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APRIL \ MARCH 2012

 

APRIL 26, 2012     SPRING FEVER

Ah, I remember the spring of 1970.  It was a great time for a 23-year-old male grad student like me to be on the campus of Syracuse University.  Miniskirts were in style!

A very attractive blonde, a tall senior, sometimes dined at the same cafeteria as I.  One day she came in wearing the latest fashion, a long-sleeved minidress, something like the one Abigail Clancy is wearing in the recent paparazzo photo on the left.  She and her friend got their trays of food and approached the table next to me.

As she leaned forward to set down her tray, the puffy cuffs of her sleeves brushed the edge of the table.  But her bare thighs also brushed the edge of the table.  “Look at that,” she remarked to her friend, marveling at how skimpy the dresses had become in the Age of Aquarius.  “My skirt is shorter than my sleeves!”

Then she sat down and crossed her long legs, which I spent the rest of my lunchtime discretely admiring.

Her skirt was shorter than her sleeves?  Really?  I kept these words and pondered them in my heart.  Does this really happen?  Can dresses be designed that way?

Forty-two years later, I decided to do a little research on the Internet.  I found plenty of examples of daringly high hemlines, but they almost never approached the level of the model’s wrists.

It would seem that if a girl wants the sleeve-lower-than-the-hem look, she has two options.

 

She can combine an indecently short skirt with super-long sleeves that extend beyond the wrist, covering her hand except for the fingers.

Or she can lower her shoulders, like my Syracuse coed bending over the lunch table.

 

Moral:  Don’t stand up straight!

 

APRIL 20, 2012     JAY HANNA DEAN

I watched a 60-year-old movie this week:  The Pride of St. Louis.  In this biopic, Dan Dailey portrayed Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, from the start of his pro career to the beginnings of his later career as a radio play-by-play announcer.  (I was impressed by how well Dailey imitated Dean’s voice.)  Richard Crenna played his brother Paul Dean, also a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher.  Surprisingly, future NBC News anchor Chet Huntley had a bit part as a broadcast partner.

My father was the same age as Ol’ Diz and remembered his boasting, in his mangled Arkansas syntax, about what “me ’n Paul” would accomplish.  The brothers combined for 49 wins in 1934, plus four more in the World Series.

For myself, I remember Ol’ Diz calling games on TV.  It was 50 years ago that I taped a bit of his work.  The transcript is this month’s “100 Moons” article.

 

APRIL 18, 2012     FOLLOWING A LEGEND

For a few weeks in the summer of 1970, I was a disk jockey at WAER, the Syracuse University student radio station.

DDick Clark in 1954ick Clark, the longtime American Bandstand host known as “the world’s oldest teenager,” died today at the age of 82.  What was Dick doing long ago, when he actually was a teenager?  He too was a disk jockey at WAER!

Dick’s uncle Bradley Barnard owned WRUN in Utica, New York, which signed on as an FM-only station in 1946.  The next year Bradley hired his brother-in-law Richard Clark as promotions manager, and Richard hired his 17-year-old son Dick as a summer replacement in the mailroom.  Dick also read the hourly weather forecasts.  But it was time for college.  He had applied unsuccessfully at Yale, so in the fall of 1947 he enrolled at his father’s alma mater, Syracuse University.

At Syracuse only a few months earlier, in April, WJIV-FM ("Jive") had begun operations with 2½ watts of power.  That was enough to cover the campus, and Syracuse became the first college in the nation to have its own low-power FM broadcast station.  When the FCC amended its rules to allow special experimental licenses for up to 10 watts, "Jive" received one of these licenses, changing its call letters in July of 1947 to WAER (Always Excellent Radio).

Like me at Oberlin two decades later, Dick was only a freshman but could boast of his previous on-air experience back home.  He joined the staff of WAER.

By 1950 some thirty additional colleges had been granted low-power radio station licenses.  In September 1950 WAER raised its power to 1,000 watts — the first college station to broadcast at such a high wattage.  ...Dick Clark remembered the format as being “a little bit of everything.”  Classical shows were programmed alongside interview shows at the chapel with foreign-speaking students; the students produced and wrote their own dramas; and bands were brought in to perform.  It was, in the words of Clark, “like old-time radio of yesteryear.”  (From Syracuse University: The Tolley Years, 1942-1969, by Galpin, Greene, Wilson, Baron, and Barck.)

