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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why more people are dying to become the oldest living person on earth.

He might look like Anthony Hopkins
"So where do you see yourself in 100 years?" Methuselah was asked in a job interview, or so the story goes.

"Oh, same old, same old." 

 Methuselah holds the record at age 969, according to the Bible. It is said that he didn't look a day over 900. He actually lived from Adam to Noah. But first people had to live longer or where would we be? With more than 7 billion people on earth, we gotta die sooner... or else.

 At this moment Jeralean Tally, born in 1899, is the world's oldest at 116. There are only four living who were born in the 1800s. Ages of record proportions are verified by the Gerontology Research Group which tracks such things.

Longest lived since the mid 1950s when verifiable records were tracked is Jeanne Calment, a chain-smoking French woman who made it to 122 years, 164 days. Take that Surgeon General. She probably liked snails too.

The average tenure for that title has slipped...  from one year to just seven months. For Gertrude Weaver who died last April, her reign was just four days. Fame is fickle. On the brighter side, with every death of the world's oldest, we all move one slot closer to the brass ring. Before her death, Weaver did acknowledge that she had completed her bucket list.

Biggest benefit by being the oldest person: No peer pressure.

Science tells us that a baby born today could reasonably live to age 150 because of all we now know. Question is, would anyone want to do that... especially if she were a Cub fan? And I do say she because it is the women who have the longevity edge, theorized because they have two X chromosomes--the second being like a back-up--and men only have one chance at it.

All of this is speculative, of course, but things such as war and famine and lack of potable water have a way of changing expectations. The Syrian civil war has dropped that country's life expectations from 79.5 years to 55.7 years.

Maybe Benjamin Button had the right idea. He died at 0 in poo poo pants after being born a shriveled-up old man. "Hey Ben, you look younger every time I see you."

The very long lived are called antediluvians.

After Methuselah's 969 came Noah who made it to 950. Adam was 930 and Seth was 912. Eve was up there in the 900s, so it is said, but she gets extra credit because she had 56 children--33 sons and 23 daughters--all of them after her 100th birthday. Talk about late in life babies... or not.

Humankind however are pikers. The world's oldest tree has lived almost five times longer than Methuselah and is still racking them up. It grows 13,000 feet up on California's White Mountains. At 4,768 years it has more rings than Zsa Zsa Gabor and Liz Taylor combined. Then feel sorry for Mormon founder Joseph Smith who had to buy 28 of them.

Will Rogers had a good plan for longevity:  "We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress."

And it is Rita Rudner who gives a hint as to why women live longer: "My grandmother was a very tough woman. She buried three husbands and two of them were just napping."

But it is George Carlin that has the best attitude: "So far, this is the oldest I've ever been."

At my last physical, the doctor said I'd live to 75. When I told him I already had, he said "See, I told you so."

Good luck on your journey but remember, it's not how long but how well. Be nice!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Elephant graveyards and lots of other interesting, totally unrelated stuff.

Believe it or not, this magnificent Elephants' Graveyard is a sand sculpture by Paul Hoggart and his wife Remy. And I thought I was good with a small plastic bucket and shovel when I made a snow cone on the beach.

This was not the couple's first attempt as you can imagine. They have traveled the world impressively creating beauty on beaches and everywhere there is sand. You must see more here.

I stumbled across something remarkably similar just last week... an old TV graveyard. That's my beauty on its side next to that snazzy mahogany model anyone would die for. My set weighed about 150 lbs and was so unbalanced that it took two strong men (one me, of course) to get it out of its 'safe place of honor' and into a Jeep 'hearse' to its final resting place.

Don't tell it but the replacement cost less, was bigger and better and weighed just 15 pounds.

Talking about change in time and technology (which I am), I recently read that 1); an unmanned commercial space craft 2); delivered 40,000 lbs of supplies to the 3); International Space Station. Upon its arrival, 4); a robotic arm operated by 5); an Italian 6); female 7); astronaut secured it and unloaded, among other vital items, 8); an espresso machine for a great shot of coffee.

Now you don't have to go back too far (like when television was just black and white and fuzzy ) before any of these things were only imagined in Popular Mechanics. The only difference is that everything evolves faster now and old time imagination is way, way out of date.

For Example: Technology now exists, say the Chinese, for a submarine to travel 6,100 miles underwater--from Shanghai to San Francisco--in an hour-and-40-minutes. The Russians have already developed a torpedo that traveled faster than 230 mph.

This is all because of a technology that creates a frictionless air 'bubble' around a vessel that allows it to 'fly' underwater, facilitating incredible speeds. Thinking outside the box that assumes engine thrust, this concept uses a special liquid that would be ejected from the nose of the vessel that would 'lubricate' it and reduce water friction to less than that of a plane flying through the air.

Impossible? Don't bet against it... or anything else that sounds too incredible. Be mindful, we are now accepting applications for those wishing to be on the first spaceship to habitate Mars. (The catch: it's a one-way trip. The brighter side: You won't have to change flights in Atlanta.)

Solar Impulse 2
A little slower than that: Two Swiss pioneers have a plane that can fly around the world totally on solar power. The single seat Solar Impulse 2 has 17,248 ultra efficient solar cells that transfer solar energy to four electrical motors that power the plane's four props. The cells also recharge four lithium polymer batteries to power the plane at night.

The Solar Impulse 2 is about the size of a mini van but has a wingspan similar to that of a Boeing 747. Its optimal flight speed is about 43 mph and can can fly as high as 37,000 feet.

All this and the Facebook too.  Despite all of our triumphs and ever evolving ways to help and harm humankind, recent studies have shown the internet may not make you smarter, but it will make you think you are. Tweet that!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

From Then to Now: A journey by a story teller who held the nation in his hands.


(A true story)

On the evening of October 30, 1938, radio listeners across the United States heard a startling report of a what was initially thought to be a meteor strike in the New Jersey countryside. With sirens blaring in the background, announcers in the field described mysterious creatures from outer space, terrifying war machines and thick clouds of poison gas moving toward New York City. As the invading force approached Manhatten, some listeners sat transfixed while others panicked and ran to alert neighbors or to call the police. Some even fled their homes flooding the roadways with cars and accidents.

All of this was reported by wire services and appeared in newspapers from coast to coast. There was only one hiccup. It was actually a radio program.

The next day, the Boston Globe's banner headline read: "Radio Play Terrifies Nation."

