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October 27 is Sylvia Plath Day

Is it possible to wish someone a Happy Sylvia Plath Day? How can anyone celebrate the birthday of a woman who killed herself? Is this a joke? Is it sponsored by some brand of oven cleaner? We found evidence that this holiday exists:

From the Sylvia Plath Forum:

To all avowed Sylvia Plath supporters and admirers:

I am with the Sylvia Plath day organizing committee. Let me explain: over 1,000 people signed a petition just recently in the city of Northampton, Ma to have a Sylvia Plath Day. The Mayor, consumed by the irresistible force of Plath petition signers/supporters then declared October 27, 2001 Sylvia Plath Day. As you know, Sylvia Plath attended Smith College in Northampton. We are planning a big celebration of the life and legacy of Sylvia Plath on October 27 of this year. We can use your help!

Michael
Northampton, Ma, USA
Friday, April 27, 2001

Unfortunately, we could find no Northampton public records to confirm the mayor was indeed “consumed by the irresistible force.” But if we still pore over her work and the minutia of her life over fifty years after her death, does it matter if it’s official or not?

sylvia plath day

Published under a pseudonym

Of course, we remember Sylvia Plath because she wrote The Bell Jar, required reading for many in high school. And, like it or not, we remember her because she committed suicide. We study her poetry and prose, trying to divine what fueled her despair, what caused her to take her own life. Plath wrote this in her journal a few months before her death:

I feel outcast on a cold star, unable to feel anything but an awful helpless numbness. I look down into the warm, earthy world. Into a nest of lovers’ beds, baby cribs, meal tables, all the solid commerce of life in this earth, and feel apart, enclosed in a wall of glass.

Plath wrote poetry in a confessional style, revealing intimate details about herself. She was driven, publishing her first poem when she was eight. She was the first poet awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. She also wrote fifty short stories and one novel, The Bell Jar.

In February of 1963, her depression overcame her. For weeks, her doctor had tried to secure a bed for her in a psychiatric hospital. She sealed her children in their room upstairs, then sealed herself in the kitchen, put her head in the oven and turned on the gas. She was thirty years old.

On Sylvia Plath Day, instead of fetishizing her death or lamenting the loss of all she might have written, we can celebrate her life by learning about her, reading her work and being happy for what she shared with us in her short yet brilliant life.

It’s a day we should also acknowledge the brutal power of mental illness to damage and destroy lives.

Learn more at:
Neurotic Poets
BenGuinter.com
This Day in History
Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers: 2011, Univ. of Massachusetts Press

If you are thinking about suicide, read this first.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website and toll-free telephone number: 1 (800) 273-8255

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 8 is the Soapy Smith Wake

Today is the 43rd annual Soapy Smith Wake. Since 1974, descendants of Jefferson “Soapy” Smith have held an annual wake for him on the anniversary of his death in Skagway, Alaska, on July 8, 1898.

soapy smith's wake

Soapy Smith, image at legendsofamerica

Jefferson Smith was a con man who lived to prove the axiom, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” He gained his nickname due to his prize soap scam, in which he’d set up a display of soaps, make a show of placing bills from one to one hundred dollars around several bars, wrap them to resemble the other bars, then appear to hide them in the stack.

A shill he’d plant in the crowd would pay a dollar, unwrap a seemingly random soap, pull out a bill and start shouting about his winnings. This convinced others to clamor to buy the other bars. There were no more winners. Smith had used sleight of hand of hand to conceal the fact that he had not put the money-wrapped bars in the pile. Halfway through, he announced the hundred dollar bill hadn’t yet been found and auctioned off the remainder.

At some point in Smith’s mostly successful twenty-year career, Smith was arrested for running the prize soap racket. The police officer forgot Smith’s first name and wrote “Soapy Smith” in his logbook. The name stuck.

Smith’s luck came to an end on July 8, 1898, after his crew bilked a miner out of a sack of gold in a crooked game of three-card monte. Four men, including Frank H. Reid, confronted Smith, who refused to return the gold or turn over his associates. In the ensuing gunfight, Smith and Reid exchanged fire. Smith was shot through the heart and died instantly; Reid, shot in the groin, died twelve days later of his injuries.

