Monday, August 31, 2020

Any milestone will prompt reflection. Today as we breach the threshold of being two-thirds through this project, we must take stock and figure out what this project has become and what it is turning us into. Jodie, who began this year believing these celebrations might provide a refreshing light and context into our mostly-predictable lives, now sees them as moderately interesting essay fodder, and a relative inconvenience as I pour hours of every one of my days into these articles. I enjoy some of the writing and some of the research (and most of the food and drink celebrations), but my passion has been tested. At 666 days into my 1000 Days Project I was invigorated and motivated with each new sunrise. As August steps aside to return us to the cooler months, in the midst of a year that has been overwhelming taxing on everyone’s psyche for numerous reasons, my enthusiasm is sporadic at best. I’ll still steer myself forward with optimism and resolve, but my heart is yearning for a new challenge. That aside, here’s what we got up to yesterday:

National Beach Day

Ah, a day at the beach. With the summer sun still cranked to the right, the spectre of children’s impending return to school just around the corner, and a few vacation days still in the holster, we can head out for a day of warmth and water and remind ourselves that yes, it is still summer. This is the idea behind this day, and it’s a sweet sentiment. Here’s why it won’t specifically apply to us.

First of all, the summer sun was very much visible in our sky, but it wasn’t doing its part to celebrate National Beach Day. It was a paltry 15 degrees outside, so notably cooler than inside our house. Also, there was a wind blowing out there that could have potentially uplifted us and plopped us into Oz. Second, we don’t live anywhere near an actual beach. Yes, there’s a crude excuse for one carved into the side of our city’s river, and a few lakeside beaches just out of town, but nothing that compares to a genuine coastal beach.

I am personally out of vacation days, though given that August 30 landed on a Sunday this year, that doesn’t really matter. Next year it will be a Monday; Jodie will be back in school and I’ll be at work. This day was not crafted with our particular lives in mind, but then again, few are.

Pictured above is our “beach”. I’ve posted a shot of it before. You’ve got a hot tub that gets tweaked to its coldest setting, providing a refreshing break from the warm sun. You’ve got a lounger chair and a hammock to hold us up and steer as much of our selves toward the warming, tanning rays as possible. We’ve also got a lot of shade from the garage, and a well-chilled pool for the kids (meaning dogs) to enjoy. This beach has served us well this summer – much more so than the three days it was usable last year and the year before. So we loved our beach from a distance yesterday, holding on to the hope that we can find peace in it once more this year.

It could happen. It ain’t autumn yet.

National Holistic Pet Day

Do those dogs look like they are lacking in terms of love and good health? I’d say Jodie is in worse shape, especially if her legs fall asleep, which they most certainly did. National Holistic Pet Day is a day to consider your pet’s full spectrum of health. So we’re not just meant to appreciate our dogs (which we do, and which we have on numerous such days as recently as last week), but to make sure we’re taking care of them properly.

We have endeavoured to feed our dogs well, and by “well” I don’t mean “lots”, I mean the correct amount to maintain a healthy weight. They get gross, smelly raw food in the morning (salmon-based, because it’s good for their coat), which we have to weigh the night before. They get Purina Proplan (also salmon-based) dry food for dinner, because our vet advised it contains what they need for optimal health. We are literally caring for a dog she hopes to show and breed, so we can be assured she isn’t just shilling for Big Kibble here.

Our dogs get bathed possibly less often than they should, but we try to keep on top of it. Liberty also requires extensive brushing, which is something new for us after decades of bulldog ownership. As for keeping them in shape, Trixie and Rosa get a good, lengthy walk every day, while Liberty goes for an extended trek with me through our neighbourhood, with numerous stops to keep her staying, paw-shaking and lie-down skills in top shape. We keep their shots up to date and keep them excruciatingly comfortable by allowing them to sleep on our beautiful new bed. That last one might be overkill.

So we took this day to reflect on our dogs’ health, and how they invariably contribute to ours, at least mentally-speaking. 2020 wouldn’t be survivable without them.

Frankenstein Day

Yesterday we wished a big ol’ happy 223rd birthday to Mary Shelley, the author who gifted the world with one of the most terrifying tales of hubris and obsession ever written. The story has been told so many times by so many filmmakers and stage directors it surpassed the qualifications for being a classic generations ago. Some prefer the creepy Universal monster embodied by Boris Karloff. Personally I’m more a fan of the efforts that kept closer to Ms. Shelley’s masterpiece, like the absurdly disturbing Kenneth Branagh film from 1994. Either that or give me some Mel Brooks.

