Friday, August 21, 2020

Yesterday was a crochety, cranky ol’ road, filled with potholes, debris and cow poop. Some days are like that, and they simply require some creative side-stepping. I knew by the time I sat down to write – after having mowed the lawn and walked the dogs just moments before the rain hit – that things had snapped into place. But by then I was a bit too winded to get up to much. Even bacon-lovers day had to be postponed. But fear not, the universe still dealt us a hand of quirk and mayhem, and it looked something like this:

National Radio Day

On this day in 1920, at least according to one source (I didn’t really look for another to corroborate), the first commercial radio station went on the air. This would be a big deal, except that it might not be accurate. A few moments after writing that first sentence I actually did try to confirm this. It looks like KDKA in Pittsburgh went on the air on November 2, 1920, but XWA in Montreal had applied for a commercial radio license back on December 1, 1919. So if anyone wants to look deeper they may; I’m happy just knowing radio is roughly 100 years old. That’s good enough.

And it’s still a very relevant medium. People still listen to terrestrial radio, mostly in the car, because it’s free and provides local news and information. Personally, I can’t stand it – partly because the commercials are painfully awful, and partly because the Canadian Content laws state that 1/3 of all music played on a radio station must be Canadian. That’s great for stations that play new content, to promote our regional talent, but if you’re listening to classic rock or oldies, how many times can you hear Burton Cummings declare that he would prefer no sugar tonight in his coffee or tea?

Radio once dominated culture. It made stars, built careers, and spread trends and fads around like candy. Then, shortly after TV came to steal the spotlight, rock ‘n roll was invented and radio rose once more. Sure, it was knocked down a peg by the payola scandal, but names like Alan Freed, Dick Clark and Wolfman Jack made it into an art form. Then, as rock ‘n roll’s lustre began to fade, FM was born and with it the age of a more sophisticated radio playlist. Then along came Howard Stern and the so-called shock-jocks. Then came satellite, with no commercials at all (except on the talk channels), and amazing sound.

I still prefer radio. A set of music cultivated by a top-notch DJ will outshine any magical algorithm in Spotify’s holster. And sure, I still love Howard. He’s not as edgy as he used to be, and the show lost a lot of oomph when Artie Lange left, but they still make me laugh. Yesterday I listened to a few Sirius/XM stations, including the Loft, Deep Tracks, Little Steven’s Underground Garage and Phish Radio. It was a fine soundtrack to a weird day.

World Mosquito Day

First of all, fuck mosquitos. Fuck them and their bites, which itch like hell until you break the skin and then they both itch and hurt at the same time. Fuck those little fucking fuckers right in the fuck.

But now let’s praise them. That’s how we celebrate this day, by giving the mosquitos just a few moments of a happy spotlight. It was on August 20, 1897 that Sir Ronald Ross discovered that female mosquitos can transmit malaria to humans. So yes, they can actually flat-out kill us. Fuck them even more. No… let’s have a look at why they might actually be a good thing to have as a neighbour on this planet.

They are food for a number of species, including spiders… wait, fuck them even more for making spiders happy. Okay, apparently they can filter detritus that helps plant life to thrive, and they can pollinate flowers. But if we were kinder to the bees we might not need them for that. They can allegedly affect herding paths of caribou up north too, but I have no idea if that’s a good thing or simply a reason for caribou to hate them as much as we do.

I guess what it comes down to is that they are part of the food chain, and even though they murder many of us humans every year with their malaria-oozing ways, removing them from existence would probably cause a ripple effect that would end life on earth as we know it. I’m sticking with that, and that’s the only reason I won’t cheer for their demise. I did swat one yesterday as I was mowing the lawn though. I regret nothing.

Virtual Worlds Day

I have no idea why this day exists or if anyone involved in the Virtual World industry is even aware of it. But whatever, I’m in.

