Monday, March 16, 2020

Can one exist in a vacuum of quarantine and still meet the requirements of a perpetual party? When you have dogs, food, drinks, and an imagination that could disparage even the most distant cries of apocalyptic fervor, absolutely. And so we turned to ourselves for a day of endless potential:

National Shoe The World Day

I enjoy when these days force us to look outside ourselves, beyond the goodies we can gullet-cram or the boozy drinks we can use to float down the lazy river of inebriation. Don’t get me wrong – those celebrations are great too, but this would become a staid and selfish endeavour if we didn’t help the world a little. And holding open doors for Good Samaritan Day isn’t much.

Shoes are something we first-world middle-classers tend to take for granted. We’ve always had them, and most of us have never known what it’s like to not own a single pair, either because our feet grew or our old pair simply wore out and we can’t afford to shop. We think of poverty – and I’m talking about domestic poverty – and we think of food, shelter, and donating clothes to keep folks warm in the tundra. But a parka or a toque is one-size-fits-all, while a pair of shoes is a special custom fit, and a lot trickier of a need to fill from a charity bin.

Enter soles4souls, a non-profit that operates in the US and Canada (and far beyond), aiming to raise funds or to raise shoes for kids who will appreciate them. Since they launched in 2006, they’ve bestowed over 35 million pairs of shoes to people in 127 countries. We pledged a donation to the cause to honour this day, and we encourage you to do the same, even though you’re reading these words at least a day late.

It’s a damn fine cause, and a good way to spew some positive energy into a world that could use it.

True Confessions Day

Please, nobody ever read this magazine.

This is another celebration carved into the calendar by Thomas and Ruth Roy, those mischievous mirth-makers who created 80+ holidays just because they could. Today we are supposed to clear our consciences by uttering hidden confessions to one another, and subsequently to the world. Here’s how that went:

Marty: I confess, I’ve never actually seen the entirety of a movie in the Aliens franchise.

Jodie: I can’t stand U2, don’t like Rush, don’t really like Pink Floyd, and Ed Sheeran makes me want to throw up.

Marty: I have never tried a Shamrock Shake, and I didn’t care for the McRib.

Jodie: I hate cooking.

Marty: I don’t particularly care for one of our kids. (NOTE: this was simply to see if either of our kids read these articles)

Jodie: I grew up in a large family, yet I was very lonely.

Marty: I love great musicians, and sometimes I just adore lengthy jams, but the Dave Matthews Band does absolutely nothing for me.

Jodie: I’m not a fan of alcohol.

Marty: I am.

I think Jodie gets the credit for being more forthcoming and honest, but let’s face it – she’s a more interesting human than I am. If any of our readers would like to pour their true confessions onto our social media, I can promise no judgment. From us, anyway – the rest of our readers may shame you.

Everything You Think Is Wrong Day

Yesterday Jodie thought we should order McDonald’s for lunch. She was wrong – it was kind of gross. I thought I’d enjoy a second cup of coffee. I was wrong – I neglected the cup, and about halfway through it took a huge gulp of tepid drink and it was icky. This is the extent of the massive decisions we reached yesterday, for yesterday we were told we should avoid decisions altogether.

This strikes me as an ineffective little celebration. Being aware of this alleged truth, that our instincts and gut feelings were destined to be wrong because the calendar says so, means the day is either spent cowering at home, or we will over-think every itch that nudges us in any direction. Fortunately, cowering at home is the in thing in 2020, so we just did that.

I’d prefer to envision this day as a heads-up for people to consider others in their decision-making, and to ensure selfishness and narcissism aren’t running the show. The decisions anyone reaches on any given day may be wrong, but we can mitigate the damage by exhibiting just a smidge of empathy. This world could use some of that right now.

World Speech Day

For the last five years, World Speech Day has been encouraging people to speak their minds and hearts. Speeches can change the world; you don’t need a masters in history to rattle off a few of the globe-quaking speeches of the last 100 years. This day began at the Athens Democracy Forum in 2015, and in a short time it has grown like a weed. Over 100 countries took part last year, and I have no doubt it was even bigger yesterday.

You can pop over to the World Speech Day website and see videos from the past few years of great speech-giving for the event. Or you can do what we did, and honour the day by picking out some of your favourite speeches. Jodie tends to lean toward some MLK magic (the man was undoubtedly the finest orator of his generation), while I went to the land of pretend-but-damn-we-wish-it-was-real and tuned into some of Jed Bartlet’s most presidential utterances from The West Wing.

