Tuesday, April 7, 2020

As the world quivers and quakes, as the sunrise sends jittery ripples through the collective vibe, we once more face the prospect of cheering on the minutiae of existence from within our home’s walls. Jodie ventured to work in her mostly-empty school once more, but I opted to skip my shower until lunchtime and work like a slob at my desk. Who would care? Certainly not the dogs – bribe them with food and they’ll accept any look we present to them. They are great colleagues.

National Sorry Charlie Day

Does anybody under the age of 40 have any clue who Charlie the Tuna was? I’m going to guess that’s a big ol’ no. For those who don’t (or for those who need a refresher on ad campaigns that wrapped up some 35 years ago), Charlie was an animated tuna who shilled on TV for the Starkist tuna company. The storyline was that Charlie considered himself to be a dude with great taste, and for that reason he has submitted himself to be gutted, fileted, and mushed up by the Starkist company so that his innards could grace the contents of a few cans in a supermarket. Charlie wanted to die, and he wanted Starkist to take care of it. Starkist, of course, replied with a forlorn “Sorry Charlie”, stating they don’t want tunas with great taste, they want tunas who taste great. So… poor Charlie had to keep on living.

To make things weirder, Charlie appeared as a beatnik, and spoke with a curious jive. He was voiced by Herschel Bernardi, an Emmy and Tony-nominated actor. And for some reason, a lady named Cathy Runyan-Svacina of Kansas City founded Charlie’s fan club and established this day. This day, which we are still celebrating even though the Starkist Charlie ads stopped broadcasting sometime in the mid-80s. The purpose of this day is purportedly to contemplate rejection, and the times that rejection spurned us forward.

I mean – Charlie was rejected in all those commercials, but we have to believe he still died, right? So there’s… hope for all of us?

I have certainly spent some time wallowing in rejection. I wrote a book many years ago, and it was rejected by every publisher and agent I sent it to, possibly because it wasn’t the right time for that story to hit the streets, or possibly because it stunk. Who knows? It didn’t stop me from writing though. Jodie, whose experience in theatre is primarily as a director, auditioned for an acting role in a musical a couple years back and was rejected – she will try again once the theatre world resumes its course, provided an attractive opportunity shows up. Rejection is merely a pause of anticipation before the next great thing. There is always a way forward. Try hard enough, and if a tuna company won’t butcher you, there’s always a motorboat propeller around somewhere.

National Tartan Day

Hopping up my family tree a couple of branches, my mom’s father connects me to the Logan clan. I know nothing about the Logan clan history, and until recently I wasn’t even aware we had our own tartan. That’s it pictured up there. I suppose the right thing to do would be to have a kilt made from this tartan, but where would I wear it? I’m not a kilt guy. I’d worry about thigh chafage and Marilyn Monroe-esque street grate incidents.

While tartans are associated with Scottish clans – and if you have Scottish heritage you should check out which tartan you’re linked to – they used to be more of a regional thing, with weavers making use of the dyes they had access to. It was in the mid-1800s that specific patterns were linked to family names. So in a sense the tartan, while truly a Scottish tradition, has been coopted to create an artificial sense of family pride and history. There were no Logans roaming the highlands (or lowlands, or sea-level-lands) in the 1300s sporting the tartan pattern above, or if there were it was a coincidence.

But by now the mid-1800s are history, so we can trace a smidgen of pride along with our official pattern. The first Logan on record is Robert Logan, who in 1204 witnessed the resignation of the lands of Ingilbristoun. There was Dominus Walter Logan, who was captured by the British and hanged in 1306. Sir Robert Logan was a traded hostage in 1424 in an effort to free James I. Then there was Robert Logan of Restalrig, who was the last Logan baron, and was described by his peers as “ane godless, drunken and deboshit man.” That’s my peeps right there.

It was a good day to learn a little something about my deep past, and to take a bit of pride in our family’s assigned tartan, which is shared with the MacLennans. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get all drunken and deboshit (whatever that means), and keep on celebrating.

