Wednesday, December 9, 2020

I see so many people on social media who are clamoring for this year to end, as though January 1 will somehow deliver an eradication of the pandemic, and a termination to racial strife and political division in our world. I get it, 2020 has been an epic suck-fest. But the brighter skies will need a bit more time before their arrival. That is, unless the real reason you’re looking forward to January 1 is because it will bring the conclusion of a lengthy and time-consuming writing project, in which case YES – bring on that New Year! But we’ve almost made it through this mess, and we’ll make it through the ugly first few months of the new year. Most of us will, anyhow. On a happier note, here’s our yesterday:

National Christmas Tree Day

Why on December 8, after most folks have already mounted and lit up their trees? The only possible explanation I could find is that this is also allegedly the day of the immaculate conception, and some people wait until now to put up their tree. Why would people wait to put up their trees until the day when Christians can celebrate the joys of pregnancy without the awful encumbrance of having to have sex? You’d have to ask an expert for that.

 The weird history of plopping a piece of nature in one’s living room and lighting it up for Jesus dates back to Germany in the 1500s. Back then – and even as recently as last century, it was commonplace to put candles on the tree. How this ever occurred without an ensuing inferno I have no idea. Maybe people were more skilled with manhandling fire back in the old days before we were spoiled by electric light.

Of all the Christmas traditions, the tree is actually one of my favourites. There’s something about having brilliant light and plenty of shiny things in one’s house that adds a warmth and joy to the season. I had a real tree in my house only once, courtesy of some friends who surprised me back when I was 20. I loved the smell, hated the mess. Last year we picked up a smaller fake tree, as we have shifted our house from being a family home into a swingin’ pad for a party-couple, which we totally are (at least for the purposes of this project). It’s still bedecked with lights and our favourite ornaments, including several cinematic references and some Dr. Seuss-looking balls with pompoms.

We may not know why this day is celebrated when it is, but we’re happy to hop on board. Christmas trees are an inarguably joyous December ingredient.

Pretend To Be A Time Traveler Day

The suggestions for how to celebrate this one are worth the effort of including it in this project. We are told to “act confused” when someone orders a “venti half-caf latte” as though we’d just shown up from the 1800s. We are advised we should “misuse technology”, so crashing your car into a tree would be acceptable. You can simply explain to the police that you aren’t used to the horseless carriage. Also, if someone hands you earbuds to listen to a new song, you should sniff them to see if they’re food. Cute.

I maintained in yesterday’s article that we are all time-travelers, simply moving at the same speed and in the same direction along the timeline. But that doesn’t really invite the notion of ‘pretend’ into it, and it relegates this celebration to “we existed, therefore we celebrated”, which is a cop-out I’ve made too often this year. So I felt I should ramp up the occasion at least a little.

I simply imagined myself from one year ago, showing up to meet present-day me. “How’s the project?” 2019-Me would ask. “Did we get that Oprah money?” I’d have to dejectedly tell him that no, this project did not become the phenomenon of positivity we’d hoped, mostly because a virus meant we’d have to cancel most of our most fun and interesting celebrations. “Did Trump win?” would be my next question. At least I’d have some good news on that front. Also, I’d ask the back-to-back important questions: “Do the Patriots win another Super Bowl? And does that dick retire?” That’s a happy no for the first, and a dejected no for the second.

2019-Me would be confused at the weird state of the world a year later, but would be relieved to learn it meant I’d be working from home for most of the year, surrounded by dogs and sunlight. He’d also be happy to know that Betty White is still alive and well. It has been a weird year, but not a complete disaster.

National Craft Jerky Day

This one landed back on November 27, but we never got to properly celebrate it. We had placed an order for some jerky to raise money for our niece’s cheerleading, and were waiting for it to ship. We aren’t ravenous devourers of beef jerky at the best of times, so tracking down some craft jerky when we already had a big shipment on the way didn’t make sense.

We already celebrated jerky on National Jerky Day back on June 12. But jerky is one of those treats (unlike, say, a Twix bar) that is usually significantly better when it’s craft made rather than mass-produced. So we were happy to dust off our chompin’ teeth once more and dig into some peppery dried meatstuffs.

Take It In The Ear Day

I encourage everyone to google this day. Every entry I found is nearly identical: we don’t know who created this day, we don’t know what it means, but it exists so here it is. Some sites will try to imagine what it could mean: is it like “taking one on the chin” in that we should absorb some aural abuse? Does it mean we listen more intently to people today? Does it mean we should be listening to music? Or should we be going to a doctor to get our ears properly cleaned out? That last one involves an unnecessary trip out of the house, so it is absolutely out of the question (as 2019-Me shakes his head in sadness).

So I went with listening to music. If there are no sources documenting the story behind this day, and if it only exists because all of these ‘holiday websites’ are propagating it so they can pad their December numbers, then fine. I’ll pick the interpretation I want. I listened to several hours of music yesterday, and I did all of that listening with my ears.

