Monday, June 22, 2020

Saturday felt like our biggest test in embracing this calendar-prescribed madness. Fifteen celebrations and over 4,400 words in the article left little time for much else, apart from going for doughnuts and watching the new Spike Lee joint (which is outstanding). Yesterday we were faced with another dozen potential celebrations – more if we felt like incorporating a few national month or week parties. Which we did not. In fact, even tackling that twelve was highly unlikely. A guy’s gotta live. Besides, yesterday was a day meant for my recreation. It was, after all…

Father’s Day

My children ensured this would be a very efficient holiday. We had completed celebrating it before noon, thanks to their phone calls arriving in quick succession in the morning. Jodie called her dad, and with that we were done.

The Catholics have been celebrating fathers since the middle ages, though they did it on Saint Joseph’s Day in March. Mother’s Day came first in our culture, but by 1910 Father’s Day was a regular occurrence. But that’s just here – fathers are honoured in different ways on different dates by cultures across the planet. And some of the traditions can be a bit more interesting than a phone call or a hastily-wrapped ugly tie.

In Mozambique they celebrate Father’s Day pretty much every Friday, which I think is just grand. In Indonesia they pay a lot more attention to Mother’s Day (December 22), since Father’s Day wasn’t even a thing until 2006. In Kazakhstan they meld it with the day to celebrate the creation of their armed forces, so that dulls the party a little bit. In Thailand, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day land on the birthdays of the king and queen, and the celebrations lean more towards honouring those two individuals than parents in general. In France, Father’s Day was introduced by Flaminaire, a lighter manufacturer, in 1949. Their mission? Sell more lighters.

Germany gets it right. They align their Father’s Day with Ascension, which takes place on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter. This is also a mandatory day off in Germany, so dads get a real treat by getting to skip work. Also, it’s tradition to drink heavily on this day, so that’s another bonus.

All I wanted for yesterday was a great brunch and phone calls from my kids. The family delivered. Even in a sea of celebrations, this one managed to stand out as extra-special.

National Peaches ‘n Cream Day

There is no great history to National Peaches ‘n Cream Day, nor is there any great history to the dish itself. Someone bit into a peach and thought, “Hey, this would go well with cream!” And just like that, the face of dessert was forever altered. Likewise, someone who enjoyed this treat felt it should get its own day.

As I’ve stated before, some of our celebrations don’t lend themselves as well to the article format, unless I have a hankering for rambling on ad nauseum, just to fill space. Fortunately for my readers, I get that urge quite often. Isn’t that wonderful?

All I’ll say about this day is that we faced two options on how to celebrate it. Option one: slice up some peaches, pop ‘em in a bowl, then glob some whipped cream overtop to create the simplest dessert recipe we’d use all year. Option two: follow this recipe, which involves cooking a simple syrup, then coating the peaches and letting them bake, followed by drizzling some heavy cream overtop. Doesn’t that sound far more appealing?

That’s what we did. And it failed completely. In making the simple syrup the sugar and water began to caramelize, leading to it flopping onto the peaches in an ugly clump. Putting it in the oven only made it harden. So, we tossed out the caramelized sludge, and just spritzed some whipped cream on the peaches instead. That worked.

National Day of the Gong

This one we came very close to skipping entirely, as we have precisely zero gongs on the premises with which to celebrate it. I had planned an outing to a nearby musical instrument shop, where we could each take a turn smashing a gong triumphantly – either with the staff’s permission or in the short window before they asked us to leave. But alas, this was another COVID-cancelled celebration.

But then I read a bit deeper into the gong, and felt there was something to learn here. How much do we know about gongs anyway? We know they are of Chinese origin, that Nick Mason had one in his Pink Floyd drum kit, and that Marc Bolan and T-Rex would like us to bang upon one whilst trying to figure out what the hell a hubcap diamond-star halo is.

Did you know there’s such a thing as a nipple gong? Not as kinky as it sounds, it’s a gong with a raised center “nipple”, allowing you to make two distinctive noises upon it. But wait, things get even more curious when we dive into what gongs have been used for in the past. Any shipping vessel over 100 meters long must carry a gong on board, as well as bells and a whistle. When they’re anchored they ring a bell at the bow then smash the gong at the stern to give other vessels an idea of their length.

Before sirens existed, emergency vehicles were known to carry gongs on board to tell people in a dramatic way to move aside. Railcars still use gongs for signalling where whistles and horns aren’t allowed. Boxing arenas will still use a gong to start and end rounds. Some theatres make use of gongs (or electronic gong sounds now) to let people know when intermission is over.

And here I thought they were just for making trippy, psychedelic music.

