Tuesday, December 29, 2020

We spent a very non-standard-issue Monday yesterday. Apart from being off from work (which was divine), we took the day off from life in general. Meals were cooked and dogs were walked, but the rest of our time (obligatory writing excluded) was spent in full recreation mode. This is how we plan on spending every day of this final week of 2020, not out of resentment for a challenging calendar year, or as some sort of rebellion against obligation and responsibility. We simply feel we have earned it. Jodie has achieved the halfway mark in her hunt for her Masters degree, Abbey is on the precipice of graduating this spring, and I… well, I did all this. And I still have to do some soul-scraping and discover what grand lesson I’ve learned about life and/or myself this year. So far all I’ve got is “I hate riding the bus and I’m sick of writing an article every damn day”. Not much, but it’s a start. Here’s how we Mondayed:

National Short Film Day

We actually Sundayed this one, by celebrating it a bit early. We are big fans of short films. Every year (prior to this past year, when this project took all of our free time) we aim to watch every movie in Oscar contention before the award ceremony in February. The short films are usually tricky to track down, though a local theatre does put on an exhibition of the live action and animated shorts a week or so before the broadcast. Short documentary films are tougher to find.

But we have seen some incredible work over the last few years. Skin and Fauve, both up for the 2018 Oscar, were game-changing. Hair Love, which won the animated short Oscar last year, was touching. Bao, the Pixar-created short which won the year before, is utterly beautiful. Every year Pixar gets a film in contention for this Oscar, and they tend to win more often than not. Last night we watched Burrow, which was released to pair with Soul, Pixar’s newest feature on Disney+. We have no doubt both will be among the list of nominees in their respective categories.

A subscription service called Film Movement Plus created National Short Film Day only a year ago, most likely as a way to get people to watch movies on their site, and hopefully throw them some cash. Their selection looks intriguing for folks who are into foreign and obscure artsy movies. I fit that bill perfectly, but I’ve got the Criterion service starting up on January 1, and that (along with the Kanopy offerings from our library for free) will keep me busy enough. But watching a short film for this celebration was an absolute treat. Take six minutes of your life (if you’ve got the Disney service) and check out Burrow. It’s damn sweet.

National Download Day

I deferred to Jodie for this one. Apparently, December 28 is the most active day on app stores every year. Why that is, I have no idea. Do people give app store gift cards for Christmas? Then do people tend to wait until three days after Christmas to cash in those cards and get some stuff? Are app-lovers that patient?

I received no such gift card, and I have no use for any new apps. The only app I use for productivity on my phone is my Google calendar app (which I will suddenly use a whole lot less in three days), and maybe my Webex chat app if the program on my computer isn’t working properly. I have exactly the right number of games that hold my interest on my phone, in that I will not ever find myself bored without anything to play. I scrolled through some of the suggested offerings and came up dry.

But Jodie doesn’t play a lot of games on her phone. One, specifically. A generic brick-breaker game with a seemingly endless supply of levels (she is up over 4,000 now). The other day she decided she wanted something new, so for National Download Day she found something called Project Makeover. It’s essentially the exact same game she has already played for more than four thousand levels, but with the added between-level feature of being able to make over an avi and its residence. So, a game plus some stuff that a hairstylist or interior decorator would call “work”. But she likes it, and that’s all that matters.

National Card Playing Day

This is most likely a perfect fit for holiday seasons when folks are still gathered together, have recovered from their holiday (and post-holiday leftover) feast, and have finished all their Boxing Day shopping trips. Yet they are still stuck with these people through the new year, so they may as well do something to pass the time. Hey, everyone knows a card game or two, right?

We only had three of us present for this holiday season, and while we have recovered from our delightful foodstuff consumption, we did not go shopping and we aren’t really lacking in things to keep us occupied until the chiming of midnight Thursday night. And the place we’d play cards is currently occupied by a partially-built jigsaw puzzle. So I took matters into my own hands and dusted off my Fairway Solitaire app so I could play some virtual cards.

