Friday, November 20, 2020

If there exists the tiniest fissure in space-time which would allow us to slip ahead to a predetermined point in the future, how many folks would take a shortcut to 2021? I feel that most who bemoan the current calendar have an unrealistic expectation that the spectre of doom that has blanketed this year for many will magically vanish when we throw our bread against the wall on New Year’s Eve. There is no logical reason to assume this to be true. That said, I can state with certain that this mandated celebrate-a-thon will come to an end at that time, so I’ll start stretching out my bread-tossing arm now. December may fly by. Meanwhile, here was yesterday:

National Play Monopoly Day

For a slight twist on the guts of this day I opted to play McDonalds Monopoly yesterday, in that I finally went online and entered the various contest pieces we’d collected over the last few weeks into our virtual game board. As luck would have it, we are just one shy of winning a Transat family vacation for 4, so if anyone out there has the Vancouver Airport and wants to join our ‘family’ and take a trip together, hit me up.

Monopoly itself is not our favourite board game, nor would it break the top 20. If played properly the game does not take a marathon session to finish, but everyone has their own slight variants on the rules. And the purpose of this board game was to show how dangerous and economically unhealthy a monopoly is, so by winning the game you are essentially becoming the largest threat to the in-game universe’s national economy. You become the 1%. And still you pay a $75 Luxury Tax, same as us poor schlubs.

The McDonalds version, which has been around since 1987, is more pleasant. First off, most people end up winning some actual prize at some point – though I’d bet most never cash in their free muffin pieces because who thinks of McDonalds if they’re craving a muffin? Just as a person can cheat in the board game, that has also been tried with the McGame. And very successfully. The head of security for the company that operates the contest (by law it has to be a 3rd party company) snagged every top prize from the game between 1995 and 2000. He pilfered the super-rare winning pieces and gave them to family and friends, sold them to strangers, or (and this is where it gets weird) passed them along to a contact he made with the Colombo crime family. It was an impressive fraud, and one that should prompt us all to avoid participating in games like this unless we happened to be headed to the restaurant anyway. No point in clogging up the arteries unnecessarily if the game can be fixed. McDonalds insists the game has been clean since that one gigantic fraud case, but still. The doubt persists.

And now we don’t have to pretend to enjoy playing the actual board game to celebrate this one.

World Toilet Day

The United Nations, crafter of the super-communist New World Order and various other conspiracies your weird aunt is frothing about on social media these days, came up with this celebration to bring attention to toilets. Toilets are grand, and while we’d like to think they are plentiful everywhere around the world, the reality is that they are not. 4.2 billion people on this planet don’t have access to a top-notch sanitation system. That’s more than half the humans.

This year’s theme for World Toilet Day is climate change, and the effects that climate change can have on poorly-maintained sanitations systems around the world. Just imagine the smell when an unexpected flood wreaks havoc on a run-down system.

There are numerous streaming videos and extensive reports available online if you’re interested in learning more about the toilet situation on the planet. I glanced through it, but couldn’t commit to making a day out of it. How did we celebrate? We made a point of deeply appreciating our comfy toilets and their effective poop-removal capabilities. I’d go into more detail, but I’m pretty sure no one wants that.

Have A Bad Day Day

Did I have a bad day yesterday? Not really, but I can certainly find a few things to complain about. This is one of those ultra-weird celebrations concocted by Ruth & Thomas Roy, strictly for the sake of padding the list of holidays with heaps of strangeness. Store owners are encouraged to tell their employees to wish customers a bad day today, something I’m confident roughly zero store owners are doing. Because nobody would be in on the joke.

So to celebrate this one, I thought we should simply try to have a bad day. We didn’t try very hard, as that’s trickier to manage than one would expect, but we did have some issues. First off, Jodie was working until well after 8:00, so we hardly saw one another all day. Secondly, it was cold as all hell and I had to go outside and clear off new snow from our walks. Thirdly, I had to sit through a lengthy training session during the afternoon, one that will have almost no impact on my life.

It wasn’t a bad day, but it was a tedious one.

National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day

We couldn’t find the source for this day, which is deeply generic and remarkably easy to celebrate. We try to keep our carbonated beverage consumption at one per day (not counting frothy, yummy beer or soda water), and Coke Zero is our standard go-to. Yesterday I tried to pretty it up from the usual drink-out-of-the-can tradition.

We once again ramp up to a weekend with a deep hope that we’ll actually get around to counting our progress thus far. This count would determine just how much of our remaining 40-ish days will be devoted to manic celebration and how many we can cruise through. Here’s what’s up today:

  • National Peanut Butter Fudge Day. Our team baker (hi, Mom!) may need to help us out here.
  • National Absurdity Day. Isn’t every day of our lives an absurdity? I’d argue it is, if you’re living your life right.
  • Name Your PC Day. What will we name our computer? So many possibilities! So little drama!
  • Beautiful Day. Literally a day to appreciate all the beautiful stuff in our lives. After acknowledging my wife, what else remains?
  • Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day. Well, our dogs do a lot of running. We could hug them. The other alternative is running.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The strangest irony in this project – and I’m sure with a little digging I can find a few strange ironies amidst this year-long mess – is how much the most celebratory moment of just about every day is the moment when I’ve finished penning that day’s article. That is the moment I am free to wrassle with the dogs, to watch TV, to get on with the business of living. So is my free time the ultimate celebration? Is the final lesson this year going to be that the celebrations were inside of us all along? Somehow that resonates of disappointment. Maybe that’s because I’m still writing the intro paragraph and I’m far away from finishing my daily chore. Hmm. Here was yesterday’s stuff:

Mickey Mouse’s Birthday

The classic Steamboat Willie short was released on this day back in 1928, meaning that our world has been graced by the phenomenon that is Mickey Mouse for 92 years now. In that span of time, this little whistling weirdo has grown to define the very pinnacle of theme parks, and has swallowed up every massive pop culture franchise to create the most powerful media empire the world has ever seen. And it started with this little mouse.

Mickey’s debut is free to watch on Disney+, and that we did. It’s still cute – all those old Disney cartoons hold up as modestly entertaining in a kitschy sort of way. What most folks don’t know is that the short film was actually a parody of one of that year’s biggest box office hits: Steamboat Bill Jr., released in May. The latter feature is quite possibly Buster Keaton’s best feature-length comedy, featuring the classic death-defying stunt in which Buster is almost crushed by the falling wall of a house. So to be clear: the Disney monolith was launched by a Buster Keaton parody.

For seven years, Mickey existed in black and white only, which was fine since he was a black and white mouse. In 1932 Mickey’s Orphans received an Academy Award nomination. His films would go on to gather nine more nominations, and 1942’s Lend A Paw won. In 1978 he was the first cartoon character (predating Donald Trump!) to land a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. The term ‘A Mickey Mouse operation’ tends to refer to something that is either small in scale or amateurly-run, which makes absolutely no sense, given the power of the Disney empire or the efficiency with which it operates. Have you ever seen litter laying around just off the trail in a Disney park? No you haven’t, and you probably won’t even notice the person who cleans it up.

Mickey is about as fundamental a cartoon creature as there ever was. And he shares a birthday with other great luminaries too, like W.S. Gilbert (co-writer of the Pirates of Penzance) and this lady:

Minnie Mouse’s Birthday

Yes, Ms. Mouse shares the same birthday, mainly because she first appeared in Steamboat Willie alongside her beau. This was, to be clear, the third short film the pair were featured in, but it was the first to be officially released. We might all be raging about the greatness of Plane Crazy instead, had Walt released the shorts in the order of their creation.