Mary Shelley had a life that would make a fine movie of its own (and it actually has, starring Elle Fanning). She fell in love with poet Percy Shelley when she was 17, and ran off with him to galivant around Europe and get knocked up with his baby. They got home, Percy’s wife (yeah, he was already quite married) killed herself, and their premature daughter didn’t survive. A couple years later the Shelleys were summering in Switzerland with Lord Byron, John William Polidori and Mary’s sister. That’s where she came up with the idea for her masterwork.

In 1818, when she was only 21, they moved to Italy. Their second and third children died. Four years later, shortly after their one surviving child showed up, Percy drowned in a storm. Mary kept on as an author, but died young herself, at the age of 53. Her legacy is a tale that will be taught as long as schools continue to exist, a damn site more impactful than a weird blog full of celebrations.

Time was tight yesterday, so watching one of the Frankenstein films was a bit of a tall order. Besides, we’d already enjoyed the National Theatre version starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller earlier this year; nothing was going to top that. So instead I indulged in the quickest way to pay tribute to the great monster (or the doctor who created him), by listening to the Edgar Winter song that borrowed its name. It was brief, but well worth having that riff stuck in my head for the remainder of the week.

International Whale Shark Day

This is a day for us to reflect on one of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. The whale shark is a massive beast, in fact it’s the largest nonmammalian vertebrate. They live for a long time – it’s estimated somewhere between 80 and 130 years – and because they are that big (up to 62 feet long), they get to decide where to spend their time. As such, you won’t find any in cooler waters. I don’t blame them.

If you’re unfortunate enough to wander into a whale shark’s mouth, you’ll be dealing with 300 rows of tiny, sharp teeth. Not 300 teeth – 300 friggin’ rows of teeth. That is not the kind of chomp you can expect to survive. That said, that’s not a chomp that is likely to happen either. Whale sharks feed on plankton, fish eggs, and small fish. Their teeth are not used as part of the eating process; they swim forward with their mouths agape, then close it as they push the accumulated water out their gills and the rest of the goodies down their throats. They get along fine with humans, and younger ones are known to play with divers from time to time.

Whale sharks are a species we still don’t know too much about. For example, we don’t even know how many are out there, scooting around the tropical waters in the distant deep. They are considered endangered though, and there are bans all over the place on selling their parts. In the first decade of this century, roughly 1/3 of all whale shark sightings were in the Gulf of Mexico, which became hazardous when that BP oil spill happened in 2010. No dead whale sharks were found, but it was evident that the spill messed with their natural goings-on.

For being one of the coolest species in the bunch, we happily salute the whale shark and hope one day to meet one. We’ll keep away from the teeth, just in case.

Slinky Day

The Slinky is a toy that almost everyone connects to in a very interesting way. It doesn’t do much. It walks down stairs (I hear it will do this alone or, if preferred, in pairs), which is neat, but otherwise what else do you do with a slinky? You hold it in your hands and bob it up and down, back and forth, and then…?

And then nothing. That’s it. But it still works because of the pure simplicity of being nothing more than a spiralling piece of metal or plastic. There’s a weird gratification in bopping a slinky up and down in one’s hand. It’s almost a portal to serenity. The slinky is entertainment in its most basic and primal form.

Richard James was the mechanical engineer who invented the Slinky, and of course he invented it by absolute accident. He was trying to devise a way to stabilize sensitive shipboard instruments – he worked for the US Navy – when a spring fell out of his fingers and landed in a most perplexing way. He knew right away this should be a child’s toy, and started up a company to create and sell them. His wife Betty picked the name after combing through the dictionary and deciding that ‘slinky’ described the spring’s motion.

In 1960, after the toy had become a massive success, Richard up and moved to Bolivia. It looks as though he was devoting his life to Christian efforts there, but strangely he left his wife behind. She kept growing the company, including launching a massive advertising campaign that made it a staple toy. She’s the one who smartly hired Homer Fesperman and Charles Weagley to write the jingle we all have memorized. This is why Betty James had her own induction into the Toy Hall of Fame – she powered that toy into the hearts of millions.

And in the end, it’s just a damn spring. A fun, relaxing, and brilliant damn spring.

Do we muster up the strength to dive into month number nine? Or do we give it all up and call it an eight-month success? Tune in tomorrow to see if we get to all this:

  • National Matchmaker Day. Do we know any single people? Is this something we’re even remotely qualified to do?
  • National Trail Mix Day. I know we’re qualified to do this one. And I’ll enjoy it too.
  • Eat Outside Day. The weather is still tolerable, so we can do this.
  • Motorist Consideration Monday. A day to let people cut in front of us. For Jodie anyway; I don’t plan on leaving the house.
  • We Love Memoirs Day. And we do! We’ll pick some of our favourites.
  • National Diatomaceous Earth Day. This is a thing. We shall discuss it.

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