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HeartWhy are you being hustled by street vendors to buy sad and drooping former roses, vegetative matter that missed the cut for bouquets, or were too late to the hospital?

Blame Esther A. Howland (1828 – 1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her guilt is writ large by the Greeting Card Association’s Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary. She imported the concept to the US from Britain to bolster her father’s stationery store in 1847.

Of course, it wasn’t long before the stationers had infiltrated school boards and imposed the now mandatory exchange in the classroom to push the low end product of Asian children and prisoners.

Seeing the success of the card merchants, the confectioners jumped on board to fill the lull between Christmas and Easter with the benefit that the bulk of purchases would be made by desperate men with less sense of taste than a golden retriever. If the box was red, heart-shaped, and said chocolate, a man would buy it.

There were at least three Saint Valentines and all were martyrs, as they should have been for the trouble they’ve caused. None are the reason for the “holiday”, only the excuse. They lived at a time when life and men were short and brutal, so the romantic aura of the holiday is pure piffle. At least one was reportedly part of a draft dodging scheme during the Roman Empire, marrying people so that men with “other priorities” could avoid being deployed to foreign wars, bachelors being preferred for catapult fodder.

It is to be hoped that the individual who first wrote: “Roses are red, violets are blue” was eaten by rabid wolverines, or had hemorrhoids.

8 comments

1 Steve Bates { 02.14.11 at 11:39 am }

“They lived at a time when life and men were short and brutal…”

I thought Napoleon came much later.

2 Bryan { 02.14.11 at 2:31 pm }

If you had visited a museum in Europe that featured armor, you would have observed that it was designed for people between 5′ and 5′ 6″ going back to Roman armor. While there were always a few tall people, like Peter the Great of Russia, people were a lot shorter, and the average life expectancy did exceed 40 until the 20th century.

The reality is hidden because the history books are all about the rich and famous who ate regularly, and had moderately varied diets.

3 Steve Bates { 02.14.11 at 3:49 pm }

I did visit such an armory, the Landeszeughaus in Graz, Austria, where I taught one summer. And indeed the suits of armor were made for much smaller men even than I am, and I’m only 5’9″. Somewhere I have a poster, somewhere among dozens of cardboard tubes. Failing that, here are some good photos from that armory.

I recall reading about a Stone Age burial site at which the most elaborate grave was that of a man about 40 years old. The archaeologist’s conjecture was that he was one of the society’s older, wiser leaders; hence the elaborate grave. When I think of how “wise” I was at 40…

4 Steve Bates { 02.14.11 at 10:00 pm }

OT, Bryan, I just went through a five-email, five-web-page procedure attempting to sign up for CommentLuv to a degree sufficient to be able to select my recent post to be shown. After a nightmare on FeedBlitz Street, after providing everything they asked, when I was done, it didn’t work. No, don’t tell me how to do it… I am now attempting to rip it out root and branch. But I just wanted to say that that was the single most obtuse and obstructive UI I have EVER encountered, anywhere. Just how bad can s/w be, and still have a market?

Duffy, stop panting; your envy is showing…

5 cookiejill { 02.14.11 at 10:39 pm }

I’m looking forward to all the sales on unsold chocolate tomorrow. 😉

6 Bryan { 02.14.11 at 10:58 pm }

Yeah, Steve, the “good old days” seldom live up to their press clippings.

Mr. Duff, he lives with three ladies, two of them feline, so he celebrates everyday.

Well, there is that benefit, Jill, but you have to know your chocolate, because a lot of what is sold is designed for desperate men, and is generally inedible.

OT: It has never ceased to amaze me Steve how little attention is paid to the user interface in most IT programs. We both know that the UI is where most of a programmer’s time is actually spent. No matter how bad it is, it can’t possibly be as bad as what I deal with from Centurylink, my DSL provider and phone company. I have to turn off all kinds of filters to work with their site because of all of the pop-ups they use.

I have never “joined” their cult, I just use it because it gives commenters a link, and I see people following the links, so there is some traffic generated.

7 Steve Bates { 02.15.11 at 3:34 pm }

“… beneath all that snappy and snarling he was a pussy cat!” – Duffy

Almost, but not quite, right, Duffy. The three ladies are pussycats, two of them actual felines and the other a real sweetie, the love of my life for 14 years. Eat your heart out!

8 Steve Bates { 02.16.11 at 11:49 am }

A great pun, Duffy, and congratulations. Stella and I met in our mid-30s and re-met in our late 40s; at that point, given the typically short lifespans of both of our families, probably neither of us had 46 years left in him/her. Time will tell.