Monday, June 1, 2020

So the world, not content with being diseased and sickly, is now on fire. We aim to keep politics strictly separate from this project, and we’ll stick with that. But it shouldn’t be political to say that our outrage is not directed toward the protesters, but rather toward the murder we all witnessed on our screens last week. But that’s a conversation for another place – this is all about happy thoughts. Smiling thoughts. Thoughts like these:

National Smile Day

This particular celebration was launched by two dentists based out of Lake in the Hills, Illinois. I get that – dentists can help to create brighter, more geometrically proper smiles. It doesn’t really make us smile to think of the dentist (unless you happen to be particularly attracted to your dentist, I suppose), but we can follow the correlation.

So how to celebrate it? We went out for a quick supply run yesterday, and we smiled at everyone with whom we interacted, but what on earth did that accomplish? We’re the type of folks who would do that anyway. I decided to celebrate this one with a more specific celebration that fits my style.

In the wake of Pet Sounds, one of the most brilliant albums to ever hit shelves, Beach Boy Brian Wilson set about creating a concept album, a “teenage symphony to God” as he called it. You can find elements of every genre of music in this batch of songs, with sound effects, lyrical elements that evoked American history, spirituality and crunchy vegetables, and some exceptional tongue-in-cheek humor. The instrumental tracks were laid down, but then what happened?

Well, the collapse of the recording of this album has its own Wikipedia page, if that’s any indication. The lamer elements of the band (looking at you, Mike Love) weren’t into psychedelic exploration in their music, and wanted more of a return to what made the Beach Boys great: songs about fun, surfing, cars and girls. They just didn’t get what Brian was aiming for. Brian was also far deeper into drugs than the rest of the group, which didn’t help his as-yet-undiagnosed mental illness. The album became known as the greatest unreleased album no one had ever heard. A few tracks squeaked out on Smiley Smile later in 1967, but the overall concept was lost.

Then in 2004 Brian put together a fully realized version of the album, recorded with new musicians and new vocals, though sticking to a very Beach Boys sound. It remains my favourite album of this century so far, so to celebrate this day we popped it on. Also, we smiled at people, but the album was the real celebration.

National Save Your Hearing Day

So we’ve addressed oral hygiene, now we get to hop aboard the fun-filled rocket-train of proper auditory care! The self-care and personal health maintenance locomotive is pulling out of the station! Toot-toot!

Smart-assery aside, we all know that cranking your headphones up to their maximum volume so you can groove to Twisted Sister so loudly it’ll sound like Dee Snyder is angry at your cerebral cortex is a bad idea. And I’m guilty of this – not so much with the Sister (which reveals surprising melodic complexities on lower volumes), but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Certain songs I find impossible to listen to without increasing the volume from whatever played before. R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” is one. The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” is non-negotiable. Even a few tracks on Smile need the extra few decibels to drive home their magic.

But hearing is not something you can repair. We’re not in the Gene Roddenberry future where Dr. Crusher can just push something against our necks and cure deafness. We should rightfully only expect one shot at making these ears last the full life-cycle of the rest of our internal organs. So yesterday we remembered to temper our desire to rock, or even to RAWK, depending on what was playing. It’s an important reminder, and quite possibly one we’ll forget by the time today’s celebrations have rocked through our being.

So for those about to rock, we salute you, but ask you to please tweak it down to conversational levels. Just for this one day.

National Speak In Complete Sentences Day

Okay, we’ve tended to our dental needs and our ear-health needs, so now it’s time to focus on perfecting our grammar. Wow, today is really a cavalcade of non-stop hyper-wacko and insane celebration, isn’t it? This is why we launched this project, so our friends and family could hear me lecture about forming complete and proper sentences. Thanks for coming along on this wild ride.

Speak in Complete Sentences Day? Seriously? I mean… I guess. S’all good. Speak like a pro. Say stuff. Stuff. Stuff is good. I’m like… yeah. Speaking. Good day. Fun celebration. So much mirth.

Okay, so writing in complete sentences isn’t the same as speaking in complete sentences. The only ears that heard anything I said yesterday were those belonging to Jodie, to my mom (who came over for dinner), to the kids when they called, to the dogs, and to the nice lady at Safeway who went in the back and gathered a couple of olives for us. I’m pretty sure I stuck to complete sentences, but who knows? Colloquial manners of speech occasionally allow sentence fragments to present themselves as complete thoughts. So what?