A great speech is not simply something that stirs up passion and enthusiasm. A truly great speech should transfer through generations, and should inspire those who are not directly affected by its content. A great speech hangs on the words within it. Words that evoke, that provoke, and that turn the mind in on itself. Yelling monosyllabically about one’s enemies may rally the troops, but it won’t echo through time.

Again, we refrain from injecting politics into this project, however I feel a mention of the current US president is necessary here. Like him or hate him, the man is quite terrible at composing or delivering a speech. His unscripted remarks (so, most of them) get his base to pump their fists in agreement, but there is no eloquence, no poetry in his composed thoughts. Even his prepared statements fall flat because he also lacks the ability to deliver their contents in a way that reverberates with thunder and gravitas. It’s far from the most important presidential duty, but I do look forward to feeling the stirrings of history in a presidential speech once again. Until then, we’ve always got Youtube.

National Kansas Day

It was on January 29 when we celebrated the actual Kansas Day, the anniversary of the Sunflower State’s induction into the Union. That was the day we made bierocks (which were fantastic). Yesterday, which was the Kansas Day that follows our once-per-week state celebrations, was less official, but at least as delicious.

According to the 1989 publication of The Kansas Cookbook, Lou Belle’s best-ever meat loaf (recipe located here) is a Kansas classic. I was unable to find specifically who Lou Belle was, or why his meatloaf is so spectacular, but no matter. We made the loaf and we loved the loaf – it was profoundly tasty.

What do we know about Kansas, apart from its geographic position only a tornado-ride away from the Land of Oz? The state was known as Bleeding Kansas in the late 1850s, as the nation was divided over whether or not the soon-to-be state would be pro or anti-slavery. The anti-slavery folks won, and Kansas landed on the right side of history. Kansas was the first state to go no-alcohol, way back in 1881. That state-wide constitutional ban was nixed in 1948. Kansas is home to the Westboro Baptist Church, but let’s not hold a few smarmy ass-hats against the entire state. Kansas also voted against same-sex marriage in 2005, took evolution out of the classroom in 1999, and in 2006 passed a law setting the minimum age for marriage at 15.

Okay, maybe Kansas needs to give its head a shake after all. I suppose this is why a lot of the great Kansassians made their mark outside of state lines. We’ve got Melissa Ethridge from Leavenworth, Martina McBride from Sharon, the immortal Charlie Parker from Kansas City, Joe Walsh from Wichita, Dan and Frank Carney, founders of Pizza Hut, from Wichita, Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family from Kansas City, Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel from Wichita, Dennis Hopper from Dodge City, Kirstie Alley from Wichita, Fatty Arbuckle from Smith Center, and the great Buster Keaton from Piqua. Not a bad roster of talent.

World Contact Day

Is this a day to pay tribute to the invention of the contact lens? Perhaps a day when we’re encouraged to reach out to one another and truly connect? Hey, maybe it’s a day to celebrate the old TV show, 3-2-1-Contact.

No, it’s much weirder than that. In 1953, a group of absolutely rational human beings calling themselves the International Flying Saucer Bureau (or, IFSB if that’s more familiar to you) decided that March 15 should be put aside for all members to take a moment and send a telegraphic message into space. This is the message they focussed upon, and sent into the ether:

“Calling occupants of interplanetary craft! Calling occupants of interplanetary craft that have been observing our planet, EARTH. We of IFSB wish to make contact with you. We are your friends, and would like you to make an appearance here on EARTH. Your presence before us will be welcomed with the utmost friendship. We will do all in our power to promote mutual understanding between your people and the people of EARTH. Please come in peace and help us in our EARTHLY problems. Give us some sign that you have received our message. Be responsible for creating a miracle here on our planet to wake up the ignorant ones to reality. Let us hear from you. We are your friends.”

Needless to say, this probably didn’t work. If any aliens did show up because of this message, either they opted not to help us in our EARTHLY problems, or the phrase “we will do all in our power” was underscored by the fact that the IFSB has no actual power, and the government took over and vaporized the aliens. This is an utterly silly day, but we did our part by participating in a mass transcendental meditation event at 4:05 yesterday, meditating alongside thousands around the globe. I’d bet no one involved in that TM blast was specifically sending messages to aliens, but I gave them a thought. So far, they haven’t dropped in.

