Lunar Observer records upcoming dates of interest: holidays, birthdays, best day to cut hair.
Even though the calendar is an arbitrary constraint, the end of the year is a weird time. Throughout history and across the only planet on which it's relevant, different calendar systems have put the end of the year at very different times — in the Middle Ages in Europe, the New Year was variously assigned to March 1, March 25, Easter, Sept. 1, and Dec. 25. Chinese New Year is sometime between Jan. 21 and Feb. 21, usually but not always the same day as Vietnamese New Year. Iranian New Year is usually on March 20 or 21. Yoruba New Year is on June 2, Jewish New Year is in the fall. Islamic New Year follows a calendar that's 354 days long, so it occurs 11 days earlier (relevant to the Gregorian calendar) every year. I could go on. The important thing here is that whenever the New Year is, it's a time for introspection (staring at the void) and also commonly getting shithouse wasted (the void staring back).
The artist Marcel Duchamp had a fascination with these sort of in-between times, which he referred to using his invented word "infra-mince.” While this is a nuanced term, the direct translation is "beyond thin." Infra-mince is both nothingness and becoming or the edge between the two. The difference in weight between a shirt and the same shirt when it smells like smoke is infra-mince. Going through the subway doors just as they close is infra-mince. Midnight at New Year’s, which is this Saturday (or arguably next Sunday), is infra-mince.
In the Western world, Jan. 1 has been our primary New Year’s Day of infra-mince for quite some time, and Dec. 31 is the same day but the other side of it. As a result of this long-standing tradition, this day (which is two days) hangs heavy on our calendar and in our minds, heavy enough that we tend not to schedule anything important on it, or the days before, or definitely immediately after. But with an eye toward the infra-mince, this week, between Christmas and New Year’s, is especially rich in events.
New Year’s is a time for introspection (staring at the void) and also commonly getting shithouse wasted (the void staring back).
The most notable day this week to those who study the infra-mince is Dec. 28. On this day in 1895, Wilhelm Röntgen published the first-ever report on X-rays, titled "On a new kind of ray: A preliminary communication," and on the same day, brothers Auguste and Louis Jean Lumière give the first paid public screening of a motion picture. The cinema relies on the almost imperceptible difference between two still images played in sequence; the X-ray can be thought of as a kind of light that's thinner than normal, which can sneak through doors that are closed to the visible spectrum. Both rely on film, a supremely thin and even coating of a chemical on a surface. And both are massively important to our world — inventions so large that they almost immediately change the way we think about ourselves. Dec. 28, day of Infra-mince. It's also the feast day of the Holy Innocents, a bit of wordplay that I'm sure Duchamp would appreciate.
Individuals representing infra-mince (but not innocence) who have birthdays on the 28th include operating system designer Linus Torvalds, cartoonist Chris Ware, prankster and theorist Guy Debord, pitchman Stan Lee, filmmaker par excellance F.W. Murnau, actress and communications specialist Nichelle “Uhura” Nichols, mathematician and quantum physicist John von Neumann, and southpaw baseball wildman Bill "Spaceman" Lee. Beach Boy Dennis Wilson died on this day in 1983 — he was the only true surfer in the group, though he was also the only one who never wrote songs about surfing.
The best day this week to cut hair, if you want it to grow nice and healthy, is the 29th.