National Arizona Day

The Grand Canyon State is our next stop in our weekly culinary tour around America. The bad news here is that the cuisine of Arizona, which I looked for on a number of sites, looked extremely similar to the cuisine of New Mexico. This is fine – a lot of Latin influences and classic Mexican dishes. I would happily dine on Mexican food every week, except we literally just had this a week ago, and repeating the same celebration for subsequent weekly state visits doesn’t feel right.

So we had some Arizona Iced Tea, once famous for not raising their price of 99 cents per can for years, now famous for having raised their price up to $1.29. Also, as I stated on National Iced Tea Day, I highly prefer actual brewed tea poured over ice to the sugary concoction that passes for iced tea around here. Arizona is no exception. This is why I tried the fruit punch variety instead. It was okay. Not the celebration we’d hoped for. Then, at my mother’s suggestion I added a splash of vodka to it, rendering it exponentially more drinkable.

But that’s okay. There was lots to explore about Arizona, and plenty I didn’t know. Arizona contains some curious contradictions. It’s known as a desert state, but it also features numerous ski resorts. It contains a vast number of indigenous Americans, with about a quarter of the state put aside for reservations, including land for the Navajo. Yet when the federal government gave all American Indians the right to vote in 1924, Arizona denied it to its Indian peoples on reservations. It took the Supreme Court to overturn this injustice in 1948. In 2006 Arizona was the first state to reject a proposition to make same-sex marriage illegal. Great, right? Except two years later they did ban same-sex marriage and even amended the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. What the hell, Arizona?

Let’s have a look at some of the great folks to come out of Arizona, lest we acquire a politically jaded view of the state. We’ve got the lovely and talented Aidy Bryant from Phoenix, Linda Rondstadt from Tuscon (as we all know from her verse in Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies”), Lynda “Wonder Woman” Carter from Tuscon, Stevie Nicks from Phoenix, Barbara Eden from Tuscon, Charles Mingus from Nogales, Emma Stone from Scottsdale, and of course the character John Rambo, who hails from Bowie.

While the tea was a bit of a bust, we are still fascinated by Arizona and hope to head there someday. If only to figure out its contradictory tendencies.

National Selfie Day

Do selfies really need a day? I mean, open up any social media platform and there they are, scattered all over the place. People seem to love taking pictures of themselves, often with some weird duckbill mouth expression and a two-finger peace sign. They do this in bathrooms, in gyms, in front of their fridges, and even in stupid places, like Holocaust memorials. And what’s worse, some people have made money with this. They have become sponsored influencers, sprinkling their selfies with product placement and just the right “look”.

I don’t hate the selfie. We all have cameras at the ready at all times of day, and I think this increased ability to document our lives is terrific for keeping memories alive – something I worry about as I get older and my mind threatens to dissolve faster than old Alka-Seltzer. Jodie and I have taken selfies many times when we’ve been out on dates. It makes more sense than asking a stranger to take the pic or potentially run away with our phone.

But I wince a little at creating a day to celebrate the selfie. It’s like having a holiday to celebrate food pics. We know they’re there. We contribute many of them to the universe, much to the delight of pretty much no one.

But here we are, and we can’t let a celebration this simple pass us by. For a twist on the selfie, we decided to contribute a couple of entries from the sub-genre, the pet-selfie. We’ve been told many times that people enjoy looking at our dogs more than looking at us, and we honestly can’t blame them.

National Turkey Lovers Day / Turkey Lovers Month

The turkey breeders in America released this day unto the world back in 2016. To be specific, this was done by the National Turkey Federation. And I’m glad they opted for the more majestic and Starfleet-sounding ‘Federation’ instead of ‘Association’. It lends a certain badassery to the turkey that I feel was lacking.

Turkey on its own fails to inspire either of our taste buds to do an anticipatory dance. It’s a fine poultry, but not nearly as versatile as chicken or flavourful as duck. We’ve over-eaten the stuff at holidays since we were old enough to chew, and it’s almost always done the same way: roasted. Sometimes with stuffing crammed into its nether parts, but it’s still just roasted meat. Turkey is notable to us only if it’s appearing alongside other ingredients in a club sandwich, if we’re snagging a piece of crispy skin at Thanksgiving, or in the form of the turkey burger.

That was how we celebrated this day. Jodie thoughtfully mixed up a batch of delicious turkey burgers which I threw on the barbecue. These were washed down by Arizona iced tea and followed up with peaches ‘n cream, so it was quite a strangely-balanced meal of mirth.

In a sense we also indulged in some roundabout Arizona cuisine. Arizonians are fond of Mexican food, and turkeys were first domesticated and turned into foodstuffs in ancient Mexico. William Strickland was the navigator who brought the bird back to England in 1550 and introduced it to the regional cuisine. They got their anglicized name likely because they believed the birds to have originated in the Ottoman Empire – so if you were wondering, the name for the country came before the name for the bird.