Orson Welles broadcasting
Yep, the play was a fake newscast... a tale spun by 24-year-old Orson Welles who, later in his remarkable career, was seen by many to be the greatest movie director of all time.

At this moment though, radio was the medium that made the most noise and Welles' Mercury Theater was one of its premier programs. There were no televisions or cell phones. Social media was limited to eavesdropping on the neighbors' party-line telephone conversations.

It was estimated that the radio drama was believed by more than a million people who didn't hear the disclaimer at the beginning of the program

Word spread from person to person and there was some sense of panic... but the reports that made the news turned out to be broad exaggerations with little basis in fact. Yet, the medium proved the message valid to many and Welles showed how to use its power. This, of course, was before Brian Williams was born.

Welles proved he knew how to move and motivate a listener. He showed it again with one of the top rated movies of all time, Citizen Kane.  And 30 years after his death, his unfinished last movie, The Other Side of the Wind will finally be produced for release this year, the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Rotten Tomatoes' list of the 250 greatest movies of all time, has Welles' Citizen Kane and his The Third Man as nos. 2 and 3, just behind The Wizard of Oz. If his new movie, 77 years after the radio broadcast, achieves as much, Welles would be the first to show such transcending breadth. 

An early radio
Today, from Star Wars to Avatar and beyond, special effects and new technology innovations have evolved and given us a pseudeo-sophistication. For those who have only seen a radio of that day in museums, radio was special in a way that anyone who hasn't had that original experience could never know. We have literally evolved our way past that emotion.

 Broadcast Hysteria by Brad Schwartz tells the story of Welles' radio play and "the art of fake news." But it's his conclusion that tells why early radio was the perfect medium for drama. Like a movie, it had all the scripting, actors, sounds and elements but the staging, costumes and visualizations powerfully play out in the mind.

Television, Schwartz says, demands visual depiction but radio captured its audience in a different way. "It's not so much that picturing the Martians in one's head makes them easier to believe, it is that people see the Martians they are ready to see."
Earlier radio broadcast
Radio was the true 'theater of the mind' and it was powerful.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Snow White wouldn't say who was her favorite... but who couldn't like Happy?


Who couldn't like Happy? Why can't we be more like him?

(Pay attention because in every Disney movie there is a lesson to be learned.)

Actually, happiness comes from the outside in. We are happy because we win the lottery or our team does well or our children get good grades or someone smiles at us or it is a nice day or we are loved. Happiness is a triggered emotion.

So why aren't we more happy more often?

Sadly, we live in a world where 24-hour news is the norm and happiness is not news. Bad weather, war, discord, murder, mayhem, car crashes, fire, politics,  Sofia Vergara's eggs and everything else that boosts TV and social network ratings... now that's news... and it is ever-present.

We now have 24/7 politics and nothing has divided us more. With our next general election more than a-year-and-a-half away, we already have seven announced-for-president candidates actively campaigning with more to come... and the closer we get to an actual election day, the more the campaigns will tell us why the other person is bad. We elect not on merit for one but out of disgust or political affiliation for the other. And when our candidates get elected their biggest focus is to seek re-election... as soon as possible. 

And we are nasty. We don't just disagree anymore, we get angry. We rant. We rave. We hate. We have lost any sense of win-win.

Just where would Snow White be today if her seven dwarfs acted like we do?

Pop Quiz: You know Happy. Bet you can't name the other six.

Well, Doc is obviously Snow White's senior adviser... the grizzled old sage that carries the lantern of truth.

Grumpy is the eternal pessimist who has been around the block and sees where danger lies. It lies everywhere when you have an Evil Queen who can turn herself into any number of bad characters. No doubt about that.

Sleepy is the group's adviser of boredom... like the canary in a coal mine. If Snow White sees Sleepy alert, something is dangerously wrong.

Bashful is Snow's comfort level gauge. If Bashful is uncomfortable, everyone should be uncomfortable for some good reason. Bashful and Sleepy work in the same office.

Sneezy isn't allergic to pollen but his nose is at once alert if there is a bad apple in the bunch.

Dopey is the comic relief that every group needs. To laugh is to live more fully.

Happy is the external trigger to Snow White's joy of belonging.  He is her chief of lightheartedness.

Hi ho, hi ho, are we missing the lesson to know? There is danger in the world (a.k.a. the Evil Queen/old hag). But there is good to be had if we know how to focus our thoughts and balance our stance, count our blessings, whistle while we work and sing a happy song. Every bumper sticker in the seven dwarfs forest reads SNOW KNOWS.

I want one of those bumper stickers.

Disclaimer: If my analogy of Snow White to the United States is taken as an endorsement for a woman President, you are right. We SHOULD also have women presidents because they are fully half of our resource. But if you think I am referring to our next President, then change the name of the analogy to Snow Jenner and I think that will satisfy every interest.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The art of the short story: A warning to long talkers and writers everywhere.

 For Sale, baby shoes, never worn.

If done well, it may only take six words to write a poignant story. This one is credited to Ernest Hemingway.

As the story goes, Hemingway was lunching with fellow writers and claimed that he could write a short story that was only six words long. His pals doubted that was possible. Hemingway told each of them to put ten dollars in the middle of the table; if he was wrong, he said, he’d match it. If he was right, he would keep the entire pot. He quickly wrote six words down on a napkin and passed it around, then collected all the money.

Now all the world is not lived in a day, so short could mean lots and long could be few but the point is, get to the point before you lose the opportunity. Enough is just what it takes.

Mark Twain was known for his wit, among other things and he could put together a few pretty good sentences now and again. All of his quotes are fun to read and some of his quotes about writing offer a key to his success.
  • A successful book is not made of what's in it but what's left out of it.
  • One should never use exclamation points in writing. It is like laughing at your own joke.
  • The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail. The trouble with most fiction is that you want them all to land in hell together, as quickly as possible.
    Old lady screaming.
  • Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.
  • I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”
  • It takes a heap of sense to write good nonsense
  • The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.
  • Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.
  • My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water.
  • I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.
  • The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
  • Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.  
He said one thing that so resonated in his time that it was repeated as often as it had relevance...
which is why it is still repeated today.

Larry Smith founded Smith Magazine in 2006. He started The Six Word Memoir project   in November 2006 in partnership with Twitter. It was a simple online challenge asking: “Can you tell your life story in six words?” It really caught on. Now more then 1 million Six-Word Memoirs have been shared across Smith Magazine sites and picked up by media around the world. It has proven to be an impressive teaching concept in schools and a team-building technique in the corporate world in getting to the core of conceptual thought.

