The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: February 15, 2020
Happy Valentine’s Day, a day late.
The earliest possible origin story of Valentine’s Day is the pagan holiday Lupercalia. Occurring for centuries in the middle of February, the holiday celebrates fertility. Men would strip naked and sacrifice a goat and dog. Young boys would then take strips of hide from the sacrificed animals and use it to whip young women, to promote fertility.
Lupercalia was popular and one of the few pagan holidays still celebrated 150 years after Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire.
When Pope Gelasius came to power in the late fifth century he put an end to Lupercalia. Soon after, the Catholic church declared February 14 to be a day of feasts to celebrate the martyred Saint Valentine.
We’re all a little weird, and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
That reminds me — Valentine’s Day cards have sometimes been a bit creepy.
Not too many love songs better than this one, written by the incomparable Dolly Parton and sung by one of the great pop voices of my lifetime: Whitney Houston
And, in the end, here’s what it’s really all about…
Other stuff from the week…
This is a film of such dramatic power and innovative comedy and romantic poetry and melancholy beauty that upon exiting a screening, you might well feel the urge to tell everyone in the lobby of the multiplex to delay their plans to check out some mainstream offering because if they truly love cinema, they should see THIS movie, immediately.
In 1722, a pet squirrel named Mungo passed away. It was a tragedy: Mungo escaped its confines and met its fate at the teeth of a dog. Benjamin Franklin, friend of the owner, immortalized the squirrel with a tribute.
“Few squirrels were better accomplished, for he had a good education, had traveled far, and seen much of the world.” Franklin wrote, adding, “Thou art fallen by the fangs of wanton, cruel Ranger!”
Mourning a squirrel’s death wasn’t as uncommon as you might think when Franklin wrote Mungo’s eulogy; in the 18th- and 19th centuries, squirrels were fixtures in American homes, especially for children. While colonial Americans kept many types of wild animals as pets, squirrels “were the most popular,” according to Katherine Grier’s Pets in America, being relatively easy to keep.
And now, introducing “Self-Care Barbie”
Barbie has always filled the role that we now know as an Instagram influencer. In the ’60s she was a “swinger” in a Carnaby Street cape; in the ’80s she adopted aerobic instructor togs; by the ’90s she was pantsuited up to run for president. With her impossible physical proportions that no gym could possibly provide, and her artificial hauteur, she showed the way to the ideal life through unattainable glamour.
But last week, Mattel announced a new iteration, “Self-Care Barbie,” that transforms the company’s 61-year-old manikin into a being defined by the moral effort of such perfection. Created in partnership with the meditation app Headspace (which has also collaborated with Weight Watchers on the diet company’s wellness-focused rebranding), Self-Care Barbie, according to Mattel’s press release, informs us that the doll is designed to “introduce girls to self-care through play.”
There are actually four dolls to add to one’s shelf in the Self-Care collection. There’s a “spa doll,” who comes with a robe, and plenty of magazines to read, as well as adorable cucumber sunglasses. There’s a “fitness doll,” whose form-fitting gym kit comes with a protein bar that her plastic esophagus is unable to consume. There’s a “pampering doll,” who gets bath products and a loofah.
Finally, there is a “wellness dream” doll, who has a pillow and sleep mask. (To be fair, my personal wellness dream involves sleeping until noon). All dolls come with adorable puppies. (Also, in my mind, a reasonable form of self-care).
The four most wonderful words heard each February…
“Pitchers and catchers report” are those words, of course. And we heard them this week, as Major League Baseball Spring Training opened across Florida and Arizona.
Gail and I will be in Tampa next Saturday to watch the Spring Training opener between the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays. I cannot wait to hear the sound of baseballs smacking in mitts and the crack of the bat. To have a beer and a brat, to look over a field of dreams under blue skies and enjoy a leisurely afternoon of the greatest game ever.
Ah, Fans, let not the Quarry but the Chase
Be that to which most fondly we aspire!
For us not Stake, but Game; not Goal, but Race—
THIS is the end of every fan’s desire.
From A Ballad of Baseball Burdens by Franklin Pierce Adams
On my winter playlist…
From the upcoming album, American Standard