Soapy Smith was buried several yards outside the Skagway city cemetery. Over the years, his reputation grew to that of a Klondike-style Robin Hood, fleecing the rich to give to the poor. There’s no evidence he did anything but line his own pockets and those of the public servants and businessmen he bribed.

Reid became painted as a villain who murdered Smith. If we assume the two men shot each other—and there are those who question that—then Smith must have shot Reid first, since he couldn’t have fired after being shot through the heart. Unless the gun went off as he was falling, but then we’re getting into grassy knoll territory.

On July 8, 1974, members of Smith’s family and their friends began the tradition of holding a wake at his gravesite, toasting him with several bottles of champagne. When the group felt nature calling, they started another tradition by entering the cemetery proper and relieving themselves on the grave of Frank H. Reid.

A reporter present at the wake dubbed it the “sprinkling of Frank.” The Smiths and many residents found it humorous at the time. The family continued to furnish champagne for years until the wake was finally banned from the cemetery and moved to the Eagles Hall in downtown Skagway.

If you can’t make it to Skagway to celebrate, The Magic Castle in Hollywood, California, has held a Soapy Smith Party every year since 2004. No matter where you are, raise a glass, if you like, and toast the cantankerous, thieving criminal known as Soapy Smith. And if you have to pee, please use a restroom.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays2017

INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY

international caps lock day

Today is INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY, celebrated on June 28 and October 22 each year. Derek Arnold created the unofficial holiday in October 2000 to bring attention to those who abuse the caps lock key and, by extension, everyone who receives their emails, texts, and Internet screeds.

Arnold claimed he had a higher purpose in mind, stating:

International Caps Lock Day is in fact a testament to the small mindedness of certain Western individuals: the majority of the world’s population writes in scripts which have no concept of letter casing. Therefore it is advised to laugh at anyone who invokes this day as an excuse to dismiss local typographical conventions: they are simply making an ass out of themselves.

That’s a lofty goal, but we suspect its popularity has more to do with the joy of hitting the caps lock key and capitalizing with impunity.

With the rise of the Internet has come the evolution of netiquette, which dictates that writing in capital letters is considered shouting: boorish, rude and aggressive. Although many protest this reading, it has become an accepted interpretation of the practice.

Why do we celebrate this twice a year? Arnold added the second iteration to honor Billy Mays, the beloved pitchman who said everything in capital letters, who died on June 28, 2009.

Looking for the easiest possible way to celebrate? If you use Chrome, there’s an extension for that. Designed by Baptiste Candellier, on each holiday, it will make you unable to type in lower case and display almost every web page in upper case.

Or download Billy Mays Caps Lock by John Haller, another fan of the infomercial king. When you hit the Caps Lock key, you’ll hear Billy Mays say:

“Hi, Billy Mays here!”
“It’ll make your whites, whiter!”
“Order right now and we’ll double the value!” or
“Here’s how to order!”

When we first observed this holiday on October 22, 2015, we had a few niggling observations about capslockday.com: the site’s HTML listed the title as “internetonal caps lock day home page” and the page itself featured a photo of Billy Mays captioned, “GOOD NIGHT, SWEAT PRINCE.” Arnold also stated he was on SNAPCHET, which we can only assume is a social media network for country western music fans, and pointed out the caps lock key with the description “AT THE BOTTOM, WHERE IT SAY CASP LOCK.”

While we realize that correcting grammar and spelling is considered annoying by many these days, we can’t help but wonder: here are two holidays predicated upon the notion of irritating everyone else, yet there is no International Editors’ Day? THAT AIN’T ISN’T RIGHT.

On November 3, 2015, we noticed that the site had been taken down. With the help of the Wayback Machine, we captured the archived page. The Internet is forever….

CAPSLOCK DAY SITE SCREENGRAB

INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY SCREENGRAB

INTERNATIONAL CAPSLOCK DAY SCREENGRAB

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY, EVERYBODY!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 13 is National Pigeon Day

Today is National Pigeon Day. It honors Cher Ami, a carrier pigeon that valiantly completed its World War I mission to deliver military intelligence to the U.S. Army in France, even after being shot and suffering a partially severed limb. It succumbed to its injuries several months later on June 13, 1919.

