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Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Anniversary to me

Today, Oct. 30th, marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. I was looking back at my 124 posts and found some really good reading... at least, from one perspective. Lots of dumb crooks, stupid news, interesting tidbits, pithy insights, personal comments and mind-blowing space and universe stuff. It really is nuts out there.

Blogging is rich for the soul... I owe me a drink.

James Naismith is a lot more than basketball...


... quite a bit more, it turns out. He has always been acknowledged as the creator of the game of basketball... on his boss's instruction to invent a game that keep rowdy students busy during the 1891 winter... but was surprised his game endured.

Later, as a medical doctor, he theorized that "the body is more or less elastic' and 'by stretching the body 30 minutes a day for six months, it will lengthen two inches." So he invented a machine to stretch babies, because the best stretching age, he thought, is from birth to 5 months. Hmm.. even then, he knew the role a big man could play in his new game. Did it work? Well, look at Yao Ming at 7' 6" and draw your own conclusions.

He also invented a breathalyzer device to measure the effects that drinking had on the human body. Used college students as test subjects. Now that's not hard to imagine.

Naismith served in World War I as a chaplain and was on the front lines in France counseling young soldiers. Because of this experience, he was one of the first promoting the idea to reward men who had risked their lives for their country... a concept that later became the G.I. Bill for veterans.

He wasn't done with basketball yet. He conceptualized the 3-point shot in 1932, but it was rejected. The shot clock was one of his ideas too... another case of seeing his game evolve. He was a visionary.

Oh, he didn't get everything right. He could never understand why the automobile didn't stop when he yelled "Whoa!"

So 'nice going' James. You are more than basketball.

(If you are interested further, a new book, James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball, by Rob Rains and Hellen Carpenter is just out.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The glamor is gone...

Detroit... Motor City, is fading fast. Once it was the nation's fourth largest city with nearly 2 million people, today less than half that number... just 770,000, remain. Makes you wonder who is going to build all those cars? What cars?

The Week magazine notes one-third of Detroit--and nearly half its children--lives in poverty, and one-quarter of the adult population didn't graduate from high school. Unemployment just hit 29 percent and in July, the median home price was $7,100 (not a typo).

The good news though is that the murder rate in one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. has dropped 14 percent. The bad news, as summed up by mayoral candidate Stanley Christmas... "I don't mean to be sarcastic, but there just isn't anyone left to kill."

Sad.

I've got more good news and bad news...

First, the good news: More than half of the children born in the year 2000 (in the industrialized countries) will live to age 100. Born today in the United States, that baby could live to 104, according to a new Danish study of 30 countries... and the increase in life expectancy is still rising. We are all living longer with fewer disabilities and better health care.

Now, the bad news: Where the hell are we going to get all the money to support us old and older people? And don't even think about mentioning the movie, Logan's Run.

Milton Supman dies!


Actually, you DO know him. He changed his name to Soupy Sales. He was 83.

Who didn't like Soupy and his dogs, White Fang (the meanest dog in the world--so big and mean that he buried the neighbor's Volkswagan) and Black Tooth (the sweetest dog in the world)? The dogs were always represented by huge felt paws and characteristic barks and growl that almost sounded like talking.

Soupy gained popularity with kids and adults in the early 50's until Metromedia, which produced his show, failed to renew his contract in 1966. Gosh, was it that long ago?

He told jokes (Show me a giant rooster chasing a member of Parliament and I'll show you a chicken catch a Tory.) and was hit in the face with a pie... more than 20,000 times! (That's not my estimate.) In fact, the old pie-in-the-face bit was so popular that movie stars and other notables wanted in on the action. In one show, Frank Sinatra had just finished singing "A foggy Day in London Town..." when he got his.

Soupy was hit by so many pies that he was once called as an expert witness in the trial of a Navy sailor who threw a chocolate cream pie at his commanding officer.

One running gag had Soupy answering the door to the knock of an unseen visitor. He never knew who would be behind the door, but among the notables were Burt Lancaster, Fess Parker, Alice Cooper and, at least once, a topless dancer. It was his impromptu response that got the laughs. The show's formula was slapstick, lots of slapstick and more slapstick... and we loved it.

