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.

Monday, December 7, 2020

While today might be historically known as a day that will go down in infamy, I’m not sure if our slate of celebrations are really set up to leave that kind of lasting impression. Yesterday we didn’t get up to much in the way of celebrations at all though, so I feel like we need to tap on the gas just a little to make up for it. We’ll see – we have surpassed our goal of 2,000 parties this year, and while we are committed to making it through all 366 days, we no longer feel obligated to do weird shit like learn what a sacher torte is and bake it. Here’s how we spent yesterday:

National Microwave Oven Day

Remember the World’s Fair? Once upon a time, gigantic leaps in technology were unveiled at these massive events, and journalists would carry stories of these futuristic doo-dads back home for folks to ruminate on just how bitchin’ the future might be. It was at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 when Westinghouse demonstrated a device that cooked food between two metal plates attached to a shortwave transmitter. The world was impressed.

But it was eight years earlier when self-taught engineer Percy Spencer was working on an active radar set when he noticed the microwaves began to melt a chocolate bar in his pocket. Thus began the experiments. The first thing cooked in a microwave oven was popcorn. The second was an egg which exploded in the face of one of the experimenters. It took until 1945 for Raytheon to file a patent on this tech, and until the early 70s for them to find their way into homes.

Growing up, I always had a microwave. I’ve never known life in the era when you’d have to use an oven for all re-heating purposes, though I acknowledge I’m of the first generation of kids who can say that. Yesterday we used our microwave to heat up some leftovers, and we appreciated its presence in our kitchen. Some things, like pizza, fried chicken, or anything with a crunch to it, should still be heated up in the oven, and we absolutely will not cook with the microwave because we know better. But for what it does, we would not want to live without it.

Put On Your Own Shoes Day

This is another celebration for which we could find no origin. Perhaps it was created by a mother of a young child, hoping to encourage them to finally take that step and learn how to put on their own shoes. Maybe it was some drunkard over at Chase’s Calendar of Events, looking to prank his editor with a few entries that don’t actually exist.

That’s okay. We no longer really question where these weird days come from. The strangest ones were concocted by a couple in Pennsylvania just for the sake of concocting weird celebrations, so what’s to stop others from doing the same? At least this one is fairly easy to celebrate: I walked the dogs. In order to honour this celebration properly, not once did I enlist any help from anyone else in donning my own footwear. Nor did I attempt at any time to don the footwear of someone else – there are two ways one could read the title of this celebration.

So we celebrated this one properly, whatever the weird journey it might have taken from someone’s twisted brain to our list of December 6 activities. We are in to the very end, folks, even if it means we have to put on our own shoes.

Only two? Yes, only two celebrations yesterday. As I said, we might get up to more today, but then we might not. Here’s what we have to choose from:

  • National Illinois Day. Deep dish pizza was a consideration for this one, but we’ve already done that. Maybe something else will jump into our brains.
  • National Cotton Candy Day. There’s really only one way to celebrate this. Sure, we whiffed on picking up some rhubarb vodka the other day for that celebration, but we aren’t going to be missing this one.
  • National Letter Writing Day. It’s kind of weird to me how many days there are in the year to celebrate writing letters. Who writes letters anymore?
  • Walt Disney Day. To be clear, Walt’s birthday was on December 5, but whoever created this day felt it should be celebrated on the first Monday of the month. Weird? Not as weird as Put On Your Own Shoes Day.