World Consumer Rights Day

Hey, I can actually speak to this matter without doing any research! I spend my non-celebrating time toiling in a beige-grey cubicle in the consumer protection wing of our provincial government. I can inform everyone of a few key facts regarding consumer life in Alberta.

  • If you have a gift card, it will not have a secret monthly fee, nor will it expire.
  • This is not the case for any gift card sponsored by a Bank – those Southgate Mall gift cards are linked to a bank, so they don’t have to follow the rules.
  • If you get a written estimate for a job, that job cannot then cost more than 10% of that estimate, up to $100.
  • If a business lies, or breaks any of the rules to get you to sign a contract, you can cancel that contract within a year with no penalty.
  • If a door-to-door salesperson sells you something, you have 10 days to cancel that sale.
  • If you want to hire a contractor for any job, that contractor must have a licence with the provincial government if they are going to take any money in advance. This means the contractor has put up a bond, and you’re protected if they take the money and don’t do the job. There’s even an online tool you can use to check if a business or individual is licensed. If they aren’t, you can still hire them, but you’d better only pay them when the job is complete.
  • Lastly and most importantly, if you feel you’ve been screwed over, you can file a complaint with our investigations unit, and they’ll attempt to exact some measure of justice for you.

I’m a bit taken aback by how many people don’t know the basics of the consumer laws that protect them. They aren’t perfect or comprehensive, but they have created a mostly fair marketplace in this province, and they’re there for your protection. Be smart and be savvy, and do your research before a big purchase. It’s not that hard.

National Peanut Lovers Day

Remember how we’ve already had National Peanut Butter Day and National Peanut Butter Lovers Day? Well, National Peanut Day drops on September 13, by which time I have no doubt we’ll have completely forgotten that we have already paid tribute to the noble peanut. Way to double-dip once again, peanut industry.

The peanut, as we have mentioned before, is technically a legume and not a nut. We’ll let that slide, just as we have vowed not to correct anyone who identifies the monster specifically as “Frankenstein.” The peanut dates back for thousands of years, and has always been seen as an important crop. The US Department of Agriculture had an entire program aimed at pushing Americans to eat and/or grow peanuts in the late 1800’s and into the 20th century.

The peanut is, as far as crops go, a versatile son of a bitch. Its butter we have twice lauded as exquisite. Its flour can create a gluten-free experience. Its oil is delicious, and has a high smoke point, which makes it great for high-temperature cooking. Satay food is insanely good, one of the greatest flavours on the planet. Peanuts have been used extensively by the World Health Organization as an effective way to combat malnutrition around the world. It’s even great food for livestock.

Peanuts can be made into furniture polish, insecticides, paint, soap, plastic, glue, leather dressings, lubricant, varnish, nitroglycerin and even fuel. It’s even suggested (but not yet hard fact) that a serving a day will lower your risk for heart disease. We will definitely admit to being peanut lovers in this house – we enjoyed a few barbecue-seasoned roasted peanuts yesterday in tribute. And we’ll look forward to toasting them again in about six months.

National Pears Helene Day

What, you may be asking yourself, the fuck is Pears Helene? Who is Helene? Why does she like pears? Why are you asking so many questions?

Also known as poire belle Hélène (you know, because it’s French and all), this is a dessert made by noted chef Auguste Escoffier around 1864. It’s a simple creation, featuring pears, dark chocolate and a sugar syrup, served over ice cream with some toasted almonds overtop. I’d never heard of it before this day, but I was happy to oblige our little calendar friend and bring it to life.

The dish was named after La belle Hélène, an operetta by Jacques Offenbach. This marks (I think) the first dish I’ve ever prepared that was named after an opera. What a delightful twist to end a Sunday.

Schools are closed, and Jodie is too sick to go anyway. Because my place of work doesn’t really care much for my health, I’m at work today. Here’s what we’ve got:

  • Everything You Do Is Right Day. A nice contrast with the negative holiday today, though I don’t suspect it will be 100% accurate either.
  • National Artichoke Hearts Day. I always loved artichokes as a kid – tonight I’ll make them for the first time.
  • National Panda Day. None in town, but we can learn a little something about these cute little savages.
  • Lips Appreciation Day. We’ll do some whistling, some straw-sucking, some sound effects, some bilabial plosives, and who knows? Maybe some snogging.
  • Act Happy Day. If we can’t be happy, I suppose today we’ll have to fake it.
  • No Selfies Day. An easy thing to achieve.

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