Friday, April 22, 2016

The twisted history of Earth Day


They say it’s your Earthday.

On your Day Planner (printed on partially recycled paper one would hope) you may notice that  April 22nd is officially called Earth Day.

You’d figure there would be a pretty straightforward explanation of the origins of Earth Day but noooooooooooo.

Earth the planet may have one mother but a lot of people are claiming paternity for Earth the Day. The two leading folks are former Senator Gaylord Nelson and a chap named John McConnell, founder of the Earth Society.

Back in 1962 Senator Nelson claims he persuaded JFK to go on an unheard of environmental tour of the country (in his gas guzzling, smog-belching stretch Cadillac no doubt.)  He claims that he wanted to make the environment a political issue. To quote Nelly:

Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969

In 1969 he watched anti-war demonstrations and noticed that campus teach-ins were an effective way to educate and organize American youth. He thought the same could be done for the environment. And thus in his words:

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate.

On Oct 3rd 1969 a scant week or two after Gaylord’s speech and a few hundred miles south in San Francisco -- the other paternity suspect John McConnell got the Mayor of San Francisco to read a proclamation penned by McConnell that introduced the notion and the precise words “Earth Day”:

Here’s the proclamation:

WHEREAS;
 As Earthians we need a day to celebrate our global unity and
 destiny, and
WHEREAS;
 The observance of EARTH DAY will alert concern and interest for
 our planet -- with its precious treasure of living things, and
WHEREAS;
 EARTH DAY is to remind each person of his right, and the equal
 right of every other person, to the use of this global home and
 at the same time the equal responsibility of each person to
 preserve and improve the Earth and the quality of life thereon,
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED;
 That in the City and County of San Francisco March 21st (Vernal
 Equinox) be the designated EARTH DAY - a special day to remember
 Earth's tender seedlings of life and people; a day for planting
 trees and grass and flowers, for cleaning streams and wooded
 glens. That to further these purposes a Silent Hour For Peace (a
 time for quiet reflection or prayer) be observed on Earth Day at
 19:00 G.M.T. (11:00 a.m. P.S.T.). That on EARTH DAY the EARTH
 FLAG, which portrays in its center our "Beautiful Blue Planet;"
 be flown to encourage mutual respect for Earth and all its
 people.


There are a few interesting nuggets in there if you Earthians look closely enough. One of which is that Earth Day was to be celebrated on the Vernal Equinox, not as it is today on April 22nd.  Aside from the fact that symbolically the Vernal Equinox has always been a welcome home Mother Nature type celebration, the date itself was something the entire planet earth could synchronize its calendar to.

The April 22nd date came from the Gaylord faction, they had the Washington Beltway clout to declare a National Environmental Day. That particular date was chosen because it happened to be convenient for organizing.  Aside from that – the March date could still be rather chilly in the East and Midwest. April promised nicer weather for folks planning on going out into nature.  Some right wing wackos (but I repeat myself) claim the April 22nd date was chosen because it is also Lenin’s birthday. (I thought Lenin was a member of the Red Party not the Green Party.) Somehow in their DDT addled brains, being a friend of the environment makes you an enemy of democracy.  I can hear them now –“Karl Marx was a tree-hugger. Saddam Hussein recycles!” They’d be shocked to learn it was Richard Nixon who started the Environmental Protection Agency.

The other interesting nugget is the mention of an “Earth Flag” flying above City Hall.  How was there an Earth Flag before there was an Earth Day? This is where it becomes clearer that McConnell may have been the first Earthian.

For those of you too young to remember, or not yet a gleam in a parent’s eye, 1969 was one wacko year in one very disturbing decade.

JFK was assassinated in 63, Malcolm X in 65, MLK in 68, RFK in 68. There was rioting in the streets. The Days of Rage in Chicago, the Long Hot Summers with Newark and Detroit burning in July of 1967.

The war was raging in Vietnam. The nightly news had footage of American troops using napalm and Agent Orange to defoliate the jungles. The skyline of most major cities couldn’t be seen through the smog, America’s great rivers oozed with mercury.

69 was the culmination. There was the Woodstock Festival and the My Lai massacre.  And Man actually walked on the moon. Some claimed the lunar landing threw the universe out of orbit (which would explain how the ‘69 Mets won the World Series.)