Tweets and six-word submissions to the many Smith contests and challenges show humor, love, happiness, food, America, etc. succinctly and impactfully in just six words proving how simple it is to convey a feeling, idea, concept, question, emotion... It's a discipline that rewards by just getting it out there.

"Love bites. But so do I.
"We met over silverware and dysfunction."
"Only wine can save me now."
"Dispensing wisdom I do not have."
"I can always make myself laugh."
"Unplug for 24 hours and recharge."
"I'd pick you over french fries."
"Saw my mom in my reflection."
"Parenthood is a form of insanity."
"Wrote 2167 words today. Deleted 2141."

Then I read this book: How To Write Short. It's funny and smart... with lots of reasons why and examples that made it worth its cost. First lesson in the book is a keeper.

 Consider these documents:
  • The Hipppocratic oath
  • The twenty-Third Psalm
  • The Lord's Prayer
  • Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
  • The Preamble to the Constitution
  • The Gettysburg Address
  • The last paragraph of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech
If you add up the words in these documents, the sum will be fewer than a thousand, 996 by my count.

Then you have the author's fun examples to illustrate what he is saying:

"Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect." Steven Wright
"God is love, but get it in writing." Gypsy Rose Lee
"Ran out of deodorant midway, so one arm is Shower Fresh, the other is Easter Lily. This has the makings of a wild day." @phillygirl
"Santa has elves. You have Target."
"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
"Where's the beef?"
"I like Ike."
"Just got a press kit in the mail from Gallo with a wine cork marked 'starter cork.' They obviously don't know me."
"Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly."
"If Jesus had been born just 40 years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses." Lenny Bruce
"The Hokey Pokey Clinic: A place to turn yourself around."
"I wish I were an Oscar Mayer weiner."
"If you live in New York, even if you are Catholic, you're Jewish."
"The baby just saw me naked. Now she knows where she got her thighs." @AuntMarvel
"Take my wife, please" Rodney Dangerfield
"Jesus wept."

Last paraphrase mine: 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the sentences I cannot change,
The courage to edit the words I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

TRUE STORY: I got a ticket once for speeding along at 1,300 mph!

The Concorde

Oh, it's true! The headline is supposed to suck you in, but it actually happened. I did go that fast and the $1200 ticket was for my airfare to fly in the Concorde from Paris to New York.

So here's an earthly comparison: In Finland recently, a man was caught going 64 in a 50 mph zone. His ticket cost $58,000. That's also a true story.

A speeding fine there is proportionate to your wealth, the theory being that if it hurts for the little guy, it should hurt proportionally for the wealthy. A few years earlier, a very rich Finn was speeding through Helsinki on a Harley. His world record fine: $103,600.

So the take is that if you are very poor, you could almost speed for free. Those poor... they get all the breaks.

But let's go back to the Concorde because it really is/was impressive. The ultra sleek supersonic jet airliner that first flew passengers in 1963 made its final landing after a sad disaster and plain old economics forced the issue.

The plane, built for British Airways and Air France was an amazing aircraft that could get you from Orly to JFK 90 minutes earlier that you left... sort of like a time machine.  My flight left Paris at noon and arrived in New York at 10:30 am same day. It was a short 3 1/2 hours in duration. Because of its premium cost for an all-first-class cabin and the lure of the exclusiveness of the day, this was a most popular transport for the 'beautiful people'... ergo, me.

Boeing's 2707
Oddly, at the time, Boeing was competing for bragging rights to be the first and best supersonic transport... and it should have won on merit alone.

The Boeing 2707 would hold more people--up to 300 vs. 99 for the Concorde--and was faster--2,000 mph (at mach 3) vs. a mere 1,300. It was designed to serve a larger, more lucrative market--from America to the Far East. The Concorde, built by an English/French consortium got there first. Boeing deemed it impractical to pursue it's sleek, moveable swept-wing concept that used fuel faster that a mobile home pulling a heavy car uphill. (Trust me... I know this.)

My Air France Concorde flight experience was a story in itself. This was my first trip to Europe. I was in Brussels on business the week before and having a day and a half left before my flight home, I took a trip to Paris. Oui, oui!

When I arrived however, my suitcase was caught in an impromptu baggage handlers' strike and all luggage was simply delivered at the curb and dropped without regard to where it came from or where it was to go. So, after spending a fruitless half-hour looking,  I gave some official-looking airline person my bag tag and said that if found, please route this bag home. I had no time to waste for my own short grand adventure.

I went back to Orly early Monday morning for my return to Brussels to catch my booked flight home. When I checked in, I saw my flight was cancelled because of ice and snow! So I, an American in Paris, was stuck, or as we say on the Continent, colle. But because I needed to get back for an important meeting (to justify my actions), desperate measures were called for.

Gosh, there was a noon flight that would allow me to do it... but it was the Concorde. And, miracle of miracles, there was just one seat left, probably next to some really exciting movie star, I was sure. So I grabbed it! (This was way before 9-11 when flying was more glamorous and restrictions were almost non existent-- but that's another great story.)

After a few hours wait in the very exclusive boarding area with plenty to see, do and eat, we boarded. My seatmate's movie star persona may well have been Lassie, but the thrill was still there for me. After we de-iced, we taxied for take-off and I could feel all the eyes in the terminal were on us... and I was so cool.

The lift-off was impressive as the Concorde has a drop-nose for this phase of the flight. Once at cruising altitude after an incredibly sharp, fast climb, passengers were told that we could watch the "Mach Meter" at the front of the cabin to monitor our subsonic speed until we reached the ocean. (No sonic booms over land.) Then the Captain announced "Ladies and Gentlemen, please be seated as we are about to accelerate to our cruising speed of mach 2.1 (about 13,000 mph). And accelerate we did, being pushed hard back in our seats with grins on our faces--except for my seatmate 'Lassie' who probably did this three times a week.

Do you know that at 58,000 feet, you can actually see the curvature of the earth from those tiny windows? As I relished my lobster and steak with the proper wine accompanying, I enjoyed the view inside and out. (The Concorde had a smallish all first-class cabin with 2x2 seating.) After dessert and coffee with an appertif, we were invited in small groups to visit the cockpit and visit with the Captain.

