Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The swollen elbows of a 5-day work week swung clumsily into our bedroom yesterday morning, a full hour before our alarm clock was ready to stretch its voice. Trixie, one of our canine co-creatives, felt it was time to arise and poop. It was an auspicious start to a busy week, but a start we could temper with a heap of fun.

Penguin Awareness Day

What could be more fun than penguins? Of course, we didn’t actually get to see any today, apart from the Google Images search I (Marty) flipped through for about 20 minutes. Our plan was to head to our local shopping mall, which (of course) has a number of penguins as part of a permanent exhibit. Unfortunately the demand for penguin visitation on winter evenings is shockingly low, which meant they closed up at 6:00, right around when we’d be getting home from work. Alas, World Penguin Day on April 25 will have to be our fall-back for some penguin face-time.

Penguins are evolution’s answer for what must be a truly hilarious question. They waddle with an unabashed, shameless humor that requires no setup or punchline, then after a clumsy negotiation with gravity they swim through the water with an unanticipated grace. One thing they cannot do, however, is fly. But how could anyone hold that against them?

A zoo or weird mall exhibit is our only hope of spotting a penguin in these parts. They have average hearing, stupendous eyes for seeing underwater, and a really thick layer of feathers to keep in the heat. They have no problem sidling up to humans, as they have no experience with a land-based predator. Well, almost no experience. Dogs used to attack them, back when dogs would be part of a sled team of early Antarctic human explorers. As such, dogs are no longer allowed on the continent of Antarctica. I don’t agree with banning dogs from an entire continent, but I suppose if it keeps the penguins happy it makes sense.

National Oatmeal Month

Jodie’s morning improved while I was gawking at flightless snow-birds on my phone. She lowered her taste buds into a warm, satisfying bath of oatmeal. Oatmeal may be nature’s comfortiest comfort food. It’s the blend of warmth, of gentle but not boisterous sweetness, and the otherwise cold and unfriendly time of day in which it appears. It’s like a hug from the inside.

Or so I’ve heard. I’m not a big devourer of oatmeal, and found myself instead dining on some Corn Pops left over from Michigan Day. Jodie had the better meal. She enjoys the steel-cut oats to the thick old-fashioned or the prepackaged instant. In Scotland they soak the oats (usually ground) overnight in salted water, then cook ‘em at a low heat. Apparently oats are a big part of haggis, which we may experience this weekend for Robbie Burns Night. Needless to say, oatmeal is an ideal breakfast in this, the chilliest and dreariest of months. Why is it dreary? I’m glad you asked…

Blue Monday

Happy most depressing day of the year!!! Yes, attached to those clumsily-swinging elbows yesterday morning was Blue Monday, commonly referred to as the most morose Monday on the calendar. The date is calculated in terms of its relation to Christmas being long over, spring being far away, Christmas’s debt having made itself present, and the weather usually leaving everything to be desired. Needless to say, this only applies in the northern hemisphere (it’s summer down south), and it doesn’t really apply in the United States, as it tends to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is a day off for many.

We fought back against Blue Monday with an exceptional amount of self-care. We focused on our celebrations, we took time to enjoy ourselves and each other, and we spent as much up-close-time with our puppies as possible. Blue Monday is a state of mind, and a deliberate one at that. We say, paint this Monday and every Monday in a dazzling range of hues to fight back the day’s inherent nasties. Or, just hang on until late June when the happiest day of the year shows up.

National Camcorder Day

Why would camcorder day fall specifically on January 20? Why do we still celebrate a day dedicated to one of the myriad of technologies that has been rendered all but obsolete by the smartphone? I know, some folks still love their camcorders (and I feel it’s necessary here to distinguish between a camcorder for family use and a professional camera), but the iPhone is the camcorder of today. We celebrated this day by shooting one of our nightly videos, and drawing attention to just how great it is that we have this technology at our fingertips. As a kid I begged my parents for a camcorder. I instead received a typewriter. This may be why I’m spending my days in a beige-grey cubicle and not on a studio backlot in Burbank.

The first camcorder released for us common folk was the Betamovie BMC-100P from Sony, which recorded onto Betamax cassettes (the better video format – come on, we all know it). That model dropped in 1983. JVC popped out the first VHS camcorder that same year, and within a year Kodak had unveiled the 8mm format. Camcorder technology progressed similar to VCR tech – Beta shifted more to professional use, while VHS became the standard – the key difference is that 8mm didn’t go away. The VHS folks also dropped the VHS-C format, which was a tiny tape for a hand-held camcorder, but you could pop the tape into an adapter that allowed it to be played immediately on any VHS machine.

Great. But I’ll stick with my iPhone.

