Leap Day revisited | Bleader

Leap Day revisited

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  • DieselDemon
Such is the import of Leap Day that I can’t recall having noticed its existence four, eight, or 12 years ago, or beyond. It coincides, fortuitously, with the presidential election cycle, providing one extra day of talk about whatever issues candidates are most passionate about—this year, contraception, Islamism, Saul Alinsky, child labor, etc. Is it only February? I sifted through some New York Times archives to investigate the issues of the day four and eight years ago: In 2008 Barack Obama’s opponents in the race were really starting to unload on him, with Hillary Clinton comparing “his promise of change to celestial choirs” and the Tennessee Republican Party going out of its way to make sure his middle name, Hussein, stuck to his campaign. (It was around this time that the party published, then regretted, pictures of Obama in “a traditional African outfit,” according to the Times.) On February 29, 2004, John Kerry was the front-runner in the race, seeking sound bites: “Mr. Kerry, after all, is the kind of orator for whom sound bites can become four-course meals, so anything that fits on a bumper sticker, or even a banner, is a blessing.”

But presidential politics wasn’t the only thing on people’s minds. In 2008 the economy was in the early stages of being super fucked—Freddie Mac reported a record quarterly loss of $2.5 billion—and William F. Buckley had just died. He was remembered in the Times’ letters section as being a “master of wit, repartee and sophistry,” though I prefer to remember Alex Pareene’s eulogy. In 2004, zeitgeistily, the Times published not one but two articles that referred to The Sopranos: “Bada-Boom Times,” about a social gathering of actors who specialize in playing mobsters (Big Pussy was there! And Phil Leotardo!), and “Yes, It's New Jersey, but Don't Ask the Sopranos for Directions,” a headline suggesting that, like me, the Times had trouble distinguishing The Sopranos from real life.

And the Reader? We last put out an issue dated February 29 in 1996. Among many other things—those really were different times—it contained notes from a trivia monger, a Ben Joravsky story about a book banned in schools, and Reader to Reader, a little slice-of-life thing. The latter read, in its entirety:

A woman and I were waiting for an elevator on the 24th floor of a downtown building when a bicycle messenger came bustling around a corner whistling some tune.

"It's nice to hear someone whistling," the woman said to him. "I certainly don't feel like it."

"Having a bad day?" the messenger asked.

"I hate my job."

"You ought to do something you like."

"I don't think I'd like to make that my profession."

This shit is not all fun and games, though. This year, for Reuters, Barbara Goldberg writes a fun little puff piece in honor of the day. It ends badly:

For most people, February 29 is a quirky extra day to enjoy life but for at least one person it's Doomsday. Arizona death row inmate Robert Henry Moormann, 63, is scheduled to be executed on Leap Day for beating, stabbing and strangling his adoptive mother and dismembering her body during a "compassionate furlough" from prison to visit her in 1984.

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