Sunday, August 2, 2020

We have chalked up our virtual hands, tossed back our virtual golden locks and leapt off our virtual bluff into the wild, raging air of a remarkably busy Saturday. A Saturday of unrelenting sunshine and a necessary supply run or two. A Saturday packed with activity – so much so that our desire to try out disc golf had to be bumped – yet we still managed to squeeze in an afternoon nap. This is living life at its maximum, folks. This is the dream, emboldened to inspire us to tackle all of this madness:

National Mahjong Day

Back in the plucky, early days of this century, before my idle PC time had discovered or Kongregate, I made do with the little solitaire games posted on Yahoo. Remember Yahoo? It was my first portal to the web, the first website I visited back in 1994 at the Compusmart internet kiosk. I think my first search was to figure out some of Syd Barrett’s mumbled lyrics from an early Pink Floyd song.

Anyhow, they had an online mahjong game, which was simply a solitary remove-matching-tiles game. It was fun, un-timed (so it leant itself to distraction), and fairly easy to win. Perfect for playing between calls when I worked in a call center, or just to kill some time. Yesterday I found a newer version of essentially the same game, though this one featured 3D cubes and was, in fact, timed. Not quite as fun, but it wasn’t bad.

Mahjong does not date back thousands of years, as some may suspect. I don’t know – maybe no one would suspect that. I’m making suppositions here. Anyhow, it stemmed from card and tile games that were popular in China in the 18th and 19th centuries, and some games scholars (another tragically missed career choice I’m just learning about) believe it may have stemmed from the same roots as rummy. The first mahjong sets sold in the United States were by Abercrombie & Fitch in 1920. For some reason that only a well-versed doctor of game history would know, the American version became a predominantly Jewish pastime.

It was a fun little bout of solitaire yesterday afternoon, but I had to finish up fast. This was not a day to linger on one celebration. We had work to do.

Respect For Parents Day

A lady named Marilyn Dalrymple of Lancaster, California must have been feeling a little salt from her children a few years ago, because she felt the need to create this day for children to drop their pretentions and pass some respect up the family tree. If you want a baffling trip into Marilyn’s psyche, you should check out the proclamation she posted for this day, which reads like a passionate plea for Washington to recognize this day and make it official. It also appears that her website, hosted by Tripod and looking a little late-90s-Geocities-ish, has been around for a while.

On this site she asks people to print out the proclamation and mail it back to her. One may scoff at this, but she alleges to have signed proclamations from LeVar Burton, Tim Conway, Alex Trebek, and a heap of far less famous people. So maybe we should print it out and join in.

We, of course, demonstrate our respect for our parents whenever we can. My mother is heading over for Sunday dinner later today, and we’ll be sure to treat her with the reverence she deserves. We are deeply fortunate to have only one of our four collective parents who has grown into a crochety right-winger as they’ve aged. My mom, thankfully, is just as much a hippie as she ever was. Much respect.

National Spider-Man Day

It was August of 1962. The new Amazing Fantasy #15 issue featured a brand new superhero who would go on to become a friendly neighbourhood classic. Spider-Man is one of the most beloved superheroes in the genre, and that is in part because of some fantastic cinematic timing.

A lot of people – and I mean a lot of people seem to be tiring of the superhero movies. I am, though I’ll still check them out because as a professional celebrator I feel I need to have my finger on the pulse of culture. But Spider-Man’s Tobey Maguire movies dropped before the market had been saturated. And it was terrific, as was the sequel. Putting aside the maligned Andrew Garfield movies, once Tom Holland stepped into the role the character hit another resurgence.

I can trace my love for the webslinger back to the astoundingly cheesy 80s cartoon, which can still be viewed on Disney+. I tried. I was disappointed. I suppose my standards have changed.

Spider-Man has been everywhere. He was a much-mocked disaster on Broadway. He was a recurring sketch character on The Electric Company in the mid-70s. In the comics he had no Tony Stark-type mentor – he simply had to learn himself. Even that beloved line, the one that may be the greatest quote of the Marvel universe – “With great power comes great responsibility” – was only later attributed to his uncle Ben. That line first appeared in a text box in the last panel of the very first Spider-Man story, some 58 years ago. It went on to become the ethos of the entire genre.

As a fan, I celebrated this one early, watching Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse once again earlier this week. This film is not only a feat of terrific story-telling and brilliant voice acting, but it is an achievement in the world of animation. Happy Day, Spidey.

National Mustard Day

Jodie had mustard on her burger yesterday, but I unwisely selected a chicken sandwich that was mustardless. This would not do. So I celebrated in the classic fashion: with a spoon full of mustard. It was as delightful as it looked.

