Saturday, March 2, 2013

Inside the Name of The Joe

In my last post, I brought up the possibility that in the near future I would explain the alias appearing in my blog title. Since I'm not feeling overly serious today, I just as well follow through on this threat. Before I get to that, I have another blog-naming issue to address, brought forward by  Dr. John Hutchinson:

I won't get into details about the URL name, but I will address it for the sake of those interested. Using Effigia for the blog URL is a dedication to the person who inspires me to put my best foot forward and is the real driving force behind this blog and my pursuit of dinosaur knowledge. I appreciate the irony that Effigia is a rauisuchian, but the origin of my interest in the creature isn't a story that will ever be published.

Adding my own picture of Effigia sounds like a fun idea. I've always liked drawing, and this would afford me the opportunity to delve into paleo art. Thanks to the writing of Dr. Thomas Holtz in a book I previously discussed, I have a nice overview of the process and feel comfortable giving it a try. (Props to Luis V. Rey for his contributions to that book as well.) When I complete the project, I'll write a post about Effigia to accompany the picture. Based on my history, this could be anywhere from next week to 2023. (I'm leaning toward sooner over later, but I get distracted easily.)

Before I move on to the main subject, I think this is a good time to mention that I really enjoy answering questions and addressing ideas when I write. If any of my readers have a suggestion or query they feel would be relevant and/or interesting, I would love to hear it. I am generally an open book and reader feedback gives my writing a more conversational feel. (It's also a great source of blog ideas that I don't have to come up with.)

Now that we're past the prologue, I can imagine my nickname has inspired some level of curiosity in most of my audience. It's quite a story, and the hardest part for me is trying to find a good beginning. As strange as this may sound, the narrative will revolve pretty heavily around the TV show Firefly. (This will make a world of sense later.)

I suppose things really start with an interview Nathan Fillion did for Entertainment Weekly in February of 2011 upon the announcement that Science Channel had acquired broadcast rights for Firefly(Article: Ironically, I had not seen any episodes of the show prior to the interview, but I became an instant fan after viewing all 14 of them. (I was fairly certain of this outcome, as I had seen the movie Serenity a number of times. Heck, I already owned it on blu-ray.) Comments Fillion made about purchasing the show spurred a fan movement to help him bring it back. This grew into another, more worthy cause.

Back in 2008, Fillion co-founded Kids Need to Read along with PJ Haarsma and Denise Gary(KNTR: Their mission was pretty straightforward: provide schools and public libraries with quality books to promote literacy and creative thinking in children. (I strongly suggest visiting their website. It's a great foundation, and Denise is super cool.)

When the fan movement, cleverly named "Help Nathan Buy Firefly", began to succumb to the reality of their futility, they diverted their energy to helping KNTR. If they couldn't bring back Nathan's show, they could still contribute to something he loves. This led to a remarkably successful charity drive that I had some involvement in promoting.

I made this poster for the KNTR book/fund drive. I take pride in knowing I've helped such a wonderful organization.

While my involvement in the Firefly cause was primarily observational, I am grateful that I had come along for the ride. I hoped they could succeed, but I knew in my heart that it was a fool's errand. As the immortal Jayne Cobb said, "If wishes were horses, we'd all be eating steak." (We'll ride on past the discussion of horse as a viable meat source. I won't eat it, but you can if you like.) If not for this lost cause, I would still be in the dark about a great foundation in Kids Need to Read and the wonderful people that work there. (I also have a lot of cool autographed memorabilia from their holiday auction in 2011.)

The Wil Wheaton-signed Wesley Crusher plate I bought from KNTR. My favorite item is the Star Trek graphic novel signed by Leonard Nimoy, but it's unavailable for photographing.

When all of this was first starting, KNTR had a regular Facebook profile rather than an organizational page. I added them as a friend to follow along with their endeavors. Some time after the fundraiser, they were notified that their profile was a violation of the terms of use and they needed to start a page. (Turns out profiles are only for people. Facebook is surprisingly strict.) The administrators gave notice to all of their Facebook friends and started the first Kids Need to Read fan page.

You might not believe this, but I'm not always a very serious person. I became one of the first "Likes" on the new page and immediately became the first to write on their wall with something that sadly no longer exists: "Bam! My name is Joe, and I approve this page." (They discovered soon after that they could export their profile friends as "Likes" to a page and deleted this original incarnation. I also wrote my message on the new wall.)

The comments on my post were priceless. Since they are no longer accessible, I can only do my best to paraphrase from memory. The first questioned the validity of my saying "Bam!", pointing out that it was "the lady" who originally said it. Little did that person know, they were creating a bit of a monster. Someone from KNTR, Denise I believe, replied, "Maybe it should be Bam says the Joe!" I took an instant liking to this moniker, because it's catchy and is the first I've been pegged with that has any sense of originality. I updated my Facebook profile to reflect the change, and I've used the nickname on some level ever since.

My going-away mug from my first duty station in England depicting a nickname I had acquired there. The underlying quote is a story for another day.

Over my life thus far, nearly 30 years and counting, my name has seen an irregular and fascinating  progression. My birth name is Joseph Ryan Hancock, and it seemed to work fine until I was 12. (My dad calls me JR on occasion, but that's a father/son thing.) For some reason, my teachers that year took to shortening my first name. This made sense so I went with it. The moment I knew I would never be known as Joseph again was when I got my first report card the next year. Every other card had my given name written on it, but this one called me Joe.

From there, I've been called several things that worked with the name but nothing that stuck. (This is how I was briefly tagged with Joe Dirt.) I picked up the nickname G.I. Joe on two separate occasions, but one of my favorites came during Air Force basic training. My primary training instructor took to calling me Cock, and I was drawn to the unique nature and surprising accuracy. (I can be one on occasion, but I do my best to play nicely.)

Even though a lot of people have given me a lot of names over the years, I've always come back to being known as Joe. Since getting a Ph.D. is more of a long-term goal, being known as Dr. Joe will have to wait. Until then, I'll settle for The Joe whenever I'm in formal company.

Notes: A couple of potential future topics: science communication, the clash between science and religion. Also, I'm 28% through Written in Stone by Brian Switek with a review of the Kindle version forthcoming.  Any thoughts on these would be greatly appreciated. 

Twitter handles: Nathan Fillion - @NathanFillion, Kids Need to Read - @kidsneedtoread, Wil Wheaton - @wilw, Leonard Nimoy - @TheRealNimoy, PJ Haarsma - @PJhaarsma

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