Monday, November 16, 2020

It struck me yesterday that the next time I round the corner of the middle of a month, it will be on the home stretch toward the completion of this celebratory mission. It also struck me yesterday that I spend an inordinate amount of time recontextualizing this project in order to put its conclusion in a more imminent and impending light. Jodie and I discussed possible next projects for me over the weekend, none of which include a daily 2,000-word check-in or research over the history of the seat belt. The future is bright and inviting. But enough about the future; here’s yesterday’s stuff:

National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

I may do a tally at the end of this project (and by “may” I mean “probably won’t”) to calculate how many of these celebrations were food-related, how many were animal-related, how many were generic feelgoodery, and how many were simply chores. This one falls so firmly into that last camp I could clearly hear the thud as I typed out the title of this section. Yes, this is a day to clean the fridge. How wild is that?

It turns out, very. Actually it doesn’t – I just felt that would be a terrific example of a transition sentence into a new paragraph. I’d have loved to follow it up with an interesting revelation or a dynamic experience that befell us as we tidied up the surfaces upon which our chilled food rests to await our inevitable appetite, but I’ve got nothing, folks. We cleaned out the fridge. Our fridge is clean. We live to celebrate another day.

To be clear, we didn’t use this day to sift through old containers and check expiry dates of stuff. We’re pretty good at keeping up with that, especially this year. This is likely because this project has occasionally required us to keep three different kinds of beer, multiple leftovers and two complete pies in our fridge for past and upcoming days. We have had to stay on top of the clutter. So instead we took note of a few spills and stains on the shelves and dealt with those.

Maybe it’s enough for you to simply find a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch with a promotional insignia indicating that Hidden Valley was the official ranch dressing of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the back of your fridge and throw that out. However you need to do it, tidy up your shit. Make room for beer.

National Drummer Day

When planning this one, I thought of setting up our Wii and loading up Beatles Rock Band for the first time in nearly a decade. That was the first gaming system we’d bought for our kids, and we primarily bought it for that game. I have a small amount of drumming talent so I had a blast jamming to Ringo’s parts and keeping the beat steady. Then I remembered that Abbey had absconded to Vancouver with our Wii, so the best I could do was thwack the rubber pads. That would be unsatisfying.

We’ve celebrated National Drumming Month, and truth be told we’ve probably also celebrated another drumming day this year (Hug A Drummer Day). We have celebrated so much I can’t keep track of it all. Is all of this giving me a headache, or is this just the new normal this year? Anyhow, we celebrated before by listening to some of history’s best drummers at work: John Bonham, Keith Moon, Buddy Rich, Neil Peart, Jughead, etc. So do we do exactly the same thing?

Not quite. I thought it might be interesting to devote a few minutes to checking out some of the greatest drum solos of all time. Business Insider, a publication known for its commitment to percussion excellence (probably), posted a list of some of the best drum solos ever put on tape. Or converted into 0s and 1s if it’s from the digital era, I guess. Some of them I know well, like Ginger baker slamming through “Toad” with Cream in 1968 and Bonham raging through “Moby Dick.”

But the one that caught my eye was the 1970 Tanglewood performance of “Soul Sacrifice” by Santana. I know the song, of course, but I hadn’t seen this version. Allow me to summarize: it’s a conga drum solo, followed by a guitar solo, followed by a solo by all four percussionists (and Carlos on cowbell), followed by a drum solo, followed by a guitar solo, then lastly a Hammond solo. Every single moment of the 13:11 performance is through-the-roof incredible. But the drum solo, performed with a manic magnificence by Michael Shrieve, is something else. In fact, in every part of the song where Michael isn’t soloing, he is basically soloing behind the rest of the band. He puts out more energy in that 2.5-minute solo than I have expended in the last three months combined. You can watch a video of the performance here. The drum solo begins at about 4:20 (heh), and it is so deeply worth your time I can’t recommend it enough.