Dick stayed with WAER until graduating with a Business Administration degree in 1951.  And the rest is history.

 

APRIL 16, 2012     WHICH OTHER DRIVERS ANNOY YOU?

For its annual auto issue this month, Consumer Reports asked 895 Americans to score 20 common driver gripes.  On a 1-to-10 scale, 1 means a behavior “does not annoy you at all” and 10 means it “annoys you tremendously.”

I noticed that these complaints tend to fall into two categories.  Some behaviors irk Type A drivers, who resent anyone who gets in their way and delays them for any reason.  For example, suppose a Type A is racing down a empty lane of the freeway.  Ahead of him, a car changes lanes, merging into the lane that the Type A thought was exclusively his.  Forced to slow down, the Type A screams, “He cut me off!” 

        Complaints from Type A:
8.3   Drivers who cut you off
7.3   Slow drivers dawdling in the passing lane
7.3   Jaywalkers stepping in front of your car
7.0   Slowing down to “rubberneck” at accidents
6.6   Drivers who are indecisive about where to turn
6.5   Slow drivers on a two-lane road who won’t pull over
6.1   Not going when the light turns green
5.8   Bicyclists who don’t let you by

Others behaviors irk Type B drivers, who follow the rules and resent a lack of courtesy — especially from a Type A who recklessly endangers their safety.

        Complaints from Type B:
8.9   Texting on a cell phone while driving
8.7   Able-bodied drivers parking in handicapped spaces
8.4   Tailgaters
8.2   Speeding and swerving in and out of traffic
7.7   Taking up two parking spaces
7.6   Talking on a cell phone while driving
7.6   Not letting you merge into a lane
7.6   Not dimming high beams when approaching
7.5   Not using turn signals
7.1   Excessive horn honking
6.8   Not turning on lights when it’s raining or at dusk
5.7   Cranking up the radio volume

I’m Type B myself.  If the impatient Type A drivers always know exactly where they’re going and think they own the road, perhaps they should be given their own private speedways where they’ll never have to yield or slow down for anybody else.

 

APRIL 10, 2012     STORIES OF THE MISSING SEASON

On this night 197 years ago, Mount Tambora in Indonesia, a volcano that had been rumbling and booming for five days, exploded in the largest observed eruption in recorded history.  The earth spewed out an estimated 38 cubic miles of pyroclastic trachyandesite.  A column of ash reached 140,000 feet (an altitude of more than 26 miles).  From there, winds carried it around the world.

More than a year later, in 1816, a group of English writers gathered in Switzerland for their summer holiday.  At his villa beside Lake Geneva, Lord Byron and his physician John Polidori welcomed Percy Bysshe Shelly and his future wife Mary.  But Mount Tambora’s ash was still blocking the sun that June, and the cold and rainy weather prevented the group from enjoying the outdoors.  It was “the year without a summer.”  So they stayed inside and told each other ghost stories.

Then they started writing their own.  Lord Byron retold some Balkan legends in “Fragment of a Novel,” which Polidori later expanded into The Vampyre.  For her part, Mary Shelley began writing her novel Frankenstein.  Thus “the year without a summer” engendered two famous horror tales.

On the other extreme, 2011-12 has been “the year without a winter.”  At least that's true in my part of the world; other parts, like Alaska and Ukraine, have endured especially severe winters, so it's not a global warm spell.  But here in Pennsylvania, flu cases were down 97 percent from the year before.  We usually do have winter; only two years ago, more than four feet of snow fell in February.  But not this time.

Once again, the upper atmosphere is the cause.  The North Atlantic Oscillation and La Niña combined to make the last few months unseasonably mild.  There were only seven days on which my lawn in Southwestern Pennsylvania was completely covered by snow (January 20-23, February 11-12, and March 5).  I never had occasion to don my winter boots.

What tales of horror will emerge from this latest anomaly? 