A virtual world is an open-concept computer-based environment in which you control an avatar as they walk around, talk to others, and perhaps have sex because it’s the internet and that’s what people do there. These can be in a video game, like Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, the latest editions of which are massive in scope and versatility. Alternately, they can be like Second Life, where you simply log on in order to live in a virtual realm the way you wish you could in the actual one.

Pliny The Elder, that old Roman naturalist and writer whose yearning for a certain type of wine led to the prosecco we enjoyed last week, theorized of a virtual world. An early multiplayer game called Maze War might be considered one of the first virtual worlds, as it was played on ARPANET, the pre-internet, back in 1973. In 1996 the city of Helsinki tried to make virtual world history by rendering an online version of the entire city.

I have a personal connection to a virtual world, albeit a strange one. Utherverse was founded by my dad and his business partner, intended to be an online version of Amsterdam’s red light district, where people could meet one another in-world and engage in simulated sex. I got the idea of a social environment, but I never quite understood the thrill of watching an animated avatar straddle another animated avatar. But the company has been around for more than 15 years now, and it seems to be doing fairly well. I popped in last night to look around a little and see what’s new.

Someday the virtual worlds may overtake our own, and would that be so bad? I mean, our world is quite a mess – spending quality time in a pretend one sounds pretty good on most days.

American Artist Appreciation Month

For this one I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to let the pictures tell most of this story. A couple years ago I got tired of my Instagram timeline and went searching for some artists to follow. I figured why not spice things up by giving myself a bevy of beautiful images to scroll past? I came across Iris Scott, who was based out of Brooklyn. Her style? Finger painting.

Seriously, I’d never considered finger painting as a method for conveying magnificence on such a scale. We happily ordered a print from her, and I’ve been following her through project after project. She has recently moved out to the American southwest, which somehow makes me think she’ll be creating on an even larger scale. Here is a sampling of some of the brilliant work she does. If you’re looking for an amazing splash of colour that will keep you transfixed for years, pick something up.

It’s always better to support an actual artist than to buy a print at IKEA that a million other people own anyway.

National Lemonade Day

Lemons and sugarcane are both native to India, so they have been drinking lemonade for about as long as there have been people there. Nimbu pani is one name for the Indian type of lemonade. Another is Shikanjvi. The beverage can also include ginger, salt, saffron and cumin. Over the centuries the lemon spread westward, landing in Egypt at some time around 700AD. Within a few hundred years people wrote about turning it into lemonade. In 1676 a company in Paris was granted an exclusive monopoly to sell the stuff in carts around the city, so hooray for capitalism eventually taking out that unfair practice.

We have celebrated pink lemonade before, and that’s what we did yesterday. After a lengthy day of working, followed by physical labour, followed by trying to piece together some sort of sensical article, I felt a stronger beverage was required, so we dipped into the Pink Whitney, which tastes oh-so-delightful when mixed with carbonated water. Also, there’s booze in it, so it was medicinal.

The type of lemonade we know and love around here is known as ‘cloudy lemonade’. Clear lemonade is more popular in the UK and Australia, and that features carbonation. Everything’s a little better with bubbles. Brown lemonade, popular in Northern Ireland, is made with brown sugar. Pink lemonade usually contains other fruit flavours, like grape. Or, at the very least, some food colouring.

It all sounds tasty and refreshing, but I’ll stick with the boozy stuff, at least after a day like that.

Today I stretch through my fifth consecutive day back at work. Still not sure why we live in a 5-day-workweek society. Anyway, we also have all this:

  • Brazilian Blowout Day. Apparently this is a hair thing, and it has nothing to do with getting one’s pubes yanked out. We’ll pass.
  • National Spumoni Day. Might be a day to take a trip to the Italian Market.
  • National Senior Citizens Day. I SAID IT’S NATIONAL SENIOR CITIZENS DAY!!!
  • National Men’s Grooming Day. I guess I have to elevate my look somewhat above grubby schmuck today.
  • Poet’s Day. As I proved the other day for Bad Poetry Day, this absolutely describes me. Cool.

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