George Spelvin Day

Who, you may be asking yourself if you’re the curious type who doesn’t shy away from inappropriately-timed expletives, the fuck is George Spelvin? I’m glad one or more of us asked, because I just learned this information and it gave me a chuckle.

George Spelvin doesn’t exist. When an actor doesn’t want to be credited for appearing in something, he’ll ask to be listed as George Spelvin. If he’s playing a double-role, and he’d like to keep that quiet (adding to the mystique of theatre is always a cool thing to do), one of the roles will be given to Spelvin. The name can also be given to a role that has no lines, and could be played in any given performance by a member of the crew, like a delivery guy who shows up once, or a person who passes by a window.

Film directors will adopt the name Alan Smithee in the credits when they don’t want their name tied to a project. I wrote all about Mr. Smithee’s weird and lengthy legacy in my last project. Walter Plinge is the British theatrical equivalent to Mr. Spelvin. David Agnew is the British screenwriting pseudonym of choice.

Broadway being Broadway – and you’ll never find a more quirky collective of humans than those in the employ of the theatre world – Mr. Spelvin was given a backstory and even a date of birth – November 15, 1886 – when his name was being passed around the circuit in the 1910’s. So a big ol’ happy birthday to Mr. Spelvin. You don’t look 134 years old to us.

In case you were wondering, yes, there is a Georgina Spelvin. Actress Shelley Graham (which is disturbingly also the name of one of my aunts) adopted that pseudonym for her appearance in The Devil In Miss Jones, a highly popular pornographic film in 1973. Needless to say, the female pseudonym didn’t get used in theatre after it achieved that particular level of infamy.

I Love To Write Day

This is a day to encourage people to write. I do not require this encouragement. Jodie has a 6,000-word essay due in a few weeks, so neither does she.

So allow me to do the encouraging. Fucking write, people. Even if no one reads it, it doesn’t matter. That could actually be the tagline for this particular project, come to think of it. But that’s my point: you can squeeze such immense joy from the language when you craft your own goofy sentences. Use words you never otherwise use. Dig yourself so deeply into convoluted analogies that you lose track of where you started. Pour your heart onto the page, or, if you’d rather not do that, just make shit up.

I conducted my last project, a thousand-day journey of necessary writing, just to become a better writer. It may have worked. No one paid me for it, though it did lead me to a couple of paid writing gigs. But what’s more, I enjoyed it. Certainly more than cleaning out my refrigerator and calling it a celebration. I won’t say writing saved my life, but it gave me a way to interpret and embellish my life and allowed me to drink in the glory of the English language. It’s musical in its wondrousness. And if I’m simply shouting into the void (and believe me, I often am), that’s okay. I’ll re-read this someday and it’ll make future-me chuckle.

To write is to love. To love is to write. Do both.

National Sundae Day

Yes, we enjoyed National Sundae Day, which actually showed up on Wednesday. Some ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and a cherry or two. Whipped cream? Why certainly, that’d be great.

We’d already done National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, National Strawberry Sundae Day and National Build Your Own Sundae Day. I suspect this may be the final ice cream-related celebration of the year, but then I have no idea what weird ideas those southern hemisphere types have concocted. If they demand it, we’ll eat it. This is the way. Whatever happens, we made sure this was our most epic and perfect sundae of the year, because dammit, we want to close this year off right.

Happy Sundae Sunday Day to all.

I have today off, which means I’ll have more time to pour into our celebrations. Or into a nap. Or maybe some Madden. I haven’t decided yet. Anyway, here’s what’s competing for my time today:

  • National Fast Food Day. Hooray. Some grease to ease our beleaguered organs into the week.
  • National Button Day. Today I will push buttons. I’m not sure which buttons, but dammit, I’ll push ‘em.
  • National Indiana Day. We had intended to do breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches for this day, but forgot to grab some from the store. Maybe we’ll watch some Parks & Recreation instead.
  • Icelandic Language Day. Maybe we’ll learn a new language today.
  • Have a Party With Your Bear Day. Perhaps with a Teddy, maybe with Mike Ditka, or possibly with a large, hairy gay man. It’s up to you.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

