Wednesday, July 22, 2020

I felt myself drawn to the wind yesterday morning, gazing through my office window at the gentle swaying of the evergreen branches across the street, at the subtle quiver of the peony petals in our neighbour’s yard… then my eye drifted to my August calendar and I saw that the 3rd happens to be Grab Some Nuts Day, and I fell into a distracted giggle. The moment of serenity and natural communion had passed. This is a good thing – my articles are a lot more interesting when I stay away from organic bemusements and stick with the dick jokes. Seems like as good a time as any to dive in:

Take A Monkey To Lunch Day

Well this one is going to clock in as a disappointment. Obviously renting a monkey was not a viable option; most local monkey rental facilities are still shut down due to Covid, and the ones that aren’t… let’s just say you don’t want to put down a deposit on one of those monkeys. Then I thought, maybe I can just have lunch with my dogs and they can be the ones who celebrate, given my ancestral lineage down the ladder of primates. Cute, right?

It turns out that I was actually quite close in my second guess to the actual spirit of this celebration. Yesterday marked the 95th anniversary of the verdict in the Scopes Monkey Trial in the Criminal Court of Tennessee. This was an historic ruling in the argument of evolution vs. creationism in the education system. The details are many and nuanced, so naturally I’ll try to boil it down in the most simple of paragraphs. That’s what I do.

It’s important to note that the trial itself, in which John Scopes was charged by the state for teaching evolution in school, was a sham. The town of Dayton, TN wanted to get on the map. Scopes was happy to help out; he wasn’t sure if he’d actually taught evolution, but he was fine being charged in order to help with the publicity. Even the kids who testified were coached by Scopes on what to say in order to make him look guilty. This was the fundamentalists, who believed the Word of God overruled anything found by some yutz in a lab coat, standing up to the modernists, who wanted to teach actual science in school.

Despite Clarence Darrow lawyering for the defense, the ruling came in that Scopes was guilty, and would have to pay a fine of $100. The Butler Act, which had been passed in Tennessee earlier that year, stated that teachers were prohibited from denying the Bible’s humankind origin story, and technically Scopes would have violated that if he had taught evolution in class. It was a crushing defeat for the modernists, and it helped to ensure that the quality of education in states like Tennessee would be kept far below the bar set in most other modern nations. But then something weird happened… the state’s Supreme Court overturned the ruling on appeal. Why? Because the judge himself had issued that fine. Judges were not allowed to issue more than a $50 fine in Tennessee at the time; only the jury could have imposed double that amount. So on a technicality, the monkeys won the day.

And that’s what we celebrated, the triumph of science over ancient rhetoric. We celebrate that often in this house. Monkeys for the win.

National Be Someone Day

Technically we cannot celebrate the true spirit of this day. Well, we could, but only if the opportunity presented itself. So instead I offer only these thoughts of encouragement, because really this is a damn fine cause.

Project Harmony, which deals with children’s advocacy, promotes this day, encouraging us to spend just 10 seconds to change a child’s life. There are many ways to do this: tell them the truth about Santa, invite them outside to watch a bonfire of all their toys, or show them one of those animated clips of Bugs Bunny banging Mickey Mouse. But this is about changing their lives in a good way. We need to be specific about that.

This day encourages us to listen to kids, and in particular listen to their tales of abuse without dismissing them. Report these stories to the correct authorities and intervene however possible in order to get them out of that horrible situation. Jodie gets put in this position from time to time, as she’s one of the teachers kids will confide in about stuff like this. For me, I spent roughly 0% of my day communicating with kids, so it doesn’t come up. But I’m happy to spread the word: be someone truly awesome and help a kid. Today or any day.

Invite An Alien To Live With You Day

This would appear to be the day of insanely named celebrations, meant to honour exactly what you wouldn’t expect. For example, this particular bit of merriment is centered specifically on Mork & Mindy. No, I’m not joking. Someone felt that Robin Williams’ birthday (he would have turned 69 yesterday, and you just know he’d have had something hilarious to say about that) should be rigged up to pay tribute to the role that made him famous.

The story of Mork & Mindy is one that is deeply weird by TV standards. Spinoffs today tend to be very literal extensions of a TV universe: The Walking Dead fans got to see how the outbreak began in their spinoff. Fans of The Big Bang Theory got to see one of its characters as a small child. And all of those Chicago Fire / PD / Medical / Veterinary / Upholsterer’s shows are spin-offs of one another, tailor-made for crossover episodes.

