APRIL 26, 2012 SPRING FEVER
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 Deans 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.
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.
Dick Clark, the longtime American Bandstand host known as the worlds 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!
Dicks 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 fathers 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.
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!
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.
Im Type B myself. If the impatient Type A drivers always know exactly where theyre going and think they own the road, perhaps they should be given their own private speedways where theyll 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 Tamboras 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 didnt 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
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 theyd 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.
Also, Ive 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 werent 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 didnt know much about the Bearcats Ohio State hadnt played its in-state rival for 40 years except that Oscar Robertson (career 33.8 points per game) had graduated.
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. Josephs and Utah were in double overtime when we tuned in. Then they went to a third overtime, then a fourth. St. Josephs 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 Seigfrieds. Jerry Lucas led the Buckeyes, as usual, with 27 points and 12 rebounds. However, I dont actually remember much about the game except the incredible outcome:
MARCH 15, 2012 THERMOMETER UP, MANOMETER DOWN
Warm weather has returned, and its 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. Ive noticed for years that my BP tends to be lower in the summer.
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 dont 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 Im 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, thats 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
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. Ive taken the liberty of demonstrating how this might look.
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 Marions 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.
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.
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?