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Monday, March 4, 2024

October Editor’s Notes / The long of it…


Trick or Treat? Sarcasm or Sincerity? 

It’s October, a bountiful time to observe the natural changes of the landscape, visible during the first full moon after the Harvest Moon. Known as the “Hunter’s Moon,” look for its impressive glow to cast dim shadows in the darkness on Oct. 9, 2022.

But first, consider that Oct. 1 is Naperville cardiologist Mark Goodwin’s birthday every year. And he shares that date with Julie Andrews (87), Rod Carew (77), former President Jimmy Carter (98) and other notables likely posted on the “people page” in other newspapers.

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Known to share his kindness, wit and wisdom, Dr. Mark Goodwin was first acclaimed Grand Marshal for the WSI St. Patrick’s Parade in 2020. Two years later, his joyful Irish spirit was recognized when the popular parade returned to downtown Naperville and folks celebrated at Quigley’s. (PN File Photo)

During a recent gathering around a high top at Quigley’s Irish Pub, Dr. Goodwin provided words of wisdom in his clever inimitable way, pecking on his imaginary keyboard, expressing his sage advice that laughter is good for the heart.

Along with owner Nancy Quigley, we were mindful that the ravaging destruction caused by Hurricane Ian was not something to joke about; yet, sometimes in the face of adversity, the best thing we can do is laugh. Add combined experiences, perspectives and a change of seasons to the mix— and we agreed about American resilience, a prayerful attitude of gratitude and the importance of looking on the brighter side. 

Harvest of thoughts from past Octobers

One after the other in late September, PN contributing columnists submitted stories for this monthly publication, reveling with musings about their fondness for autumn. I figured I’d better find a different way to start this commentary to avoid redundancy. Unable to meet my word limit, I missed our print deadline.

As “trick or treat” events began to fill PN’s community calendar from now through Halloween, the recent NASA mission conjured up significant scientific achievements from past Octobers.

For instance, the introduction of the polio vaccine (1956), launch of Sputnik (1957), operation of NASA (1958) and telecasts from Apollo VII (1968) all occurred in October.

What’s more, this October when you come to Mike Briggs’ column for Little Friends on page 29 in this month’s print edition (or online here), note that the scientific pilot study he addresses positively could be earth-shattering research that benefits the autism community. Also, mark your calendar for the return of Step Up for Little Friends on Oct. 16, a Sunday morning walk at St. James Farm in the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

The Science of Sarcasm

Our digital editor recently mentioned that October is National Sarcasm Awareness Month. Yeah, right, I thought.

Yet, a search to verify revealed it’s not a joke. The ominous designation has been around for more than a decade, even though sarcasm reportedly dates back to the Viking Age (793-1066AD).

Then Irony and Sarcasm, published by MIT Press in 2020, magically arrived on our doorstep.

Touted as “a biography of two troublesome words,” researcher Roger Kreuz writes that sarcasm has been described “as the lowest form of wit and the highest form of intelligence.”

About 10 percent of the 207-page very engaging book is dedicated to a glossary, footnotes, suggested reading and an index that includes references to The Big Bang Theory. Who’d have thought?

Further, the fascinating science of sarcasm reportedly leads to insights about the value of using irony to communicate and how even young minds know the difference.

The more I read, the more I began to recognize ironies of human nature. Really.

Follow the Science

Since March 14, 2020, the world’s attention has been directed to “follow the science.” Memories of high school and college labs conjured up the orderly technique of investigating what is supposed to account for scientific progress. Does it still mean to carefully follow observations of nature, deduction of natural laws and/or the formation of hypothesis?

Timely outcomes initially promised in 2020 weren’t so funny when repeatedly delayed after that first “Emergency Declaration.” Now issued more than 30 times in a row, it’s tough to mask our disappointment regarding the impact on our small business, our children, our grandchildren and many of our friends’ small businesses and families. We likely will forever wonder and never know about procedures used to “follow the science” that seemed wrought with political science.  We know. We’re keenly aware you don’t read PN for us to go there.

Nonetheless, whether celebrating someone’s birthday or not, I sang rounds of “Happy Birthday” while washing my hands. This publication promoted washing hands often—and advised not to wash away commonsense.

And we began to wonder if scientists involved in research for the pandemic were focusing on preconceived theories when they were designing experiments to collect current data.

Most of my scientific endeavors have been the result of creative baking reactions with cocoa powder and baking soda—and a chocolate cake recipe passed down to my mother from my grandmother.

Back in 1974, Creative Cakes opened at 400 E. 74th Street in New York City. My 11′ x 20′ shop just east of First Avenue specialized in chocolate cakes with butter cream frosting in all shapes and sizes. Created as a promotional piece of cake in 1975 for a book cover, the design above and others were rejected by Random House for not looking enough like a cake. When our daughter was born in 1979, cake artist Bill Schutz came on board. The business was sold to Bill in 1985 and he’s taken cake designs to new heights. And he’s still creating at the “cupcake-size” location! (Photo by Jim Word)

That’s also a very long, often amusing, story about happy birthdays and many special occasions that I’ll give rise to another time.

