weird and wacky holidays happening in November

November 23 is TARDIS Day

On November 23, 1963, the BBC aired the first episode of its new science fiction series about a mysterious man and his time machine. (Why did it look like a British police box? Because its chameleon circuit jammed after it landed in 1960s England, of course.)

TARDIS DayNo one could have predicted that Doctor Who would go on to be the longest-running science fiction television show in history. The original pilot was deemed unwatchable, scrapped and reshot, delaying the premiere by a week.

By the time the retooled episode, An Unearthly Child, made it to air on November 23, 1963, it was overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy, which had occurred the day before.

But Doctor Who eventually found an audience, especially after the introduction of the Daleks. More than half a century later, it is still popular with millions of loyal viewers. William Hartnell was the First Doctor to hop aboard the TARDIS, which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space.

From the start, it was established that a Gallifreyan Time Lord can only regenerate twelve times. That would have made Peter Capaldi the last. Some fans insist the rule was nullified during Matt Smith’s tenure. Others maintain that John Hurt’s character was the forgotten regeneration between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston, which meant Capaldi was the Thirteenth Doctor.

The debate was settled by Chris Chibnall, the show’s new head writer, who announced, “After months of lists, conversations, auditions, recalls, and a lot of secret-keeping, we’re excited to welcome Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.

“I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our number one choice.” The canon-busting series 11 began on October 7, 2018, and, while a few continued to cavil about the heresy of a female Doctor, fans voted with their eyeballs.

According to the UK Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), which includes online viewership, 10.9 million people watched the premiere, the highest number for a season opener since the show’s return in 2005. BARB also reported that more girls than boys under 16 watched the debut: 378,000 vs 339,000. Last season’s first episode drew 143,000 girls and 339,000 boys. Brilliant.

We celebrate TARDIS Day because Doctor Who continues to entertain us with its steadily expanding universe, at once strange and strangely familiar. It’s also created a legion of Whovians, fans who seek each other out, bond over their love of the show and debate about who is the best Doctor, the worst villain, or even how many Doctors Who there have been.

Find some great ways to celebrate TARDIS Day here. Find the Doctor Who episode that fell on (or closest to) your birthday on Tardisday.com. Catch up on recent (2005-present) seasons on Amazon Prime. Watch the classics (1963-1989) when you sign up for BritBox. Fair warning: Even without the 97 lost episodes discarded by the BBC in the 1970s, there are more than 700 episodes, making it impossible to watch them all during a seven-day free trial period. Unless you’ve figured out that whole wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey situation, in which case, enjoy!

Happy TARDIS Day!

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays

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 © 2018 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 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 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 Ian Malcolm 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.

CHAOS NEVER DIES, PART THREE:

November 9. 2018: I have not been invited for a return engagement by Michael S. Robinson. Perhaps my invitation was lost in the (e)mail. There certainly is quite a bit of chaos to discuss: the midterm elections, Trump’s firing of Jeff Sessions, the discovery that the Mayans invented television. (In honor of Chaos Never Dies Day, I invite you to Google that last one.)

Correction: In Part Two, I misidentified fictional character Ian Malcolm as fictional character David Malcom. I regret the error and know that my use of flawed web research one year ago has introduced another tiny bit of chaos to the Internet. So, I guess you could say I’m doing my part.

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 30 is Perpetual Youth Day

Today is Perpetual Youth Day, always celebrated on November 30th in honor of Dick Clark’s birthday. Although he’d been born in 1929, Clark appeared to age very little during the five decades of his career, earning him the nickname of “America’s oldest teenager.”

In 1957, Clark hosted a local Philadelphia television show called Bandstand, which he pitched to ABC as cheap, easy afternoon programming that would appeal to youth. The network, perennially in third place, was desperate to capture that demographic. On August 5, 1957, American Bandstand premiered to a national audience. It was an instant hit.perpetual youth day

Clark hosted the show for thirty years, giving many bands their first U.S. TV appearances. Among the diverse artists he introduced to American audiences were Aretha Franklin, Madonna, The Doors, Stevie Wonder, Sonny and Cher, Ike and Tina Turner, Neil Diamond, The Guess Who, Barry Manilow, Adam and the Ants, Kim Carnes, Blondie, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Grace Jones, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Prince.

The clean-cut, “square” host sometimes made music history. According to American Bandstand Timeline, on August 6, 1960:

When scheduled guest Hank Ballard and the Midnighters fail to show up to perform their hit R&B song “The Twist,” Clark convinces friend Chubby Checker to go into the studio quickly and cut a soundalike version in half an hour. Demonstrating the dance on TV, Chubby gets an instant #1 hit and sets off the nationwide “dance craze” that would last the better part of two years.

On January 6, 1979:

Dick Clark develops a series of moves for the audience to perform while the Village People’s new song is debuted on Bandstand. The group goes along with the idea, and the “YMCA” dance is born.