Minnie was created as a flapper. She was an easy plot point, someone for Mickey to try to woo, or occasionally as the damsel in distress whom he had to save. It was Minnie whose dog Rover (later renamed Pluto) became a part of the Disneyverse. Her importance in the animated stories began to fade in the late 30s, as Mickey’s cohorts Goofy, Donald Duck and Pluto became more popular. So instead of a constant will-they-won’t-they thing, we instead got a sausage-fest of crazy dudes doing crazy dude stuff. But Minnie stuck around, and was eventually weaved back into the Mickey world.

She had to wait until 2018 to get her star on the Walk of Fame though, alongside Weird Al and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Voice actress Russi Taylor took over the work as Minnie in 1986. She held that honour until her death last year. And her husband, Wayne Allwine, happened to be the voice of Mickey between 1976 and his death in 2009. So if that isn’t the weirdest Hollywood romance ever, I don’t know what is. Did they dirty-talk in their character voices? We can hope not, but we’ll never know.

Anyhow, we also enjoyed some Minnie on Disney+, our best efforts to wipe out the ideas conceived in that last paragraph. Sorry, folks.

Married To A Scorpio Support Day

I get it, Scorpios are weird. Allegedly. That’s if you believe that people born in the same period of the calendar share the same traits, which I 100% do not. I share a birthday with Wilfred Brimley, Avril Lavigne and Meat Loaf. I don’t know what, if anything, I have in common with any of those people. But okay, I guess Scorpios are pessimistic, and emotional when provoked, which makes them difficult to be married to. Alright.

Goldie Hawn is a Scorpio, but Kurt Russell has stayed with her for 37 years. They aren’t technically married I guess, so maybe that’s the answer? Hillary Clinton is a Scorpio as well, but wasn’t Bill the one who put the strain on the marriage? Am I reaching too much here? Am I really supposed to take this day seriously?

Here are a few other celebrities that would allegedly be difficult to take on as a spouse: Leonardo DiCaprio (I get that – you’d have to continually get younger and younger, and that would be tricky), Cris, Kendall and Caitlyn Jenner (again, anyone who’d marry into this family probably already has something wrong with them, but I guess this lends support to the celebration), Winona Ryder (I don’t suspect she’d be difficult to be married to), Ryan Gosling (I think most everyone I know with even the mildest attraction to men would take a shot with this guy), Adam Driver (well, he was a Sith Lord, that’s tough to live with), and Bjork (again, I can see how this might be trouble, unless her spouse also has a wildly imaginative and eclectic soul).

Is any of this conclusive? I don’t think it’s even vaguely close to anything in the neighborhood of conclusive. But if any of my friends are married to a Scorpio and they’d like someone to talk to, I’ll make myself available. But let’s do it over the phone so you don’t see my eyes rolling.

National Princess Day

This is the day we are supposed to feel like a princess, and dammit, I sure did. I joke of course – I felt mostly like a working serf, schlubbing away at my desk for the day. But I watched some Star Wars as promised, which features the greatest of all Disney princesses, Princess Leia.

For the most part, British royalty didn’t use the term ‘princess’ very often before the 1700s. Daughters of the monarchs were referred to as “Lady”, probably because they didn’t want to suggest the horrific notion that a woman could again take over the throne. I don’t know – misogyny and weirdness seem to permeate the royal traditions throughout history. When King George I took over, the term ‘princess’ became commonly used.

Princesses have really stepped up when it comes to fiction. They have peppered great literature from Princess Pajonia of Pumperdink (in Frank Baum’s Oz stories) to Indian princess Aouda in Jules Verne’s Around The World In 80 Days to Princess Leigh-Cheri in Tom Robbins’ Still Life With Woodpecker, who ultimately learns the mysteries of red hair and true outlawdom.

Ororo Monroe gave up her princessitude to become Storm in the X-Men comics, and Princess Peach loved messing with Mario’s heart in numerous video games. And movies are full of princesses, from Disney’s legion to Princess Buttercup to Vespa, princess of Druidia (who doesn’t even look Druish). I think princesses fared better in fiction than they have in real life. Come to think of it, so have I.

Today we nudge closer and closer to the weekend, and closer and closer to the end of all this madness. Here’s what’s up:

  • Great American Smokeout. Should I quit smoking again? I don’t know how that would be possible.
  • National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day. Very specific. I guess we’ll have a Coke and a Smile.
  • National Play Monopoly Day. With Jodie out of the house until after 8:00 tonight, I’ll either play by myself or we’ll postpone this one.
  • International Men’s Day. A day to do manly things. Don’t I always do manly things?
  • International Camp Day. Like, the kind in tents or the kind depicted in the Rocky Horror Picture Show?
  • World Toilet Day. I will use the toilet. Won’t that be a celebration!
  • Have A Bad Day Day. Sounds like an appropriate celebration, one to specifically invite negativity into our lives.
  • National Blow Bagpipes Day. I don’t own any. Perhaps I should change my name to ‘Bagpipes’?
  • Use Less Stuff Day. I don’t use a lot stuff. Not sure if it’s possible for me to use less.
  • World Philosophy Day. I celebrate therefore I am.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

We have reached the point in this project in which we can carefully trod in our own footsteps from last year. We ran a “test week” last November, during which we celebrated, and I wrote and published daily articles. Some were skipped, some were absolute failures, and a couple were rather clever. But where I should have caught the red flags that this might not be quite as much fun as I was hoping, instead I chalked our stumbles up to inexperience. I had no idea I’d be navigating a pandemic throughout all of this, nor did I know how much gas I’d have in my celebrating tank after ten and a half months of this project. But even if we’re running on fumes, we’re still running. Here’s what went down yesterday:

National Take A Hike Day

I’ve got to hand it to the creators of National Take A Hike Day. It takes a certain circumference of cajones to drop a day like this into the middle of November. I know, this is still ‘autumn’ for a lot of folks in North America, and from what I can gather this is an American-brewed celebration. But still. It’s November.

Alas, this is a celebration we can easily take part in. I saddled up the dogs and headed for a  stroll around the neighbourhood right as the sun was going down in the afternoon. To be clear, the dogs were not wearing saddles. That was a strange choice of expression. But we hiked along the trails near our house, and the dogs were thrilled to taste the open (albeit freezing) air for a bit. I wasn’t nearly as thrilled, but I have acquired so much horizontality and inertia throughout 2020 that anything that punts me out the door and gets my limbs moving should be welcomed.

It wasn’t much of a celebration, and it would have been a lot more fun in the summer months when we could have gone a little further, but it was a hike.

National Unfriend Day

Apologies to the three people who were unceremoniously yanked off my friends list yesterday. I state these apologies knowing they will never read them. I also noticed that I pluralized ‘apologies’ when really it was one apology to be divided three ways. I’m really second-guessing my word choices today and just leaving it all over the page, rather than fix them in editing. Could it be that I just don’t care anymore?

Yesterday three people with whom I worked in my Dell Computers days – back before Dell shut down operations in this town and laid everyone off – got removed from my list of companions. Was this cruel? No – I had unsubscribed from their feeds ages go, given that our lives were never really entwined in any other capacity than a work capacity. I’d guess they did the same with me, as they hadn’t commented on or like a single one of my posts in more than a decade.

