Thursday, April 2, 2020

We were tickled to learn that a few folks were drawn in by our pause-the-party prank yesterday. Three months into this madness and there is no chance we’ll be taking a break. Either this celebration carousel spins all the way through the end of December or we’ll go down with it in a sea of flames and carnage. All or nothing. Balls placed firmly to the wall and such. Yesterday we soldiered on, believing some or none of what we read and facing each celebration like it was January 1. Also, it was about 20 degrees colder than it was on January 1, so that helped.

April Fool’s Day

The history of April Fool’s Day goes back hundreds of years. In my lifetime I’ve seen it evolve from an effort-heavy celebration of prank elaborateness into the simple act of posting a falsehood on social media and seeing who will fall for it. Yesterday some K-pop singer posted that he had become infected with COVID-19, only to reveal it was a “joke”. Damn, even the minimal amount of effort I put into my pausing-the-project gag was more effective and interesting. This is the problem with April Fools Day. The people trying their hardest to deliver a joke because it’s April 1st are often the people who are incapable of landing a joke with even the slightest bit of aplomb.

Jodie’s relationship with this day of goofery is not pleasant. When she was young she watched a friend get cruelly pranked by his parents that a puppy gift was awaiting him, and she heard the sound of his heartbreak reverberating through the county for days after he received nothing. This effectively soured her outlook on pranks. I still get a laugh from them, provided they aren’t mean-spirited.

This is not a culture-specific tradition. In Poland, people are well trained not to believe anything anyone says until noon on April 1 – that seems to be a recurring motif around the world, that lunchtime signals the end of the madness. In fact, a 1683 treaty between the Poles and Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I was back-dated to March 31, just so the population would know it was real. Up in Scandinavia media outlets continue to post false stories every year. In the French countries of Europe, it’s tradition to stick a paper fish onto someone’s back as an “April Fish” prank. French people can be odd.

I think the collective sense of humor is running a little ragged this year, so we didn’t hear about a lot of magnificent pranks. This is fine – we had plenty of other things to keep us busy yesterday:

National Sourdough Bread Day

A simple enough request, to celebrate the glory of a well-baked sourdough. Our options were limited of course, with most of our fanciest and schmanciest bakeries shut down. But we grabbed a sliced loaf that will still meet the requirements for this little salute. Then we ordered in grilled cheese for dinner, made upon the flour-y foundation of sourdough as well.

The act of allowing the dough to ferment before baking dates back to a few millennia before recorded history. If you’re looking for a food celebration with some roots to it, you can’t get much deeper than this one. Baker’s yeast has only been used to leaven bread for the last 150 years or so. Sourdough is still the method of choice in northern Europe, and for some palettes around the globe, it’s the best.

For those who are gluten-sensitive, sourdough is one of the less offensive breadstuffs to their system, likely because of the acidity of the dough during fermentation. That said, it’s still off the proverbial table. Fortunately for me, dairy is my gustatory nemesis.

The chemistry behind sourdough is intense and elaborate, and not something I feel I need to dig into very deeply in order to call this a successful celebration. Will it enhance my appreciation of sourdough to know that type-II has a pH less than 3.5, or which lengthy-Latin-named yeast produces the best fermentation at 60-85 degrees? No, I just want to eat the bread, enjoy the bread, and toast the bread. In a celebratory sense – I didn’t put the actual bread into a toaster. I see how that choice of terminology may have been poor. Anyway, sourdough rocks – happy day.

Childhope National Day of Hope / National Child Abuse Prevention Month

The first Wednesday of April sees us paying tribute to kids who are in abusive situations, as it launches National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This year brings with it a particularly dire clang with this event – those kids who are trapped in those abusive households are now quite literally trapped there full-time. I know teachers are wrestling with this realization, but quarantine restrictions have our collective hands tied.

More than a thousand kids die from abuse and neglect every year in the US, and we see a comparable ratio here in Canada. The hotlines are still open, even if the responses may be tweaked right now. Call 911 if you see a kid in distress, or if you are pretty sure something is up but there is no imminent danger, the Alberta line to call is 1-800-387-5437 (which spells KIDS). I don’t know how staffed they are, or how much intervention can take place right now, but if you can help a kid, it’s worth a shot.