Not every appearance was destined to become a classic. All guests on American Bandstand were required to “mime” their songs. It was fairly obvious from the lack of wires and amplifiers onstage that bands were simply going through the motions.

In late 1967, Pink Floyd’s frontman Syd Barrett refused to lip-sync “Arnold Layne,” staring into the camera instead with a look that would later come to represent his descent into madness. The group canceled its first U.S. tour.

The Talking Heads debuted on American television on March 17, 1979, singing “Take Me to the River” and “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel.” Although they were reportedly unhappy about having to mime, American Bandstand was an opportunity too good to refuse.

First, Clark apologized for pronouncing Tina Weymouth’s name incorrectly, then launched into an interview of David Byrne, who looked embarrassed and gave monosyllabic replies. Clark then turned back to Tina and asked, “Is he always this enthusiastic?” She replied, “I guess he’s organically shy.” It didn’t get any better. One imagines everyone was praying for the next commercial break.

Public Image Ltd. appeared on the show on May 3, 1980. Here’s how lead singer John Lydon, formerly known as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, described the experience in his autobiography, Anger is An Energy.

It all got off on the wrong foot when we arrived and they suddenly informed us that it would be a mimed thing. Our equipment hadn’t arrived in time, apparently, but we soon got even more upset when they said, ‘Oh no, you couldn’t play it live anyway, just mime to the record.’

They’d made up some edited versions of “Poptones” and “Careering,” and gave us a cassette to check it out beforehand. ‘Oh my God, they’ve cut it down to that? I don’t know where the vocals are going to drop. What are we supposed to do?’ None of us knew. Just thinking about trying to sing it like the record was…aarghh! You can fake it with an instrument but you can’t as the singer. ‘Okay, so you’ve cut out the point and purpose, it’s like removing the chorus from the National Anthem, just because it makes for an allotted time slot on a TV show. That’s arse-backways!’

Lydon solved the problem by barely making an effort to lip-sync the first song. He pushed people around in the audience, pulling some onto the stage as they squealed and clutched at him as if he were a rude, sullen Beatle.

Between songs, Clark attempted to be a good sport, inviting the rest of the audience onstage. On “Careering,” Lydon abandoned any pretense of miming the words and began wandering around the stage, giving his mic away and snorting nasal spray on-camera. Needless to say, the band was not invited back.

American Bandstand was not Dick Clark’s only claim to fame. In 1959, he hosted a forty-nine-day road show called Caravan of Stars that traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada and featured Bo Diddley, Bobby Darin, Buddy Holly, Annette Funicello and Chuck Berry, backed by a seventeen-piece orchestra.

He hosted the Dick Clark Show (1958-60) and Where the Action Is (1965-67), produced and/or hosted TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes (on-and-off, in one form or other, from 1984-2012) and guest-starred on Perry Mason in 1966, Adam-12 in 1972, and appeared twice as himself in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994, 1996) and once on Dharma & Greg (2002). He also owned several restaurant chains and had the dubious distinction of being questioned by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine about refusing to pay food workers a living wage.

perpetual youth day

He founded dick clark productions (dcp) in 1957, now the world’s largest owner and producer of events such as Academy of Country Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Golden Globe Awards and Miss America and weekly programs such as So You Think You Can Dance. dcp also owns a large archive spanning more than fifty-five years of award-winning shows, specials, performances and historical programs.

Dick Clark hosted New Year’s Rockin’ Eve from January 1, 1974, through January 1, 2004. Clark suffered a stroke on December 8, 2004, and Regis Philbin stepped in as guest host. Despite initial reports that the stroke had been minor, it resulted in dysarthria, a disorder which affects the muscles that help produce speech, making it very difficult to pronounce words. It doesn’t interfere with cognitive understanding of language but can lead to impairment of intelligibility and audibility of basic vocal communication.

The stroke also caused partial paralysis and Clark had to learn to walk and talk again. It was assumed his career as a broadcaster was over. But he was back to ring in 2006 with Ryan Seacrest, whom he’d chosen as his successor. Some found it uncomfortable and even depressing to watch Clark struggle to make himself understood.  Others, particularly those who’d had a stroke and spent hours every day fighting to regain speech and movement, cheered him on, hailing him as an inspiration.

perpetual youth day

Though his role had dwindled to figurehead status, Dick Clark never missed the rebranded Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest and helped the nation usher in 2012 before his death on April 18th of that year, caused by a massive heart attack during prostate surgery.

Perhaps Perpetual Youth Day is a misnomer given its dedication to a man who has shuffled off this mortal coil. But maybe it’s the perfect way to describe a person who introduced generations of kids to rock’n’roll while setting parents at ease. If a nice young(ish) man like Dick Clark thought it was okay to give airtime to Run DMC (Jam Master Jammin’), Prince (I Wanna Be Your Lover), Dokken (Just Got Lucky), Jefferson Airplane (White Rabbit), The Doors (Light My Fire) and Psychedelic Furs (Heaven), then it had to be okay, right?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays