SMILE, THOUGH YOUR MIND KNOWS BETTER
deepest impulses are optimistic, wrote Ellen Willis; an
attitude that seems to me as spiritually necessary and proper as
it is intellectually suspect.
my new article about The
I explained why I'm sadly unable to be optimistic about what the
world will become after I'm gone.
a radio station broadcasts nothing but silence, that's called
1970, a Chicago station began broadcasting clean air
in other words, no more of that crazy rock & roll with its
suggestive lyrics. WEXI-FM had decided to aim instead for a
grown-up audience, 24 to 50 years old.
friend was working at the station around that time, which has led me
to recall the brief period when clean air was Spreading
Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation has pledged $75 million to Syracuse
University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
That's the largest gift in the University's history.
E. Newhouse '51 made the announcement in January at the Newhouse
School on the Syracuse campus.
there's another big occasion in upstate New York: S.U.'s 150th
birthday! Of course, the campus is looking rather empty at present.
Vice President Matt Ter Molen writes, As you have likely
heard, Syracuse University made the difficult decision to transition
students to online learning for the remainder of the spring
semester. I won't sugarcoat this: it is heartbreaking. As
alumni know best, memories made on campus and abroad are
irreplaceable and we feel for every member of our student body.
of the pandemic, half a dozen scheduled celebrations have been
postponed. And something else is missing: the 40-year-old
air-supported roof on the Carrier Dome has been removed, to be
replaced by a new roof supported by an external crown
truss (depicted below).
was on campus for the 100th birthday in 1970, although I don't
recall any particular celebrations then either. Checking my
archives for that Tuesday, the only entry noted that my landlady was
out of town, visiting her son in Florida.
the time I was a graduate student in radio and television at the
aforementioned Newhouse School. Some of the letters I wrote are
in this month's 100 Moons article.
20, 2020 WEEKCLOX
I began working in TV mobile units parked outside stadiums and
arenas, I haven't toiled in a traditional Monday-through-Friday
office for decades. As I gradually retire, I find myself
working fewer and fewer days; and because all the sports events have
recently been postponed or canceled, I currently have no work days at
all. It's hard to keep track of where I am in the midst of an
I've made a 168-hour clock and put it on my refrigerator.
of the seven days is divided into four segments dark night,
bright morning, bright afternoon, dark evening of six hours
each. The hand is pointing to 7:30 Friday morning, approximately.
my clock doesn't run automatically. It's paper,
with a hand that's actually a magnet that I move manually when I get
around to it.
I wanted to purchase an actual motor-driven device, there are
several online from the British firm DayClox. In each case, the
single hand makes one revolution per week (1 RPW).
However, none of these examples follow my color
code, nor my idea of locating Over-the-Hump Day at the top of
devices can be made more useful by the addition of a minute hand
like the example on the left from Small Big Design Ltd. But
one has to squint to read the day and hour using the larger dial,
which has 14 times as many hourly tick marks as a standard
clock. This one reads 12:38 pm Tuesday, reminding workers that
even though it's lunchtime on the second day, almost a quarter of the
week is already gone. By thinking long term and
visualizing your week, you will focus relentlessly on your
much easier-to-read clock employs a traditional look but adds a red
hand running at 1 RPW.
The one on the right indicates 4:44 pm Sunday.
course, DayClox makes several digital models with no hands at
all. They say these are supported by Alzheimer's and
Dementia communities throughout the world. I'm not
demented yet, but I do find it helpful to be reminded what day it is.
this morning 50 years ago, I began a letter with the dateline
Tuesday, March 17, 1970, 9:30 am. Then I continued
does St. Patrick's Day always come on a Tuesday? It doesn't
really, of course, but somehow when I write Tuesday, March 17,
I feel that no other day would fit in there. Saturday, March 17,
suppose that sometime in my childhood a particularly memorable March
17 happened to come on a Tuesday, so I still associate the two.
Or something like that.
days have associations, too. Groundhog Day always is a
Thursday, Valentine's Day a Friday, Columbus Day a Wednesday, and the
Fourth of July a Saturday. And, of course, Easter usually comes
on a Sunday.
rule mostly holds true half a century later, though the groundhog
did break the tradition last month and so will Columbus in October.
TO THE TUNE OF "AMAZING GRACE"
how sweet the smell,
keeps our hands germ-free!
wash your hands,
and dry them, too,
we might healthy be.
Pastor Ben Williams in the empty sanctuary of Christ United
Methodist Church at Chapel Hill, NC, leading a service via YouTube
and Facebook Live, as quoted in the New York Times.
takes about 20 seconds to sing Amazing Soap, which
happens to be the recommended minimum hand-washing time.
14, 2010 ONE
MOMENT IN TIME
home yesterday from the Patriot League championship game, where
Lehigh defeated Lafayette for the right to advance to the NCAA
tournament and be trounced by top-seeded Kansas this coming Thursday,
I stopped at a huge Cabelas store north of Reading, PA. I
am definitely not an outdoorsman, but I was curious about what was inside.
photo at the right, and the next one, come from this
the expected vast assortment of hunting and fishing gear for sale,
Cabelas offers other attractions for the tourist, including an
aquarium and several taxidermic displays.
one side room are realistic dioramas filled with dozens of stuffed
whitetail deer. Each is labeled. Many of the labels name
the hunter who shot the deer. At least one label names the
person who collected the deer, which I presume means that
he picked the road kill up off the highway.
displays feature stuffed moose, mountain goats, Arctic foxes, and
other animals in natural-looking settings.
also an African section. At the entrance are several animals
posed in a freeze frame of an exciting action sequence: a
wide-eyed group of greater kudu fleeing toward us, trying to escape a
lion attack. Like running backs making their cuts, the athletic
lions are closing in for the kill.
panicked antelope are almost close enough to touch. Thats
a step up from zoos, where we stare from a distance at bored animals
standing around. Of course, at least the zoo animals are still alive.
sports halls of fame also depict their athletes in frozen
three-dimensional shining moments? Of course, it
wouldnt do for taxidermists to stuff the athletes, but
statues could be posed to bring the action within reach.