The truth is, some people, even people who are in very public professions, have trouble speaking in complete sentences. Perhaps they aim to connect with a more simplistic crowd by sticking to two or three-word blurbs. Perhaps they genuinely lack public speaking skills. It’s not for me to say – hopefully they are aware of this day and will take some time to mend their ways. I don’t think it’ll happen. Fuck it. Damn.

National Utah Day

And now we land in the Beehive State, a place I have only seen from the vantage point of the Salt Lake City airport, and which Jodie has stayed in for a mere two days. It’s a gorgeous state though, and certainly contains a history unique within the tapestry of America. It used to be a part of Mexico, but became adequately populated by Americans, many of whom were fleeing religious persecution out east for their Mormon ways. The Mormon foothold in Utah has remained strong. After the Mexican-American War, Utah was part of the Utah Territory (along with Colorado and Nevada), but it had trouble getting admitted as a state. They had to renounce their tolerance for polygamy first, which delayed statehood until 1896. To this day, more than half the state’s populace belongs to the Mormon church, though polygamy is no longer a real concern. For the most part. I’m not digging into specifics here.

A 2012 national survey by the good folks at Gallup actually found Utah to be the best state to live for the future, based on a number of forward-thinking economic and lifestyle metrics. Even now, the state has the 14th highest median average income in the country, and the lowest level of income inequality. Also, did I mention it’s gorgeous?

In Utah you have some brilliant skiing, but you also have some stunning dessert, including parts of Monument Valley, the area where John Ford loved to film his most stunning westerns. You’ve got Arches National Park, with those incredible stone formations. You’ve got Zion National Park, which to me looks even more stunning than the Grand Canyon (having not visited either, admittedly).

As for the famous folks from Utah, you’ve got director Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There) from Ogden, quarterback Steve Young from Salt Lake City, Roseanne Barr (yeah, I know) also from Salt Lake City, James Woods from Vernal, the legendary Butch Cassidy from Beaver, singer Brendon Urie from St. George, Matthew Davis, the guy who played Elle Woods’ douchey ex-boyfriend in Legally Blonde, from Salt Lake City, Chrissy “Twitter Bad-Ass” Teigen from Delta, Philo Farnsworth, inventor of TV, from Beaver, Merlin Olsen from Logan, Harvey Fletcher (hearing aid inventor and the father of stereophonic sound) from Provo, the lovely and talented Jewel from Payson, and of course the Osmond family.

But what to do to celebrate Utah? I found a recipe for something called Frog’s Eye Salad, which is similar to ambrosia salad in that it’s sweet, and we have no desire to eat any of it. Fortunately, I also learned that green Jell-O was a huge deal in Utah for some reason, to the point where they even crafted a green Jell-O commemorate state pin for the 2002 Olympic Games. That’s an easy win for Utah. Delicious. Apologies for our photo – the Jell-O wouldn’t stop quivering so the pic came out a little blurry.

National Macaroon Day

So what is a macaroon anyway? It might be a crunchy little coconut cookie that looks a little like a mini twice-baked potato. It might also be a no-bake chocolate and oats cookie, like the ones pictured above. It can also be a small chocolate candy. It may even be a crunchy almond cookie. It is not a macaron, those little puffy treats made at upscale bakeries, nor is it Emmanuel Macron, the president of France. So many options for this day.

We opted for the no-bake cookies. They turned out a bit runny for some reason, but they were still fantastic. It’s a mix of chocolate and oats, how could we go wrong? We celebrated this as our dessert #1, with the green Jell-O reserved for later in the evening. It’s always good to have a few drinks before settling into some Jell-O, isn’t it?

The little chocolate macaroon candies are what confused me. I used to love those things as a kid, and I still don’t understand how three or four distinctly different dessert items all have the same name. And to make things even more confusing we’ve got National Chocolate Macaroon Day coming up later this week. For that one we picked up some of the candies, for this one we made the version of macaroons we’re most used to. The coconut ones are great too, but we can only fill our home with so many cookies before we run the risk of exploding. That wouldn’t be fun.

National Autonomous Vehicle Day

An autonomous vehicle is one that drives itself. We’ve seen these, we’ve heard stories of how they will endanger the long-haul trucking industry, and we’ve all questioned whether or not we’d be willing to relinquish complete control of driving. I’m not completely sold. In theory, having nothing but autonomous vehicles on the road should work, with a network of computer calculations flapping along at speeds we mere mortals can’t fathom, keeping us safe and getting us where we need to be in the most expedient, economical way possible.