The moon thing was key though. Before the lunar landing we had unmanned missions to orbit the moon. Those missions sent back pictures of the earth as well as the moon. It’s hard to explain to people nowadays how shocking it was to see a real-time picture of Earth from space. The Earth looked blue and beautiful and delicate and small. Small enough to break.

That sight had an effect on Mc Connell:

When the first photo of Earth appeared in Life (magazine) in 1969, I was deeply stirred -- as were many other people -- by what I saw. … In viewing the first photo from space, thereby sharing in part the experience of the astronauts, we experienced in a deep and emotional way a new awareness of our planet. As I looked at the Life photo it occurred to me that an Earth flag could symbolize and encourage our new world view and that the Earth as seen from space was the best possible symbol for this purpose.

NASA sent him a transparency of the photo used in Lifeand he copyrighted the Earth Flag in 1969. 

McConnell again:
Our first 500 flags were produced in a hurry, in order to use them at the "Moon Watch" at Central Park in New York City. This was the big event where we watched and celebrated the first landing on the Moon on 20 July 1969.

10,000 gather in Central Park to watch the moon landing.


The key thing is he had copyrighted the name and produced the flag months before Sen. Gaylord’s Seattle Conference or had officially introduced the idea of a global holiday called Earth Day at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment.

So McConnell looks like the real Earth Day daddy.

Of course, the advent of Earth Day itself was the culmination of a long series of events.

The true mother of the modern environmental movement would have to be Rachel Carson author of the seminal work “Silent Spring”. Published in 1962 it foretold a day when there were no songbirds in spring.

Another notable year on the environmental timeline would be 1967 --a group of volunteers on Long Island halted the spraying of DDT and formed a group called The Environmental Defense Fund. They would eventually get the FDA to ban the use of DDT in 1969.

Earth Day itself went from being a local celebration in San Francisco in March of 1970, to a national celebration in April of 1970. It was celebrated all over the earth on March 21, 1971 when Secretary General U Thant proclaimed the first worldwide Earth Day.

Earth Day was celebrated by most of the Earth last month. Wha?
Yep, San Francisco, Berkeley and Denver also celebrated the original Vernal Equinox date.

Here in the rest of the U.S. this is officially Earth Week and Friday is Earth Day. I don’t think the world really cares when we Americans celebrate Earth Day. But, it’s fairly important to our fellow earthlings that we do contemplate the environment. After all, we Americans make up only 4% of the world’s population; yet consume 25% of its resources.

By the way, you might be surprised to learn that in relation to the rest of the country you New Yorkers who live in this concrete jungle are comparatively Green. This is mainly due to the fact that Gothamites are walkers, who don’t own cars or lawns, nor require lawn mowers, pesticides nor fertilizer. And the city grows vertically instead of sprawling horizontally.

So my tender seedlings of life, I exhort you to put on your Earth Shoes and get out and spend some time with your mother this weekend. You haven’t communed with her in a while, have you?

Your Fellow Earthian,

Dano

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The twisted history of 420 day


























SOME PEOPLE CALL ME THE GANGSTA OF LOVE

Whoaaaaaaaa Dude –happy highday.

Today is April 20th, the 4th month, 20th day of the year --420 Day.
Four Twenty Day is the High Holy Day of Stoners. The red-letter day* for Mother Marijuana. The happiest day of the year for smokers, jokers & midnight tokers.

*(Medieval Church Calendars had special Holy Days and Saint’s Feast Days printed in red ink. Thus --special days became known as “red-letter days.”

Last year I was scolded for not sending out a memo in time. (Dude, have another Twinkie and chill.) Friends recounted fond college memories of participating in Four Twenty Day ceremonies down at the Quad (interestingly enough, the best stories came from straight-laced Account People.) Some said tradition called for folks to light up at 4:20 am then again at 4:20 pm.

There's lots of folklore, urban myth and just plain whackjob stoner nonsense about the day.

Me, I'm too buzzed to research it all, so I'll just laze out and cut & paste the relevant truth from snopes.com.

Snagged from Snopes.com:

Claim: '420' entered drug parlance as a term signifying the time to light up a joint.