 

APRIL 6, 2012     THE FIRST SÉANCE

Late on the afternoon of the first Easter, many of the remaining disciples gathered in a locked room in Jerusalem.  They emerged with an astonishing report.

But my namesake missed that meeting, and he didn’t believe the ghost story that came out of it.  In my latest article, Doubting Thomas tells his side of the tale.

 

MARCH 31, 2012     HEIMATLÄNDER MEINER ELTERN

I’ve added new pictures to existing pages that show where my parents grew up.

First, here’s a portion of an 80-year-old panorama of the ferry at my father’s hometown in Kentucky.  I've colorized it.

Second, Google Earth now has overhead views of my mother’s old homestead on this hill in Ohio.  I’ve correlated them to an 1884 surveyor’s plot.

Click these small photos to jump to the upgraded articles.

 

MARCH 29, 2012     KEEP OUR KIDS AS IGNORANT AS WE ARE

Conservatives fret that their children are being taught non-Biblical ideas in public schools operated by the evil socialist government, as well as on the campuses of snobby liberal universities.  So they’d prefer to home-school their kids and discourage them from attending college, where they might learn about the rest of the world.  I vent about this in my new article on The Crusade Against Education.

 

MARCH 24, 2012     COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

We sometimes forget that in this modern world, we live like kings.

We can select riches from great treasure houses, or summon players to perform in our private chambers, or travel at will through time and space.

That’s the theme of this month’s “100 Moons” article.

Also, I’ve augmented earlier posts with additional financial information.

Here:  A new basketball arena is costing CalU.

Here:  The British eschew hypothecation in public financing.

 

MARCH 21, 2012     THE CRYING TOWEL

Tomorrow night in the regional semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament, the Ohio State Buckeyes will face the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Way back in 1921, Ohio State lost to Cincinnati 33-17 in the sixth meeting of their series.  Since then, however, although the universities are only two hours apart, the Buckeyes have refused to schedule the Bearcats.  Therefore, aside from one neutral-court game in 2006, this will be the first time these two teams have met in half a century!  And that meeting fifty years ago was in the national championship game.

1962:  I remember the title game.  It was played at Freedom Hall in Louisville.  My parents and I lived just 40 miles from the Ohio State campus, so we were Buckeye fans, and we watched the telecast from a Columbus TV station that Saturday night.  When OSU lost, 71-59, of course we were disappointed.

But we had seen this fish before.  We weren’t as stunned as we had been the previous season, fifty-one years ago, when the same two teams also met in the national championship game!

1961:  The week before the Final Four, we watched the Mid-East Regional from Freedom Hall.  My recollection is that it wasn't televised nationally or even regionally, but the Columbus station that regularly aired Ohio State games (NBC affiliate WLWC, now WCMH) dispatched sports director Jimmy Crum to send the Buckeyes' two games back to Ohio on channel 4.  On Friday and Saturday nights, our heroes eliminated both hometown favorites, Louisville and Kentucky.

Now the Bucks had cruised into the title game in Kansas City ranked #1 with a perfect 27-0 record.  As the defending champions from 1960, they had a shot at a second straight NCAA crown.  The opponent would be Cincinnati.  We didn’t know much about the Bearcats — Ohio State hadn’t played its “in-state rival” for 40 years — except that Oscar Robertson (career 33.8 points per game) had graduated.

 
I experimented with taking Polaroid pictures of our TV set during basketball games.

Left:  Oscar Robertson’s pro team, the Cincinnati Royals, against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in a national telecast, Saturday afternoon, February 3, 1962.  (This was the 1925-1968 Garden, not the present building.)

The shot clock, which the NBA calls the 24-second clock, was not above the backboard as it is nowadays; it was on the corner of the hardwood, where both players and TV cameras could see it.  Walt Frazier claims that having the shot clock on the floor enabled him to make many of his steals.  When his opponent glanced over to the corner, Clyde would grab the ball.

Right: there’s no note on the photo, but I think this is from the local WLWC telecast of an Ohio State home game, probably that same night vs Northwestern.

