Sunday, March 15, 2020

The spice mix of daily conversation has seemingly dwindled to a single monotonous flavour these days. Only one topic is flicking people’s tongues into speaking, despite the fact we’re all tired of talking about it. Who has the thing? How do we avoid spreading the thing? How much ass-wiping will I need to do while I’m home hiding from or containing the thing? And so – as pneumonia (or maybe it’s the thing) continues to sideline Jodie, we have had to adjust our celebration planning. This is fine – we prefer celebrating from within our home anyway. Now we just have to.

White Day

In 1978, the Japanese candy industry was looking for a way to kick sales back into high gear after the post-Valentine’s slump. Since Valentine’s Day over there tends to emphasize women giving gifts to men, the National Confectionary Industry Association came up with White Day, for men to return the favour. Why White Day? Well, the year prior a company based out of Fukuoka marketed marshmallows on March 14 – maybe that’s why. We really don’t know.

So on this day it was up to the men to offer up gifts. Since Jodie so graciously bought me some awesome Simpsons-themed socks a month ago, I treated her to a Po’ Boy and an exquisite dessert today. Chocolate – still the gift of emphasis on White Day – was a part of that dessert.

Apparently sales have been down over the last few years, indicating that White Day may soon fade from the spotlight on March 14. This is fine – there are plenty of other things to keep us busy. And even other Valentine-reciprocal events, as you’ll see below.

National Learn About Butterflies Day

We had plans to visit the John Janzen Nature Centre in the heart of our river valley yesterday, as they are the go-to location for nature-learning in town. Alas, the hideous plague that has flattened Jodie has dictated that our learning be done from the comforts of home. So here’s what we learned about butterflies:

The monarchs have immense migration patterns, stretching from Canada to Mexico and back again, but it takes generations to complete the trip. No one monarch gets to see every stop along the route. They also used to be exclusive to North America, but somehow they’ve drifted over the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand. Butterfly mating takes place tail-to-tail (think Requiem For A Dream, but probably less depraved), and it can last for hours. Kudos to butterflies for figuring out that tantric stuff.

Some larvae form a treaty of sorts with ants. It’s a protection racket: the ants make sure no one messes with the larvae, while the larvae munch on plant sap and squirt a honeydew secretion (nothing to do with the melon) out their buttholes. The ants then gather that secretion, presumably as a gag gift for the queen.

Only three species of insect have a special classification making international trade of them illegal. All three are butterflies, including the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, which is the largest butterfly on the planet, clocking in at nearly 10 inches from wingtip to wingtip.

In Japanese culture, the butterfly is seen as the personification (or animalization) of a person’s soul. That sounds a bit kitschy, but hear me out: there was an odd little butterfly at my grandmother’s funeral, who hung around and watched the entire affair. A year later when we did the headstone unveiling, an identical butterfly made its presence known through the crowd. Her soul? Probably not… but it gave us something to think about. Most insects may be grotty and weird, but in butterflies I’ll believe there lies some magic.

Moth-er Day

And because they can use a cute little pun in their day, National Learn About Moths Day gets truncated to this. Sure, why not?

There are about 160,000 species of moths, few of which will elicit the same poetry one might use to describe a butterfly. That said, some moths are simply stunning. So how do you tell the difference between them? Generally butterflies have skinny little antennae, usually with little balls at the end of them. Moths’ antennae are feathery and flamboyant, with nothing at the far end. Otherwise it can be tricky to identify them – moths also start out from caterpillars.

Moths certainly do predate their colourful cousins, with fossil records going back 190 million years. Moths tend to be more of an inconvenience to us human-types, wrecking forests, devouring fruit off farms, devastating sugar cane crops and eating clothing. Most moths, however, don’t eat anything. They drink their nectar and get judged by the cotton-snarfing behaviours of its brethren. Poor things.

They do contribute though. The silkworm is a moth larva. Also, the larvae make up a substantial food source in Africa. That thought will make me appreciate my own food for the next few days. We have a natural tendency to be more judgmental of moths, and that may be in part due to their nocturnal behaviour. When the sun goes down we generally want to be done with bugs, yet the moths flitter and flutter around our light bulbs, reminding us we are far from alone in our little eco-sphere. Happy moth-er day, winged nighttime beasts.

