Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Some days blast you with an icy gale from the inside and the out. Yesterday was one such day, with a perpetual grey flapping of arctic snarl shaking the treetops and another similar blast rocking ripples into my brain-meat. Some days the cloud finds you – this I learned long ago. And when those days roll around… well, that’s when we crank up the festivities and drown them out.

Dr. Seuss Day / National Read Across America Day

To declare that Ted Geisel changed the very texture of the world in which we live would be to give in to gross understatement. We all grew up frolicking through his rhymes and timing our heartbeats to complement his linguistic rhythms. We had our favourites: Jodie’s predilection for Christmas led her to favour the Grinch. I read, re-read, and re-re-read Green Eggs and Ham, as I could relate to the protagonist’s disdain for certain foods (sorry, mom).

Doc Seuss was so instrumental to so many early reading lists, his birthday (happy 116th, Ted!) has been adopted for National Read Across America Day, a celebration initiated by the National Education Association. So what can we learn about the man and his works?

At Dartmouth College he was forced to resign as editor-in-chief of the local humor magazine, the Jack-O-Lantern. This was because he was caught drinking gin, a big no-no under Prohibition laws. He sold his first nation-wide cartoon to The Saturday Evening Post for $25, the equivalent of about $363 today. His biggest source of income in the early 30s came from drawing for bug spray ads. He’d received so many rejections for his first book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, that he was on his way home to burn the manuscript when a chance encounter with an old classmate led to its publication. His first successful book illustration project was a 1931 book called Boners. Yes, Dr. Seuss got his big break with a book called Boners. Drop that little nugget at your next cocktail party.

It’s well-known that Dr. Seuss drew a myriad of propaganda pieces for the US in World War II, but did you know he won an Oscar? Design For Death – not a goofy, rhyming, rhythmic romp – won for Best Documentary Feature in 1947 as a grim look at Japanese life, meant for the US soldiers who were occupying the country after the war. Also, it should be noted that the pronunciation of his pen-name was originally meant to rhyme with “voice”. But since the anglicized take on his moniker could evoke a cerebral link with Mother Goose (which was good for business), he went with it.

Oh the places he took us. Happy birthday once more, Ted.

National Old Stuff Day

I found one source that suggests this day is meant for “giving notice” to our old stuff and making way for something new. But that doesn’t ring true to these (increasingly old) ears. National Old Stuff Day should be a day for toasting our older possessions, those trusty inanimate units that have joined us on our journey for these many years. Dust off that old Intellivision and play some Astrosmash. Take your mom’s old mixer out for a spin and bake something fabulous. That shabby old coat that cocoons you in comfort and the smells of campfire and memory – throw it on and wear it around.

I don’t believe in ascribing high praise and adulation to inanimate things, but for this day it makes a bit of sense. Jodie pulled out her oldest possession, a 1934 Shirley Temple doll that had once been a plaything of her grandmother’s. It’s a shockingly realistic doll, with actual human eyelashes glued to the lids. Where did they get these eyelashes? I shudder to think of the possibilities. But alas, there they are.

My old thing of choice was an original reel-to-reel copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released back before 8-tracks, back before cassettes. I know it was my dad’s and that he bought it when the album was fresh in 1967, but I can’t speak to its quality – I don’t have a machine lying around to play it. But it’s a fun novelty antique. Happy day to our old stuff – may you still be around to celebrate next year.

National Banana Cream Pie Day

We scoured the city on Saturday, searching for a banana cream pie to enjoy on this day. Alas, it seemed we would come up short and have to celebrate this one by ruminating on its wonder and sponging our chins from the drool that would no doubt accumulate. But Jodie was persistent, and the bakery at Save-on Foods finally provided us with something to enjoy.

In retrospect, I wished we’d opted for a banoffee pie, which is similar but incorporates toffee. We spotted one of those at a local diner on the weekend, and foolishly passed up bringing some home. But no matter – the universe provided us with a delicious dessert last night. Few pies can compete with the majesty of the banana cream – it is the very pinnacle of cream-piedom. Thankfully we can chalk this one off as another sweet success.

Fun Facts About Names Day

This is a continuation of Celebrate Your Name Week. Because we don’t want to miss a day, here is some jocular trivia to tickle your brain-holes:

  • James is the most popular North American boy name over the last century, though if you’re only counting people who are currently alive, the biggest hit is Michael.
  • Roughly 2% of all girls born in the last century in America have been named Mary.
  • Jennifer was the #1 girl’s name from 1970 through 1984, most likely because of Ali McGraw’s character in the popular film Love Story in 1970, then no doubt buoyed by Tina Youthers’ character on Family Ties in the early 80s.
  • You know how Madison has become a popular name in the last few decades? It wasn’t on any top list until Daryl Hannah stole her name off a street sign in Splash (1984).
  • The name of the cop on the Monopoly board is Officer Edgar Mallory, and the dude in the opposite corner is Jake the Jailbird.
  • The full names of those famous toys: Barbie Millicent Roberts and Ken Carson.
  • In June of 1996 a Danish woman won a 9-year court battle that would allow her to name her son “Christophpher.” In Denmark (like Iceland) you have to pick your kid’s names from a pre-approved list. She’d accrued $4,200 in fines because dammit, she wanted this win.

More name stuff to come tomorrow.

Today a hearty batch of madness awaits us:

  • Bonza Bottler Day. Another day to dive into a bottle of something new and awesome.
  • National Anthem Day. We’ll see if we can pick our favourite.
  • National I Want You To Be Happy Day. Because dammit, we do.
  • National Cold Cuts Day. Dinner’s plan is in the works.
  • National Mulled Wine Day. I doubt we’ll have any to consume, but I’ll learn a little something about it.
  • Soup It Forward Day. Now I wish I’d made more soup last month.
  • Hinamatsuri. This is a Japanese doll festival. I doubt we’ll be doing this today.
  • Unique Names Day. Jodie and Marty aren’t unique, but Christophpher probably is. We’ll find some more.
  • International Ear Care Day. To Q-tip or not to Q-tip?
  • Simplify Your Life Day. With all this stuff going on? Not likely.
  • National Moscow Mule Day. This is another one we probably won’t be able to get to, for timing reasons. But we can put it off a few days.

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