Thursday, April 30, 2020

Five weeks of lockdown, and who among us is feeling the tremors as their sanity rattles to palpable levels? In this house, Jodie’s getting the itch, I’m still gliding smoothly, but it’s our #3 canine research assistant, Liberty, who appears to be full-throatedly losing her grip. Tuesday night she performed an astounding athletic maneuver to obtain a chewing bone off the counter, snarled at her two compatriots for making a play for it, then spent most of yesterday morning barking at nothing. She’s never had a job, yet she’s the one who needs a break from all this sitting around. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of us. Meanwhile we’ve got all this to contend with:

Denim Day / Sexual Assault Awareness Month

After 35 days of sweatpants – yes, even to venture out to the store, because who cares anymore? – it was time to dress up all fancy in my jeans. Denim Day is not a celebration of the cotton warp-faced fabric, nor is it a tribute to Mr. Strauss’ contributions to biker, greaser and hippie culture. We wore denim with a more serious message yesterday.

In the 90s an Italian court overturned a rape conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans, which they felt would have probably required her assistance in removing. So clearly she wanted it. The following day, every Italian woman in parliament showed up to work wearing jeans in solidarity of the victim, and as a protest against this bullshit decision. This was picked up by the group Peace Over Violence, and Denim Day has been celebrated for the last 21 years as a result.

You can register on their website (http://denimdayinfo.org) and get all sorts of materials if you’re looking to blast out the Denim Day message… of course I’m reading about all this too late, and you’re all reading this the day after it happened, so that won’t help. But keep this one in mind for next year; it deserves our attention on a repeat basis. Sexual assault is a scourge on our society, one I hope they will someday deal with via castration using rusty pocket knives. Until then, we should show our support for the victims and shout it out loud that this shit needs to stop. Happy denim, everyone.

National Shrimp Scampi Day

So here’s the confusing set-up to this day. A scampi is legally (in the UK) defined as a nephrops norvegicus, or a Norwegian lobster. Also known as a Dublin Bay prawn. So it’s a lobster that’s also a prawn. Sometimes monkfish, which aren’t even crustaceans, are sold as scampi. Yet, shrimp scampi is made with shrimp. Or prawns. You see, the term ‘prawn’ can be used to describe large shrimp, or the scampi variety of lobster. Confused yet? Fuck it, let’s eat.

If you’re served ‘scampi’, you’re eating a lobster. If you’re eating it yesterday, you’re misinterpreting the meaning of this celebration, as we are here to commemorate the Italian-American dish made with shrimp. According to an article in the New York Times, Italian-American chefs simply substituted the much more abundant shrimp for the scampi lobsters they’d use back home. The traditional dish involved sautéing them with white wine, garlic butter and olive oil, but variations ended up adding breadcrumbs and tomatoes.

So it’s an interpretational dish, not one with a strict set of guidelines. We made ours with the aforementioned ingredients and served it over pasta. It was delicious, though we did find ourselves wondering how much more interesting the dish might be if made with the lobster type of scampi. Since they don’t get their own special National day this year, we may never know. But this stuff was terrific.

National Zipper Day

A number of patents led to the zipper we all know and love today. For whatever reason, Swedish-American engineer Gideon Sundback’s 1913 patent (which occurred on April 29) is the one chosen for National Zipper Day. It wasn’t the first such fastener, and Sundback himself created a better one, more comparable to the modern zipper, in 1917. Whatever.

Elias Howe was the man who first came up with something resembling a zipper. You might remember him from having invented the lockstitch sewing machine. You might not. Don’t feel bad; he didn’t know who you were either. A bunch of years later a guy fortunate enough to have been named Whitcomb Judson came up with his own device, which was marketed at the same 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that premiered the pledge of allegiance, the brownie, Juicy Fruit, Quaker Oats, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix, the moving walkway, the Ferris Wheel, the automatic dishwasher, the electric car, and aerosol spray. Whitcomb’s invention, which was more like a complicated hook-and-eye fastener, didn’t do well.

The B.F. Goodrich company started using Sundback’s 1917-model fastener on a new line of rubber boots in 1923, and they came up with the term ‘zipper’ to describe it. The name stuck.

To pay tribute to this day, we were already wearing zippers on our jeans. We also zipped a bunch of other household zippers up and down, because that’s how we do things. Zipper day? We zip. It was a simple expression of mirth, but it did the trick.

World Wish Day

The Make-a-Wish foundation is one of the greatest charities on the planet. Think about it: as great as it is for other charities to donate money toward researching and such, this one has a remarkably straightforward means of spreading good. If a kid is sick – like, really sick with something horrific – that kid gets to make a wish, and this charity does everything they can to make it happen. Celebrities line up to help out. Disney invites scads of kids and their families to their parks for this. And some of the wishes are downright weird.

