Saturday, May 2, 2020

Launching into what promises to be a daunting collection of words at 7:00pm does not bode well for an evening. We did a lot of celebrating yesterday, but we also did a lot of less-interesting work-type stuff. It was all very inconvenient. Not the celebrating, mind you, that has become our new way of life. Coupled with lock-down (which is now supposed to be ‘social distancing’, but we’re still terrified enough of this illness to call it a lock-down), this new way of life isn’t so bad. We hang out with dogs all the time, we over-indulge on a regular basis, and then there’s all this:

National Mother Goose Day

Like so many of these sacred and storied celebrations, this one was concocted to sell product. Specifically, a 1987 book by Gloria T. Delamar about the history of nursery rhymes. This book is no longer in print, yet the day lives on. Why? Because we’re acknowledging it. Way to squeak into history, Gloria!

It was the style back in the early days of literature for children’s stories to be delivered by a ‘mother’ character. Mother Bunch was the pseudonym of Countess d’Aulnoy, a French noblewoman and fairy tale writer in 1690s. The satirical story of Mother Hubbard is a century older than that. Charles Perrault published a collection of fairy tales that translated into English as Tales From My Mother Goose, and that’s where the character took off. The stories all had a moral centre, often Christian themes throughout, and of course they supported royal absolutism, since the French Revolution was another century off.

Mother Goose has been a character in a couple of fairy tales in the years since, in particular after fairy tales began to be expressed in pantomimes in the early 1800s. Half children’s stories, half comedia dell’arte stage show, Mother Goose was depicted as an old woman with a tall pointy hat, who rides a goose. As old women do. By the early 20th century, Mother Goose became a genre, or more accurately the name by which the fairy tale genre was called by many.

Yesterday was a day to celebrate that genre, and I think we can all recognize it as an essential part of our youth, the instigator of our ability to formulate imaginative pictures to accompany literature. Let’s take a tip from the good mother and try to live happily ever after.

National Loyalty Day

Thursday was Honesty Day, yesterday was Loyalty Day. Lots of virtuous days to round us out of the dark miasma of April into the sunny glory of May. But this one has a weird twist.

Loyalty Day is, according to the official Congressional declaration, “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.” My fellow Canadians have no doubt rolled their eyes by now. Sometimes it seems as though American loyalty is often pledged with a clenched fist and gritted teeth, whereas Canadian loyalty just… happens. We look at ourselves, we look at others, and we just say, “Yeah, I’ll stick with this if that’s cool.”

Loyalty Day came into effect in 1921during the first Red Scare. Back then it wasn’t so much evil commie screenwriters and actors that loyal patriots feared, but the Bolshevik Revolution showed the rest of the world that, for better or worse, the working class does have the ability to rise up and revolt in a big way. Back then it was called Americanization Day. Keep in mind, all this fierce individualistic pride landed on May 1, which is traditionally May Day around the world, or a day to commemorate organized labour. It’s no coincidence the union-busters planted their loyalty day right here.

It became an officially recognized holiday once more in 1955 during the second Red Scare, and this time it didn’t die off. Every president, Democrat or Republican, has proclaimed this annual commemoration every year since the 50s. A lot of places still hold parades – though probably not this year. Then again, who’s to say what the hell they’re up to in Standish, Michigan?

Look, I love America. A lot. And loyalty is an honourable trait. I only hope people recognize their loyalty to their fellow humans above loyalty to a nation. But that’s just me. I remain loyal to my wife, my family, my dogs (though I will pet others, but that isn’t really cheating, is it?), and a handful of select restaurants around town. The country comes after all that.

School Principals Day

I really, really wish I’d had just one memorable principal growing up. I can’t remember any of them except for Mr. Lund, our high school principal, and all I remember of him is that he wore a grey suit and had glasses. And I don’t even trust that memory. I could be mixing him up in my mind with the bad guy from the Shelley Long / Bette Midler flick Outrageous Fortune for all I know.

A great principal drives the culture of a school, and can have a tremendous effect on the school experience for staff and students alike. I’ve witnessed all of this through Jodie’s almost 20-year history as a teacher. She has worked with some amazing principals over the years, and also some real pills.