There is no specific origin story to this day, but my prediction from two paragraphs ago sounds about right. Most of these celebrations this year have stemmed from someone using some logic to justify the date to themselves, then submitting it to a website or to Chase’s Calendar of Events to make it ‘official’. Nothing is truly official. Maybe that’s the big lesson of 2020.

National Call A Friend Day

My old pal Steve took care of this one for me. A couple days ago he surprised me with a Facetime call, which was a treat since I haven’t seen the guy since before this fiasco started last December. He lives in Calgary, and despite his dad living a few miles away from me, he has avoided traveling up here all year. I understand – who wants to come to a city where a ridiculous number of numbskulls march through our downtown every weekend, decrying the ‘oppression’ of having to wear masks?

We don’t use the phone nearly as often as we need to, and I don’t think that’s an erosion of social skills as much as a recognition of efficiency. Texting gets the point across quicker, and those who know my voice can even deliver my jokes in the correct way when I write them out, or so I hope.

In between casual card games, phoning up a friend and swapping holiday stories sounds nice. That said, everyone who wants to know what we did for the holidays can simply be directed to this website, thus saving me the hassle of having to hold a conversation for any length of time. That’s what we call a win in the celebration industry.

National Maine Day

No, we did not forget this final entry in our culinary trip around the United States. I’m pretty sure we nailed between 46 and 48 states this year, skipping only a few when we couldn’t obtain the necessary ingredients to try their regional dishes. Maine was one that might have also been tossed into the skip-bin, but dammit, we do surf & turf at Christmas in this household, and the Pine Tree State is well-revered for its surf contributions. Pictured above is the lobster feast we enjoyed on Boxing Day. Or, as we shall call it henceforth, Maine Day.

Maine was perfectly positioned to be among the first US colonies, but it wasn’t snared by colonizing Americans when 1776 went down. The British, French, and of course those indigenous Algonquins were fighting for the land, and for a while during the War of 1812 it was claimed as part of Canada. When that didn’t stick, it became a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until 1820 when it split off and became its own state.

The small town of Lubec (motto: “We have a bridge to Canada!”) is the easternmost settlement in America, with its lighthouse being the closest American structure to the shores of Africa. Not counting any American embassies in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, I guess. Maine remained Republican throughout the Great Depression, and along with Vermont was one of the only states that never cast an electoral vote for FDR. After that, they started leaning left a little more, and throughout its recent history it has been one of the strongest states for supporting independent candidates. The most populous city in the entire state is Portland, which tops out at just over 66,000 residents. It’s a great place to go if you want to visit the scenery. Or eat the lobster, which we totally did.

And to keep consistency with all of our other entries, let’s briefly celebrate a few famous Maineans (or Maine-landers, or whatever). We’ve got the lovely and talented Andrea Martin from Portland, Judd Nelson from Portland, Linda “Alice” Lavin from Portland, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from Portland (yes, most all of these people are from Portland), John O’Hurley (Seinfeld’s J. Peterman) from Kittery, David E. Kelly from Waterville, Anna Kendrick from Portland, Stephen King (obviously) from Portland, Charles Rocket from Bangor, Timothy Simons (Jonah, the best character on Veep) from Readfield, the great director John Ford from Cape Elizabeth, Kevin Eastman (co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) from Portland, Patrick Dempsey from Lewiston, and lastly the great Milton Bradley, who was born in Vienna.

It’s been a fun trip around the country. I hope to do it in person someday, eating even more regional gems.

National Chocolate Candy Day

We have so many to choose from. Pictured above is some of the chocolate peppermint bark my father-in-law got me for Christmas. It was delightful. Days involving the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘candy’ have been among my favourites this year – it only makes sense that a day that combines both words would be an absolute treat.

Are we winding down? Building up to a big finale? Probably just winding down, but just in case, here’s what we could get up to today:

  • National Pepper Pot Day. A very complicated soup food that requires ox tail. I shan’t be making this.
  • Tick Tock Day / Still Need To Do Day. What final things do we have to do in 2020, apart from get the hell out of 2020?
  • National Hero Day. I guess heroes deserve a day too. Seriously? That’s it for the 29th?

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