Friday, October 2, 2020

The same vicious gravity beast that prematurely yanked me down the stairs and cracked my foot last week is now wreaking havoc on the leaves outside. The chill is moving in, and with it a new resolve to celebrate. Or, at the very least, to acknowledge the passing of time and trying to do something with it. Were we to surrender to our desire to log off from crazytown and abandon this project, we’d miss out on all the fun. I kid – what we’d miss out on is the knowledge that we saw this madness through to its conclusion, in spite of the convoluted road upon which it has deviated. Plus, we’ve got all this fun to have:

International Coffee Day

Sure, we celebrated National Coffee Day a couple days ago with the exact same method of merriment delivery: we each drank at least one cup of delicious coffee. This is no different than any workday, except that we paused to appreciate the beverage just a little bit more. Twice now.

The celebration on Tuesday was started by someone (no one knows who, or at least no one is telling me), and was used by numerous major coffee chains as a way to lure folks in for promotional deals. It was an advertising gimmick, which is fair, since many of these food celebrations are used in that way by their industries. This one has a bit more meat to it, though.

The International Coffee Organization, which you have likely never heard of unless you are a producer of coffee, represents roughly 98% of the coffee makers on the planet. It’s the industry organization everyone joins. They are the folks behind this celebration, which they are using to launch a campaign to focus on young people in the industry, and to foster the next generation of coffee people. You can get involved at their website, which from what I can see means submitting your ideas on how to promote this campaign. (We can open the Toddler Café! Run exclusively by toddlers!) My only idea (apart from that brilliant one) is that I just wrote about it here, and I’d like some funding for that. Or maybe just some coffee. I can get paid in coffee.

If you missed Tuesday’s party, pour yourself a cup and toast the glory that is coffee.

National Homemade Cookies Day

I’d stashed a couple of our oatmeal lace cookies aside for this one, since the pecan cookies from last Monday didn’t stand a chance of lasting this long. We just want to give another shout-out to our team baker (hi, Mom!) who has come through for us a gazillion times this year with delicious home-made treats. Since she retired she has been full-throttle in her kitchen, baking for us, baking for friends, baking for absolutely no other reason than she seems to really love baking.

And that works out really well for us, because we really love eating baked goods. We’ll be making our own batch next week (more of Jodie’s special medicinal ginger snaps), but the real joy will be in our next delivery from our team baker. Here’s hoping her love of delivering treats to us doesn’t fade when this project reaches its end.

International Day of Older Persons

This is a United Nations day, advising us that we should not discard our older people like so much expired yogurt. I’m not sure who does this, but probably people. People seem to be capable of doing all sorts of heartless and cruel things. So today I’ll give a little love to some of the older people in my life who are special to me.

Mom, you just got a bunch of praise for your awesomeness in the last entry, so don’t get greedy.

Betty White, you played an “old lady” on a show that aired 35 years ago, and you’re still going strong through the year of universal torment. You are an inspiration to everyone who has the good sense to know what an inspiration is.

Our postal carrier – I don’t know your name, but you are clearly at least a decade older than me and in much better shape. I bet you’ve never had difficulty descending a staircase without breaking your foot. Thanks for your service, for delivering the Edmonton Jewish News that I toss in recycle every month, the latest updates from Epcor on how they’re digging up my neighbourhood, and occasionally the cannabis I order online.

To Carrie Brownstein of the show Portlandia and the awesome band Sleater-Kinney, we were born on exactly the same date, but I was born quite close to midnight. So I suspect you are the most famous person who is just the slightest bit older than I am. That means almost nothing, but almost nothing is still something.

Jack Ashford, the percussionist on so many Motown hits, you are a goddamn legend. Thank you for responding to my fan-boy message on Facebook a couple years ago. I regret nothing.

Lastly, to my wife… hey, she’s factually older than me, and she’s feeling tremendously aged by the pressures of this particular school year. You’re my hero, and I’m the luckiest dude this side of the mortal coil.

International Music Day

This day was launched by the International Music Council, which is involved in significantly less music creation than the International Coffee Organization is involved with coffee production. But they mean well, and they have interwoven this celebration with UNESCO, making this the first day this year that we are paying tribute to two United Nations-related celebrations. I know, there are folks out there who hate the UN and believe they are trying to indoctrinate us into a New World Order of communism and evil leprechauns, but let’s shut those people out with some loud, well-selected music.

That’s what I did. To be clear, I wasn’t targeting the leprechaun-believers specifically but I did listen to music throughout the day, and I made sure the music came from various national origins. The heading of ‘world music’ drew my curiosity decades ago, and now I’m in love with music from all cultures, so long as it doesn’t suck.