But what if they’re not all autonomous? What if there are still some drivers navigating the streets? The question is, when you drive do you fear for your own abilities coming up short, or do you fear some schmuck won’t be paying attention for the wrong split second? I’m all in favour of these things taking over, especially considering my dream vehicle as a kid was a limousine wherein someone else could worry about driving and I could relax and play video games in the back. But in reality, I’m not ready to dive in until the entire fleet upon public roads has been upgraded.

In 2018, the City of Edmonton partnered with a company called Pacific Western Transportation to launch one of the first autonomous vehicle pilot projects (and I like the irony of the term ‘pilot project’ here) in western Canada. The project is still featured on the city’s webpage. I reached out to the team running this, and expressed an interest in trying it out, maybe just sitting in an autonomous vehicle on their closed track and soaking up the experience. In exchange they’d receive all the glory and publicity attached to this project, so really not much of anything.

They were receptive, but talks broke down when COVID broke our society down for the time being. This is another of the fun-filled celebrations we won’t get to experience, unfortunately. But if things brighten up over the next few months, this one is top of my list for revisiting. Why not take a ride into the future? It might be fun, in a terrifying way.

As we welcome in June, we also welcome in a busy day with plenty of weirdness:

  • National Olive Day. We both hate olives. But dammit, we’re going to give them another try.
  • National Heimlich Maneuver Day. Hopefully we only have to celebrate this one in spirit.
  • National Go Barefoot Day. An easy enough demand. We’re both glad this didn’t pop up in the middle of winter.
  • National Nail Polish Day. Oh, we are going to get pretty today.
  • National Say Something Nice Day. That’s pleasant. We will say nice things to people, and hope they return the favour.
  • National Pen Pal Day. Do people still have pen pals? Can we get new pen pals? I’m up for seeing if it’s possible.
  • National Hazelnut Cake Day. We can’t do every dessert day. This one will likely be skipped.
  • World Milk Day. We will drink some milk and give a big ol’ thumbs-up to the world.
  • Baby Boomers Recognition Day. The boomers have taken a lot of hits these days, as it’s always easy to blame the oldest generation for all of society’s ills. We’ll send ‘em some love instead.
  • Dare Day. This could be a terrible idea.
  • Flip a Coin Day. Easy enough to do – any significant decisions today will be decided by a coin toss.
  • National Thank God It’s Monday Day. We celebrated this in January, but apparently it gets a June mention too. Fun.
  • International Children’s Day. Won’t somebody think of the children? We will!
  • Oscar the Grouch Day. Nice. I love that one of our first fictional characters was a malcontent who lived in filth.
  • Wear a Dress Day. One of us probably will. I doubt Jodie’s would fit me though.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Yesterday the real test began. If the aim of this mirth-overdose is to counter the negativity in our lives, to incite joy through directed inspiration, then there could be no better test than the beginning of our actual lives in 2020. We woke with our alarm at 6. We crawled, gasping and stretching our bloodied fingers for that first cup of medicinal coffee. We hauled our weary meat-vessels to our jobs and put in a full day. A month from now we will either be more flattened, more lifeless than usual, given the extra work our days will include, or we’ll be giggling, aloft upon a perpetually-fed steam-cloud of revelry and bemusement. We are deeply hoping for the latter.

National Thank God It’s Monday Day

The idea here, according to National Day Calendar, is to celebrate the potential within Mondays. Each Monday has a sunrise, it has opportunity, it’s a new beginning. Rattling about within Monday’s rib cage lies the beating pulse of untapped potential.

Okay, we’re aiming to be positive here, not wide-eyed and naive. We know what Mondays are – we made our peace with Mondays a long time ago. Mondays are waking up early, usually with the prospect of four reruns in the four days ahead. Mondays are a departure from the relative freedom of weekendery, and a shackle to responsibility. But maybe Mondays can be something great. Maybe there is some untapped potential awaiting us this year.

National Bubblewrap Appreciation Day is on a Monday. Dr. Seuss Day shows up on the first Monday of March. National Tap Dance Day drops on a May Monday. How about Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day? National New York Day? Batman Day? Go To an Art Museum Day? All Mondays. If our inspiration for 2020 will be squeezed from the utters of this project, then Mondays will give us some damn fine milk this year. Learning this certainly made this particular Monday a lot easier to swallow.