Then, as perfect trips often end, after arriving in JFK and walking through an almost empty baggage area with half-dozen luggage carousels idle, one was turning slowly and it carried only one bag--mine! I have no idea how or when it got there but I picked it up without breaking stride and caught my home-bound flight.


FYI: The Museum of Flight in Seattle (of course) is is a great experience for the airplane lover. It has one of the remaining Concorde aircraft an you can walk through it. It also has the SR-71 Blackbird and a walk-through replica of the International Space Station and so much more, most fully accessible. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Seattle vs China

There is nothing shabby about Seattle... at least, nothing much. Seattle is an amazing city for many reasons. (Spoiler alert: Some of what you read here I have said before... so you forget. The new stuff is really worth it.)

But Seattle has its hiccups. Have have a look at The Macefield House that sits surrounded on three sides by much larger commercial buildings.

Mrs. Macefield, in her 80's, refused to sell to developers, even for a million dollars. It was her home and she intended to keep it. So they build around her. She lived there as they built and lived there til she died at 86. She was a great neighbor with not much grass to mow.

And here's where Seattle does it better than China... because they let her do it. When China built the Three Gorges Dam--the world's largest hydroelectric power plant--across the 3,915 mile long Yangtze, it raised thousands of miles of river by more than 30 feet displacing 1.3 million people. The project was so large that some scientists feared the displacement of so much water might cause a redistribution of weight that could alter the earth's rotation on its axis and spin us off to eternity... like Buzz Lightyear. Didn't happen though--phew!

China has many of its own 'Macefield houses' which it calls 'nailhouses.' Unlike the Macefield house, when dollar offers were rejected, China tore them down. And there were many.

So "Take that China!" Even with 1.3 billion people, you're no Seattle. Eat your heart out.

Seattle is America's most educated city--more than half of its 675,000 residents hold a college degree. It boasts the highest per capita ballet attendance too. Its Columbia City zip code is the most diverse in the nation boasting 59 different spoke languages.

This reputedly gray, rainy city sells more sunglasses per capita than any other major U.S. city. It also has the largest percentage of library card holders in the nation (80%) and residents spend double the national average on books every year.

Seattle recycles EVERYTHING from lawn debris to food leftovers. There are regular garbage and recycle pick-ups and if you are not in recycling compliance (they spot check), you are warned twice... then fined! No plastic bags in stores either.

It has a well run, heavily used public transportation system with environmentally pure buses that run on schedule. Commuters can check live on-time performance of their bus on line. And all buses have well-used bike racks--Seattle has more people who commute to work on bicycles than any other U.S. city. And it also has an impressive 24-hour ferry system--the largest in the U.S and its #1 tourist attraction.

Seattle has neighborhoods... really neat neighborhoods, many of which are eclectic in the mix of houses, ages and styles. And trees of all kinds. It has the largest houseboat population east of the Orient.

Everything is green and abundant lush landscaping crowds the sidewalks in some areas. Seattle has a wonderful year-round climate for trees, shrubs, plants, grass, etc. Average December/January  temperature is 47/38. July/August averages 76/57. Believe it or not, Chicago, Dallas and Miami get more rain per year than Seattle. Much of the precipitation in Seattle is mist. I was standing outside talking to someone and without realizing it, the ground beneath me was dry but everything else was damp. It could rain all day in Seattle and measure only .10 of an inch while Miami could get a 7 inch dousing in an hour. Go figure.

Seattle has the Pike Place Market, Space Needle, a new waterfront 175 ft high Ferris wheel, an abundance of museums and other great tourist stuff. On a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier, the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges and always beautiful water. Seattle residents seem to have a certain elan you don't see elsewhere. Would Bill Gates live there if it wasn't great?

But as I've said before... the best reason Seattle is best is because my daughter lives there.

PS: The house, which some have said was the model for the wonderful movie UP, will not has as rich an ending. Heirs have decided that without Mrs. Macefield, the house will go... and be replaced with a much less imagined four-story grey building without a history of anything.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ballet is for sissies. Oh yeah?

The truth? YOU WANT THE TRUTH? You couldn't handle the truth! If you are into ballet, you couldn't survive unless you were tough as nails and twice as determined.

That's Misty Copeland. author, entertainer, and American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. She is also a wit with an engaging personality as she demonstrated on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, the best and wittiest radio hour on NPR every Saturday and repeated on Sunday. 

In 2007, Copeland became only the third African-American soloist in the first two decades of the American Ballet Theatre and at 32 now, she is one of the best in the world.

I believe the ballet is a beautiful art form and while I am reluctant to see another Swan Lake I marvel
Jennifer Beals
at the grace and skill of the dancers. Not to brag, I have seen Black Swan, Billy Elliot, Flashdance and, though contemporary more than ballet, The Alvin Ailey Dancers. Oh, and I am happily a Facebook friend of Amber Skye Forbes.

I have even met Flashdance's Jennifer Beals just to show how strongly I am in the art. She was giddiously triumphant just after that Flashdance role and had a few young friends with her in a New York restaurant. As she walked buy, I congratulated her performance and she laughed and said "Oh, I'm not her," which caused her friends to giggle as she probably whispered "What a treat," which sounded in the din, strangely like "What a creep."

The New York City Ballet which has now performed "The Nutcracker 2,342 times offered these statistics on what it takes to be a dancer:
  • 460 over-the-counter pain pills consumed by the company in a week
  • 334 Band-Aids used by the company per week
  • 35 seconds for 16 dancers to change from leotards into dresses during Ratmansky's Namouna, a Grand Divertissement
  • 5,805 Altoids consumed backstage during a year-long season
  • 50 lbs of fake snow dropped during a performance of The Nutcracker
  • 40 hours of corps member dance time per week
  • 7 feet 7 inches: the length of Maria Kowroski's arabesque from fingertip to toe
  • 4 ft average height of a male dancer's jete leap
  • 18 minutes 35 seconds of the bows and curtain calls for principal dancer Wendy Whelan's farewell performance last year
  • 2 days: the average lifespan of a pointe shoe
  • 8,500 pointe shoes used in a season

So don't ever say ballet is for sissies unless you first walk a mile in her shoes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

An athiest's Superstitions... WHAAAT?

ˌso͞opərˈstiSH(ə)n/  noun
Excessively credulous belief in and reverence for supernatural beings.