International Music Day was created back in 1975 to promote the council, and to promote the ability for music to connect cultures together. I invite all of my (now three!) readers to pop onto Spotify or some other such service and find a playlist of South African or Brazilian or Turkish music and crank it up. Reach outside your comfort zone and try something new. Hey, I found some cool stuff on Azerbaijani Music Day last month. Every society has produced incredible music – it’s the easiest way to unite us.

So turn that shit up!

International Raccoon Appreciation Day

Consider if you will the noble raccoon. Nature’s hamburglar. Scavengers, but cute enough to be considered by most to be at least one notch among trash-snatching vermin. They are creatures of the night, and it seems as thought they’ll eat pretty much anything. They can live for more than twenty years, but their average lifespan in the wild is 2-3, mostly because of vehicles and folks who hunt them for crappy coats and gross foodstuffs.

Raccoons are European in origin, having trekked across the Bering Strait back when it was solid ground some twenty million years ago or so.

But enough about their history, let’s talk penises. They average out at about four inches, which doesn’t seem like much until you compare their body size to ours. ‘Coons be packin’, I think that’s the lesson here. Raccoons have it going on upstairs too, with task memory that can reach as far as three years, and a learning speed that puts them in macaque territory. They aren’t solitary creatures – the ladies stick with their female relatives, while the guys go out and form little packs of bros who have one another’s back when they’re defending territory.

Because they can feed pretty well off the stuff we throw out, raccoons do quite well in urban environments. So we aren’t driving them off the planet, which is great, but we’ve also got to share our space with them. This isn’t a problem in Edmonton; we don’t get a lot of raccoons up here. Raccoons have been a part of indigenous mythology and lore for centuries. Western culture has also honoured this magnificent beast with a mediocre animated TV series, a song on the Beatles’ White Album, and as one of the numerous sources of comic relief in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

Maybe we’ve got a ways to go before we give the raccoon its proper due. Or maybe I just achieved it with this article. History will tell the tale.

National Black Dog Day

Full disclosure: we had hoped to celebrate this day at a delightful local pub known as the Black Dog. We haven’t been there in years, and it’s one of our city’s great drinking establishments. But we aren’t going to drinking establishments right now, for obvious virus reasons. And that’s okay – we have a much better way of celebrating this one.

Rosa, pictured above, is technically a ‘blue’ French Bulldog. Her fur does show hints of blueness, but let’s face it, she ain’t blue. She is our black dog and she’s wonderful. So why do black dogs need their own special day? There’s actually a valid reason. Black dogs are less likely to be adopted than other dogs. I can think of no reason for this – I’ve known a black poodle who was amazing, a black lab that was delightful and friendly, and little Rosa here is about as perfect a pooch as one could ask for.

So what’s up with black dogs? Is it some sort of weird racism transference that puts them at a disadvantage? Are people frightened of them because they sport the shade of night and shadow? Are people really that messed up? Given what I’ve seen from humanity, yes they are. And that’s silly. If you’re looking for an amazing dog, don’t let blackness deter you. Rosa is special (my mother would say special-needs, but that’s another story) and magnificent. And she got bonus treats yesterday because she deserves it.

We made it through another week, only to find ourselves facing off against a tiny two-day weekend. Here’s how we’ll be spending our Friday:

  • National Body Language Day. I’d planned to exaggerate my body language around my coworkers today. Now my only coworkers are dogs. Let’s see how they respond.
  • National Produce Misting Day. A day to celebrate the misting of produce in a supermarket? Sure, why not?
  • National Custodial Workers Recognition Day. Again, I’m my own custodian, but maybe Jodie can help with this one.
  • National Name Your Car Day. This should be fun. We’ve had the same car for 14 years and she has no name.
  • National Fried Scallops Day. I think the best way to celebrate this might be to fry up some scallops. Unless someone has a better plan.
  • International Day of Non-Violence. No violence today, got it.
  • Kids Music Day. I may listen to a small, tolerable sampling of kids’ music.
  • World Smile Day. Now here’s a day with some substance.
  • National Denim Day. I used to wear jeans to work on casual Friday. Now I wear sweats all through the week and jeans are for ‘dressing up.
  • Plaiderday. Shouldn’t this land on a Saturday?
  • World No Alcohol Day. Some celebrations are fun. Others are specifically aimed at eliminating fun.
  • National Research Maniacs Food Day. I don’t know if this is a day for researching what food maniacs eat or for us research maniacs to eat some food. I’ll find out!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Part of me is screaming, “We did it! October! We made it this far!” But of course there remains that voice that counts the 93 remaining days as 93 hurdles to leap before I can retire this somewhat repetitive exercise. Those folks who punch through an entire novel in November – I respect their commitment, and feel I should learn something from them. A massive writing project that wraps up in 30 days sounds blissful from where I’m sitting. But that’s no way to tackle a new month. Projections for the final quarter of this project are high in mirth and mayhem, and shockingly low in originality. Not a condemnation of my skills, but rather an acceptance of the limitations of 2020. We won’t be partying in the streets this year, and partying in the streets was something I was looking very forward to. But yesterday we could at least wrap ourselves around this:

Orange Shirt Day

I’m going to get this one out of the way, since there’s really nothing funny about Orange Shirt Day, apart from the fact that the only orange shirt I own is my Von Miller jersey. And Jodie’s orange shirt is more pink than orange… for a couple of NDP supporters we are terrible about wearing that colour. I don’t know if it was a conscious choice, or if that’s simply how our wardrobes happened to have evolved.

Orange Shirt Day is a day to remind us about the horrors of residential schools in Canada. For those who live elsewhere, or who have tuned out any news items that don’t relate directly to hockey over the last few decades, our beloved federal government has a fairly lengthy history of rounding up Indigenous kids, yanking them away from their families and forcing them to “be more white” in strict schools fraught with indoctrination and abuse. It sounds like an excerpt from American Horror Story, and maybe it should be. This is not a relic from ancient history, this was stopped in the 1990s.

Yesterday we wore orange to indicate that we’re still outraged by this. We wore orange so that any Indigenous people we interacted with (which, for me, was zero since I didn’t leave the house) knew that we believe they matter, and their stories matter. Jodie is deep into the Indigenous university course that Dan Levy of Schitt’s Creek was promoting (because where most new celebrities promote a company or a product, Dan Levy promotes racial harmony and understanding – he’s that kind of dude). She is working actively on this cause in her Masters program. So we did more than wear a certain hue for awareness… or at least one of us did.

Orange Shirt Day is a day to listen and to read, and to empathize. Not so much a celebration as a commemoration that needs to happen on a grand scale.

National Chewing Gum Day

Now we’re back into fluff country, where I can prattle on about the history of something and indicate that I popped that something into my gullet and therefore honoured the celebration. You understand now what I meant in the intro about this being a repetitive exercise. But, we haven’t yet celebrated chewing gum – or at least I’m pretty sure we haven’t. If we have, there’s no way it was as official as this celebration. Actually, we did celebrate bubble gum, but that’s more specific.

Humans have dealt with their oral fixations for millennia before Freud figured it out. We like to chew stuff, even if that isn’t a prelude to ingesting it. In Finland they have found 6,000-year-old gum made from birch bark tar, and to some people that’s literally as old as they think the world is. The Ancient Greeks chewed gum, also made from tree goop. Tree goop has been the go-to for gum for a long time until those Doublemint twins showed up and invented something better.

Actually our modern version of chewing gum got its start in the 60s – the 1860s, when the former Mexican president gave inventor Thomas Adams some chicle to be used as a rubber substitute. Thomas tried making the chicle into tires, but it didn’t take. Gum was the next likely use for the stuff, and a legend was born. If you’re looking for a reason to chew gum, studies show it may improve your working memory, your episodic memory, and your speed of perception. It might not, but what the hell? It’s worth a shot.

I used to chew gum at work, mostly after lunch to clear my breath and at the end of the day as I walked to the bus stop. These days the dogs always have worse breath than I do, and I don’t take the bus. But I’ll still pop a couple every so often. Life is better with a good chew.

National Love People Day

I was ready to scootch on past this one, as it seemed like another generic feelgoodery celebration, and we’ve blown through a few hundred of those, or so it seems. And that’s kind of what this day is about, but it’s also a way of honouring the founders of the Lifeline Church in Chicago.

“But wait,” you may be saying, “you don’t give two fifths of a crap about any organized religious institution!” And you’d be right, I don’t. I don’t trust organized religion, and I don’t like what it has done to this planet and the people on it. But this is a pretty hip little church, and from what I can tell they have done some groovy stuff. They have worked with Ty Pennington and the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team to change a few lives. They gave away free hugs at the local Pride parade. They have given clothing, food, medical service and even an SUV to people in need.

These are folks who are doing religion right, so they’ll get a shout-out from me. Their message on this day is for us to love one another unconditionally, which is great. I’m not sure I agree, but then maybe I’m not as steeped in the hippie peace-and-love rhetoric as I’d like think I am. Maybe I have a hard time finding love for those who would impose their hatred onto others, or those who would actively or passively support those awful acts. Maybe that’s something I have to overcome, since those fuckers will keep on being those fuckers no matter what I’m feeling inside.