National Teflon Day

On this sacred day we pause to appreciate just how crappy our lives would be were it not for the glory of Teflon. Teflon: that which allows our eggs to scootch off the pan and onto a plate without disturbing the integrity of the yolk; that which saves us the burden of the soak ‘n scrape; that which makes all the magic of our other celebrations possible.

Teflon, or polytetrafluoroethylene to its close friends, was discovered by complete accident, courtesy of Roy J. Plunkett of DuPont. Roy was looking to invent a new chemical to use for refrigeration when his bottle of tetrafluoroethylene gas registered as ‘empty’. “Why the fuck,” thought Roy, albeit probably without the expletive because men were more gentlemanly in 1938, “is there still some weight to this bottle when it’s empty?” He sawed the thing open and found the inside coated with an incredibly slick compound. Teflon was trademarked in 1945, and one of its first uses was to coat the valves and seals in the pipes containing uranium hexafluoride in the first nuclear weapons.

Thankfully, French engineer Marc Grégoire was more interested in using the stuff on his fishing tackle. His wife suggested he plop some onto one of her frying pans, and Tefal, the first non-stick pots and pans company, was born.

Since then, Teflon has popped up in a number of applications. It cuts down the friction in ski bindings. It repels stains on formal school uniforms. It’s used as a patch to relieve friction-induced blisters. It’s used in the manufacture of flares and pyrotechnic displays. It’s used on bike chains and dental floss. It’s even used in the feet of some gaming mice to enable a quicker slide.

Ironically, we didn’t actually use our Teflon pans yesterday, though we did enjoy some leftovers (the rest of our burrito stuff, plus our leftover chicken cordon bleu) that had slipped and slid across our Teflon surface in their preparation. Teflon is an absolute gift, and we are extremely grateful that Roy J. Plunkett cracked open that quirky little bottle.

National Caramel Popcorn Day

Two days ago it was all about the caramel, and honestly we bought enough to stretch that little celebration out for a few days. This was an irresponsible choice, as we have enough dessert stuff to keep us weighted down for weeks, including a bag of caramel popcorn that we cracked open last night. So, we dug in, and dug deeper into our quarantine weight-gain.

Kettle popcorn was the first concoction to blend a little sweet along with the natural saltiness of popcorn, but the first person to smother popcorn in a candy coating was none other than Mr. Jack, first name Cracker. Cracker Jack, the first true junk food, was introduced at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, but its roots go further back. Ads for sugar-coated popcorn can be found as early as 1857. Early attempts at Cracker Jack production were insanely sticky and clumpy, but once they figured out how to drop a bit of oil into the drum with the molasses, it changed everything.

Caramel popcorn is a near-perfect snack. I feel the “Chicago Mix” that has become hugely popular lately, with a blend of caramel popcorn and cheese-coated popcorn (which does not, tragically, get its own day this year), is the perfect salty/sweet dichotomy. We are all about the sweet snacks though, and this one was a great pick-up for a Monday evening.

Plan Your Epitaph Day

Alright, a little bit grim for having just crammed our gullets full of caramel corn, but okay. To be clear, an epitaph is usually something written on a person’s tombstone. As both Jodie and myself have expressed a sincere desire to be cremated and not to take up real estate in a cemetery, we really don’t need an epitaph. But that’s no fun, is it? Okay, so our epitaphs might read something like this:

Here lies Jodie Schwartz, beloved mother, wife, sister, daughter, and all-around good egg. She taught thousands to express themselves, to believe in themselves, and to open their hearts to others. The reason that this world you’re still in hasn’t devolved into complete shit probably has a lot to do with her.

Here lies Marty Schwartz, beloved father, husband, son, and president of the local chapter of the Yahoo Serious fan club. He wrote millions of words that were read by two, maybe three people, and he found most of you to be hilarious. Especially with your sex and difficult-poop faces.

Kind of sweet, right? Maybe we will rethink our plans for the great beyond, and get these suckers carved right away. Is there a National Pay For Your Tombstone Day? If not, does anyone want to make one up? Much appreciated.