Jodie celebrated this day by sending out a warm note to her current principal, who is one of the most instantly-likeable, warm and kind people you’ll ever meet. Seriously, she’s one of those souls who truly cares about the students and their well-being, and she pours that devotion into everything she does. In the year she has been with the school – well, a year minus the last few weeks – the culture of the school has improved, and that’s going to be reflected in everything that goes on in that building. To the great ones, we say thank you for everything. And to the crappy ones, just quit already; that job is too important to be held by someone whose heart ain’t in it.

No Pants Day

This one began as a laugh for a club at the University of Texas, Austin. They thought dropping trou on the first Friday in May would be a goofy way to celebrate the end of the semester. Somehow it caught on, and now the day is informally held all over the world, with events popping up in Sweden, Australia, Finland, the UK, Iraq, France, and even Canada.

Not that there are ‘events’, per se. People just don’t wear pants. They go to work, they ride public transit, and they do it in their skivvies. When I first heard about this day, I wondered about acquiring a kilt. Nope, that’s not the spirit of the day – it’s not about finding a substitute for pants, it’s about not wearing pants. Period. I had resigned myself to wearing shorts to work; it wouldn’t do for a government drone to be spending an entire day in his beige-grey cubicle without pants on, casual Friday or not. The taxpayers expect us to wear pants, after all. Shorts would be the compromise my bosses would be forced to accept.

Then along came COVID-19. I worked from home yesterday, and pants were not necessary at any point. Staff meeting with management in the morning? No pants. Teleconference with numerous Executive Directors and an Assistant Deputy-Minister? No pants. All my work was done on time, and Jodie even took care of making the Costco run to replenish our TP supply, which thankfully never ran down to nil. None of my coworkers had any clue.

No pants is brilliant. I loved this day. It’s all about freedom. Let’s make it a monthly thing! Anyone?

National Space Day

Lockheed Martin christened the first Friday in May to be National Space Day in 1997 for us all to consider the incredible achievements by humankind in reaching outer space. Also, probably for us all to be aware of the key role Lockheed Martin had in those achievements, but let’s not get all cynical. Former Senator (and space expert) John Glenn kept this from being a one-off day, and made it a tradition.

For those of us with absolutely zero professional connection to the world of space travel, the very idea of it almost seems like fiction. Calculating the math and figuring out the physics and chemistry to launch a craft out of orbit, then bringing it back, that just seems unfathomable to me. And that humans – intelligent, well-educated and highly skilled humans – were willing to volunteer to be crammed into those crafts, that’s just crazy talk.

And we’ve only been doing it for about 60 years. Not even – Yuri Gagarin’s big blast past the atmosphere was 59 years ago this month. My parents grew up with the notion of human beings in space as science fiction. I grew up in the space shuttle era, a few years after the last footsteps were planted in the moon-dirt. I was always fascinated by it all, and I still am. Had I a more scientific mind I would have been drawn to space science, either astronomy or rocketry. Instead my skills pointed me in this direction: writing about space in between a piece on not wearing pants and another on tubas. Oh well; I regret nothing.

For National Space Day we sat down and learned something. The collection of Neil Degrasse-Tyson’s Cosmos series is on Disney+, so an episode of learning about the stars was in order. Since we hardly ever boldly go out of our house anymore, and the local planetarium is closed indefinitely, that would have to do.

International Tuba Day

The tuba gets its own day. Why not? The tuba is a wonderful instrument. Like any bass instrument, its purpose is to ground the music – tonally and aesthetically. Listen to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band or any New Orleans funk ensemble and the breath of the tuba player is what kicks the groove from bar to bar. Pop it into a classical piece and the tuba will express emotions no one else in the orchestra can achieve, except perhaps a particularly sassy bassoon. In jazz it provides a low snarl that can take you by surprise.

The tuba has only been around for 185 years, a creation of Wilhelm Wieprecht and Johann Moritz in Prussia. There were forerunners of the tuba, like the ophicleide and the serpent, but the tuba’s use of valves gave it a much broader range of notes. There was really no question this was the instrument that would drive the bass end of a brass section.

