6, 2014 WAY
UP HIGH, SUDDENLY HERE AM I
NBC's production of Peter Pan got me thinking. I
imagined I was a youngster attending a live stage performance, with
no prior knowledge of what was about to happen.
play starts a century ago in a conventional way, with characters
conversing in English accents about domestic matters. Then a
strange boy enters through a window and tells strange stories about
his home in a strange place called Neverland.
Come with me.
Yes. Well fly!
You can ... fly?
Yes, of course. Delta Airlines offers four daily non-stops.
wait, thats not how the line goes. Peter claims he can
actually soar up into the air all by himself.
You just think lovely, wonderful thoughts, and up you go!
tall tale, I think. Unless they bring out a trampoline, this
actors feet are going to remain firmly planted on the
stage. People cant fly.
then he actually does rise into the air! To me, this is the
most sensational moment in the play. The impossible is
happening, right before my eyes. Hes flying!
Wendy's little brother is encouraged to think his own lovely,
wonderful thoughts. In his case, that means candy, or
Christmas. Amazingly, the little boy also soars straight up,
wriggling and squealing in delight!
now the whole company is soaring about the stage! This
cant be happening!
that follows, not pirates nor Indians nor ticking crocs, will be
able to surpass this magical sight.
for another post about complicated intersections I've recently
I get a hankerin' to hop in my car and head out to get some of that
good ol' country ham. There are three Cracker Barrel
restaurants within twenty-some miles of my apartment, but I've found
the farthest drive to be the most challenging.
requires taking the Pennsylvania Turnpike southeast to westbound
Interstate 70 and then hunkerin' down at Exit 57. This
interchange has been improved in the past couple of years.
I descend the exit ramp, the sign on the right warns that I'll need
to stay in the left lane, which will end at a traffic
circle. I'll want to circulate 270°
counterclockwise and then head towards Hunker.
I arrive at the circle, another sign on the left warns me that
traffic from left does not stop.
the signs don't tell even half of the story. The new
interchange features a double traffic circle!
the first 270° (shown in green), I'll tunnel under the
Interstate and immediately make another 200° around a second
circle (shown in red). From there, eschewing the first egress
to Hunker, I'll descend the second ramp. That will deposit me
onto West Pennsylvania Avenue in New Stanton, where the restaurant resides.
head home afterwards, getting back on the Interstate will be much
easier, requiring only a white ramp on my right (preferably the first
one) and then a gold ramp.
I still haven't told you the whole story!
that yield sign warning of non-stopping traffic from the left?
On the map above, I've depicted said traffic as a big black arrow
entering the underpass. It's hidden from my yield sign
because of the huge embankment that holds up the Interstate. I
must carefully creep up to the four white triangles. There I
make not a yield but a full stop. I lean forward over the
steering wheel and look to my left, as far as I can. Seeing
nothing so far, I then hit the gas to proceed double-time into the
traffic circle before I'm clobbered by a not-yet-visible oncoming truck.
would be safer if all of the green circle could see all
of the red one through the underpass. The highway
engineers should have made the embankment shorter and built the
bridge longer. However, doing so would have cost slightly more
of our tax dollars.
2, 2009 RAINLAND
heard of the Viking explorer and real estate salesman known as Eric
the Red. To entice settlers from Iceland to move to his
new project, he named it Green'land.
Later his son, Leif Ericsson, also became a famous explorer.
may not know about the rest of Erics family. He had two
daughters, Helga Ericsdottir and Freydis Ericsdottir. There was
also another son, Rudy Ericsson, who was called Rudolph the Red
because of his resemblance to his dad.
Eric the Red and his family established a settlement on Greenland in
the year 986, his son Rudy sent for his new wife to join him.
However, when she arrived, she discovered she had been the victim of
her father-in-laws false advertising. This land
wasnt green. On the contrary, it was covered by a huge
glacier. And the weather was even more inhospitable than it had
been back home.
tried to convince his bride that Greenland wasnt as gloomy as
she thought. Youll see, he said.