International Fanny Pack Day

I can proudly boast that neither Jodie nor myself have ever donned a fanny pack and wandered into public. They are the calling cards of tourists and… let’s just say people of a certain age. They are undoubtedly helpful – a friend of mine in high school used to keep his pot and a little corn-cob pipe in his fanny pack and it struck me as brilliant – but they just aren’t fashionable. We’ve never even owned a fanny pack. That is, until yesterday.

Jodie found the above bag on amazon, specifically designed to hold dog treats for dogs in training. Now that we have a dog who appears actually able to learn commands (we’re used to bulldogs, who kind of do their own thing), this will be an asset. The bag can be worn around the shoulder, but Jodie has declared her intention to wear it around the waist. Our first pack for a fanny.

The fanny pack is a leftover trend from the 80s and 90s, but it hardly originated then. You can trace them back to the buffalo pouch used by Native Americans in place of pockets. Otzi, the “ice-man” mummy who was discovered in the Alps, wore a fanny pack around his waist some 5000 years ago. These things are here to stay.

And they make sense. They keep your valuables in a place that would be devilishly hard to pick-pocket. They are marketed to both men and women. And they’re a handy way to carry around your weed.

National Potato Chip Day

To celebrate the noble potato chip we each indulged in our favourite varieties. For Jodie that was Lays Salt & Vinegar, which we’ll both admit is wildly addictive. I went with Ruffles’ Sour Cream & Bacon, which has been at the top of my chip hit parade ever since a company named O’Ryans used to make them in the late 80s. Chips – or crisps, if you lean that way – are an easy thing to celebrate.

For the origin of the crisp (and we’ll call them that in this paragraph since it was a Brit who gets credit for inventing them) we look at The Cook’s Oracle, a cookbook put out by telescope inventor William Kitchiner in 1817. Another theory has a cook in Saratoga Spring, NY making them up a decade earlier for a customer who kept complaining his French-fried potatoes were too thick, soggy, and saltless. Either way, we’re looking at two centuries of chip history.

Chip history is actually a fairly dull affair until a guy named Joe “Spud” Murphy (I just love that name) came along. Spud owned the Irish crisps company Tayto, and the 1950s he figured out a way to distribute seasoning on the chips to give them a bit of flavour. He started out with salt & vinegar and cheese & onion. Both were huge hits. The first big flavour in the US was barbecue.

Here in Canada we can proudly boast that dill pickle, ketchup, jalapeno and all-dressed are standard. Lay’s in Indonesia has found success with honey butter, nori seaweed and salmon teriyaki flavours. Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands opt for red paprika flavour. Colombia offers chorizo chips, which must taste heavenly. And you just know stuff gets weird in Japan: how about wasabi, soy sauce and butter, garlic, plum, mayonnaise and scallop and butter flavours. What the hell, I’d try them all.

A great snack to celebrate. Happy Chip Day, everyone.

National Children’s Craft Day

If you’re a parent with kids in the school system, you’re going to be handed a big heap of macaroni art, pipe cleaner art, and crudely painted landscapes throughout the years. Most of them are charming, few of them are practical, but they almost always bring about a smile. Then a conundrum: what to do with years upon years of crafts? Yes, our kids poured their tiny artistic hearts into their creation. Odds are they won’t remember the specific act of art once adulthood hits. So do we keep them?

If you’re like us, and you haven’t yet downsized from your family home into your post-children recluse of peace, you’ll have plenty of room to keep these around. But eventually the day will come when decisions have to be made. It will tear at my heart to dispose of the little clothespin butterfly Colton made us, even though I’m positive he has zero recollection of the thing. The disposal of children’s crafts is a parent’s torment alone.

We had not planned to venture out and find a child with whom to fashion crafts yesterday – even without the dreaded illness weighing us down it would have been a weird choice. Instead we sifted through some of our kids’ old creations and reflected upon how we poured our beliefs that they were substantial artists into the receipt of every little one of these tchotchkes. Given that they both work in the arts now, I’m going to say we were bang-on right.

But we’re still going to have to throw some of these things away eventually.

National Write Down Your Story Day

Guess what? I did, and you’re reading it. This blog is the heart of many celebrations, but most importantly it’s documenting our journey through this weird set of 366 days. In the end it may become a book, or possibly just a manifesto of our madness. I have seen this journey as more than a lengthy perpetual party – it’s a test of how we’re able to rise above the bizarre and awful events of a murky society to maintain a positive perspective. It’s a journey through mental illness – battered at times due to a lack of free time and medications that have been on-and-off. In the end, we hope it will be a diary of a victory.

