Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A cleansing rain spent much of the day lingering in the air outside our windows yesterday, which normally would have been a sad redirection to remain indoors. But indoors is where we have shined for the last six weeks, and we had to change almost zero plans. The earth spun us from one bevy of celebrations into the next with predictable aplomb, and we were as ready as we could possibly be.

National Star Wars Day

I always felt Star Wars should be celebrated on May 25, the anniversary of the day the first film opened, and not the pun-infused May the Fourth. That sacred day also occurred twenty years and one day before my daughter was born, so it means more to me. But clearly society outvoted me on this one, so who am I to argue? Star Wars is absolutely something worth celebrating.

My parents had the Beatles. They both tuned in (separately) to see them on Ed Sullivan, both bought every release as it came out, and they waited in line for the movies. They got to witness the greatest music-instigated cultural revolution of all time. When Star Wars dropped in 1977 it fused cinema with pop culture in a new way: geared to kids, but also to sci-fi lovers and anyone who was into being thrilled and wowed at the movies. Jaws had kicked off the tradition of the summer blockbuster just two years before. It was a cinematic revolution.

And it was ours. We collected the toys. We begged our parents for the video games. We wore the Halloween costumes (I was Death-Star outfit Luke once, Yoda twice). We ate the C3PO’s cereal. It was a connection between all of us, and the kids who didn’t care – there may have been a few – just didn’t get it. As we aged out of childhood, the trilogy came with us on home video, never losing its lustre even after dozens or hundreds of viewings. Then George changed a bunch of it, partly for the better, partly by cramming Jabba into an unnecessary scene and messing up the Gredo bit (Maclunkey!). But it was still great. Then came the prequels, which we got to enjoy with our kids: this ranged from the Duel of the Fates down to Anakin whining about sand like a little bitch. Then the sale to Disney and another, possibly endless surge of new content.

I have love for every single piece of Star Wars cinema – even the damn holiday special. I approached the last three films (the Skywalker films) with the hope of being entertained and thrilled for two hours and each one delivered. No need to pick nits, no need to kvetch about it not living up to my expectations. I had no expectations, except to enjoy myself. And I did – I don’t need the full-on, life-consuming culture of it anymore. I had that, and it helped to shape me. JJ did a great job, the new cast of heroes and villains are superb, and I’m grateful just to have closure on the trilogy that formed my childhood perception on cinema, on the hero’s journey, and even on religion.

We watched some Star Wars yesterday, specifically the documentary about the original trilogy. It was great. We love the fact that Mark Hamill, one of my childhood heroes, is still a great man with a huge heart and a warm humour – he’s still my hero. We love that new content is still being churned out, from the exceptional Mandalorian to the announcement yesterday that Taika Waititi will be helming the next film. It’s Star Wars. It’s life, love, and pure joy. Thanks George!

National Weather Observers Day

At this point in our project we were to have met up with a meteorologist on two separate occasions. One was cancelled due to illness, the other due to COVID. So we were left to be our own weather observers yesterday.

We learned a few ways to predict the weather without tuning in to Josh Classen on channel 2. First, the direction of the wind. Since wind is often the result of moving from high-pressure system to a low-pressure one, you can check the direction and see where you’re at. If it’s blowing westerly, it means the crappy weather is to the east of you – most weather moves west-to-east with the Jetstream. If it’s blowing easterly, then the crap is on its way. Easy enough.

If smoke from a fire blows straight upward, you’re in a high pressure system and you’re okay. If it spirals back down and swooshes around the ground, the low pressure system has moved in and lousy weather is on the way. Pinecones will stay closed up when it’s humid, which is often right before a storm hits. If they are open, it’s dry out and probably storm-free. Then there are the clouds. The white wispy ones mean the weather will be clear. Puffy ones mean it’s unstable, while flat ones indicate a more stable weather pattern. As bad weather approaches, the clouds tend to get lower. Also, if the clouds are leaking fluid, it’s probably raining.

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Why? Because if the sky is red in the east as the sun is rising, it probably means the weather is good in the east, but bad weather is moving in from the west. Likewise, if it’s red at night, the bad weather has passed to the east. Rainbows are also an indicator: see them in the west, the bad weather is moving toward you. In the east, it has passed.

None of these are 100% gauges of the weather of course, as unpredictable things happen all the time. Also, I got these off the internet, so they might all be wrong. Yesterday we observed a consistent slab of grey clouds with plenty of steady rain. Which in this part of the world means it’s cold as fuck. That one we predicted accurately.

National Renewal Day

We didn’t make a lot of New Year’s Resolutions this year, apart from resolving to celebrate every day. This is a day to renew those resolutions, or to make new ones to carry forward for the next eight months. No need for us to do that – we are still committed to this same madness, and in some ways even more so.

