Sunday, November 1, 2020

Fans of winter and cold rejoice, for your time is a-comin’. In fact, by most casual calendar-skaters, all we have left in this seemingly endless year is a day to honour veterans, your gift-giving holiday of choice in December, and the unpredictable arrival of heavy snow. But for us those are mere blips in a sundae-bowl of blipfests between now and December 31. Two months of more obscure celebrations we never knew existed and will never celebrate again. But first let’s wrap up that last month with a quick summary of how we celebrated yesterday:

Halloween

There has been a weird amount of debate this year over what people are and are not doing this weekend. From what we understand – and this comes from Jodie’s students, who have inside knowledge of what their siblings are planning – there will have been several packed house parties this weekend, which will likely lead to another surge in Covid numbers throughout November. Huzzah.

For us the decisions were limited to whether or not we’d hand out candy to neighbourhood kids, and whether or not we’d dress up in costume. The former was an easy call – we don’t want to let kids down, and we do love to see them in their little costumes. Also, some of us truly appreciate the candy leftovers. We weren’t ready to give that up. As for the second decision, that’s me as Bojack Horseman and Liberty joining in as Mr. Peanutbutter. It was great of her to play along, given that she hasn’t seen an episode of the show.

Halloween has extensive Celtic and pagan roots, and for that reason (and probably some others that relate to a trend of buzz-kill instincts) there are folks who refuse to participate. That baffles me. For my entire life, Halloween has been about two things: candy, and embracing our natural response to fear as a healthy component to our emotional makeup. Neither of those elements have anything to do with blasphemy or offense. This is the same reason I celebrate Christmas – I have never cared about its religious origins. For me, it has always been about family, alcohol… and candy. Always with the candy.

I hope every one of my readers had a safe and distanced Halloween, and one that allowed for at least a smidgen of indulgence.

National Knock-Knock Joke Day

Knock-Knock.

(Who’s there?)

Dee.

(Dee who?)

Deez jokes are fucking terrible, literally every one of them.

That effectively sums up how I feel about the knock-knock joke. Their humour derives from only one aspect: how to add extra syllables onto the end of the second delivered line. It’s simple, but at best the jokes will elicit an eye-roll or a shrug, or a polite laugh if the joke was told by a kid. Maybe I’m being too particular. Maybe there’s a knock-knock joke out there that shatters the paradigm and explores new realms of comedy. But I doubt it.

The origin of the knock-knock joke is unknown (and really, who cares?), but it’s thought that the closest thing to a first appearance would be the ramblings of a drunken porter in Act 2, Scene 3 of Macbeth:

Knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ the name of

Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer, that hanged

himself on the expectation of plenty: come in

time; have napkins enow about you; here

you’ll sweat for’t.

Knock, knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s

name? Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could

swear in both the scales against either scale;

who committed treason enough for God’s sake;

yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come

in, equivocator.

Not exactly a hilarious romp, but it’s about as much of a laugh as I’ll ever shed for one of those jokes. And at lest with Bill Shakespeare’s version, the words are pretty.

National Doorbell Day

NuTone, a company that manufactures doorbells, created this day to reflect the fact that more people ring doorbells on October 31 than on any other day of the year. Well, that sounds fairly reasonable, and a surprising 60+ kids rang ours last night (or simply shouted at our door, which produced the same effect. It was a shockingly high number; we’d expected more kids to be wrapped under a Covid-safe blanket of indoorsiness last night. We were wrong.

Scottish inventor William Murdoch created the first prototype doorbell back in 1817. He would make a lot more money in his life with his prototype steam engine, or his invention of gas lighting, but he still gets his stamp on this little corner of the tech market. Good job, Bill.

And that’s about all we really have to say about doorbells. Electric ones have been in use for more than a century, and now we have ‘smart’ doorbells that link to an app on your phone and presumably grants you various Pokemon or something when someone comes to visit. I’m not interested in high-tech doorbell gadgetry. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t need more people interacting with my home.

My grandparents had a Big Ben chime doorbell, so maybe I’ll aspire to that one day. But for now, ding-dong is fine and I’m moving my attention to something more exciting.

National Magic Day / National Magic Week

I am, as few people who know me may be aware, a lover of magic. I used to tune in with awe and pure joy to watch David Copperfield make jets and large New York-based iconic statues disappear. My dad used to take me to Willard’s Magic Shop on Jasper Avenue and I loved the high-stacked shelves and outlandish colourful clutter, each ingredient of which promised a new wonder to baffle the brain. I even owned magic kits and took a magic class when I was a kid. Yes, my parents almost made the tragic mistake of promoting this interest so much I might have chosen it for a career. The horror.

When Penn & Teller came on the scene and destroyed the notion of schlocky, predictable magic by revealing the hokiest tricks on TV, I was enthralled. And I still get a kick out of watching magic on TV. I often think of my mother’s approach; while I would be squinting at the screen, trying to deduce what masterful trickery was taking place, she wanted nothing to do with the truth behind the tricks. She wanted to believe in real magic, and I’m pretty sure she still does. I think that’s a great way to look at life – find the magic and let it remain magical.

On a more sombre note, this celebration lands on Halloween not because of the otherworldly spooky shit that some believe will transpire, but because Harry Houdini, arguably the greatest escape artist of all time, and certainly the most famous magician of his era, died on Halloween. One story tells that he was punched in the stomach and suffered a ruptured appendix. It most certainly was not in a failed escape, as romantic as that demise might be. But he died on Halloween, forever cementing his legacy among the ethereal.

To celebrate this man, the Society of Magicians (motto: We Demand To Be Taken Seriously!) requested permission from Mr. Houdini’s widow to create an annual day of appreciation. This was back in 1938, and it has been going strong ever since. We had a remarkably busy Halloween, running through Costco, Safeway, and three home renovation stores to find one that could provide us with simple window blinds, so we couldn’t do much to honour this one. But I did take a gander at this clip, which features a Central Park performance by Doug Henning, another of my childhood favourites, doing some closeup magic.

Some of his sleight of hand I caught, having studied so many magicians over the years. But some of the illusions I couldn’t figure out. This leaves only one possibility: it’s magic.

Sneak Some Of The Candy Yourself Before The Kids Start Knocking Day

Well… of course we did. We aren’t savages, after all.

Today is, as stated before, the start of our penultimate month of perpetual celebration mayhem. Here’s how we could choose to spend the first day of it:

  • National Author’s Day. I could be considered an author, if being published in a way that actually pays is not a necessary component.
  • National Calzone Day. They’re like grown-up Pizza Pockets!
  • National Cook For Your Pet Day. The dogs will be thrilled. They tend to get at least a bit of what we cook anyway, so…
  • National Vinegar Day. Best served with fries.
  • National Deep Fried Clams Day. Gone are the days when we’d venture out to restaurants in search of tougher-to-find foods for this project, I’m afraid.
  • National Brush Day. I guess we’ll brush our hair, our teeth, and at least one of our dogs.
  • Extra Mile Day. I hope this isn’t supposed to be literal, because I’m not leaving the house today.
  • Day of the Dead. A Mexican tradition, and absolutely one of the coolest traditions Mexico has devised.
  • National Forgiveness and Happiness Day. It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these generic celebrations.
  • National Sports Fan Day. I will be able to tackle this one easily. Thanks, football.
  • Zero-Tasking Day. Now we’re talking.
  • International Scented Candle Day. Well this is an easy one too.
  • Give Up Your Shoulds Day. I should really do that.
  • National Cinnamon Day. As luck would have it, we might eat something with cinnamon involved.
  • World Vegan Day. I don’t think so. But thanks anyway.

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