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?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

If any silver lining is to emerge from this year fraught with chaos and concern – and indeed I believe we will all unearth a bevy of silver linings once a final tally on 2020 is done – it may be, for me anyhow, the window. We have reached the point of the year where my usual routine has me show up for work before the sun has breached the horizon, work the day in a middle-building beige cubicle, then trudge to the bus in the post-dusk darkness. Working from home, as this pandemic has forced me to do, means I have a wide and welcoming window immediately to my right, and the sun will be downloading all of its secrets to me throughout this winter. Will my seasonal blues take a hike? Will I find myself more alive? More awake? More inspired to stretch and contort my brain in new and exciting ways? Probably not, but who knows? Here’s what it inspired for us yesterday:

World Kindness Day

There was, I admit, a little sting of irony as I set about looking into this entry. You see, a local homeless camp – really, a community that had been in place for months – was broken up by city police on Thursday, its residents shuffled off to a shelter and ordered to abandon their tents, and any belongings they were not presently carrying. Those belongings – which included numerous donated tents, sleeping bags, coats and blankets – were tossed into the trash. I made the foolish mistake of perusing the comments of a couple of social media posts on the topic.

That was ugly. Let it be known (as though it weren’t already) that there is little to no kindness in social media comments. And if those comments are truly reflective of this city, I’d argue there is a dearth of kindness among our fellow citizens. That’s a rough way to wander into World Kindness Day, with the hope of kindness snuffed.

Each of us faces numerous tiny moments in every day where we have the option to be kind or to go another way. I think we all need to a better job of identifying those moments and making the right choice. I’m guilty of this, of course. We all are. So this should be the day to take note.

We identified a few items we could donate to help, and Jodie went out and bought some clothes specifically for donating. She has actually volunteered at the camp, and she probably has the best meter for kindness of anyone I know. Sometimes when the spirit is run down, kindness can be tough. But it’s always the right choice.

Sadie Hawkins Day

The notion of the Sadie Hawkins dance, which is (from what I remember from Archie comics and various 80s sitcoms) where women ask men to the dance, has been antiquated for most of my adult life. The notion of girls/women asking out boys/men has been fairly standard for the last few decades, hasn’t it? Nevertheless, let’s look at the origins of this weird commemoration.

Sadie Hawkins was a character in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip, which had already run into retirement by 1978. Specifically, she was a profoundly ugly woman, which was important for the story. Her dad worried that, at 35 and single she might just be living at home for the remainder of his life. So he organized the Sadie Hawkins race, in which Sadie chased down the town’s bachelors, getting to marry the one she caught.

Yes, we are well into old-school sexism here. The Sadie Hawkins dance, which factored into the storyline, was to take place each year the night before the race. Apparently the women in this fictional place would stomp on the bachelors’ feet at the dance, thus slowing them down the next day. So Sadie Hawkins Day is a day for desperate ugly women to compete for the “prize” of marrying a local guy. Oi vey.

We decided to skip the part where Jodie stomps on my shoes, and also the part where she chases me through the streets. We went with the Archie-comics version and she asked me out on a date last night. That was a lot less problematic, and a lot more fun.

Symphonic Metal Day

My interest in music, as those who know me would attest, is tremendous. I love so much of it, and would have no problem bouncing from some vintage Ella Fitzgerald to the complicated muck of early Yes albums to “Rock Me Amadeus” to Dr. Dre in one shuffled playlist. But metal… I don’t go in for metal. I find much of it to be dark and angry (at least in its sound), and that doesn’t interest me beyond a song or two.

I’m also not a big devotee of classical music, though I appreciate its richness and variety, and I do enjoy seeing our symphony live. But I don’t crank up the Haydn when I’m looking to blast my ears with some loud tuneage. Why on earth would I enjoy symphonic metal?

Actually, some of it was kind of interesting. “Presto” by Dutch band Epica is fraught with wild strings. I tried out Finnish band Nightwish and Therion from Sweden too. The real difference here, apart from the presence of strings and other orchestral instruments, is a stronger commitment to melody in the music. The growling metal-voice sometimes appears, but more frequently are melodic singers, even operatic singers. And due to this, you get more than simply anger, rage and frustration in the music.

The roots of symphonic metal trace back to the 80s, after metal itself had been securely established as a genre. It ties in with gothic metal in some thematic aspects, and even can be linked to the changes and complex layerings of prog rock. That’s the thing about metal – it is often played by astoundingly talented musicians at a very high level. The distortion and the perpetual veil of “musical rage” overtop the music can hide this to the casual listener, and quite often will turn the casual listener right off. But there is brilliance in there, and symphonic metal brings that musicality to the forefront. Which I like.

But I’ll still prefer to crank up some vintage Stevie Wonder instead.

Start A Rumor Day

Hey, did you hear that Sir Anthony Hopkins has been tapped to play the lead in the upcoming Hungry Hungry Hippos movie franchise? It’s live action. Not a voice-acting job – they will actually be using makeup and prosthetics to transform Sir Hopkins into the pink hippo, ever searching for more white marbles to satiate its unending hunger hunger.

There is no origin story to Start a Rumor Day. I can’t find any site that speaks of it, apart from a handful that casually drop the reality that it exists on November 13 every year. So is it a real celebration or just a rumor?

I don’t know, nor do I care. I just want to see Sir Anthony Hopkins in this role.

After today we will have only six Saturdays left in this project. Somehow that just made me smile so much it kind of hurts. Here’s what’s up for today:

  • National Pickle Day. We used to have a dog named Pickle. Doesn’t really mean much, but that’s something.
  • National Spicy Guacamole Day. Nice. Spice and avocado were meant for one another.
  • Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day. No getting all kvetchy with folks today – got to keep things fluffy.
  • National Block It Out Day. I guess this is the secret to loosing and/or lightening up – to block out all the crap.
  • National American Teddy Bear Day. We have commemorated the teddy bear at least twice in the last month or so.
  • National Family PJ Day. I spend most days in pajamas, so this should be easy.
  • National Seat Belt Day. We will be leaving the house today, so we’ll wear seat belts. Won’t that be a novelty.