What do they do with the 13th floor in many buildings and what happens to all the people who work/live there? As luck would have it, they call it 14. Phew!

All buildings tall enough actually do have a 13th floor of course... but we don't call it that because 13 is unlucky. And Friday the 13th is the most unlucky day. Why it is considered unlucky is conjecture but one popular thought is that there were 13 people present at the Last Supper on the 13th of Nisan (Maundy Thursday), the night before Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. Put them together and voila! Get it?

Thank God it is Friday or we might celebrate Easter Wednesday and wouldn't that seem odd?

But since superstition involves some belief in the supernatural, why are some supernatural non believers superstitious? To put it another way, would an atheist step on a crack and break his/her mother's back... or crack a mirror and get seven years bad luck... or knock on wood to keep bad from happening? But many do says the research,  even without anything to lose. Go figure.

The Science of Superstition, an article in a recent The Atlantic magazine reflects on why so many of us, atheists and other non-believers as well, are inclined to attach a higher purpose to natural events.  In his article, Matthew Hutson, author of the The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking says "No one is immune to magical thinking."

Physicist and Nobel Prize winner Neils Bohr was asked if he believed that the horseshoe he'd hung at his country home was lucky. "Of course not," he said, "but I understand it's lucky whether you believe in it or not."

Young children from both believer and non-believer homes prefer explanations like "Maggie's house burned down to teach her not to play with fire anymore." As we age we know that isn't true, but we still seem to attribute such things to bad luck or fate or 'something.' It's hard to fathom that bad things just happened for no reason at all.

"In a study... self-identified nonbelievers began to sweat when reading aloud sentences asking God to do terrible things. ('I dare God to make my parents drown.') Not wanting to 'tempt fate' they stressed out just as much as believers did."

"Subconscious religious belief seem to increase when we are reminded of our own mortality as in 'There are no atheists in foxholes.'

"Magical thinking is not just a result of ignorance or indoctrination," says Hutson, "it appears to be a side effect of normal, socially adaptive thinking.

"Fear is another driver of irrationality. In a British study of non believers, subjects were told to imagine an encounter with a self-professed witch who offered to cast an evil spell on them. An observing scientist speculated that about half of the group would accept the hex without concern, yet each of them said that, personally, they'd decline the offer."

Of the eight separate and independent studies used in this article, observation seemed to show that one of the few true avenues to atheism may be autism: "The more autistic traits a person had, the less likely he or she was to believe in God." Try telling that to scientists who, among their peer group show only one in three (see last post) believe in God.

As for me, I am still captivated by magic and more joyful believing IT IS truly a happening when an assistant is sawed in half, knock on wood.

Oh, and by the way, I really did see a GHOST when I was seven-years-old. I REALLY DID!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Science finds God! George Carlin still looking.

Only one of three scientists believe in God versus 94 % of the rest of us says a 2009 Pew survey. That however, may be changing. Albert Einstein said, "The more I study science, the more I believe in God." So maybe most of the scientific non-believers haven't studied long enough yet.

Follow this logic: That same year, Carl Sagan told us that there are two vital criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star and a planet the right distance from that star. There are, give or take a few, an octillion (1 followed by 24 zeros) of those planets in our universe.

As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan imagined and our parameters for life grew and grew until it was logical to presume there may be only a few thousand potential live-bearing planets out there.

As more was discovered, that number came down that maybe there were only a few hundred of such planets.

Then, more knowledge of the parameters of existence lead to a realization that maybe there were no othees capable of life.

Astrophysicists now know that gravity, electromagnetic force and 'strong' and 'weak' nuclear forces necessary for life were formed in the first one millionth of a second after the big bang and they are vital. Alter any single value by even the tiniest fraction--say one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000--and there would be no earth...  no us and maybe no universe.

Multiply that, says one scientist theorizing, and the odds against our universe existing at all are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all "just happened" defies common sense, even for a scientist.

Fred Hoyle, the  astronomer who coined the term "big bang," said that his atheism was "greatly shaken" at these developments and "a common sense interpretation of facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics as well as with chemistry and biology. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."

"The appearance of design is overwhelming," said theoretical physicist Paul Davies. Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox said "the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator... gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here."

Earlier scientists of great discoveries; Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal and Sir Francis Bacon to name a few, believed our universe could only be the work of God long before anything else was known. (Joke alert: Copernicus, it was said came by his knowledge early when, as a difficult child, his mother scolded, "Young man, when are you going to come to terms with the fact that the world does not revolve around you.") 

Author T.C. Boyle (The Harder They Come) was asked in a New York Times Book Review article, "What book hasn't been written that you'd like to read?"
He said: "The one in which the author explains the universe in detail, with diagrams and full-color photos of creatures inhabiting all those other planets. This would, of course, include a photo shoot with God and lavish pics of the celestial pad itself."

I'd like to read that book too... but then I'd ask God to take a 'selfie' with me. Knowing my luck, Moses would probably
photo-bomb us.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What do Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and comedian Steve Martin have in common?

What do Ted Williams and Steve Martin have in common? It's more bizarre than you might think... but tantalizingly possible.

In 1999, Martin starred in The Man With Two Brains, a very funny move about a world-famous neurosurgeon who fell in love with a living human brain in a lab jar (voiced by the ever-talented Sissy Spacek) and finds himself in the middle of murders committed by the elevator killer.

Ted Williams--the greatest hitter baseball ever knew-- died in 2002 and, after some contention as to his final wishes, his head was severed and "put into biostasis (frozen cryogenically) ... to be together in the future even if it is our only chance."

Frankenstein's Monster
Add one more story that gives the whole thing believability. This was actually done way back in 1818 when a doctor completed a brain transplant into a cadaver and HE LIVED!

Oh, that was fiction? You mean Dr. Frankenstein wasn't real?

Martin's movie was a comedy, Williams' story a tragedy and Dr. Frankenstein's, a comedy (The Gene Wilder version) but all now have a basis in factual possibility, according to Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero.

The Doctor plans to stitch a 'fresh' brain to a body of a very recent deceased by their spinal cords, hooking the rest of the blood vessels, airways, etc. to regenerate cells in the central nervous system. Canavero likens those million of sharply severed neurons to spaghetti. "Italians adore spaghetti, I love spaghetti and spaghetti is what is called for here," he says with conviction.

There is more detail but ethically, I will not print it here lest you be tempted to try it at home. However, where seems to be some credibility to it all (it has shown promise in mice), though not much believability that it will work. And of course, there are always the details... ethics and stuff like that.