When FCC chairman Newton Minow, labeled TV as a "vast wasteland," Soupy told his audience to "Try me and see the best waste in town!"

Now he is off to lemon meringue heaven. Good-by Soupy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spontaneous combustion and other weird stuff

Spontaneous combustion, parts 1 and 2:

1) In Jordan "a flock of sheep burst into flames and virtually disappeared in front of their startled shepherd," reports The Week magazine. Geologists explained that the sheep were apparently saturated with methane from a nearby sewage plant and were ignited by a spark. Oh, that explains everything.

"There is no need to panic," the frightened Jordanians were told. .. unless, of course, you are a sheep.

2) 'Entertainer' Amy Winehouse checked herself into a London clinic because she feared her new, $50,000 breasts might explode. "I need to see someone. My boobs are f---ing killing me."

Other weird stuff, 3 thru 6:

3) Ozzie Osborn just passed his driving test... after 18 prior failures.

4) In Gaza, the owner of a petting zoo painted stripes on his donkeys and told delighted children they were zebras.

5) Most popular Halloween costume this year? The Bernie Madoff mask . Wear it and toss hundreds of fake dollar bills all over the place. What ever happened to Snow White and Batman?

6) Finally, The Week magazine posted this contest to its readers: With some environmentalists campaigning against super-soft toilet paper because its extra-cushy fibers come from old-growth trees, we asked you to predict the name of the most environmentally friendly TP possible.

The winning name: I Can't Believe It's Not Sandpaper!

The face of fashion

Paging through the Sept/09 issue of Interview magazine, something struck me as odd. No, not the clothes or the stories, though they were... but the expressions of the wearers... the models in the many pages of ads and the people featured in the photos throughout the magazine.

I counted them... the 'beautiful people' wearing everything from one-of-a-kind fashions to nothing at all... and I surmised that being in vogue means not smiling. In fact, not smiling, big time.

Of the 152 faces and poses, only 10 were smiles... and two of those were 'excuse me' feeble. All the rest were pouts, sulks or petulant peers. Check it out... especially the ads in any of the current high-fashion mags. But whatever you do, don't smile, or you won't be in the club.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bigger than a breadbox...

Who would'a believed that, with more than 100 billion billion (yep, that's right) stars in our known universe, we needed more? Well, we found 'em anyway.

Using a new technique that measures gravitational pull on known stars, scientists have uncovered about 400 new stars... so far. More discoveries are anticipated. Latest find are 32 planets, all more dense than any in our solar system. The largest is 7.1 times more dense than Jupiter... our largest. None are thought able to sustain any life as we know it.

Seven times more dense than earth? That means, hypothetically, Miss America would weigh about 750-800 pounds on Gliese 667 C. (Catchy name for a new planet, right?) What a babe!

More amazing... all of these new planets are REALLY CLOSE to Earth... about 30 to 150 light years away. With our universe estimated to be 5 to 6 billion light years across, these are right on our doorstep.

The enormity of our universe just blows my mind.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Water, water, everywhere... but not a drop to drink


Who said Jules Verne wasn't a visionary?

In 1903, he wrote From Earth to the Moon... and it was made into an early silent movie with one scene showing the man in the moon's reaction to the rocket landing. Well, a mere 66 years later, we put a man (actually three) on the moon's surface. (Did you know that one young girl, who actually witnessed the Wright brothers' historic first flight, also saw the launch of Apollo 11, which took us there?)

This happened in less than one lifetime!

We long-ago proved we could do it any darned time we wanted to. Why just last week, we purposely crashed two rockets into the moon in our attempt to prove lunar water exists. I guess, if marketing holds true to its course, we will soon be bottling Aqua Luna for sale by the case.

As amazing as that is, it creates a real paradox of human resolve. How can man's accomplishments, which represent the glory and wonder of our intellect on one hand, also represent human folly on the other?

