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The Easter holiday sometimes occurs in March but this year it falls on April first, which is also known as April Fool Day.

Easter eggs (also called Paschal eggs) are decorated eggs often used as gifts or decorations on the occasion of Easter or more generally as part of a springtime celebration. Though Easter eggs are common during the season of Eastertide, the egg being symbolic of spring is much older than the religious holiday.

Dyed and painted chicken eggs are the oldest traditional form and are still done today, but they compete with the commercial chocolate eggs wrapped in colored foil and the plastic eggs that people fill with candy, coins, lottery tickets and small gifts.

As a symbol of fertility and rebirth, Christianity adopted them as part of the celebration of Eastertide. I have read that the egg was sometimes said to symbolize the empty tomb from which Jesus resurrected, and that staining eggs red to represent the blood of Christ has been proposed. The custom of the Easter egg can be traced to early Christians of Mesopotamia, and from there it spread into Russia and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches.

Easter eggs are sometimes called Paschal eggs as Easter can be called Pascha (Greek, Latin) or Resurrection Sunday.

A very different kind of “Easter egg” of a modern and technology-related sort is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, image or secret feature of a work. These Easter eggs are found in a computer programs, video games and sometimes in DVD menu screens. The term suggests the traditional Easter egg hunt with the hope of getting a prize when you are successful.

This usage was coined to describe a hidden message marketing device in the Atari video game “Adventure ” that led players on a hunt to find further hidden messages in later games.

In the novel Ready Player One, the plot involves several Easter eggs discovered in video games.  The novel is now a Steven Spielberg film that opened yesterday.

Ukrainian Easter eggs

 

wonderland

 

I don’t know how popular the Uncle Wiggily books are these days. Uncle Wiggily Longears is the main character of a series of children’s stories by the very prolific American author Howard R. Garis. He is an interesting elderly rabbit who has rheumatism and uses his red, white, and blue crutch walking cane that looks like an old-fashioned barber-pole or a peppermint candy stick.

Garis began writing the stories for the Newark News in 1910 and he wrote an Uncle Wiggily story every day (except Sundays) for more than 30 years. That’s a lot of stories.

I know I read many times the Little Golden Book version of Uncle Wiggily and probably a few others. Although growing up, we did read the Newark News as our daily paper, I don’t recall the stories. maybe by the time I was reading the paper I was done reading Uncle Wiggily. (Though I read the comics for a long time past childhood.)

I never knew until I did some research this week that, according to his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, a walk in the woods in Verona, New Jersey was his inspiration for Uncle Wiggily. Being that those woods are just next door to Paradelle, I think that I have probably walked those same woods and I have certainly seen some relatives of Uncle Wiggily.

Garis wrote many books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a publisher that specialized in series and used many authors under various pseudonyms. They were best known for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. Garis wrote as Victor Appleton, he wrote about the inventing Tom Swift. He wrote as Laura Lee Hope some of the Bobbsey Twins books, as Clarence Young for the Motor Boys series and as Marion Davidson for some books about the Camp Fire Girls.

Garis parted ways with the Syndicate in 1933 after several disagreements, but he published many books about Uncle Wiggily. Some of those are out of print and in the public domain and I found a good number in the Project Gutenberg Library online where you can read and download them.  That is where I found   Uncle Wiggily in Wonderland. I also found books by Garis that I never read, such as  The Curlytops at Silver Lake, whose titles suggest local settings. I know nearby Silver Lake pretty well.

game
The Uncle Wiggily game is a track board game based characters from the series. The game is of the “racing” variety and said to be in the style of the European “Goose Game.” Players advance along the track from Uncle Wiggily’s Bungalow to Dr. Possum’s House. This is not a strategy game and moving is based on a random drawing of the cards. The game was first published by Milton Bradley in 1916 and has seen several editions with minor modifications over the years. Uncle Wiggily remains a pretty popular childhood game along with Candy Land.

Many of the Uncle Wiggily books and the game and plush animals and other related merchandise are still available, so perhaps kids are still reading Uncle Wiggily.

I didn’t think about Uncle Wiggily again after elementary school until I read in high school “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” a short story by J. D. Salinger, which appears in his collection Nine Stories.

The main character of that story, Eloise, recalls a time when she and her boyfriend Walt were running to catch a bus, and she sprained her ankle. Walt comforted her by saying “Poor Uncle Wiggily.” Now, unhappily married to someone else, she goes to her daughter Ramona’s bedroom. (Ramona and Eloise are names that recall characters in other childhood books I read.) She sees that her sleeping child in on the corner of the bed having left room for room for her imaginary friend, “Mickey Mickeranno.” This childhood fantasy really annoys the mother and she drags her to the middle of the bed and tells her she must sleep there. She quickly regrets that and tucks Ramona into her covers and leaves crying and repeating to herself “Poor Uncle Wiggily.”

Trivia: This story was made into the film My Foolish Heart (1949), though the film has very little to do with the story. It is the only authorized adaptation of a Salinger story and he hated it and vowed to never let his work be used for film or television again.

game

A current version of the board game

In this Japanese woodblock by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Guan Yu plays Go to distract himself from the pain of a wound.

I’m not sure why, but I have never been much of a board game player. I am in the minority, since board games have been played in most cultures throughout history.

Senet, which may be the oldest board game, has been found in Egyptian burial sites from 3500 BC.

Patolli is a board game that was played by the ancient Mayans.

I played Checkers like most kids. (It’s also known as draughts in the United Kingdom and some other countries.) And when I got bored with it, I moved on, like many others, to Chess.

The Moors learned chess from the Persians, took it to Spain when they invaded and then it spread to Europe. It’s a good Medieval history lesson. The pawns are the serfs, or laborers who are most plentiful and are often sacrificed to save the more valuable pieces. The Castle is home and the Knight is the soldier who protects those of rank. The Bishop represents the church. The only woman on the board is the Queen who is the most powerful piece of the game. In any chess set, the King is the tallest piece. He must be an old King because he can’t move too well, so he is protected by his Queen.

If you’ve read The Royal Game & Other Stories, by Stefan Zweig, there is the story of a man in solitary confinement who maintains his sanity by studying a book of master chess games, which he plays endlessly in his mind, until it becomes all-consuming. I didn’t have the mind for strategy that allows good players to see many moves ahead and play games in their head. I guess I live too much in the moment.

The oldest game that I have ever played is Go which is an ancient strategic board game that originated in China about 2500 years ago and that predates Chess.

My good friend Steve is a very good Go player and so I wanted to be able to play him. Go is not easy to play well. With each new level (rank), the game seems to become more difficult. The more you know, the more you know that you know that you actually know very little.

I did like the look of the board and the bowls full of black and white stones used in playing Go. I liked the tactics, the strategy, the capturing of territories and the way the tide can change based on one move. I just wasn’t very good at it.

I had played some modern game variations like Pente and Othello years before I even knew the game of Go existed. But those modern versions are really simplistic compared to Go.

Like many beginners, I started by randomly placing stones on the board. I treated it like a game of chance. I read some books from Steve on the game and realized that there are some basic common opening sequences. But Go is something that I think must require thousands of games to begin to master.

I was not the first player to think that comparing Go and Chess is a way to explain Western versus Eastern strategic thinking.  Don’t nitpick that both Go and Chess originated in Asia. The Western chess we know today is different from the earliest version, but I’m thinking more of why Chess might be more appealing to Westerners.

Go begins with an empty board, building from nothing to something. There are multiple, simultaneous battles going on and winning is point-based. Chess has a single objective winning objective – kill the king. The rows of soldiers march forward and fight man-to-man. The individual stones in Go are only significant as part of larger groups.

I was sure someone had written a book or a dissertation on Go as a way to understand either Eastern military strategy or to explain Western and Eastern business strategies. Sure enough, a search turned up The Way of Go: 8 Ancient Strategy Secrets for Success in Business and Life

Do you think that the games we play – as individuals or as a culture – says something about who we are?

Stepping Stones to Go: A Game of Strategy
An Introduction to GO: Rules and Strategies for the Ancient Oriental Game
Go Basics: Concepts & Strategies for New Players
Go and Go-Moku: The Oriental Board Games
Go Game Board and Stones
Complete Go Game Chest
Go Bowls

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