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Stories Archives for 2018-02

Will It Never End?



It’s hard for old timers like me to live in a world whose technology is constantly changing.  No sooner do I learn to use a cell telephone than a new model is introduced which is much more complicated.  So, I am in a constant state of learning then unlearning then trying to learn something else.  The experts say that old folk resist change, but one must at least attempt to live somewhat in modern society.
A good example of this is a simple magazine.  I received a copy of a popular magazine today, one that I never ordered or paid for, and discovered something interesting.  When I placed the magazine on the table it had a nice looking cover. When I picked it up later to thumb through it, the cover was entirely different.  I did a double take – had I picked up the wrong magazine?  Closer examination showed that this issue was half on one side, and the other half just the opposite.  Now, why would they issue a magazine that one has to flip over to read?  That just further confuses us old folk.
I have also noted that the latest generation is abandoning words and phrases that have weathered the test of time.  It gets confusing when tried and true words are no longer in use.
One example is the word “died”.  We used to say that someone died.  Now almost everyone uses the word “passed” instead.  Perhaps the word “died” has such finality attached that it seems more polite to use the word “passed”, as if they passed over the river Jordan into another realm.
Another word that has fallen victim to the new generation is “vacation”.  People have been taking vacations for many years.  Now the word for that activity is “vacay”.  Imagine hearing your spouse say, “I so need a vacay.”  You reply, “Tell me what that is and I’ll see if Dollar General has any.”
This new word is really confusing.  It is “hash tag”.  I understand it is used with the social medium “Twitter”.  What used to be the “numbers” sign to my generation, and then became the “pound key” on a telephone dial has now morphed into a part of an address to “twitter someone”.  Just dial “hash tag/flatfeet” for your podiatrist.
In my time, and until very recently, when introducing a speaker we would ask the audience to “give them a hand”.  Or after a performance we would clap loudly our approval thus “giving them a hand”.   Now that has been replaced by “give it up for”.  Mostly on television I hear program MCs telling the audience to “give it up for (insert favorite singing group)”.  I am not sure just what one is giving up to clap approval.
Note how often you will hear a government official on TV make this statement “an overabundance of caution” was used in this situation.  They usually use that new term when the officials have made a colossal error and are trying to smooth the waters of criticism.  What they mean is “we were just so careful and ambitious that we screwed up, but you should not hold us accountable.”
I am hearing this phrase more and more today – “it is what it is”.  When a reporter interviews the loser of some event he/she will sometimes make the statement “well, it is what it is”.  That phrase explains nothing and just states the obvious, so why is it so popular today?
I’ll end this article with the last popular phrase heard today which is “at the end of the day.”  Talking heads and pundits on television news programs are fond of that statement.  I am not sure even they know for sure what it means, and that may be why politicians use it.  They are fond of any statement that sounds good but does not mean anything at the end of the day.
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657 words


Are Clowns Scary?



I read some disturbing news the other day.  I read that several recent national surveys reveal that clown performers now scare children more that they entertain them.  I was shocked at this revelation.
The people who are supposed to like clowns, children, apparently don’t.  In 2008 a widely reported University of Sheffield, England survey of 250 children between the ages of four and 16 found that most of them disliked and even feared images of clowns.  A child psychologist declared of the survey, “Very few children like clowns.  They are unfamiliar and come from a different era.  They don’t look funny; they just look odd to the kids.”  Could this be true?
If you do a little research on the matter you will find a web site entitled “” dedicated to clown haters.  One “I Hate Clowns” Face Book page has just under 480,000 “likes”, so there must be a lot of people out there who dislike these makeup-clad entertainers.  If fact, there is now a word for the excessive fear of clowns: Coulrophobia.
Clowns, as pranksters, jesters, jokers, harlequins, and mythologized tricksters have been around for ages, at least from around 2500 B.C.  In the United States, clowns have primarily been associated with the circus.  He was a comic performer who employed slapstick or similar types of physical humor, often in a mime style.
The most recognizable clowns are those that commonly wear outlandish costumes featuring distinctive makeup, colorful wigs, exaggerated footwear, and colorful clothing.  Their entertainment style is generally designed to entertain large audiences, especially at a distance.
The comedy that clowns perform is usually in the role of a fool whose everyday actions and tasks become extraordinary – and for whom the ridiculous becomes ordinary.
The first mainstream clown role was portrayed by Joseph Grimaldi in the early 1800s.  He was the first to create and use the traditional whiteface make-up design with red paint to emphasize his mouth and nose, with black to expand his eyebrows.  Grimaldi became so dominant on the London comic stage that clowns became known as “Joey”, and both the nickname and the whiteface make-up design were, and still are, used by other types of clowns.
America’s first great white-faced clown was stage-star George Fox.  Following English Joseph Grimaldi, Fox popularized the Humpty Dumpty stories throughout the land in the first half of the 19th century in America.  American sociologist, Peter Berger, wrote that “It seems plausible that folly and fools, like religion and magic, meet some deeply rooted needs in human society. For this reason, clowning is often considered an important part of training as a physical performance discipline, partly because tricky subject matter can be dealt with, but also because it requires a high level of risk and play in the performer.”
The most prevalent character clown in the American circus was the hobo, tramp, or bum, all played so well by Emmett Kelly, Red Skelton, and a host of others.
So, the question remains – why have clowns fallen into disfavor with not only children but many adults as well?  Most clowns aren’t trying to be odd. They’re trying to be silly and sweet, fun personified.  When did clowns become so dark and scary?  The answer could be that in today’s dangerous society, parents have taught their youngsters to be wary of people who they don’t know, and who look “scary” to them.  Or, perhaps, watching a clown perform requires people to look up and abandon their hand-held computers with “face book” or “twitter” for a while, and fear they might miss an important tweet or message.  To them, watching a clown is just not that important a deal. Personally, I hate to see them go.  I think that from time to time, all of us have played the clown part unintentionally at least once, and we can sympathize with them.
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644 words


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