Thursday, October 22, 2020

My cup runneth underwhelmed yesterday. An air of perpetual grump was choking my office, in part due to matters far beyond my control. I can reconcile the fact that Alberta’s government appears just as corrupt and evil as the idiocracy down south, but then I remind myself that I work for this government. In a sense, I’m complicit in its evil. That doesn’t sit well with me, and it doesn’t point me in a celebratory mood. But this is the burden of my perpetual distraction this year, and to the items below I turned to try to block out the self-doubt and the cacophony of creeping malaise. Is that a little dark for an intro? I make no apologies – sometimes truthiness trumps glitzy salesmanship. But on to the fun:

National Apple Day

Something weird has happened to my relationship with apples. The food, I mean, not the products. At some point about 10 or 15 years ago I found myself feeling mildly nauseous after downing a few bites. This happened with numerous apples of various different styles, and I can’t explain it. Nor do I particularly mourn the loss of apples in my life. I liked them, but it’s not like I lost the ability to consume ice cream or beer. There are other fruits in the fruit-sea.

Naturally the apple began its journey around the world in central Asia, and some historians would say it began in the Garden of Eden. I can’t confirm this, as I can’t for the life of me understand what that historian from Iron Butterfly is singing, but sure, that could be right. Apples are wound into paganism, into Greek mythology, and into the texts of pretty much every religion to emerge from that region. In ancient Greece, if you throw an apple at someone it’s a declaration of love for them. If they catch it, it’s a declaration of acceptance of that love. If they aren’t paying attention and you end up knocking them off their horse and killing them, that’s a testament to the fact that love hurts.

“Eat an apple before going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread” is the original Welsh phrase that got reworked to the apple-a-day one we all know. This version seems more tragic to me, as it suggests that either the doctor will not be able to afford to eat, or else that people from 19th century Wales talked like hippies, substituting ‘bread’ for ‘money’. Either way, it’s disturbing. Also, inaccurate. There is no significant health advantage to eating an apple every day.

And I’m glad about that, since I’m mostly unable to eat them now without this weird mild discomfort. But I own an Apple branded phone and I used the hell out of that yesterday, so yes, I celebrated.

Count Your Buttons Day

Does this have some secret meaning, perhaps tied to a charitable cause or some bold moment in human history? Or are we simply meant to count the buttons on our clothing and be done with it?

Strangely, the answer appears to be the latter. In my hunt for the meaning of this day, all I could find were suggestions to gather your kids together and count the buttons on various items of clothing. Either that, or a vague notion that we should repair any buttons that are missing from the shirt / sweater / pants / yarmulke upon which we were counting.

I have five buttons on the sweater that I had to wear because just looking outside makes my entire insides cold. Five buttons. I’d submit that to Count von Count on Sesame Street, but even he’d be a bit flummoxed by the simplicity of this celebration. And what’s his deal, anyway? Is he a Romanian count, or is he an actual vampire? Why would the undead be a part of a children’s show? What was really going on here?

These are the questions that plague me at night. Fortunately, I no longer have to be plagued by wondering how many buttons are on this sweater. Five. That answer should probably comfort me somehow.

Babbling Day

This is another celebration that is exactly what it seems to be. For this, we babble. We can babble like a baby, according to one site, but I’d be embarrassed to do that even in front of my dogs. Alternately, we can babble to ourselves or to others. This means we can yammer on and on about essentially nothing. Rather than torture someone I know in real life with this mess, I’ll pass it on to you, the reader.

It could be that my knife-sharpening technique is not up to snuff because I was never taught properly, or perhaps because we don’t own a top-quality knife sharpener. I learned to sharpen knives at the Cajun restaurant where I worked when I was 20, which is also where I learned to make a decent blackening spice and Caesar salad dressing from scratch. I don’t make a lot of things from scratch. Why do they call it ‘from scratch’? Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is a fine reggae artist, though I’m not sure if I’m really into the dub remixes. ‘Dub’ is another odd word, though somewhat satisfying since it rhymes with both ‘rub’ and ‘schlub’. ‘Schlub’ is, of course, a Yiddish word, and we all know that the Yiddish contributions to the English language are some of the more fun words to say. They also seem to have a tremendous amount of synonyms for ‘penis’ in Yiddish, which brings up a few more questions. And speaking of questions, isn’t the question mark a beautiful little piece of punctuation? So much of punctuation is simple lines, dots and curls, but the question mark really has a lovely swirl to it. Same with the ‘@’ symbol, which had always perplexed me as a kid. Nowadays we use it on Twitter and in email, but what was it originally created for? When I learned to type – long before the age of email – I asked that question to many people (using a pretty little question mark, albeit a verbal one) and never got a solid answer. I only ever wound up using it when I was trying to type out a swear word without actually typing out the swear words. And as far as swear words go, can we say them on TV now? Can we skip the silly censorship on broadcast television at this point, or does that medium have to be mired in the 20th century forever? Swear words are great words, though none of them rhyme with ‘dub’ and ‘rub’ and ‘schlub’, unless you get really creative and call someone a Shit-scrub or something. That might confuse more than offend though, and if you’re calling someone a Shit-scrub you probably have a deliberate reason to wish to offend them.