Sometimes it’s good to cull the friends list. I tend not to do it very often, since it really doesn’t matter to me whether or not someone I got along with 15 years ago might want to read what I think about the election this year, or check out how my research into seat belts went. But this was a celebration on our menu for Tuesday, so I indulged. It wasn’t gratifying, nor was it particularly heart-wrenching. It was just a thing to do. Once done, we simply moved on to the next.

Electronic Greeting Card Day

A big ol’ thanks to Smilebox for having the free tools to create a personalized greeting card. And a big ol’ non-thanks to Smilebox for asking me to buy their premium product for this one-off event. They won’t let you download your finished product, nor will they allow you to email it or Facebook it unless you give them money. Your one option? Post it for free to Twitter.

Well, that’s handy. I made this card for my daughter in order to congratulate her on her (fictional, probably) emu’s bat mitzvah, and my daughter doesn’t use Twitter. So rather than get my money – and there is no money for Smilebox to get – I simply took a picture of my screen and sent her a text. She doesn’t actually own an emu (probably), so I’m sure she won’t mind the cut corner.

I guess this is a day for us to remember that we don’t have to give Hallmark $5-10 dollars every time someone we know has a special occasion. We can instead give that money to Smilebox or one of the other e-card companies online, and create something with some animation, some movement, and even some music. Or, we can totally cheap out and do what I did. When you’re tackling 2,000+ celebrations in a year, you cheap out when you can.

National Farm Joke Day

You know how I can tell that I’m ready for this project to wind down? I’ve landed on National Farm Joke Day, and am forced to relay the following:

Why can’t the bankrupt farmer complain? Because he’s got no beef. What did the farmer say when he lost one of his cows? Oh, what a mis-steak. Why did the scarecrow win the Nobel Prize? Because he was out standing in his field. What do farmers use to make crop circles? A pro-tractor. What’s the best part about farming? Getting down and dirty with my hoes.

I nabbed all of these off an ‘udderly hilarious’ website of what I guess was supposed to be family-friendly farm puns. I’m not sure about that last one, which clearly indicates there is a double-entendre between farm work and having an exorbitant orgy with a number of paid prostitutes. I don’t think that’s very family-friendly. But you know what really stinks? Jokes. I am not a fan. Especially jokes that ask a question, allowing you a pause to contemplate what pedestrian word-play will roll in and call itself a punchline.

Yep. I’m definitely souring on these celebrations. I need one that will perk up my interest and hopefully not reference an orgy for a laugh. How about this:

Manatee Awareness Month

Yep, we are at the point in this project where a month devoted to the mighty sea-cow is sufficient to pull my doldrums up by the pubes and shake them loose. The manatee is a glorious beast, a fine specimen in oceanic glory whilst physically resembling an aged sofa. Let’s do our thing and try to learn something about these massive creatures.

Let’s start with the teats. Females have two, which is not unusual among mammals. What’s weird is that they are located underneath their flippers. Manatees eat plants, and as such they only have molar-like teeth tucked into their cheeks. Those teeth are constantly in a state of being edged out by replacements, so spitting out teeth is a normal action for the adult manatee. They’re right up there with dolphins on the smart scale, they just don’t tend to show it off. I appreciate the humility.

They can live up to 60 years, and with their reproductive cycle that’s a good thing. They only breed once every two years or so, and it takes a full 12 months to spit a baby out, plus another year and a half to ween them. And it’s going to be a single baby – manatees need to keep at it to keep their populations up. Crocs might get at their babies, but of course the biggest threat to the manatee is humans. Boats often hit them, and this causes a lot of damage to both sides.

Of course, the manatee never outwardly tries to cause us pain, and as such we have tried to do our best to keep them safe. They are not on the endangered list, and nobody is serving them up as steaks. I hope.

Thumbs-up to these wonderful beasts – may they never face danger from our collective stupidity.

Today maybe my heart will be more into it. Here’s what we’ve got to choose from:

  • National Princess Day. We shan’t be taking a cruise, but maybe we’ll watch a Disney princess movie. Like Star Wars.
  • National Vichyssoise Day. We made this crappy cold soup during our test run last year, and we will be avoiding it this time around.
  • Mickey Mouse’s Birthday. Sounds like we’ll be spinnin’ Steamboat Willie for our entertainment today!
  • Minnie Mouse’s Birthday. I guess we’ll also check out whatever Minnie’s first cartoon was.
  • Married To A Scorpio Support Day. I’m sure astrologists everywhere are having a chuckle about this. I honestly don’t get it.
  • National Educational Support Professionals Day. I’ll have to check, but I think our premier fired all of these folks this year.
  • Apple Cider Day. Okay, that sounds tasty.
  • Occult Day. Creepy.
  • Push-Button Telephone Day. Kind of weird, a celebration geared toward not the oldest technology, just the tech that was most popular in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
  • William Tell Day. Who wants to stand under an apple while I try to shoot it? Anyone?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Another chunk o’ day gets poured into my word processor, in spite of Monday having been one of the most dull (and therefore awesome) days in recent memory. How intense were my celebrations? There is only one celebration that sparked a true smile in my heart, and that was the celebration of having a day off from work. I played with dogs, I played on my computer, and I just let each moment soak through me, absorbing its energy and passing unto it some of mine. It was as glorious a Monday as a Monday can get, short of any exciting news or circumstance thudding onto the stage. Here’s what we saluted as we passed by:

National Fast Food Day

In full disclosure of fact, we did not eat fast food yesterday. Well, we did – in a way. Dinner last night was microwaved leftovers, the fastest of possible fast foods (apart from leftovers that don’t require heating up, I suppose). But fast food as it pertains to restaurant efficiency (if not quality) did not touch our lips yesterday. We’re okay with that. We’ll celebrate the alternate version of fast food, since we have dined on McMeals many times this year. Literally no fast food would have been celebratory yesterday, apart from either a full-on Dairy Queen dessert-inclusive experience or a trip to In-N-Out in California. Our leftovers were great.

Fast food is an urban creation, and it can be traced back to public food stands in the Roman Empire. Wherever there were cities there was a reluctance to cook. Not out of laziness, but cooking with oil and fire in a wooden house on a block with dozens of other wooden buildings was an invitation for disaster. It was still done, but cities were happy to encourage alternatives. So you’d get street vendors pitching waffles or pastries or what have you in London and Paris.

Fish ‘n chips was the first wide-spread fast food phenomenon in the western world, and once the car became a standard sight, drive-in restaurants started popping up. White Castle is likely the origin of fast food as we know it in North America.

Fast food is not usually good food. McDonalds can try to pitch their salads that no one eats, and A&W can prattle on about grain-fed cows and shiatzu-massaged onion rings, but we know when we’re pulling into a drive-thru that we aren’t making the best choice for our inside parts. That’s okay – not every meal has to elevate one’s body to temple-status. Fast food is fine. As for which is the best? That depends on who you ask.

For me, Popeye’s has the best chicken. Dairy Queen has the best burgers, but A&W has the best toppings (and the best root beer, of course). Wendy’s fries may be the top of the heap. And McDonalds is so intertwined with my dining history it’s practically comfort food. Especially their breakfast. Damn, I wish we’d had McBreakfast yesterday.

Chances are we will soon enough.

National Button Day

This is a day to pay tribute to the noble button, the thing that keeps our shirts from flying open in a brash, titties-to-the-wind kind of way. This is not, my research shows, a day to celebrate the thing you push to activate your computer, your microwave, or your fancy new Lexus. So how about them buttons?