We may not be turkey ‘lovers’, but we are turkey ‘likers’, and that qualified us to participate in this celebration. Close enough.

World Day of Music

Fête de la Musique was a creation of Jack Lang and Maurice Fleuret, both part of the Ministry of Culture in France in 1982. It was seen as a way to get people out of their homes and onto the streets, playing music for others. In the decades since the celebration has been adopted by more than 700 cities in 120 countries. There are free concerts, and encouragement for buskers to show off their skills.

The one catch – at least in France, and that’s kind of what matters since this day originated there – is that the performances have to be free. Money should not be a barrier to experiencing music. This is art of the people, for the people.

Had there been any free concerts yesterday in town, we would have attended. But alas, we’re back in COVID country here, and we had to improvise. The take we opted for was to have music playing all day, into the evening, from the moment we woke up. We missed the first chunk of the day, as we had phone calls from kids and a deep desire not to arise from bed until well after noon, but the rest of the day was awash in quality tuneage.

We celebrate music every day here, whether it makes the official roster of parties or not. As I’ve mentioned before, I recorded the birthdays of hundreds of albums in my initial research for this project, believing I’d somehow have time to weave all that in to what we’re doing. I haven’t, but I have been picking out those albums and playing through them quite often, giving us a chance to appreciate them as the pieces of art they were intended to be, beginning to end.

However you may or may not have celebrated this one yesterday, it’s a good thing to include into your everyday lives. Don’t just drop some tunes on in the background; shut up and listen. Your life will be richer for it.

International Yoga Day

It may surprise you that this is actually a United Nations celebration. Or, if you’ve been paying attention to the wide swath of celebrations this year which have the UN as their origin story, it may not surprise you at all. And it shouldn’t; the UN is simply recognizing that yoga is a powerful force for self-improvement, working on a mental, physical and spiritual level.

Yoga began to find its current form sometime around the 5th or 6th century BC, but it’s believed it has been practiced in some sense for around 5,000 years. Over in this part of the world, far from India where yoga came to be, yoga was seen as a physical posture and relaxation type of exercise for a number of years. It was yankee-fied, in a sense. Its origins are far more spiritual however, and you’ll find that a lot of modern yoga teachers have incorporated spiritual elements and awareness to their techniques.

The UN offered up a virtual event to honour this day, but for some reason they broadcast it on June 19, two days early. That was an odd choice. This would have been a great opportunity to broadcast a free world-wide yoga class. Somehow the notion of potentially thousands or more doing yoga at the same time sounds like it has to be good for the universal energy, right?

Jodie took part in this one. She loves yoga, and has been crushed that she hasn’t been able to attend a class in more than three months – four really, as she was quite ill for a spell before the lockdown began. But she found an online source for some quality yoga, and she’s familiar enough with the positions to pull it off on her own. My chronically sore arms prevent me from doing a lot of the yoga poses so I was happy just to watch. It was particularly entertaining when our dogs decided to help out.

National Indigenous Peoples Day / National Indigenous Peoples Month

The government of Canada created this day for all of us to pay tribute to our indigenous citizens: the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who were here before any of us crackers set foot upon what we now call Canadian soil. And this year, while the country down south erupts in flames and furor, it’s more important than ever to look at our relationship with the first inhabitants of this land.

In short, it hasn’t been good. America has more of a reputation of slaughtering their indigenous neighbours, and while Canada certainly butchered its share, in a way what we did was more sinister. Reservations were created in both countries. But there was a grotesquely massive effort made here to “fix” the indigenous people by Europeanizing them. Our American friends had nothing that quite compared with the Canadian residential school – young indigenous kids were grabbed mercilessly from their families and brought to these schools where they were trained how to… well, how to be white. How to dress white, talk white, and believe in the God that the white folks subscribed to. These kids were raised in an environment that made American reform schools look like vacation resorts – there was no love, no guidance, no affection. Then they were shot back out into the world, giving birth to children and not knowing how to raise them with compassion and love. They had nothing to model.

It’s a horror story, and it came to an end in the 1990s. The goddamn 1990s. The last victims of residential schools would be younger than me. Then we’ve got the 60s Scoop, which actually occurred well into the 80s. This was the process of once again yanking kids from their indigenous families and plopping them into foster care or adoption. Some kids didn’t make it to another home in Canada – they were whisked away to America or Europe. These are horrific acts that happened way past the North American genocides. They even occurred after we’d become familiar with the American Indian crying in that commercial about pollution.

So yesterday was a day to reflect upon that, and what’s more, to look at the systemic racism that’s plaguing black people in America and how that is reflected in the way our indigenous people are treated up here. You’ve got the same over-incarceration, the same chronic poverty, violence and substance abuse cycles. We’ve also got something called ‘starlight tours’, which is when police will haul indigenous people to the outskirts of a city, possibly beat them, or maybe just dump them by the side of the road and let them find their own way home. That happens in the dead of winter. And it happens here. In my city.

