31, 2017 GET
OUT OF MY CHURCH
upon a time a young man, having just earned a master's degree at the
University of Erfurt, followed his father's wishes and enrolled in
law school there. But almost immediately he dropped out.
To him, law represented ambiguity, with arguments on both
sides. He wanted something without doubt. He wanted
something he could be sure of, something like Christianity.
hunger for certainty. That is a big problem, says Adam
Frank. Religions are often built around
this. Scriptures are transformed into unwavering blueprints for
an unchanging order ... monuments to the fear of change.
the young man became a monk. His name was Martin Luther.
On this date exactly 500 years ago, he sent his archbishop a list of
95 theses against the Church's questionable practice of selling
indulgences. It's said he also nailed a copy to the door of a
Luther began insisting that individual church members should read
the Bible for themselves and form their own interpretations, rather
than merely accepting the authority of the Pope and tradition.
stubborn insubordination led Pope Leo X to excommunicate him barely
three years later.
what does it mean to excommunicate someone? As a
non-Catholic myself, I try to grasp the meaning of the term in an
article entitled You're
29, 2017 HO-HO-HO!
to Bill Crawford of Pittsburgh's WDVE:
is the one night a year when we encourage our children to take candy
Christmas Eve is the one night a year when we encourage our children
to welcome a home intruder.
27, 2017 HATRED
ENDURES, ROOTING INTENSIFIES
days of yore, when the University of Pittsburgh competed in the same
athletic conference as West Virginia University, their partisans
absolutely despised each other.
Backyard Brawls came to an end, as I noted
five years ago, when the two universities relocated more than a
thousand miles apart. The Panthers headed toward the ocean
while the Mountaineers aimed their muskets at Texas. They're
now members of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 respectively.)
supporters of nearby rivals especially immature supporters
have always reveled in their mutual hatred. A Dodger fan
who is now extremely mature (almost 103 years old) was quoted
yesterday in a Los Angeles Times article
by Hailey Branson-Potts.
stepping into Dodger Stadium this week, Norman Lloyd had attended
one World Series. In 1926.
a 12-year-old boy at Yankee Stadium, he watched as Babe Ruth slid
into second base and split his pants. Yankees trainer Doc Woods
rushed onto the field with a needle and thread to fix his uniform
right there. "An ordinary person would call time out and
get a new pair," Lloyd said. "Not the Babe. He
stood up, on the base, hands on his hips, surveyed the crowd and
stood there while they sewed him up."
a mere 91 years later, the actor, a Brooklyn-bred boy with a
penchant for salty language, naturally adores the Dodgers.
"We kids who grew up in Brooklyn as Dodgers fans, we hated the
New York Giants," Lloyd said. "I don't mean to tell
you we disliked them. We haaaated them."
Giants' early 20th century Hall of Fame manager, John McGraw, had a
nickname that he hated: Mugsy. Lloyd and his pre-teen boys
feasted on that hatred and waited for him to leave the ballpark.
As he made his way to his Buick, Lloyd said, the boys were
there. "We waited until he came out, and we'd say, 'Aw,
you Mugsy bastard!' and run for the subway," Lloyd said.
"We had done our rite of passage. We were real Dodger fans."
when the opponent isn't a traditional rival, there's less animosity
in the stands, at least among baseball fans in Pittsburgh. I wrote
ten years ago about Pirate followers who observe the game
respectfully, as though they're attending a play and applauding only
at the end of an act. To competitive Delegators, the
Spectators appear apathetic. The Tribune-Review's Joe
Starkey noted, Pirates ownership actually deserves credit for
cultivating a fan base that, by-and-large, couldn't care less what
happens on the field. During the previous night's game,
at one critical point with the tying run on second base, the TV crew
noticed that the audience was simply watching quietly, waiting to see
what would happen next.
the local fans have behaved with like decorum ever since the Pirates
lost to the Yankees in the 1927 Series. However, over the
years, other fan bases have become more emotionally invested.
attended Wednesday's game at Dodger Stadium with his longtime friend
Tim O'Connor, who said the actor told him mid-game that he was
intrigued by one major difference between this World Series and the
one 91 years ago: the noise. In Lloyd's youth, the crowd was
always silent as they watched the slow-moving game, until something
wild, extra-innings game was certainly theater. Fans screamed
in joy, only to be screaming in horror minutes later. In the
stands, a young boy in a Dodgers shirt melted down, screaming and
crying, burying his face in his mother's shirt as the Astros took the lead.
