Get Smart and Stay Strange

By J.C. Bruce

We all want to be the smartest person in the room--or the Zoom.

How to capture the edge? This is your solution. Save this newsletter to your "smart" phone or print it out and stash it in your satchel for handy reference. It's your monthly guide to wit and wisdom, carefully curated so you can wow your friends, humiliate your frenemies, and master the important details of this strange world we inhabit.

January Highlights

January is the month that many Christian churches celebrate the circumcision of Christ, Jesus's submission to Jewish law. This would have occurred about 2,022 years ago. Not sure why this would be a cause for celebration. I certainly don't want to revisit that awful day. But, as noted, we live in strange times.

Other days of note include...

Appreciate a Dragon Day is Jan. 16, a time to celebrate the many dragons in literature. And while we're at it, we might acknowledge the remains of an actual "sea dragon" discovered in England as recounted in my blog post entitled Further Evidence that the Loch Ness Monster Could Still be Lurking. Here's a picture:

National Get to Know Your Customer Day is Jan 20. At a safe and CDC-approved distance, of course.

Having spent time with your customers the day before, on Jan. 21 you can get your kinky on by celebrating International Fetish Day.

Saturday, Jan. 22 marks the anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision before the U.S. Supreme Court. How much longer it will stand is anyone's guess at the moment.

While you're watching the NFL playoffs on Jan. 23, snatch a piece of pumpkin or apple or chocolate cream -- pie, of course. It's National Pie Day. Turns out, it is also National Handwriting Day, marking the birthday of John Hancock who, when signing the Declaration of Independence, is reputed to have said: "There, I guess King George will be able to read that." Or something along those lines.

Water fluoridation began on Jan. 25, 1945 amid outcries that it was part of a Communist plot to deplete Americans of their "precious bodily fluids," as made famous in this scene in Dr. Strangelove (click to play):

Scene from Dr. Strangelove

Not sure if this is the original conspiracy theory. Probably the Flat Earthers hold those honors dating back to the Middle Ages as they do. But it is persistent, right up there with claims that the moon landing was filmed on a studio back lot, that Prince Charles is a Vampire, and that the Skunk Ape isn't real.

The Beatles performed for the last time on Jan. 30, 1969 atop the roof of their Apple Studios building in London, a scene immortalized in director Peter Jackson's "The Beatles: Get Back." It's streaming on Disney Plus in three parts and while ridiculously long (it is a Peter Jackson production, after all) it is absolutely worth the investment of time to see it.

January birthdays

Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity, was born on Jan. 4, 1643. While sitting under an apple tree, he noticed he wasn't floating up into outer space.

Benedict Arnold, was until recently considered America's greatest traitor, but a cast of hundreds from the June 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection could take his place. He was born on Jan. 14, 1741.

January 17 is a federal holiday commemorating the birthday of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The holiday is observed on the third Monday in January. Dr. King was actually born on Jan. 15.

January also marks the anniversary of President Calvin Coolidge's famous 1925 declaration: "The chief business of the American people is business." Perhaps lesser known is that he was a strong supporter of women's suffrage--a smart political move since women had just won the right to vote a few years before.

Janis Joplin and Robert E. Lee were both born on Jan. 19. They probably wouldn't have liked one another.

On Jan. 22 we mark the birthday in the year 1561 of Sir Francis Bacon, considered the founder of the scientific method and the inventor of a delicious pork breakfast meat. *

And on Jan. 27 we celebrate the birthday of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, made famous by Austrian musician Falco in his 1985 hit "Rock Me Amadeus."

* Just kidding about Sir Francis Bacon inventing that "delicious pork breakfast meat," although it could be fun to see how many of your friends believe you when you tell them that. As we all know, it was invented by Kevin Bacon.

Words to Live By

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." -- Oscar Wilde

What to Watch in the News

Never stiff your bartender. That's the lesson two men in Key West learned after they set fire to the Conch Republic's famous Southernmost Point marker. How'd they get caught? I've got all the riveting details in my blog. Read it here.

On the technology front, Verizon is scheduled to launch the new version of its 5G cell phone network this month. Check your smart phones to see if you can tell a difference, and share your findings with your friends.

In Washington, watch for things to get ugly as Senate Democrats try to maneuver their way around filibuster rules to force a vote on election reform. And pay close attention to the stream of revelations coming out of the June 6 Select Committee.

Internationally, the standoff between NATO and Russia on the Ukraine border could heat up. Some see irony in Vladimir Putin's amassing forces there, the storyline being that all he's doing is showing why we need NATO. In my view, though, that's beside the point. When negotiations fail, he can, once again, tell his countrymen, "See, this is why you need me. To stand up to a world that disrespects us." It's a deadly show designed to bolster his standing back in the Motherland.

A great way to keep up with the news if you only have a few minutes a day: Subscribe to CNN's "Five Things."

What I'm Watching, Reading--and Not

"Don't look Up" is a hilarious and very dark Netflix satire on our dysfunctional media and political culture, framed around an approaching comet that threatens to destroy the earth. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchette. Critics seem to be divided, but I thought it was wonderful. Want to learn more about what people are saying so you can weigh in on the debate fully armed? Check this Vox article out.

Also on the tube, we gave HBO's The Righteous Gemstones a few episodes hoping against hope that it would grow on us because we're big fans of John Goodman, but it appears less a satire and more a vehicle to prove that yes, you can show fat naked men and full frontal nudity in every single episode and get away with it. If there's a point to it, it eludes me. Feels forced, juvenile, and too often gets in the way of the story. But it is controversial and a conversation starter. Here's a Slate article on it.

On the reading front, just finished the final installment of The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. The series comprises nine novels and more than 5,000 pages, so it is not for the faint of heart. But if you are a science fiction fan, it is the finest space adventure in decades. And if you don't think you can handle the reading load, you can also catch it on Prime Video. Season Six premieres this month.

Strange Fact

This is sure to amaze your friends with your knowledge of the trivial and weird:

According to National Geographic, the longest pizza ever created stretched a whopping 3,745 feet. It was made in Spain in 2011, and as far as I know they are still trying to finish it.

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