I would have happily cast all celebratory mishmash to the wind yesterday afternoon had I been able to secure a definitive afternoon nap. Sometimes that yearning rings louder than that of our daily project chores. Alas, circumstance kept me awake throughout yesterday’s PM, with my fingers pointed squarely at the fading symbols on my keyboard. And that brings up a question: why are the symbols on this keyboard fading? I have no trace of an ‘L’, a ‘C’ or an ‘S’ – they’re just blank keys. This keyboard is one year old. Am I veering onto a tangent that has nothing to do with our daily celebrations? Sort of. But then there’s this:

Loosen Up Lighten Up Day

This is absolutely a day to grab some perspective and to relax about the shit that’s been dragging your psyche down to a darkened cerebral basement filled with anxiety-monsters and fret-beasts. In the thick of a year that will someday be an entire chapter in various history books (political science books, medical books, sports history footnotes, etc.), we’re all taking stuff too seriously.

Yesterday we were instructed to just stop. Sure, the world appears to be full of science-denying kooks whose greatest personal infringement upon their freedoms is wearing a piece of cloth in front of their faces whilst they shop for Cheez-Its and arugula. Sure, American democracy is in a tumble-dryer of ridiculousness right now. And sure, there exists the unlikely (though possible) scenario in which you make a run to pick up some coffee and find yourself also picking up a virus that could kill half your family.

But all of this is temporary. Will it get worse? Sure! It might. We need to take a moment – and a relatively quiet Saturday seemed ideal for this – to find our center again. Put on the music that will ground you. Watch an old movie or a show you’ve seen before to get some laughs back into your life.

How did we celebrate? Video games, doughnuts, laughter and the laughably dated A View To A Kill. Dogs helped as well. It’s hard to feel the weight of the world when you’re ensconced in all that. And this is absolutely healthy; we don’t need to carry the weight of the world. We aren’t the world – let the rest of it deal with its own encumbrances. Even the weight of our own stresses need to take a back seat sometimes. Even when your new keyboard is hiding its characters from view.

National Block It Out Day

I was hoping to make a smooth segue into how we can all block out all the evil in the world, thereby loosening and lightening up our individual lives. But that’s not what this day is about. It’s actually our third (maybe fourth) day to combat bullying. Specifically, we are supposed to ‘block out’ the negativity of cyberbullies online.

We all have our own ways of dealing with those sub-human, possibly robotic shit-muckers online, and the best way is whatever causes you the least stress and/or anguish. Yesterday I changed my approach and blocked a few more of these schmucks. And while it didn’t deliver me the sadistic pleasure I get from mocking ill-informed handrail-lickers, it did clean up the joint quite wonderfully.

National Pickle Day

Some claim the pickle was initially invented for the workers who toiled their lives away building the Great Wall of China. Others disagree, but offer no story more interesting than that one, so we’ll just stick with that one. Pickles – and to be specific here we’re talking about pickled cucumbers, and not any of the scores of other things you can also pickle – are a multi-purpose food. Above you see Jodie using them as a condiment upon her burger. She enjoys that, while I always pick them off of my burger at restaurants. I find the flavour of pickles too strong to subtly blend in with the rest of the flavours in a hamburger, and I don’t need some vegetable taking center-stage in my burger.

Pickles can also be an effective side dish. When we go into a proper Jewish deli (and there are precisely zero of those in this city, but we used to travel when that was allowed), we will always dive into the pickles served before or with our meal. A juicy kosher dill is one of the most exquisite experiences into which one’s teeth can crunch. Sweet pickles are great for an appetizer. I suppose if one were to be so inclined, they could make pickles into a main course. I don’t know how that would work, but it didn’t matter; that wasn’t our intention.