Shit needs to change, and we are hopeful the world is in an ideal place to bring about that change right now. All lives will matter when black lives matter, and up here when indigenous lives matter. We’ve come a long way, but we ain’t there yet.

World Giraffe Day

And on a happier note, let’s give a little love to one of the goofiest looking creatures on the planet. According to the day’s official site, there are only 111,000 giraffes still roaming the planet. There are no webinars or special events – the conservation people simply need funds to keep protecting these beasts. We encourage you to donate if you can.

Giraffes are the tallest land-dwelling creatures we’ve got. They cluster together in groups of related females or swinging bachelors, and the males establish who’s got the biggest swinging dick in the herd by flinging their necks at one another in one of the most bizarre displays of nature I’ve ever seen. So what can we learn about these quirky giants?

They see in colour, and because of the placement of their eyes they have a 360-degree view around them. They also have sharpened senses of smell and hearing, which is good – you’ll need some defenses on your side if you’ve got a weirdly high center of gravity. The giraffe’s tongue is about 18 inches long, so I’d avoid kissing one if it comes up. Giraffes have two speeds: walking or galloping. Their gallop can take them up to 60km/h, so they’d be fine to ride around city streets without getting a ticket, but they won’t handle freeway speeds. It doesn’t matter – don’t do this. Don’t buy a giraffe to ride. It’s a bad idea.

Giraffes are polygamous, which is probably good for keeping the species going. This is important, as it takes between 400 and 460 days for a baby to drop, and when they do, it’s almost always just a single baby. Luckily, giraffes can live up to 38 years, so there’s lots of time for copulation and such. Of course, humans have done their part to kill off giraffes, but giraffes have actually been strangely helpful to us. NASA scientists studied giraffe skin for uniforms for astronauts and fighter pilots, as they sought to find a way to keep the blood from rushing to their heroes’ legs during flight.

There’s a lot to learn from giraffes, and it’s really never boring to just watch them out there, giraffing. If you’re feeling particularly generous and want to help out some long-necked weirdos, toss some money toward the conservation efforts. This world would be a lot more dull without these lanky goofs.

After a couple of manic, far-too-busy days, we can cool down with a relatively doable Monday:

  • National Chocolate Eclair Day. Well that’s just awesome.
  • National Onion Rings Day. It just gets better and better. We’ll be careful to not enjoy these two treats simultaneously.
  • National Kissing Day. I like this day. This is a pretty cool day.
  • Stupid Guy Thing Day. No idea what to do for this. Shotgun a beer? Wear socks and sandals? Blow something up?

Sunday, June 21, 2020

With a cloudless sky and a beckoning sun screaming at me through my window, how can I justify churning out another 3500-word essay to describe all of our manic Saturday celebrations? Is there no hammock for the weary, no pause for the devoted? Must I churn out paragraph upon paragraph of history, recap and quirky trivia? This is my lot for 2020, and I dare not turn back now. Not when a Saturday can leave us this full of merriment and activity to fill every waking, non-intoxicated minute:

National Hike With A Geek Day

This one felt desperately kitchy and wholly arbitrary until I read about the reasoning behind it. At one time there was this notion that all “geeks” (which back then meant people into computers, technology, and possibly prog rock) were pasty-skinned schlubs who never exercised, and seldom left the confines of their home for adventure.

The 21st century geek can be pretty much anyone. That guy kayaking down the Colorado River might be a music geek, with shelves stacked with old 78s and an in-depth knowledge of who played which instrument in every iteration of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The linebacker who just sacked the quarterback might have been raised in New York and fancies himself a musical theatre geek who knows every word to South Pacific. And that lady who just lapped you three times in your casual and exhausting jog might know how to strip a motherboard of all its parts and fix it.

The notion of geek-dom, as explained on Geek Pride Day (May 25), has expanded. And Jodie and I are both geeks of some nature: me with music and movies and her with theatre. So while we appreciate that some geeks still cling to their indoor oases with both hands, we are also aware that as a society we have moved on from the old 80s stereotype. So we embraced our geekiness and set out on a nice hike yesterday, which would have been much easier to capture in a picture if we hadn’t brought these dogs with us.

However you look at it, this is another get-out-and-do-something celebration, so that’s what we did.

Nature Photography Day

This one had to be bumped – it came up last Monday, and this week has been just too busy to fit it all in. But here we are.

The North American Nature Photography Association (which gets the delightfully familial acronym NANPA) designated June 15 to be the official day for everyone to take a momentary interest in the hobby. There were numerous NANPA member instructional online seminars, only one of which was free. And it looks like that free one took place last Wednesday, so I have nothing to report.