Day of Finnish Music

How better to woosh along this day of taking it in the ear than to turn to Finland, with its saunas, its bilberries and its floorball matches, to provide the tunes. We’ll start with Wigwam, a prog rock band that emerged from a 60s scene very much influenced by what was going on in Britain. I checked out their 1975 album – their most successful, albeit more pop-focused than heady prog – called Nuclear Nightclub. And if this is the way this entry is going to go, then I’m really glad I added the Day of Finnish Music to my list. The tracks felt on par with what Alan Parsons was doing in the 70s, or like a tamed-down Peter-Gabriel-era Genesis. It was a good start.

Next it was over to Tasavallan Presidentii, another prog-rock band. I guess the Finns were big into the prog scene, though it should be noted that both these bands featured members who committed suicide in 1980. Just a weird coincidence. Anyhow, I tried out the 6-track Milky Way Moses release from 1974. The title track features a brilliant guitar + sax duelling solo and a decidedly funky groove. Big thumbs-up for this one.

Time for something more recent – clearly the Finnish people knew how to rock in the 70s, but what about today? I tried out Damn Seagulls, mostly because I liked the name. Their 2014 release, Let It Shine, is another big winner. I wonder why these bands are all singing in English… most likely in the hunt for international success, I suppose. Well, Damn Seagulls deserves some of that success. This album is terrific. Finland fucking rocks.

And no trip to Finland’s music scene would be complete without checking out some of the Extreme Metal the nation is known for. I had a quick listen to “The Horny And The Horned” by Impaled Nazarene. If you’re not big into melody and just want to frown at your speakers in hopes they’ll start oozing blood, this is absolutely the track for you. Wow. I made it through over a minute of this. I’m proud of me.

Thanks for keeping things interesting, Finland.

National Brownie Day

We weren’t going to catch this one, or so I thought. We had no brownie supplies on hand, and we did not give our team baker (hi, Mom!) more than 12 hours’ notice. That’s okay, we had plenty to celebrate today and more sweets were not necessary. That said, they shall not be denied their affection either.

Our team baker came through with the above chocolate brownie pie, which she whipped up in her magical kitchen yesterday morning. It’s ready for our hungry mouths, but we haven’t sampled it yet. But come on – just look at it. Obviously it’s going to be delicious.

Neither of us are addicted to brownies, but we both enjoy them. We have had one bad brownie experience, but that was Jodie’s first attempt to craft THC edibles and we over-indulged. That’s never fun. As that will not be an ingredient in this brownie cake I am not worried about having a similar evening. The worst we’ll do is pass out from the sheer yummy chocolate of it all. And that’s just fine.

National Bartender Day

We already celebrated our self-bartending last weekend, but hey – we get to do it again! I mixed my own drinks last night, and left myself a really crappy tip. Good thing I spit in those drinks – that’ll show me.

Whilst we groove to the funk of our Finnish friends, what craziness will await us on this, the final single-digit day of 2020? Well, there’s this:

  • National Pastry Day. Mom? Got any pastry lying around?
  • Weary Willie Day. Not a day to celebrate a tired penis; this has something to do with a clown or something.
  • Anna’s Day. A day for eating lutefisk, if one isn’t already worn out from all that Nordic music.
  • National Llama Day. Llamas are deeply cool animals, if only for the double-L at the start of their name.
  • World Techno Day. I guess we’ll be pumping up the jams today.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

While today might be a day to crank up some vintage John Lennon and mourn the fact that we have been without his genius for 40 years now, I’d rather keep the spotlight blaring upon brighter affairs. We celebrate life here at Celebrate366 Industries, not death. We celebrate the joyous, the momentous, the sprinkles of mirthful vibration upon the great sundae of metaphysical existence. Rather than focus on the solemn observances we instead promote the shameless embrace of indulgence and excess. We throw open our arms and open our mouths for the important stuff, like this:

National Cotton Candy Day

This one is another rerun. It’s no surprise that people around the world came up with different days to commemorate the same thing, only to have that jumble of crossed wires show up on the internet years later to confuse us all. That’s okay; we’ll forgive the chaos because it’s cotton candy. It deserves a second celebration. Besides, the first one was back on July 31; it feels like years have passed since then.

I may have written about the history of cotton candy back then, but since we can all agree that enough has happened since July to have rendered this celebration fresh once again, I’ll remind everyone that cotton candy was invented by a dentist. I mean… sort of. It may have existed among street vendors in England in the 1800s, and perhaps in Italy for centuries before that, but it really only counts when an American invents it and gives it a catchy name, right? In this case it was Dr. William Morrison, and it debuted as Fairy Floss at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

A few years later another machine was invented, and this one adopted the name Cotton Candy, which stuck. This happened in New Orleans, and it was the brainchild of Joseph Lascaux, another dentist. That’s right – this tooth-melting confection that I’m sure 4 out of 5 dentists would recommend you avoid in favour of sugar-free gum or something, was created by dentists. Those nutjobs who are claiming that Covid was created by pharmaceutical companies so that they can sell a virus might find some solace in this. Maybe nefarious industries do occasionally create products to harm the public, specifically so they can swoop in to save the day.

I’d rather not scrutinize this one too closely. We picked up some cherry flavoured cotton candy from Carol’s Quality Sweets, and it hit the spot nicely. No evil dentist conspiracies necessary.

