Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Day 365

     That’s today, Gentle Reader: the 30th day of December in this Year of Our Lord 2020 – and who’d like to bet that the Redeemer wouldn’t want his name attached to a year this bad? For all we know, He might be litigating the matter as we speak. But I digress.

     At the end of today we’ll have lived through a conventional calendar year. But 2020 is / was a “leap year,” in which a day is added to the calendar to correct for “sidereal drift:” the slow but steady separation of the calendar date from the sidereal reality. For the period of the Earth’s revolution around the Sun isn’t 365 days exactly; it’s about 365.24 days. That, as Pope Gregory XIII determined in 1582, means we need a “leap day” in our calendars to keep roughly in step with our planet’s position relative to the Sun. Otherwise, the seasons would slowly drift away from the meteorological conditions we expect from them.

     Think that’s unimportant? Umberto Eco would disagree. He founded a magnificent conspiracy novel on the ten day “October leap” – from 4 October 1582 directly to 15 October 1582 – that Pope Gregory decreed to get Christendom in step with the new calendar. (The book takes patience and endurance to read, but it rewards those qualities handsomely at the conclusion.) And yes, further minute adjustments must be made to bring our calendars as close as possible to the sidereal reality: the omission of leap day in years divisible by 100, except for those that are also divisible by 400. But that’s technicata of little interest to the typical Gentle Reader.

     Anyway, you’ve suffered through 365 days of this awful, horrible, no good, rotten, very bad year. You’re entitled to a little relief from its many trying vicissitudes. Herewith, the best your Curmudgeon can do at this early hour.

1. Errare Humanum Est.

     Some years ago, a midwestern newspaper editor became so disgusted with the frequency of errors in his publication that he resolved to produce a single article that would be printed completely free of errors. So he sat down and wrote an article about – you guessed it! – the problem of eliminating errors from published material.

     The article came to about 600 words, which he proofread several times, each time seining out one or more typos. He then handed it to his wife, who found several more errors. Not to be thwarted in his quest for perfection, he brought the article to an assistant editor, who found three more errors. Finally, the three of them agreed that the article was error-free, and the editor sent it to the printer for inclusion in the next edition.

     The paper was produced in a three-column format, which was popular at the time. So the printers’ editor formatted the article into three columns of roughly 200 words each, and sent the result to the linotypists.

     When the article appeared in the next day’s paper, it developed that linotypists had “pasted up” the article’s third 200-word segment between the first and second ones. Other than that...!

     True story, friends.

2. What’s In a Name?

     One day in the Fifties, a strikingly handsome young man walked into the office of a Hollywood Agent with his resume and portfolio in hand. The agent reviewed the young man's slim resume and small portfolio with the care that was deserving of this fine young specimen.

     "You have obvious good looks and the excellent demeanor of an actor. Tell me, have you had any roles that I might be aware of?"

     "Other than the requisite high school and college plays, no sir," said the handsome young man.

     "I dare say I know the reason why, with a name like yours," said the agent.


     "Your name. Penis Van Lesbian. That's not a name that will go far in Hollywood. I'd love to represent you, but you'll have to change your name."

     "Sir," the handsome young man protested. "The Van Lesbian name was my father's, my grandfather's and his father's name. We have carried this name for generations and I will not change it for Hollywood or any other reason."

     "Young man, if you won't change your name, I cannot represent you."

     "Then I bid you farewell, for my name will not change." With that, Penis Van Lesbian left the agent's office, never to return.

     Five Years Later... The Hollywood agent returned to his office after lunch with some Producers and shuffled through his mail. It was mostly junk mail, trade journals and the like. There was one letter. He opened the envelope and removed the letter. As he unfolded the fine linen paper, a check dropped from the folds and onto his desk. It was for fifty thousand dollars! He read the letter:

Dear Sir:

     Several years ago, I entered your office determined to become an actor. You refused to represent me unless I changed my name. I objected, saying that my name had been carried for generations, and left your office. However, upon leaving, I chanced to reconsider my hastiness and, after considerable reflection, I decided to heed your advice and endeavored to change my name. Now I am a famous actor with many roles and am known to millions worldwide. Having achieved this fame and fortune, it is often that I think back to my meeting with you and your insistence that I change my name. I owe you a debt of gratitude, so please accept this check with my humble thanks, for it was your wise counsel which has brought me such wealth and fame.

Very Sincerely Yours,
Dick Van Dyke

     Not a true story, friends.

3. The Prime Directive.

     Many years ago – I forget exactly how many – someone who thinks far too much of my brilliance asked me how one goes about having an affair “safely.” She was much younger than I, and therefore not well acquainted with the disillusionments and betrayals that so-called “casual” sex can occasion. But she had her eye on a married man – no, not myself – and apparently he was in accord with her hormones and intentions.

     I tried to counsel her against her intended course, but her gonads were aflame and could not be denied. So, after a day’s thought, I came up with the following, which I emailed to her (from an anonymous account created on a library computer):

     The solution, if you’re unconcerned about your prospects in the afterlife and believe that your marriage can withstand an outside involvement, is obeying the Prime Directive of Adultery:

  • If you’re married, he must be married as well.
  • If you have a middle-class income and existence, then so must he.
  • If you have children, he must have children — preferably the same number and about the same ages.
  • If you must travel a considerable distance to your trysts, then he should have to do the same.

     …and so on. Adultery’s potential consequences for the two of you should be well matched. Any kind of asymmetry represents both a source of stress on the affair and a potential lever for one of you to use against the other.

     Never, ever assume that something that begins with wine and roses can’t possibly devolve to pistols at dawn. Always equalize the risks!

     (This is not an endorsement of adultery, which remains forbidden by the Sixth Commandment and is still against the law in many jurisdictions. Neither is it an offer to commit adultery, which can only be done by formal prospectus. Adultery’s risks include legal, spiritual, physiological, and emotional consequences, not all of which are completely understood. Side effects include increased expenses on clothes, shoes, and perfume, frequent trips to the salon, aggressive dieting, cosmetic surgery, and excessive gazing into the mirror. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. No spouses were harmed in the making of this feature. We are an Equal Opportunity Employer.)

     I never heard from her thereafter, so I can’t say how well she followed my rather tongue-in-cheek advice.

     That’s all for today, I think. There’s a fair amount of foofaurauw taking place at the Fortress just now, so expect me back tomorrow at the soonest. Until then, try to stay upbeat and enjoy Day 365 as much as possible. Remember Rachman’s Maxim:

“Everything is darkest just before it turns pitch black.”



AuricTech Shipyards said...

Regarding your first anecdote, I'm reminded of this short verse I encountered far too many years ago:

To err is human
But this you must learn:
Don't be human
On your tax return!

Col. B. Bunny said...

I divided 2021 by 100 and got 20.21. Does that mean next year will be a leap year? :-)

Historian said...

with regard to unfortunate names, if I recall correctly, one of the people at the facility department at The University was Richard Dickman. According to some sources, a ditch or dike worker might have the surname Dickman(n) Dikemann, Dykeman, etc. The name Van Dyke is similarly related. So it may be that Dick Van Dyke and Richard Dickman both had ancestors who worked or lived near a ditch or dike.


Francis W. Porretto said...

Thanks, Historian. Funny, all this time I thought the "van" particle in a Dutch-derived name meant the bearer had nobles in his lineage.