Nature photography is a tremendous skill, one which we do not possess even slightly. It takes patience and stealth to capture that perfect shot without spooking your subject out of the frame. We have a hard enough time doing this with our dogs; to get a great close-up of a bird, a bug or even our squatter/tenant squirrel, Elton, is not an easy task.

Yesterday we made it our mission to try to snap a decent nature pic each. This was particularly challenging given the full slate of activities we had to tackle throughout the day, but dammit we did it. You can see Jodie’s best effort on the left and mine on the right. Hey, trees are nature too, right? Sometimes the plant life is all you can immortalize, especially when there isn’t a lot of animal life roaming about. We opted to exclude dogs, as we take plenty of pictures of them. Jodie’s shot is a close up of one of the roses growing outside our living room, while I captured the fermented (and likely intoxicating) berries Liberty leaps at during our daily hikes. We think she likes to get a little buzz on.

If nothing else, this day helped to reinforce our respect for the quality nature photographers of the world. NANPA had a contest going for the best submission, but I don’t think we had anything to qualify. Hey, we gave it a shot.

National Vanilla Milkshake Day

Break out the eggs and whiskey, it’s time to celebrate milkshake day!

No, I haven’t just suffered from a stroke – that’s what milkshakes used to be. In 1885 it was described as a tonic, an eggnog like beverage with eggs and whiskey. Fifteen years later, it was discovered that no one wanted this to exist, and the milkshake was reconceived as a “wholesome” treat consisting of ice cream and milk.

We don’t have a milkshake maker, just a plain ol’ blender. But the beauty of milkshakes is that they’re hard to screw up. They also pair brilliantly with a boastful summer solstice.

Milkshakes were once deeply intertwined with youth culture, back before youth culture was a marketable demographic. The malt shop was the place to meet up, and the milkshake was the perfect summer beverage. It was milkshakes that first attracted Ray Kroc into the food world, as he’d travel around selling them before elbowing his way into the McDonalds franchise.

We have three milkshake days this year, unless more happen to pop up along the way. Chocolate Milkshake Day is in September and Coffee Milkshake Day pops up next month. This was a genuine treat to have such a celebration on a perfectly toasty day. It could only be surpassed by another, very similar celebration we could enjoy at the same time:

National Ice Cream Soda Day

What is the difference between an ice cream soda and an ice cream float? Nothing. Or possibly something. It depends where you’re from or which kind you’re enjoying. We have National Root Beer Float Day cropping up in August, so to celebrate the same thing today would simply be setting us up for reruns. No one wants reruns.

But reruns is what we got. We were going to go with a different version of the ice cream soda. For that one, you plop some ice cream and flavoured syrup into a glass. Top that off with carbonated water, stir and enjoy. Unfortunately, the flavoured syrup we had was from a home slurpee machine that Abbey bought with her first job (she used it once). The syrup that accompanied it had an expiry date of 2017. So a root beer float would have to do.

The variations on the float or soda concept are immense. In Boston they use Vernors Ginger Ale with vanilla ice cream to make a Boston Cooler. In Brazil the Vaca Dourada (golden cow) is made with vanilla ice cream and guarana soda. The Helado Flotante in Mexico is lemon sherbet and cola. I’ve got to try that one. Then of course there’s the classic Guinness Float, with Guinness stout, ice cream, and a shot of espresso if you feel your insides haven’t been messed with enough.

Our summer is going to be filled with brilliant celebrations like these. We will be consuming so much ice cream, we may explode. I’m willing to take that risk.

National Seashell Day

I think most tundra-dwellers who were fortunate enough to enjoy the occasional vacation to a non-tundra, ocean-adjacent locale as a kid probably had a seashell collection. I certainly did. Every time I’d look at those shells, gathering dust in one of my dad’s old cigar boxes, I’d recall how much I loved gathering them from their sandy homes, washing them up, and adding them to a stash I believed would grow immense with all my travels.

It did not. But I had a few, and they were grand. They most likely didn’t survive the move from my childhood home when I was 19, though it wouldn’t surprise me if my mom was to show up one Sunday afternoon with that old cigar box in her hand. This wouldn’t exactly thrill me, as my desire to collect seashells is non-existent at present, but it would be interesting.

I popped over to to learn a few facts about seashells yesterday. Shells are mollusk homes. The mollusks create this exoskeleton out of proteins and calcium carbonate (which is not, as I learned yesterday, another way of saying ‘fizzy milk’), and they then proceed to wear them for the duration of their lives. So that collection I had as a kid – those were simply skeletons, in a way.

