SEPTEMBER 22, 2016 MY BROADWAY DEBUT
Thirty years ago I got an urgent phone call. CBS has a big live awards telecast coming up this Sunday, from a theater on Broadway in New York City. But they've got a problem animating their graphics. And you're the only one who can save the day!
SEPTEMBER 19, 2016 WHAT HAVE I MISSED?
When the TV listings tell me theres an episode coming up of a series I like, I set my DVR to record it. Then if I dont watch it live, I can watch it later. However, theres no urgency. I find better things to do, and the recordings pile up.
For a given series, the DVR sorts all the episodes into a file folder. Lately, with some of these containing 10 or more programs, Ive been systematically paring them down by watching the oldest show from the fullest folders. Ive just cleared the seventh archived Big Bang Theory. Now no folder contains more than six episodes.
But many contain exactly six. To be precise, there are 29 such six-packs! The oldest was recorded between June 24 and July 29, 2015. I still have a lot of catching up to do.
SEPTEMBER 15, 2016 FIRE UP THE ZAMBONI
They say that time passes more quickly as one gets older.
It was only three months ago that Pittsburgh held a huge parade to honor the Penguins for winning hockeys Stanley Cup. But our brief summer hockey respite is already at an end. Its time to start making ice again. The Consol Energy Center hosted a couple of World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament exhibitions last night, and the Penguins first preseason game is in Detroit a week from Tuesday.
Long ago when I was in high school, snapping whippers, our vacation time between athletic seasons was longer than three months. It was nine months. We never wearied of a sport.
Right now, many are growing tired of Major League Baseball especially those of us who follow the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 13 of their last 16 games. The season started with spring training seven months ago and isn't scheduled to end until Game 7 of the World Series on November 2.
Bad news: I asked the groundhog whether autumn is just around the corner. He glanced at his shadow and said no, were going to have six more weeks of baseball.
9, 2016 MOVING
Ive prepared another installment of letters written during the early 1970s by the young lady of my acquaintance who was enrolled in med school and played the autoharp, went camping, and drew mermaids.
One highlight involved the wee hours of January 30, 1971. After holding a party for 11 people, Jan and her roommate went out for a 2½-mile walk through eight inches of fresh snow. Then the snow got heavier. They decided to spend the rest of the night in a guys room. Within two years, one of them had married the guy.
Other highlights from these letters:
The times, they were a-changing.
And, in the fall of 1972, Jan announced her plans to be married. Not to me, of course. She and I always had been friendly, but we knew we werent right for each other. Nevertheless, she took care to let me down easy.
This latest collection of correspondence is called Letters from Jan: Onward.
SEPTEMBER 5, 2016 FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
A century ago, the game of football was played by college and high school students on autumn Saturday afternoons. Then many high schools installed lights at their fields and began playing on Friday nights.
Meanwhile, professional teams claimed Sundays. They eventually competed most of the winter as well, into February. I grew up feeling this was the natural gridiron progression: high school on Friday night, college on Saturday, pro on Sunday.
That natural order began to break down with the debut of Monday Night Football in 1970, and a gradual relaxation of standards continues even today. This past Friday evening, there were five college games live on my cable TV college games, not high school.
Next Friday, two such telecasts are scheduled. High schools managed to preserve their Friday monopoly for a long time, but fewer kids are playing football these days and their time slot exclusivity seems to have gone away.
AUGUST 30, 2016 ASTRONAUT IN JEOPARDY
At Oberlin, a liberal arts college, I was a physics major. In addition to our departments rigorous studies, a simple non-technical course was offered for humanities students who needed to fulfill their science requirement. We patronizingly called it poets physics.
In a tweet last Friday, Ken Jennings intended to mention my alma mater. But he failed.
He was imagining a space traveler unable to find words to express the wonders around him.
AUGUST 19, 2016 ROBOTIC REPORTAGE
In college, I used to rip the news off our campus radio station's UPI teletype and read it on the air. Often my shift was the 5:30 pm newscast on Thursday. What sports stories break at that hour on a Thursday?
