Friday, May 8, 2020

The precocious sun lingering over a quieted planet speaks volumes of the potential sequestered into our tiny little tins every day. Do we squint and binge until nightfall, or muster up the chutzpah to venture out into the uncertain air? These are the quandaries that vex most folks in these wavery times, but not us. We have a prescriptive slab of plastic-coated paper staring us down with its gridiron gltare – the holy and sacred Calendar of Stuff. And yesterday it granted us a reprieve from its standard level of manic mirth, leaving us with only this to contemplate:  

National Packaging Design Day

The above mess of future landfill residents is the packaging you receive when purchasing cannabis in Canada through legal channels right now. The first thing you’ll notice is the large amount of plastic. Pot smokers are, in this country, quite displeased with this choice. It’s meant to look medicinal and official, but it’s a plant. You don’t need to secure it from breakage during transit. The leaves won’t shatter. And all this waste is woefully unnecessary.

Yesterday was apparently a day to celebrate the art of packaging design. This is something remarkably easy to overlook as we become more accustomed to receiving our Amazon packages in plain boxes too large for their contents, crammed with a couple of puffy packing bubbles to temper the mid-transit jostling. Can packaging be “art”?

I’m leaning toward a hearty yes on this. Ask anyone who has received an item from Tiffany & Company if that little blue box didn’t do something to tickle their anticipation. Consider the last electronic device you purchased with its perfectly moulded foam inserts, delivering the item in a comfy little home. Think about the satisfaction you feel when peeling off the protective plastic off a new phone, a new laptop – hell, I remember peeling that plastic off the front of a new VCR and it was a joy.

An item’s packaging is its first impression. If the packaging makes you feel comforted, as though some care and attention was put into making sure this item found its way to you intact and all pretty-like, that means something. Today we celebrate by taking a pause to appreciate the good and the bad in packaging design. It doesn’t seem like much – and really, on the grand scale of existence it isn’t much – but it’s something. And what else is our 2020 but a whole bunch of somethings?

National Roast Leg of Lamb Day

This is going to be the most privileged and first-world gripe I’ve made in this project, and it pains me to type these words, but dammit, we couldn’t find a leg of lamb at our local grocery store. We had to settle for a rack. I know – this is suffering of the highest order. It’s a wonder we don’t burst into blue and green flames at the sheer agony of having to endure this horror.

We had this recipe ready to go for yesterday, and we merely adapted it over to the rack, which we hacked up and pan-fried. The result was lamb – if you don’t like the flavour of that meat you would have hated our main course last night. We happen to be quite fond of the stuff, and this was a great way to make it.

Interesting to note, a lamb is only a lamb during its first year of life. In its second year, it’s known as hogget. Any older than that and you’re eating mutton, unless you’re dining on South Asian or Caribbean food, in which case mutton may refer to goats and not sheep. Lamb is the most coveted of all the sheep meats, though Prince Charles felt the need to launch the Mutton Renaissance Campaign back in 2004 to promote the elder alternative. It’s apparently his favourite food, and while the stronger flavour might put some folks off, Prince Charles’ efforts likely helped out some sheep farmers who were having trouble moving their post-lamb elder statessheep to slaughterhouses and restaurants.

We were plenty happy with our rack of lamb – which doesn’t get its own day this year, so it worked out nicely. We could have gone more experimental, of course. Lamb’s liver is a pub favourite, the lungs and heart factored into the haggis we ate in February, the tongue can flavour some soups, and of course the kidneys get speared on kababs in Europe and the Middle East. Then you’ve got lamb fries, which are popular in everything from Chinese cuisine to the chefs in Kentucky – those are fried-up sheep testicles, often breaded and covered in a cream sauce.

Yeah, I withdraw my gripe. The rack was just fine.

National Cosmopolitan Day

For a brief spell about twenty years ago, Jodie and I, along with much of the rest of the western TV-watching world, got briefly into cosmopolitans. My father-in-law, a biker and devoted downer of Bud Light, scoffed at these as being girly-drinks. But a cosmopolitan is simply a vodka martini-like-drink, touched up with some flavours to help you slurp back more of them at a faster rate, thus inviting a more rapid onset of knee-buckling inebriation. Nothing wrong with that.