Hermit crabs, which are not mollusks, will wait for a mollusk to keel over before scooping out the innards and making use of the shell themselves. Hermit crabs are opportunists, I’ll give them that. Seashells have also been used throughout human history as currency. Rumor has it you can still do this in parts of Papua New Guinea, so if any enterprising tundra-folk have amassed a huge collection over their lives, that might be the ideal place to head for a cheap vacation.

While I have no desire to once again cultivate a collection of seashells, I would certainly enjoy finding myself in a location where doing so would be possible. This year will not see a tropical vacation for us (or for most people), but someday.

Ugliest Dog Day

I’m not really on board for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve scrolled through a few online galleries of allegedly ugly dogs, and I’ve winced at a few of them. But maybe it comes from nearly two decades of having bulldogs and hearing people say moronic things about them like, “They’re so ugly they’re cute.” What does that even mean? Bulldogs are majestic and deeply textured. We should all be lucky enough to be so ugly.

Of course one cannot hold a contest for the ugliest-on-the-inside dog, as dogs are not born with hateful souls. Perhaps we should simply be celebrating the quirkiest looking dogs, with no insulting modifiers.

Whatever – we’ll play along because this is 2020 and we are supposed to play along with everything on our little calendar o’ mayhem. So in honour of this ridiculous day, here are some contenders for the ugliest dog. I’m sure each of them is a good boy or a good girl. They can’t help it if our silly human brains are wired for such aesthetic judginess. We people are all a little ugly inside.

Summer Solstice

This was the celebration that took the most time yesterday, and we’ll happily re-celebrate it every day that nature will allow. There are numerous ways to welcome the solstice around the globe, some of which date back centuries or more, back to times when we lived by the turning of the seasons. Here in the Canadian tundra, it’s not uncommon for snow to still live on the ground more than a month into spring, so the summer is precious. We’re also keenly aware that by the time the autumnal equinox comes a-callin’, we’ll most likely be deep into brilliantly-hued leaves and chillier temperatures. Halloween often lands after the beginning of our long winter.

So to honour this sacred day, we lay outside for a few hours and savoured the glimmer of summer Edmonton allows us to witness. We turned down the hot tub to its lowest setting, and used that as a chilly mid-tanning bath to awaken our cells and provide some relief from the cold. A nice beer also helped. My hammock (pictured above) held me in comfy splendour right through 3:43pm, when the earth reached its most glorious axis-tilt of the year.

Many solstice traditions are rooted in paganism. In Sweden they don flowers, do dances and feast for Midsommarstang. It’s rumored that if a single girl plops seven flowers under her pillow this night, she’ll dream of her future husband. Or wife – I’m sure these ancient traditions weren’t very LGBTQ-conscious, but we can update them as need be. Big bonfires are the tradition in Norway and Finland, while over at Stonehenge the new-school druids and pagans pop out to witness the sunrise.

In Latvia they leap over bonfires, while in Austria they simply light up a bunch of fires in the mountains, which seems profoundly dangerous. In China this is when they hold the Lychee and Dog Meat festival, which thankfully no longer involves the serving of dog meat. Yikes. I’m happy just enjoying the sun and embracing the incredibly limited summer we are allowed. Hopefully the next few months brings us a few of these wonderful days.

National Daylight Appreciation Day

This day was sponsored by Solatube, a company that will cut a hole in your roof and create a tube that will reflect and project the sunlight into a room in your home. Okay, that’s cool. But let’s look at how we’re really celebrating this day.

That photo up there was snapped at 11:08pm last night. On what is historically the longest day of the year, we enjoy sunlight in these parts long past the reasonable hour for darkness. In fact, our proximity to the Arctic Circle ensures that it never gets fully dark here in the weeks around the solstice. It’s not something most folks notice – at 2:00am it is still very much nighttime. But when I lived in a 20th floor apartment with windows facing north and east, I remember staying up all night and watching the sun’s glow scoot just below the northern horizon from the west all the way to its rising point in the east.

Having the kind of daylight where you can still play frisbee outside until after 10 is really fun. Sure, it sucks when you’re trying to get to sleep and it feels like the world is still in motion outside your window, but it also means your evening recreation can keep going until you’re ready to come inside, not simply when the sun tells you to.

So we honoured this day by heading outside at 11 and really appreciating the majesty of the endless day. Really, with a day as glorious as this solstice was, why would we ever want it to end anyway?

World Juggling Day

Have you ever attended a virtual juggling event? Well, as of yesterday I have. One of the events listed on the World Juggling Day website was an all-day jugglefest streaming live on a Zoom channel as well as a Twitch channel. I tuned in to find a skinny dude with no shirt on, wearing flesh-colored tights (which created an uncomfortable illusion of nudity in the medium and long shots), gracefully manipulating four softball-size glass orbs in his hands. It was damn hypnotic.