There’s no question that COVID has changed our approach to these celebrations, mostly for the better. We have had to abandon our more interesting outings, which stinks because they would have made for more interesting experiences. But we have also had more time to devote to researching, learning, and appreciating the stuff we can take care of from home. As an example, I looked at my January 2 entry, which contained eight things we’d done the day before. I wrote one paragraph for each. Even the busy days were barely topping 1000 words – now I’m up to 3000 or more. Why? I have time. I also feel it’s good to research these things a bit more, to further our understanding of them.

And so we simply pointed our collective craft toward the future with a renewed optimism that we’ll get through the next 241 days. And perhaps I’ll refine my approach to brevity, if only to have more time to build puzzles, binge TV shows and play the expansion to Civilization VI that I just bought. Always forward!

National Orange Juice Day

How could we possibly celebrate this sacred day? It’s pretty self-explanatory. We drank some OJ. Celebration achieved.

But, in the spirit of the previous entry, what can we learn about Orange Juice? We know it comes from oranges, that Florida apparently makes a lot of it, and that it was a pivotal point in the final act of the film Trading Places. But surely there’s more to learn out there, right?

This day connects smoothly with Scurvy Awareness Day a couple days back. During WWII, American soldiers needed some citrus to ward off scurvy and get their Vitamin C. Their rations included crystalized lemonade, which they hated. The government worked with the Florida Department of Citrus and a team of scientists to produce frozen concentrated OJ, which unfortunately didn’t hit the market until 1948. It became the juice of choice across the nation until the 90s when not-from-concentrate reminded us that there is a tasty middle ground between the frozen canned stuff and freshly-squeezed. Still just about as much sugar as a soda, but hey, it felt healthier. And it gave us the vitamin we needed.

Let’s look a little deeper at the not-from-concentrate stuff, as that’s the only stuff we buy. From concentrate means they sucked out all the water after pasteurization, then froze it. Not from concentrate means they skipped that step, but they still store the juice (minus any oxygen) for up to a year, which strips the stuff of most of its flavour. Then a “flavour pack” gets added before the product is shipped off. The contents of those flavour packs do not need to be mentioned on the packaging. This is not comforting.

It’s best to look at OJ not as a health food (unless you’re squeezing it yourself), but as a sugary beverage that will keep away the scurvy. We’ll take it.

National Candied Orange Peel Day

We made these little things on Saturday, as they required a day to sit on the counter and dry. We followed this recipe, which means they are simply orange and lemon peels that have been boiled thrice to soften them and remove the bitterness, then a fourth time in sugary water before getting rolled around in sugar. The final photo on the website looks like delicious gummy worms. Ours look more like pus-covered regret worms.

Eating orange peels is not a new concept. The bergamot orange from Italy was bred mainly for its peel, which gets used in fragrances and also to flavour Earl Grey tea. Sweet orange oil, which is made by pressing the peel and extracting the liquid, is great for creating an orange flavoring, or for adding to cleaning products. Marmalade has bits of orange peel in it, and you can use the stuff as a slug repellant. Cool.

These things were sweet and tasty snacks, ideal for ice cream. This was a relief given how much of my Saturday night they stole for their creation.

Anti-Bullying Day

It’s hard to fathom what bullying is these days. It used to involve wedgies, swirlies, nurples of the purple variety, and assholes being assholes to people they felt would never hit back. But now physical bullying has been edged aside to make way for social media bullying, which is impacting school life in ways we older folks could never have anticipated. It’s hard for parents and teachers – most of whom are equally out of this loop – to keep up and keep a handle on.

Jodie took part in pink shirt day on the last Wednesday in February – that has become the anti-bullying day in Canada ever since 2008 when BC premier Gordon Campbell declared it so. Four years later the UN stepped in with their attempt to spread the anti-bullying sentiment around the globe, and they plunked this day on May 4. But we can trace the anti-bullying efforts back one year prior to Mr. Campbell’s declaration. A kid named Chuck was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to the first day of school in Nova Scotia, so the next day David Shepherd and Travis Price, two teachers (I assume), bought and handed out 50 pink shirts for kids to wear. That linked the pink shirt to the anti-bullying movement, and started this day’s trend.

Given that bullying has reached into a new realm, we probably won’t figure out the best way to deal with it until the kids who grew up around online bullying become of age to make the decisions about how to address it. I was somewhat surprised to learn that 1 in 4 kids in the US will be bullied as teenagers – I actually thought that number would be higher. But lest we get too optimistic, that same study showed that 71% of those bullied kids will see the bullying continue day after day. That’s a lot of struggling kids. If you’re a parent, we encourage you to learn all you can about how this cyberbullying takes place, and try to watch for the signs. Your kid might be struggling beneath their own bully, or they might be the assholes bullying others. Never underestimate the asshole potential of your own kid.

