Thursday, April 16, 2020

The subtlety of simple pleasures may feel strained with fate’s pudgy thumb planted so firmly upon the pause button of life, yet here we are, basking in another day in which the volume on life’s little intricacies is cranked up to 11. The world is mostly silent and waiting. But we’re making a heap of noise, as we ramp up to the unfathomable glory of celebrating:

National Rubber Eraser Day

It was a crisp April day (perhaps – I’m inventing the weather for dramatic effect) in 1770 when Edward Naine, an English optician who had patented a few trinkets, including an electrical generator, reached for some breadcrumbs to erase something he’d written. It almost sounds like a quaint Grandpa Simpson rant, but that was actually the style at the time – people used wax or crustless bread to fix pencil-forged mistakes. Naine accidentally picked up some rubber instead, and found it worked much better. He entered an invention competition with his rubber eraser and won.

Our beloved fixer of blunders, that sacred savior of mishandled math problems, that end-point of the pencil that won’t pierce the flesh, turned 250 years old yesterday. At that time, he sold his new invention for a whopping three shillings apiece. I don’t know much about how British currency works, but three shillings in 1770 is probably what a house cost. Then again, raw rubber was perishable back then. It wasn’t until Charles Goodyear came up with a way to vulcanize rubber to make it more durable (and logical) that the rubber eraser became a mass consumable.

As a kid – and I have to go back to my childhood because, unlike Jodie, I don’t use pencils very often anymore – every so often I’d run into one of those erasers that left nothing but charcoal streaks on the page. Apparently they are either making them with more care now, or Jodie simply buys quality erasers. She assures me it’s the latter. We each wrote a few words then erased them, because what else do you do to celebrate Rubber Eraser Day?

National Glazed Spiral Ham Day

If I told you that the idea for the spiral-cut ham came in a dream, would you believe me to be romanticizing what should be a practical and logical method for slicing pork? Alas, it was unheard of prior to the 1930s. You’d buy a ham, bake it, and have to slice it multiple times to get sandwich meat, like some kind of schnook. Then along came a nighttime sojourn into the land of fantastical imagination within the brain of Detroit ham salesman Harry J. Hoenselaar.

Harry, whose family still owns and operates the Honey Baked Ham Company, was the true ham genius of the 20th century. Forget George Hormel – he crammed ham and chemicals into a can in 1926 and that’s just groovy, but the spiral cut was a porcine revolution. Cook the ham, take it out, cut once straight down the bone and you’ve got yourself a bunch of sandwich meat, or juicy plate slices ready to go. Harry built his prototype out of a washing machine motor, a tire iron, a tie pin and a knife. Harry was Thomas Edison and MacGyver. For ham, anyway (though I’m sure MacGyver did something with ham at some point).

We here at Celebrate366 are huge fans of Harry’s work. Every Christmas Jodie bakes up a massive ham, topping it with a spectacular glaze that includes maple syrup, Dijon mustard and rye whiskey. Yesterday seemed a tad excessive for a Costco-size pork hock, so we bought a smaller, more two-person alternative. It was not spiral-cut (nor did it have a bone), but we made do. The important thing was to create that mouth-watering glaze to recreate the sensation of devouring our Christmas feast. Also, using this recipe gave us an excuse to buy some rye whiskey. It was a double-win.

National Take A Wild Guess Day

This popped up in my calendar and I wondered, “What did I come up with, while I was sifting through my mountains of research, to celebrate this special day?” All I’d written was ‘Take lots of wild guesses.’ Thanks, 2019 Marty, for helping me through this busy spring.

Here are a few wild guesses we made yesterday, in no particular order:

  • I guessed that the 7-day weather forecast would see Edmonton finally achieving 10 or more degrees Celsius, but only on days 6 and 7 of the forecast. That is how it has been for the past week, every damn day. I was wrong – it’s on days 5, 6 and 7. So hooray for Sunday.
  • Jodie guessed that the reason Rosa, our middle-child canine research assistant, appeared to be in so much pain overnight was because she hurt her hip while playing wildly with Liberty, our youngest, yet largest beast. She was partly right – it was her lower back, but it was definitely injured in the midst of a good wrassle.
  • I guessed that I would be, once again, much more motivated and effective at my job because I was working from home. Absolutely – I need to be doing this always.
  • Jodie guessed that most or all of her students would show up to their once-per-week video discussion yesterday morning. She was about 25% correct.
  • I guessed Rosa would be stoned within a half hour of her taking her pain medication. It took her about five minutes. (see above)
  • Jodie guessed that National Take A Wild Guess Day was another one of those weird, arbitrary days, maybe dreamed up by that couple in Pennsylvania. She was wrong!

This day was launched by motivational speaker Jim Barber ten years ago. He figured it was tax day, so people are probably taking lots of wild guesses as they fill out their forms. Not a bad origin story for a day, really. That said, I’m going to guess that we’ll forget to celebrate this when April 15 rolls around next year.

World Art Day

The first thing I learned about World Art Day is that it is hosted by the International Association of Art. The second thing I learned is that there’s an International Association of Art. This is one of those United Nations celebrations, so events are usually rolling out at a global level. Even Google gets involved, and churns out some nifty little doodles. This year it seems Google is more focussed on thanking essential workers (delivery folks today), and that does make more sense.

Meanwhile we can dabble with World Art Day in a way never before possible from the comfort of one’s chair’s ass-grooves. There is presently a flood of free art online, as museums have opened up their collections through virtual tours and extensive online galleries. We took a stroll through the Petit Gallerie in the Louvre. We checked out some Faberge eggs at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. We took a 360-degree stroll through sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that we’ve never seen.

