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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!
Against my better judgment, I recently endured watching a self-serving celebrity award show. The people receiving the awards were mostly unremarkable, except for one big fat talent. In other words, I’m just like them, except for the talent part. And I’ll wager – although I usually frown on such things – that you probably have a talent that just hasn’t propelled you yet to stardom. Well, no one said life is fair.
After hearing the pompous acceptance speeches, I thought it would be an enriching experience to create one of my own, sans pomp. I suggest you write one as well. It just might be the pick-me-up you need. Crafting the speech will give you an opportunity to focus on your strengths and admirable qualities. In my case, I had to pretend a bit. That’s OK, though. You can pretend too, if you want. In fact, being well-versed in psychology (I’m not really, but see how I’m getting into the pretending thing?), I would say the things you choose to pretend you’re good at are likely the ones you are good at.
Like, say, shot-putting. I’m good at that. No, that’s a bad example, since I’ve never actually done it. And I’m not sure that it isn’t putting-shot instead of shot-putting. Come to think of it, you more or less throw the thing instead of putting it somewhere. I suppose when the track and field meet is over, the crew puts the shots or shot balls, or whatever they are, somewhere. But that’s not the part you get medals for. In fact, at this particular juncture, I think it’s best we just move on. See how good I am at this? Surely there’s an award for me right around the corner, probably lurking among the discarded shot balls.
The Pittsburgh Steelers got their season off to a whiz-bang start Sunday. Of course, that inevitably brought to mind William Shakespeare.
I was flabbergasted a while back when I discovered that William Shakespeare was the first player ever drafted by the Steelers. I stumbled across this by accident. Historically, the best discoveries are made through accidental stumbles rather than intentional ones – just ask Columbus, Cook, Magellan, etc. For that matter, ask Popeye. I believe he discovered the amazing properties of spinach because he was desperately trying to avoid eating lima beans, as all rational people do. At least, I’d like to think that’s how it happened, and that’s the only proof needed in today’s climate. Now, there’s climate change.
William Valentine Shakespeare was a football star at Notre Dame in the 1930’s. This particular Shakespeare was not the Bard of Avon, but was called the Bard of Staten Island (where he was raised) and the Bard of South Bend (where he was praised). He was also called the Merchant of Menace. I don’t know if he ever wondered, “What’s in a name?” but he claimed to be a direct descendant of the Master of the English language. Ironically, he flunked his sophomore English class. Well, following in Will’s footsteps must have been a lot of pressure.
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.
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).
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