Every Day Is Special
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Thursday, November 4 -- Common Sense Day
Of course it's Common Sense day -- this is Will Rogers's birthday! Born in 1879, Rogers was
the country boy who did rope tricks while talking plainly to his audiences with such sensible
ideas that they didn't just laugh -- they also resolved to change their lives. Or at least were
pretty sure how other people ought to change theirs.
Here are some Will Rogers quotations:
Ancient Rome declinedy because it had a Senate. Now what's going to happen to us with both a
Senate and a House?
Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.
Diplomacy is the art of saying, "Nice Doggie," until you can find a rock.
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
I never expected to see the day when girls would get sunburned in the places they do today.
An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out.
We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
We don't know what we want, but we are ready to bite somebody to get it.
Rumor travels faster, but it don't stay put as long as truth.
The more you read and observe about this politics thing, you got to admit that each party is
worse than the other. The one that's out always looks the best.
The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.
Common sense ain't all that common.
Which brings us to Common Sense Day. The advice for this day is: Do at least one thing
your common sense tells you to do. Stop smoking for a day, have a talk with your children,
begin an exercise program, tell your spouse you're glad you got married, tell somebody what's
bothering you while you're not angry about it, throw away Christmas catalogs without ordering
more stuff you don't need and can't afford, move a stone off a lawn before some poor guy runs a
lawnmower over it, get a sober person to drive you home, pull over and get some sleep instead of
driving into the other lane and killing somebody.
Basically, do what you already know you ought to do, and stop letting your idiot invisible twin
persuade you to do stuff you know is dumb.
On this day in 1979, 500 Iranians seized the US embassy in Tehran, taking some 90 hostages,
66 of whom were Americans. Iranians had some good reasons to be mad at us -- our CIA had
proudly claimed responsibility for deposing their elected government and replacing it with the
Shah many years before. Religious Iranians felt that we had imposed the Shah's westernizing
regime on them -- and we had. (This is not an Obama apology -- it's just a fact. We reap the
consequences of our government's actions for many years.)
Since then the dictatorship of the ayatollahs has used their people as cannon fodder in war,
oppressed women, believers in non-Muslim religions, and anyone who expresses dissent. If the
people thought the Shah was repressive, the Ayatollahs and their secret police and vigilantes
have proven the old Shah was an amateur. The rest of the world has watched these arrogant
braggarts strut about the world stage as they funded, trained, and supplied terrorists, developed
nuclear weapons, and tried to undermine democracy wherever it reared its head.
Any fool who thinks they are not the enemies of civilization should just spend a little time
thinking about how their own lives would change if the Ayatollahs ruled here. Of course, if you
live in Israel, you don't have to do this, because your lives will simply end when the Ayatollahs
get themselves an aimable nuke.
Friday, November 5 -- First Shattered Backboard
The first NBA player to shatter a backboard was Chuck Connors of the Boston Celtics, in 1946.
Connors, who also played major league baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago
Cubs, went on to gain fame as the star of the TV series The Rifleman.
Will Durant was born 125 years ago today, in 1885. Durant's book The Story of Philosophy
was my entire introduction to the world's great philosophers back when I was fifteen. By no
means did I understand everything on that first reading, but his work certainly put philosophy
within reach. His wife Ariel was his lifelong collaborator, and he even granted her co-author
credit on the last four volumes of their ten-volume series The Story of Civilization, the premium
for signing up with Book of the Month Club for decades.
This is George W. and Laura Bush's wedding anniversary. They married in 1977, only a few
months after my wife decided to try to make something of me through marriage. Fortunately,
my wife has never said to me, "George W. made Laura First Lady for two terms before their 33rd
anniversay. What have you done?"
Saturday, November 6 -- Meet the Press Day
Meet the Press premiered on this day in 1947 -- it is now the oldest program on TV,
continuing the format it began on radio in 1945: a well-known guest, usually a politician, is
questioned by a panel of journalists. Moderators have included Martha Rountree, Lawrence E.