Instead let us digress to other Octobers…

October 2016 was the first October this publication prominently had placed thought-provoking, sometimes sarcastic, one-liners along the bottom of our printed pages. When those “ever wonders” first were noticed by readers, most were met with approval.

‘Ever wonder if insects have the solutions to what bugs you?’

This fascinating praying mantis, an insect named for its prominent front legs bent in the position of prayer, recently stalked us on our back deck, startling us into deep and heartfelt thoughts of ever wonder. (PN Photo 2022)

At least one reader commented, “Laughter is the best medicine.” And that feedback triggered thoughts of our intention to ignite endorphins. When released in the body by laughing, endorphins relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being. Scientific, for sure.

Treats of Wit and Wisdom

Almost daily since 1970, I’ve consulted my prized little red, white and blue book titled Great American Wit, a 60-page gift that’s truly showing its wear. Published in 1967 by Hallmark, it’s filled with wisecracks, sarcasm and tall tales written by 18 different publishers, editors and columnists dating back to 1818.

Every page sparks laughter with some advice.

“Do not take life too seriously; you will never get our alive,” is attributed to editor and publisher Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915). Hubbard hailed from Hudson, Illinois, a tiny village near Bloomington in McLean County, and his quote is one that’s touched my heart as much as my neighbor who suggested I read Psalm 2.

Back in November 2001, a few aunts and cousins are pictured reading the third issue of Positively Naperville during the Mitchell Family Thanksgiving Day Reunion at Ross Camp near Purdue. (PN File Photo)

Growing up in Indiana among a large extended family of faithful fun-loving folks, childhood memories of summer vacations on my grandparents’ farm and 70 years of Mitchell family reunions are treasured. Husband Jim fit right into the mix 45 years ago. And when we decided in 1993 to move our family of five from New Jersey closer to family in the Midwest, we’d hoped our three children, then ages 13, 11 and 9, would see the bright side, too.

Wayne’s World or Bust

Back then, Wayne’s World had been a 1992 box office hit. Who knows how many times we rented that movie with our “lifetime” membership from a little video store no longer in business in Madison, NJ!

When son Tim found Naperville on the Illinois map, he noticed its location right next to Aurora, home of the public access cable TV station of Wayne’s World fame. He was psyched that we were moving to Wayne’s World! His siblings caught his enthusiasm. And their friends planned to visit before we’d even moved.

At the same time, The Simpsons had been airing on the new FOX network since 1989.

And I’ve got to say, we found joy listening whenever our three children laughed hysterically at the sarcasm and wit that spewed from that little 18” TV in our tiny family room. Were we wrong?

Fast forward to that recent internet search to find reports that October is National Sarcasm Awareness Month, revealing scientists are finding that the ability to perceive snarky remarks provides insights into how the mind works. Recognizing sarcasm is an essential skill for folks who choose to function in today’s world of cheap shots and social media.

Find fun for all at the Naperville Pumpkin Race on October 29

One of the sideshows at the Pumpkin Race hosted by Turning Pointe Autism Foundation has been to “dress up” a watermelon or large gourd to appear as a “genuine pumpkin racer.” Costumed referees welcome spectator participation to check for authenticity. If the masses suspect the racer is an imposter, the referees make a big scene. And they smash the bogus racer to slimy bits with a big sledge hammer, much to the delight of all the young spectators who play along with every silly remark.

And it’s funny that it’s so funny. Sarcasm used to be viewed mostly as hostile and aggressive. These days, most individuals associate it more with sophisticated humor. Stay tuned to that.

Brisk walks in the great outdoors also release endorphins

Consider a trek around Lake Osborne where colorful sumac, asters and goldenrod dot the landscape this season. (PN Photo)

Stay true to your colors, especially amid all the changes of the season. Dr. Goodwin said autumn is his favorite time of year. And to think his birthday falls on Oct. 1.

In between laughs, the good doctor summed up an engaging discussion about laughter, life and living.

“Moments of greatness are never accomplished by shrinking away from the moment,” Dr. Goodwin said.

“May we quote you?” I asked, mindful of the Golden Rule.

—Stephanie Penick, PN Publisher/Editor

One more thing…

Did you know? This year the month of October has five Saturdays, five Sundays and five Mondays. According to urban legends surfacing on the internet and ending up in emails, this three-day scenario “happens only once in 823 years.” Remarkable, right? With a little commonsense, perhaps influenced by sarcasm, think about all the 31-day months that begin on a Saturday every year.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe. Happy October.

Next month’s commentary aims to return to the short of it.

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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.


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