Nowadays we're told that the Associated Press is allowing a computer program to begin filling in the blanks. It uses the data from minor league box scores to generate baseball stories automatically. No human sportswriters are required to actually watch the games.
However, the robot isnt taking away anyones job. In this era of budget cutbacks, as I noted earlier about high school football, theres less and less actual in-person newsgathering going on these days. No reporter would have been assigned to these particular minor league games anyway.
AUGUST 15, 2016 THE RIGHT-HAND MAN
Vin Scully is drawing closer to the end of an amazing 67 years of broadcasting Dodgers baseball. Yesterday he called his final Pittsburgh at Los Angeles game.
I crossed paths with Vin only once. It was ten years ago in the restroom of the Dodger Stadium pressbox. But his assistant now theres a different story.
AUGUST 10, 2016 FEMINISTS ON THE RISE
In my lifetime, President Barack Obama noted one week ago today, weve gone from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions, to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court. Ive witnessed how women have won the freedom to make their own choices about how theyll live their lives. Thats what 21st-century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.
Indeed, many professions were effectively closed to women when I was a young man in 1970. But that didnt stop fellow Oberlin College graduate Jan Olson. She was going to be a doctor. She applied to several medical schools including the Yale School of Medicine, only to discover that Yales admission policies favored men. Jan got herself accepted elsewhere.
Some mossbacks didnt trust physicians of either gender, as I later wrote to Dr. Olson.
Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes. Back in the first year out of college, I was. Applying to med schools, Jan was. Also, she was conflicted about her love life. She wrote,
The rest of that poem, and the one I wrote in reply, are to be found in this month's second installment of Letters from Jan: Readjustment.
That sounds like a lot, but due to inflation at the time, the large-denomination bill was barely worth a couple of bucks American. Due to subsequent inflation, nowadays the souvenir isnt worth the paper its printed on.
AUGUST 1, 2016 AWAKE, BETTER ANGELS!
When I consider the possibility of Donald Trump becoming Commander in Chief, two specters haunt me. One is Donald Trumps incompetence. The other is his voters hostility.
There is nothing on Mr. Trumps résumé, the Washington Post editorialized between the conventions, to suggest he could function successfully in Washington. The lack of experience might be overcome if Mr. Trump saw it as a handicap worth overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books, and appears to believe he needs no advice ... whether he convinces himself of his own untruths or knows that he is wrong and does not care.
Paul Krugman wrote, You cant run the U.S. government the way he has run his ramshackle business empire. We know about his stiffing of vendors, his profiting from enterprises even as they go bankrupt, his seeing contracts as mere suggestions and clear-cut financial obligations as starting points for negotiation. We also know that he sees fiscal policy as no different; he has already talked about renegotiating U.S. debt. So why should we be surprised that he sees diplomatic obligations in the same way?
He has made clear, the Post continued, that he would drop allies without a second thought. The consequences to global security could be disastrous.
I remember 1972, when the Democrats nominated Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri for Vice President. Two weeks later, we learned he was on the anti-psychotic drug Thorazine and had received electroshock therapy for clinical depression. His doctors said Eagleton's depression could recur and might endanger the country. He was forced to withdraw on August 1. The Democratic National Committee had to nominate a replacement.
But things are different in 2016. Crazy Donald is not going to give up.
Although only one out of every 24 Americans cast a ballot for him in the primaries, that still amounts to 13,300,472 votes a total that Trump proudly trumpets. Why do so many support him?
Typically the response is, Trump understands what its like to be me. In this economy, Im having a hard time making ends meet. I know its not my fault. So whose fault is it? Somebody has to be blamed! I blame blacks and foreigners. Also those elite politicians in Washington. Trump is not a know-it-all politician. He speaks his mind. He talks the way I talk.
That, of course, is the problem!
Trump does talk like an egotistic white male not a statesman. His voters cheer for a demagogue who will bully the rest of the world into doing whatever benefits them. He exploits their fears, slams the door in the face of outsiders, demeans dissenters with crude nicknames.
Even if he loses in November, his supporters will still be with us. The election must have been rigged. Find a scapegoat! And lock her up! Their seething anger might be a greater long-term threat to the nation than crazy Donald himself.