Alright, I fell for this one, and I’ll cop to it. We can all learn a little more about Love with a big ‘L’.

International Translation Day

This is a day created by the United Nations to pay tribute to the folks who make a living translating stuff. For the UN, this is a pretty crucial job. I’m semi-fluent in French, in that I can probably understand a menu at a French restaurant (and isn’t that really the most important thing?). But I’m no translator.

Fortunately, Google is a translator, or at least Google Translate is. So for this day I decided to take one of rock’s most misunderstood songs – “Louie Louie” – and see if I could make it even more incomprehensible than Jack Ely of the Kingsmen did. Below are the lyrics of the song – not the misheard “dirty” lyrics, but the actual lyrics.

A fine little girl, she waits for me

Me catch the ship across the sea

Me sail the ship all alone

Me never think I’ll make it home

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go. Louie Louie, oh baby me gotta go.

Three night and days I sailed the sea

Me think of girl constantly

On the ship I dream she there

I smell the rose in her hair.

Me see Jamaica, the moon above

It won’t be long, me see me love

Me take her in my arms and then

I tell her I’ll never leave again.

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go. Yeah yeah yeah yeah baby,

Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.

Now here are the same lyrics, after being put through Google Translate, going from English to French to Spanish to German to Italian to Turkish to Czech to Icelandic to Greek and back to English again:

A beautiful girl is waiting for me

I drive the ship across the ocean

I only go to the ship

I think I will never go home

Louie Louie, oh no, I have to leave. Louie Louie, oh my baby, I have to leave.

I sailed for three nights and three days at sea

I’m still thinking about the girl

It seems to me that he is on the ship

I can feel a rose in your hair

I see Jamaica, the moon

It will not be long before I see love

I take it in my arms and then

I tell him I will never return.

Louie Louie, oh no, I have to leave. Yes, yes, yes, drinking

Louie Louie, oh my baby, I have to leave.

So there you have it. Apart from switching genders midway through the song (hey, it’s all a spectrum!), and misrepresenting the story’s conclusion, Google Translate did a pretty fine job. Though I’m curious at which point “Yeah yeah yeah yeah baby” became “Yes, yes, yes, drinking.”

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Day

I cooked with extra virgin olive oil last night, which is generally all I ever do with it. I’m sure it would be great for slicking up the kitchen floor and playing a really clumsy game of fetch with Liberty, or for creating a fragrant slip-and-slide in the back yard, but we tend to lean on conceptual imagination rather than putting those bizarre thoughts into practical application. Does this make us boring? Well, if not being coated head to toe in olive oil is boring, I guess so.

Extra virgin, by the way, means that the olives were only shmushed into oil form using mechanical means, not with any chemicals. That means this is the finest, tastiest, and highest-quality olive oil you can buy. And you can buy it cheap at Costco – don’t pay the grocery store markup. Kirkland comes through with the win.

I suppose this could also refer to Popeye’s girlfriend before she had sex, though the ‘extra’ does raise some questions. Speaking of questions…

Ask A Stupid Question Day

This is a day for teachers to encourage their kids to ask whatever questions they’d like, as there’s allegedly no such thing as a stupid question. I’d disagree. I’ve heard several stupid questions. And I’ll ask one now.

Is there anything on this planet more amazing than dogs? Stupid question. Of course not.

The first of the month is always packed with an unruly mob of celebrations. Here’s what we might get up to today:

  • National Black Dog Day. Rosa is technically a ‘blue’ French Bulldog, but she’s close enough for us. It’s a Rosa day.
  • National Hair Day. We will endeavour to grow our hair at a slightly faster rate than normal.
  • National Homemade Cookies Day. Always a favourite, and our team baker always comes through with amazing stuff.
  • International Day of Older Persons. Hey, I know some older persons!
  • World Vegetarian Day. We’ve done vegetarian this year. We aren’t doing this again.
  • International Coffee Day. Right on. More coffee.
  • National Poetry Day (UK). Perhaps another enjoyable sonnet from Sir Patrick Stewart is in order.
  • CD Player Day. The only one we presently have set up is the one in our vehicle. And we never use it.
  • Bring Your Bible To School Day. Better still… don’t!
  • International Music Day. The only thing better than great music is great international music.
  • International Raccoon Appreciation Day. Anyone want to go hug a raccoon? Just kidding – they’ll bite. Don’t do that.
  • Less Than Perfect Day. Certainly a day for me.
  • Model T Day. I’d have loved to have gone for a ride in one, but of course we couldn’t set up anything fun like this during Covid.