Having the technology, ability and means to find water on the moon is quite an achievement. Meanwhile, back on earth, every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease due to lack of clean water and sanitation. One billion people on our planet will never have a drink of clean water... 2.5 billion people lack access to safe water. That is 2.5 billion of our 7 billion population-- about one out of every three of us. The implications are incredible. Really! Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

We can go to the moon, split the atom, divide one second into 60 million parts, define space to contain billions of stars and be at least six million light years wide, create a memory chip the size of a blood cell (1/2000 of an inch) that will hold more data that ever thought possible, transplant a human heart and double life expectancy for those born in the right country.

On the other, we have never learned how to feed or provide water for all the needy people of the world but have learned how to develop sophisticated methods to kill them. We can create the greatest plague mankind has ever seen, make a bomb so small that it can easily be concealed yet powerful enough to ravage a city, and take everlasting wars to the nth power in our quest to solve a problem. Humankind has an ego-based righteousness mixed with a lack of humility. We have determined man's greater good can only be found from one perspective... ours (no matter who 'ours' represents).

Are we great or what?

The three musketeers had it right: "One for all and all for one." To think that if we are on the lucky side, that's all that matters. Not a chance.

PS: The water facts came from Water.org, a non-profit organization founded by actor Matt Damon and Gary White. Go to that website. It will blow your mind.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We're Saved! America is going by rail

Just went to K.C. Ball's entertaining blog, NowPlayingInSeattle.blogspot.com and read of her lastest airplane horror story. Well, rest easy America, you now have an option. AMTRAK! Sure, go by rail. It can be easy, cheap, on time, safe and relaxing. (OK, pick one.)

My Las Vegas best friend, Seigfried... or is it Roy... (I get those two so mixed up) told me of his brother's trek from Ft. Madison, Iowa to San Antonio, Texas... by rail. Piece of cake, right?

He left Ft. Madison by bus to catch his closest Amtrak zephyr in Galesburg, Illinois. From there, he rode in comfort and style to Springfield, Illinois... distance of about 60 miles... before the train broke down.

So the railroad gods put him and three others in a taxi to St. Lous (about 120 miles) to get the Texas-bound train. (His cab partners were a guy with influenza who sneezed ever 20 seconds, a Walmart greeter ("Hi. Howya doin' ") who never stopped smiling or talking, and a normal looking person who's last bath was two weeks ago.) Taxi then dropped them off at the wrong train station, missing the mark by about a mile. So he grabbed his two bags and hoofed it.

His train to San Antonio just barely made it into Texas when it slowed to a crawl. Conductor said they had some problem in forward gear. The train, however, proved it could go 90 mph backward, which did cause some passenger discomfort. It was all a moot point though since he also learned the tracks between here and there were under water because of the heavy rainfall.

So the last leg, which was 7 hours long... but it seemed like 2 days in human time, was, again, on a bus.

The magic of trains, you ask. Well, the final bus to San Antonio got to the station 11 minutes ahead of the hypothetical arrival time for the train. Take that, airline industry.

He did, however, meet a kindly old lady who was completing her voyage on a special Amtrak ticket... $500 for 30 days unlimited Amtrak travel. Seems that in 30 days, she almost made it out of the state. (Kidding. She made it to Oklahoma, where the wind comes whistling off the plain... nevermind.)

Rail travel, however, isn't the safe option to flying that people think it is. Did you hear about the horrible rail accident that left 200 passengers dead? Plane crashed into it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We're all going to the dogs

We're all going to the dogs...at least, the old dogs. When I wrote about Max, the oldest dog in the world at 26, I heard from Eric Shackle in Sydney. (FYI: Eric is copy editor of Seattle-based A Word A Day -- wordsmith.org -- a free newsletter for 'wordies.' He blogs at lifebeginsat80.blogspot.com Eric likes the old stuff and recently did a run-down of old dog age claims. One was reported to be 141 years-old... actually a mere 20 in dog years.)