I actually did something for this one. Having put off moving the contents of my closet downstairs to where our bedroom is now located, I decided to try on a number of my old shirts to create a keep pile and a toss pile. The bad news is that I found nothing to give away. This is because of the good news: the buttons on many shirts which I hadn’t worn in a couple of years were not straining from my torso’s shape. I have somehow navigated through this year of perpetual celebration and regular inactivity and lost weight. Hooray for 2020, I guess.

So I offer up a magnificent thank-you to the buttons of those shirts, which can now be fastened with confidence, knowing they won’t feel the tug of physics, seeking to yank them free from their thread-connected security. Sometimes good news is enough to count as a celebration.

International Education Week

Launched by Bill Clinton back in the days when Bill Clinton had the power to create stuff like this, International Education Week is a chance to celebrate international education and the exchange student experience. I wasn’t sure about this one, but it occurred to me that Jodie’s education is truly an international situation. She is absolutely celebrating this, not only this week but every week since September started.

She is a student at the University of Calgary – not an international journey, though it is distance-learning. But her subject matter is increasingly leaning toward the plight of the African-American movement in the United States. Part of her plan involves travelling to Los Angeles to do some work in the inner city with a mentor she’d love to learn from. It’s not a deeply international sentiment, to expand one’s education in the USA, but it’s close enough.

And since her life’s focus is on dispensing and receiving education, with both knobs turned securely up to eleven right now, I’d say she qualifies as a celebrant of this festive week. I’m sure Mr. Clinton would approve.

National Bundt Cake Day

For the life of me, I can’t recall what we did earlier this year with Bundt cake, but I know with immeasurable certainty that we’ve celebrated this already. I know I looked into the etymology of the cake, from the German bundkuchen, through its popularization in North America when aluminum Bundt mold pans became a thing. And I remember eating the Bundt cake too.

But all of my research shows that National Bundt Cake Day lands in the middle of November, so here we are again. This year has been a swirling maelstrom of celebration, and sometimes we find our internal compass has been skewed beyond recognition. That’s okay. There’s no disorientation so severe that it cannot be remedied with a good slice of cake. And that’s what we enjoyed last night: a good slice of cake.

Cherry, in particular. A cake made in a pan that isn’t 100% Bundt, but close enough to count. It was great.

Today will not be as much fun as yesterday, as evidenced by the fact that I have actual work to do. But then, I had to write an article yesterday, and some days I find myself enjoying my work-work more than my writing-work. Here’s what’s up today:

  • National Baklava Day. I’m really wishing we’d bought some of this, but we can’t indulge in every sweet food celebration, lest my buttons betray me.
  • National Take A Hike Day. Don’t mind if I do.
  • National Homemade Bread Day. There is no chance we’ll be baking our own bread. We don’t need that kind of power at our fingertips.
  • National Unfriend Day. Someone is getting booted from my friends list today. Beware.
  • Electronic Greeting Card Day. And one of you who makes the cut may get one of these. Sorry.
  • International Students’ Day. This probably ties in with the Clinton Education Week. I don’t think we’ll stretch the same celebration to a second one.
  • National Farm Joke Day. Did you hear the one about the farmer, the prostitute and the chicken?
  • International Happy Gose Day. A happy gose is a productive gose. Probably. I don’t know what a gose is.
  • National Entrepreneurs Day. I know some of those.
  • The Little Mermaid Day. Why? I’m sure there’s a reason.

Monday, November 16, 2020

It struck me yesterday that the next time I round the corner of the middle of a month, it will be on the home stretch toward the completion of this celebratory mission. It also struck me yesterday that I spend an inordinate amount of time recontextualizing this project in order to put its conclusion in a more imminent and impending light. Jodie and I discussed possible next projects for me over the weekend, none of which include a daily 2,000-word check-in or research over the history of the seat belt. The future is bright and inviting. But enough about the future; here’s yesterday’s stuff:

National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

I may do a tally at the end of this project (and by “may” I mean “probably won’t”) to calculate how many of these celebrations were food-related, how many were animal-related, how many were generic feelgoodery, and how many were simply chores. This one falls so firmly into that last camp I could clearly hear the thud as I typed out the title of this section. Yes, this is a day to clean the fridge. How wild is that?

It turns out, very. Actually it doesn’t – I just felt that would be a terrific example of a transition sentence into a new paragraph. I’d have loved to follow it up with an interesting revelation or a dynamic experience that befell us as we tidied up the surfaces upon which our chilled food rests to await our inevitable appetite, but I’ve got nothing, folks. We cleaned out the fridge. Our fridge is clean. We live to celebrate another day.

To be clear, we didn’t use this day to sift through old containers and check expiry dates of stuff. We’re pretty good at keeping up with that, especially this year. This is likely because this project has occasionally required us to keep three different kinds of beer, multiple leftovers and two complete pies in our fridge for past and upcoming days. We have had to stay on top of the clutter. So instead we took note of a few spills and stains on the shelves and dealt with those.

Maybe it’s enough for you to simply find a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch with a promotional insignia indicating that Hidden Valley was the official ranch dressing of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the back of your fridge and throw that out. However you need to do it, tidy up your shit. Make room for beer.

National Drummer Day

When planning this one, I thought of setting up our Wii and loading up Beatles Rock Band for the first time in nearly a decade. That was the first gaming system we’d bought for our kids, and we primarily bought it for that game. I have a small amount of drumming talent so I had a blast jamming to Ringo’s parts and keeping the beat steady. Then I remembered that Abbey had absconded to Vancouver with our Wii, so the best I could do was thwack the rubber pads. That would be unsatisfying.

We’ve celebrated National Drumming Month, and truth be told we’ve probably also celebrated another drumming day this year (Hug A Drummer Day). We have celebrated so much I can’t keep track of it all. Is all of this giving me a headache, or is this just the new normal this year? Anyhow, we celebrated before by listening to some of history’s best drummers at work: John Bonham, Keith Moon, Buddy Rich, Neil Peart, Jughead, etc. So do we do exactly the same thing?

Not quite. I thought it might be interesting to devote a few minutes to checking out some of the greatest drum solos of all time. Business Insider, a publication known for its commitment to percussion excellence (probably), posted a list of some of the best drum solos ever put on tape. Or converted into 0s and 1s if it’s from the digital era, I guess. Some of them I know well, like Ginger baker slamming through “Toad” with Cream in 1968 and Bonham raging through “Moby Dick.”

But the one that caught my eye was the 1970 Tanglewood performance of “Soul Sacrifice” by Santana. I know the song, of course, but I hadn’t seen this version. Allow me to summarize: it’s a conga drum solo, followed by a guitar solo, followed by a solo by all four percussionists (and Carlos on cowbell), followed by a drum solo, followed by a guitar solo, then lastly a Hammond solo. Every single moment of the 13:11 performance is through-the-roof incredible. But the drum solo, performed with a manic magnificence by Michael Shrieve, is something else. In fact, in every part of the song where Michael isn’t soloing, he is basically soloing behind the rest of the band. He puts out more energy in that 2.5-minute solo than I have expended in the last three months combined. You can watch a video of the performance here. The drum solo begins at about 4:20 (heh), and it is so deeply worth your time I can’t recommend it enough.

George Spelvin Day

Who, you may be asking yourself if you’re the curious type who doesn’t shy away from inappropriately-timed expletives, the fuck is George Spelvin? I’m glad one or more of us asked, because I just learned this information and it gave me a chuckle.

