Friday, August 28, 2020

Embittered by an excessive focus on humanity’s dimmest and most vile yesterday, I felt little urge to swim in the waters of calendar-prescribed mirth. The culprit is once again social media and my inane compulsion to speak to the clueless and ignorant as though they possess some small desire to observe a wider world. This is masochism in its purest form, and it has set my controls to ‘dour’ for much of the last 48 hours. But this is why we soldier on, with a loud call for distraction. To wit:

National Banana Lovers Day

Unlike the rerun-setup that was National Bacon Lovers Day (not that we’re complaining), there is no National Banana Day to offset this one. Sure, we celebrate the split, the bread and the cream pie on other days this year, but this is the top banana, as far as banana celebration days are concerned.

Bananas are berries, technically. The bananas we eat are known as ‘dessert bananas’, which is odd because they make for a fairly weak dessert on their own, at least compared to the hundreds of other desserts we’ve celebrated so far this year. But this is to distinguish them from plantains, which carry a much different flavour and texture. Plantains are usually a little harder and starchier, though really they all fall under the ‘banana’ heading.

The bananas we sink our teeth into in this part of the world tend to be of the Cavendish variety. These have been the standard-issue bananas in North America since the 1950s. Before that it was the Gros Michel banana, but that one succumbed to Panama Disease, which was caused by a fungus that ate the fruit down at the root. There’s a rumor that the Gros Michels carried the sweet flavour we now find in banana-flavoured candies, but that isn’t true. And the Gros Michel variety isn’t completely dead, it’s just grown on a much smaller scale.

That said, the Cavendish is in danger from a different fungus so it might be time to track down a new breed of banana to become our beloved split-enhancer. For now we simply enjoyed the bananas we had, fungus-free.

National Cherry Popsicle Day

We celebrated the coveted grape popsicle back on May 27, and our only other popsicle celebration this year is National Blueberry Popsicle Day, which lands on September 2. The only problem is, I have never before seen a blueberry popsicle. In fact, a quick Google search will reveal numerous recipes for making them, but no link to any company-made frozen blueberry-sugar product.

And why don’t orange popsicles get a little love? This is just one of the mysteries of the universe.

So yesterday we indulged in some delicious cherry popsicles. There’s no need to delve deeper; I’ve covered the popsicle’s history, both on Grape Popsicle Day and again for Creamsicle Day last Friday. It’s enough to say that cherry is the unmitigated champ of the popsicle world, at least to us, and the ones we enjoyed last night were an absolute delight. Celebration celebrated.

National Just Because Day

A direct quote from my source on this day: “On August 27th National Just Because Day offers up an opportunity to do stuff… just because.”

I said it yesterday: this is the weakest premise for a day all year. That said, since we’re invited to do whatever we’d like “just because”, after work was over I played some video games. For no reason, other than “just because.” In fact, most of what I do on a day to day basis is done for no specific reason. Why do I continue with this project? Why do I subject myself to writing on average 2,000-2,500 words every day about celebrations? I can see no logic, no specific end-game we’re shooting for, except to do it.

Just because.

The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

“They” in this case refers to Irish novelist Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. She was an Irish romance writer – not particularly known for deep, rich characters, but still beloved. She was a widow at the age of 23, with three small children. So you could say she was a busy young lady, and now she had to fend for herself. Fortunately, she was quite a writer.

It’s an interesting story, in that there isn’t much more story to tell. Ms. Hungerford set aside three hours of every morning to write, and she pushed out at least 57 works, mostly in the style of “light romance”, which was crafted to contain some flirty dialogue, but no scenes that would scandalize the Victorian-age audience who bought her stuff. In the United States her work was put out under the name ‘The Duchess’. Why? I can’t find a source that can identify this.

Another question: why does Ms. Hungerford get a day of her own? Yes, 57 is an impressive number of published works (and there were likely more, as much of her early stuff was published anonymously), and even more impressive considering she died of typhoid fever at the young age of 42. But while she did snare a mention in James Joyce’s Ulysses, even the articles that praise her are careful to point out that her work is not packed with literary depth or importance. Also, why we’re celebrating her on this day, when it’s neither her birthday nor death day, I have no clue.