Spivak, Ned Brooks, Bill Monroe, Marvin Kalb, Chris Wallace, Garrick Utley, Tim Russert and
Polish composer, pianist, and patriot Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born 150 years ago today. He
died in New York on June 29th, 1941, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery because
the Nazis ruled Poland at the time.
When Poland fell into the hands of the Soviets after World War II, his family decided not to try
to move his remains to Poland. In May 1963, President John F. Kennedy dedicated a plaque to
Paderewski's memory and declared that the pianist would rest in Arlington until Poland was
Paderewski's remains were finally returned to his native country on June 29th, 1992, the 51st
anniversary of his death, after Poland held its first free parliamentary election following its
independence from the Soviet Union.
The Phil Donahue Show, the first talk show with audience participation, went on the air on this
date in 1967, in Dayton, Ohio. The first guest interviewed by host Phil Donahue was atheist
Madalyn Murray O'Hair. In 1979 the program went national.
Later, Phil Donahue claimed credit for ending Communism in the Soviet Union -- and why not?
He did a few shows from Russia, and then, some time afterward, Communism ended.
Of course, by that reasoning we should also hold Donahue responsible for the mysterious death
of Madelyn Murray O'Hair. After all, she appeared on his very first show and then, some time
later, she was kidnapped and murdered.
But no. Donahue's real accomplishments were to give American liberalism its smarmiest face
till Nancy Pelosi, and to prepare the way for Oprah to come in and crush him.
Sunday, November 7 -- Fall Back Day
Daylight Savings Time ends this morning! Set your clock back one hour before you go to bed.
The rule for setting your clock is: "Spring forward, fall back." So you get an extra hour of sleep.
(Of course, most people just stay up later so they end up with no net gain in sleep time.)
International Tongue Twister Contest. If you want to take part, head for Burlington,
Wisconsin. Competitors say as many tongue twisters as they can before they make an error.
Prizes include a portion of a peck of pickled peppers.
I suppose this is an "international" contest because they let Canadians take part. Not
surprisingly, people who don't speak English have their own tongue twisters. The entire Polish
language is a tongue twister. And the San or !Kung language of the Bushmen twists off your
whole head if you didn't grow up using it.
(And don't write to me about how "Bushmen" is an "offensive" term. It's how Bushmen refer to
their whole culture collectively; nearly all the other names began as even worse pejoratives, so
that "Bushmen" is actually like "Yankee," a mild pejorative that a group adopts for itself.)
The Republican elephant was born on this day in 1874, when Thomas Nast drew an elephant to
represent the Republican Party in a satirical cartoon in Harper's Weekly.
Monday, November 8 -- End of the Aztecs Day
Cortés entered the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, on this day in 1519. With 500 Spanish
adventurers and thousands of allies from the tribes the rapacious, human-sacrificing Aztecs had
been despoiling and terrorizing for years, he eventually subdued all Aztec resistance to Spanish
Sentimental and ignorant multiculturalists like to condemn the conquest of Mexico as a crime of
Westerners against the native people, but the Aztecs may well be the most terrible nation ever to
conquer its neighbors, and in the course of human history the destruction of their culture must
surely count with the defeat of the Nazis as one of the Best Things That Ever Happened
Somebody has declared this to be Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day. Don't forget the
sauerkraut and garlic! If you can't think of any other way to make your house reek, scorch a
white sauce or burn some onions.
Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, was born in Atlanta on this day in 1900.
She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for GWTW, a serious historical novel, which went on to sell 10
million copies and be translated into 30 languages. She died on 16 August 1949 in Atlanta after
being struck by an automobile.
Arrogant professors have dismissed GWTW as a "mere romance," and, unfortunately, the
guardians of Mitchell's literary heritage have agreed, consenting to appallingly bad sequels
written by romance writers, whose genre has nothing to do with the high standards of the best
One professor -- not an arrogant one -- confided to me a few years ago, "I agree that GWTW is
a great novel, but it's too clear. Readers don't need me to explain it to them. It leaves me with
nothing to teach."
I think he was wrong; or if teachers of literature are using a pedagogy that has nothing to say
about any of the great works of literature, it is the pedagogy that is deficient.
