Why Not the Ides of April?

In William Shakespeare’s telling, a soothsayer gave warning to Julius Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March.”

Caesar had, in fact, been forewarned, but he did not take it seriously. On his way to the Senate on March 15, 44 B.C., Caesar passed by the seer and sneered, “Well, the Ides of March have come!” The seer responded, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone,”

When he arrived at the Senate, Caesar’s fellow senators attacked him. Twenty-three stab wounds later he was dead. The assassination ignited a civil war that ultimately ended the Roman Republic. By 40 B.C. Caesar’s nephew and understudy, Gaius Octavius, emerged as Rome’s first emperor, calling himself Augustus.

March 15, 44 B.C., the Ides, is a touchstone in Roman history.

Why don’t we call our tax day, April 15, the Ides? There is no Ides of April.

The Ides of March was an important day on the Roman calendar. Originally, March was the first month of the year and the Ides marked the first full moon and kicked off a week of religious celebrations. Later Roman calendars still were keyed to lunar cycles. The ides was calculated to be the 13th for most months, but the 15th in March, May, July, and October.

Julius Caesar’s assassination was not the only memorable Ides-of-March event.

  • March 15, 1971 – CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,”
  • March 15, 1917 – Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.

Click here for more Ides-of-March incidents.

Dolly Fights the Pandemic

Dolly Parton is a country-music superstar and living legend. She is also widely regarded as a generous and all-around nice person. She made the news briefly in April last year for her $1 million contribution to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s COVID-19 research work. She also encouraged her fans who could afford it to donate to the Vanderbilt project.

A few months later she learned that some of the donated money went to fund development of the Moderna vaccine. Her name had appeared with other sponsors in a preliminary report on the vaccine. “I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world,” she said.

Dolly Parton received her Moderna vaccine a few days ago. She appeared appropriately stylish in a dress open at the shoulder as if designed to make the injection easier.

Writer and humorist Roy Blount Jr (not to be confused with Republican Senator Roy Blunt) once said of the singer/songwriter’s performances, that “Dolly Parton makes me want to stand on my chair and wave my hat.”

Non-Binary Potato Head

The toy formerly known as Mr. Potato Head is the latest outrage for so-called conservatives who always look for the latest affront to keep their apoplexy level up. When Hasbro, Inc. announced that after nearly seventy years they were dropping the honorific “Mr.” and “Mrs.” from their venerable toy’s name, Fox News took the story as another example of liberal cancel culture.

Mr. Potato Head was born in controversy.

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A Deal with Russia

Remember when the previous occupant of the White House tried to pressure the president of Ukraine into a deal? The self-described greatest dealmaker did not succeed in the art of a deal with the former member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, ex-sovereign state and current Russian pawn. All the then-occupant of the White House got out of it was his first impeachment.

Thirty years earlier, another U.S. president—the U.S. president of Pepsi-Cola, that is—did make a deal with Ukraine.

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The Future Has Passed

Mark Wattles began construction of his dream home in 1997. Two years later, he halted work on the 49,240-square-foot structure. The closet in the master suite alone measures twelve-hundred square feet.

The house sits on thirty-two acres in West Linn, south of Portland. The home-to-be overlooks a bend in the Willamette River, with a 270-degree view and 2,700 feet of water frontage. Wattles paid $1.25 million for the property in 1994 and says he spent $12 million on the construction.

Wattles maintained the unfinished dwelling and kept the building permits active for twenty years. He sold the property at auction for $2.27 million in 2018. The buyer envisioned a Tuscan-style villa estate and vineyard and a wine tasting room. After two years with no additional construction the property is for sale again. Asking price is $3,999,999, a bargain.

Wattles was the founder of Hollywood Video, for a time the second-largest chain of video-rental stores, behind Blockbuster. Facing a hostile takeover attempt by Blockbuster in 2005, Hollywood accepted a buyout by Movie Gallery, a smaller competitor. Movie Gallery went bankrupt and was liquidated in 2010.
Wattles meantime, purchased Ultimate Electronics consumer electronics stores, itself in bankruptcy. The Ultimate chain went into its final bankruptcy in 2011 and Wattles faced a $5.1 million judgement for personal guarantees he had made to Sony.

Industry powerhouse Blockbuster at its peak had more than nine-thousand stores. Today there is one. Blockbuster did not keep up with fast-moving technology. It faced competition from Netflix which offered subscriptions for mail-order DVD rentals. Netflix transitioned from rentals to on-line streaming service.

The last Blockbuster store is in Bend Oregon. If you’re not in their neighborhood, you can order merchandise from their web site. (Need a “Be Kind, Rewind” t-shirt?)

And Mark Wattles? His current project is drive-thru coffee shops in the Dallas Texas area.

Nap Time

In my college days, decades ago, I was a regular napper. Usually in the afternoon, before dinnertime. Or if there was a break after an early-morning class following late-night socializing. My sleep patterns were more irregular and bed time—often after midnight—was generally later than now. The only consistency was sleeping until late on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

It’s good to learn that my erratic sleep habits, well, the afternoon nap anyway, were beneficial to good health. Recent research concludes that a regular afternoon nap helps mental agility, memory and verbal fluency in adults.

  • Studies show that a “power nap” of ten-to-twenty minutes is the most beneficial. This provides restorative sleep without drowsiness after waking.
  • Nap early in the afternoon. A late nap may be counterproductive, affecting your ability to sleep during the night.
  • Try to let go of stressful thoughts. Instead, reflect on why you’re napping.

Keep in mind that all these good things result from an afternoon refresher snooze of twenty minutes or so. Napping for an hour or more will likely leave one groggy for a while after awakening. So set your alarm if you need to.

Coping with sheltering-at-home or quarantine by trying to sleep the day away likely makes things worse and may result in difficulty sleeping at night. Long naps have been linked to increased susceptibilities to diabetes, heart disease and depression in older adults.

As with many things, a little is good; a lot, not so good.