George Spelvin doesn’t exist. When an actor doesn’t want to be credited for appearing in something, he’ll ask to be listed as George Spelvin. If he’s playing a double-role, and he’d like to keep that quiet (adding to the mystique of theatre is always a cool thing to do), one of the roles will be given to Spelvin. The name can also be given to a role that has no lines, and could be played in any given performance by a member of the crew, like a delivery guy who shows up once, or a person who passes by a window.

Film directors will adopt the name Alan Smithee in the credits when they don’t want their name tied to a project. I wrote all about Mr. Smithee’s weird and lengthy legacy in my last project. Walter Plinge is the British theatrical equivalent to Mr. Spelvin. David Agnew is the British screenwriting pseudonym of choice.

Broadway being Broadway – and you’ll never find a more quirky collective of humans than those in the employ of the theatre world – Mr. Spelvin was given a backstory and even a date of birth – November 15, 1886 – when his name was being passed around the circuit in the 1910’s. So a big ol’ happy birthday to Mr. Spelvin. You don’t look 134 years old to us.

In case you were wondering, yes, there is a Georgina Spelvin. Actress Shelley Graham (which is disturbingly also the name of one of my aunts) adopted that pseudonym for her appearance in The Devil In Miss Jones, a highly popular pornographic film in 1973. Needless to say, the female pseudonym didn’t get used in theatre after it achieved that particular level of infamy.

I Love To Write Day

This is a day to encourage people to write. I do not require this encouragement. Jodie has a 6,000-word essay due in a few weeks, so neither does she.

So allow me to do the encouraging. Fucking write, people. Even if no one reads it, it doesn’t matter. That could actually be the tagline for this particular project, come to think of it. But that’s my point: you can squeeze such immense joy from the language when you craft your own goofy sentences. Use words you never otherwise use. Dig yourself so deeply into convoluted analogies that you lose track of where you started. Pour your heart onto the page, or, if you’d rather not do that, just make shit up.

I conducted my last project, a thousand-day journey of necessary writing, just to become a better writer. It may have worked. No one paid me for it, though it did lead me to a couple of paid writing gigs. But what’s more, I enjoyed it. Certainly more than cleaning out my refrigerator and calling it a celebration. I won’t say writing saved my life, but it gave me a way to interpret and embellish my life and allowed me to drink in the glory of the English language. It’s musical in its wondrousness. And if I’m simply shouting into the void (and believe me, I often am), that’s okay. I’ll re-read this someday and it’ll make future-me chuckle.

To write is to love. To love is to write. Do both.

National Sundae Day

Yes, we enjoyed National Sundae Day, which actually showed up on Wednesday. Some ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and a cherry or two. Whipped cream? Why certainly, that’d be great.

We’d already done National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, National Strawberry Sundae Day and National Build Your Own Sundae Day. I suspect this may be the final ice cream-related celebration of the year, but then I have no idea what weird ideas those southern hemisphere types have concocted. If they demand it, we’ll eat it. This is the way. Whatever happens, we made sure this was our most epic and perfect sundae of the year, because dammit, we want to close this year off right.

Happy Sundae Sunday Day to all.

I have today off, which means I’ll have more time to pour into our celebrations. Or into a nap. Or maybe some Madden. I haven’t decided yet. Anyway, here’s what’s competing for my time today:

  • National Fast Food Day. Hooray. Some grease to ease our beleaguered organs into the week.
  • National Button Day. Today I will push buttons. I’m not sure which buttons, but dammit, I’ll push ‘em.
  • National Indiana Day. We had intended to do breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches for this day, but forgot to grab some from the store. Maybe we’ll watch some Parks & Recreation instead.
  • Icelandic Language Day. Maybe we’ll learn a new language today.
  • Have a Party With Your Bear Day. Perhaps with a Teddy, maybe with Mike Ditka, or possibly with a large, hairy gay man. It’s up to you.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

I would have happily cast all celebratory mishmash to the wind yesterday afternoon had I been able to secure a definitive afternoon nap. Sometimes that yearning rings louder than that of our daily project chores. Alas, circumstance kept me awake throughout yesterday’s PM, with my fingers pointed squarely at the fading symbols on my keyboard. And that brings up a question: why are the symbols on this keyboard fading? I have no trace of an ‘L’, a ‘C’ or an ‘S’ – they’re just blank keys. This keyboard is one year old. Am I veering onto a tangent that has nothing to do with our daily celebrations? Sort of. But then there’s this:

Loosen Up Lighten Up Day

This is absolutely a day to grab some perspective and to relax about the shit that’s been dragging your psyche down to a darkened cerebral basement filled with anxiety-monsters and fret-beasts. In the thick of a year that will someday be an entire chapter in various history books (political science books, medical books, sports history footnotes, etc.), we’re all taking stuff too seriously.

Yesterday we were instructed to just stop. Sure, the world appears to be full of science-denying kooks whose greatest personal infringement upon their freedoms is wearing a piece of cloth in front of their faces whilst they shop for Cheez-Its and arugula. Sure, American democracy is in a tumble-dryer of ridiculousness right now. And sure, there exists the unlikely (though possible) scenario in which you make a run to pick up some coffee and find yourself also picking up a virus that could kill half your family.

But all of this is temporary. Will it get worse? Sure! It might. We need to take a moment – and a relatively quiet Saturday seemed ideal for this – to find our center again. Put on the music that will ground you. Watch an old movie or a show you’ve seen before to get some laughs back into your life.

How did we celebrate? Video games, doughnuts, laughter and the laughably dated A View To A Kill. Dogs helped as well. It’s hard to feel the weight of the world when you’re ensconced in all that. And this is absolutely healthy; we don’t need to carry the weight of the world. We aren’t the world – let the rest of it deal with its own encumbrances. Even the weight of our own stresses need to take a back seat sometimes. Even when your new keyboard is hiding its characters from view.

National Block It Out Day

I was hoping to make a smooth segue into how we can all block out all the evil in the world, thereby loosening and lightening up our individual lives. But that’s not what this day is about. It’s actually our third (maybe fourth) day to combat bullying. Specifically, we are supposed to ‘block out’ the negativity of cyberbullies online.

We all have our own ways of dealing with those sub-human, possibly robotic shit-muckers online, and the best way is whatever causes you the least stress and/or anguish. Yesterday I changed my approach and blocked a few more of these schmucks. And while it didn’t deliver me the sadistic pleasure I get from mocking ill-informed handrail-lickers, it did clean up the joint quite wonderfully.

National Pickle Day

Some claim the pickle was initially invented for the workers who toiled their lives away building the Great Wall of China. Others disagree, but offer no story more interesting than that one, so we’ll just stick with that one. Pickles – and to be specific here we’re talking about pickled cucumbers, and not any of the scores of other things you can also pickle – are a multi-purpose food. Above you see Jodie using them as a condiment upon her burger. She enjoys that, while I always pick them off of my burger at restaurants. I find the flavour of pickles too strong to subtly blend in with the rest of the flavours in a hamburger, and I don’t need some vegetable taking center-stage in my burger.

Pickles can also be an effective side dish. When we go into a proper Jewish deli (and there are precisely zero of those in this city, but we used to travel when that was allowed), we will always dive into the pickles served before or with our meal. A juicy kosher dill is one of the most exquisite experiences into which one’s teeth can crunch. Sweet pickles are great for an appetizer. I suppose if one were to be so inclined, they could make pickles into a main course. I don’t know how that would work, but it didn’t matter; that wasn’t our intention.

Apparently Cleopatra was big into pickles, and Julius Caesar used to feed them (probably not by hand) to his troops, believing they would make them stronger. In Russia, and I have yet to confirm this, pickle juice works for a hangover.

Some people brine their pickles in Kool-Aid, which I will submit as further proof that our society has slipped into an irreversible era of perpetual culinary madness. Yesterday we enjoyed our pickles and even grabbed a new batch from the grocery store during our supply run. Pickles are life. Just keep them off my burger.

National Seat Belt Day

Hey, here’s a fun one. Seat belts are great. To celebrate this one, we both wore seat belts when we headed out on our supply / doughnut / brunch run yesterday afternoon. Was that enough? Can we call it after having done that? Hell no – let’s do some learnin’.

It’s estimated that seat belts reduce car fatalities by about half. That’s impressive. The first seat belt ever installed was plopped into a glider by English engineer George Cayley back in the 1800s. I’m assuming here that no one had invented a saddle seat belt, and I can’t believe that’s true. Cars certainly didn’t start out with seat belts. They didn’t go very fast, and also, ‘safety’ was not really as big a consideration back then. By the mid-1950s race car drivers had clued in, and were always wearing them. Dr. C. Hunter Sheldon in Pasadena, California, came up with the idea for a retractable seat belt. He’d seen enough blood and mayhem in emergency rooms that he knew something had to be done.

Saab was the first company to offer seat belts as a standard, rather than an option. This was in 1958. Seat belts were first made mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970. Back then, cars hadn’t yet figured out how to maximize their safety potential. My first vehicle was a 1969 Oldsmobile that featured lap belts only in the back, and a separate shoulder belt for the front passengers. The shoulder belt didn’t retract; you had to fold it over a couple of hooks above the door. Jesus.

We didn’t get our seat belt law until 1987, and you can rest assured that people railed against them as a violation of their personal freedoms back then. Sound familiar? People will always fight back against science, and claim that basic responsibility is an infringement upon their rights. It happens anywhere you find folks who have never really had their rights put into jeopardy, who see a mild inconvenience as a grotesque trampling of their liberties.

Bonza Bottler Day

On a more upbeat note, we both opted to try out the Lime Ricky flavour from the Pop Shoppe (which absolutely still exists) yesterday. We had never sampled this one before – or if we had, it had completely slipped our minds. It was nice, named for the cocktail that features a half lime squeezed into a glass, mixed with rye, bourbon or gin, then topped with sparkling water. Why so many options? Who knows? We mixed this Lime Ricky pre-made soda with vodka, and that worked well too.

Bonza Bottler Day drops every month when the month number aligns with the day number, so this is the eleventh we’ve celebrated so far (and yes, it was bumped from last Wednesday, we know). We’ve got one left, and we’ll be kind of sad to see these ones go. We’ve tried some interesting stuff this year, and it’s genuinely fun (and so wonderfully simple) to sample something new or unusual once a month.

Especially when you mix it with vodka. That’s an easy win.

Today is our day of rest, which is particularly noteworthy given that we didn’t get a nap yesterday. But we’ll also have all of this to tackle:

  • National Bundt Day. We have already celebrated with a Bundt cake this year – I know we did, because I remember researching its origins. But we can do it again.
  • National Philanthropy Day. A day to commemorate my dream job.
  • National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. We do this every week, but I guess we can comb through our salad dressings and see what expired in 2016.
  • America Recycles Day. Well, good for America. We do too.
  • National Spicy Hermit Cookie Day. Perhaps I can coax our team baker (hi, Mom!) into making these for us.
  • National Drummer Day. Sounds like a fine day to thrash out to some great drumming.
  • George Spelvin Day. I guess this is the Alan Smithee of the theatre world. If you don’t know who Alan is, tune in tomorrow I guess.
  • I Love To Write Day. I damn well better.
  • National Raisin Bran Cereal Day. That’s pretty damn specific.
  • Steve Irwin Day. Who doesn’t love Steve?

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.

Friday, November 13, 2020

In the great Pringles can of time, wherein each day rests like a near-identical chip to the ones beside it, we have endeavoured to sprinkle some fresh seasoning onto every day this year. Yet, just like Pringles, each crunch tends to have the same general aftertaste. Also just like Pringles, some find their days objectionable in their monotony while others are addicted to them. I’d like to think I’m in the latter camp, though lately I’ve simply been marvelling at that daily sameness (in spite of our seasonings), and mindlessly crunching into the next one with ever-reducing fervor. Yesterday delivered us the following flavours:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton Day

Is this a celebration or merely an acknowledgement? Honestly, I have no idea. I would assert that, due to its inclusion in this project and the fact that I’d found it referenced as a ‘Day’ in at least one location online, it’s a celebration. And Ms. Stanton is absolutely someone who deserves to be celebrated.

What did she do? If Susan B. Anthony is the Chuck Berry of women’s rights (and I honestly don’t know if she is – I just made up that analogy now), then Elizabeth Cady Stanton would be its Elvis. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Regardless, it’s a weak analogy to begin with so let’s drop it and move on. I’ll fix this in editing.

During the Civil War, Elizabeth and Susan started the Women’s Loyal National League, which had nothing to do with baseball, but wound up being a strong national voice for the abolition of slavery. She opposed the 15th Amendment, which granted black males the right to vote, because she felt it should include black women. And white women. And all grownups. She and Susan created the National Woman Suffrage Association. Women’s rights was pushed out of the garage by these two women. Not much of a better analogy than the rock ‘n roll one, but it’ll do.

Elizabeth fought for property rights for women in an age when men automatically assumed all of their spouse’s possessions upon marriage. She fought for women to be able to wear bloomers (women in pants were scandalous back then). She pushed for the right for women to divorce their drunken, abusive husbands. She wrote books, she published newspapers, she made it her life’s work and it truly engulfed her adult life. And don’t go looking for the “man behind the powerful woman”, because her husband Harry wasn’t a big proponent of women’s rights. I’m sure he didn’t stand in her way, but while they worked together as a team to fight slavery, when it came to women’s rights Elizabeth was on her own. And she was strong enough to stand on her own.

She was even going to get her face on the $10 bill, along with Lucrecia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony. That was, of course, pushed back when the current president didn’t find them sexy enough (I assume). This year she did, however, receive the honour of becoming a statue in Central Park (along with Ms. Truth and Ms. Anthony), the first woman (apart from Alice from Alice in Wonderland) to be depicted in a statue in the Park. That’s pretty damn special.

So to celebrate this absolutely celebrate-y occasion, we learned a little about women’s rights and the journey they took. I’m sure Ms. Stanton would be thrilled by women winning the right to vote in 1920 (she died in 1902), and even more so by the election of a female vice-president a century later. And she’d acknowledge that the fight isn’t over.

World Quality Day

Allow me to preface this entry by pointing out that there is no interesting backstory to World Quality Day. There is no deeper meaning to World Quality Day. It is a day to celebrate… quality. The Chartered Quality Institute made it up. They are a UK-based organization that has been around for more than a century, dedicated to being experts in improving product, service or project quality around the world.

Quality. Could any celebration be more vague? Don’t we all love quality? Don’t we strive for it, in our food and our clothing and our television viewing? How the hell am I supposed to celebrate this day? By watching the 4:35 video on the website?

I did. I watched it. From what I can tell, these folks are consultants for businesses and organizations that are sucking ass in returns and want to know how to improve. Quality leads to customer value, that’s the gist here. Okay. Neat.

We tend to lean toward quality in most of our purchases. We read reviews on products. We may be tempted by sales or lower-priced versions of the stuff we love, but we won’t be buying store-brand cola over Coke, or McDonalds doughnuts over the gourmet ones we get every weekend. We are proud proponents of quality and pursue it whenever possible.

Still can’t fathom why it gets its own day though.

Sweet Potato Awareness Month

I’ll be honest, I don’t think about sweet potatoes very often. I used to enjoy them when my grandmother would bake them as a side dish for Sunday dinner, but they never filled me with enough passion to learn how to cook with them on my own. I don’t even like them as fries (though our favourite Cajun diner does serve the exception to this). But that said, I am willing to learn about them.

The first thing we need to know is that sweet potatoes are not very closely related to our regular potatoes. The orange ones are called ‘yams’ in parts of our continent, but yams are actually completely different. So right away we learn that most people know about as much about sweet potatoes as I do. Sweet potatoes were first tasted by white folks when Columbus and his initial gang made their 1492 voyage. Some researchers, upset by the fact that these aren’t the same thing as potatoes, have suggested to call them sweetpotatoes as a single word instead. I’m not sure how this helps.

On a list of the healthiest foods, the sweet potato would score really highly. And when you bake the suckers the vitamin C content actually increases somehow. Science is cool. You can, if you feel so motivated, eat the above-ground leaves of the sweet potato as well. You can even plop a sweet potato vine into your fish tank to remove ammonia and nitrate from the water and improve the lives of your fish friends. The sweet potato is pretty fucking versatile.

Excuse my language in that last sentence – I got a little more passionate about sweet potatoes than I’d anticipated. But the last time I ate the stuff it was in the pie pictured above. We’d never tried sweet potato pie before, but Da-De-O served some up as a special over the first weekend of the month. Did they know it was Sweet Potato Awareness Month? Yes. I’m going to say they did. And the pie tasted like a pumpkin pie, but somehow better. This food just keeps on impressing me.

National Happy Hour Day

Happy Hour dates back to the early 20th century, when people were looking for an excuse to sneak some cocktails in before dinner. This was a frequently busy time for speakeasies during prohibition. There is debate over who started using it first to attract customers to bars, but we don’t care about that. Ours is not to research the origin, but to celebrate. And how does one celebrate happy hour? With booze, of course.

Happy hours in Alberta must end by 8:00pm. That’s actually the law. Bar owners in Ontario are not allowed to advertise a happy hour at all. Ireland and Scotland have outlawed happy hour in a (likely futile) attempt to stop binge drinking. Eleven US states have a happy hour ban as well, though it should be noted that Pennsylvania has recently increased its happy hour designations from two to four hours, and Kansas overturned their ban on the promotional event in 2012. Illinois did the same in 2015.

I can’t speak to the effects of happy hour on alcoholism. I have not done any research in this field, and I’m fortunate to not have succumbed to the condition myself (so far, though this project has pushed me). Happy hour is, for me, simply a period of time to enjoy some drinks at a lower price. In the case of yesterday, I enjoyed my drinks for free. I had some delicious rum that was gifted to me by my kind sister-in-law, sipped from a rum glass gifted to me by my son. And while we weren’t at a bar, we did bar stuff, like watch football and hit on chicks. Well, I hit on my wife, so just the one chick.

This is one that should be celebrated every year. I don’t know if any of these weird obscure celebrations will make it into our regular rotation after this year, but if anything has a shot, it’d be Happy Hour Day.

This Friday stretches before us like a hungry lizard, poised to strike and devour its prey (which, in this clumsy comparison, would be the celebrations I guess). Here’s what’s up:

  • National Indian Pudding Day. This was to be an excuse to venture to an Indian restaurant tonight. Not sure that will happen.
  • World Kindness Day. “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” – Maj. Frank Burns, US Army.
  • Sadie Hawkins Day. Does this mean my wife has to hit on me today? That would be great.
  • Actor’s Day. I’ll tell my daughter right now, this doesn’t mean she gets a present.
  • National Moms And Dads Day. Okay, maybe we should get the presents then.
  • Symphonic Metal Day. Really?
  • Start A Rumor Day. This I can absolutely do.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

While the temptation loomed large for us to dive into a triple-decker sundae for National Sundae Day (which really feels odd popping up in mid-November) or to pick up some new, weird soda beverage for Bonza Bottler Day, we decided to refrain. It felt silly to pile on celebrations to a day that has been set aside for something this important. Out of respect for the true purpose of November 11, we opted to remain focused:

Remembrance Day / Veterans Day

There are some among us who have the cojones and dedication to serve their country. Not being one of those people, I can only offer my respect and thanks. Canada’s military reputation is pretty solid, from backing the Brits in their fight against fascism to the Suez Canal crisis to staying the hell out of Vietnam. We’ve never had the financial backing to become a military powerhouse, but when our troops have been called to fight, they have fought well.

Yesterday marked the 102nd anniversary of the end of the War To End All Wars. Most everyone in this country has family who fought in that war. And it was as nasty as its legend professes: nearly 61,000 died, 172,000 were wounded. Canada’s population around that time was in the 7 million range, so that is a substantial percentage of our people who bled to shut down the Kaiser and restore peace to Europe. By comparison, we only lost about 45,000 Canadians in WWII, and our population was up over 11.5 million by then. WWI still reigns as the big one.

The traditions for Remembrance Day have always been pretty steady: veterans gather at a cenotaph or in a school gymnasium, some solemn music is played, and someone recites “In Flanders Field”. This year things were different. Schools didn’t have assemblies. Local observances were quiet and distanced. Many chose to express their respect on social media, while I’m sure most simply took it as a mid-week day off and watched The Price Is Right. Such is the gift of freedom we’ve all been given by those who served.

This year should also prompt some discussion over the nature of freedom and sacrifice, shouldn’t it? I can think of two reasons. First off, in America you’ve got a president who weaseled out of serving, who has such respect for soldiers that he has called them ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’, who opted out of honouring the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in France because there was some rain, and who has shown such little respect for the democracy so many Americans have died for, he’s willing to throw it all into jeopardy just so he can try to cling to his power. If anyone who actually served in WWI or WWII for the United States were to witness this, they’d probably never stop throwing up.

Secondly, we’re in the midst of a weird pandemic right now. We’re being asked to make a few small alterations to our lives: wear a mask in public, and avoid large gatherings until this is under control. The fact that so many are rebelling against this should demonstrate just how few people really have what it takes to sacrifice for their country. These people won’t even sacrifice basic comfort and the ability to get loaded with friends and family. Maybe I don’t have what it takes to serve in the actual military (and trust me, I absolutely do not), but I have the capacity to respect that sacrifice, and to do what little I can to keep my fellow humans healthy.

But enough ranting. We offer nothing but the deepest respect to all who have served, and to all who have been wounded or killed in that service. War is fast becoming an antiquated notion – a luxury of a more advanced age – but we can never forget the humans who brought us here on their backs. Thanks to all.

Yes, we will get to the bonza bottles and the sundaes. Even National Metal Day and Origami Day might get a nod. Here’s what we’ve got to tackle today:

  • National French Dip Day. What a day to be without any au jus. This might pop up on the weekend.
  • National Pizza With The Works Except Anchovies Day. I’ve never had anchovies on pizza before. And I totally would. That said, I’d totally have pizza without them too, so let’s do that.
  • National Chicken Soup For The Soul Day. Do we actually enjoy some chicken soup, or just toss out some Jack Canfield quotes?
  • National Happy Hour Day. Happy hour all day!
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton Day. Who was she? Tune in to find out.
  • Fancy Rat & Mouse Day. Rats and mice are fine, but when they get fancy? That’s fucking exquisite.
  • International Guinness World Records Day. Is there a record for most celebrations celebrated in a year?
  • World Quality Day. Right on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

I faced down our menu of celebrations with little enthusiasm yesterday. Work and other time assassins had my day in their sights, and honestly nothing looked as though it would conquer the greatness of the gumbo referenced in yesterday’s article. Vanilla cupcakes? Area codes? Accounting? None of it revved my engine much. I envied the dogs and their commitment to napping; it seems far more gratifying than diving down any of those gopher holes. Yet here I am, watching the calendar ooze its numbers toward the inevitable conclusion of this year, and I feel obligated to at least try:

(note: this intro paragraph sounded a lot less dreary and whiny before I read it over.)

National Vanilla Cupcake Day

Above is a photo of Liberty, our #3 canine research assistant, after having done some intensive work in our back yard, ensuring our snow is sufficiently snowy. She is remarkably thorough, and we appreciate her dedication to her hard work. What does this have to do with National Vanilla Cupcake Day, you may be asking?

Absolutely nothing. I think that’s quite obvious – we’re not going to try to forge some remote link between the two topics, as much as Liberty might hope we would. The reality is, we did enjoy a batch of tasty vanilla cupcakes last week, home-made from scratch (in that Jodie scratched the outside of the Betty Crocker box as she removed it from the pantry). They were fluffy and wonderful and covered in a delicious home-made (in that we ‘made’ the entry to buy the pre-created icing on our grocery list whilst sitting in our home) vanilla frosting.

They were magnificent. And I completely forgot to snap a photo of them. But we did absolutely celebrate this entry – even a few days early! And that’s the point. The dogs are here to fill in when we lack a photo sometimes. We did post a photo last month of National Chocolate Cupcake Day when we celebrated that, and folks who know us should know that we are not likely to skip over any sort of cupcake day.

It was tasty. And our snow is the appropriate amount of snowiness. All is right with the universe.

Area Code Day

There is no logical reason to celebrate Area Code Day on November 10. Let me be a bit more specific: there is no logical reason to celebrate Area Code Day. At all. To my knowledge no phone exchanges, communications conglomerates or cell phone kiosks are waving any banners to commemorate this celebration. To my knowledge, no other soul on the planet is celebrating this day. You know what? I’m going to get even specificker: There is no logical reason to celebrate area codes.

I mean, area codes are great, in that they are a part of the technology that initially allowed us to use the phone in a long-distance capacity. These days, with cell phone plans covering nationwide calling, we may forget that we used to have to wait until after 6:00PM or for Sundays to make long-distance calls even a city away, because they were slightly cheaper then. We also may forget that there was a time in the very recent past when dialing a phone number within one’s city was a seven-digit prospect, not a 10-digit chore.

The area code, which I wrote about in my last project (at least a little), is overseen by the North American Numbering Plan. And if you think I can make anything about the North American Numbering Plan sound remotely interesting then I’m afraid you’re about to be deeply disappointed. And you don’t have to worry about it; the NANP has assured us that we won’t run out of numbers until about 2049. And by then we’ll mostly be communicating from implanted chip to implanted chip anyway, so phone numbers themselves will be obsolete.

So there you have it. We learned a little about area codes, and there is absolutely nothing about them that merits learning any more. Huzzah.

Sesame Street Day

Fifty-one years ago today (actually, yesterday), television was transformed. It was the perfection of children’s programming, something that combined entertainment and education unlike anything before it. Of course I’m talking about Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo, who was born on that date.

I’m joking. Actually, half-joking: Ms. Pompeo was in fact born on the same day Sesame Street went on the air, so if you’re looking for a piece of mostly insignificant trivia (unless you know Ms. Pompeo personally), consider that my gift to you.

Fifty-one years is an impressive run, and from what I’ve seen – stretching from my childhood in the 70s and 80s through my daughter’s in the 90s and 00s – the quality hasn’t dipped. They know how to tap into the emotional and intellectual cores of kids, to teach reading and math at the same time as addressing issues like death and sadness. I figured we should do a quick run-down of some interesting facts from the Street.

  • It has won 189 Emmy awards and 11 Grammys. Clearly that’s tops among children’s shows.
  • It was the first educational program to base its format and its content on laboratory research. So science wins again.
  • The show still airs on PBS, but its federal funding was pulled in 1981, and the episodes on PBS are not first-run; HBO has been airing the episodes nine months earlier for the last five years.
  • Child psychologists initially advised they should keep the Muppets and the humans separate so as not to confuse the kids. Early test screenings showed kids were more engaged than expected in the human ‘street’ scenes, so they ignored the doctors and blended the gang. Science loses on this one.
  • The show absolutely addressed the events of September 11, 2001. I’d like to see Barney or the Teletubbies pull that shit off.
  • The kids on the Street are not child actors – they don’t use child actors. They are just regular kids.
  • Cookie Monster performed a rap in the 80s about healthy foods, which he later remade with Wyclef Jean. This actually happened.
  • Ernie’s “Rubber Duckie” was a hit. Seriously, it peaked at #16 on the Billboard hot 100. Curious about other songs that never charted that high? I was. Here are some hits that never made it to the top 20: ACDC’s “Highway To Hell” (#47), David Bowie’s “Changes” (#41), The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” (#45), Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” (#41), and the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (#42). Well done, Ernie.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Sesame Street make it another 51 years. Well, it would surprise me if *I* saw it, as I probably won’t be around then. But who knows? Maybe today is brought to us by the letter ‘L’ for ‘Longevity’.

International Accounting Day

First of all, there is a weirdly legitimate day that International Accounting Day is celebrated on November 10. Apparently it was on November 10, 1494 when Franciscan friar / mathematician published Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita, that riveting tome that wound up birthing the method of double-entry bookkeeping that would come to define the profession of accounting.

As of 2018, there are 1,424,000 accounting jobs in the United States, which sounds like the kind of strangely round number that accountants would hate. Mick Jagger studied accounting. So did Bob Newhart. Probably not at the same time, though one wonders just what sort of messed-up accounting firm the two of them would have started together. I also studied a semester of accounting, during which I learned that red ink is a bad thing, and that I don’t love math nearly enough to be an accountant.

Yesterday was the day to give your accountant a present, or at least to wish them well. I did that, in that I told my wife to have a great day. She is the money-brains in this relationship, and even though she will freely state (quite openly and repeatedly) that she is bad at it, we both know I’d be worse. Yesterday we looked at our bank balance, shrugged, and spent no money. It was an accounting fiesta.

Today we’re both off work and doing our best to respect the solemnity of the day. But for some reason other celebrations still show up on this day:

  • Remembrance Day. Obviously this is the one we were expecting today.
  • Bonza Bottler Day. And this one we were not. We will celebrate this a bit late, partly out of respect, partly because we forgot it was coming and didn’t go shopping.
  • National Sundae Day. I don’t think it would be disrespectful to enjoy a sundae on this sacred day though.
  • National Metal Day. Not clear if this is referring to the substance used in manufacturing, or to the music genre.
  • Pocky & Pretz Day. A day to celebrate those little Japanese cookie-snacks? Kind of weird, but okay.
  • Origami Day. Maybe I’ll make a crane. Or watch a youtube clip of someone doing it.