Is that enough babbling? I’d say I’ve celebrated this one appropriately.

Back To The Future Day

How can I, a genuine Marty, truly celebrate this day? Should I watch the movie again? I saw it six times in the theatre, and countless more times after that. I’m pretty sure I have it mostly memorized at this point, so this would be unnecessary. Instead I opted to listen to the soundtrack, in particular to the two wonderful Huey Lewis & The News tracks. “The Power of Love” is a timeless classic, but “Back In Time” is just as good. Sure, Huey sings “Get back, Marty” in the middle of the song, thus linking it with the film, but if I can listen to McCartney tell both Jo-Jo and Loretta to do the same thing in another song, I can let this one slide too.

This day is celebrated on October 21 because it was on that date in 1985 that Marty flew back to 1955. The film took place in the future, as far as its audience was concerned; it was throughout the summer of ’85 when I saw it six times. Five years ago we all enjoyed the comparison between actual 2015 and the 2015 depicted in the sequel. It turns out flying cars don’t legitimately exist yet, hoverboards don’t hover but instead are little two-wheeled flame-traps, and the Chicago Cubs did not win the World Series. Screenwriter Bob Gale threw that into the second film because it seemed the most preposterous thing he could think of for 2015.

The Cubs, not to be outdone, won the World Series in 2016. Pretty close, Bob.

Now just imagine if Marty had travelled 35 years into the future instead of 30. That would be an interesting premise, to see a 1985 teenager figure out what the hell is going on in this mess of a year. Even we can’t wrap our heads around it, and we’ve been here the entire time.

National Chocolate Cupcake Day

Yeah, we surrendered and bought some from Safeway. They weren’t particularly inspiring, but they did the trick. We now have an entry for a daily celebration from last Sunday. What a treat.

Today I meet with my doctor in hopes of securing a lengthier stay in my work-from-home arrangement, mostly because the outside world sucks all the balls at the moment. Here’s what else we’ll be doing:

  • National Make A Dog’s Day Day. As companion to three of the most spoiled dogs in human history, this should be easy.
  • National Nut Day. As in the food or the people?
  • National Color Day. I guess this is a day to avoid black & white films?
  • Smart Is Cool Day. And as Huey would say, it’s hip to be square. Lots of Huey Lewis references this week.
  • Eat A Pretzel Day. Another celebration that is delightfully instructive in its name – I appreciate that.
  • International Caps Lock Day. So I’ll learn about capital letters whilst appearing to shout about them.
  • National Knee Day. I guess just about every part of the body gets its own day.
  • Wear Purple for Domestic Violence Awareness Day. And I also love it when days simply tell me what to wear.
  • Wombat Day. This might be the day to introduce my new alt-superhero: Wombatman.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The world outside my window is draining its colour into memory. The grass has transitioned from bold green to a defeated yellow. Most of the leaves on the trees I can see are still clinging to their autumn spectacle, but a steady breeze is pulling that glorious display down to the earth. The sky seems to have surrendered its blue boastfulness and offers only a palette of uninspiring grey. So now the colour and light in the world must be cranked up from within. We must supply the roll to move this rock. Fortunately, we are well-equipped with all of this keeping us busy yesterday:

National Edge Day

In scanning the lengthy list of potential celebrations for today, the one that was to be celebrated by not consuming alcohol did not pop out as the first one I’d want to do. We’ve done sober days before this year, and for the most part they aren’t particularly interesting. Nor are they necessarily genuine, as we are both fortunate to not have a dependency on alcohol, and we can comfortably enjoy a drink or two the day before or after.

But this one struck me as particularly inspiring in its backstory. I’m a lover of music of most genres (bro-step polka honky tonk never really hit me right), and this is tied in with a musical subculture that doesn’t get a lot of press.

Yes, I’m talking about football punk.