National Twinkie Day

Oh how I wish we’d have known about this day prior to our supply run over the weekend. Alas, we are celebrating National Twinkie Day with nary a Twinkie in our possession. Truth is, neither of us have downed a Twinkie in a number of years – in fact I can safely say I have watched the character Al Powell in Die Hard (and Die Hard 2)consume more Twinkies than I myself have consumed in my adult life. Hell, maybe even my childhood – my parents were not eager to buy these particular snacks.

The Twinkie turned 90 yesterday, having been first created by James Alexander Dewar for the Continental Baking Company on April 6, 1930. The CBC (the one from the previous sentence, not the broadcast network) had a bunch of machines laying around which were used for squirting strawberry filling into strawberry shortcake snacks, so James came up with a banana cream to keep the machines humming, and changed history.

Twinkies have held a remarkably massive place in our popular culture. It’s the favourite dessert of the lead character in Steve Martin’s The Jerk. Egon uses a Twinkie to compare the amount of psychokinetic energy blasting through New York in Ghostbusters. Genghis Khan was lured into a phone booth with a Twinkie to help out Bill and Ted in their original Excellent Adventure. In WALL-E, the titular robot still has some Twinkies on hand 700 years after humans have left the earth, and he feeds them to his pet cockroaches.

It has even showed up in a court of law, when the asshole who murdered San Francisco mayor Harvey Milk tried to demonstrate that his diet of so many Twinkies was indicative of the depression he was suffering from, and that should excuse his actions. The dude wound up getting convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Even the Twinkie has a dark side.

For all they do, for the possibility that they will survive the apocalypse (the real one, not this temporary one we’re all dancing through at the moment), and for the fact that the world breathed a massive sigh of relief when Apollo Global Management saved the brand after Hostess went under, we salute the Twinkie.

National Fun Day

Ah, so this is the one day out of 366 this year in which we are supposed to have fun. Did everyone make sure to have fun yesterday? I hope so. I’d hate for you to have squandered your opportunity, only to have to wait until the first Monday of next April to enjoy yourselves. That’s right – this is not an April 6 celebration; it shows up on a Monday, no matter what. Because that makes complete sense.

I love the suggestions for celebrating National Fun Day – you know, for the folks who want to celebrate but have no idea how to have fun. You can visit friends, play your favourite sport, maybe go to your favourite restaurant. Or, as was the case yesterday, you can do none of those things. You can have inside, by-yourself or with-your-quarantine-buddies fun. Since that includes only Jodie, myself, and our three canine research assistants, we completed the task ourselves.

For fun, we played with the dogs. We took them for a walk (which was more fun for them, as it’s still winter). I played some Civilization VI and Jodie played the brick-blasting game that has been enthralling her from her iPhone screen for the last few months. We watched some comedy TV and laughed. We talked about Twinkies whilst eating caramel corn. I wrote over 3,000 words about celebrations that I could achieve mostly from the comfort of my office chair.

Every day is National Fun Day here at Celebration366. Every. Goddamn. Day.

International Trombone Week

With National Trombone Players Day having dropped on April 1, it should be pretty damn easy to take a bite out of International Trombone Week. I already listened to Trombone Shorty last week, and it’s hard to top that. So yesterday I changed it up and spent a few glorious funkified hours of my afternoon with Fred Wesley. Why Fred and not one of the great jazz trombonists? Because it was Monday, it was Fun Day, and we like to funk in this house.

Fred Wesley was one of the horn-blowing champions of James Brown’s band. He was the musical director of the JBs, and even put out a number of records under that band’s flag. He blasted on “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud)”, and co-wrote “Hot Pants” among others. He did a lot of the arranging for the JBs, and alongside saxophonist Maceo Parker, and he helped to define the sound that would truly define what funk is, was, and should be. When it came time to evolve as a musician, he swooped over to jazz and joined Count Basie’s band. He has been a professor, a mentor, and a visiting artist at heaps of schools. He also joined up with a klezmer/hip hop artist and goddamn, that is something I just have to hear.