National Shortbread Day

Shortbread is a staple of Christmastime snackery in this house, and that tends to continue well into January, as we’re often sick of sweet cookies by the time New Years shows up. This year was no exception, and we still had some delicious brown-sugar shortbread (thanks, mom!) for a lunchtime dessert yesterday.

The first printed recipe for shortbread came from a Scotswoman named Mrs. McLintock, printed way back in 1736. It’s easy to make, and almost impossible not to enjoy. You know what? We are going to take a stand here: shortbread is the ultimate cookie. Sure, it crumbles easily, but if you aren’t committed to a mess then you aren’t committed to a damn cookie. Shortbread’s simplicity can be swizzled with caramel or nuts or jelly or whatever the hell is in a sandy, and each of those varieties are magnificent. But you can also go pure and you’ll still find yourself addictively snarfing the plate clean. We are going to sample many, many other cookie varieties over the upcoming 360 days, but will we find a cookie more perfect than the shortbread? Not likely.

National Bean Day

Okay, we tried. Jodie just can’t fall in love with the bean, be it in burritos, in soup, or as we had them tonight: mixed into a tangy and tasty barbecue sauce. It’s the texture. I (Marty), however, love ‘em. We picked up some beans from Barb & Ernie’s restaurant, known for serving arguably the best diner-style breakfast in the city. I found these beans to be sweet but with an accomplished bite, a perfect pair for a pan-seared steak. Heinz canned beans are a little syrupy-sweet for my tastes; these were perfection.

We followed those up with some Jelly Bellys for dessert, because shouldn’t we take these days as far as we can? Shouldn’t every meal feature dessert? Shouldn’t every dessert feature the possibility of biting into something that tastes like buttered popcorn in the same bite as something that tastes like a green apple? Hell yes to all.

Raw beans are, it should be noted, potentially toxic. Red kidney beans in particular – bite into a handful of raw ones and you’ll be downing a tasteless poison known as the lectin phytohaemagglutinin. Five raw beans, that’s all you need to have yourself a lousy night of stomach madness – worse even than what I put myself through to achieve National Hangover Day. So cook those beans and cook ‘em right. Be safe. Or just stick to the jelly beans.

National Technology Day

It’s almost unfathomable how much we have come to rely on technology. My phone is my camera, my Walkman, my wristwatch, my Gameboy, my newspaper, my video camera, my recipe book, my wallet, and perhaps most importantly (this year) my calendar. My headphones no longer receive Peter Frampton songs through a clumsy cable, but rather the signal gets beamed from my coat pocket to my head. We work on computers, we play on computers, and technology is the skeletal structure of this project.

We are living in the future. But there’s more humankind needs to do. In yesterday’s video, Jodie picked the Star Trek food replicator as the technology she’d most like to see in the world. Not necessarily to save the starving children, but more so she could put her own meals together without waiting for me to cook them. Fair… I opted to push for nanotechnology to somehow be turned against the flu and the common cold. I mean come on… I can get why we don’t have the flying car yet – the logistics of coordinating privately-owned flying vehicles in the city are staggering – but why is a week of the sniffles still acceptable? Someone needs to get on this.

National Cuddle Up Day

We absolutely celebrated this one yesterday, but I won’t get into specific details, because (a) some things should remain private, (b) neither of us like to kiss and tell, and (c) we pretty much sat in bed, fully clothed in our pajamas while our dogs planted themselves between us, ensuring they were the focus of any potential cuddlage.

This is our life.

Today I have to learn one new recipe and Jodie has to make one lone purchase. It’s as light a day as we’re likely to see, but we’ll still wring all the joy we can from the hours we’re given. We’ve got a few “Official Month” celebrations for January though; we may tap into those as well.

  • National Tempura Day. We love tempura. We’ve eaten it many times but never have we prepared it ourselves. I found a recipe to try, but we’ll see. There’s always tempura-fried shrimp available at the restaurant around the corner if we need it.
  • Shop For Travel Day. A good day to pick up some mini-bottles of shampoo or those cute little toothbrushes the size of a mini-golf pencil. Jodie is planning a quick trip to Vancouver later this month, so she may simply buy that ticket instead.

