in reply to elated frustration

You mean from something like: my $date = `date`;? Have a look at

perldoc -f localtime
perldoc -f gmtime
perldoc POSIX
  and look for "strftime"
One handy trick to remember is to always put some delimiters around a variable in a test print:
print "\$var: >$var<\n";
They would make the newline at the end apparent. What delimiters to use depends on the expected value of course.