Ami was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal for heroism in combat. The U.S. chose to honor the bird by stuffing it and putting it on display in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. (It is no longer on public view but is kept in storage as part of its permanent collection.)

Cher Ami, stuffed pigeon

Cher Ami

With Cher Ami’s sacrifice in mind, New York Bird Club founder Anna Dove (née Augusta Kugelmas) created National Pigeon Day in 2008. In an interview, she told the New York Times, “We are trying to do for pigeons what Martin Luther King did for his people.”

Dove submitted the first celebration to the Kids’ Activities section of New York Magazine:

“We’re trying to promote a positive image. There’s such negativity for no reason. They’re harmless, defenseless. They can’t attack; their beak is very soft.”

“Kids will learn cool pigeon facts…as they nibble on pigeon-shape cookies, view pigeon-inspired children’s art, and take part in a candlelight prayer service.” (Dove worries there might not even be urban pigeons in five years.)

We’re sure Miss Dove is gratified to know that her efforts have successfully averted pigeon extinction. We’re a bit concerned about awakening our children’s carnivorous instincts by feeding them sugar-laden representations of the birds we mean to save. We certainly hope they’re gluten-free to promote, you know, freedom.

Meanwhile, [Dove] urges all New York families to “carry a bit of bread crumbs in your bag, a few seeds to show kindness and respect. The pigeon isn’t a threat or an enemy. It goes along with quality of life to show kindness and compassion to all living things.” That’s a lovely lesson for the children.

Yes, littering is a great lesson. Here’s a better one. Give a cookie to a homeless person and let him drop the crumbs that will feed our feathered friends and that other European import, the Norway rat.

Like pigeons, rats fastidiously clean themselves and only become vermin-infested disease vectors because of their squalid living conditions. But will rats ever get their own holiday? No, and not just because they aren’t cute enough, but because it’s a stupid idea.

national pigeon day

The second annual National Pigeon Day, on June 13, 2009, attracted authors, performers, and activists. Charles Patterson read from his book, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. Amos Latteier, whose public art projects have included a telephone-operated karaoke protest song, a 500-pound potato battery, and a chainsaw-powered walking machine, delivered a PowerPoint lecture about his construction of a pigeon condo.

Ted Enik and Enid Crow performed a humorous puppet play about the downfall of an arrogant politician determined to rid his city of pigeons to impress his seven-year-old ornithophobic daughter. The Vivian Girls, best known for college-radio hit “Kitten Lemonade Stand,” performed “Pigeons on Parade” and “Pigeon Goes to a Party” to a rapt audience.

The parks department agreed to let the club host its gathering without a permit but stressed that the feeding of the wild birds or animals was illegal. That led to this awkward statement on the National Pigeon Day blog:

Samples of high-quality bird feed and grit will be given out courtesy of Gail at The Pigeon Store; however, please respect Central Park rules and regulations: Feeding of birds and other wildlife prohibited, and please do not litter.

Dove had tangled with the city before. In 2003, she was arrested for assault after throwing birdseed in the face of a Parks Department volunteer, Carol McCabe, who told her city rules prohibit feeding in public parks. McCabe’s eye was scratched, requiring medical attention. She obtained a restraining order, worried that Dove was “a little kooky.”

According to Andrew Blechman, author of Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Creature, Dove (then Kuglemas) said the volunteer was “a bitch with Mafioso ties” and that she’d thrown the seed at the woman to protect herself. McCabe later dropped the charges and Dove founded the New York Bird Club to fight institutional pigeon prejudice, which eventually led to National Pigeon Day.

The third annual National Pigeon Day celebration clashed with the Puerto Rican Day parade, also scheduled on June 13, 2010. Lack of a permit meant that the pigeons’ special day had to be moved to June 19. Racial bias? Perhaps. Dove petitioned the government to ratify June 13 as National Pigeon Day. To date, her effort has proven unsuccessful.

Dove had been a victim of prejudice a few months before, in February 2010, when enraged retired schoolteacher Arthur Schwartz snatched a bag of birdseed from her hands and threw it over a fence. He initially fled the scene but later explained he’d become upset that rats were being fed as well.

Anna Dove

Anna Dove

She filed charges against Schwartz, who she said poked and shoved her, telling the New York Post, “The guy was violent, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a weapon next time.” Six years later, we see no evidence that he served any time for the assault.