But she did snare one massive coup, which most writers never achieve. She plunked together a handful of words which will live on eternally. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes from her novel Molly Bawn, and that phrase will outlive anything I write. Maybe. I don’t know, my bit about cherry popsicles was pretty bang-on. I guess we’ll see.

Happy day, Duchess.

Kiss Me Day

91 years ago on this date, a comic strip appeared in which Popeye, our beloved sailor hero who was afflicted with forearm gigantism, got his first kiss from his beloved Olive Oyl. Specifically, she kissed him and then declared that she had merely mistaken him for her lover. Popeye then responds with “Blow me down,” which is either an expression of surprise at a sudden rush of feelings, or a desire for Olive to perform fellatio on him. It was the pre-crash 1920s, so anything was possible.

I guess this was a super-burn for ol’ Popeye, but fortunately he is what he is and that’s all what he is, so he managed to seal the deal with Olive a few years later. I mean, just look at her. You’ve got to lock that down.

And that’s what this day commemorates. We already had National Kissing Day, International Kissing Day, and about a dozen other days that were all summed up by a celebratory kiss between us. And yes, we did kiss. But we also acknowledged Popeye’s good fortune, so if anything is going to make this celebration slightly different from the others, it’s that.

National Burger Day (UK)

It has been less than two months since we celebrated National Hamburger Day, the North American version. Well, the American version I guess. There is no officially designated National Hamburger Day for Canada, so as usual we will gravitate toward the nation that provides us with much of our culture, also the one that appeared to have invented the hamburger. We also celebrated National Veggie Burger Day back in June, so we are well-versed in the burger celebrations.

But we are also a nation that is politically and historically linked to Great Britain, so if they are going to dive in and enjoy some burgers, we can do the same. And because we’ve already looked into the story of how burgers came to be (spoiler: no one has any clear idea!), we don’t have to revisit that again.

So no research, just good eats. My kind of celebration. Unfortunately, we had eaten numerous burgers from two barbecues last week, and we neglected to take a photo of them. So while we don’t have physical evidence to back up our claim, you’ll just have to believe us that yes, we celebrated National Burger Day, the British version, and we celebrated it well. In fact, I found a site that designates this day back on August 22, which was the day we had the family over for a burger-grillin’, so we’re even more on point than we’d thought.

We simply can’t turn down a burger day.

Tarzan Day

This would be another day without explanation as to why we celebrated it yesterday. We have nothing telling us that Tarzan of the Apes, the 1914 novel that launched the franchise, was released on August 27. But here we were. So how to celebrate? I found two ways. First off, I tortured myself with the schmaltzy soundtrack to the 1999 Disney cartoon. It was a solid reminder of how much more interesting Phil Collins was in the 70s and 80s. It was also a reminder that this soundtrack is why my daughter possesses an inexplicably intense loathing of Mr. Collins and his work. Her loss. Well, mine yesterday.

Next, let’s have a look at what Tarzan was really about. Putting aside the aforementioned Disney movie (which employs a lot of talking animals and makes all the humans safe and white), the novels and movies did a phenomenal job of playing up stereotypes of ‘savage’ people with darker skin. One theory is that Edgar Rice Burroughs formed his opinions on race because he grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, which was known as a ‘sundown town’, meaning all those with darker hues were expected to vacate the place when the sun went down.

It’s a shame, because Tarzan could be an interesting perspective on society. He’s a white kid who was raised by apes and is later forced to live in the world of European aristocracy. And Burroughs, who was not a fan of royalty and the otherwise hoity-toity types, did make that commentary. But, and maybe this was in fact due to the unenlightened times in which he lived, he fell short of making any grand statement about race. Even when it comes to gender, Jane was an interesting character. She was imbued with elements of strength and independence, but all of that is overshadowed by a bunch of violence and disrespect towards women. Not by Tarzan, but by characters who are also supposed to be among the “good guys”.

Tarzan is a story that deserves retelling, and that’s exactly what it gets. I haven’t seen a version that was done right yet though. Hopefully that’s coming. And hopefully they give it a better soundtrack.

