? He altered one ingredient, creating a pourable processed cheese product with a long shelf life that didn’t need to be heated. We can’t tell you the formula’s secret proprietary ingredients; just that, by the standard of the Food and Drug Administration, it legally can’t be called cheese. But that’s never stopped anyone from tucking into a bowl of nachos. Better snacking through modern chemistry, right?

In 1978, the treat became available at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, where iconic sports announcer Howard Cosell was covering Monday Night Football with Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. At some point, a plate of nachos was brought up to the booth.

national nachos day nachos

The broadcasters needed to fill some dead air time, so Cosell decided to riff on the snack’s name. “‘They brought us this new snack—what do they call them? knock-o’s or nachos?’” recalls Liberto. “He started using the word ‘nachos’ in the description of plays: ‘Did you see that run? That was a nacho run!’”

Cosell and others used the word for weeks afterward, helping Liberto’s nachos branch out from their Texas birthplace. Ignacio Anaya invented the original nacho. Frank Liberto modernized them, turning them into a concession snack and a profit machine.

Ignacio Anaya died in 1975. A bronze plaque erected in Piedras Negras honors his memory and October 21 was declared the International Day of the NachoWhy was that date chosen? Was it his birthday? The date he died? We don’t know.

So there you have it, folks. Hungry yet?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays