weird and wacky holidays happening in May

May 14 is Underground America Day

underground america dayToday is Underground America Day, created in 1974 by architect Malcolm Wells. After designing the RCA Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair, which would be torn down only two years later, he came to the conclusion that every structure he built needlessly destroyed that which had previously lived in its footprint.

He described his epiphany this way: “I woke up one day to the fact that the Earth’s surface was made for living plants, not industrial plants.”

This led to his espousal of “gentle architecture,” construction in harmony with nature. He built his home and offices underground, wrote several books about environmental design and lectured at Harvard and elsewhere.

He had a great sense of humor about the day he’d created. “On May 14th each year, hundreds of millions of people all across this great land will do absolutely nothing about the national holiday I declared in 1974, and that’s just the way it should be, he said.

“It’s a holiday free of holiday obligations. You don’t even have to lose a day of work. But if you’re the partying type, here are some of the ways in which you can observe the big day.”

Wells died in November of 2009 at the age of 83. He penned his own obituary, which you can read here. It makes us wish we’d gotten the chance to know him. Happy Underground America Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 11 is National Root Canal Appreciation Day

national root canal appreciation dayToday is National Root Canal Appreciation Day, created in 2005 by Wisconsin dentist Chris Kammer.

Dr. Kammer became known as “America’s Favorite Rock’n’Roll Dentist” in July 2004 when he performed original rap song “Get Out the Brush” at Madison Mallards collegiate league ballpark, inspiring 5,991 baseball fans to brush their teeth simultaneously.

Sadly, that number was surpassed the following year by 13,380 people at a Colgate-sponsored event at San Salvador’s Cuscatlán Stadium in El Salvador. It remains the Guinness World Record holder, at least until claims that Delhi Public School Bangalore South in India shattered it with 17,505 this January can be verified.

In April 2005, Dr. Kammer announced he would inaugurate Root Canal Appreciation Day on May 11th by returning to the ballpark and performing a root canal on home plate. He encouraged other dentists to perform root canals in public places. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz issued proclamations recognizing the holiday.

We can find no confirmation that he did the procedure; it seems like the kind of publicity stunt that would have a gotten a little, you know, publicity. We found a recent podcast in which he discusses a dental hygiene program that he calls “Gums of Steel.”

We also came across Dr. Kammer’s 2011 audition for American Idol. You didn’t think we’d make you go to bed tonight wondering what “Get Out the Brush” sounds like, did you? It’s mercifully short and every bit as entertaining watched with the sound off. Either way, it will quickly become obvious why: a) he should keep his day job, and b) we don’t want his hands in our mouths.

Happy National Root Canal Appreciation Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 10 is Clean Up Your Room Day

clean up your room dayToday is Clean Up Your Room Day. Our research into this so-called holiday has failed to uncover its inventor. We’re willing to bet it was devised by a clean person to pummel a messy one.

The concept of “spring cleaning” is nothing new. In the days before electricity, people burned wood for heat and used oil lamps for light. With their houses closed against the cold of winter, soot accumulated on surfaces. On the first warm day of spring, families would open their windows and doors to let fresh air in, then dust, mop, beat rugs and scrub walls.

Technically, Clean Up Your Room Day occurs more than halfway through the traditional spring season in the Northern Hemisphere. (It’s autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.) But that’s no excuse to avoid rolling up your sleeves. Put stuff away. Make a pile of donations and feel good knowing someone else will enjoy the things you pass on. Now, the hard part: dust, vacuum and mop. You have our permission not to scrub the walls.

After you discover how wonderful it is to have a clean room, the instigator will extract a promise to keep it that way. Taking bets on how long it will take to abandon efforts and return to your slovenly ways is best done in secret, especially if the neatnik in question is your mother, who has the power to ground you, revoke privileges and generally make your life a living hell. In this case, we assume you’re a teenager. If you’re over, say, 30, and still living at home, you may be the thing that needs to be cleaned out of your room.

Happy Clean Up Your Room Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 9 is Vast Wasteland Day

vast wasteland dayToday is Vast Wasteland Day. On May 9, 1961, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Newton Norman Minow gave a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters convention, chastising television programmers for their failure to serve the public interest.

First, a little backstory on Mr. Minow is in order. He was born in Milwaukee, WI, on January 17, 1926. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, earned a law degree in 1950, then spent a year as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson.

The following year, he was hired by Adlai Stevenson, worked on the Illinois governor’s two presidential campaigns and became a partner in his law firm. He campaigned for John F. Kennedy before the 1960 election. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Minow as the chair of the FCC.

Now we’re caught up to May 9, 1961, when he said this:

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.

The dated reference to stations signing off will be familiar to anyone old enough to remember the image of an American flag billowing to the strains of the national anthem, followed by a test pattern or color bars. Or to those who woke up on the couch to the sound of static, bathed in the glow of the spooky, Poltergeist-y snow that instantly made you feel there was someone waiting in the shadows, brandishing an axe.

Other than that, the speech could be given today. It would probably be met with a resounding, “So what?” rather than the ire that occurred in 1961. It was considered by many to be an elitist attack on programmers and viewers who enjoyed lowbrow or escapist fare.

Fun Fact: The writers of the 1964-1967 TV series Gilligan’s Island named the tour boat that ran aground the S.S. Minnow as a sarcastic reference to his name.

Minow doesn’t seem to mind. When asked what he considers his most valuable contribution, he mentions convincing Congress to pass laws that paved the way for communications satellites. He recalls telling President Kennedy, “Communications satellites will be much more important than sending man into space, because they will send ideas into space. Ideas last longer than men.”

Minow still influences communications-related law as senior counsel at Chicago-based law firm Sidley Austin LLP.  In 1988, he recruited Barack Obama to work there as a summer associate where he met his future wife, Michelle Robinson. He supported Obama’s campaign for presidency and reelection.

He’s received 12 honorary degrees, sat on too many boards to mention, written four books, funded Sesame Street, and co-sponsored the Digital Promise Project, which uses the Internet to further education. He also serves as Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Singapore.

If given the chance to meet Mr. Minow, we would ask him a question that might show our own lowbrow tendencies. But, admit it: Don’t you want to know what he thinks of the Kardashians?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays