The Million-Dollar Sock?
by Douglas J. Gladstone
Seven years ago, American-born Canadian children’s author Robert Munsch and his illustrator, Michael Martchenko, published a children’s book about a girl named Tina, who loves her brand-new socks so much that she doesn’t take them off. Titled, appropriately enough,”Smelly Socks,” (Scholastic Cartwheel Books, 2005), The Globe and Mail had nothing but praise for the story – in its review, the newspaper described the book as “more witty, creative and entertaining than most of what passes for adult literature.” The Toronto Star even referred to Munsch as “arguably the most successful kid-lit writer in North America.”
I know about books like this because I’m the parent of a four-year-old girl who loves when I read to her at night. She also routinely smells my feet. Maybe that’s why I haven’t purchased the book for her yet.
Of course, my four-year-old’s fascination with smelly feet and socks is to be somewhat expected. What’s not expected is when countries actually advocate using them to ward off malaria.
You read that right. According to an article last year in The Washington Post, dirty socks were used in three villages in Tanzania, where people get about 350 bites a year from malaria-infected mosquitoes, to lure the insects into traps, where they become contaminated with poisons and ultimately die.
“It’s a bold idea. Who would have thought there was a life-saving technology working in your laundry basket?,” said Peter A. Singer, a physician who heads Grand Challenges Canada, a development agency of the Canadian government that reportedly helped fund the research.
What is it with these Canadians and smelly socks?
Personally, I prefer my tax dollars used for more traditional things, such as upgrading our infrastructure or buying computers so our children can learn at school. Stuff like that. Though I concede that using smelly socks sure is a novel way to combat a serious global health problem.
Speaking of novels, when a New York Times best-selling author starts pontificating about smelly socks, attention must be paid.
Remember Danica McKellar, who played Fred Savage’s love interest — “Winnie Cooper” — on The Wonder Years? These days, the 37-year-old Ms. McKellar is an internationally recognized author and advocate for math education who has written such well received titles as “Math Doesn’t Suck, ” “Hot X: Algebra Revealed” and “Kiss My Math.” Sure, she stripped for Maxim two years ago but, hey, a girl’s gotta do what she has to do to promote her work product, right?
Her most recent book is entitled “Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape” (Hudson Street Press, 2012). In explaining what the converse, inverse and contrapositive of a statement are, Ms. McKellar uses the following example to make her point:
Let’s say we’re given All hot guys wear smelly socks. We could rewrite this as “If a guy is hot, then he wears smelly socks.”Great. Now, if we’re told that some guy (Zac) wears smelly socks, must he be hot? Nope! All sorts of people wear smelly socks, not just hot guys, after all. So the statement, “If a guy wears smelly socks, then he’s hot,” isn’t necessarily true. In fact, we’ve swapped the cause and effect in the statement, and that’s called the converse.
The converse, inverse, and contrapositive of a statement are all ways to change an “if . . . then” statement by moving around its “cause and effect” parts in very specific ways.
Believe it or not, the contrapositive actually tells us the same information as the original statement. I mean, if a guy doesn’t wear smelly socks, then we know he can’t be hot . . . because if he were hot, then he’d be wearing smelly socks!
Same information, written differently!
Listen, maybe I’m just behind the times. Call me old fashioned, but my sole interest in socks at all is whether they should match one’s shoes or pants. Next thing you know, this preoccupation with smelly socks will (figuratively) overcome the nation.
I mean, what’s next? Auction a sock to raise money?
What’s that you say? Curt Schilling listed the famous “bloody sock” he wore during Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship as collateral to a bank in a filing last month with the Massachusetts Secretary of State? He’s thinking of selling it to cover the millions of dollars in loans he guaranteed several creditors to his failed video game company?
Boy, that stinks. I was ready to go to Cooperstown, New York, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located, just to look at it.
By the way, if you’re wondering how much this piece of baseball memorabilia might command on the open market, Richie Russek, owner of the Westhampton, N.Y.-based Grey Flannel Auctions, which is featured on The Discovery Channel series ‘‘All Star Dealers,”reportedly estimated the bloody sock could sell for $50,000 to $100,000, but stressed there is nothing comparable that has ever been auctioned off.
But Darren Rovell, the sports business reporter for ESPN, wrote on October 4th that one collector he interviewed in 2005 said he would bid on it and that he expected the price to soar north of $600,000. Others subsequently told Rovell that the sock could draw bids above $1 million.
One million bucks? For a sock?
That kind of moola sure smells pretty good to me.
(Douglas J. Gladstone is the critically acclaimed author of “A Bitter Cup of Coffee,” which is widely credited with helping nearly 900 retired individuals who played baseball between 1947-1979 get compensation for their contributions to the national pastime. He was initially going to write an article about smelly cats, but realized that Phoebe Buffay had already cornered the market on that topic.)