Apparently Cleopatra was big into pickles, and Julius Caesar used to feed them (probably not by hand) to his troops, believing they would make them stronger. In Russia, and I have yet to confirm this, pickle juice works for a hangover.

Some people brine their pickles in Kool-Aid, which I will submit as further proof that our society has slipped into an irreversible era of perpetual culinary madness. Yesterday we enjoyed our pickles and even grabbed a new batch from the grocery store during our supply run. Pickles are life. Just keep them off my burger.

National Seat Belt Day

Hey, here’s a fun one. Seat belts are great. To celebrate this one, we both wore seat belts when we headed out on our supply / doughnut / brunch run yesterday afternoon. Was that enough? Can we call it after having done that? Hell no – let’s do some learnin’.

It’s estimated that seat belts reduce car fatalities by about half. That’s impressive. The first seat belt ever installed was plopped into a glider by English engineer George Cayley back in the 1800s. I’m assuming here that no one had invented a saddle seat belt, and I can’t believe that’s true. Cars certainly didn’t start out with seat belts. They didn’t go very fast, and also, ‘safety’ was not really as big a consideration back then. By the mid-1950s race car drivers had clued in, and were always wearing them. Dr. C. Hunter Sheldon in Pasadena, California, came up with the idea for a retractable seat belt. He’d seen enough blood and mayhem in emergency rooms that he knew something had to be done.

Saab was the first company to offer seat belts as a standard, rather than an option. This was in 1958. Seat belts were first made mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970. Back then, cars hadn’t yet figured out how to maximize their safety potential. My first vehicle was a 1969 Oldsmobile that featured lap belts only in the back, and a separate shoulder belt for the front passengers. The shoulder belt didn’t retract; you had to fold it over a couple of hooks above the door. Jesus.

We didn’t get our seat belt law until 1987, and you can rest assured that people railed against them as a violation of their personal freedoms back then. Sound familiar? People will always fight back against science, and claim that basic responsibility is an infringement upon their rights. It happens anywhere you find folks who have never really had their rights put into jeopardy, who see a mild inconvenience as a grotesque trampling of their liberties.

Bonza Bottler Day

On a more upbeat note, we both opted to try out the Lime Ricky flavour from the Pop Shoppe (which absolutely still exists) yesterday. We had never sampled this one before – or if we had, it had completely slipped our minds. It was nice, named for the cocktail that features a half lime squeezed into a glass, mixed with rye, bourbon or gin, then topped with sparkling water. Why so many options? Who knows? We mixed this Lime Ricky pre-made soda with vodka, and that worked well too.

Bonza Bottler Day drops every month when the month number aligns with the day number, so this is the eleventh we’ve celebrated so far (and yes, it was bumped from last Wednesday, we know). We’ve got one left, and we’ll be kind of sad to see these ones go. We’ve tried some interesting stuff this year, and it’s genuinely fun (and so wonderfully simple) to sample something new or unusual once a month.

Especially when you mix it with vodka. That’s an easy win.

Today is our day of rest, which is particularly noteworthy given that we didn’t get a nap yesterday. But we’ll also have all of this to tackle:

  • National Bundt Day. We have already celebrated with a Bundt cake this year – I know we did, because I remember researching its origins. But we can do it again.
  • National Philanthropy Day. A day to commemorate my dream job.
  • National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. We do this every week, but I guess we can comb through our salad dressings and see what expired in 2016.
  • America Recycles Day. Well, good for America. We do too.
  • National Spicy Hermit Cookie Day. Perhaps I can coax our team baker (hi, Mom!) into making these for us.
  • National Drummer Day. Sounds like a fine day to thrash out to some great drumming.
  • George Spelvin Day. I guess this is the Alan Smithee of the theatre world. If you don’t know who Alan is, tune in tomorrow I guess.
  • I Love To Write Day. I damn well better.
  • National Raisin Bran Cereal Day. That’s pretty damn specific.
  • Steve Irwin Day. Who doesn’t love Steve?