Sunday, July 19, 2020

For a scant few hours of every day I can do my best to block out the chorus of ignorance and narcissism on social media. This is the gift of this project right now, offering up a distraction from the poor oppressed masses told they should wear a mask in public, or the insidiously idiotic drone of “what about white oppression?” Honestly, I understand there is ignorance and stupidity in the world, but I question why some people feel the need to broadcast theirs from a mountainous pulpit. I don’t wander onto a crowded street and struggle with a pickle jar I can’t open – it’s embarrassing. People should be just as embarrassed of their stupidity and willful ignorance. Keep it hidden away. It’s a secret you can cling to, and none of us have to know just how dense you truly are. Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get to the distractions:

National Woodie Wagon Day

There was a time, and it took up a weirdly large chunk of the 20th century, where humans felt it was a logical concept for the exterior of motor vehicles to be crafted from lumber. This was not initially a standard-issue alternative. It was usually done by folks who were jacking up their vehicles to look different or unique. Some manufacturers created them as a limited run. The 1932 Ford line for example featured a 4-door “Woodie” station wagon. These came to represent a bit of luxury (wood being more warm in appearance than black steel), and the vehicles often came with extra thick cushions in the back and little curtains on the windows.

1953 was the final year in which vehicles were made with actual wood construction for the doors – after that it was purely cosmetic. “All-Steel” was a selling point back then, something those of us who grew up in the age of fiberglass might not have known. Ford, GM and Chrysler kept producing vehicles – mainly station wagons – with the wood look until the early 90s, but at that point the “wood” was simply steel, plastic or vinyl. So for four decades people simply yearned for the look of wood, not caring whether or not it was real.

The Woodie wagon became intertwined with 60s surf culture, in part because they could haul boards on the roof and a bunch of people inside, and in part because the aesthetic fit with the beach party vibe. The Woodie Wagon deserves its own day because it is a relic not simply of automotive history but of cultural history. It represents a time when cars could reflect the humans who drove them. When watching vehicles drive by was an exercise in originality and variety. When people could look up at a mighty tree and think, “Yeah. I’d like to tip that over and drive it.”

Last night by some weird fluke I found myself watching The Muppet Movie (for therapeutic reasons). I’d forgotten that the Woodie Wagon captured above – Fozzie’s uncle’s Studebaker – was an important piece of the plot.

World Listening Day

No, this is not simply a day to listen to a bunch of music, as I’d suspected. The World Listening Project is a non-profit dedicated to understanding the world through field recordings. This can mean recording cultural celebrations in remote areas of Africa or simply documenting the euphonic symphony of a South American rainforest. This is acoustic ecology, sonic anthropology. It’s a lot more interesting than I’d anticipated.

The website tends to include a lot of 2019 info, as I’d imagine World Listening Day 2020 is going to be quite a different affair than the listening folks are used to. The July 18 date was chosen because it is the birthdate of R. Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer whose most famous work was the World Soundscape Project, which is an experiment in audio ecology, a research project to study the soundscapes of the planet, with a focus on documenting dying sound environments. The world sounded very different in the 1970s when this was conceived.

Simon Fraser University hosts the online collection of the World Listening Project’s history. Unfortunately all they have available from what I can see is a detailed list of every tape in the collection, along with a description of what’s on them. I found everything from bighorn sheep sounds to ambient noise captured at the Continental Divide in western Alberta, to some muzak playing in a hotel lobby. What I couldn’t do was actually listen to any of them. Instead I made do with a couple of clips on the World Listening Day webpage, but that wasn’t as interesting.

Sound ecology is an interesting line of study, one that might have drawn me toward it had I learned about it at the right time in my life. But it made for some interesting Saturday afternoon experiments yesterday, and that’s a win.

Perfect Family Day

The article I found for this one begins with the question: What does it mean to have a perfect family?

I think I can answer that. It means you exist within a cinematic world, or perhaps on a sitcom. In reality there is no such thing as a perfect family. Every family has some schmuck within it who will disavow a blood relative because of their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their politics, or their refusal to believe in Pizzagate and other assorted idiocy. There’s always someone who will screw over a sibling for a few bucks or file a lawsuit against everyone else because they felt shafted in the matriarch’s will. Sometimes that person marries into a family and destroys what were previously loving relationships by calling someone a “pig-whore” (that actually happened with us).

On accepting that there is no such concept as a perfect family, we must then learn to accept the beauty in the imperfections. Sure, maybe your uncle has some rather unfortunate things to say about immigrants, but maybe he also devotes hours of every week to a charitable cause. Maybe that cousin who clogs the toilet every Thanksgiving and sits in the corner blasting death metal through his headphones isn’t such a joy to have around, but maybe he is a solid emotional rock for the people close to him, helping them in ways no one else can.

