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You're traveling through a wondrous dimension of humor and shadow, of imagination and mist. Welcome to my website! Wander around a bit and see what’s up. If the mists get too thick, well, some things look better in the fog anyway. So come back often to The Joe Zone – and bring your friends. That way, if you get lost, or marooned here, at least you’re together. Not that people get marooned here. Very often. For very long. Signpost up ahead, your next stop – The Joe Zone!
There’s a popular trend in television programming called “crossover events.” By popular, I mean with TV producers and networks, more so than with viewers. Crossover events certainly aren’t my cup of tea. In fact, they leave a bad taste in my mouth – like someone spiked the tea with motor oil. I find the concept inherently irritating. In fact, I’d rather face a roomful of four-year-olds playing with glitter and glue than watch a crossover event.
In reality (which has nothing to do with TV), crossovers are ploys to entice viewers to watch programs they don’t normally, or even abnormally, watch. In a crossover, a plotline starts on one TV series, then hopscotches to as many other annoying series as possible. The characters from each show travel around to the other shows, where they have no business being. If I had my way, they would be arrested for trespassing, or at least cited for vagrancy.
The family of DC Comics programs has used this questionable tactic for several seasons. I won’t drag the superheroes’ names through the mud, as it’s not their fault. They are being forced into these antics that are tantamount to viewer entrapment.
In classic TV terms, it’s as if a story started on Rawhide, continued on Gunsmoke, moseyed over to Wagon Train, then made stagecoach stops at Bonanza and The Rifleman, before finally and thankfully being dispatched to Boot Hill on Have Gun, Will Travel. Long before then, you’re praying that Little Joe Cartwright will bushwhack Marshal Dillon, just to put the story out of its misery, to say nothing of yours.
My calendar says that Monday, February 17th is Presidents’ Day. While that’s not fake news, it’s not entirely true, either. Is this day for all the presidents? Is it for George and Abe? Is it for only the presidents we like? I’m old enough to remember when George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had their own birthdays. Not only that, I’m old enough to know who they were. A recent “American on the Street, or Beach, or Couch” poll showed that a popular misconception is that the first president of the United States was Benjamin Franklin. As most older generations (or, “fogies”) know, Franklin was never president, except of the “Fry Yourself with a Kite and a Key” club. He also made a pretty mean stove. Footnote: (Inserted here, as no one reads footnotes any more) The second most popular answer was Alexander Hamilton, evidently because he was a nifty singer and dancer.
Before we sink farther into the quagmire, let’s establish a couple of facts. (Facts are an outdated concept, I know, but just for fun…) Fact one: Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809. Fact two: George Washington was born February 11, 1731. What? Yes, I cannot lie, when little future Prez George came into the world, his proud ma and pa looked at the bank calendar on the wall, and it said February 11, 1731.
That’s because the world was still wrestling with the transition from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Many countries also used their own variations of calendars. In 1752, Britain and its colonies formally adopted the Gregorian, chanting, “It’s been around since 1582, let’s finally make the switcheroo.” A nervous messenger had to approach George and ask him, “Doest thou mindeth if we moveth your birthday ahead by eleven days plus a year? Hear ye, it will now resideth on February 22, 1732.” You see, they already knew how great he was going to be, what with all the cherry tree chopping and not lying and all. And a very tolerant George said, “That be-eth cool, (maybe we canst agree-eth to dropeth the phony colonial lingo here) as long as I don’t have to share a holiday with Abe Lincoln, or for that matter, with several dozen other presidents.”
When I was growing up, the nation celebrated Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th and Washington’s on February 22nd. It should be noted, though, that only Washington’s birthday was a national holiday. The trouble started in 1968 when Congress, realizing they didn’t have anything really important to do, as it was a pretty tranquil year, passed new holiday legislation. When finally enacted in 1971, the Uniform Monday Act moved certain holidays to Monday, especially those that had to do with uniforms. Washington’s Birthday was bounced around, which seems an egregious insult to a day that had already been moved by a year and eleven days. I’d be really miffed if my birthday was treated so shabbily, and I’m not even great or famous or a president. Well, that’s Congress for you – always expanding the list of those they treat shabbily.
It’s worth pointing out that the Act did not combine Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, nor did it use the term “Presidents Day,” nor did it lump all presidents into the holiday, which would make for quite a lumpy day. The misconception probably arose from placing the federal observance of Washington’s Birthday between Abe’s and George’s birthdays. Add to that the fact that states have their own holidays and call them whatever they wish, and that the main way the federal holiday is observed is by furniture stores and other hucksters having Presidents Day sales, and well… It’s a wonder people aren’t thinking it’s for Denzel Washington and Lincoln Navigators, and maybe someday it will be.