National Petroleum Day

In this province, every day is National Petroleum Day. There is a lot of oil sitting underneath our feet, and thousands upon thousands of folks around here are employed with the aim of dragging it out and spurting it into our cars. And the oil industry takes a lot of abuse, primarily because it is exhausting a finite global resource and causing potentially irreparable damage to our environment. Also because our provincial government has given massive tax breaks to oil companies who then turned around and laid off a bunch of workers. So some folks are rather disgruntled about the entire mess.

But we still live in a world where oil is king. From the plastic keys taking the abuse of my unrelenting fingers to the fluid that powered the truck that just dropped off my Amazon delivery of 200 Raw-brand filter tips, we still need it. But we also need to need less of it. LEGO is aiming to be 100% renewable and plastic-free without sacrificing the integrity of their bricks. And as electric cars continue to become more popular, if we could curb our oil needs to fueling other vehicles, and to produce less plastic, we’d all be better off. Even the blue-collar Albertans who rely on the industry for their livelihoods – we have to look at the bigger picture and save the damn planet.

Big oil is big money though, so it’s an ongoing fight. We do our part by trying to use less, and having reduced our vehicle fleet count to one lonely truck, that’s something. But we also need to acknowledge that our economy still runs on oil. We just need to diversify. Not really a great conclusion to reach at the end of a celebration, but then National Petroleum Day isn’t exactly a dynamic or interesting celebration.

World Rock Paper Scissors Day

Variations of this game can be traced back to the Han Dynasty, somewhere between 1800 and 2200 years ago. The Japanese had a similar “fist” game as well. In the Japanese mushi-ken game, the frog (stick out your thumb) beats the slug (stick out your pinkie), which beats the snake (stick out your index finger). Obviously the snake eats the frog, but I’m not too clear how the slug triumphs over the snake. I also don’t understand why paper beats rock either. Sports are so confusing.

This game is seen as a way of randomly deciding between two options, one represented by either player. But it’s not quite as random as a coin toss (which, to be fair, is not 100% random either). You can use strategy to defeat your opponent. If your hand-eye skills are top-shelf you might be able to anticipate their move by watching what their fingers do on the downward swipe. For this, identifying ‘rock’ is easiest, since the fingers won’t have to move at all from the pre-throw position. But there are algorithms made to give competitors (and yes, this is a worldwide competitive game) an advantage.

Humans are not completely random creatures. We can be predicted, at least to a reasonable extent. And the game has spread far beyond the competitive circuit. One Florida judge used it to resolve a dispute. In 2018 a referee, finding he was missing a coin for the opening coin toss, opted to have the captains in an FA Women’s Super League soccer match play rock-paper-scissors to see who would kick off first. The Japanese have even taught chimpanzees to play the game, which somehow makes me feel uneasy about chimpanzees. It’s only a small step from rock-paper-scissors to learning tic-tac-toe, and we all saw how close that game was intertwined with our nuclear near-destruction in the 1982 Matthew Broderick film (which may have been a documentary, I can’t remember), War Games.

Jodie and I celebrated this one with a single showdown. As pictured above, my paper adequately covered her rock, leading me to victory. There was no trophy, however, and not even a friendly wager on the outcome. So celebratory pride, that’s what I won. Yay!

Today may be a busy day or it may not be… I haven’t decided yet. This article is certainly packed with more than I’d planned on celebrating, so maybe a bit of a respite is in order:

  • National Red Wine Day. Obviously this one won’t be skipped.
  • National Power Rangers Day. Our son wanted to be a Power Ranger when he was young. Maybe it’s not too late.
  • National Bow Tie Day. Now I’m wishing I had a bow tie to wear.
  • National Cherry Turnovers Day. More desserts! Just what we need!
  • Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. A day about dearly departed pets. This just makes me sad.
  • Race Your Mouse Around The Icons Day. Oooh, another sporting event that isn’t a real sporting event to celebrate!
  • Crackers Over The Keyboard Day. I didn’t get to live my life on the edge in a glider aircraft last weekend, but I can do this!
  • Forgive Your Foe Friday. It has been, what, three days since our last forgiveness celebration? How many people am I supposed to be pissed at?
  • International Read Comics In Public Day. This would be much easier to celebrate if I had any plans on being in public today.
  • Dream Day Quest & Jubilee. Today marks 57 years since Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream with the world.
  • Radio Commercial Day. I’ll celebrate by continuing to avoid these. They’re awful.

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