Monday, January 6, 2020

The focus of this project is, of course, celebration. The surprising second focus appears to be discomfort. I suppose, when seeking to sever oneself from an interminable rut of eat-tv-sleep-work-repeat, one must expect some discomfort. We’re okay with that, but damn… why so much cold?

National Bird Day

For National Bird Day we wanted to venture outside our comfort zone (the borders of which uncoincidentally align with the borders of our bed, dogs and all) and try birdwatching. We’ve watched birds before – through our windows, above the reclining furniture in our yard, and I suppose back when the local shopping mall used to feature a peacock display over near the McDonalds. But we’ve never immersed ourselves in nature, viewed our little ornithological friends from within their own habitat.

I (Marty) reached out to the Edmonton Nature Club, and they hooked us up with Wayne, a retired Mountie and a man generous with knowledge and experience. We met Wayne yesterday morning and together we wandered into our river valley in search of some winged creatures.

We learned that small black oil sunflower seeds are best for feeding birds, and that most commercial mixed birdseed is mostly filler and crap. We saw non-poop-related evidence of voles and weasels, and learned that great blue herons regularly nest around our city. We saw numerous chickadees (that’s one eating from Wayne’s hand up there), as well as red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches, and even captured a nifty video of a pileated woodpecker thwacking a tree and scooping out its bug-bounty for Sunday brunch.

Amassing new hobbies and interests were one of our highly anticipated side effects of this little project, and digging into Edmonton’s ecosystem falls neatly into that category. Starting in springtime; no more of this winter shit. It was ten below zero when we headed out yesterday morning, and the cold lingered in our bones for significantly longer than it did on January 1 when we splashed around in frigid water in our backyard. Fuck it. It was worth it.

National Whipped Cream Day

For this celebration we melded our festivities with the event below. Whipped cream is great and all, but slapping some onto an ice cream sundae seems a bit too tame for this project. Comfort zone, remember? Gotta think beyond the obvious.

Whipping cream clocks in at 30-36% fat, so if you’re using it regularly for your coffee, that’s probably not a healthy choice. Whipped-up cream has been popular for at least the last 500 years or so, and it used to be known as neige de crème, or cream snow. For our celebration we made use of the spray stuff in the can, but it was real whipped cream… National Cool Whip Day and National Fake-Cream-Made-From-Petroleum Day are not actual things. We kept it authentic.

National Screenwriters Day

Want a helpful tip? Check out the nominees for screenwriting for the Oscars, Golden Globes and (though it’s just called ‘Writing’) Emmys. Those awards focus on the words that propel the story, and the nominees are almost certain to be fresh, interesting, and well worth the investment of time.

For this revelry we merged National Whipped Cream Day. It has long been a dream of mine (not so much of Jodie) to be in a pie fight – to smack someone in the face with a pie and to be similarly smacked. So we filled a few pie plates with whipped cream, took turns reciting some of our favourite screen lines, crediting the writers, then pied one another in a most satisfying manner. I opted for lines from Airplane! and The Hangover, while Jodie went more serious with lines from Casablanca and The Shawshank Redemption. We each got one pie heaved at a distance and one at point-blank range.

It was ridiculous. If our neighbours were watching, we’re sure they have questions. But it reinforced the inevitable weirdness of this project, and we are grateful. We were also sticky and gross, and still smelling whipped cream in our noses hours later.

Today marks our return to our respective workplaces (Jodie is a teacher; I am a provincial government office drone), and we will see how easily we can wind this little project around our actual lives. We suspect it won’t be easy, but we’ll probably figure it out. We hope. Here’s today’s roster o’ mirth:

  • National Bean Day. We were going to cook up a big ol’ bean stew, until we realized that neither of us are really big fans of bean stew. So we got some baked beans from local German feast-haven Barb & Ernie’s, and we’ll serve them with supper.
  • National Shortbread Day. We have not yet exhausted our supply of Christmas baking, which means we’ve still got a couple dozen homemade shortbread cookies to enjoy for dessert.
  • National Cuddle-Up Day. Well, hell. We’re going to do some cuddling. The dogs will no doubt insist on intervening.
  • National Technology Day. We will each come up with one piece of technology we feel should exist, and explain why. The “how” portion, we’ll leave to someone else.
  • National Thank God It’s Monday Day. Mondays tend to suck, but we’ve got some great festivities planned for Mondays this year. We will compile a few and share, and hopefully give ourselves a bit of optimism that Mondays in 2020 might just be fun.