By Marty Russell
There’s been a lot of ink wasted in the past few days arguing the question of whether political party conventions serve any purpose these days. They don’t, not in any real sense. I covered the Democratic convention in Atlanta back in 1988 and was hard-pressed to find any real news coming out of the event except for the antics of convention goers outside the convention itself.
I can recall sitting in a small convention hall with the Mississippi and Arkansas delegations listening to Bill Clinton drone on for more than an hour just before lunch. His speech was almost drowned out by the sound of our bellies rumbling and the rustle of people checking their watches and antsy to get out of there and find something more interesting to do.
Let’s face it, political conventions these days serve essentially the same purpose as religious revival meetings. Their sole purpose is to whip the faithful into a frenzy so they will go out and proselytize to the great unsaved masses or perhaps those who are in league with the devil (i.e. the other party) and maybe, while they’re at it, contribute some money to the cause.
Only once in a Blue Moon does anything really newsworthy come out of a political convention and that goes for both parties.
But speaking of Blue Moons, someone asked me the other day what you call two full moons in one month as we will have this month with the second coming (second full moon, that is) this Thursday and Friday. Aside from unusual, I told them you call the second full moon in a month a Blue Moon. Technically, I was wrong, according to a recent article in Sky and Telescope magazine.
While the popular notion is that a Blue Moon is the second of two full moons in a month, the article explains that a Blue Moon, usually a Harvest Moon, is actually based on seasonal calculations of full moons that stem from the Maine Farmer’s Almanac back in the 1930s. Those took into account not how many full moons in a month but how many in each of the four seasons.
While you would normally expect three full moons per season for a total of 12 per year, if you had a season with four full moons as happens every couple of years, then the third full moon in that season became the Blue Moon. Why the third and not the fourth? Because the lunar cycle had to be maintained in order to accurately calculate Lent and Easter, whose dates depend on the full moon and to ensure that the names of the seasonal moons (Yule, Harvest, etc.) fall in the proper seasons.
Confusing, I know. So perhaps, as the article points out, it’s best just to stick with the popular notion that a Blue Moon is the second of any month in which two full moons occur.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.