Walt Disney Day

Disney parks are, from what I can see, open for business. So if you’re looking to ride some smooth, brilliantly-conceived rides in a meticulously-cleaned, cat-patrolled amusement park while you catch and/or transmit this virus in a crowded public setting, that might be the place for you. Am I being a bit cynical? Perhaps, but accurately so. I meant the rest of what I said too – Disney parks are heaps of fun, super clean, and cats patrol them.

There are apparently hundreds of feral cats who live in Disneyland. Rumor has it that at night those cats are released in order to make sure the rat population stays under control. So if you’ve always wanted to be a Disney cat-wrangler, that may be a career path that exists. The original cost to enter Disneyland was $1 back in 1955. It now costs $93. To be clear, that $1 only got you in the door – you’d have to purchase admission to each of the rides separately. But still, that is some impressive inflation.

There is an actual human skull on display in Disneyland. Back when they were building the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in 1967, fake skulls were, apparently, rather obviously fake. I guess the fake skull industry has taken leaps and bounds over the last few decades and I didn’t even notice. The medical school at UCLA helped out the Imagineers back in the day, and donated a few actual human skulls and skeletons to add a creepiness to the ride. Those have all been replaced, except for one actual human skull, which is mounted overtop the bed pictured above.

Walt Disney’s birthday is on December 5, but the Disney people felt he was as important as a Washington or Lincoln, so his birthday is instead celebrated specifically on a Monday, perhaps in anticipation of it becoming a national holiday. Walt created animation magic, and later theme park perfection. I’m sure he never imagined a world in which his company was the largest media corporation on the planet, but had someone suggested it to him, he probably would have been on board. It’s easy to be snarly over a media empire like this, but dammit, Walt brought us all a lot of joy. Happy 119th, Walt.

National Illinois Day

Sure, we could have put together another deep dish pizza to reflect the greatest food we sampled in our trip through Illinois nine and a half years ago. And we considered tracking down the zesty sport peppers needed to create a proper Chicago hot dog. But I was intrigued by the fact that poutine and doughnuts are also considered crucial components to dining in the Land of Lincoln, and those are frequently on our menu anyway. We sampled some terrific poutine over the weekend, and pictured above are doughnuts that would be huge hits in Illinois: a hot chocolate doughnut, and an After Eight doughnut. Both were out of this world.

So what do we know about Illinois, apart from the fact that the Blues Brothers spent a good deal of their film travelling around the state? When the state started acquiring its colonial displacer population (the white folk), the population boom was in the southern part of the state. Then along came the Erie Canal, which opened up the Great Lakes to New York and the eastern seaboard, and Chicago was established as the economic focus turned to the northeastern chunk of the state.

Illinois was at the heart of the Manhattan Project and the birth of the nuclear age, and they were the first state in the nation to lift the criminal ban on sodomy. This was in 1961. But the most interesting aspect of its history is how Chicago became the go-to place for brilliant black musicians to flee the Jim Crow south and gather together to build a fresh scene wherein some of the greatest music ever made was put to record. We can thank Leonard and Phil Chess for this, and for making names like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter household names. Well, in this household anyway.

A few of my favourite Illinois natives: Michael Madsen from Chicago, Mr. T from Chicago, Bill Murray from Evanston, Jane Lynch from Evergreen Park, Bob Odenkirk from Berwyn, Nick Offerman from Joliet, Harvey Korman from Chicago, Mandy Patinkin from Chicago, Richard Pryor from Peoria, Lou Rawls from Chicago, Cecily Strong from Springfield, Gillian Anderson from Chicago (wait… she’s not British?), and John Belushi from Chicago. There are many more – it’s an extremely extensive list – but that’s a good start. Happy day, Illinoisians – enjoy your doughnuts.

National Handwashing Awareness Week

The pandemic ain’t over, folks. Keep washing those hands. Sure, it’s probably an airborne virus, and maybe we won’t get sick from having dirty hands, but it’s a good rule to stick by whether or not there’s a virus ravaging the world at the moment. Just keep yourself clean. Also, it is remarkably difficult to take a quality hand-washing photograph by oneself. These are the helpful life tips I am learning this year, thanks to this project. Stay safe, everyone.

Today is another day to raise the torch high and see what fun we can kick out of these waking hours. Here’s what’s on the menu:

  • National Brownie Day. Had I been thinking ahead (and I really wasn’t last weekend) I’d have been ready for this day.
  • Pretend To Be A Time Traveller Day. We’re all time travellers though, aren’t we? We just happen to be travelling in the same direction at the same speed.
  • Day of Finnish Music. What great music has come from Finland, you might ask? I might also.
  • National Bartender Day. Last weekend we celebrated bartenders, and I guess we get to do it again. And for the second time, I’ll be the bartender that gives and receives thanks for the work.
  • National Lard Day. A great day for eating a handful of lard. Anyone?
  • National Christmas Tree Day. We have a couple of those set up at the moment. I guess we’ll celebrate them.
  • Take It In The Ear Day. No idea what this means. It sounds dirty and/or violent. But we’ll investigate, because that’s what we do.