We took a five-minute silent break yesterday, in honour of the five kids who die every day in the US due to neglect or abuse. We don’t know if the number is going to be higher this year, but it might. Pass it around – we’ve got to stay diligent.

National Walking Day

Such a profoundly basic act as walking gets its own day? I look forward to whenever National Breathing Day shows up. This was introduced by the American Heart Association in 2007 as a way of getting people to get out of their homes and go for a heart-friendly walk. This was a terrific service to that bizarre demographic of people who were sitting around, waiting for a national celebration to nudge them into an act of exercise. Fortunately, we are two such people.

Actually, we walk our dogs just about every day, when the weather is not sadistic and the pups aren’t already worn out from frolicking at day care. Yesterday certainly fell into the former category, with windchill keeping things at or below -20 for most of the day. Spring shows up in April, right? Is that still a thing?

Walking is, as will surprise no one, great for your health. There are numerous known drawbacks to jogging and running, in particular on the joints and bones (also, there’s something called Jogger’s Testicle, and no one wants that), but walking is outstanding for your hips, for your heart, for your mental health, and even to lower your risk of cancer. Walking is what got us as a species out of the ocean and onto land. Walking is one of the first things we learn as little humans. Walking is still the best mode of transportation. I mean, everywhere is walking distance really. You’ve just got to be willing to put in the time.

Happy walking, fellow revellers.

International Fun At Work Day

An incalculable (well, it’s probably calculable, I just don’t have the time or the math skills) amount of people are either working from home or out of work right now, which makes the appearance of this day somewhat of a snarky little irony. But we made it work yesterday, as we are both fortunate to still have jobs. In both cases, we celebrated with dogs – Jodie brought Liberty with her to her mostly empty school, and I remoted into work while keeping Rosa (pictured above) and her less energetic sister Trixie entertained.

National Fun At Work Day landed on January 28, and for that day I walked my coworkers through a rousing game of Family Feud through a Powerpoint template in our conference room. Jodie indulged in numerous fun moments with her students. Yesterday we simply did what we could.

This is one day – and I refer here to this celebration in particular, not April Fool’s or the thing with the bread – that should be bumped to whenever we all return to whatever normal will look like in a few months. For those of you who had a little fun at work yesterday, congrats. To the rest of you, your time will come.

National Trombone Players Day

Our combined skill on the trombone is less than zero, but we were both happy to pay tribute to some of the greats with a few choice cuts yesterday. The trombone is the most conversational of the brass instruments, gliding around the musical staff with ease and inflection. It can deliver a haunting gentleness with a full, wholistic tone, or it can growl and seethe with a guttural rumble. Those extremes and everything in between make the trombone an instrument versatile enough to fit cleanly into everything from classical to grit-funk.

The trombone, which literally translates from its Italian roots as ‘large trumpet’, used to be called a ‘Sackbut’ in Renaissance times. I almost want to just stop there – how do you continue to learn about an instrument after hearing it was once called a sackbut? In German city-states, trombonists were on the municipal payroll, standing watch in towers and signalling new arrivals to the locals, no doubt using comical descending riffs when an insurance salesman came to call.

When Italian classical music rose to prominence in England in the 1700s, the sackbut came to be known by its Italian moniker. The instrument became established as a crucial (though rarely soloing) chunk of brass sections from that point onward, and it helped solidify the sound of early jazz, thanks to pioneers like Jack Teagarden. Nowadays you’ll find trombones everywhere from marching bands to rock horn sections. If you’re lucky you’ll chance upon a superbone, which – in addition to being a great porn name – features the trombone slide mechanism as well as the valves like you’d find on a trumpet.

Trombone Shorty, a funk/jazz/rocker from New Orleans, was our musician of choice yesterday, and a fine way to celebrate this kick-ass instrument.

Today we roll forward with tastiness:

  • National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. One of the greatest sandwich inventions of all time. This will be toasted heartily.
  • National Burrito Day. And now dinner is planned. Sometimes this calendar makes life so easy.
  • National Ferret Day. No chance of visiting a pet store to get up close and personal with a ferret as planned, so we’ll just learn about the creatures.
  • Love Your Produce Manager Day. Okay, sure. We don’t… okay, whatever.
  • Reconciliation Day. A day to forgive and to move forward.

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