Specifically you need lemon-infused vodka to make this stuff right, along with some Cointreau, some cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime. It’s a terrific drink, and like any great pillar of modern mixological mayhem there’s a huge debate over who invented the thing. It seems as though every bar from New York to Minneapolis to South Beach to the gay community in Provincetown, Massachusetts seems to want to claim ownership of the cosmo. Its roots, however, point it to a very similar recipe from back in the 1930s.

In the end, who really cares who mixed it up first? It’s a terrific drink and one that deserves consumption, not contemplation. Unfortunately we had no lemon vodka and no cranberry juice on hand yesterday, so we had to find an alternative way to celebrate. I pulled up an old episode of Sex & The City and watched it, as the drink made its way to stardom on the heels of that show. Still a great little show – I think the sub-par movies made us forget how much we really dug this show when it first aired. I’m calling this a victorious celebration.

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day / Mental Health Week

Sometimes these days show up at exactly the right time. In order to preserve the overall physical health of society, we have all had to put ourselves into a precarious state of mental health. Whether it’s anxiety over having to visit a grocery store, the crushing weight of imposed solitude or the abject terror of having to actually have contact with other humans in order to maintain one’s livelihood, this is one hell of a gut-punch of a year, mental-health-wise.

Kids, despite having oodles of time off school and potentially much more quality time with their video game systems and TV shows (which sounds like heaven to the child version of me who still provides daily commentary inside my brain), are feeling the strain. Maybe it’s the uncertainty, maybe it’s seeing the adults in their lives dealing with a level of anxiety they’d never witnessed before. Maybe it’s the deconstruction of routine, or the sudden severing of face-to-face contact with their peers. Maybe it’s all of the above.

If you know a kid who may be struggling, you can call 211 to get some direction on supports, and you can check out this page for a link to an anonymous chat with someone who likely understands this a lot more than you. That’s a local link for Edmonton folk, but I’m sure you can work the Google Machine and find something similar for where you live if it ain’t here.

We’re all in a strange new boat in uncharted waters, but we’re in it together. We can make it to the other side, whatever that might look like.

National Day of Prayer / National Day of Reason

Here’s a debate I have no desire to wade anywhere near, except to point out that it exists. Let’s start with the original.

The National Day of Prayer goes back to colonial America, though it wasn’t proclaimed as an official American Day until 1952. Still, it has been intertwined with American history back through the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington ordered a stop to unnecessary labor on May 6, 1779 for a day of focus on faith. Even as recently as yesterday, every president acknowledges the day, and does something tied in with prayer. That said, this is not a Christians-only game. Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and Hindus take part as well. This is not a day off, merely one that a person can use to reconnect with their spiritual telegraph wires to whichever deity fuels their beliefs. In that sense, this is actually the most inclusive religious observance in the country, perhaps in the world.

Then you’ve got the flip-side. The American Humanist Association (also referred to as the AHA, best known for their 1985 single “Take On Me”) helped to create this day in 2003 as an atheist response to the Day of Prayer. They feel the Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment, as it asks governments to set aside tax-dollar-supported time for religious observance that should not be supported by tax money. Okay, I suppose if a government worker drops down and utters a prayer (sanctioned by the government) it is technically on tax-dollar time. But come on, AHA, do you have any idea how much crap gets done on tax-dollar time? Video games? Napping? Intoxication? I’ve seen it all, and I’m just low-level drone in a different country.

Some organizations have put together food drives and other charitable events to promote the National Day of Reason, which is a great use of one’s atheist efforts. We did not observe either holiday in the truest sense, as we are both non-religious and really uninterested in how anyone else devotes themselves, faith-wise. We acknowledge the conflict though, and we sincerely hope everyone used their interpretation of the day for good.

Today we roll into another weekend, a slight brightening of the blur from sunrise to sunrise. Here’s what’s up:

  • National Coconut Cream Pie Day. As mentioned a couple days ago, in an effort to not die from over-consumption of treats, this one will be written about, not eaten.
  • National Have a Coke Day. And a smile! It adds life to everything nice. It is it! The real thing! Etc., etc.
  • No Socks Day. Thankfully this doesn’t show up in the middle of winter.
  • Fintastic Friday. A day to celebrate the shark. We were going to venture to our nearby mall and visit some in the flesh, but of course we can’t.
  • Iris Day. We can take some time to learn about the gorgeous flower.
  • World Red Cross / Red Crescent Day. A bit of love for this mighty organization.

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