When the NCAA national championship telecast came on the air on March 25, 1961, the announcers apologized because there were two different teams on the floor.  In those days the title game was preceded by a consolation game between the other two Final Four teams, the winner receiving a third-place trophy.  Unfortunately, St. Joseph’s and Utah were in double overtime when we tuned in.  Then they went to a third overtime, then a fourth.  St. Joseph’s finally won the marathon 127-120, and the matchup we really wanted to see could finally begin, about an hour late.

The chronicles indicate the attendance was only 10,700.  OSU made 15 of 16 free throw attempts, the only miss being Larry Seigfried’s.  Jerry Lucas led the Buckeyes, as usual, with 27 points and 12 rebounds.  However, I don’t actually remember much about the game except the incredible outcome:

Ohio State lost.  For the first time in 33 games.  The score, in overtime, was 70-65.

It must have been about midnight by then, and we sadly switched off the Sylvania and went to bed.

Later in the newspapers we saw a photo of a sobbing Siegfried, a towel over his head.  And it was reported that “John Havlicek sat in his hotel room in his sweat-soaked uniform until 4:00 in the morning, unable to believe that the game was over” — as well as OSU's perfect season.

 

MARCH 15, 2012     THERMOMETER UP, MANOMETER DOWN

Warm weather has returned, and it’s doing wonders for my blood pressure!  True, my doctor has also made a small adjustment to my high-blood-pressure medication, but I think the real driving force is the temperature.  I’ve noticed for years that my BP tends to be lower in the summer. 

This is not a new medical breakthrough.  For example, a 1993 study in the United Kingdom of people aged 65 to 74 “showed that there was a fourfold increase in the proportion of subjects with blood pressures > 160/90 mmHg in winter compared with in summer.  Regression analysis revealed highly significant seasonal differences.  A 1 degree C decrease in living-room temperature was associated with a rise of 1.3 mmHg in systolic blood pressure.”

A 2008 study in three cities in France “found a strong correlation between blood pressure and outdoor temperature in a large sample of the elderly.  Average systolic blood pressure was 5 mmHg higher in winter than in summer.”

What’s the mechanism behind this seasonal effect?  The French think it might be related to sunlight and vitamin D.  Or perhaps people exercise more in warm weather.  I don’t think either explanation is particularly applicable to me; I’m an indoor cat, spending little time outside in any season.

Now I have numerical data of my own.  After my air conditioner started giving me trouble, I wrote down the indoor air temperature whenever I took a blood pressure reading.

Over the past year, I took 14 readings between mid-November and early March, while the furnace was warming my apartment to a steady 68 degrees.  Good news:  As a man of Northern European ancestry, I like it cool.  I feel alert and energetic and simply put on another sweater.  Bad news:  My average BP was 133.0 (minimum daily average systolic pressure).

During the same twelve-month period, I took 19 other readings when my air conditioner was struggling to keep the temperature in my apartment between 71° and 78°.  Bad news:  I don’t like it warm.  If the thermometer rises into the high seventies, I start to estivate, feeling sluggish and lethargic.  Good news:  When this torpor sets in, my blood pressure goes down.  My average BP was 121.7 — more than 11 mmHg lower.

What should I do next winter?  Maybe I should turn up the thermostat, thereby turning down my BP, even though I’m also turning up my fuel use and turning down my personal energy.

Or maybe I should just try to get more vitamin D.  More exercise?  Aside from shoveling snow, that’s out of the question.

 

MARCH 11, 2012     ORANGE UPDATE

Syracuse University, where I earned my graduate degree, was eliminated in the semifinals of the Big East basketball tournament.  But the dean of their School of Education is still successfully promoting a wacky theory.

Dr. Douglas Biklen has won an award from UNESCO for his long-discredited advocacy of Facilitated Communication.  Here, read more about the award.  Here, read my earlier explanation of why I no longer donate to Syracuse.

 

MARCH 8, 2012     COAL MINERS' STATUE

Pittsburgh Penguins hockey legend Mario Lemieux was honored yesterday with the unveiling of a large statue outside the Consol Energy Center.  Everyone had good things to say about Mario, but I must admit I don’t much care for the sculpture.

