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Abstract Academic: A Valentinian history

Valentine’s Day. Love. Roses. Chocolate-dipped heart arrow cherubic teddy bear singing telegram sweetie-pies.

Blah, blah, blah.

As you’re reading this column, you have recently exited the Valentinian haze of yesterday. Hopefully, your holiday was spent doting fondly on a loved one. Or, if you’re one of our small group of readers from the Utah-Arizona border, loved ones (a hearty shout-out to loyal Signpost readers Willard and Issachar Merrill. I hope there were enough heart-shaped rose bouquets to go around).

Sometimes, in all the hustle and bustle of Valentine’s Day as we’re out hunting down that last $@#$ tin of salted caramels that our wife said she wanted six weeks ago, but we forgot to look for until our lunch break at noon on the 14th, and then the lady at the See’s counter just laughs at the guy in front of you in line when he asks for the same thing, I mean, laughing so hard that she has to lean on the countertop to catch her breath, and she totally puts her elbows into a dish of chocolate orange creams because nobody buys those because they taste like the candy that Josef Stalin would give out at Halloween, and then you and every other guy in line slump dejectedly and walk back out to your cars, debating between giving her an Amazon gift card or a “coupon book” for “free at-home massages” and “one vacuumed floor” and other things that loser guys get for the women in their lives because they forgot to think of something the weekend before Valentine’s Day because (I will finish this paragraph if it kills me) your boss/psych professor/team manager has really been busting your chops lately. . . .

Anyway, sometimes, in all that Valentine’s noise and forgetful shame, we miss the true meaning of the holiday, which is that . . . well, lots of things. For instance:

In the year 842, the Oath of Strasbourg is sworn on by Louis the German and Charles the Bald, two brothers who were not, as their names would suggest, mob hitmen, but who actually were European royalty. In fact, historians say that Charles the Bald was actually very hairy and apparently earned his nickname in a facetious manner, like “Little” John or Michael “Great Singer” Bolton.

In 1779, Captain James Cook is killed by native Hawaiians. Historians agree that death was caused both by overexposure to kitschy luaus and by being forced to try poi.

In 1849, James K. Polk becomes the first active president of the United States to have his photograph taken, thus cementing his place in the annals of American history as the most famous president ever.

In 1852, the Great Ormond St. Hospital for Sick Children is founded. It is the first hospital built specifically for sick children . . . OK, no jokes there.

In 1855, Texas is linked by telegraph to the rest of the United States. The line is first switched on in 1987.

In 1859, Oregon is admitted to the U.S. as the 33rd state. Oregon militia members celebrate by keeping their hackey sacks aloft for more than 10 minutes, and then going out for a few rounds of green tea and a public viewing of some Czech art films.

In 1912, the first diesel-powered submarine is commissioned in Connecticut. It takes six hours traveling down the freeway to reach Times Square, where it is greatly disappointed by Spiderman: The Musical.

Also in 1912, Arizona is admitted as the 48th U.S. state. Senator John McCain begins his bid for the presidency.

In 1920, the League of Women Voters is founded in Chicago, Ill. After a few rounds of light refreshments, craft sessions and rousing speeches, they are ready to vote by 1924 (ha, ha, female readers! Just joking! Keep picking up The Signpost!).

In 1929, six of Al Capone’s rival gangsters are murdered in Chicago, Ill., in the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. The League of Women Voters quickly organize a community-rallying mandatory potluck for the funeral (all right, all right, I’ll lay off).

In 1949, the Asbestos Strike in Canada marks the beginning of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec. This inspires the Silent Insurgency of Saskatchewan, followed by the Muffled Upheaval of Newfoundland, which quickly gave way to the rather disappointing Unobtrusive Pouting of North Dakota.

In 1961, University of California chemists first synthesize Element 103, named Lawrencium after the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Berkeley chemists swiftly reject assistant chemist Bert Stacklyn’s suggestion that the element instead be named after his pet rat, Captain Snowyboots.

In 1966, Australian currency is decimalized. Millions of joyous Australians gather in the streets to yell, “Huh!? What’s decimalization?!”

In 1989, American ornithologist (bird scientist) James Bond dies, presumably from exhaustion at having to laugh politely for 80 years every time someone made a dumb joke about his name.

In 2000, the spacecraft NEAR Shoemaker enters orbit around Asteroid 433 Eros, where it finds several members of the Chicago League of Women Voters attempting to locate a satisfactory cupcake shop.

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