Yes, I watched another old Gene Kelly musical on TV this month. And in it, Van delivered a certain line while verbally sparring with a girl, a quip that puzzled me for half a century. I have therefore been induced to write an article about the way in which Brigadoon Reappears.
JUNE 26, 2018 TRAVEL ON TO AVALON
After my father became a widower, he sometimes accompanied me on my travels to sports telecasts. This month's 100 Moons article describes some of those trips from 1983 to 1990, based on my letters.
We visited Disney World's EPCOT Center during its first year of operation. I didn't write about it at the time, but my father felt more at home in the Canadian pavilion than in the more exotic countries. For my part, I enjoyed seeing one of the recently discovered terra-cotta warriors from China and a 3D film with Michael Jackson.
I quote a memo I submitted to my office on January 15, 1987, detailing the next month's lodging needs for the two of us. Our ten days in the South included three basketball telecasts sandwiched around a week of vacation. We arrived in Hattiesburg on my 40th birthday.
I also describe our day trip to Catalina Island, which my father had visited in 1936 before he even met my mother. Music is included.
JUNE 23, 2018 WAS LIFE SLOWER IN OLDEN TIMES?
Pittsburgh Pirates fans consider the finale of the 1960 World Series to be one of the greatest games ever played. The Pirates captured the title in an all-out Game 7 struggle, using three different relief pitchers before Bill Mazeroski's walk-off home run sent the Yankees to defeat by the score of 10-9.
A couple of weeks ago, the Pirates hosted the Dodgers and won by the score of 11-9. There seemed to be much less excitement this time.
Superficially similar though the final scores may appear, let's look deeper into the stats. I'll define Balls in Play as the number of batted balls that result in hits, outs, errors, or sacrifices the essence of baseball action.
Between plays, the NBA shot clock is only 24 seconds, but MLB fans must wait 244 seconds! On average! Often longer!
JUNE 20, 2018 BUT WHY?
I often find myself watching an educational program on a cable channel like Science or Smithsonian. The documentary could simply lecture at me. Often, however, the script employs a more effective technique to keep my attention. It asks me questions.
However, instead of simply piling on another fact, the narrator first asks a question to pique my interest. Then, after the commercial, he will reveal how experts have analyzed evidence leading up to the puzzle's solution.
It sometimes becomes comical to hear this but-but-but technique repeated every 90 seconds or so. Fact. But why? Fact. But who? Fact. But what?
Fact. But wouldn't you like to know more?
Why does the church play such a central role as a political institution for blacks? That question was asked of Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor at Princeton, in the August 2008 issue of American History magazine. Her answer: Black ministers, because they're among the few blacks who don't work for white bosses, are autonomous not dependent on a broader power structure for support but accountable only to the African-American community. Therefore they're free to speak out against conditions that they see as wrong.
But she still marvels at the fact that blacks embraced the church when they were yet slaves. How is it possible that African Americans who were enslaved who were unlikely, either themselves or their children, to ever be free, who were living in a context that we almost can't even imagine how is it that they looked around and said, against all empirical evidence, Actually, God loves me?
Somehow, this doesn't surprise me at all. Faith has nothing to do with empirical evidence. On the contrary, it rejects evidence. It flies in the face of evidence. According to Hebrews 11:1 (NIV), faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Those who most despair of happiness in this life are those who most eagerly seize upon the dubious promise of a better life in heaven. They have no evidence to support their hope, and it may all be a fairy tale, but they convince themselves it is true because they fervently want to believe that on the other side of Jordan is a sweet chariot coming for to carry them home.
JUNE 11, 2018 THE ICE COLOSSUS
How could network television make such an obvious error?
I wasn't there; I was working a baseball telecast in Pittsburgh. But I can deduce what happened. I myself have been involved in similar mistakes more of them than I care to remember.
For every horse, the graphics people had already prepared a "font" declaring him the Unofficial Winner of the 140th Belmont Stakes. It's standard procedure to add the time of the race and insert such a font into the broadcast as soon as possible after the finish, as the winning horse and his jockey are celebrating.
As the horses galloped the final hundred yards, the graphics coordinator said something like this to his operator: "Number 6 is going to be the winner! Call up Da' Tara, number 6. Got it? He won. Now what was the time? Two-29-point-65! Two-29-point-65. Is the font ready? Okay, FONT IS GOOD. BLIND REVEAL." This last phrase means that the graphic will be blind (invisible) at first, but on command it will animate onto the screen and reveal the text.
Meanwhile, as the horses galloped the final hundred yards, director Doug Holmes showed the finish. He cut to a closeup of the winning horse Da' Tara, then to a wide shot of the field slowing down. But the question on everybody's mind was "what happened to the favorite?" So, quite properly, Doug cut away from the winner to a closeup of the losing horse, number 1, Big Brown.
The sequence above took only seven seconds to unfold. Big Brown remained on the screen, unidentified, for another nine seconds.
There was another pitfall ahead for the ABC-TV graphics crew. They had prepared an Official Results page to list the time of the race and the horses that finished first, second, and third, along with the results of wagers on these horses. There were additional lines for combination bets: exacta, trifecta, and superfecta.
JUNE 6, 2018 NO PURCHASE? NO PROBLEM
JUNE 4, 2018 BECAUSE THE WORLD IS ROUND
Back in the early 1960s, the girls' chorus at my the local high school sometimes brought out a smaller nine-person ensemble called the Triple Trio: three sopranos, three second sopranos, three altos.
Then at the end of the 1960s, the Beatles Abbey Road album included a completely different Because, written by John Lennon. It was the Triple Trio revisited. Three Beatles each sang a different vocal line, then overdubbed it twice more for a total of nine apparent voices. But they also added instruments.
Listening to it today, I find the Beatles version overproduced at least compared to the nine voices of Sara Niemietz in this beautiful a cappella performance.
JUNE 1, 2018 NOWADAYS I'D BE CALLED A "RISING SENIOR"