Anyhow, reading his blog, I found out that someone thinks Scoobie Doo, who turns 40 this year, is the oldest 'non-real' dog. Sorry, not even close. He is, however, the best at discovering ghosts, and to this day, remains scared-to-death of 'em. I could swear it almost sounds like Scoobie is 'talking' when he whines.

So who are some of the other old dogs still around today?

Snoopy
is 69... today, in fact. He first appeared on Oct. 4th, 1950. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SNOOPY! Give us one of those happy, levitating moves... you know, the one where your eyes squint and your ears wiggle.

Lassie, the world's most famous dog (so says her website) first appeared in the 1957 movie, The Wayfarers. Being a real dog, she would be pretty old... except Lassie was played, over time, by 10 different dogs... all males. (Is there a dog glass ceiling too?) My favorite Lassie movie line: "What is it Lassie? Timmy's in the well?" If it wasn't for Lassie, Timmy wouldn't be here today.

We can't forget Marmaduke. This loveable great dane was first seen in the spring of 1954, so he is 53... still pretty old for a dog... especially an overgrown lap dog.

Hagar the Horrible's dog, Snert, is just a kid in cartoon dog years at 46. He is supposed to be a hunting dog but never pays any attention to Hagar. Snert occupies a special place in my heart because one of my favorite, early dogs was a poodle-mix character of characters that I named Snert. He loved me more than any other person, place or thing ever could. That's what dogs do. Snert did have a companion dog, Hagar.

Can't forget Disney's Pluto. His first movie was The Chain Gang in 1930. So Pluto started collecting Social Security 14 years ago. Only one Disney character was more 'goofy' than Pluto.

However, the crown goes to Chic Young's Daisy, who beat out Pluto by a few months. Daisy, of course, was Blondie and Dagwood's dog... the one who helped raise Cookie and Alexander. I'd say she did a fine job of it except that those kids are still... kids. I wish I aged like comic strip characters.

Since Daisy (I wrongly thought) wins the oldest dog title, real or imagined, I looked her up on Blondie.com . Interesting website filled with fun facts (if comics are facts). The Blondie strip (and it is called Blondie) originally began with Dagwood as her beau.

Blondie Boopadoop was a looker who every 1930s zoot-suited guy dreamed of, even though she came from the wrong side of the tracks. But it was Dagwood, with all his clumsiness, that caught her eye. Now Dagwood had credentials. He was the bumbling son of J. Bolling Bumpstead, the fabulously wealthy railroad man who not only owned all the property on this side of the track, he owned all the property on the other side too... and the 3,000 miles of track that separated them.

The 'strip' changed abruptly when the depression hit America and millionaires went out of vogue. So Dagwood was disinherited when he married Blondie, his true love, forsaking all the money. A 'true' fake love story.

Whoops! The Queen is dead. Long live the King. Just recalled Buster Brown's dog TIGE, who first appeared in a comic on May 4, 1902. So Tige, an American pit bull terrier, is 107 years-old and still appears regularly in the inside sole of every pair of Buster Brown children's shoes. Buster's side-kick is Mary Jane, another shoe type. (Hmm. Coincidence?) The Buster (named after Buster Keaton) Brown association with the shoe company happened early in Tige's 'life,' at the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis where a shoe company purchased the rights to the name and it's characters.

I do remember an early kid's radio show, Let's Pretend, sponsored by Buster Brown Shoes. My favorite show character was 'Froggie, the Gremlin,' who was invisible to do his pranks until he "plunked his magic twanger. BOINGGGG!" The Buster Brown commercial lead off with a barking dog, Tige. Buster would say, "That's my dog, Tige. He lives in a shoe. I'm Buster Brown. Look for me in there too."

OK. That's enough old dogs for now. You can't teach em new tricks anyway.

Did you hear Michael Jackson died? DON'T BE TOO SURE!

I was pretty certain The King of Pop did die... until I read the recent headlines of an article in a big city newspaper:

"Autopsy shows Jackson scarred but still healthy."

Wow! Still healthy after all these months, after an autopsy, no less. They must have given him a local anesthetic. That guy is amazing!