Monday, April 27, 2020

To paraphrase a song lyric from Chicago, does anybody really know what day it is? Does anybody really care? Well, we do, as we continue to be welcome and willing slaves to our calendar, without which we would be tracking our sunrises in blurs and the ticking of the clock as a metronome which had lulled us into a hypnotic state some four or five weeks ago. Fortunately things still remain fresh and exciting in these parts. For example:

National Audubon Day

Unfortunately this day did not see us racing without speed limits, like on that German road. Instead this pays tribute to the Audubon Society, a bird study organization that was founded in 1905. John James Audubon, the guy who inspired those ornithologists to come together and found a society in his name, was born on this day in 1785. So happy 235th to John.

John came to America in 1803 as a draft-dodger, hoping to get out of serving in the Napoleonic Wars for France. His dad had hoped John could cash in on the lead boom and make a fortune mining lead for bullets. John had other ideas. He and his wife Lucy sought to document America’s bird population and raise awareness about all the winged creatures most Yanks took for granted. He was a talented painter, and his work became the definitive record of the time. And a rather pretty definitive record it was.

The Audubon Society has fought to ban DDT, they have launched a massive media campaign against whaling, they acknowledge great efforts in conservation, and they were bringing environmental issues to the forefront of conversation long before it became trendy to do so. They have created nature TV specials, and their efforts to protect wildlife and the planet beneath it have been fantastic.

We decided to honour the day with a quick bird-watching trip. We had ventured into our river valley in early January for National Bird Day, accompanied by a seasoned guide who showed us all sorts of aviary winter splendor. Yesterday we were on our own in our own neighbourhood, checking out some of the creatures who were dormant and/or absent a few months ago. It got us out of the house, which was great. Unfortunately we mostly saw pigeons, as our neighbour across the street has been putting out specifically pigeon-friendly food for months. The photo above is an embellishment (we had many dogs with us, and pics were tough to snap).

National Pretzel Day

How we would have loved to bite into a fresh, fluffy bread-ish pretzel, ideally whilst walking through Central Park and intermingling with numerous other people enjoying a day off. But we’re nowhere near Central Park, nowhere near a position to intermingle with strangers, and let’s face it, most of those street pretzels in New York are stale and unpleasant. With the nearby mall kiosks closed, we had to settle for the old standby, the store-bought junk-food pretzel.

Some say the pretzel was invented by European monks. The dough was folded over that way to resemble arms folded in prayer. Some say they were created to symbolize the human sacrifice made to the Celtic goddess Sirona. A far less interesting explanation is that the three sections of the pretzel represent the Holy Trinity. It could just be that the shape allowed them to be conveniently hung up on sticks. I’ll opt for the human sacrifice story, but that’s just because I like my culinary history to be a little blood-soaked.

Pretzels have been around for at least 800 years, and they have been intertwined with Christianity for much of that time. A simple flour-and-water pretzel is acceptable Lent food. The snacks then became associated with Easter. Now they pop up all over popular culture. George W. Bush almost choked on one in 2002. The pretzel became a popular swing dance move in the 1920. The sling bikini, which was popular in the early 90s, was inspired by the pretzel design. And the characters on Seinfeld took their turns pointing out how thirsty pretzels had made them in a couple episodes of the show.

We simply bought and ate some pretzels. It wasn’t a glorious tribute, but pretzels are not flamboyant snacks. The fluffy bread ones can venture into numerous dips, with a variety of toppings adorning their crowns, but the Rold Gold snacks we enjoyed needed no further embellishment. Why mess with a great thing?

Hug An Australian Day

Back to the Roys, those goofy Pennsylvanians who created 80+ holidays from thin (or possibly thick if they were in one of those coal-mining towns) air. Hug an Australian. What a cute idea for a holiday that could easily get you punched in a Brisbane bar if you take it too literally.

Actually, the Aussies have a big reason to celebrate today. This is when they celebrate ANZAC Day, a day we opted not to add to our list here because it would have been potentially hollow and/or disrespectful. ANZAC Day honours the brave folks who have fought for Australia and New Zealand in wars past, and it was no doubt observed with more than one solemn hug exchanged between friends and family members (in quarantine, I assume). So in the end, Australians got their hugs.

