Saturday, November 14, 2020

If any silver lining is to emerge from this year fraught with chaos and concern – and indeed I believe we will all unearth a bevy of silver linings once a final tally on 2020 is done – it may be, for me anyhow, the window. We have reached the point of the year where my usual routine has me show up for work before the sun has breached the horizon, work the day in a middle-building beige cubicle, then trudge to the bus in the post-dusk darkness. Working from home, as this pandemic has forced me to do, means I have a wide and welcoming window immediately to my right, and the sun will be downloading all of its secrets to me throughout this winter. Will my seasonal blues take a hike? Will I find myself more alive? More awake? More inspired to stretch and contort my brain in new and exciting ways? Probably not, but who knows? Here’s what it inspired for us yesterday:

World Kindness Day

There was, I admit, a little sting of irony as I set about looking into this entry. You see, a local homeless camp – really, a community that had been in place for months – was broken up by city police on Thursday, its residents shuffled off to a shelter and ordered to abandon their tents, and any belongings they were not presently carrying. Those belongings – which included numerous donated tents, sleeping bags, coats and blankets – were tossed into the trash. I made the foolish mistake of perusing the comments of a couple of social media posts on the topic.

That was ugly. Let it be known (as though it weren’t already) that there is little to no kindness in social media comments. And if those comments are truly reflective of this city, I’d argue there is a dearth of kindness among our fellow citizens. That’s a rough way to wander into World Kindness Day, with the hope of kindness snuffed.

Each of us faces numerous tiny moments in every day where we have the option to be kind or to go another way. I think we all need to a better job of identifying those moments and making the right choice. I’m guilty of this, of course. We all are. So this should be the day to take note.

We identified a few items we could donate to help, and Jodie went out and bought some clothes specifically for donating. She has actually volunteered at the camp, and she probably has the best meter for kindness of anyone I know. Sometimes when the spirit is run down, kindness can be tough. But it’s always the right choice.

Sadie Hawkins Day

The notion of the Sadie Hawkins dance, which is (from what I remember from Archie comics and various 80s sitcoms) where women ask men to the dance, has been antiquated for most of my adult life. The notion of girls/women asking out boys/men has been fairly standard for the last few decades, hasn’t it? Nevertheless, let’s look at the origins of this weird commemoration.

Sadie Hawkins was a character in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip, which had already run into retirement by 1978. Specifically, she was a profoundly ugly woman, which was important for the story. Her dad worried that, at 35 and single she might just be living at home for the remainder of his life. So he organized the Sadie Hawkins race, in which Sadie chased down the town’s bachelors, getting to marry the one she caught.

Yes, we are well into old-school sexism here. The Sadie Hawkins dance, which factored into the storyline, was to take place each year the night before the race. Apparently the women in this fictional place would stomp on the bachelors’ feet at the dance, thus slowing them down the next day. So Sadie Hawkins Day is a day for desperate ugly women to compete for the “prize” of marrying a local guy. Oi vey.

We decided to skip the part where Jodie stomps on my shoes, and also the part where she chases me through the streets. We went with the Archie-comics version and she asked me out on a date last night. That was a lot less problematic, and a lot more fun.

Symphonic Metal Day

My interest in music, as those who know me would attest, is tremendous. I love so much of it, and would have no problem bouncing from some vintage Ella Fitzgerald to the complicated muck of early Yes albums to “Rock Me Amadeus” to Dr. Dre in one shuffled playlist. But metal… I don’t go in for metal. I find much of it to be dark and angry (at least in its sound), and that doesn’t interest me beyond a song or two.

I’m also not a big devotee of classical music, though I appreciate its richness and variety, and I do enjoy seeing our symphony live. But I don’t crank up the Haydn when I’m looking to blast my ears with some loud tuneage. Why on earth would I enjoy symphonic metal?

Actually, some of it was kind of interesting. “Presto” by Dutch band Epica is fraught with wild strings. I tried out Finnish band Nightwish and Therion from Sweden too. The real difference here, apart from the presence of strings and other orchestral instruments, is a stronger commitment to melody in the music. The growling metal-voice sometimes appears, but more frequently are melodic singers, even operatic singers. And due to this, you get more than simply anger, rage and frustration in the music.

The roots of symphonic metal trace back to the 80s, after metal itself had been securely established as a genre. It ties in with gothic metal in some thematic aspects, and even can be linked to the changes and complex layerings of prog rock. That’s the thing about metal – it is often played by astoundingly talented musicians at a very high level. The distortion and the perpetual veil of “musical rage” overtop the music can hide this to the casual listener, and quite often will turn the casual listener right off. But there is brilliance in there, and symphonic metal brings that musicality to the forefront. Which I like.

But I’ll still prefer to crank up some vintage Stevie Wonder instead.

Start A Rumor Day

Hey, did you hear that Sir Anthony Hopkins has been tapped to play the lead in the upcoming Hungry Hungry Hippos movie franchise? It’s live action. Not a voice-acting job – they will actually be using makeup and prosthetics to transform Sir Hopkins into the pink hippo, ever searching for more white marbles to satiate its unending hunger hunger.

There is no origin story to Start a Rumor Day. I can’t find any site that speaks of it, apart from a handful that casually drop the reality that it exists on November 13 every year. So is it a real celebration or just a rumor?

I don’t know, nor do I care. I just want to see Sir Anthony Hopkins in this role.

After today we will have only six Saturdays left in this project. Somehow that just made me smile so much it kind of hurts. Here’s what’s up for today:

  • National Pickle Day. We used to have a dog named Pickle. Doesn’t really mean much, but that’s something.
  • National Spicy Guacamole Day. Nice. Spice and avocado were meant for one another.
  • Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day. No getting all kvetchy with folks today – got to keep things fluffy.
  • National Block It Out Day. I guess this is the secret to loosing and/or lightening up – to block out all the crap.
  • National American Teddy Bear Day. We have commemorated the teddy bear at least twice in the last month or so.
  • National Family PJ Day. I spend most days in pajamas, so this should be easy.
  • National Seat Belt Day. We will be leaving the house today, so we’ll wear seat belts. Won’t that be a novelty.

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