Conditions will improve once the rainy season is over.
season?! she exclaimed. This stuff falling from
the clouds isnt rain. Its frozen!
its rain, he reassured her.
sleet and snow!
her husband was insistent. Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.
UPDATE: I first heard this punch line 60 years ago, but
in those Cold War days Rudolph the Red was a Communist
from Moscow. By the way, CBS-TV will repeat the animated classic
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at 8:00 ET tonight just as
it did on this date in 2009!
years ago, my parents and I took up residence in a Charm
Home that was only six years younger than I. The location
was atop a hill on a brick-paved road on the outskirts of Cambridge, Ohio.
month's 100 Moons article features vintage photos.
26, 2014 CLUTTER
I was a boy, a television program was brought to me by a single
sponsor. For example, Dinah Shores variety show was
sponsored exclusively by Chevrolet, and the closing credits ran over
Chevys theme song.
I was a young man, advertisers realized that not everyone watched
Dinah, so it was better to spread their message around to different
audiences by buying spots in several different
programs. But there were rules.
For example, no more than one competing car company could buy time
in a given show.
when I was a young man, CBS decided viewers deserved to be updated
about news that broke between Walter Cronkite at 7 pm and their local
newscast at 11. The network introduced, right in the middle of
prime time, a 30-second headlines update. It was anchored by
Connie Chung, as I recall. Almost immediately, however, the
local stations claimed this time. At first, like CBS, they used
it to inform us about stories that would be covered in more detail at
11. But then they stopped giving us any facts at all. The
newsbriefs became merely teases promos to whet our
curiosity so we would tune in at 11 to find out what was happening.
that I'm an old man, the automotive sector is very competitive, and
every car company wants to buy advertising. On a show last
night, when the two-minute window for local commercials came along, I
first saw the stations weatherman. Theres a
big storm coming. Will you have to change your Thanksgiving
travel plans? Join us at 11 to find out. And then
an announcer said, This news update is brought to you by
Chrysler, imported from Detroit.
enough. That was immediately followed by a car commercial,
which I assumed would be for Chrysler. But no, when they
finally got around to identifying the product it turned out to be
Infiniti. Then there was a commercial for Chevrolet. And
then there was a commercial for Nissan.
competing advertisers, back to back! How is a viewer supposed
to know which car to buy?
25, 2009 EXTRA
report: California growers are developing large-scale olive
tree farms to undercut Europes domination of the oil market.
story mentioned extra-virgin olive oil, a term that's
always puzzled me. I tried to reason it out. If virgin
olive oil has never gone all the way, has extra-virgin
oil never even gone to second base? What would any
of that mean, anyway?
what would non-virgin oil be? In what way has it been
sullied, its virtue defamed? Perhaps it's used cooking
oil. The little bits of food have been skimmed off and filtered
out, and the oil has been recycled.
I finally decided to look it up. No, non-virgin oil has not
been defiled by prior experience in the kitchen. However, I was
partly right: it has, in fact, been filtered and refined to
artificially reduce extraneous flavors and acidity. But virgin
oil is all-natural, straight from the fruit. Extra-virgin
applies to virgin oil that naturally happens to have less acidity and
a better taste. And none of it has even reached first base.
FOCUS ON THE FIELD!
University of Pittsburgh football team was shut out at Virginia Tech
yesterday, as I watched on ESPN2. Fortunately I had turned down
the sound to listen to the Pitt radio broadcasters, or I might have
almost missed the game.
TV producer and director seemed to want to show as little of the
action as possible. They preferred to cut away: to
rain-soaked fans, to graphics about national standings, but mostly to
coaches staring out at the field and occasionally pointing and shouting.
director ought to cut back to the game camera at least a
few seconds before the ball is snapped, so we can take note of the
offensive and defensive formations.
on several occasions, we didn't return to the action until half a
second after the snap. It was hard to tell who had the ball!
assume the announcers wanted to talk about the coaches instead of
the players, so that's whom the director showed us. We saw
assistants sitting in the pressbox looking down at their notes and
even, for one long stretch, a former coach who was interviewed on
camera in the booth while the game proceeded unseen or on a
writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted, On Pitt's
opening drive of the third quarter, it drove down to Virginia Tech's
29-yard line. There, on a second-and-2, [Kenny] Pickett found
V'Lique Carter for a 21-yard gain inside the Hokies' 10 ... but it
was negated on a holding call. The penalty was credited to
center Jimmy Morrissey, who didn't appear to be involved in the
play. There was no replay or explanation from the ESPN crew,
though. The announcers instead discussed fishing and the
College Football Playoff committee with former Virginia Tech head
coach Frank Beamer for 40 seconds in the booth.
always thought we telecasters pay too much attention to the
grownups, hoping for an emotional reaction, instead of showing the
student-athletes out there on the field. As Teddy Roosevelt
reminded us, It is not the critic who counts; not the man who
points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds
could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who
is actually in the arena.
22, 2019 INTERCESSION
it's my Fictional Uninformed Interlocutor!
haven't seen you lately, Fui. Why so sad?
father had surgery last week.
I'm sorry to hear that.
is taking care of him. I'm praying for him; it's the least I
praying that God will heal him?
called intercessory prayer.
know. My family goes to church, at least twice a year.
God should already be aware of your Dad's condition.
course He is. God knows everything.
why do you need to tell God what He already knows?
Well, I'm reminding Him.
I'm asking Him to do my family a special favor.
I thought you believed God has already laid out a Plan for your life?
course he has.
for your father's life?
you dare to think you can prevail upon God to change His
course. We're good Christians. Prayer can work miracles.
Fui! Prayer doesn't do what you think it does.
Scientists have tested it and found it ineffectual.
family believes in prayer, but we do not
believe in science.
many experiments have been conducted, and they've produced no
reliable evidence that prayer can cure disease at all!
faith is in the Bible.
you read anything else? Of course not, you're Uninformed.
Here, I looked up some facts from the scientific literature.
study of 799 coronary surgery patients at the Mayo Clinic in
2001 concluded that intercessory prayer had no significant
effect on medical outcomes.
years later, a meta
analysis of 14 controlled studies concluded that There
is no scientifically discernable effect for intercessory
prayer. Those investigators recommended that
further resources not be allocated to this line of research.
confuse me with evidence. My mind is made up. Prayer
works! Besides, our pastor told us that Korean women are twice
as likely to conceive after they've been prayed for.
particular study was by Columbia University researchers, but it
turned out to be flawed.
It was retracted.
are you trying to tell me that praying for Dad won't do any good?
actually that's not at all what I'm saying. It will do
some good, three ways.
see, prayer involves putting your hopes and fears into words.
your father how you feel, and it will reassure him.
yourself how you feel, and it will ease your worry.
your mother how you feel, and it will sustain her.
the Man Upstairs? Don't bother. Won't help.
CAN YOU STILL HEAR ME?
phones have a speaker near the top and a microphone on the bottom,
so they can be held like a traditional telephone receiver. But
what's the deal with the guy on the right?
Fruhlinger tweets, I see people out in public who are sort of
talking into the bottom of their phones but holding the top away from
themselves, and the volume of the person on the other end is playing
full blast, and I always wonder: why? Who does this?
retweets a description of an overheard Presidential phone call.
Holmes says he heard Trump ask Sondland, So, he's gonna
do the investigation? Sondland wasn't on speakerphone,
but held the phone out because it was so loud. So maybe
you move the phone away from you lest its excessive volume blow out
possible explanation: If you want to see the screen, it can't
be plastered up against your cheek. You have to reposition it
in front of your eyes.
the keypads of some old-timey phones presented a similar difficulty.
LOW-TECH SOLUTION FAILS
teams can regulate the temperature of their engines by controlling
how much air comes in through the grille.
yesterday's championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the track
cooled off after sundown.
Hamlin's team reduced the airflow by sticking small pieces of tape
over the grille.
that wasn't enough, so they slapped on a big ol' foot-long chunk.
predictable result: a geyser of steam. Hamlin's
emergency pit stop dropped him from third to 19th.
question: why is tape the preferred airflow-modulating
method? Couldn't there be adjustable louvers controlled by the driver?
Jefferson admired yeomen, the small landowners who worked
individual farms to feed their families. He considered them
ideal American citizens.
When I was
a college student, I broadcast the feats of a different sort of
Yeomen. Oberlin's athletes were known as ye O men.
costumed student has begun appearing at games to inspire the Yeomen
and Yeowomen. Does this new mascot strike fear into the hearts
of Oberlin's opponents? Does it depict a Jeffersonian farmer
with a spade? No, that would be silly.
Obies have chosen a rodent with a striking genetic abnormality.
I tell the
story in a new article, Respect
the Crimson Eye.
AN OUT-OF-SEASON BLIZZARD
watching Steelers-Browns last night, I put Pittsburgh's local CBS
and NBC affiliates on my auxiliary TVs. Both stations devoted
the entire last half of their 11:00 PM newscasts to winter
weather! Archived scenes of sliding cars and snowplows;
interviews about school-closing and runway-clearing procedures;
predictions of monthly snow totals; freezing rain vs
sleet. Possible reasons for this highly unusual programming?
Newscasts normally end with sports coverage, but the Steelers game
couldn't be recapped before its conclusion at 11:40.
We had a little snow earlier in the week, leading to the usual
panic. Gotta get bread and milk!
THE IMPORTANCE OF TELEVISION NEWS
years ago tonight, Vice President Spiro Agnew spoke to a group of
Richard Nixon's administration, not yet 10 months in office, was
fuming at the lack of deference they were receiving from the media
particularly broadcast media, especially following a recent
Presidential address. Agnew had been dispatched to launch a counterattack.
he was representing the executive branch of the Federal government,
newsmen felt threatened. His criticisms caused quite a
kerfuffle in the broadcast community. This included my Syracuse
University graduate class in Television and Radio, which met the very
revisit the incident in a new article titled This
Little Group of Men, which
was Agnew's description of TV news executives and commentators.
11, 2009 THE
MONSTER OF THE ALLEGHENY
was a nice day in Pittsburgh, so I drove to the North Shore and took
a walk to see some sights.
helicopter was hovering over the Allegheny River, filming a River
Rescue boat for a scene in the new Russell Crowe movie, The Next
Three Days. Replicas of the Niña and the Pinta,
two ships from the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus, were tied up
outside Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, where I ate lunch. A few
hundred yards downstream, the new Rivers Casino was open. And
in between, a pier from the 1915 Manchester Bridge once again has a purpose.
nearly four decades, since the structure was replaced by the Fort
Duquesne Bridge and demolished in 1970, this abandoned stone eyesore
loomed over the riverbank. But now workers have cleaned it up
and cut an archway through it.
shown in the artists rendering below, it frames a new statue
honoring the late host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
Rogers is depicted twice as large as life. Hes sitting
down and tying his shoe, as he did to open each episode of the
long-running childrens program he produced at WQED-TV in Pittsburgh.
the memorial from the direction of Heinz Field, as depicted in the
drawing, I saw only the back of the figure.
the sculptor was Robert Berks. He prefers a very rough
texture, as on his memorials to Albert Einstein and the late
Pittsburgh mayor Richard Caliguiri. From the rear, this statue
looks like a giant hairy gorilla, slumped on a stump, brooding over
front of the figure, I could recognize Mr. Rogers smiling
face, sort of. But his huge teeth are enough to frighten little kids.
statue doesnt resemble him at all, according to
the director of the nearby Warhol Museum. It doesnt
look beckoning and warm.
Jimmy Kimmel told his TV audience the statue made the nicest
man in the world look like a mud monster.
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