26, 2017 DEAR
soon as the Beatles released their White Album in 1968,
our college radio station began airing all 30 tracks. When we
played one in particular, eyebrows were raised and snickers
suppressed. The lyrics, in their entirety: Why
don't we do it in the road? No one will be watching us.
THE REAL BACKSTORY:
Paul McCartney later explained that while the Beatles were in India,
he saw two monkeys walking down a road and pausing to do
it. Their copulation took only a couple of seconds
much simpler than humans' complicated courtship rituals. That
inspired the lyric.
any prudes out there, I'd like to offer alternative facts.
you may know, by 1966 the Fab Four had become tired of performing
live on stage. Their loudly enthusiastic audiences were
drowning out the songs, and there were travel hassles. So after
a final concert in San Francisco's Candlestick Park, George Harrison
exclaimed, That's it. I'm not a Beatle
anymore! Their touring days were over.
that didn't mean they had to stop playing and singing. Studio
recordings were still an option.
MY FICTIONAL BACKSTORY:
John Lennon remarked to his mates, When we make music in a
recording facility, we have complete control. George
added, And we aren't bothered by those crazed fans!
I've always hated it, said Paul, when they stare at
us and scream. So what might be a good location to
cut an album?" asked Ringo Starr.
We could do it in the Abbey Road Studios.
Why don't we do it in the Road? No one will be
24, 2007 SCARY
found, hidden in the basement, the Halloween costume that I wore
more than 20 years ago. No, it's not a lampshade.
party was at Tami Rippy's place. A gorilla crouched in front
of me, stared, scratched his head, shrugged, and shuffled away,
unable to figure out what I was supposed to be. (I think the
guy in the gorilla suit turned out to be Mike Kobik.)
what did my costume represent? Why, I had come as my favorite
Platonic solid, the dodecahedron!
means 2+10, or 12. Hedron means face. On this
you can get a better look at the polyhedron made from twelve regular
pentagons, this time without my
face. Happy Halloween!
21, 2017 ?
weeks ago, Earl Pomerantz posted a rant
from Santa Monica:
things seem to just happen out of the blue. You're doing
way, and then suddenly, without agreement on your
part, you are forced, or at least seriously encouraged, to do them another
way the original way becoming mustily suspect.
oft-mentioned example in this regard: Going up at the end of sentences.
that. Now, almost everyone does.
Smart people on television, experts in quantum physics and
macroeconomics, are going up at the end of their sentences.
Learned scholars. Graduates of fine universities.
Everyone's doing The Rise. Sometimes, even I do
it. I don't mean to. I just get caught up in the contagion?
must have initiated going up at the end of
sentences. It did not materialize by itself. And
now, with neither vote nor referendum, it's The Law.
(Fuddy-duddies: Ignore at your own peril.)
fuddy-duddy hadn't taken particular note of Earl's pet peeve, so I
figured it must be a California thing.
very next morning, I attended a discussion on Life at Oberlin
College Today. The panel consisted of five very
articulate students. One of them, however, went up in pitch at
the end of every sentence? She was a sophomore? And she
did, in fact, come from California? She was from Marin
County? And she sometimes giggled self-consciously? You
know what I mean?
similar to athletes being interviewed who insert you know
every few seconds. I found it distracting.
by the way, I should not have called her a sophomore. She's a
ever employed that terminology in my day. We were freshmen,
sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Now almost everyone uses
ordinal numbers. Someone must have initiated it. It did
not materialize by itself. And now, with neither vote nor
referendum, it's The Law.
18, 2007 TWO-STEP
I see the name of musician Peter Cetera, I can't say it
immediately. My first impulse is to pronounce it like et
cetera, which is the only other occurrence of cetera that
I can think of. Then I remember that his name isn't SETT-uh-ruh,
about actor Ralph Fiennes? His name looks like it rhymes with "HOWL
us," but I guess it's supposed to rhyme with "safe
fines." We Americans have to remember to translate Ralph's
British name before we speak it.
I have trouble with "real quick." When we're
preparing for a TV production, sometimes the director will use that
phrase in making small requests, as in "Let me see those
starting lineups real quick."
it sounds like to me: "Urgent! Drop whatever you're
doing and give me those lineups right now! You must
bestow your highest priority upon my every whim, for I am your director."
he really means: "Pardon me; this will only take a
moment, and then you can go back to what you were doing."
don't always respond to such a request real quick.
First I have to decipher it.
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.