Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The new monotony: 20 feet from comfy bed, 10 feet from private bathroom, 0 feet from excited dogs, wrassling over a stuffed winged dragon. This is my workplace now. The syrupy funk from Baby Huey & The Babysitters is cranked to window-rattling levels. The sunlight sits on my eyeballs with nary a fluorescent tube in sight. An extra cup of coffee is served in my favourite mug with no additional expense. Clothing? Purely optional. And my work still gets done, probably more attentively than if I was melting to the floor of my grey-beige cubicle. Also, I get to do all this:

National Blueberry Pie Day

With the last couple slices of our cherry cheesecake still tempting us from the fridge, and the end-bits of the pineapple upside-down cake having to be tossed out due to mold, we were certainly not needing another dessert celebration. But here we are, just two days before Oatmeal Cookie Day, downing blueberry pie. Nothing fancy, just a quick pick-up from the grocery store, but it did the job.

The blueberry is a magnificent fruit. For one thing, it’s one of the only blue foods out there, not counting artificially dyed candies and drinks. It is native to North America, so it’s one of the foods that caught fire in popularity when the colonizers showed up. Prior to that they have been a part of Native peoples’ cuisines for centuries. When they’re tart, they’re terrific. When they’re sweet they’re amazing. The blueberry – or ‘bloob’, as our daughter calls them – is a thing of beauty.

And in pie form it’s right up there with cherry and apple for us. An almond crumb topping fits in brilliantly atop blueberry pie, but we had to make due with what we could get: the little personal pies from the Safeway bakery. We aren’t bakers, and our team baker (hi, Mom!) cannot be over-taxed. We need to keep her fresh. Who knows what May will bring? Not I – my wall calendars need to be updated for May/June. So it’s all a delicious mystery.

National Great Poetry Reading Day / Poetry Month

Great poetry is simply music without need for a melody. If you’ve found the poems that pour into your soul like mana-rich honey, the ones that you re-read over and over again because the beauty of the words tickles your insides every time, then you are lucky. Most people tend to let poetry slip from their lives once they no longer have English classes forcing them to learn about it. Who needs poetry? We have song lyrics. We have rap, which is spoken, so even closer to reading poetry out loud. We have so many things we can consider after contemplating the specific hues of roses and violets, so long as they rhyme with “blue”.

Poetry feeds the soul in a way nothing else can touch. Great poetry takes the language we all take for granted and twists it into something unexpected. It can take simple thoughts and present them in a way we want to experience on repeat, just so our minds can dine on the exquisiteness once more. It can take complex thoughts and distill them to their purest expression, delivering an emotional reaction with just a handful of words.

We had dinner once with a family who took turns reading poetry aloud before every evening meal. Think about that: where some families take a pre-repast pause to thank the creator to which they subscribe, these folks simply injected a moment of beautiful language and emotion into the air. We loved it – not enough to adopt the tradition ourselves (we aren’t nearly that hip), but enough to never forget it.

As mentioned last week, Sir Patrick Stewart is posting daily videos on social media in which he reads one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Hearing that authoritative and mighty voice deliver some of the most astounding verse ever put to paper is a magnificent way to spend a couple minutes of your quarantined day. Yesterday we picked a few poems – by ee cummings, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Barret Browning, among others – and soaked in their beauty. Great poetry will never die, because it will never fail to stir the mind that opens itself to it. Grab some and read!

National Superhero Day

It should come as no surprise that this celebration was launched by the folks at Marvel Comics. This was back in 1995 when they were desperate to keep people interested in comics, or to branch their appeal to a wider audience. Then came the wave of the cinematic universe that firmly planted comic book lore into the meaty guts of our popular culture. So is there any need for a National Superhero Day anymore? I’m going to take the position of fuck yes.

Let’s face it, most of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU to those who don’t work with Multipoint Control Units or at Marine Corps University, are okay films at best. The special effects are usually pretty great, but the stories can have a tendency to lean on formulas. This is why unusual experiments like Logan, The Dark Knight and Joker tend to stand out. But the magic in superheroes stretches far beyond what we see in the movies, and the stories in print can be much more complex and nuanced.

Superhero stories are often underdog stories – awkward or down-trodden folks who rise up and save the world – in part through their powers, and in part through their humanity. It’s easy to dismiss the MCU movies as box office money-makers – they are. The best cinematic character stories are still showing up elsewhere for the most part. But don’t dismiss the genre entirely. With Disney+ prepping a multitude of Marvel shows this year I suspect they are going to experiment with all sorts of story-telling ideas. And as Daredevil and The Punisher showed us on Netflix, expanding superhero stories to tell in-depth TV-season-long epics can be wonderful. Most importantly, they can give us the character exploration we haven’t seen before. Except in the actual comic books.