There is much to say about, for instance, GWTW's depiction of slavery and the people who
suffered it, since it constantly shows the ironies and hypocrisies of the slavery system even as it
also shares in many of the stereotypes of the blacks that were widely believed in the South at the
time Mitchell wrote it.
GWTW is also a masterful portrayal of a rather monstrous character who is nonetheless
completely understandable; like D.H. Lawrence, Mitchell often depicts Scarlett O'Hara as a
woman who does not understand herself and often responds in an almost animalistic way to the
fears and cravings that beset her. And the portrayal of "strength" and "virtue" among the
southern men and women is subtle, full of ambivalence, and deeply truthful about human nature
Regardless of the opinions of professors, GWTW will live for at least a few more generations
without any help from them, while the critical darlings of each decade since quickly die from
lack of volunteer readers.
Tuesday, November 9 -- Berlin Day
This was the date of Kristallnacht (or the "Night of Broken Glass") in 1938. German mobs
(and organized gangs of Nazis) destroyed thousands of Jewish-owned shops and homes,
shattering windows to get inside, while synagogues were burned down or demolished. There
were bonfires in every Jewish neighborhood, fueled by Jewish prayer books, Torah scrolls and
volumes of philosophy, history and poetry. More than 30,000 Jews were arrested and 91 killed.
European intellectuals continue to prove that such irrational and undeserved hatred for Jews
continues to this day, though now it is thinly disguised as "anti-Zionism." The truth is revealed
when "anti-Zionist" is discovered to be freely applied to all Jews.
With perfect symmetry, 51 years after Kristallnacht, the Berlin Wall was opened on this day in
1989. After standing for 28 years as a symbol of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War between
Communist dictatorships and free West, the Berlin Wall was finally opened and citizens of both
sides walked freely through an opening in the barrier, as others danced atop the structure to
celebrate the end of a hated separation of the German people.
It is worth remembering, however, that Germany was divided in the first place because
Roosevelt and Churchill agreed with Stalin that only by dividing Germany could that nation be
kept from ravaging its neighbors every few years. That purpose of the division of Germany was
certainly fulfilled, and since unification Germany has proven that it is now a good citizen of
Europe, from whom its neighbors have nothing to fear.
This is National Young Reader's Day. To celebrate, tell a child that a particular book is "too
mature" for them and forbid them to read it, but then leave it where they can easily find it.
(For this to work out properly, you must be sure that it is a book that young readers generally
like a lot. Medicinal books will not do the job, particularly if they were written by Nathaniel
Hawthorne, whom nobody is mature enough to enjoy reading.)
Wednesday, November 10 -- Long Distance Day
On this day in 1951, telephone Area Codes were introduced to the general public. The 10-digit
North American Number Plan, which provides area codes for Canada, the U.S., and many
Caribbean nations, was devised in 1947 by AT&T and Bell Labs. Eighty-four area codes were
However, all long-distance calls at the time were operator-assisted. So what really began on this
date in 1951 was the direct-dialing of long distance calls by customers, when the mayor of
Englewood, New Jersey, direct-dialed the mayor of Alameda, California. By 1960 all telephone
customers nationwide could dial their own long-distance calls by using Area Codes.
An Area Code crisis came in the 1980s and 1990s with the proliferation of faxes and cell phones,
which caused many households and business to jump from one line to three, six, even ten
telephone numbers. Area Codes zones were split and split again, and the Area Code rules were
changed -- they used to have to have either a zero or a 1 in the middle position.
Microsoft released the original Windows on this day in 1983. (Though "original" can hardly be
applied to Windows in any of its iterations, since every good idea was taken from other sources.)
The first Windows, which supposedly allowed computers to multi-task, was actually
incompetent at its primary task (programs like QEMM did a much better job) until Windows 3.0
and 3.11, and we didn't really have a fairly stable, non-crashy version till Windows 95.
Windows has become the dictator of computer operating systems, forcing all its "improvements"
on the public whether we want them or not. Kind of like Obamacare, with almost the same
incompetence and bloat as Congress. In fact, Windows can be taken as a sort of prophetic look
at the American future: Both monopoly capitalism and socialism lead to the same place as
Windows -- one boss telling you what you had better buy, or else.