Status: True.


Origins: Odd terms sneak into our language every now and then, and this is one of the oddest. Everyone who considers himself in the know about the drug subculture has heard that '420' has something to do with illegal drug use, but when you press them, they never seem to know why, or even what the term supposedly signifies.

It's both more and less than people make it out to be. '420' began its sub-rosa linguistic career in 1971 as a bit of slang casually used by a group of high school kids at San Rafael High School in California. '420' (always pronounced "four-twenty," never "four hundred and twenty") came to be an accepted part of the argot within that group of about a dozen pot smokers, beginning as a reminder of the time they planned to meet to light up, 4:20 p.m. Keep in mind this wasn't a general call to all dope smokers everywhere to toke up at twenty past four every day; it was twelve kids who'd made a date to meet near a certain statue. It's thus incorrect to deem that '420' originated as a national or international dope-smoking time, even though the term began as a reference to a particular time of day.

These days '420' is used as a generic way of declaring one likes to use marijuana or just as a term for the substance itself. Its earliest connotation of having to do with the time a certain group of students congregated to smoke wacky tobaccy is unknown to the overwhelming majority of those who now employ the term.

And here are the whackjob, stoner,
totally bogus claims about 420 Day:

420 is the penal code section for marijuana use in California.

Untrue. Section 420 of the California penal code refers to obstructing entry on public land. The penal codes of other states list different entries for 420, but none of them matches anything having to do with marijuana.

However, on 1 January 2004 the Governor of California signed that state's Senate Bill 420 which regulates marijuana used for medical purposes. This bill comes years after the term '420' was associated with marijuana and indeed its number likely was chosen because of the existing pop culture connection. This is the tail wagging the dog, not the other way around.

It's the Los Angeles or New York police radio code for marijuana smoking in progress.

It's not the police radio code for anything, let alone that.

It's the number of chemical compounds in marijuana.

The number of chemical compounds in marijuana is 315, according to the folks at High Times magazine.

April 20 is the date that Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, or Janis Joplin died.

Though these performers were strongly identified with drug use during their brief lifetimes and the emerging drug culture after their demises, none of them kicked the bucket on April 20. Morrison died on July 3, Hendrix on September 18, and Joplin on October 4.

The 20th of April is the best time to plant marijuana.

There's no one "best time" -- that answer would change from one part of the country to another, or even one country to another.

It's the code you send to your drug dealer's pager.

Yeah, right. All drug dealers recognize a '420' page as "Please be waiting on the corner with my baggie of wildwood weed."

When the Grateful Dead toured, they always stayed in Room 420.

Untrue, says Grateful Dead Productions spokesman Dennis McNally.

Spurious etymologies and uncertain definition aside, '420' has slipped into a position of semi-respectability within the English lexicon. Various freewheeling cities annually celebrate "hemp fests" on April 20. There's a 4:20 record label in California, and a band called 4:20. Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewing Co. sells its 420 Pale Ale in supermarkets and opens its doors to the public at 4:20 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. New York's 420 Tours sells low-cost travel packages to the Netherlands and Jamaica. Highway 420 Radio broadcasts "music for the chemically enhanced."

420s are routinely slipped into popular movies and television shows. In Fast Times at Ridgemont High the score of the football game was 42-0. Most of the clocks in Pulp Fiction are set to 4:20 (but not all — when the kid receives the watch it's set at 9:00). And there are many other instances, so keep your eyes peeled.

However, as amusing as it is to tie 420 to pot smoking and hunt for it in popular movies, the number has its dark side. Hitler was born on 20 April 1889, and the massacre of 13 victims at Columbine High School in Colorado took place on 20 April 1999.




That last bit was a bit of a buzzkill.

Happy 420 Day folks.

Dano
Resident Space Cowboy

And, since I bring it up…..

An interesting aside about the lyrics in the Steve Miller song The Joker,
its weirdo lyrics leave many folks mystified:


Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
Cause I speak of the pompitous of love


When asked the meaning of “pompitous” Miller claimed it was nonsense.
But music dicks did some sleuthing and found that Miller had lifted lyrics from a few old R& B tunes.

