Leap Day: the awkward cousin on the calendar

presented by j:

the concept of Leap Day is a (little) fascinating.  not only do we magically add a day to the year, but it’s as if God made earth’s orbit 365 days and 6 hours long just to confuse us and laugh about how we would try to “fix” it.  and actually, earth’s orbit is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, 16 seconds long, which further messes things up.  that means that “leap years” at the end of a century are not actually “leap years” unless they are divisible by 400.  in other words, 2000 was a leap year but 1900 was not.  i hope 1900 didn’t feel too left out.

for more weirdness, continue below.

if you watch 30 Rock, then you know that last week’s episode contained the concept of Leap Day being celebrated as a quasi-holiday in the same fashion as St. Patrick’s Day, complete with its own holiday mascot, Leap Day William – a creepy, mustachioed old man who leaps out of the sea every four years on February 29th and exchanges children’s tears for candy.  i found it a brilliant concept and think that the U.S. should adopt it as a real holiday/mascot immediately.  and i think i would actually watch the fake movie “Leap Dave Williams” starring Jim Carrey.  how would that not be a hit?

but our friend Wikipedia reveals that some profound things have happened on various Leap Days throughout history:

1504 – Christopher Columbus tricks some Native Americans into giving him supplies when he is able to predict a lunar eclipse.
1812 & 1880 – Sir James Wilson, Premier of Tasmania, is born and dies on Leap Day.
1916 – the minimum working age in South Carolina’s mills and factories is raised from twelve…to fourteen.
1940 – Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award (for playing Mammy in Gone With the Wind).

people born on February 29th are called “leaplings,” though i would like to think our society has come far enough to move past such derogatory terms.  after all, we live in a country that elected Barack Obama.  these lucky individuals can celebrate their birthday on February 28th or March 1st on non-leap years…except in the UK, where the law is that they have to celebrate their 18th birthday on March 1st.  New Zealand and Taiwan, however, legally place the person’s birthday as February 28th.  how thoughtful of them.

some notable people have been born on Leap Day, like Saul Williams, Zoe Baker, Phyllis Frelich, and a bunch of other people i’ve never heard of.  it’s a little unsettling that an actual Dave Williams, the lead singer of Dallas-based alternative metal band Drowning Pool, was born on February 29th.

so celebrate Leap Day for what it is: an extra day no different than any other.  perhaps add some significance by deciding who you will vote for this November, or by playing leap frog.  oh – and feel free to check out my new EP, “the leap year,” which contains b-sides to my 2010 album, “the year.”  you can find it here.

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