16, 2017 WHOM
DO YOU WANT TO BELIEVE?
Portents! In the last eight weeks there have been so many
harbingers of The End of the World from three devastating
hurricanes to the fires still sweeping California that we
almost overlooked the first of these omens.
who are not intellectuals resent those who are. They have their
own ideas. My conversation with a Fictional Uninformed
Interlocutor is titled Phooey
on the Eclipse.
13, 2017 OHIO
ROADS LEAD TO FIVE ROMES
I was newly arrived here in southwestern Pennsylvania, I turned on
the local TV news one evening and saw footage of a minor house fire
in Allentown. Why are they reporting on that? I
wondered. Allentown, Pennsylvania, is 300 miles east of
here! Eventually I discovered that Allentown is also the
name of a 189-acre neighborhood that's part of the city of Pittsburgh.
birth state of Ohio likewise has multiple place names. The
overhead view on the right shows one of the places called Orange.
Orange is on Orange Road, nine miles north of Columbus. As I'm
sure you recall, it was on April 4, 1859, that Anderson Jennings and
Richard Mitchell were taken into custody at the railroad station
here. Their presence was required in court for a case involving
the Fugitive Slave Act.
village on the left is called Stringtown. It's 30 miles from
Cincinnati. Although there are only three homes in downtown
Stringtown, its northern suburbs boast eleven more along the road to
Felicity. Nevertheless, the name Stringtown is popular in Ohio
twice as popular as Bloomfield, and five times as popular as Adamsville.
explain everything in this month's 100 Moons article.
11, 2017 HELP
WANTED: KEYPUNCH OPERATOR
I was in college, back in the dark ages, I didn't have a smartphone
or a laptop. Nevertheless, I could actually communicate with a
computer. To do so, I had to borrow a clunky machine like
this. Extremely clunky. It made loud clunks with every
character I typed.
story, and some old election news, is in a new article called Bedrock
It quotes from two letters I received 50 years ago this month.
9, 2017 POINT
Chyron machine I operate allows me to use either of two output
channels, but the director expects certain graphics to appear on FB1
and others to appear on FB2. Note the two icons labeled accordingly.
I call up a graphic, I really ought to check to see that the correct
icon is highlighted in blue, lest I erase another graphic that's
already airing on the other channel. It's easy to fail to pay
attention to this step.
I've developed the habit of first looking at my monitor, pointing at
the icon with either one or two fingers, and saying either
"one" or "two" out loud.
recently learned that others also use a strange-looking procedure to
reduce errors. According to this
article, the Japanese call it shisa kanko.
7, 2017 BUCKINGHAM
HOMESTEAD PRODUCES ENERGY
forgot to mention my little adventure in rural Ohio two years
ago. Better late than never, I guess.
University had a home football game scheduled in Athens for
Saturday, September 19, 2015, and I was scheduled to help televise
it. Because our crew would have to start setting up early in
the morning, I drove down the day before. And because the farm
where my mother grew up was more or less on the way, and I hadn't
been there in 14 years, I took a side trip to Noble County.
place is called Curtis Ridge. I've described it in this
photo gallery. My mother, born Anna Buckingham in 1913, lived
on this hilltop for the first 11 years of her life. What
remains of the farmhouse is barely visible in the trees that have
grown up since it was abandoned 80 years ago. Those trees are
on the right side of the picture below.
what's going on out back? That gravel area wasn't there on my
previous visit. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that this
is an installation to extract natural gas from the Utica Shale
formation. Signs identify it as NBL-1A-HSU, API number
34121243420100. Unfortunately, I was not "authorized
personnel" and I lacked hazard training, so I couldn't explore further.
research comes to the rescue, in particular Google Earth with its
"historical imagery" function. On the left
below: in October 2011, the eight-acre field south of the
house was still under cultivation, but a drilling permit was issued
that December. On the right below: by October
2013, the crops and some of the trees had been cleared away.