Many people aspire to write, but a common complaint is how hard it can be to get started. Does one write what one knows? Or does one opt for creating a thoroughly unique and complicated universe of absolute fantasy? I have written a few book-length stories – they haven’t been published so I’m hesitant to call them ‘books’ – and for me, what I know was a good jumping-off point.

It’s best not to worry about the big picture. Just write. Come to understand the language as music, and experiment with it. Don’t fret about building a great scene, just construct a few sentences that take your breath away. Eventually you’ll uncover some form of style, and from there the grand creation will take shape. Or it won’t, and you’ll scrap the thing. Every writer has a pile of Chapter Ones far more massive than their Chapter Twos. Just. Fucking. Write.

Pi Day

The dessert portion of my White Day lunch gift to Jodie yesterday was a delicious peanut butter chocolate pie, which happened to be the special at Da-De-O, Edmonton’s finest little diner. Da-De-O is unquestionably our favourite haunt in town, and when they have a dessert special it’s always something to celebrate. And for pi day, which is one of the more recognized celebrations in this project, it was the perfect choice.

Pi Day is, of course, a celebration of the number, not the dessert. The first three digits of pi are 3, 1, and 4, so March 14 (3/14) is the logical day to celebrate. This was first launched by physicist Larry Shaw in San Francisco back in 1988. Fruit pies were part of the party. Of course the real celebration occurred at 9:26:53 on March 14, 2015 (3/14/15), as that moment encompassed the first ten digits of pi (3.141592653). I have no doubt that was a hell of a party among the mathematical set.

Unlike pie – pi is irrational and transcendental. It is so intertwined with the mathematics of our universe it’s almost freakish. It seems to be an endless number with no repetition pattern, but just the table of contents of its Wikipedia page is enough to give us non-math folk a heinous chill. Cauchy’s integral formula? Modular forms and theta functions? Gaussian integrals? Thanks, but I’ll just eat some damn pie.

The Guinness record for recitation of the digits of pi from memory is held by Rajveer Meena, who rattled off the first 70,000 digits of pi in about 9 and a half hours. That is some serious pi celebrating.

National Steak & a BJ Day

And lastly we come to the other quid pro quo celebration for the day. This one originated on air in Boston, when DJ Tom Birdsey felt men were owed a celebration for the women to whom they gifted flowers and chocolate one month prior. The women should cook a delicious steak, then offer a bit of fellatio to their beloved men. Anyone surprised it wasn’t a woman who came up with this? No one?

We did gather a pair of delicious steaks from our butcher, though it was I who cooked them. I’m going to be graphically honest here: the BJ was not on the menu, due to the corona-esque bout of pneumonia currently coursing through Jodie’s innards. If it had been on the menu, my graphic honesty may have been withheld – after all, our families read this stuff, and I like to pretend I’m a gentleman from time to time.

Will we postpone that part? I won’t say. I will point out, however, that National Cake & Cunnilingus Day is on April 14, so that’s something to look forward to.

Another frantic day, most likely involving us staying at home and hiding our germs from the planet.

  • National Shoe The World Day. A donation will be made to a charity that specializes in providing shoes to the needy.
  • National Pears Helene Day. I get to prepare a dessert I’ve never even heard of, let alone tried.
  • National Everything You Think Is Wrong Day. No grand decisions will be made today, as clearly whatever conclusion we come to will be faulty.
  • National Kansas Day. We are in Kansas anymore, Toto, and we’ll be rocking Lou Belle’s best-ever meatloaf – apparently a Kansas classic.
  • Red Nose Day. Another charitable offering for another great cause.
  • World Speech Day. We’ll take a few moments and listen to some sort of inspiring speech.
  • World Contact Day. Apparently we can celebrate this by… sending a telepathic message into space. Oh that should be easy.
  • True Confessions Day. We’ll share a little nugget of info about each of us.
  • National VO Day. A day to pay tribute to the great voice-overers of our era. A little H. Jon Benjamin love.

One thought on “Sunday, March 15, 2020

  1. I’m enjoying your posts so much – perhaps somewhat as a respite from the crazyness surrounding us. Sorry to hear that Jodie is down with the plague (or some plague). Tell her to reach out if she needs anything. Stay well, wash your hands!


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