One kid got a baseball park built in his backyard. Another kid got to provide a voice in World of Warcraft.  A group of kids in West Virginia set sail for an island off the coast where they rescued Gilligan – literally Bob Denver in his old costume, granting these kids’ wishes to be heroes. Another kid caught the attention of LucasArts, and as per his wish they created a game starring him, skateboarding around and shooting evil cancer cells. In short, this charity is the absolute best.

It all started with a 7-year-old named Chris Greicius, who got to live a day as a cop, including a swearing-in ceremony, a custom-made uniform, and a ride in the police copter. That was back in 1980, and his tale inspired the Make-A-Wish folks to create their cause. John Cena has granted over 650 wishes. Justin Bieber has granted over 250, none of them being the wish of so many of us that he would just go away. The charity grants 30,000 wishes every year – one every 17 minutes. Today is the day to support the cause any way you can. This one, much like the Denim Day cause, is very close to our hearts.

Stop Food Waste Day

The official Stop Food Waste Day site implores us to become Food Waste Warriors and stop the waste of food. They offer some rather compelling statistics.

One third of all food produced around the world gets lost or wasted. 45% of fruits, veggies and root crops get wasted. 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions every year comes from food waste. If you take just 25% of all the food wasted around the world, it could feed all 795 million undernourished humans.

The mission of this particular cause is to slice the amount of wasted food in half by 2030. They are working with a number of regional groups, with celebrity chefs, and anyone else who will join in to make the effort.

We do our best not to waste food. We consider it an achievement when garbage day rolls around and nothing gets moved from our fridge to the trash. Unfortunately we were much better about that in 2019 than in 2020 – this project has occasionally had us producing more food than we can reasonably eat. But we do pretty well. We “celebrated” this yesterday by having leftovers for lunch (that prime rib roast from Monday was so fucking great), and we will be bringing awareness of this cause forward. We have no excuse to waste food. Except when we have a pineapple upside down cake, chocolate covered cashews, jelly beans and cherry cheesecake all in the same week. The cake tragically didn’t make it all the way to the final bite.

But we will strive to do better. It’s worth the effort.

Viral Video Day

There are not a lot of sources (one, actually) for this celebration. It appears to have been a creation from the mind of writer Jace Shoemaker-Galloway, who gave us Keep Off The Grass Day on the 21st. She’s a writer who has devoted much of her energies to obscure and unheard-of holidays, so I’ll absolutely consider her a colleague. Viral videos have been a phenomenon of the 21st century, catching the public zeitgeist for a significant few seconds before drifting out of the limelight to make room for the next one.

One of the first ever viral videos would come from the beginning of the video age itself, when a marijuana advocate named Keith Stroup came across the 1936 US propaganda film Reefer Madness and spread it around. Something more akin to today’s viral videos can be seen in a long-before-Youtube episode of Seinfeld, when people marvelled over Elaine’s erratic dance moves. Remember the dancing baby back in 1995? It was a gif, but that was as extensive as viral videos could get in the days of dial-up.

One of the first waves of viral videos came as a result of Saturday Night Live, and the success of their Lonely-Island-produced digital shorts, like “Lazy Sunday” and “Dick In a Box.” Now the barometer for a video considering viral will vary from person to person, but it’s generally believed to mean at least five million views in just a few days’ time.

For this day we posted our own contender for a viral video, though the act of getting it there will depend on the world. Rosa, our #2 canine research assistant, was politely asking me to cease writing my article and instead to lavish her with attention and/or foodstuffs. Have a look, and if you like it, send it to five million of your closest friends and let’s see if we can light the internet on fire.

If not, I’ll have to grab a broom handle and pretend to fight a lightsaber battle, and trust me you don’t want to see that.

We are now one third of the way through this madness, and the fun just keeps on rolling!

  • National Bubble Tea Day. Not sure any bubble tea places are open. Are they considered essential? Not likely, but we’ll see.
  • National Bugs Bunny Day. This is what I’ll be watching over lunch.
  • National Honesty Day. Can we make it through the day without lying? Given that we pretty much only converse with each other, probably.
  • National Oatmeal Cookie Day. Our team baker (hi, Mom!) has prepared what she describes as “incredible” cookies for us.
  • National Prepare-A-Thon Day. This will include some behind-the-scenes on how we prepare for this project, and why we end up so often completely unprepared for this project.
  • National Poem In Your Pocket Day. We will carry a poem in our pocket. Easy!
  • National Hairstylist Appreciation Day. This one comes naturally. We miss our hairstylists, and we’ll show you precisely why.
  • International Jazz Day. Listen to a bunch of jazz. This one I’m looking forward to.
  • National Raisin Day. Neither of us are big fans, but we picked up some yogurt-coated raisins that look really tasty.
  • Walpurgis Night. This is often celebrated with bonfires, so we may need one of those.
  • National Mr. Potato Head Day. We don’t have one anymore, but we’ll look into the history of this little Don Rickles-voiced dude.
  • National Spank-Out Day. A day not to spank. I guess we can change up our routine for this one.

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