Another caution, the Doctor advises, "Once the connections are made, you don't want the wrong connections getting created." I'm guessing he is referring to feet backward and other small details. 

"He's insane. You can't put a head on somebody else!" says another noted neurosurgeon... but didn't they call the Wright brothers crazy? And how about sliced bread? Somebody had to think of that.

Dr. Canavero points to possible breakthroughs in spinal cord injury treatment as early as 2017 and, as strange as this all seems, I'm all for hope of that.

Who is admired more than someone with a good head on his/her shoulders?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I know, I know... yesterday I promised to tell you what Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and comedian Steve Martin have in common... but I lied. Well, not really. I just wanted to insert this post on old movies because it fit. The answer to this riddle is next, just after these selected short subjects.

Moviola is fictional story I wrote seven years ago about the making of the 1915 romance, Moon over Miami starring the soon to be famous Vivian St. Claire, a real 'looker.' Movie making back then was a gritty black-and-white art that stole its way into the imaginations of the world. It was made with grand imagination, before such things as computer effects--or even computers, and without sound which is good because Vivian's high pitched voice never would have made the cut. It was what it was and it was beloved.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the sun slowly set over the placid blue ocean ending another perfect day in paradise…
Rip. KRRRASH! Zzzip.
Dust rose from the ripple-cut cardboard ‘ocean’ as the copper-colored metal ‘sun’ crashed ingloriously into ‘the sea’ and rolled off-stage.
“Cut! Cut! CUT! damn-it! Where the hell is Corky?”
“Here, boss.  Here I am.”
“What the hell are you doing to me Corky? First the beach scenery falls on Vivian. Then this. If we loose our star, there is no moving picture and we go broke. You tryin’ to put us out of business? Some right-hand guy you turned out to be, you washed up old has-been.”
Josh, always the entrepreneur, founded RockScissorsPaper Studio in 1914, right after he was dumbfounded by that French ‘moving picture,’ seven years ago. He knew then that moving pictures would be the next best thing since the stereograph. And Josh was almost never wrong.  “If a guy in America today hasn’t been broke four times in his life, he will never amount to nothin,” he told his backers.
”Sorry boss. That’s why we needed new rope.”
“You know we can’t afford an extra penny. Now, if you are any good at all, fix that damn thing before it kills somebody. We gotta finish this scene or we don’t go home tonight.”
“Washed up old has-been. That’s what he called me,” said Corky, talking only to himself as he walked through the dark and rainy night to his trolley stop. “I slave for that guy… save his ass time and again. If it wasn’t for me, there never would be a RockScissorsPaper Studio.”
He smiled as he remembered the first time Josh brought ‘the money’ to have a look-see at the new studio. “Hell, it was a garage…a dirty, dingy garage with three lights and one camera. So I made a big sign and hung it on the empty building down the block. Those yokels never knew the difference.”
He laughed out loud as he remembered that first movie… Pauline and the Big Bad Wolf. “Vivian was just a young kid I found on the street. Boy, was she a ‘looker.’
“Hey kid! Wanna be in movin’ pictures?”
“Yeah! Sure mister. What is movin’ pictures?”
“I had to find a wolf costume. OK, so it was a gorilla suit. When I was done with it, it was a wolf costume. And I had to wear it ‘caus no one else would. It must have been 120 degrees in that thing. But Josh liked it. God. That first movie… seems like so long ago.”
The next day at the studio didn’t go much better. Corky, do this! Corky, do that! Where is that beach ball and sun umbrella Corky? Help Vivian into her costume. Shut that shade! Get a ladder over here! Can’t you do anything right?
“Shut up!” Corky exploded. “Shut your mouth up you pompous stuffed walrus. You sit in that chair and act like you are God. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of you!”
The set became quiet as a graveyard at midnight. Everyone looked at Josh and Corky. Josh couldn’t believe his ears.
“Well, Corky. If you can’t take it, then maybe you aren’t as tough as I thought you were. We have a movie to make here and we have to be done by Friday. Are you going to shut your big, fat trap and get to work, or are your going to get the hell out?
Corky, stunned at the turn of events, stood for almost a minute without answering, then turned and stormed out the door.
The bright sun hit him like an epiphany.
“What the hell did I just do? Josh and me, we been together now for almost eight years. The big jackass can’t do it without me. He doesn’t know how to make the moon rise, find a canoe, get a street sign or create a saloon from nothin’. Only I can do that.
“But I’m not goin’ back. I can’t go back.”
The movie did not go well. You can’t make “Moon over Miami” if you have no moon. You can’t row a canoe if you have no paddle. You can’t have no parking unless you have a ‘No Parking’ sign.
“Where the hell is Corky,” screamed Josh as he slammed his clipboard to the floor. Where is that stupid son-of-a-bitch when I need him.”
“You fired him, boss,” he was reminded. “You kicked him out.”
“Oh yeah. Good riddance. That little weasel thinks he owns RockScissorsPaper. He don’t! I do!”
“Want me to go find him boss?”
“No. Absolutely not! I never want to see that guy again. Nobody quits on Josh DeMille.”
That night, Vivian paid Corky a visit. “Remember when you first saw me, Corky,” she reminded him. “You told me I would be a star. You told me that I would make us all rich. Remember?
“Yeah,” he said with a reminiscing smile. “I Remember.”
“Well, you knew that wasn’t true. You knew that unless we had Josh with his connections and you with your moxie, we couldn’t do it. We can’t do it alone, Corky. We need you. Josh needs you.”
“Can’t do it Vivian. When you tell a guy he’s a washed-up old has-been, you cut him in two. I won’t be half-a-man and go crawling back. If Mr. Big Shot wants me, then let him come and ask.”
“Ooooh! You are just two stubborn jackasses who couldn’t find their way back to the stable if someone didn’t lead them by the nose.” Frustrated and angry, Vivian slammed the door behind her as she left.
Somehow, Josh and crew finished “Moon over Miami” without Corky. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t good, but it was done. In the early days, sometimes that was enough.
It was part curiosity, part jealousy that took Corky to the Hollywood Theatre first showing that next week. He ached to be a part of the festivities. This was the best time in all moving picture-making and he was on the outside looking in.
Josh saw Corky across the street. Looking away as he lifted his chin in the air, Josh entered the theatre.
Hurt, Corky turned to leave, with one last glance back at what used to be his world. And, as God is witness, it’s the only way anyone would have seen that small escape of smoke from one of the side windows. His nose quickly confirmed his worse fear.
“FIRE! The Hollywood is on fire!”
He bolted across the street and pushed the theatre door hard, shattering its glass. He yelled to the astonished monkey-suited doorman, standing with mouth agape.
Fortunately, the fire was detected before it was wide-spread and everyone was safely on the street in front of the theatre, screaming, shrieking, crying, and talking wildly as the first pumper wagon was pulled ‘round the corner by two hard-breathing horses.
Hours later, the fire was controlled but the building was gone. And Josh, sitting on the curb in his tuxedo, now ash-covered and torn, looked like a refugee from the Great War… a man who had lost everything.
“Vivian. Oh Vivian. It’s gone. The film is gone.” His authoritative voice was reduced to a resigned whisper. “All of our money was in that film. Its success was the key to our next movie. That fire not only burned down the Hollywood Theatre, it burned down RockScissorsPaper just as surely.”
“Josh,” she comforted,  “It can’t be that bad.”
 “We’re done, Viv. That film was our bankroll.”
“Oh, Josh…”
“Mr. DeMille!” the doorman hollered as he approached. “Mr. DeMille. One of the firemen gave me this before they left. Said he found it on the seat of the fire wagon.”
“Oh my God. OH MY GOD! Vivian. Look at this…it’s the film. I can’t believe it. How did it get there?
“The fireman didn’t know, Mr. DeMille. It was just there.”
The headline in the next morning’s Pacific Sun told the story. “Hollywood Theatre Burns to the Ground: All 150 moving picture fans watching “Moon over Miami” are safe.”
The following day, the paper interviewed Josh DeMille:
”Miraculously, the only copy of the film was rescued. We are sure the doorman, modest as he is, saved it from the flames. It will continue to be shown across town at the Hippodrome starting tonight.”
When Corky read that, he threw the paper down in disgust and stared at his now-cold cup of coffee. “If that jerk don’t know who saved his bacon, I sure as hell won’t tell him.”
As his anger was about to turn to tears, he was startled by a knock on the door... and a ‘not too welcome’ voice.
“Corky… Corky… ” Josh pleaded from outside. “Please forgive me, my friend. Fate has given me another chance.”
“Another chance, DeMille?” questioned Corky skeptically as he now faced Josh. “Another chance to be a rich man?”
“No. No. No. Another chance to save a friendship! Will you please come back and be my partner? I need you. I have always needed you.”
Later, as DeMille told Vivian, she patted his shoulder and smiled approvingly.
“But why didn’t you tell him you now know that he rescued the film?”
“I will… someday. I just didn’t want him to think I was asking forgiveness because he did one thing and I owed him something. I wanted him to truthfully know that I was wrong.  I took him for granted. It was because he did so many things…and always has.  And because I owed myself something. His friendship.
“You see, Viv, I can go broke four times and still end up a rich man… because it’s only money. But if I loose one true friend, my chance for being truly rich is forever diminished…by one true friend.”