I’ve learned a weird amount about family this week, and it has become clear to me that striving for anything close to a perfect family is a wasted exercise, regardless of what the blogger on believes. We should accept our family members, imperfections and all, or if that proves to be too problematic, we should be willing to let them go. I don’t believe blood or kin means anyone has a free pass to be an asshole. If possible, we need to live with those assholes and push them toward the side of good.

But not to perfection. There is simply no such thing.

Toss Away The Should-Haves & Could-Haves Day

Yet another celebration coined by a motivational speaker, in this case Martha J. Ross-Rodgers. The message here, and I’m spoiling it right off the top for you, is not to live a life of regrets.

This is something that some folks, your rambling, meandering author included, have had to wrestle with. Sometimes we win; sometimes those should haves and could haves get tossed triumphantly into the fire, only to dissolve into a hope-filled smoke which dissipates into sunlight. Sometimes it isn’t so easy. Some of us wear our regrets like a hefty yoke, tolerating the thick muck of second-guessing that our feet sink into with every step. I envy those who can review the screenplay of past experience and crumple up the pages that aren’t worth the effort of memory.

Regrets in general are wasted energy. Shake yourself free of them if you can, but if you can’t you are not alone. I offer no words of inspiration or motivation; they are yours to cling to or drop. I can only report a tolerable level of success in my efforts to block out their insidious howls on a temporary basis, through distraction or through an act of creation. And when that happens I find I don’t miss them. Call it an act of spiritual maintenance or one of intrinsic denial. It works, inasmuch as the should-haves and could-haves do not have the power to shift my focus away from the should-bes and could-bes.

Whatever works for you, make it work. Don’t be suckered by the promise of a perpetually ideal perspective.

National Sour Candy Day

As much as I have grown up loving candy of all varieties, the sour candies usually ranked near the bottom of the list for me. I like my candy to be sweet and straightforward. Cover it in sugar and make it vaguely taste like a piece of fruit and I’m in heaven. I had an unpleasant “overdose” experience on spicy cinnamon when I was young, now artificial cinnamon tends to give me canker sores. This was a familiar scar of the times – back when extreme-flavoured candies were nudging their way into our lives they became the stuff of competitive suffering. Boys would cram as many sour candies or spice-laced toothpicks into their mouths as possible, holding them firmly and wincing past the pain. It was how we showed our mettle in our protected suburban corner of 1980s Canada.

The ‘acid effect’, which sounds more like a documentary on 1960s counterculture, leads to sour candies causing irritation of the human tongue. I think you’d have to be quite the devotee of sour candies for that to happen, so there were no worries about downing the watermelon flavoured Sour Patch Kids yesterday for a snack. Except that I forgot to do so until the dogs woke me up at 4:05 this morning to be let outside. I downed a couple then, figuring that by TV Guide rules (in which the new day listings begin at either 5:00 or 6:00am), it was still Saturday.

The history of sour candies dates back to the rise of candy as door-to-door treats for Halloween in the 1950s. This is right around when those bogus urban legends of razor-blade apples and poisoned home-baked treats started to circulate, so wrapped store-bought candy was seen as safer. This allowed the candy companies to start pushing the edge for that spooky Halloween feel. We got Atomic Fireballs in 1954. Lemonheads in 1962 used citric acid to create their bite.

Sour Patch Kids were created by Frank Galatolie in 1972 and he called them ‘Mars Men’, despite the fact that he did not work for the Mars Candy Company. They were renamed in the 80s as a result of the surge in popularity of Cabbage Patch Kids. Kind of a weird phenomenon is at play here, given that the source for this name change faded in popularity after a few years, while the candies have kept people racing back to the Sour Patch for more goodies without fail ever since.

Not my favourite, but a fine candy treat nonetheless. Are we done with all the candy and dessert treats yet? Ha – no chance. Tune in tomorrow!

Sunday rolls in with an entirely new bevy of weird celebrations to tackle:

  • National Daiquiri Day. I mean… if I absolutely have to I guess I can make the effort to drink a few of these.
  • National Ice Cream Day. With so many ice cream days to celebrate, I guess this is the most important one? We will combine it with National Peach Ice Cream Day, which we missed a couple days back.
  • National Pennsylvania Day. The weekly ‘state’ celebrations have, for some reason, shifted over to Mondays. But we’ll continue to celebrate them on Sunday because we’ve come to enjoy using them as a basis for Sunday dinner. That said, we’ll probably just have some Hershey bars for this one.
  • Stick Out Your Tongue Day. Well this should be easy.
  • National Flitch Day. Apparently this is a way of measuring out bacon. Since National Bacon Day doesn’t show up until the end of the year, this will be a treat.

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