There were other live events, but honestly I couldn’t spend the entire day being entranced by juggling – I had a solstice to celebrate, as well as numerous ice cream treats. I’m a very busy man.

The real fun, of course, came when Jodie and I tried juggling. Her juggling experience is about a zero, and mine is only maybe a hair above that. When I was a teenager I passed the time learning to juggle with three tennis balls, or two in one hand. I got to the point where I could go a good five to ten seconds before dropping something. I opted to go no further, lest I fall in love with the pastime and decide to try to make a career out of it. In retrospect, I regret that decision. Being a professional juggler might not bring in the same bank as a government office drone, but I bet it’s a lot more fun.

So we gave it a shot with a few oranges. We weren’t good. My skills have deteriorated to that of an absolute novice. At this rate, we’ll never get invited to star in a twitch juggling livestream. It’s hard to write sentences like that, to reckon with our failures. Alas, these are the perils of such a short life.

Anne & Samantha Day

A twice-per-year celebration you’ve probably never heard of (we certainly hadn’t), Anne & Samantha Day drops on both solstices to pay tribute to Anne Frank and Samantha Smith.

We’ve all heard of Anne. Samantha was born just a couple years before me. When she was 10, while I was spending my days flying a plastic Millennium Falcon around my backyard, Samantha wrote to new Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, asking what he is doing to not have a war with America, and why he would want to take over the country. The letter was published in Pravda, the Soviet newspaper, but she never got a reply.

Until she did. She followed up with the USSR’s American ambassador, and in early 1983, while I was probably still flying that Falcon betwixt my birch trees, Yuri sent her an answer. He explained that the Soviet Union has vowed never to attack first with a nuclear weapon, and that they want peace as much as she does. He then invited Samantha to travel to Moscow, which she did. She even wrote a book about it.

So why on earth would Samantha’s day be paired with Anne Frank, who had died almost 30 years before Samantha was born? Well, like Anne, Samantha’s life was cut tragically short. She was killed in a plane crash at the age of 13. And like Anne, she provided the world with a unique perspective on a massive global conflict (or cold conflict in Sam’s case). And like Anne, we wonder what she might have done had she grown into adulthood with a pure and fiercely strong spirit.

We’ll send them some more love in winter – for now we fire off a bold salute to two very awesome humans.

Cuckoo Warning Day

This is another day tied directly the solstice. Tired of reading about these celebrations yet? Well, on solstice or equinox days you’ll have to expect a landslide of them. This one is purely a superstition, but I’m going to believe it’s true.

Even though it’s not. I don’t care – it’s not in my nature to attempt to carve the grooves in the universe, only to ride through them and enjoy the sounds they make. In the case of this auspicious day, the sound you do not want to hear in your universe is that of a cuckoo bird.

If you thought the mighty groundhog held an inordinate amount of power back in February, the cuckoo’s got him beat. Phil may hold domain over the ensuing six weeks of weather, but the cuckoo controls all of summer. If you hear the sound of a cuckoo on the summer solstice, you are destined for a wet summer.

Good news to my fellow tundra-dwellers: the cuckoo lives all over the planet, but not in the northwest corner of North America. If you heard a cuckoo yesterday, it was either in an old clock or a movie that featured an old clock. So hopefully this one does come true – we heard no cuckoo at all throughout the day.

But come on. Cuckoos are a widely distributed bird. It’s highly unlikely that no one in any region where they dwell will hear one, so logically this would mean a wet summer everywhere, every year. Except for here. And that simply isn’t the case. Then again, why am I wasting the effort to argue against a superstition that, even by superstition standards is ridiculously unlikely? Perhaps it’s the effects of the warm summer sun. Maybe I’ve gone a bit cuckoo myself. So what does that mean? Sleet? Anyone?

International Ragweed Day


According to the International Ragweed Society (you see how far down the rabbit hole of obscurity I’m willing to go for this project?), the first Saturday of summer is the day we are all supposed to pay attention to ragweed. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I even thought about ragweed. Is it named that because you can use it as a rag, to tidy a spill of cognac in your den/smoking chamber?

No. At least, probably not. Ragweed is considered a pest, so if it has any beneficial uses, the IRS (that’s the International Ragweed Society, not that other IRS) isn’t boasting about it. Apparently the French ragweed people are putting on webinars every day between June 15 and 30. These “will be diffused from 11:30am to 12:00am (Paris time)” each day, according to the website. So if you’re into learning more about ragweed – and really, you should be – you should tune in online for each… diffusal.

The ragweed scourge is partly our fault. It’s native to North America, but has been tragically introduced in Europe, where it pops up as an unwanted invasive species. It’s believed (and the IRS will back me up on this) that climate change is playing a part in spreading the species around the continent.