Art is recognized by UNESCO because it is the purest expression of a culture, and a record of that culture’s most vivacious dreams and unthinkable madness. In this weird little sliver of history art is going to be what sustains us, whether that means binge-watching some new show, or experiencing the direct-to-streaming benefits of some major motion pictures that didn’t want to hold back their theatrical releases. A lot of us have plowed through fresh books or checked out scads of new music. And now we have found a way to get our fix of the visual arts.

One thing to look forward to, once this pandemic is done and we’ve all recuperated from the hangovers following our first wild night out, is what sort of art will this virus inspire? Will we see COVID-centric movies, musicals, dance productions and concept albums? It all started with people petitioning Weird Al to parody “My Sharona” with “My Corona” (which he didn’t do); who knows what wonders will come once our greatest voices get some perspective on all this?

National That Sucks Day

This one comes to us courtesy of Bruce Novotny, a man described by CNBC as a “holiday creator” in the one article where he’s mentioned. For the last 15 years Bruce has run www.thatsucks.net, a site that appears to be dedicated to pessimism and frustration. On a personal level, this has probably either been woefully unhealthy or tremendously cathartic for Bruce to have surrounded himself with all that negativity. That’s not my call to make. I wish Bruce the best.

Bruce feels that because April 15 is tax day (normally, anyhow), and it’s also the anniversary of the day the Titanic sank and the day President Lincoln died from his wounds, this should forevermore be known as National That Sucks Day. I think Bruce has a point. Apologies to Emma Watson, Seth Rogen, and blues great Bessie Smith (all of whom cherish this day as their birthday), April 15 does kind of suck.

I mentioned yesterday as we sacrificed National Gardening Day that this time of year in Edmonton is not spring. Either we get a blast of winter (and yeah, we got snow yesterday), or else we are mired in the Great Muck Fest that occurs annually when yards turn to slop for a few days or a few weeks. This year it’s a few weeks because the snow is melting slowly. It sucks.

Yesterday Jodie carted Rosa to the vet. That sucked. Liberty got roughly 45% of her body wet and muddy every time she went outside. That sucked. They cancelled this year’s annual Fringe Theatre Festival in August, which is always one of the year’s best parties. That sucked.

Look at all the people who died on April 15: R. Lee Ermey, actor and drill sergeant from hell. Clifton James, the American sheriff who seemed out of place in those Roger Moore James Bond movies. Jack Herer, cannabis rights activist, and namesake of a very popular strain. Brant Parker, who drew the cartoon The Wizard of Id. Joey freakin’ Ramone. Greta Garbo. Jean-Paul Sartre. The cathedral of Notre-Dame burned last year. The Boston Marathon explosion happened in 2013. The Tiananmen Square protests started in 1989. 96 football (as in soccer) fans in Liverpool were killed in a human crush, also in 1989. General Electric was founded. McDonalds opened its first restaurant. Those last two aren’t that bad, I suppose. But all these things happened on April 15.

Maybe Bruce was right. Maybe April 15 sucks. That’s okay – it’s April 16 now. Time to move forward.

National Banana Day

We were prepared, dammit. Two weeks ago on payday we scrolled ahead to see what celebrations we’d face so we could make a supply run that would cover most of it. We bought bananas. Along the way, we ate one banana. Then, when the time came and we needed them most, we got this. Likely edible on the inside, but almost definitely with the consistency of baby food. Neither of us wanted to suck back some banana paste, so we celebrated by relegating these fuckers to the freezer so they could someday become bread.

Bananas, technically a berry (and a delightful 1971 comedy film), are grown in 135 countries. Most of the bananas we eat are from the Cavendish Group – not, it turns out, an investment firm but rather a classification of the “dessert banana” that is the most popular type exported on the planet. It’s a young strain, having only been around since 1836. Before the Cavendish bananas became popular in the 50s, we westerners feasted upon Gros Michel bananas. Those were nearly wiped off the planet due to something called Panama Disease.

So what did they taste like? I’ve been told (solely by people who could not possibly have any idea) that the Gros Michel bananas resemble more closely the fake “candy banana” flavour that you’d find in a pack of Runts. Candy bananas taste very little like actual bananas, and since finding a Gros Michel at the supermarket is really unlikely, that makes sense. Except it’s not at all true. Gros Michels have a more floral taste apparently, but for the most part you’d have trouble differentiating them from the bananas we know.

So there you have it, the mighty banana. Its meat so perfect for an ice cream split and its rind custom-made for silent-era physical comedy. One of the truly perfect fruits. If only it wouldn’t turn to mush so damn fast.

National Laundry Day

Due to our effective skills at divvying up household chores, laundry tends to fall into Jodie’s realm of responsibility. She started the laundry on Sunday, as she often does. Last night I finally finished it. There were two loads total.

Laundry isn’t really something to celebrate. It’s something we do because to not do it would be slovenly and gross. It’s an obligation. There’s no National Wash Your Crotch Day, yet we do it every day – or at least I hope we do. So we finished laundry. It didn’t leave quite the joyous residue as that glazed ham.

Another wildly busy day in party-town:

  • National Eggs Benedict Day. We have leftover ham. Today we will have a specific purpose for that leftover ham.
  • National Health Care Decisions Day. Staying indoors and avoiding other humans will be the best health care decision we will make all day.
  • National High Five Day. We will not be offering this to everyone we know, as we were hoping to. We will high-five one another and the dogs instead.
  • National Orchid Day. A trip to a greenhouse or botanical garden to see some orchids? Nope, we’ll have to settle for the damn internet again.
  • National Wear Your Pajamas To Work Day. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I haven’t worn anything but pajamas in a month.
  • World Voice Day. We’ll send some props to the human voice. Maybe not by listening to more barbershop music. We’ll see.
  • National Stress Awareness Day. I’m sure we can find some of this to be aware of.

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