Mustard is not only one of our most beloved condiments, it is likely the oldest. Archaeologists found evidence that mustard was cultivated in the Indus Valley in the Indian subcontinent by a culture that disappeared around 1800BC. The Romans mixed unfermented grape juice (known as ‘must’) with ground-up mustard seeds to create something they called “burning must”, or ‘mustum ardens’ in Latin. Hence the term ‘mustard’. Etymology is fun!

The best part about mustard – apart from its central, starring role upon a hot dog – is its versatility. In 1877 a mustard-maker named Maurice Grey developed a unique mustard blended with white wine. He partnered with Auguste Poupon, his financial backer, and made what I believed was the absolute epitome of high-class eating, based on TV commercials in the 1980s. Hot dogs were first introduced to their forever-mate mustard at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. It was a match made in heaven.

Mustard is glorious. I’m glad we had this day to celebrate it. I only wish I’d planned a bit more and saved myself the unpleasantness pictured above.

National Mead Day

I have never been a big mead guy. I have also never known a single human who would describe themselves as a “big mead guy”. In fact, I did a google search for that exact phrase, and all but one of the results on the first page consisted of people claiming they were “not a big mead guy.” So maybe they don’t exist.

Except they absolutely do. Whoever crafted the recipe for Maxwell spiced mead (from Australia) is 100% a big mead guy – assuming, that is, that they’re a guy to begin with. But this person deeply knows their mead, as they produced something that is far tastier than any I had tried before.

Mead is sweet – it’s a honey wine, which means that no matter what else is in the mix (and it can be grapes, spices and even hops), the sugar comes from honey. So yeah, it’s going to be sweet. That said, some places make a dry mead, which is most likely quite intriguing.

It took me a couple of liquor stores yesterday to track down some mead, and when I did I was fortunate that the fellow working at the register happened to be a huge fan of this stuff. A big mead guy, if you will. And he steered me wisely. I was not expecting to like this at all, and winced at the notion of purchasing a full bottle of it. But this stuff won’t go to waste. I needs me some mead. Now I just need to purchase a proper flagon for it.

Colorado Day

To be clear, this is not the National Colorado Day we celebrated back in April as part of our culinary journey around the United States. Those days were created by one of our research sources, National Day Calendar, presumably to pad their stash of holidays so that they can boast more than any other site. And that’s fine – we’ve made good use of those days, sampling food I’ve never even heard of and even experimenting with beverages (tune in tomorrow!).

But this is the actual birthday of the state, which entered the union 144 years ago yesterday. I’m sure there were cautious events happening all over the state, but I decided to celebrate by enjoying a reminder that Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. We were fortunate to have been invited to vacation in Denver in August five years ago, shortly after the stores were in place and selling. And we got to see a preseason Broncos game to boot.

Last night’s cannon of Bubba Berry went out to the good people of Colorado. Thanks for being one of the hippest states of the bunch.

Rounds Resounding Day

This is a day to celebrate the round – not the shape, not the designated time of punching in a boxing match, and not the most recent cycle of drinks to be brought to the table. No, this is about the musical rounds. You know how much fun it was (and it was not) when we’d be instructed to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in school with everyone beginning on a different line? I always found that odd and messy. But some folks liked it.

Rounds aren’t just for kids’ songs. Beethoven composed them, as did Mozart, Haydn and Bach. But how popular are they today?

I did a Spotify search for ‘rounds’ and checked out a few playlists to see if they had any actual collections of modern rounds to listen to. Turns out a lot of people use the word ‘round’ in their playlist titles, but none seem to actually contain rounds. I did, however, enjoy the most notable round in pop music, and quite likely the most perfect song ever written, “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys, which features a glorious vocal round section.

That was a fine celebration.

International Child-Free Day

I wasn’t sure what the origin of this would be, and was impressed to see this day has existed since 1973. It was created by the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood, and it’s meant to celebrate the folks who have locked in their decision to not procreate. Nice.

But wait… the National Alliance for what now? Yes, it appears there was an organization created in Palo Alto back in the 70s that felt the need to promote not having children as an acceptable lifestyle choice. I understand, western culture has always had a pre-written expectation that kids are in everyone’s future, but do people who have opted not to have them really need a support group? Perhaps I’m approaching this through a narrow lens – I have never even remotely looked down upon people who decided not to have children, and I can’t imagine the mindset of anyone who would besmirch those fine people. It’s a lifestyle choice, and one that every parent has envied, at least for a moment.