Back in the 1970s, a TV spin-off was usually a way of cashing in on a popular character, like George Jefferson from All In The Family or Rhoda from Mary Tyler More. Then one day, Garry Marshall’s 8-year-old kid suggested that Happy Days, a show about a suburban Milwaukee family in the 1950s, should have a space alien on it. So Garry did what any sensible show-runner would do: he introduced a space alien. Robin was recommended by Garry’s sister Penny (of Laverne & Shirley fame), who had taken a class with him. He showed up to the audition and sat in the chair upside down, as he did in Mork & Mindy’s credits, pictured above. He was cast because he was, according to Garry Marshall, the only actual alien who auditioned.

So yesterday I listened to some of Robin Williams’ brilliant standup, and longed for the day when his show would get dropped onto a streaming service. There’s literally no way his comedy doesn’t hold up – we need this on Netflix. So, happy day to everyone. Nanu-Nanu.

Legal Drinking Age Day

It was on July 17, 1984 when the National Minimum Age Drinking Act was passed, banning the sale of alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 21. It had been a state-by-state decision up to that point, and it even remained so afterwards, sort of. While it was illegal to sell to anyone 20 or younger thanks to this act, only seven states went on to fully ban the consumption of alcohol for any minor.

So why, the astute among you are probably asking, do we celebrate this day on July 21 and not on the 17th? In fact, why do we celebrate it at all? The best answer I can find to the first question is that yesterday would also have been Ernest Hemingway’s 121st birthday, and few historical figures exemplify the benefits of incorporating drinking into their lifestyle quite as well as Hemingway. He not only made drinking cool, but he made it a necessary accessory for any aspiring writer.

As for the second question… I have no idea. I still marvel at the drinking age being 21. In Canada it’s 19 in most provinces, 18 in three. Fortunately, Alberta is one of the three, which allowed me to get away with buying beer as young as 15. I had an old face. And that was before all the grey in my beard, or even my ability to properly grow a beard.

The correct way to celebrate this day would be for those of us 21 and over to enjoy a delicious alcoholic beverage, which I absolutely did. For my readers under 21, I hope you abstained. If you didn’t, I won’t tell.

National Tug-Of-War Tournament Day

Yes, we already had National Tug Of War Day back on February 9. And no, I don’t feel the tugging of war is an activity that is worthy of two days of our year, but here we are. In February I played a bit of tug-of-war with one of the puppies, but clearly I’d have to scale it up here. I mean, I don’t have to… but again, here we are.

The tournament format was simple. Each dog would grasp one end of our resident platypus toy, I’d grab the other. It would be a competition to see who would hang on the longest. Trixie was disqualified right away due to lack of interest. Tug-of-war is not really her game. She prefers wrestling for about 30 seconds before she rolls on her back and requests a belly-rub.

Rosa didn’t last very long either, mostly because Liberty was conspiring to throw off Rosa’s game by getting involved. She, of course, has a tenacious hold and won the tournament easily. She was rewarded with a cookie. Runner-up and even our disqualified competitor were issued a consolation prize, also a cookie.

It was a fine athletic performance on all sides.

National Junk Food Day

We don’t know the origins of National Junk Food Day. It seems as though every form of junk food, from the potato chip to the popsicle to a dozen different variations of ice cream, gets its own day. We eat an unhealthy amount of junk food, all for the love of this project. And for the fact that I really like junk food. But at least this year I have an excuse.

Well, yesterday I had all the excuses I’d ever need. A free-for-all junk-fest. It started at lunch with some chocolate pudding, followed up by munching on some sour candies during the afternoon. Some chips for a snack, and a trio of caramel chocolate cups for dessert. What a blast! And we don’t really have any particularly healthy celebrations all week, depending on how healthy you’d consider a hot dog to be.

We enjoyed this day as it was meant to be enjoyed: in a state of carefree gluttony. No guilt. It doesn’t count as calories when the calendar is dictating it. That’s why they both start with ‘cal’.

(my project, my logic. It’s allowed)

Wednesday settles down into a manageable affair, thankfully:

  • National Penuche Fudge Day. In the spirit of Junk Food Day, we’ll be taking a break from sweets and skipping this one. Unfortunately.
  • National Hammock Day. The forecast is mostly cloudy, but warm. If the rain stays away for the rest of the day I’ll celebrate this – if not, I’ll celebrate it as soon as I’m able. This summer has sucked, weather-wise.
  • National Hot Dog Day. I had this down for Thursday, but I’m happy to jump in on it a little early.
  • Pi Approximation Day. We celebrated 3/14; do we really need to also celebrate 22/7?
  • National Ratcatcher’s Day. Not a job I’ve ever wanted, but here it is.
  • Summer Leisure Day. Not ideal for a Wednesday, but we’ll try.
  • Spoonerism Day. Another day for wordplay. How fun.

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