Hopefully you paid tribute to your favourites yesterday. If not, make yourself comfortable (we should all be pros at that by now) and watch something today. I kept things weird by watching an episode of the 80s Spider-Man cartoon. It didn’t really hold up, but whatever – even as fluff, it’s still fun fluff. Fun fact: the first few episodes didn’t have the theme song nailed down yet, and the entire show was scored with some poorly-selected, horn-heavy disco grooves. Neat.

National South Dakota Day

It wouldn’t be a day without more food celebrations. This one was technically celebrated on Sunday, but it’s such a flimsy premise – all of these state days were created by National Day Calendar, one of our sources for this project – we’re okay with it being bumped. We don’t know much about the Mount Rushmore State except that Mount Rushmore is in it. Even the state’s alternate title offers no additional information. So let’s see what we can learn.

The state is split by the Missouri River. The east side of the state has the cities and people and fertile growin’ soil, while the west side is full of ranchers. Mount Rushmore is in the west, as are a number of Native reservations. For Beatles fans, the Black Hills are in the west, so that’s where Rocky Raccoon is from. The state contains North America’s “pole of inaccessibility”, meaning the spot furthest from all three coasts. Tornadoes, ice storms and blizzards are part of the South Dakotan experience. The state’s largest city is Sioux Falls, with a population of around 153,000. Pierre, the state’s capital, has a population of about 13,000 people, so roughly about the size of Lacombe, Alberta. That’s the capital.

Can I come up with a good list of cool people from South Dakota? Well I can damn well try. We’ve got January Jones from Helga, Cheryl Ladd from Huron, Mamie Van Doren from Rowena, Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, born in Eureka, Shawn Colvin from Vermillion, Keith Olsen (he produced the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk and Foreigner’s Double Vision) born in Sioux Falls, and Tom Brokaw from Webster. That’s it. That’s all I could find, apart from a few sports figures.

We made Lamb Chislic, which is a great little dish of cubed meat fried in oil. It was no prime rib roast, but we had that for lunch leftovers yesterday, so all in all it was a fine gustatory day.

Clean Comedy Day

Possibly because they needed a break from freaking out over which bathroom people were using, the Tennessee legislature passed unanimously a resolution to make April 28, 2015, Clean Comedy Day. This was to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Comedy Barn Theater, which was built with the mission to provide clean comedy an entire family could enjoy. Having been raised by the words of George Carlin and Richard Pryor, I’m not entirely sure I’m on board with this, but sure. Let’s celebrate some clean comedy.

We all – and by “we all” I am referring to us middle-age folks – grew up on clean comedy. Network TV wouldn’t let things get very racy, especially not in the two decades between Archie Bunker and Peter Griffin. When Seinfeld did an episode about masturbation (without daring to utter the word) it was delightfully raunchy. Howard Stern, who built his reputation on shocking through sex talk and perceived obscenity, kept his show almost completely free of obscenities while he was on terrestrial radio, and that was all the way through 2005.

I’d stop short of saying that great comedy shouldn’t need swears or adult themes – there is plenty of brilliant comedy from Carlin, Pryor, Chris Rock, Sam Kinison and others that get their punch from being blue. But then you have Seinfeld, who doesn’t swear in his act. You’ve got Jim Gaffigan, Weird Al, and so many others who find laughs without crossing that line. And the best comics can usually mine material from both sides.

I get not exposing kids to the most egregious of racy material. But for the rest of us, we should find funny wherever it lies, clean or no. To celebrate yesterday we enjoyed some network TV comedy fare and a bit of swear-and-sex-free standup. Because sometimes that’s just how it’s done.

Kiss Your Mate Day

No idea where this came from, but it’s another holiday encouraging you to give a smooch to someone you care about. Or, if you’re British or Australian, I suppose this will allow you to kiss all of your friends. However you want to celebrate it, just respect the quarantine and have fun!

Today the stars point us to an assortment of new and exciting goofery:

  • Denim Day. We have worn nothing but sweatpants on our lower extremities for over a month. Today that will change.
  • National Shrimp Scampi Day. No need to wonder what we’ll be eating for supper.
  • International Zipper Day. This could have involved doing zipper merges on city roads or riding the Zipper at our nearby amusement park, but instead we’ll just play with the zippers on all the clothing in our closet. Weeeeeeee!!!!!
  • Viral Video Day. I guess we’ll drown a few minutes in whatever is trending these days.
  • World Wish Day. The Make-A-Wish people deserve a plug today; they do incredible work.
  • Stop Food Waste Day. We’ll do our best.