Dave Brubeck Day

Dave Brubeck, the great pianist and jazz-mathematician, was born on December 6 and died on December 5, so why is his official day celebrate in May? Simple: his most famous musical creation, the 1959 instrumental “Take Five”, was written in a 5/4 time signature. 5/4 = May 4. Very cute.

Just as the Beatles explored other musical genres and fused them with rock music, Dave and his band were eager to infuse some elements of Eurasian folk music into jazz, which led to the creation of the Time Out album and their experimentation with kooky time signatures. For those of us without the inner meter honed to these rhythms, it means a lot of counting to keep track of the groove. But Brubeck and his band made it all seem so natural and easy.

That album hit #2 on the Billboard charts, and became the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies. “Take Five” hit #25 on the Hot 100 chart, which is unlikely to ever happen again for a jazz record. In fact, the only jazz records that topped its performance on the charts were Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” in 1964 and the Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto single “The Girl From Ipanema” the same year. Instrumental jazz though? It simply didn’t have a presence on the mainstream charts, except for Dave’s tune.

We were fortunate to have seen Dave Brubeck when he played here several years ago. It was a pleasure to indulge in listening to an assortment of his works yesterday, even if we had to count along for some of them. He’ll have turned 100 this December, so we’ll celebrate him again then. Great music never gets old.

International Respect for Chickens Day

No, this is not a day to respect the deliciousness of chickens, be they Kentucky-fried, chow meined, or pot pied. This day is a product of the United Poultry Concerns, a non-profit that seeks to bring awareness to just how shittily these creatures – turkeys and ducks included – get treated around the world. Remember when PETA-friendly celebrities were up in arms over the way KFC housed their chickens in tiny boxes or beefed them up (pun highly regretted) to offer more tasty meat? That stuff didn’t go away just because we all got distracted by pogs or that Pizza Rat or whatever. A lot of chickens still face a crappy life.

So how can we help these birds? There are videos and leaflets we can read and distribute to our friends and family, but that won’t have much of an effect on most people, apart from perhaps encouraging them to distance themselves from our friendship. We can learn how our chicken suppliers treat their fowl, and avoid the bad ones. That’s not an easy investigation though, and odds are if your poultry suppliers treat their chickens in a rotten way, they won’t tell you about it.

Unfortunately, apart from those ideas the best thing we can do is not eat KFC, or even better, don’t eat chicken. Go vegan. We shan’t be doing that, but we will do our part to call awareness to this cause. Respect them birds, and treat ‘em with love.

Cinco de Cuatro

Fans of Arrested Development will no doubt be happy with the inclusion of this day. If you followed the show into its controversial Season 4 on Netflix, you’ll recall this was a day in which George and Lucille Bluth, miffed at their housekeeper booking Cinco de Mayo off, decided to create a holiday to thwart it. A big festival is held in Newport Beach in which people buy up all the sombreros, pinatas, and other merchandise and toss them into the bay, thus eliminating any ability for “the help” to celebrate the next day.

The day’s name, which fits in with the cluelessness of the in-show creators, actually harkens back to something spoken by Barrack Obama on May 4, 2009. He chuckled about making a Cinco de Mayo announcement a day early, saying “Welcome to Cinco de Cuatro”. He misspoke of course – the name literally translates to the “fifth of four”.

So to celebrate this day, we watched some Arrested Development. I wish we could celebrate more things this way. Then again, we’ve already had four laughter-based days and I anticipate we’ll get a few more, so I suppose we can. Happy 5th of 4, everyone.

A slightly lighter day? Maybe. Depends how deeply we want to dive into all this:

  • Bonza Bottler Day. For the fifth time this year we enjoy a special bottle of something.
  • National Astronaut Day. Let’s see who’s currently astronauting right now up on the ISS.
  • National Chipotle Day. We don’t have that particular fast food establishment up here, but we can cook up some chipotle chicken!
  • National Hoagie Day. Ideally we’ll celebrate this the same way we celebrated Submarine Day last month, with a sandwich from the Italian Centre.
  • Cinco de Mayo. Since our food is already spoken for, and we can’t attend any cultural events right now, this may be a day of great Mexican music.
  • National Teacher Appreciation Day. I’ll write a few paragraphs about how much I appreciate my wife. She loves it when I do that.
  • Cartoonists Day. A fun day to pay tribute to the greatest cartoonists of our time.
  • Hug A Shed And Take A Selfie Day. The fuck? Yes, this is a thing. We’ll do as the title insists.
  • Nail Day. A fine day to trim our nails. What a party!
  • National Concert Day. Maybe we’ll watch and/or listen to a concert. We certainly can’t attend one.
  • Poem On Your Pillow Day. I still have the poem I wrote out for Poem In Your Pocket Day last week. I guess I’ll drop it on my pillow?
  • Revenge of the Fifth. Another Star Wars pun, this day so we can pay tribute to the Sith and the good ol’ dark side.

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