Tubas are big in marching bands and military music, in polka bands and klezmer groups. Yesterday we listened to some Chalino Sanchez, playing Mexican folk music with a tuba blasting throughout. Once that started to drive us a little mad we switched over to the Ray Draper Quintet featuring John Coltrane, which was just good quality instrumental jazz that happened to feature a tuba. It was a solid evening of weirdly great music.

National Purebred Day

There are over 400 breeds of dog on our planet right now, and this day has been set aside to honour the ones that are still purely a product of one single breed. All of this has some uncomfortable racist overtones when you cast this light on humankind, but remember – these are dogs. Purebreds are often more predictable in their behaviours and temperament, and they keep the puppy landscape dynamic and interesting.

All that aside, some folks would shake their heads at the fact that we obtained all three of our dogs from breeders. Yes, there are too many abandoned and neglected dogs out there, and yes, adopting one from a shelter is a great thing to do. But obtaining one from a reputable breeder, one who is selective and attentive to their breeds and not churning out pups by the dozens for quick profit, is important too.

We have had five pure English bulldogs, and while all of them have graced us with a unique menu of quirks and weirdnesses, there is a certain cluster of behaviours we have learned are part of these dogs. Their affection. Their clumsiness. Their laziness, which matches ours and even beats it. Their messy drinking. Their tongues. Some dogs are better for families with kids, others are better for young, athletic singles, and others are better for middle-aged homebodies. Purebreds help you to match up with the right breed for your life.

We are grateful for the honest and honourable breeders out there, and we feel very fortunate that we have welcomed dogs from three of them into our home in the last 20 years. These creatures are the best part of our lives. And keep in mind, I’m saying that on a day when little Rosa threw up multiple times – all on furniture and/or carpet, despite us having non-carpeted floors on 95% of the floors in our house. We still love the little stink-asses.

Global Love Day

This sent me down a weird, albeit not totally unpleasant rabbit hole. Global Love Day is a creation of the Love Foundation, a group dedicated to inspiring people to love. It’s a non-profit centered around… just love. Love each other. Love yourself. Love is all around. Love is a many splendored thing. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. Love is all you need.

Harold W. Becker, who is probably not the same Harold Becker who directed Taps, Vision Quest, Sea of Love, and the “Crazy For You” video for Madonnain the 80s, started this foundation in 2000. Why? Love. Unconditional love. Getting humans to experience it, to swim in it, and to live by it. They host an annual art, essay and poetry invitational, they promote mediation, and yes, they are the driving force behind Global Love Day.

This is one event that didn’t get cancelled by the virus this year, and from what I can tell it consisted of streaming talks and some music, all centered around promoting love. If this all strikes you as a bit hippyish, new-agey, and full of feel-good-heavy vibes, well you’d be right. But it’s hard to be cynical and snide when all these people are pushing is love. They will accept donations on their website, but they aren’t selling bumper stickers or t-shirts or expensive cult-like seminars, at least not from what I can see. They just want people to love.

Fuck it, I’m on board. Love to you all, fellow mirth-makers.

No, we did not neglect National Chocolate Parfait Day – we just postponed it to fit into a more appropriate day next week. Stay tuned. Here’s what we are up to today:

  • National Truffle Day. We’ll source some chocolate truffles today!
  • Kentucky Derby. Well crap, this isn’t going to happen.
  • National Fitness Day. Apart from shovelling and yard work, neither of us have done much in the way of fitness activities since Personal Trainer Awareness Day on January 2.
  • National Scrapbook Day. We made scrapbooks of a couple of vacations a couple decades back. We’ll have another look at those.
  • National Homebrew Day. We don’t have access to any home brew, but we do have some home-made liqueur. That will have to do.
  • Free Comic Book Day. I’d guess this is also COVID-cancelled.
  • National Brothers & Sisters Day. Jodie can say hi to her siblings. Having none, I can weep quietly in the corner.
  • Astronomy Day. This was going to be another great field trip, and instead? If it’s clear at night we’ll go look at some stars.
  • World Naked Gardening Day. Ummmm…. Maybe we’ll plant something? Maybe there will be pics, but probably not.
  • International Scurvy Awareness Day. We will be aware, and fortify ourselves with some citrus.
  • World Tuna Day. Another day for tuna, just not the weird tuna rights day from last week.

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