The increasingly questionable news media is doing its part to add to the confusion, by calling the holiday Presidents Day instead of Washington’s Birthday, and saying it’s for all presidents, which it isn’t. Many people dislike the idea of saying that the day is, for example, as much for Millard Fillmore as for George Washington, or even James Buchanan as much as Abe.
You may have noticed that I’ve spelled “President’s Day” inconsistently – sometimes with an apostrophe, sometimes without. That’s because not only is there no agreement on the holiday, there’s also no agreement on how to spell it. Some style manuals say one, some the other. Well, that’s the divided world we live in. And I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, so I use both. The easy answer, though, is that if we’re talking about the official federal holiday (the reason you won’t get mail that day) – it’s spelled “Washington’s Birthday.”
So let’s keep our presidents and holidays straight, and our ducks in a row. Here’s a little ditty to help us celebrate:
Into the puzzle of birthdays we delve,
George on the 22nd, and Abe on Feb 12.
Lincoln comes first, if alphabetically we arrange,
As does his birthday, so it shouldn’t seem strange.
They get their own day, they weren’t born as twins,
Celebrate them separately, and each of them wins.
The other prexies can fend for themselves,
Abe and George are giants, the rest of them, elves.
It’s Washington’s birthday we celebrate,
Our first chief exec, the greatest of great.
Remember Yorktown, and also Valley Forge,
He defeated the Redcoats, our good President George.
It’s Auld Lang Syne time again, which brings up several pithy if not pitiful questions:
Many hands make light work, so I suggest we divvy up these questions. We could do it alphabetically, or by age, or by zip code. On second thought, you take the first four, and I’ll tackle the last one (although you might find partial answers to the others sprinkled throughout, like multi-colored jimmies on a sundae, or possibly like rock salt on slush – I don’t know, I never was very good at similes. Metaphors, though – zowie, I’m a screamin’ steamin’ freight train at those babies.).
Since we sing Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of the New Year (I mean on the clock, not the medical term – confound it, who can understand this bizarre language anyway?), as we usher in a new year. In this case we also usher in a new decade – no, wait, 2020 is the last year of the old decade, isn’t it? That’s right, because we start counting at one, so the first decade in Anno Domini years would have been years 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. The new decade would start with the year 11. So, if I can skip ahead without having to count from 11 to 2020, we can easily see that 2020 is not a new decade. Rather, it’s the final moldy, stinking, rotting year of the last decade, which we can all agree was wretched. So, in this case, our acquaintance with that decade can definitely be forgotten, assuming we make it through the next year, which I will remind you includes a presidential election, so gird your loins and hide the babies and kittens.
Social media internet sites can be invaluable to writers. Even dinosaurs like me realize this, and therefore plunge into the online tar pits in search of faithful readers. I am reasonably active on a popular social media site, less so on a business and career networking site. One of the reasons I belong to both of them is to promote my writing career. I should clarify that I don’t actually have a writing career, but it makes me feel good to refer to one. At my age, I need to do whatever I can to feel good.
My interest in a business-oriented site is limited. I’m retired from my career where I pretended to be an engineer, and my only purpose in being connected to the business site is to promote my new career where I pretend to be a writer. Actually, calling it a career is sort of gilding the lily. In fact, it’s more like lying than gilding. Fortunately, lying is in style these days, particularly in politics and on social media sites. Anyway, I would need to have significantly more success before I could say I have even a failed writing career.
Therefore, I fiddle around on the business site, which we shall refer to as WonkedIn, to promote my writing. I have far less guilt about that than I should. It’s a desperate attempt to lure victims to my website blog, and other sites where my written disasters are lurking. So far, that tactic is working as unsuccessfully as my other attempts at foisting off my work on an apathetic public.
You probably heard a lot of hullabaloo earlier this month about turning clocks back. Everyone’s debating whether ‘tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous daylight saving time, or to take arms against a sea of clocks…
I’ve found no evidence that The Bard had any feelings one way or the other on this topic that divides our nation (everything divides us these days – why shouldn’t what time it is?). Anyway, I usually like hullabaloo as much as the next lunatic, and this certainly is some prime hullabaloo. If Americans are well-stocked with anything, it’s crankiness, and they certainly don’t hesitate to spew it at any available target, including daylight. Wait a minute – did that sound misanthropic? Good. Seems appropriate.