Ten Yard Fight was a Boston-based punk band that had a decent local run from 1995 through 1999. Their twist was that they were truly straight-edge: they shunned alcohol and recreational drugs, and promoted a clean lifestyle. Clean, and blasted with the satisfying endorphin rush of hardcore punk. Football punk. Their name was no coincidence; they were legitimately an American football-themed punk band who used to perform in a mix of football safety gear and punk clothing. Which is all well and good, except that being from Boston they were probably Patriots fans, and the Patriots are the least punk-rock franchise in the NFL. If they were from Oakland, I might be tempted to hunt them down and give them a listen. Besides, it was the 90s – what could they rhyme with “Drew Bledsoe”? Maybe “Where did all the beds go?”

Actually, I did give them a listen. I checked out “Proud To Be Straight”, which features some great work by the rhythm section and a genuine hardcore vibe that did not blend well with my Saturday afternoon post-brunch feeling of chill. I also wondered about that title – I get that they’re talking about their pride in not taking drugs or drinking booze, but it could be misconstrued in certain communities.

No matter – it was the final concert of Ten Yard Fight (October 17, 1999) that created this day, for sober punks to cheer on themselves and other sober punks. So we listened to some punk and abstained from alcohol. It was life on the edge.

Black Poetry Day

A big ol’ happy birthday to Jupiter Hammon, who would have turned 309 yesterday, though I think he has passed away by now. Jupiter is the grand-daddy of African-American literature, having had his poetry published in 1761. He was born into slavery, and spent his entire life as a slave in New York. Fortunately, the Lloyd family who owned his parents (and by extension, him) allowed him to learn to read and write. Jupiter’s writings were often about slavery, but he was clever enough to write in metaphor and symbols.

It should be no surprise to anyone that the first published black poet was a slave. It makes sense, and it sets the stage for the great black poetry to come. I haven’t done a poetry day in a few weeks, but this one was too appealing to ignore. The perspectives of black Americans in particular, who have been under the yoke of some form of oppression and strife for the entire duration of their cultural existence, are the ultimate teachers. We pasty types can never know their experience, but through poetry we can try to understand.

I also read some work by Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. I also listened to some Gil Scott-Heron and Tupac last night. This was an enlightening little celebration.

If you’re looking for a little bit of light in your day, you could do much worse than perusing this piece by Langston Hughes, a magnificent statement on the current (still today) state of America. It’s my gift to my readers today – please enjoy and share it.

National Mulligan Day

For National Mulligan Day, named after the weirdly accepted method of cheating in golf, we decided we could either go back and re-celebrate something we’d celebrated earlier in the year and do it better, or skip back to some day we’d missed and knock it off in the present. I was ready to relive National Drink A Beer Day, because obviously that’s one that deserves revisiting. But that would have messed with National Edge Day. So much conflict to balance in this mess.

So instead let’s venture back to June, back when we were still in the first wave of this pandemic and speculating how long it may last. Now, of course, we’re well into the second (or even third) wave, and still speculating how long it may last. But on June 9 we missed the opportunity to dive deep into a very special celebration: National Lettuce Day.

Yep, lettuce. The most generic and oft-forgotten vegetable on the planet. Lettuce is one of the greatest gifts bestowed upon humanity by the Egyptians. It’s the baseline of a salad, the entry point to eating something green in order to feel better about that bacon-cheddar-double-burger and fries. It’s also a decent source of vitamins A and K, as well as folic acid and iron. It’s good stuff, though the tiny leaf you spread across the mountain of bacon on that burger isn’t going to save you from anything.

I indulged in this day with some delicious lettuce wraps from the Cactus Club Café. Lettuce doesn’t have to be boring. And, thanks to National Mulligan Day, and specifically to the Mulligan it was named after (there are competing stories – I won’t get into it), for giving us the opportunity to get busy with some lettuce. This is the magic 2020 was meant to provide.

National Fetch Day

I don’t need to get into the history of the game, or its positive benefits for puppy health and puppy-human bonding. It’s fetch. If you’ve had a dog in your life, you’ve probably played it. We have with our many bulldogs, but they usually weren’t in for more than a throw or two. It’s a lot of work. Liberty, on the other hand, loves to play.

We played fetch to celebrate; it seemed the rational thing to do. And we enjoyed it – it’s great to have a dog with significantly more energy than I have.

Today is Sunday, which means it’s tune out and watch football day. If we feel so inspired, we might dive into some of this too:

  • National Chocolate Cupcake Day. I should have probably given our team baker (sorry, Mom!) more notice for this one.
  • National No Beard Day. Will I shave my beard? The one I grew for a Halloween costume back in 2013 and haven’t gotten rid of since? No, probably not.
  • World Toy Camera Day. This day is already being stretched rather thin.
  • World Menopause Day. Nope. Probably not this one either. It’ll be a light day today.