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Labor Day: ReDux

Well, Happy Labor Day, oddlings. The sky in Brooklyn is an undulating palette of greys, blues, and whites. Perhaps we will have rain. Perhaps the day will just continue as a moody overcast day. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Bubo hates the word perhaps for reasons unknown. She also hates the word yarn. I think perhaps she’s overly cranky because her attempts to over-dye the bright orange paint on her feathers made them a deep violet color. It’s rather striking. Apparently, the heaviness of extra paint on her feathers is making complicated hunting moves difficult for her.

Luckily for Bubo, we live in Brooklyn, and there is a plethora of pigeons who land in our garden even though there is a fierce hunting machine living in said garden. Oh, pigeons. So shockingly ignorant and unperceptive.

So it is Labor Day here in the States. Silas is manning the barbeque grill (hand-tooled from a small tractor) and Mordecai has spent the weekend mixing pitchers of cocktails. Rumor has it some family members will be descending, though this family doesn’t operate on a standardized calendar. With the Autumnal Equinox right around the corner, they could be showing up in about two weeks. It’s so hard to tell and not a single family member has figured out their cell phones yet.

I can’t quibble – I’ve been unable to find my cell phone for four days. Troublesome thing, technology.

At any rate, I thought I would re-post a previous missive about Labor Day from 2011. So, here it is. Be safe, oddlings, and enjoy your Monday, whatever it portends.

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It occurs to me that many people do not think about what these national holidays mean. They take the day to relax, revel in not being at work, and to grill meat and drink beer. Well, sure. These are wonderful things. But it’s important to know why we get this day to enjoy doing these things.

This is from the United States Department of Labor Page:

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

There is also an article about the true Rosie the Riveter that I trust you will find interesting.

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Acedia

My, but I haven’t written in such a long time. Bubo and I left for Paris earlier this month, wanting a change of pace and a change of palette. Upon my return, I caught a massive head cold, Bubo managed to cover herself in bright orange paint, and Mordecai just yesterday set the entire kitchen on fire whilst attempting to make mushrooms flambé.

Perhaps it is the post-vacation blues. Perhaps it is the prospect of gutting my kitchen. Perhaps it is living with the crankiest owl this side of the the Great Lakes. Perhaps it is my end-of-summer moodiness kicking in, but I am struggling to find my joie de vie. It appears I have a case of acedia.

Acedia is a noun that means spiritual torpor; apathy; ennui. Often defined as a soul-wearying indifference, it must be mentioned that acedia is not willful sloth or indolence, less so “sin,” but a spiritual lethargy or indifference, a turpitude that affects the well-intentioned. (Thank you Hermitary.com.)

The word originates from the Late Latin acēdia in turn from the Greek akēdeia meaning indifference. (This, in turn, can be traced back to the Greek a- + kēdos  meaning care, grief.)

Interesting to note, acedia was first classified as a problem among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life. Their inability to perform daily tasks was distinguished as different from depression due to the spiritual overtones of their lives and work, and thus, their ennui.

Some claim that acedia can be overcome by renewing the sufferer’s faith in the spiritual or in life. How to do that, you ask? I suppose that is the big question.

I’m going to attempt this seemingly monumental task by forcing Mordecai to clean up his own mess (he is a bit of a culinary snob, so a functioning kitchen is a must for him) and by sipping summer cocktails whilst reading in the garden. Bubo finagled herself some hair dye and I’m giving her full license to turn the third floor loo into a foul feather salon.

Ostensibly, either the cocktails or the acedia will keep me from caring what the result is.

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Bees Love Cole Porter

We never had many bumble bees in the garden until I started playing Cole Porter on the stereo. Who knew?

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Rantipole

And are you celebrating the Summer Solstice today? Mordecai, of course, went about his pre-solstice preparations with a reckless abandon and ended up burning down my garden shed last night.

Thankfully, my flying machine was not in it. I was taking her out for a midnight flight last night (before today’s heat wave struck) and on my way back home I noticed a ball of orange flames. Was Mordecai contrite and apologetic? Of course not. He woke early today and took to the streets with his special Solstice Mead, declaring that the Solstice is the perfect day to find “inspirational women” to keep company with. He’s trouble. One might even say that he is a rantipole.

Rantipole is a noun that means a wild, rakish, roving, sometimes quarrelsome person; a rude romping young person. It can also be used as an adjective and as a verb. It’s a versatile insult, really. And it IS an insult.

Some believe that the word is derived from the Dutch word randten meaning to talk foolishly, rave, while others believe it is actually derived from the English dialect ranty, meaning riotous;wildly excited plus poll, meaning the head. A slang dictionary from the 1700s has rantipole defined as a rude wild Boy or Girl.

Rantipole is used liberally in literature, naturally, as it’s a marvelously descriptive insult. You can find it in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

“This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the blooming Katrina for the object of his uncouth gallantries, and though his amorous toyings were something like the gentle caresses and endearments of a bear, yet it was whispered that she did not altogether discourage his hopes.”

And you can find it in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations:

“Well!” cried my sister, with a mollified glance at Mr. Pumblechook. “She might have had the politeness to send that message at first, but it’s better late than never. And what did she give young Rantipole here?”

Mordecai is an embodiment of rantipole. He is wild, uncouth, and terribly quarrelsome. I have no doubt that his Summer Solstice will be spent in a mead-soaked giddiness. I, ever the more staid brother, will be sipping lemonade whilst the dragons play in the charcoal aftermath of the garden shed. Today is hot, and – if only for a fraction of a second – the longest we will have all year.

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