Proponents of Daylight Saving Time have long claimed that it benefits business, while others dispute the claim. However, most objections I hear have little to do with business, and everything to do with changing clocks twice a year. Evidently that has become a burden that many Americans are incapable of dealing with. They’d much rather deal with a preposition ending a sentence, so I just provided one, free of charge. I’m not sure how much the objection has to do with the physical task of adjusting clocks (many clocks do that on their own these days), or adjusting to a new sleep schedule. Personally, I have never found either issue to be overwhelming.
I have a lost and found department inside my mind. I imagine you have one, too. It’s a strange little corner of the mind that’s hard to find, but once you’re there, it’s a devil to get out of. The “escape rooms” that are so popular today at least give you clues. Not so the Mental Lost and Found. You’re on your own, and you must chart your own course, or you can spend the better part of the day sifting through thoughts, hopes, ill-formed ambitions, and the debris of crashed dreams. On rare occasion, though, you can mine gold. And that makes the perilous descent worthwhile.
A trip to the Mental Lost and Found can be triggered by rummaging through the physical lost and found in the house. Usually there are several of these in any home, and they often go by the more prosaic term of “closet” or “drawer.” Sometimes the entire attic, basement, or garage is a lost and found, particularly if you’ve lived in your home for more than twenty years. I can start sifting through the contents of one of those places, and before I know it, a long-vanished item surfaces. OOOOOOHHHHH! I had forgotten about this! This may be the coolest thing I’ve ever owned! How did it get stuck in here?
My new short fiction story “The Fourth Shop on the Right” is on WAOB Audio Theatre. It’s a full-cast production, with sound effects and music. It’s about eight minutes long.
When a man wanders through an unfamiliar neighborhood, people seem to know him, and have been expecting him. Here’s a link to the Audio Theatre’s YouTube channel. You can copy and paste it into your browser. I hope you like the story!
Language is constantly evolving. Words that once were common fall from grace. The accepted definition of a word can change over time. Words that once meant “up” might now mean “down,” and heaven only knows what “objective” means these days. New words enter the language every day, in many cases in a stealthy if not downright cunning manner. Lexicographers bemoan the swelling ranks of undocumented words.
Evolving language helps explain why, for example, to a baby boomer’s ears, a millennial can sound like a Martian. (I personally believe many of them came from the Andromeda galaxy.) Teenagers, of course, are another matter entirely, and in some cases, anti-matter entirely.
This evolution also readily explains why Shakespeare is Greek, or possibly Latin, or maybe Ye Olde English, to modern ears. People don’t talk the way Will did. I’m not convinced they ever did, but that was a long time ago, and in England to boot, so who knows? (England is well known for doing strange things to the English language, as well as breakfast.) Of course, one need not go back as far as Shakespeare to encounter befuddling language in literature. Defoe, Hawthorne, Dickens, and Melville can all be tough sledding (or Nantucket sleigh riding, in Melville’s case).
In unexpected bovine news, a wandering band of rogue cows has been sighted in various areas around Murrysville, PA, over the last few weeks. No farmer has come forward to admit his cows have become vagrants. Whether this means he hasn’t noticed, or he just never developed a deep relationship with his cows, is open to interpretation. Speculation is rampant as to their origin, including the possibility of aliens, at least in some circles (crop circles, I suppose). Aliens, as everyone knows, love to abduct cows. So maybe some poor, confused aliens returned the cows to the wrong coordinates.
Let me first admit that I know almost nothing about livestock. The local newspaper published photos of the cows, from which I have shrewdly deduced they are black. Therefore, I might jump to the conclusion they are of the Black Angus denomination, but I don’t really know that. It may be that not all black cows are Angus. It may be that they’re not Scottish at all – as far as I know, they haven’t played any golf in their travels, or even shown up on a putting green. I don’t know that all Angus are black, either. There might be white Angus or tan Angus or mottled Angus or salted caramel Angus, or other colors and flavors that I’m not aware of – grillmasters can chime in here.
My story “The Barking Cat” is the first episode of the new series “Zero Hour,” on WAOB Audio Theatre. Listen to this audio drama as performed and recorded at the Audio Theatre.
Here’s a link to WAOB Audio Theatre’s YouTube channel. You can copy and paste it into your browser.
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