So, to those of you who have decided to live your lives without having kids – and I know a few of you quite well – I congratulate your choice and thank you for not contributing to the population explosion. Even though some of you would be better candidates for passing on your DNA than most. I’m thinking here of the good friend I had drinks with on Friday night, and comparing him to the mother we witnessed in the grocery store yesterday, whose young (mask-less) child took a bite out of a carrot, handed the carrot to his mom. That mom then dropped the carrot back in the bin with the others. I deeply wish she had been an adherent of this day.

World Wide Web Day

The world-wide web was created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, working with his team to publish the first actual website on December 20, 1990. So why isn’t December 20 the day we honour this achievement? Ask someone else. I’m just here for the party.

I don’t need to explain what a significant development this was, or how it unlocked technology for the masses or gave us all the greatest possible access to the most deviant pornography ever conceived. If you’re reading these words, you’re doing so on the www, right?

The first website was posted at CERN, where Tim worked. Only Tim and his team had browsers that would display it, so while it was a big deal for them, it was less so for the rest of us. Also, the page simply described what the world-wide web was. The first photo ever posted to the web was the one pictured above, a shot of a singing group of female CERN employees. The notion of ‘surfing’ the internet was apparently coined by Jean Armour Polly, a librarian who published an article about it in the University Of Minnesota Wilson Library Bulletin in March of 1992 – clearly that journal was a cultural juggernaut at the time.

So thank you to Mr. Berners-Lee for giving us the world’s greatest resource and its greatest distraction, all in one shiny package.

National Cotton Candy Day

So it looks like National Cotton Candy Day is actually December 7, according to most sources. But I found one which credits July 31, and that prompted me to drop that into the list of celebrations for this week. It also led me to purchase some bubble-gum flavoured cotton candy from Carol’s Quality Sweets yesterday afternoon. I regret nothing.

And I’ll save it for December 7 to wax poetic about cotton candy and delve into its history. December 7 is a much lighter day than August 1 as far as celebrations go. Yesterday we paid tribute the best way we could: we ate some. It didn’t taste a thing like bubble gum (mostly just like sugar), but it was terrific.

Women Astronomers Day

Okay, we are flying into overtime now, and that means I’m going to have to blast through this incredibly important entry. Let’s have a quick look at some of history’s most awesome space-focused women:

Let’s start with Maria Mitchell, who not only studied astronomy but taught it at a University level in the mid-1800s, before women were thought of as actual humans. She discovered a comet in 1847, and her birthday happened to be on August 1, so she gets top billing in today’s entry.

But lets not leave out Thereza Dillwyn Llewelyn, who took some of the first great photographs of the moon. Or Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who worked as a ‘computer’ at Harvard – meaning she was a calculations expert. She came up with the technology that first allowed astronomers to measure how far away galaxies are. Or German astronomer Caroline Herschel, who discovered several comets, including one on August 1 (ha!), 1876, when she was only 16.

Then of course there’s Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, the “hidden figures” scientists who conquered not only the gender barrier but the race barrier to help send U.S. astronauts to the moon with their brilliant work in the 1960s. Women have had their footprints clearly stomping out the path of astronomy over the generations, and for that we are deeply thankful.

Jump For Jelly Beans Day

We have already handled National Jelly Bean Day, and we even re-worked at least one or two days that were designed to celebrate baked beans into jelly bean celebrations. So when another one dropped in our lap, we were very excited. Well, mildly excited maybe.

Pictured above is my attempt to encourage our canine research companion, Liberty, to jump up and sniff the bag of jelly beans I was holding. Perhaps seasoned by our prior devourings of these things, she likely knew there was no jelly bean in her future, even if she displayed enthusiasm. So I jumped instead. And I ate some jelly beans.

Liberty can be happy with her liver treats. Maybe on National Liver Treats Day she’ll get a few extra. But only if she jumps.

Could we be easing into a quieter day? Well, the first of every month is always a mess. Here’s what we’ve got to tackle:

  • National Georgia Day. Will we be eating peaches? Pigs’ feet? Something hopefully not pigs’ feet?
  • National Coloring Book Day. Jodie will enjoy some recreation time with her coloring book.
  • National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. Given the weather forecast, we may eat several of these.
  • Day Of Azerbaijani Cinema. This one might be a challenge.
  • National Friendship Day. It has been two whole days since we last paid tribute to friendship. Two.
  • National Sisters Day. Jodie will send some love to her one sister who still speaks to her. To her other sister I’ll simply say, “Put on a mask and quit being a schmuck.”
  • International Forgiveness Day. Another thing we have celebrated numerous times this year.
  • National Doll Day. Do we have any Barbies? No, I think we just have those creepy dolls downstairs with the actual human eyelashes.
  • Psychic Day. If you knew this day was coming, congratulations! This day might just be for you!

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