World War One, Patriotic Poster 'Victory-Daylight-Savings'. American 1917. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Spring Forward, Fall Back, and Do the Hokey Pokey

To miss a train or business deal,
Because our clocks are without keel
Can cause a nation loss of gold
E’en worse than all the misers hold.

— 1942 letter to Time magazine urging a national daylight savings time


One of the few undeniable benefits of living in the digital era is not having to walk through your home, manually turning back or twisting forward by an hour all of your clocks and watches. Smartphones, computers and even DVRs automatically align with society’s circadian rhythm , as dictated by the nation’s Daylight Savings Time law.

Yes, it’s a law, signed in 1964 by Lyndon Johnson.

But we’ve been screwing with clocks long before then. Sunday morning will mark exactly the 100th time the U.S. has either sprung forward or fallen back. Indeed, we’ve been doing it for so long we’ve forgotten why we did it in the first place — or why we continue to do it.

Daylight savings was initially a wartime maneuver. Germany was the first country to implement it, calculating that the Weimer Republic would save thousands in electricity costs by maximizing daylight hours. Turns out, despite schoolyard legend, that it wasn’t because of stupid farmers.

In fact, farmers hated the change. It meant that, for half a year, they had to get up earlier to bring milk and harvested crops to market. Hollywood hated it, too, reasoning that people were less likely to go into a darkened theater while the sun was shining.

But Uncle Sam would have none of it. If Germany could figure out a military advantage using only a pocket watch, surely we could too. And it didn’t hurt that some institutions — like Major League Baseball, which had not yet invented stadium lighting — tacitly lobbied Congress to institute the shift.

Never mind the grim statistics that come as surely as a beach tide during daylight savings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that accidents spike fractionally twice a year — the weekend and first week of daylight savings — due to fatigue and drowsy driving.


And there’s no evidence supporting an energy savings. When Indiana adopted the law (you can opt out as a state, though only Arizona and Hawaii have done so), electricity use actually rose 1%. Small, but with a population of 6.5 million, significant.

Still, don’t expect anything resembling change. After all, this is a Congress that still supports an electoral college, though I challenge a single lawmaker to explain why it still exists.

So for now, we’ll just have to get used to it. And, as a public service, remember to adjust your clocks at 2 a.m. Sunday. Remember, it’s the law.

Speaking of which, how about at least an amendment to the bill? Instead of messing with the time-space continuum at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, why not have spring’s leap forward at 4 p.m. Friday? And its  fall backward at 9 a.m. Monday? You know, so we can at least spend a couple hours less in a cubicle.

That would at least keep us clearer-headed on Tuesday’s election day.

Speaking of which (encore); ever wonder why our presidential elections are held on a Tuesday? Congress chose the day because voting booths were once rare and separated by hundreds of miles. Many voters had to spend Monday simply traveling to make it to the polls in time. And we’ve never modernized.

Stupid farmers.

'Daylight Savings Time claims another victim.'

‘Daylight Savings Time claims another victim.’





Send out the Clowns


I’ve never really had an issue with clowns.

Krusty is one of my favorite Simpsons characters.

The Joker is my favorite villain from the realm of superheroes (I even have a Halloween mask from The Dark Knight). knight-clown

As a boy, I was one of Bozo‘s faithful TV servants (along with Bozo’s magician sidekick, Marshall Brodien, whose products I would consume like a meth addict). I once wrote the show requesting tickets, only to be told there was a two-year waiting list.


I couldn’t wait two years. I had to go to college.

But I knew clown aversion was real. My ex brother-in-law was so creeped out by them he would visibly shiver if you brought up the issue.

Still, I had no idea how pervasive it was until I began reading about the “creepy clown” craze sweeping the nation. Apparently, dressing up like a clown and trying to freak out children (and the childlike) has become a thing.

According to the New York Times, more than a dozen people have been arrested for clowning. Children in Ohio and Texas have been charged with making clown-related threats to school classmates. A New York City teen told police a clown threatened him with a knife in the subway. In Wisconsin, a couple was arrested after police discovered they’d left their 4-year-old child home alone while they went clowning. A Seattle-area high school was shut down after  some students reported seeing costumed figures in the woods.

But the prize goes to Mississippi, which reacted as if evolution were being taught in its classrooms. Supervisors in Kemper County passed a bill that bans people from wearing any clown costume, mask or makeup in public. The local law carries a $150 penalty, and it will be lifted Nov. 1.

You know, after Satan’s favorite holiday.

Which raises a few questions. What is the criminal charge for circus wear? Do they have to wear said getup in a police lineup? Does Ronald McDonald have to turn himself in to Mayor McCheese?ronald-and-mayor

If you fear being a victim of clownism, there’s reason for hope. Halloween is just around the corner, and the shelf life of fads in the social media time-space continuum can be measured with a stopwatch, not a calendar.

Unless, of course, we find lurking in our woods the most frightening of the orange-haired menaces.












Making the Wrong Side of the Bed


There’s an idiom in contemporary politics that goes, approximately, like this: Republicans wake up angry; Democrats wake up sad.

It would seem an inescapable truism, particularly given the rancor that freights this presidential campaign. While it will go largely unnoticed, Mike Pence did something extraordinary Sunday: He promised the nation that his party would peacefully accept the results of the election.

Think about that. Simply as principle, Democracy relies on an assumption that those involved understand the rules of engagement. Rules that weren’t in question say, during the presidential primaries, which were similarly rife with vitriol.

But in watching Pence, I realized that some Republicans must be waking up sad, too.  They also see where this path inevitably leads: To self-cannibalization.

Michael "Mike" Pence, governor of Indiana, pauses during an interview in New York, U.S., on Thursday, May 16, 2013. The largest-ever U.S. municipal junk bond sale remains in limbo after Indiana learned that a Pakistani company backing a fertilizer plant financed by the biggest borrowing in state history is linked to explosives causing the most U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Consider: In 2009, the Tea Party was borne of Republican worry that a newly-elected Barack Obama would usher a Caligula-like era Washington, reeking of liberalism and federal handouts. The party concocted a 10-point Contract from America (not “with,” interestingly). It called for, among other things, that Obamacare be repealed and that all new laws “identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress” authority to pass new laws.

Alas, the Supreme Court nixed the first provision and voters the second. In response to the non-response, the GOP drifted further right and began to consider Karl Rove’s parting advice to colleagues: expand the base by including more outliers — voters who would normally drift toward fringe candidates.

Thus the birth of Sarah Palin, the least-qualified professional since Marlon Brando whimsically hired a NYC cab driver as his agent (true story).


And now Trump, who makes Palin look MENSA cerebral. Trump has already put the GOP on notice that they will pay just as dearly as Democrats for angering him. Paul Ryan — a founding father of the Tea Party — has been particularly pilloried for non-neo-support. His political career (let alone his hold as House Speaker) is as clear as puddle water.

The pit bull has turned on its dog-fighting owner. Unshackled, if you will.

But Pence’s jaw-dropper followed another: Michelle Obama’s speech days earlier concerning the state of politics, specifically the NC-17 turn it’s taken. While she has traditionally eschewed stumping (she was opposed to her husband’s decision to run for president in 2008), she may have struck an apolitical nerve. One that prompts political action.

There’s a reason the crowd erupted at “enough is enough.”

That’s the tricky thing about energizing bases. You never know their mood when they finally wake up.