Take A Walk Outside Day

This day fell into our laps like an over-feathered pillow. The week-long stretch below -30 had taken one day to excuse itself (that was Sunday), and yesterday we launched full-on into an unseasonably warm week. Snow won’t melt, outdoor breath will not become invisible, but we will be able to enjoy breath upon breath of pain-free air. We both took advantage of this day: Jodie walked outside her school, while I took a stroll downtown before catching my evening bus.

It’s easy to dismiss the outdoors entirely during this time of year, in particular if you aren’t big into skiing, skating, sledding, snowshoeing, or one of the other winter sports I choose to pretend do not exist outside the Olympics. But a walk outside – provided the outside isn’t actively trying to murder you with cold or some other inclement rage – is possibly the greatest cure for the common blahs. It lifted me up from my dreary day and popped me into a fantastic mood for my ride home. Which was perfect, since that ride home led me into…

National Cheese Lovers Day

Cheese is a hard thing not to love. Vegans have told me that cheese was the lone holdout that prevented them from making the switch from vegetarian to full-volume vegan, but that hurdle has now been conquered with plenty of vegan cheese options. For those of us who have not taken that step (or even the step to vegetarianism, which is a steep leap for many), we have cheese. Glorious cheese.

I huffed back a quartet of Lacteeze pills in preparation for this feast. We obtained some Le Maréchal cheese from Switzerland at the recommendation of the lady working at Paddy’s International Cheese shop. We swallowed some super-smooth goat cheese, some of that addictive Boursin and a bit of sharp Canadian white cheddar. It was magnificent, and not the last of our fromage-laden celebrations this year. And thankfully we have plenty of leftovers, which is great, since the pills did their job and kept my system running smoothly last night. Ah, glorious cheese.

National Disc Jockey Day

Rather than lean on the eternal jukebox of Spotify today, we instead opted for some good ol’ radio. We haven’t abandoned radio, and in fact we pay monthly for the privilege of enjoying Sirius/XM Satellite options, as the music channels have no commercials, and they employ some of the greatest DJs on the planet. A proper shout-out on this day to some of the great DJs to pioneer the profession: Alan Freed, Dick Clark, Casey Kasem. And another shout-out to our favourite local DJs at community-driven station CKUA: Lionel Rault, Terry David Mulligan, Bob Chelmick, Grant Stovel, Allison Brock and Holger Petersen.

Jodie enjoyed some of Lisa Walton’s afternoon drive-time today. I hopped onto Sirius and started my day with David Johansen, lead singer of the New York Dolls, who puts on a rollicking ride of a show he calls the Mansion of Fun. Alas, this week’s episode featured a mix of 20’s/30’s blues and classical, and it was a bit too mellow for my morning commute, so I switched over to Marcus Miller’s jazz show. At work I was enjoying the staff of Little Steven’s channel, including Mighty Manfred, Palmyra Delran and Little Steven himself. On the ride home it was Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure, a show that still unveils new gems to me. Tonight I’ll give Drew Carey’s last show a spin.

A DJ can cultivate a mix of songs unlike any algorithm in a streaming service. The right DJ can explain the connections between songs, and teach us new things about the world through their selections. For example, I learned today from Mr. Miller that Dave Brubeck willed the royalties to his Time Out album to the American Red Cross. How cool is that? Don’t abandon radio, and don’t abandon the DJs who can truly ply their trade with style and aplomb. It’s still a profession that should be integral to our lives.

National Buttercrunch Day

Holy hell this was a busy day. If you flip back to January 8, you can read all about English Toffee, and how what Americans call toffee is generally known to the British as ‘buttercrunch’. Buttercrunch is generally made with almonds, so it’s the stuff you’ll find at the heart of a Skor bar or a Heath bar. We’re in Canada so Skor is our only option. We enjoyed this one tremendously – it was a brilliant end to a day that began with a snarly little grunt and a dog with bursting bowels.

Today will feature mostly me, as Jodie will be ferrying 40 kids to the theatre for a play tonight. We’ll get up to some fun though.

  • National Granola Bar Day. Should I eat a granola bar? No – most store-bought granola bars are processed crap. I’m going above and beyond and making my own tonight.
  • Museum Selfie Day. Looks like I’m taking a walk to snap some pics in front of some Edmonton museums. I’d go in to each one, but I still need to make a living.
  • National Hugging Day. Lots of hugs. Someone had better call HR, because our arms are gonna be a-wrappin’ ‘round folk today.
  • National Hug Your Puppy Day. What could be better than hugging people? Hugging puppies of course. We will be doing plenty of that.
  • National Squirrel Appreciation Day. The little fur-dude who lives in our shed out back will be getting a heap o’ peanuts today. He’ll know why.

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