Monday, March 9, 2015

Old time movies: The Reel Thing

Buster Keaton did his own stunts

There's something special about Turner Classic Movies television channel, TCM. It's where you can see so many old and near current (classic and otherwise) movies 24/7 for free. Pay attention insomniacs.

And if that's not good enough, you have a front row seat to watch how movies used to be made. The older films have an integrity to the art that newer technology often enhances and sometimes makes surreal. As one TV critic put it, "The people in them did what they were filmed doing. When the side of the house falls on Buster Keaton and he stands, miraculously, in the empty square of its missing window, the side of the house actually fell on him. (It is said that some people left the set that day because they could not bear to watch.)"

Jackie Chan
Many actors actually did their own stunts, sometimes taking their lives in their hands... like Buster Keaton. And if you want to see the incredible Jackie Chan doing all he does in his movies, take a look at his top 10 and be amazed. (TIP: It really is worth the 5 minutes.) You gotta love this guy.

But back to TCM. The monthly lineup always features some real gems... everything from The Music Man (1962) to Gone With the Wind (1939) and Casablanca (1940). You can watch Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and The Artist (2011). You can catch Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002 and 2003) in succession. You can see Laurel and Hardy and Wonderful World of Tupperware if that's your thing. And of course, lots, lots more to suit many tastes. How can you beat that?

Check out the TCM line-up this month and take advantage of your DVD.

My next post has more to say about TCM movies and ties nicely to a very controversial subject I can have some fun with. (Hint: What do Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and Comedian Steve Martin have in common?) If you guess it, you either Marilyn Vos Savant or Albert Einstein... wait, he's dead. So male or female, you are Marilyn Vos Savant.

EUREKA! I HAVE FOUND IT: Today I learned how to time-shift and it was amazing. I purposely didn't set any of my car clocks ahead one hour. so when I got into the car, I actually went back in time! Yes, I was very careful not to alter anything that would change my life in present time, but I definitely became one hour younger. If I do this enough times a day, I will never have to shave again!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

PART II: AN ELEVATOR TO GOD (ok, to space because we don't actually know where heaven is located) IN OUR LIFETIME! (Not yours though baby boomers)

SciFi author Arthur C. Clakre wrote about it in his 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise and it WAS science fiction then... but not any more. There are scientists who think it can be done--and it could be a reality in this century, possibly as early as 2050.

Now that's pretty impressive!

Spoiler alert: much of the technical language is not understood by mere mortals. It is included to impress you so you think I do.)

"It's a phenomenal enabling technology that would open up our Solar System to humankind," says Peter Swan, President of the International Space Elevator Consortium. "I think the first ones will be robotic, and then 10-15 years after that, we'll have six to eight elevators that are safe enough to carry people."

The concept is simple. First, you would need a landing station that, let's say, would be the equivalent of floor 12,000,003 (avoiding the 13th floor, of course). That landing station, maybe called God's Little Acre, would be a satellite or space-debris platform in geosynchronous orbit with the earth--a floating anchor, so to speak--and there are lots of possibilities out there.

Earth station would best be about 600 miles west of the Galapagos Islands because of the rarity of hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons in that area, say those smarter than me.