Yep, Socalled is on Spotify, and it’s just as awesome as it sounds. For bringing life and unadulterated might to the trombone and solidifying its role in pure funk, we thank Mr. Wesley and joyously pay tribute to him and all the great trombonists out there with this magical week.

Dog Appreciation Month

Finally, a month when we can appreciate our dogs. After having spent the last eleven months getting little more than neglect and scorn from us, they can take their rightful place as keepers of our joy and gratitude.

Regular readers of this page (and we thank all of you, and insist your cheques are forthcoming eventually) will know that this is utter horseshit. We spend an inordinate amount of time appreciating our dogs, and not just in quarantine when they serve as our only company that is not one another. Our phones, before they were jam-packed with pics of spinach leaves and deep-dish pizzas for this project, were full of photos of our dogs and almost nothing else. Sometimes we’d take some souvenir pics of the great doughnuts we’d pick up on a Saturday afternoon, but otherwise: just dogs.

Our dogs are four-legged comedy machines. Trixie, as a bulldog, reigns supreme in physical comedy. Our garage door used to swing open with a push, but since we fixed it every time we take Trixie for a ride in the car, she runs head-first into that door, expecting it to fly open. Rosa’s comedy is more aural – her weird squeals and whines sound like nothing else in the animal kingdom. Maybe a wildebeest – I think I’ve heard similar sounds from them in nature films. Then there’s Liberty, who leaps like Tigger whenever her food is to be served, only to drop into a lie-down because she’s also weirdly smart. She’ll be our intellectual comic.

Our dogs provide us with companionship and affection. They put out some body heat in those cold winter months (which, in 2020, may end up being all the months, who knows?). They protect our home with barks (their bites wouldn’t do much of anything). They tidy up our kitchen floor when food crumbs fall off the counter. And more than anything else, they provide us with some perspective on the world. Through all the current madness, they still exude joy, love and appreciation. That’s a good way to be.

New Beer’s Eve

So many celebrations (seriously – why do I keep stretching these articles beyond 3000 words?), so many National Days, yet the question keeps popping up: when is National Beer Day? When does that most sacred nectar get its proper tribute and respect? The answer, my friends, is today. And because beer is one of the most sky-high peaks of human ingenuity, the day spreads over into the previous eve. Like Christmas, or All Hallow’s Day.

National Beer Day commemorates the day when alcohol was finally once again a legal indulgence in America some 87 years ago. The night before, every red-blooded American who could scrape together some change and whose thirst for legal lager could not wait to be slaked, lined up to buy the first pint they could, as soon as midnight had chimed.

To commemorate the day, I cracked open a delicious bottle of La Fin Du Monde from Chambly, Quebec’s Unibroue. I felt it was a good topical choice, and it’s also one of the oldest craft beers to have been available in this part of the country. I remember trying one of these when I was 18 (okay, let’s face it, I was probably 16 or 17), and the 9% alcohol content knocked me on my ass. The taste didn’t appeal to me either, but I was drinking a lot of watery Molson Special Dry back then. Last night I found the flavour to be full and dynamic, with so many subtle notes clanging around my tongue it was like Big Ben chiming on meth. Every sip was enjoyed immensely, and the kick it delivered made for a raucous Monday evening in this house where the party never ends.

And today, the party continues to never end. Here’s what’s on tap:

  • National Beer Day. As teased in that last entry, today is the day beer finally gets its due. Or one of its many dues over the course of 2020. But this is the big one.
  • National Coffee Cake Day. Thanks to our resident baker (hi, Mom!), who will be delivering the goods tomorrow.
  • National Handmade Day. We’ll have a look at some of the handmade crafts we have laying about the house. Maybe we’ll make one. Probably not, since Michael’s is not considered an ‘essential business’ right now.
  • National No Housework Day. Something we should find easy to accomplish.
  • International Snailpapers Day. A day to pay tribute to the old fashioned newspapers out there. We’d planned to buy a New York Times or something good, but that might be tricky. Not a lot of stores are open. Luckily, we are becoming pros at the work-around celebrations. Woohoo!