Feb. 13 - "There are three kinds of people in the world," Raymond Smullyan wrote in 5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies, "those who can count and those who can't."
I forget why I wanted to mention that. What I meant to say, I think, is that I'm cheraunophobic. Either that or astraphobic, astrophobic, or brontophobic, all of which are variations on a very basic fear of lightning.
Allow me to backpedal a little: I don't think I'm technically cheraunophobic. After all, phobias aren't just fears: they're irrational fears. I don't think it's irrational to be afraid of lightning, especially if you've been hit by lightning in the past. In fact, I'd say it's a pretty goddam rational response. You don't see people getting treated for Radiationphobia, for example, because anyone who tells a doctor that they try to avoid radiation isn't going to get referred to treatment. They're going to be congratulated on their good sense. I try to avoid getting hit (again) by lightning. It's more like an instinct for self-preservation than a mental illness, don't you think?
In any case, cheraunophobia has always been the only phobia I've even considered myself to be at risk for. So imagine my distress to learn in compiling today's bloggish that I've suddenly become paraskavedekatriaphobic.
Paraskavedekatriaphobia is the fear of Fridays the 13th. It's hard to think of a rational reason to fear Friday the 13th, so there's no point quibbling about definitions. Hell, the name itself ought to be enough to instill a healthy fear into anyone.
The thing is, I'm not afraid of this Friday the 13th. I'm afraid of the next one, which occurs in August. I'm afraid of it because every indication so far suggests that Friday, August 13, could very well be the start of the last childless weekend of my life. Weekends will never again consist of whatever the hell I want them to consist of. It's hard enough negotiating an ideal weekend with a girlfriend or wife. There's no negotiating with a child. Not a little child, anyway. When we lived in Chicago the DMG and I used to sometimes dash off to Dubuque, Iowa, on a Friday night for a weekend of rural relaxation by day and riverboat gambling by night. How do you swing something like that with a kid? I don't remember seeing any craps tables with high-chairs.
Oh, who the hell am I kidding? I'm not scared of any goddam Friday the 13th. I just wanted to use paraskavedekatriaphobia in a sentence.
Fear of long words is hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Is that cruel, or what? Can you imagine the scene in the psychiatrists office?...
Doctor: Well, Mr. Nagan, what would you like to talk about during our session?
Patient: I have this fear, this phobia...
Patient: I'm scared of big words, doc. I don't know why. They just... they scare the hell out of me. I go to pieces when I hear them. Any idea what's going on with that?
Doctor: Sounds like you've got hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
Doctor: Mr. Nagan? What's wrong?
Patient: (Whimpers from his fetal position on the couch.)
Doctor: This is the worst case of hippopotomonstrosesquip—
And so on. It's like calling fear of the letter S sissisassofrassophobia.
A lot of scholars trace the source of this Friday 13th nonsense back to biblical times, but "Friday" and "Thirteenth" are English words, not Hebrew or Greek. The Old and New Testament are both full of pagan superstitions that humanity's had the good sense to discard in its rush to make room for superior modern superstitions. This business about bad Fridays is therefore obviously an English superstition and I'll have nothing to do with it.
If you want to be afraid of a day, be afraid of Monday the 43rd. If you ever wake up and it's Monday the 43rd, worry.
But you only get so many Fridays a month. Use them fearlessly—especially if you don't have any kids.
Drudge broke a huge political story in the states Thursday night: something about a Democratic presidential candidate, an intern, and sex. The media picked it up overnight.
This ought to be fun.
They don't have humidifiers in Denmark. When I went to hardware and household appliance stores and tried to describe them, the clerks kept thinking I wanted a carpet cleaner or a coffee machine.
The DMG says she never even saw a humidifier until she moved to the states. I'm told most Danes interested in the healing power of moisture just put water bowls on their bedroom radiators. The last time something was balanced on one of our radiators, a slab of marble left there by the previous tenant, of the cats jumped on it, stumbled, and fell to the ground. Before he could reorient himself, the marble slab fell off the radiator, landing on and breaking his foot.
Imagine how much more fun that could have been if water had been involved!
It's gonna be a long, dry winter...
I've already written a history of Valentine's Day. It's right here. Share with a loved one.
Galileo Galilei was born on February 15, 1564. He invented a telescope with which he later discovered craters on the moon, the satellites of Jupiter, and every luscious detail of the girl next door.
Galileo's astronomical observations seemed to confirm Copernicus's theory that the Earth went around the sun rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, Copernicus's theory was heresy and therefore not supposed to be confirmed.
The church was in a tough spot. Galileo was every bit as Bad and Heretical as Copernicus had been, but they didn't want to inspire a bunch of angry Germans to start another church, as Martin Luther's followers had not long after the church's previous brush with Astronomy.
High-ranking church officials pleaded with the astronomer: "Come on, Galileo," they said. "Please, Galileo." "Knock it off, Galileo."
But he wouldn't stop talking about the earth spinning around the sun. He couldn't even be persuaded to talk about something else, such as sports, the weather, or the girl next door. So they threatened to kill him.
At this point Galileo remembered that the sun actually did revolve around the earth. The church rewarded his improved memory by giving him free room and board for the rest of his life (a level of hospitality sometimes referred to as "house arrest").
On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro was sworn in as Prime Minister of Cuba after having led the revolution that removed Fulgenico Batista. At the time, Cuba was a nation plagued by poverty, racked by corruption, and held in thrall by the military force of its leader. Today, by contrast, Cuba is a nation plagued by poverty, racked by corruption, and held in thrall by the military force of its leader. Viva la revolucion!
On February 14, 1797, the British Fleet under admirals Nelson and Jervis defeated the Spanish Armadillo.
On February 16, 1918, Lithuania declared its independence from Russia. It was such a successful declaration that they didn't have to repeat it for more than seventy years.
On February 15, 1763, Austria and Prussia signed the Treaty of Hubertusburg. This ended the Seven Years War, and just in time: the war had lasted almost exactly seven years!
Birthdays and Holidays
February 13 is the birthday of Robbie Williams (1974), Peter Gabriel (1950), Stockard Channing (1944), Jerry Springer (1944), Peter Tork (1944), George Segal (1934), Kim Novak (1933), Chuck Yeager (1923), Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919),
Bess Truman (1885), and L.L. Bean (1873).
Drew Bledsoe turns 31 on Valentine's Day. Others born on the day poor Valentine lost his head include Porsche Lynn (1962), Meg Tilly (1960), Gregory Hines (1946), Carl Bernstein (1944), Florence Henderson (1934), Vic Morrow (1932), Hugh Downs (1921), Jimmy Hoffa (1913), and Jack Benny (1894).
February 15 is the birthday of Chris Farley (1964), Matt Groening (1954), Melissa Manchester (1951), Jane Seymour (1951), Claire Bloom (1931), Harvey Korman (1927), Cesar Romero (1907), John Barrymore (1882), Susan B. Anthony (1820), and the aforementioned astronomer.
The 14th is Valentine's Day, and the 15th is the unobserved celebration of Presidents' Day in the United States, Lupercalia in Ancient Rome, and the Birthday of the Sultan in Malaysia.
Enjoy the weekend!
© 2004, The Moron's Almanac