We know a few Australians, but had none within reach yesterday. But we send out heaps of hugs to the land down under, as they’re on this wild ride with the rest of us. If you’re lucky enough to be quarantined with an Australian, please give them a hug from us. But maybe ask them first.

National Static Cling Day

Wow, what a treat. A day that was almost certainly made up by one blogger (whose page no longer works properly), in order to create some horrible-looking crafts for kids at home. I wish I could share this with you – the page popped up briefly then crashed every time. The crafts included a balloon coated in crushed-up Styrofoam, so as to resemble a balloon coated in crushed-up Styrofoam, and a series of balloons stuck to the wall in the shape of a frowny face. These are crafts to undertake with your kids once all other options for your quarantine hours have been used up. These are desperation crafts.

The photo I used for this celebration comes from the Wikipedia page for static cling. It works as well as any other I could come up with. We celebrated this day, not by experiencing static cling but by avoiding it. We did laundry. We used dryer sheets. We avoided static cling. We already acknowledged static electricity day back in January (by trying to zap as many of our co-workers as we could – it was fun!), and this day doesn’t leave a lot of options.

Hopefully if you did laundry yesterday you were as successful as we were in avoiding the scourge of cling.

World Pinhole Photography Day

A pinhole camera is a camera without a lens, just a tiny aperture to allow light in. This technology has its roots before the advent of the camera, with early experiments of light poking through a tiny hole to project an image from the other side. This was known as camera obscura, and those experiments go back beyond 500BC. Pinhole projection was a key step in the progress to moving pictures. This isn’t so much a style of photograph but rather a step in the evolution of the form.

If you’ve got an old 35mm camera sitting around – ideally a broken one – you can turn it into a pinhole camera by yanking off the lens and replacing it with a pinhole. Best to use some high-speed film for this, as your control over the final image will be reduced. We used a pinhole mechanism during the last solar eclipse to project images of the obscured sun onto our sidewalk.

The image produced by these cameras are reversed and mirrored. You aren’t going to build a pinhole camera to accurately capture the world around you; it is, however, a valid artistic form. We spent a chunk of yesterday perusing a number of fascinating pinhole photos online, including the above from Peter Wiklund. If you are so inclined (and burdened with an abundance of free time, as many people are nowadays), you can find easy instructions online to build your own pinhole camera. Who knows? You may discover a new art form for skills you didn’t know you had. That would be a downright shimmering silver lining to come out of this spring’s historical weirdness.

Go Diaper Free Week

This is the week to toilet-train your little ones. Ours are in their 20s and have been trained for at least a decade each, so we don’t have to do anything to celebrate. That said, neither of us will wear a diaper for the entire week! Woohoo!

Back at work, and back to more weird celebrations. Note that we missed National South Dakota Day yesterday, mainly due to our accidentally removing the meat from the freezer a bit too late to make it for dinner. It will be celebrated properly on Tuesday. Why not today? Well, for starters:

  • National Prime Rib Day. An absolute must. We got a fantastic-looking roast, some garlic and rosemary, and a couple of hearty appetites for this one.
  • National Babe Ruth Day. Not his birthday, but a commemoration of the day he was honoured at Yankee Stadium. We’ll give some Babe love today.
  • National Devil Dog Day. We don’t have these in stores nearby, so we may have to miss this one. If you can get hold of a devil dog (like a Twinkie but chocolate), eat it!
  • National Tell A Story Day. So many stories. Which ones to tell?
  • National Drug Take Back Day. Remember how we cleaned our medicine cabinet last week? Today is the day for taking expired meds back to the pharmacy.
  • National Little Pampered Dog Day. We have three of these, even if one can no longer fit the definition of ‘little’.
  • Matanzas Mule Day. A what kind of mule? I don’t know. Let’s find out!
  • Morse Code Day. We learned our names in Morse Code on January 11. Today we’ll learn some more.
  • World Tapir Day. Another animal to be praised today.
  • World Design Day. A day to appreciate some of the greatness in graphic design.