It depicts this thrilling instant from a game in 1988.  Lemieux has just “split” two Islanders defensemen by carrying the puck between them.  Now they're colliding with each other, and he's free to score a breakaway goal moments later.

Hockey is a kinetic sport, and a great play takes place over a span of at least a second, so it’s difficult to capture the essence of the play in a single still frame.  But in this color photo, it’s fairly easy to see what’s happening.

However, that’s not the case when the frozen frame is translated into 4,700 pounds of bronze.  The uniforms become featureless loose gray garments, and the faces take on the same tone.  If the lighting is just right, maybe you can make out the “66” on Mario's back.

The colorless scene reminds me of hard-working miners, covered in coal dust, ignoring each other, bent over their individual picks and shovels in a narrow passageway. 

Here’s my suggestion.  We’ve all seen the marble sculptures of ancient Greece and Rome, such as this bust of Caligula.

What many of us don’t realize is that before the paint wore off, the sculptures were originally in full color, as in the reproduction on the right.  Color makes them much more lifelike.

I think the Lemieux portion of the statue ought to be painted.   As it stands now, we see three men with their backs to each other.  It's hard to tell who they are supposed to be.  Their heads are down and they're struggling, all skating in different directions, poking at the ice with sticks.

Let's restore Mario's colors.  I’ve taken the liberty of demonstrating how this might look.

Wouldn’t it be better to see an instantly recognizable giant hockey player in front of the arena?

After all, there is precedent for painted Mario statues.

 

MARCH 7, 2012     GRANDMA MARY COMES TO ME

Some 40 years ago, I was living at home and working 15 miles away in Marion, Ohio.  Each morning when we woke up, our family would listen to the sound of Marion’s WMRN-AM, “the friendly neighbor station.”

The records they played were not so much the usual hits about lovesick teenagers.  More often, they were pop songs with an optimistic message.  My mother, who was almost 60 and sometimes brooded about her everyday troubles, must have found some of these lyrics especially evocative.

For example, in 1972 Johnny Nash had a #1 record with a bouncy reggae tune that WMRN played almost every morning, regardless of weather.

I can see clearly now!  The rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

I think I can make it now!  The pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for.
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

Look all around!  There’s nothin’ but blue skies.
Look straight ahead!  Nothin’ but blue skies.

I can see clearly now!  The rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

 

And then there was the following song, which must have reminded my mother of her grandmother.

Born in 1851, Mary Buckingham (left) lived until 1937 when my mother was 24.  When Ann Buckingham was growing into a young woman, she must have received much wise advice from Mary.  “Don’t worry about it; everything will work out in the end.”  And perhaps she still dreamed about her grandmother more than thirty years later.

The 1970 record begins with a solemn piano introduction, then a male singer backed by voices and a Hammond organ.  There's a guitar solo near the end, but otherwise it sounds very much like a hymn.

When I find myself in times of trouble,
Mother Mary comes to me,
Speaking words of wisdom:  “Let it be.”
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me,
Speaking words of wisdom:  “Let it be.”
Let it be, let it be.  Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom:  “Let it be.”

And when the broken-hearted
People living in the world agree,
There will be an answer:  “Let it be.”
For though they may be parted,
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer:  “Let it be.”
Let it be, let it be.  Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom:  “Let it be.”

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me.
Shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music.
Mother Mary comes to me,
Speaking words of wisdom:  “Let it be.”
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be.
There will be an answer:  “Let it be.”
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom:  “Let it be.”

My mother enjoyed listening to these calming words a number of times before she discovered that they were sung by that long-haired hippie rock band, the Beatles.

 

MARCH 1, 2012     NO DOUBT ALLOWED

Here's movie critic Eric D. Snider, writing about “Johnny,” the cursed title character of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

He runs into Moreau, a priest from an obscure religious order, who says there's this boy who's been taken by bad guys, and if Johnny can save him, the Ghost Rider curse will be lifted.  Johnny ... is pleased to accept this task, though it's curious that he does not first ask for some verification that Moreau can actually deliver on his promise.

No, Eric, that's not curious at all.  When a religious leader makes a promise, people always believe him.  To seek a second opinion would betray a sinful lack of faith, would it not?

 

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