- More Bite-Size Joe-Pourri Morsels
- More Adventures in Space and Time in the Joe-ma-Tron
- More News thru a Misty Lens
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!
I stumbled onto the curious world of “super grain” snack bars the other day (I often do things like that). I’ve been eating various grains, as we all have, for most of my life. I must admit, however, that I had no idea which grains, if any, qualified as super grains. I’m also not sure what a grain has to do to meet the requirements. Are we talking saving Metropolis, or will getting a kitten down from a tree suffice?
The wrapper claimed the bar had lots of protein and fiber, and no bad stuff like trans-fats, GMO’s, or lead, and only government-approved levels of arsenic. What the heck, I thought, let’s go healthy. Once I ate the snack bar, I was guessing “super grain” had more to do with the amount of damage it did to your teeth. I mean, this thing had some serious CRUNCH to it. It wasn’t the bar, but rather my teeth, that were going snap, crackle, pop.
After reading the ingredients, and scheduling a dental appointment, I came to the conclusion that the main super grains are oats, millet, quinoa, and gravel. I mean, this alleged treat technically isn’t a snack bar – it’s more like a snack brick.
I recall that some reptiles and birds eat rocks to aid digestion. My personal experience is that gravel does NOT aid human digestion. I suppose it might help clear out some things – if you’re worried about that small Lego piece you accidentally ingested some years ago, for example. But I don’t believe gravel aids anything except making a proper mixture for concrete. In a pinch, you could make a pretty fair house foundation with these super grain bars.
For those who haven’t tried a super grain bar, I believe you could approximate the experience with a 50/50 mixture of unshelled pistachios and buckshot.
Run, take cover, for the scariest reason,
We’re under assault from the meanest season.
One day we freeze, the next we swelter.
God help us, it’s spring, gimme shelter!
Happy first day of spring! Can I join you in your bomb shelter? Seriously, I have no idea why spring has such a wonderful reputation. If you like tornados, severe thunderstorms, blizzards, and hail the size of cannon balls, then spring is your thing. If none of those suit you, wait till next week. Spring probably has a tsunami or volcano eruption up its sinister sleeve. Or maybe some good old-fashioned Biblical flaming hailstones.
Yet millions anticipate spring’s arrival as if she’s the Easter bunny, your fairy godmother, and the good witch of the north all wrapped into one. I say more like Attila the Hun, Hitler, and Jack the Ripper. She rips us almost daily with some of the foulest weather this side of Saturn. When she gives us a beautiful, soft, warm day, that’s what it usually is – one day. Then – WHACK! A vicious smack in the side of the head with a cold front, ice pellets, and fifty mile-an-hour winds.
My wife and I recently had an epiphany. No, we weren’t visited by three Wise Men, though I imagine that would be an enlightening experience. A shadowy menace that had been sneaking around suddenly smacked us squarely in the face, and we knew we had more to deal with than the twilight years and Medicare. As we gingerly weaved about the basement paraphernalia one day, we realized that forty-plus years of marriage and twenty-five years of living in the same house had transformed us into hoarders. We were precariously close to having a reality show on A&E.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that we had not only voluminous stacks of bric-a-brac, but every useless piece of flotsam, jetsam, and then some, we had ever come upon. We shelved and stored this load of junk as if every piece was a national treasure, and our home was a branch office of the Smithsonian Institution. But we had actually created our own private landfill.
Joe-Pourri is ready to rock you with the latest news that we see fit, so pull up a digital chair and sip on our latest slushee of news and views sure to confuse.
Today, February 29th, is Leap Day. Leap Day is the extra day inserted into the year to keep our calendar from getting out of whack with the seasons. Without Leap Day, Christmas and Groundhog Day would soon be crashing into each other. And I really don’t think Santa and Punxsutawney Phil are compatible.
The trouble started soon after the Big Bang, when the planets didn’t get into their correct orbits around the sun. Pesky Venus was its usual pushy self, shoving its way past Earth so it would be second instead of third. This caused orbital perturbations of such magnitude that Earth’s year was no longer an even multiple of its day. What a pain! (For more on this spacey topic, pre-order your personal copy of “Joe’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, and Other Fairy Tales.”)
These solar system shenanigans meant that at the end of a year, there was some day left over that no one knew what to do with. Julius Caesar solved this enigma in 45 BC, by realizing he could keep the partial day in his pocket each year until he had saved one complete day. He could then insert it into the new calendar he had invented, which he somewhat self-centeredly called the Julian Calendar. This was right after he had invented Caesar salad.
In the latest Joe Zone Startling Science News, high-ranking physics aficionados announced last week that gravitational waves had been detected in Washington and Louisiana. Why the waves chose to reveal themselves there is unclear. Some senior astrophysicists speculate that the waves may have come to Louisiana for Mardi Gras. Others wonder if the fierce El Nino Pacific storms may have washed the waves onto the Washington shoreline. Sounds right to me.
Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time, which can be caused by black holes and undamped Kardashian derriere tremors. In this case, binary black holes that collided 1.3 billion light-years away from Earth were responsible. Twin LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) detectors, uh – detected them. (Well, what else would detectors do? I mean, if a detector can’t detect, what good is it?)
The Joe Zone Bureau of Science (JZ-BS) is all over this. Once again, the JZ-BS has contracted the services (and possibly the flu) of Dr. Miso Kooku, World Authority on Cosmic Knowledge and Ostentatiousness (WACKO). In the following interview, Dr. Kooku commented exclusively for our cameras (which are “audio only”).
JZ: Welcome, Dr. Kooku. Can you explain what gravitational waves are?
“Who would you like to be?” the Angel of God asked. She flipped through the bubble gum cards of available identities. “I’ve got Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonas Salk, Fred Fricklenitz, Donald Trump, Donald Duck, Buck Rogers, Kenny Rogers, Roy Rogers, Rogers Hornsby, Father Mike O’Reilly, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Bailey, George Bailey, Prince William, Prince Albert, Prince, or a dachshund that I prognosticate will have a life filled with doggie treats.” Her radiance made it difficult to see the photos on the cards. “Oh, wait a minute, there’s another card stuck to the back of the dachshund card. Ah – it’s Joe Potts.”
“Ooooooo – that Joe Potts guy sounds pretty interesting. Yeah, I’ll be him.”
“That’s funny – most people pick Fred Fricklenitz.”
Joe-Pourri is ready to ramble again. Whenever big news breaks, or when we feel like it, Joe-Pourri will sputter and flutter down the internet runway, to bring you the latest on what may or may not actually be happening – just like the major news sources. Let’s get started!
Fortunately, that’s all we have time for today, as Joe’s cats say it’s time for a group nap, and the hands on the JZ digital clock agree. Join us next time for all the news we think you can use. Remember our Joe-Pourri news motto: A half-truth is twice as good as a quarter-truth.
The Joe Zone is pleased as all poppycock to present the inaugural Joe-Pourri of 2016, and the tenth or eleventh in the series, depending on whether you use Common Core math. And they said it couldn’t last. Actually, they said it shouldn’t last. They said, please, no, anything but that! But when the news-scape is a vast and nasty veracity-starved wasteland, then Joe-Pourri is poised to step in through the straits of straight-scoop and lay the poop on you. Figuratively speaking.
Once again the hands on the digital clock show it’s nap time in the Joe Zone, so join us next time when Joe-Pourri takes a look at the news in alternate universes, where we’re hoping things are going better.
Inside Scoop from Joe: An earlier version of this story appeared in December 2013, and a slightly modified version previously appeared in a magazine. But this is my favorite incarnation of one of my favorite reminiscences. Merry Christmas from the Joe Zone to your zone!
Christmas memories capture some of the most cherished moments of our childhood. We remember warm family gatherings, presents that delighted us, church services celebrating the Infant’s birth. Sometimes, however, our memories include grim tableaus seared into our brains by events gone horribly awry. These recollections are the exclamation points rising above the landscape of periods; they are cymbal clashes in the lush, hushed strings of the soundtrack of our youth. For me, one of the harshest, most discordant cacophonies of my childhood was the night the Christmas tree fell.
The evening began as a scene that Norman Rockwell might well have painted. My father had come home from work in a holiday mood, bolstered by a wonderful hot meal prepared by my mother. Middle-class meatloaf at a family table before Christmas can surpass filet mignon in satisfying hunger and strengthening spirit. Cups of steaming tea for my parents, bittersweet hot chocolate for us kids, helped us forget the December winds blustering outside.
Christmas was my mother’s favorite time of year, and I could see the joy of the season in her eyes. The magic day was right around the corner, and my two sisters and I were working ourselves into a frenzy of Yuletide anticipation. Ornaments! Lights! Presents! No school!
My father had set up the Christmas tree several days prior. The unmistakable aroma of needles and sap permeated the house, promising Christmas as surely as the falling temperatures. Most of the decorating was completed – big red, green, and blue bulbs, glass balls, crocheted trinkets, strings of icicles. Full and plump as a Christmas turkey, the tree stood majestically in the corner of the living room, the black Lionel locomotive chugging around its base. The towering pinnacle of the spruce almost touched the ceiling. Magnificent it was, but just as the newly-christened Titanic had an appointment with an iceberg, so our tree had booked a reservation with doom.
After dinner, all that remained was to place the angel on the treetop, a maneuver requiring some agility and delicacy. As Dad confidently placed the stepladder beside the tree, my sisters and I knew he was the man for the job. My mother, still wearing her jingle bell and reindeer Christmas apron, had us join hands, and we became my father’s personal cheering section.
Angel in hand, he embarked on his climb with the determination of Sir Edmund Hillary ascending Everest, except Dad didn’t need a Sherpa. One slow, careful step after another, the wooden ladder steps creaking with age, brought him to the peak.
With a bold stroke that would have made Sir Edmund proud, Dad rammed the angel onto the protruding branch at the tree’s summit. I looked at my sisters and gave them a knowing wink, as they nodded in approval – we knew that angel was there for the duration. My father’s face shone with the satisfaction of a manly task accomplished. He was once again the conquering provider for his family.
As Dad descended the ladder, fate intruded in a way none of us could have imagined: his foot became entangled in the string of tree lights. The wire had furtively wrapped around his leg, with the malevolent cruelty that can only be exhibited by inanimate objects. Reaching the lowest step, his leg stretched the wire taut, causing tension on the tree. My father then lost his balance, a victim to the evil wire’s plot, and began to fall backwards. We watched in horror as the tree tipped over, being pulled by my unsuspecting father. It followed him down as faithfully as Santa’s sleigh had ever followed Rudolph. As the tree made its long descent into family folklore, time slowed, as it often does when cataclysmic events visit the innocent. Four shocked faces were frozen in disbelief as the tree came down, silent at first, then culminating in a thundering CRASH tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle… Moments before, a splendid spruce had stood in giddy holiday regalia. Now there lay a pile of green rubble with an occasional ornament and parental limb sticking out. The formerly festive living room looked as if someone had decorated a horrific holiday crash scene.
Our Norman Rockwell night was ending as Norman Bates. It was as if Frank Capra had turned over the director’s reins to Alfred Hitchcock. But the angel was still doggedly clinging to the top of the tree, bless her heavenly heart. Eerie silence ensued for what seemed like enough time for the Magi to cross the Sahara. I thought we were surely going to get an answer to the question: if a Christmas tree falls in the living room, and the family is stunned out of their skivvies, does anyone hear it?
Then my mother moved more quickly than I had ever seen her, rushing to the wreckage and shrieking, “Joe! Joe! Are you all right? Can you get up?” She tore at the limbs and icicles and ornaments, finally revealing my father’s face. He looked dazed, as if he was wondering why he was lying on the floor looking at the ceiling. But at least he appeared to be conscious. We waited for the epithet sure to come from his lips. Could any kid within earshot not suffer permanent hearing loss, seared eyebrows, and emotional trauma? My father then slowly stirred, groaning like the wind against the shutters outside, but less coherently. Suddenly, he sprang up, seemingly unfazed, and with a merry laugh and a twinkle in his eyes, exclaimed, “Ho, ho, ho! That certainly was a holly jolly trick on me!” Sort of. At least, that’s what he’ll say when the Disney movie is made. Memories, of course, often soften with time. I’m sure he was a bit more emphatic, and may have said something to convey “Christmas! Bah, humbug!” But with more salt and vinegar than Dickens ever placed in Scrooge’s mouth.
My father managed to resurrect the tree from its ashes, like a Phoenix from the fire, or, more accurately, a Yuletide zombie from its grave. Dad had suffered only a few scrapes and scratches, the tree a bent limb and some broken glass ornaments (which my mother greatly rued). But the Christmas spirit lived on, Santa still came, and we celebrated the holy miracle of December the twenty-fifth. Life went on.
Many Christmas memories were forged after that fateful season. My mother’s love for the holiday continued to grow with each passing year. My father brought home a fresh tree and erected it in our living room without fail. But never again, for the remainder of my childhood, did I see a stepladder in the same room with our Christmas tree.
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