Two temporary ponds had been constructed to hold fracking
fluids. The well was drilled not straight down but
horizontally, towards the southeast, passing under the land shown in
the lower right corner of the pictures.
in 2015, barely two weeks after my visit, the cameras captured the
scene I've labeled below. Drilling operations had been
completed, and natural gas was flowing into the pipeline.
noticed for the first time that Google identifies Township Highway
232, the narrow road that climbs up Curtis Ridge, as "Buckingham
Road." That is as it should be. Tommy Buckingham
married Mary E. Curtis in 1869. They became my
great-grandparents. Their grave is in a small cemetery across
the road from the house they built.
trust the Buckinghams would be proud to know that their farm remains
productive, and their monument still looks out over the Ohio hills.
4, 2007 & DIES
1955, it was said that America soon would launch into space an
artificial satellite of the earth," I wrote on this site a
couple of years ago. "As an eight-year-old boy, I read
with interest the predictions of this great scientific feat.
But on Friday, October 4, 1957, the Soviets beat us to it with their Sputnik.
noon the next day, CBS television aired a special report about the
satellite, which I watched with even greater interest. To my
disappointment, the report ended and a hockey game came on.
After that, for some reason I never really learned to like hockey
of course, is the 50th anniversary of that launch. But I've
recently run across a picture I hadn't seen before, a picture from a
subsequent Soviet space achievement.
was actually looking for something else.
recently seen an image of the Death Star (top) from the 1977 movie Star
Wars, and that reminded me of Mimas (bottom), one of the moons
of Saturn first photographed at close range by Voyager I in
1980. Did George Lucas have some advance knowledge of what
would be found three years later at Saturn?
little Googling revealed that I was not the first to notice the
resemblance. In particular, I found a reference
further down the same page is a scene
from another planet.
a Soviet spacecraft, took the picture below in 1982; it has been
reprocessed recently. We're looking at the desolate surface of Venus.
is a planet named for the Roman goddess of beauty a planet
that, when it was born, was virtually a twin of Earth. However,
the atmosphere of Venus is now 97% carbon dioxide, with clouds of
sulfuric acid. The dense greenhouse gases and the resultant
global warming have raised the surface temperature to nearly 900°
F. The Venera lander survived those hellish conditions for
only a couple of hours.
greenhouse gases ultimately drive our similar-sized planet to the
same fate? Sooner than we think, according to the prophet Zephaniah.
great day of the Lord is near, near and coming fast;
day of destruction and devastation,
day of darkness and gloom,
day of cloud and dense fog.
shall destroy human beings and animals,
birds of the air and the fish in the sea.
is the city that exulted in her security.
heeded no warning voice, took no rebuke to heart.
have wiped out this arrogant people; their bastions are demolished.
have destroyed their streets; no one walks along them.
cities are laid waste, abandoned and unpeopled.
whole earth will be consumed by the fire.
2, 2017 CONVERGENCE
my graphic depiction of the twists and turns of baseball standings.
the Diamond Brick Road?
Well, the graph of the just-concluded 2017 regular season presents a
couple of salient features. Both of them involve
division-winning teams. Both of them represent the same time
span of roughly three weeks.
the red road for the Cleveland Indians. On August 23, the
Tribe was leading the American League Central Division with a
respectable record of 69 wins and 56 losses.
that's nothing. Consider the blue road for the Los Angeles
Dodgers. On August 23 their record was 89-36, an amazing 53
games over .500.
on June 6, the Dodgers had only been in third place in the National
League West. But then they won 31 of their next 35 games, and
fans in southern California started to dream: if L.A. could
keep up that .886 winning percentage the rest of the way, as I've
indicated by the line of green diamonds on my chart, they'd make
history by the time they reached the gold line marking the end of the
season. They would finish with 125 wins! That would far
surpass the all-time Major League record of 116, marked by the single
course, they couldn't maintain that .886 pace. They did reach
91 wins, 55 games over .500. They did take a 21-game lead in
their division. They did have pundits debating whether they
were the best team ever. But then the Dodgers suddenly
slumped. The darker blue portion of their Road, veering off to
the right, represents their 2-16 losing stretch.
over in the American League, the Indians were posting a record winning
streak. The darker red
portion of their Road shows that they won 22 games in a row, the
longest such streak in A.L. history.
what does all this tell us? Nothing. After all that
drama, the teams had very similar records by the second week of
September: the Dodgers 92-52, the Indians 91-56. The
Dodgers ended the season with 104 wins, the Indians with 102.
want to believe that everything happens for a reason, and it's human
nature to try to find a narrative
hidden in random chaos. However, the Bible teaches us that such
efforts are in vain. It teaches us that atypical conditions
(such as hot and cold streaks) will eventually regress to the average.
Santa Monica, Earl Pomerantz wrote
about his local favorites.
one season, the Dodgers were the best team in baseball and also the
worst team in baseball. That has never happened before.
If the Dodgers were looking for a record, they set one.
Best record for four months/worst record for 2½ weeks in
the same season is an achievement likely to stand the
statistical test of time.
baseball experts pored over the ashes of this debacle, looking for
reasons. The Dodgers keep shuffling their
lineup. The recently procured players have upset
the team's delicate chemistry. The opposition has
discovered the Dodgers' preferred batting approach.
The Dodgers have succumbed to the Sports Illustrated
the mystified baseball pundits, we, meaning the human species, are
incapable of having things happen without definitively determining
the reason they did. An experience takes place and we get right
down to business, searching for an acceptable explanation, refusing
to quit until the troubling phenomenon is adequately explained
magic, science, God's mysterious ways, something
never stopping till That's it! We have
to know. For our basic survival, we must always struggle to understand.
for the Dodgers? I see their stunned faces in the dugout and
know they still haven't got a clue.
30, 2017 SEASON
TICKETS TO CHURCH??
created the illustrations for my last post by editing these Internet
images. But you may be wondering what the dialogue was all about.
was inspired by the meltdown of National Football League fanatics
who believe passionately that athletes should not express
opinions which I oppose.
athletes have been trying to draw attention to racial injustice and
police brutality. Some fans are Trump followers or extreme
conservatives, and of course they don't really care about
racial injustice and police brutality. (Nor do they care about
Puerto Ricans.) But they do become incensed if someone doesn't
worship the flag properly or if football players refuse to
stand during the pregame National Anthem.
avoid stirring up the controversy, on September 24 the Pittsburgh
Steelers simply remained off the field until the Anthem was
over. We weren't going to play politics, explained
Coach Mike Tomlin afterwards, we were going to play the
game. Contrary to popular belief, we are a very patriotic and
fans jumped to the opposite conclusion. How dare you
boycott the Anthem? they raged. They wanted to tell the
players You're fired! Since they couldn't, they
fired themselves, swearing they'd never attend another game.
Hesson posted, Today, after 30 years of loving the Pittsburgh
Steelers, I'm going burn [sic] my Steelers jersey. They have
taken a great American sport that people use to forget there [sic]
problems with and turned it into a political circus.
a YouTube video, Robert Williams destroyed hundreds of dollars of
Pittsburgh paraphernalia, saying We have morals in this
country! You do not disrespect the flag and the country and the
Constitution, so watch this stuff burn.
another video, Jim Heaney said I'm a lifelong Steelers
fan. Not anymore. There you go. Goodbye, Pittsburgh
Steelers. Burn in hell.
is so ingrained in America, tweeted Qasim Rashid,
that when people of color protest racism, critics think we're
protesting America. And foreigners may have stoked the
debate to push divisiveness in this country, according to
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) of the Senate Intelligence
Committee. We watched, even this weekend, the
Russians and their troll farms, their internet folks, start
hash-tagging out #TakeAKnee and also hash-tagging out
#BoycottNFL. They were taking both sides of the argument ... to
try to raise the noise level of America and make a big issue seem
like an even bigger issue.
most people didn't really get that excited over the matter.
Kristina Ribali tweeted, I've been so busy I have no idea what
I'm supposed to be offended about. And the NFL's TV
ratings, Donald Trump's favorite indicator of winning, actually
showed a 3% increase this week.
27, 2017 SITTING
DOWN FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE
hello, Mr. Phenattik! I was so happy to see you at church
again last Sunday. How long were you in, uh ... in the hospital?
weeks. But now I think my mind is straightened out. I'm
thinking clearly again.
say, Felicia, speaking of last Sunday, I wanted to ask you about
something that happened during the service.
the offering, you know how the ushers brought all the collection
plates forward and placed them on the altar, like they do every
week? And the organ played louder and everyone stood up and
faced the altar and sang the Doxology?
God, from whom all blessings flow."
noticed you didn't stand up.
other women didn't, either.
just sat there and folded your hands and bowed your heads.
Some of you knelt. What was that all about?
did you know our former pastor had to resign? He was arrested
for domestic violence.
I heard he beat up his wife and his mother-in-law. Big scandal.
church's Board of Trustees voted to use some of our offerings to pay
his legal bills, but a lot of the church ladies felt that was
know what some women have to endure. Our
gifts shouldn't be enabling a wife-beater.
he's a preacher. We should stand behind all our men of the cloth.
the ones who abuse innocent people?
complained to the board, but nothing changed. We mustn't allow
this injustice to proceed. So we decided on a symbolic protest
to follow the offering. Instead of standing for the Doxology,
we chose to remain seated while bowing our heads in an attitude of prayer.
women don't respect the Doxology?
that's not it.
don't believe we should praise God, from whom all blessings flow?
course we should. We're just trying to call attention to what
we perceive as a wrong.
you think there's something wrong with our church? Are you
criticizing the church?
Our church is perfect, just as God's Holy Word is perfect!
in this case, we feel a mistake is being made. And we're
trying to point it out.
you're doing so by disrupting the service! That's
disgraceful! You're protesting the Doxology! That hymn is
sacred! Stand up for it! Praise God the way you're
supposed to! Not only that, you're also disrespecting the
offerings that we've placed on the altar.
not our intent ...
an outrage! Those offerings support our missionaries in
far-off lands! Those heroes are risking their lives for the Gospel!
isn't about them, not at all. We support mission work.
attacking the symbols of our faith! You should be grateful for
God's blessings! You know what should be done with anyone who
refuses to stand and sing? I say, we ought to kick you
out! We ought to throw you uppity bitches off the
property! If you aren't behind our missionaries, if you have a
problem with our church, get out! If you don't love it, leave
it! Right now! Leave us in peace!
do love the church. We simply want it to be better. We
want it to be true to Christian principles.
ungrateful women! You don't appreciate how much you've been
blessed by God! You don't know your place!
Mr. Phenattik ...
know what? I'm going
to leave the church!
disgusted with it! I'm going to burn all my Sunday clothes and
tear up my season tickets and never go back there again! I'll
never even watch a service on TV! I've had it with you people!
you need to pay another visit to the hospital, Mr. Phenattik.
the days of Jules Verne, science fiction imagined future
technological advances and described how we might react to them.
my high school days, before space probes disproved speculation about
ancient Martian canals, I remember reading a Robert Heinlein novel
about human colonists on Mars. Frozen canals are their
highways. Their iceboats have open fronts to catch and compress
the thin atmosphere. For long-distance communication, they
bounce signals off Phobos and Deimos, using the moons of Mars as
natural relay satellites. All of these are technically
possible, and the story is about ordinary young people in this setting.
the present day, apparently we're running out of plausible
situations. Science fiction is gradually giving way to fantasy.
other night I watched the 2006 movie Stranger Than Fiction.
Emma Thompson plays a novelist whose protagonists always die in the
end. She's currently writing about a character named Harold
Crick. Unfortunately, it turns out there's a real Harold Crick,
played by Will Ferrell. He starts hearing her voice in his
head, narrating his life. As the situation unfolds, the baffled
author is warned that if she kills off the fictional Harold, it might
kill the real one. She exclaims in exasperation, "I don't
know the rules!"
was my feeling exactly. Those who devise these fantastic
stories are making up their own rules, which don't have to correspond
to the way the real world works. And I have trouble suspending
disbelief and accepting these artificial premises.
gives us stories about people who are angels, or Supermen, or
conduits for the thoughts of dead people. Can they turn back
time? Can they stop a speeding bullet? No real person
can, but these characters can if the plot requires it.
are some of this season's new TV series, as described in TV Guide.
Daisies: Ned can bring the dead back to life with a
touch. However, if he touches them a second time they're
dead again, this time permanently.
Dan travels back in time and meets his presumed-dead
fiancé. However, to get back to the present he
must alter the events of a stranger's life.
Sam has to capture escapees from Hell and send them back to Satan.
three Cro-Magnons find themselves in today's racist world.
Sarah Connor Chronicles: a woman and her teenage son try
to avoid alien cyborgs from the future.
the title character can access all sorts of secret government data
that has been downloaded into his brain.
Stone: a lawyer might be a prophet.
then there's Bionic Woman.
me outlandish premises like these, and it's easy to write a
story. Can I tweak the rules just a little more?
23, 2017 PEAKING
require backstops to catch any arrows that miss the target entirely.
requires mountains to justify its name.
particular 8,180-foot-high peak in Glacier National Park was dubbed
Mount Oberlin by Lyman Beecher Sperry, MD.
"Gentleman Explorer," who led the first party to reach
Sperry Glacier in 1896, named the mountain after his employer back in
Ohio, Oberlin College.
is my alma mater. It's only ten miles from the shores of Lake
Erie, and I'm well aware that its campus is completely flat
except, that is, for one elevation that I remember as the college's
very own "Mount Oberlin."
ought to be surer of my sources, considering that I was WOBC-FM's
sports director for 2½ years. Some of these facts may be
distorted by the mists of time, and some may never have been true in
the first place. But here's the tale as I recall it:
construction began in 1930 on Crane Swimming Pool for Women, the
excavated dirt was dumped in a pile on the athletic grounds out
back. When I enrolled 35 years later, the pile was still
there, now covered in grass. It served as the archery backstop,
and I think I once climbed all the way to its summit. This
eminence was jocularly known as Mount Oberlin.
my visit a week ago, I wandered behind the John W. Heisman Field
House and took these photos. The gold arrow points to Crane
Pool, now being renovated, and the crimson arrow points to WOBC's antenna.
when we revisit the scenes of our youth, everything seems smaller
than we remember. But Mount Oberlin has overcome this
phenomenon! (I suppose the bulldozers have been at work.)
I remember it as small and steep and located more or less in the
middle of the field.
it seems to have become a long mound on the west side. I don't
know whether it's even still referred to as a Mount.
just to the north, the soccer and track & field and lacrosse
teams now have an up-to-date lighted facility including this
our alumni meeting, we were told that Oberlin's Division III
athletes, the Yeomen, are the happiest students on campus. They
have scaled the heights!
21, 2017 OUT
month, the French Embassy tweeted: Flamenco guitarist
Manitas de Plata was born #OTD. Picasso, who heard him in
Arles, proclaimed This man is of greater worth than I am!
admire de Plata for overcoming his congenital disorder.
However, what does it mean to be born OTD? Is it
like being born blind or born HIV
positive? Or did his mother merely have an On Time Delivery?
forgotten that OTD is tweetspeak for On This Date. My bad.
I've often had to remind myself that my initials TBT are tweetspeak
for Throw-Back Thursday.
20, 2017 MORE
ABOUT LAST WEEKEND
was a buffet dinner Saturday evening at Oberlin College for the
volunteers planning the next two 50th anniversary reunions. I
happened to find a seat between Wayne Alpern, president of the Class
of 1969, and our classmate Christie Seltzer Fountain. Thanks to
George Spencer-Green for the photo below, which I've flanked with
after-dinner conversation was mostly about Oberlin history.
Wayne related that the college's charismatic early leader, evangelist
Charles Grandison Finney, agreed to become a professor only on the
condition that the young institution would accept Black
students. That was in 1835.
May of this year, Oberlin named Carmen Ambar as its 15th president,
the first African American leader in the institution's 184-year
history. She spoke to us on both Friday and Saturday and made a
all three of us at the table Saturday evening had noticed fewer
Blacks currently on campus than we remembered from the 1960s.
Alan Goldman, our committee's liaison with the college, forwarded the
official numbers yesterday.
different ways of counting are in use.
to the federal reporting method, there are 151 students who identify
as Black. (That's only a fraction of the 1,013 students who by
this method are non-white.)
to a method which allows checking more than one box, there are 248
calling themselves at least partly African American.
numbers respectively translate to 5.3% and 8.8% of the college's
2,827 total students. For the nation as a whole, the
corresponding numbers are 13.3% and 14.5%. Oberlin's legacy
demands that we do better.