Dove had high hopes that Woody Allen would finally attend National Pigeon Day and apologize for referring to pigeons as “rats with wings.” Since 2008, she had circulated a message urging members of her New York Bird Club and other bird lovers to pressure him to show up.  Here is an excerpt of that directive:

For nearly 30 years this “racial slur” has and is presently being perpetuated by the media who use it to ridicule and degrade pigeons so that they have no respect in our society and, therefore, are treated with contempt and hatred by the general public.

Despite publishing contact information for his agent, manager, and publicist, none of her followers were able to coerce Mr. Allen into making an appearance.

He’s hardly the only pigeon hater to attract negative attention. In 2007, after Brooklyn Councilman Simcha Felder proposed fining pigeon feeders $1,000, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she had “no love” for “flying rats.” (She also said she wouldn’t allow her personal feelings to interfere with her professional judgment, which sounds pretty reasonable to us.)

Urban Wildlife Coalition founder Johana Clearfield wrote Quinn, slamming her as “clueless,” since “pigeons have nothing in common with rats, and calling her comment an “epithet . . . much like the n-word.”

Felder claimed the feeding ban was aimed at minimizing pigeon excrement, which damages city infrastructure with its ammonia and uric acid. Each pigeon drops an average of 25 pounds of poop per year. That’s a lot of crap. But bird boosters weren’t buying his story. They held a rally at City Hall against the proposed ban, carrying signs that said things like, “Have you known anybody killed by a pigeon?”

pigeon protest City Hall

No, we’ve never known someone killed by a pigeon. (But we also don’t know anyone killed by a feral cockroach. That’s just one more creature too ugly to get its own day.) Demonstrators argued that pigeons teach children an appreciation for living things. Don’t the millions of people in New York City count as living things?

And when City Council member James Oddo suggested birth control, approved by PETA and the Humane Society, to combat corrosion, clean up the Staten Island Ferry terminal and keep maggot-ridden poop from raining down from the ceiling panels, the pigeon groupies came down on him like, well, poop from a ceiling. Joanna Tierno, the moderator of a pigeon Internet site, told a reporter:

It’s just a horrible idea just to kill off all these innocent animals, and for what reason? You can’t help but remember the Holocaust. Jews were killed because people didn’t want to look at them anymore.

Innolytics, the medication’s manufacturer, received an award in 2010 from The U.S. Humane Society for its work to reduce animal suffering and advance animal welfare. The ASPCA and PETA also support humane alternatives to lethal bird control.

In the past several years, the Pigeon Day blog has fallen silent, and New York Bird Club’s website has disappeared. An International Pigeon Day Facebook event lasted only one year; Timeout London’s 2012 listing of National Pigeon Appreciation Day turned out to be a hoax asking pub crawlers to share their beers with pigeons, but only if they were Stella Artois or better.

Anna Dove’s trail has run cold except for allegations made in 2013 that she used aliases including Cher Ami to set up Facebook, Twitter and Blogspot accounts as “The Yogi Whisperer” to impersonate Dechen Karl Thurman, Uma Thurman’s brother, and “harass people in his professional and personal life.” The post asked victims to come forward so that evidence could be consolidated against the “mentally disturbed individual.”

While pigeons deserve fair treatment, activists who equate the birds’ suffering to that of Jews during the Holocaust, compare their description as “flying rats” to the n-word, and describe themselves as freedom fighters on par with a leader assassinated for his efforts to attain racial equality, are, to put it mildly, delusional.

We’re going to give PETA, unlikely voice of reason, the last word:

There are people who buy heavy bags of bird seed and walk around New York City, London, and other cities dropping huge piles of it on to public sidewalks and in parks. Naturally, pigeons flock there to eat, and then breed. These people think they are helping, but in reality, they are doing more harm than good….

Have you ever considered asking your local park or city to put up signs discouraging the feeding of pigeons? Have you supported or opposed a local ordinance that would establish mandatory guidelines for feral cat colony management? Can we—who care about and advocate for animals—stop letting irrational impulses dictate our actions toward them?

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

To gain another perspective, read this hilarious 2010 interview” of some feisty New York pigeons eager to share their opinions and drop some truth on a few heads in Central Park and on the steps of City Hall.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays