Thursday, December 10, 2020

With only three weeks left until our grand finale, I feel like we should be ramping up the celebrations at this point. Except we have just received lockdown orders from our government, so we can really only celebrate in our home, unless we go somewhere outside and far away from other humans. Also, December was the lightest month in my research, likely because of those big ol’ celebrations that pop up to draw the spotlights over to various religions and/or capitalist mass-indulgences. Since we have surpassed our goal of 2,020 celebrations this year, we will play the cards we get. Yesterday, that made for a rather light hand.

Weary Willie Day

If this year has been lacking in anything, and I think most people would agree with me on this, it has been a proper acknowledgement of clowns. We’ve all leant our sympathies to those who have lost their jobs, or who have been deemed essential and thus been put in harm’s way, but who has been checking in on our clowns? Circuses were going out of style long before this pandemic – mostly because of animal abuses and the fact that we have infinitely more entertaining stuff we could watch on our TVs – but what are all those clowns doing for themselves?

Today we celebrate the work of Emmett Kelly, a true pioneer in the world of clownery. Kelly grew up in the early 20th century, when clowns were generally the goofy, smiling, balloon-holding type – the type that was coopted into a thing of horror by Stephen King in the 80s. Kelly based his character, Weary Willie, on the hobos of the Great Depression. He had a perpetually sad face, and always came up on the cruddy side of situations.

Look, I get the criticisms of clowns. It, the novel, mini-series and movies, messed with our heads. A couple years ago those weird clowns were spotted off highways in the US and Canada, just… standing there, looking creepy. But Weary Willie was a true performer. He worked in silence, like Harpo Marx or any classic silent film character. And he played out his scenes with a likable quality – rare to find these days in a clown. I watched this video of him performing his classic ‘sweeping up the spotlight’ gag, and it’s genuinely funny. Probably more so if you were there in person for it, but still, it’s a clever bit.

And the photo above was taken at the site of the Hartford Circus Fire, when the big top caught fire and caused a massive panic. 168 people died, but Weary Willie was caught by a photographer, racing with buckets of water to try to put out the blaze. He was also instrumental in helping 682 get to safety. So for that, and in honour of what would have been his 122nd birthday, we’re happy to send Weary Willie a happy salute.

National Llama Day

As with other magnificent animals we have celebrated this year, the llama deserves some investigation. They are delightful creatures with a quirky appearance, kind of like ponies with a huggable coat and faces that contort into truly goofy expressions. So what can we learn about this noble beast?

Llamas exist in only a small sliver of area in South America. The local Aymara legends say that the Heavenly Llama drinks water from the oceans, and the rain? That’s its pee. This is the sort of mythology I can get behind.

Unlike most large animals, llamas mate while lying down. They also do it for up to 45 minutes in a single session, which is impressive even by human numbers. When babies are born, their moms don’t lick them clean; turns out a llama’s tongue can only stretch about 13 millimetres out of its mouth, so they couldn’t if they tried. The females have things figured out: they reach puberty at about a year old, and they only ovulate *after* intercourse, so one well-placed oomph is often all they need to get knocked up. The males take their time; they don’t even become sexually mature until they are three.

Llamas can make great therapy animals. They are quite pleasant to be around, but humans are warned that if we keep them too close and spoil them too much, they’ll start treating us like part of the gang. That includes spitting, kicking, and wrestling with them. The male mating call is known as an ‘orgle’, in case you’re looking for a title for your next soft-rock album. They also contain valuable antibodies which scientists are studying, especially the way they may help to fight off the current strain of coronavirus.

So in the end, llamas may save us all. If that isn’t a reason to celebrate them, I don’t know what is.

World Techno Day

A big ol’ happy birthday to Juan Atkins. Who’s Juan Atkins? Until I sat down to write this entry, I had no earthly idea. Apparently as a member of the Belleville Three, the group credited with pioneering the genre of Detroit Techno in the 1980s, he is considered to be a grand pioneer in the genre. This is why we celebrate World Techno Day on his birthday.

Except we don’t. Wikipedia has him down for a September 12 birthday, which means somewhere, someone messed up their 12/9 and their 9/12 dates. I know very little about techno music, so I honestly can’t comment with authority on his contribution to the style. I did give a listen to his group though. The four songs they have on Spotify sound like typical techno to me. I enjoy that style on headphones when it’s well produced, but I’ll usually opt for listening to something else instead. Yesterday I did not give myself that option.

As a drummer, I was cheesed at the fact that techno became a big thing while I was in high school. The genre relies on machinery to keep its rhythms, thus relegating those with astute percussion skills (which wasn’t really me) to obsolescence. I’ve since opened up my mind and found other ways to appreciate this music, but it’s still far from my favourite. Detroit gets credit for being ground zero for techno’s rise in America, but unlike the soul music revolution that truly grew from that city a couple decades earlier, this was very clearly borrowed from Europe. In particular from Germany, where Kraftwerk was doing its thing as far back as 1970.

So I cranked up some techno yesterday and tapped my foot along for as long as I could. Then I pulled up some of that Finnish rock from the day before, because that stuff was more my jam.

We move into the true Holiday Season today, as one of the big year-end holidays kicks off. Here’s everything going down:

  • National Lager Day. Whoops – forgot to pick up some lager for this one. We can celebrate it a day late.
  • Dewey Decimal System Day. I was wondering when we’d get to celebrate this one! I know a couple folks in the library game. Maybe they can tell me how they plan to party.
  • Festival For The Souls Of Dead Whales. I didn’t see this one coming.
  • Hanukkah. We have abstained from religious celebrations this year, as I don’t wish to disrespect any faith by faking their customs. But I’ve been faking this one for all my life, so it gets a pass.

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