He swiped “pompitous of love” from a tune called “the Letter” written in 1954 by a guy named Vernon Green. Vernon apparently slurred his words but in his song he was singing about a puppet-tess of love. In Green’s words: “A term I coined to mean a secret paper-doll fantasy figure” A female puppet.

The song “the Joker” contains a double dose of lyrical larceny. It’s is also remembered for its memorable back end lyrics:

"I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree.
Lovey dovey, lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time."

They weren’t stolen from Vernon Green.
Nope, they were swiped wholesale from a 1953 hit by the Clovers’ called "Lovey Dovey" containing the lyrics:

"I really love your peaches wanna shake your tree
Lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time.
"

Best part of all this is that in 1990 Steve Miller won a lawsuit against the Geto Boys for stealing “his” lyrics.

So “The Joker” was memorable, it just wasn’t original.
In other words, the Space Cowboy was a Cattle Rustler.
This blog entry is officially over. You can now go back to gazing at your navel.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Twisted History of April Fools Day


Trying to uncover the origins of April Fools' Day is quite a fool's errand in itself.

Some say it can be traced back to a Roman festival called Hilaria (as in “hilarious”) It was celebrated on the 8th day before the Kalends of April (March 25th.) It was a day of light-hearted fun and masquerades.

There are lots of conflicting stories; this is touched upon in the following poem from the late 18 th Century.

The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day.
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.
--Poor Robin's Almanac (1790)


This then is the prevailing theory:
Over the years the calendar for the Western world has shifted considerably. The Romans originally had a ten-month calendar.

The truly creative names of the 7th, 8th 9th and 10th months were: Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten. Or in Latin: Septem, Octo, Nove, Decem (September, October, November, December, duh.) Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar decided they wanted their own months and thus July and August were added. (In reality they bumped the months named Five and Six, Quintilis and Sextilis ( now that's a way cooler name than August.)

More important to our story is the fact that on the old calendar the New Year used to begin in spring. Made sense, new beginnings, crops coming alive.

So in late March, or early April, folks had their New Year celebration. They'd run out into the fields making noise to scare the evil spirits from their emerging crops (and thus the New Year's noisemaker was born)

Folks followed Julius’s Julian calendar for ages.
Then in 1562, Pope Gregory decided to introduce a new one for the Christian world. On the Gregorian calendar the New Year fell on January 1st. Initially, some folks stuck with the original date and had their parties in March and April. Eventually the parties petered out.

Then those tricksters the French come into the picture. Practical jokers in France began sending out invitations to fictitious New Years Eve parties to be held on April first. If you showed up for one you were called an April Fish. Don't ask me why you were a fish; the French have some weird thing with food. Actually, one explanation is that an April Fish is a newly spawned fish, a na├»ve youngster susceptible to trickery-–easily caught.

In France today, April first is called "Poisson d'Avril" April Fish. French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their back. When the " fool" discovers the trick, the prankster yells "Poisson d'Avril!" April Fish!
(A few years back a friend thanked me for this memo. He said he now understood why schoolmates back in Ohio taped paper fish on each other's backs on April 1st.)

The tradition spread to England and further.
In Scotland the fool who is pranked is called a GOK, a slang word for a cuckoo bird. The day is called Tally Day and centers around keester kicking, putting “kick me” signs on people’s backs.In England the prankee is called a Gob or a Gobby.

All pranks are supposed to end by noon. Otherwise the prankster will have bad luck for the “new year”. The fools who are pranked are supposed to accept the prank graciously; otherwise they will have bad luck.

Historically the media gets involved in pranks. Keep that in mind when you read the paper on today. The rather staid BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, pulled one of the most famous April Fools' pranks. In 1957 they ran a report of how in Italy spaghetti is harvested from spaghetti trees. You can see this classic prank at:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/1/newsid_2819000/2819261.stm

One of the more famous American April Fools' pranks was pulled by Sports Illustrated in 1985 an expose of how the New York Mets had a pitcher in training camp who pitched barefoot and could sling a 106 mile an hour fastball. You can read the story at: www.strongmemories.com/toppage8.htm

So, if someone pulls an April Fools' trick on you
just remember the words of Mark Twain:

"The first of April is the day we remember
what we are the other 364 days of the year. "

Dano
Born in the month of Sextilis