Of course, if you’re allergic to ragweed pollen, you’ve probably thought about the plant often. A single ragweed plant can produce about a billion grains of pollen every damn season. It’s one of the most common allergies we’ve got (Jodie is dealing with it presently), so whoever got the idea to bring a plant over to Europe will hopefully be paying for it with a few centuries of karmic suffering.

As devout fans of human health, we flip a pair of taut middle fingers at the despicable ragweed, and hope each plant chokes on its own pollen this year.

International Surfing Day

Here’s something I hadn’t anticipated: International Surfing Day is not a day for surfing, but rather a day for surfers to band together and do some work to protect and preserve the coastlines they love. Most surfers, like skateboarders, snowboarders, etc., are very positive and considerate people. They don’t surf because they hate the ocean and want to show off how they can hold dominion over that stupid water that thinks it’s so great. No, from what I understand (and my surfing skills stretch no further than the Summer Olympics game on the Apple IIe), surfing is a very spiritual connection to the ocean.

So it makes sense that surfers will want to give back. Their website (all the better days have their own websites) suggests people do a solo beach cleanup and post the results online. They usually play a part in organizing mass cleanups, but mass anything this year is out of the question. They’ll also take donations toward environmental activities, if you’re so inclined.

Lacking an ability to remain buoyant in water and having the sense of balance of a drunken Barbapapa (look it up, non-Canadians), surfing is likely something I’ll never try. But we support the efforts of this day, and hope by the time International Coastal Cleanup Day rolls around in September that the world will be a bit more open to mass gatherings of well-intentioned, earth-and-ocean-loving folks.

To honour the high ideals of this day, I put on some vintage Dick Dale and rode the wave of that reverb-heavy guitar. It was great.

World Humanist Day

Hey there, humanists. Hope you had a good one.

Humanism seems like a difficult position to oppose, doesn’t it? If you’re not a humanist, are you an anti-humanist? Unless you’re loading up your twenty-three AK-47s and strapping your backup pistols to your abdomen in preparation for a violent rampage, you are probably not anti-humanist. But let’s be real: humanism is not so much an embrace of our fellow peeps as it is an anti-theist statement.

Humanists don’t believe in God. They believe in science, in reason, and in empathy. When deeply religious people question how someone who doesn’t subscribe to a faith can therefore possess the morality to lead a just and even potentially noble life, it’s humanism that counters that doubt. There are international humanist organizations all around the globe, but most humanists don’t belong to one. They simply accept their life view, and through zero rituals or traditions, they carry on and try to take care of one another.

Jodie and I are, as anyone who knows us will already be aware, humanists. We trust science above gut instinct, and reason and compassion are what drives our ethical considerations. We also believe that folks are entitled to subscribe to whatever faith fuels their motors, so long as that faith doesn’t rain on anyone else’s experience. Perhaps humanism seems so impossible to oppose because it simply is. Unless you are of the belief that anyone who doesn’t share your faith is a lesser being, you probably have no issues with humanists.

Yesterday was a great reminder to all of us that science is important, reason is crucial, and along with empathy and understanding those are the values upon which a society should be built.

Hooray for humans.

World Productivity Day

Today’s article, written yesterday and edited to seamless perfection today, was my longest yet, clocking in at over 4,000 words to cover fifteen celebrations. If that ain’t productivity, I don’t know what is.

And if yesterday didn’t exhaust us completely (and it may have), we’ve now got all this to deal with today:

  • National Peaches ‘n Cream Day. Dessert has already been decided. Nice.
  • National Day of the Gong. My original plan for this day was to Get It On to a local instrument store and Bang a Gong. Alas, this won’t be possible.
  • Go Skateboarding Day. I don’t believe we own one of these, so again – may not be possible. Plus, see above about my pathetic sense of balance. Might be a good thing to skip.
  • National Selfie Day. Woohoo! Narcissism!
  • National Arizona Day. The cuisine of Arizona came out very similar to the cuisine of New Mexico, which we celebrated last week. But there is one key difference: the iced tea.
  • Turkey Lover’s Day. And dinner tonight will be delicious turkey burgers.
  • Father’s Day. And as a treat, I’m hopeful Jodie will make those delicious turkey burgers to give this cooking dad the night off.
  • International Yoga Day. Jodie has this one covered.
  • World Day of Music. Non-stop music, all day long. I can get behind that.
  • National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is not an official holiday in Canada (and the Indigenous people deserve one), but we’ll look into their experience. There won’t be a lot of laughs in this section, but it needs to be discussed.
  • World Giraffe Day. Very cool creatures. We’ll learn what we can.
  • World Handshake Day. The one thing I hope COVID kills completely. I know where people’s hands have been – I don’t need to shake them. I’ll make my argument for the death of the handshake.