Then you need a very strong cable--which doesn't yet exist--running between the two. There are now several concepts that would produce a cable with sufficient strength. One is a diamond-like nanothread material. Another is a cable made of carbon nanotubes with a tensile strength of 63 gigapascal--about 13 times stronger than the toughest steel. And that cable would need to be about 60,000 miles long. (Remember, up AND back with a counterweight and/or maglev technology similarly as used on high-speed trains.)

Oh, and we'd have to dig up an extra $100 BILLION or so.

Now here's the kicker... IT IS POSSIBLE, say many involved with the knowledge and desire to do it. But how does one go from concept to reality?

The reason we would do this? It would be incredibly less costly to send stuff to space... and from this platform, the universe would open to us as never before. 

Elon Musk, one of the most fascinating people of today, has offered his say. He is the genius behind SpaceX which develops and launches space vehicles, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors. He is also the founder of SpaceX and a co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors. He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop.

With Hyperloop, Musk envisions 'shooting' people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a metal tube in just 35 minutes. How's that for a starter? But regarding the space elevator, he says it would be easier to "have a bridge from LA to Tokyo." So what does he know?

Interestingly, as bizarre as this seems, remember that the Wright brothers' first flight was in 1903. Who then would have visualized humans would land on the moon just 66 years later--less than a lifetime!

As Groucho Marx said, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Part I, The Set Up: Classic joke ALL WRONG! Part II will blow your mind, I promise.

The elevator operator

Back story: In the olden days elevators were not 'do-it-yourself' transporters.* They required an elevator operator to make them go, usually someone pleasant who makes friends easily.

So, his passenger greets the operator and asks:

"How is your day going?"

"Oh, it has its ups and downs."

(Laugh track crescendos... then fades)

Now this was not an easy job... well, sort of it was. In the early days, it required training before earning an elevator operator license.

Elevator control panel
If you think modern elevators were a step into a bold new future (and they were), when some people saw their first escalator, they didn't know what to do and others couldn't figure how to safely step on and off. Many just stood and marveled at where all those steps that disappeared into the floor were going and where the new ones were coming from.

A few worried about being transported into an alternative universe (like I was... but that's another story). Some stores stationed an employee (escalator operator?) at the bottom offering instructions or a helping hand. Really.

But the old "ups and downs" joke won't work any more because German elevator manufacturer Thyssen-Krupp has something up its sleeve for the skyscraping record breaking heights of today's world. They are testing 'The Sideways Elevator."

In its test tower the company is replacing steel ropes with magnetic levitation used on high-speed trains. Without the need to stabilize a central cable, these elevators require half the building's prior elevator footprint and multiple cars can use a single looping shaft, vertically AND horizontally, at up to 11 miles-per-hour. Riders can be at their desired stop, dizzy or not, within 30 seconds.

Mile High
Powerful magnets suspend and propel the cars from floor to floor to any created stop point. Building operations can add or remove cars depending on demand and occupancy. Says the concept's director for vertical transportation, "The mile-high building is easily achievable. There is absolutely no limit to how far you can go."

There actually was one planned and on the drawing board, four times taller than today's giants. Frank Lloyd Wright talked about its fesibility in his 1956 book, A Testament. The design, intended to be built in Chicago, would have included 528 stories, with a gross area of 18,460,000 square feet. Wright stated that there would be parking for 15,000 cars and 150 helicopters. There's a lot here for King Kong to like.

So I thought this would be the ultimate in elevators. Boy, was I wrong! When you read Elevators, Part II, THE NEXT THING will blow your mind. I promise! Stay tuned.  

     * Historically, simple elevators really go back to about 300 B.C. predating the Julian-Roman calendar. They were crude 'lifts' powered by human, animal, water or wheel power and probably did not have floor by floor push button operation.
      In 1835, a belt-driven, counter-weighted, steam-powered device was created in England.
      In 1857, a steam powered 'moving room' for a 5-story building was developed by Elisha Otis, founder of the most known name in elevator-dom, Elisha Elevators. OK, Otis Elevators if you prefer.
     The first escalator was on the old steel pier at Coney Island in 1897. Then, of course, there is the moving sidewalk envisioned no doubt by the future-seeing Wright brothers for expansive airport use. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

YOUR FEET'S TOO BIG meets ALLEY-OOP and other songs you can't forget... or don't want to

Your Feet's Too Big

Say up in Harlem at a table for two
There were four of us, me, your big feet and you
From your ankles up, I'd say you sure are sweet
From there down there's just too much feet

Oh, there's more of course, but you get the idea. It was written* and then sung by Fats Waller in 1936 and many others since then, including The Beetles. It is one of the songs in the Broadway musical review, Ain't Misbehavin', a musical tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and '30s... and a great show that is still being performed around the country.

Novelty songs have always been a big part of our musical 'ear' but they have faded somewhat as we turned 21 centuries old. Seems we had more fun with our music then... before rap gave us today's somber-storied lyrics. These songs were supposed to make us laugh, or at least smile, with lyrics fun to sing and remember.

(If you remember any of these songs and their tunes, you are, like my friend Ron, oldish. But fear not, you can hear them all and/or read the lyrics on YouTube or from the Top 100 list below.)

There was The Witch Doctor by David Seville in 1958 that had us singing:

Ooh, eeh, ooh aah aah 
Ting, tang,walla walla bing bang
Ooh, eeh ooh aah aah 
Ting tang walla walla bing bang

Yellow Polka dot bikini
And Alley Oop and Mr. Custer and Kookie, Kookie (Lend me your comb) and They're Coming to Take Me Away (Ha Haaa!) and Little Blue Riding Hood and Along Came Jones and Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills and Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and LOTS MORE!

I learned French by singing The Little Shoemaker:

Lei scarpini de bailare, bailare.
Bailaremos tutusi.
Lei scarpini de bailare, bailare.
Bailaremos con cosi.

Shoes to set my feet a-dancing, dancing
Dancing all my cares away

Oh, they laughed when I tried that in Paris, but what do they know? They have a different word for everything.

These songs were fun when we seemed more light-hearted and 'fun-loving.' But if this is not your thing and you like a song that is popular today and will last forever, how about It's a Small, Small World? Forget that if you can.

Wanna see lots more you may never have heard of? Here's a Top 100 list from good friend Del who might know Sigfried and Roy, but probably not. Del loved music so much he invented and patented 'the musical bicycle seat' in the form of a multi-speaker mp3 player fixed below that surrounded you from the butt up with 'hill climin' music' baby, and that's the truth.

*Also by Fred Fisher and Ada Benson