Friday, July 13, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Is This Your Lucky Day?

by Peggy Robin

Today is Friday the 13th. If you’ve ever been channel surfing on History Channel you can’t fail to have come across the perpetually re-running two-part series “Decoding the Past: History of the Knights Templar,” which includes one particular tidbit from history that needs no decoding: the association of Friday the 13th with bad luck. According to the show (but far from accepted by reputable historians) the original unluckiness of this day and date sprang from the surprise mass arrest --followed in most cases by torture and execution-- of the Knights Templar, ordered by King Philip IV of France on Friday the 13th of October, 1307. It was most emphatically not their lucky day.

Few people these days are genuinely worried about bad things happening whenever the 13th of the month falls on a Friday, a confluence of events that over any given ten-year span occurs about 18 times, or twice in most years, once in some years. However, 2012 happens to be rife with Friday the 13ths. We had our first one on January 13, the second on April 13, and for the hat-trick, there’s the third one, today. That’s one every third month, a frequency that last occurred in 1984 and won’t happen again until 2040. So today’s event seems to be Friday the 13th cubed. (For more about this, see: How Many Friday the 13ths in a Year? and Friday-the-13th-to-occur-3-times-in-13-weeks.html.

Speaking of things that come in threes, it’s also Three Stooges Day, marking a significant event in cinematic history  --a day that will live in nitwitry-- the premiere of an 18-minute short called “Punch Drunk” introducing the comedic trio of Larry, Moe and Curly (Columbia Pictures, July 13, 1934)*. You can celebrate this one by finding two other idiots and trying to poke their eyes out. Or by throwing cream pies in each other’s faces. 

*Note for Stoogeologists: Yes, "Punch Drunk" was preceded by "The Woman Haters" on May 5, 1934, but that earlier short doesn't really qualify as a "Three Stooges" film, for three reasons: 1) The comic trio are not called by their names in the film but are given the names of their characters (Curly plays Jackie, Moe plays Tom, and Larry gets the lead role of Jim); 2) Columbia Pictures produced "The Woman Haters" not as the first of "The Three Stooges" series but as the sixth of its "Musical Novelties" shorts; and 3) All the dialog is in rhyme, so it's unlike the anarchic, free-form, fast-talking, slapstick style so characteristic of all the rest of the Three Stooges' oeuvre.

If you feel that Three Stooges Day is too stupid a day to celebrate (or it’s too dangerous!), then you might prefer to observe International Puzzle Day, set on July 13 because it is the birthday of creator of that maddening, multi-colored assemblage of endlessly re-arrangeable colored blocks, the Rubik’s cube. Erno Rubik was born on this day in Budapest, Hungary in 1944.

If you don’t feel any of these three events is worthy of special notice, then just wait until tomorrow, when there’s a truly historic and festive occasion on hand. It’s Le Quatorze Juillet, better known to us as Bastille Day (although few French people actually call it that), when the French and Francophiles all over the globe sing La Marseillaise, pop champagne corks, watch fireworks, and prove that the French really know how to throw a good fete. Want to find one? There’s a good listing at

I particularly recommend the block party put on by the L’Enfant Café on Vernon Street between 18th and 19th Streets in Adams Morgan. From 3 – 11pm, there’s a masquerade festival with beer trucks, can-can dancers, DJs playing French pop-rock, and a “French maid” race for all ages and genders. You need to arrive by 5pm to register for the race at 6pm.

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet, mes amis! 


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and All Life Is Local on Fridays (not just the 13ths).

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