Ive faked a photo of such a display.
havent been to a sports museum lately. Do they already
do this sort of thing? If not, why not?
ADDED MARCH 22, 2010
Wisconsin, Ray Barrington informs me that it is in fact being
done. At the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in Lambeau Field,
visitors can relive the freeze frame just before the final snap of
the famous 1967 Ice Bowl NFL championship game.
how could I have forgotten Franco Harris, who made the
Immaculate Reception for the Steelers five years
later? That moment is also available for inspection, though not
in a sports museum. Its next to the escalators at
Pittsburgh International Airport.
posted by others
11, 2010 BRIGHT
some, the concept of daylight saving time has been traced back to a
method to save on the expense of candles, proposed in a letter
written by Benjamin Franklin. This
letter, as a matter of fact. But it turns out that old Ben
wasnt completely serious.
a satirical essay worthy of Dave Barry, Franklin pretends to stumble
accidentally on the discovery that daylight begins as early as 6:00
AM. In the summer, it begins even earlier. The people of
Paris dont realize this, he says, because they stay up most of
the night burning the midnight oil. Then they go to bed and
dont rise to greet the sun until noon.
ignoring Franklins motto, early to bed, early to
rise, Parisians are losing money. If they were to replace
costly artificial light with free natural sunlight, he calculates
they could save 96,075,000 livres in just half a year.
this end, he has several suggestions. However, they dont
include daylight time. He does not propose
resetting the clocks so that noon occurs at sunrise.
to encourage people to go to bed earlier, Franklin recommends
rationing candle wax. To discourage the use of window shutters
that block out the morning sun, he recommends taxing the
shutters. Sleepyheads would be roused at dawn with church bells
and cannon fire.
the sleepyheads did not come around, and morning sunlight continued
to go to waste for
more than a hundred years. Reportedly, it was not until 1907
that setting the clocks ahead in the spring was first seriously
advocated by William Willett. That expedient is now the law.
I was in charge of local origination channels on cable TV systems,
we didnt present programs 24 hours a day. Most of the
time, TV-3 merely displayed automated screens of time, weather, and
text ads, as in these examples.
subscribers must have actually referred to these screens. On
two particular Sundays during the year, a few people would call our
office and leave messages like this: Hey, you idiots,
your clock is wrong! Of course, those Sundays were the
ones when daylight time began or ended at 2:00 AM. Because no
one was in our office then, no one had yet reset the clock.
didnt seem cost-effective to pay someone to come in on Sunday
morning for this trivial task. Finally, I hit upon a solution.
adopted a policy of changing the clock in advance, on Saturday
afternoon. I put a notice on the crawl at the bottom of the
screen: THE TIME ABOVE IS EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME, EFFECTIVE AT
2:00 AM SUNDAY.
seemed to work. For the rest of Saturday, the incorrect clock
reminded people of the impending time change. Then on Sunday,
the correct clock eliminated the complaints.
STAYING IN TOUCH
1969-70, my friend Jennifer Wagner was still an undergraduate at
Oberlin College, but I was now a graduate student at Syracuse
& Me: JW @OC,
is the second monthly chapter of highlights from our correspondence.
were we each poring over our books long into the night? Were
we burning the proverbial midnight oil? Not really.
the first chapter, upon returning to my summer job I complained that
I was not used to working eight hours a day. My college
schedule was actually much lighter in terms of time if not in terms
of brainpower required. One survey suggests that young
people in our situation spend less than two hours a day actually studying.
real purpose is learning about life!
computer pioneer Charles Babbage, who described his first
difference engine in 1822, knew all about The Telephone
Game long before the telephone was invented!
course, he didn't know it by that title. The game, sometimes
called Broken Telephone or Chinese Whispers, illustrates the
inaccuracies of gossip, rumors, and oral traditions as they're passed
from one person to another to another. Babbage describes it in Passages
from the Life of a Philosopher, a book he published a dozen
years before the actual invention of the communications gadget by Elisha
Gray and Alexander Graham Bell.
Chapter XXX, Babbage examines possible ways by which man can
arrive at the knowledge of the existence of a Deity:
observation of nature, metaphysical proofs, and revelation. He
discusses the highest external evidence man can have the
declaration of inspiration by the prophet, supported by an admitted
miracle performed before competent witnesses to prove the truth of
to all who were not present, the evidence of this is entirely
dependent on the truth and even upon the accuracy of human
every step of its transmission it undergoes some variation in the
words in which it is related; and without the least want of good
faith at any stage, the mere imperfection of language will
necessarily vary the terms by which it is described. Even when
written language has conveyed it to paper as a MSS., there may be
several different manuscripts by different persons [as well as doubt]
arising from the continually fluctuating meaning of the words themselves.
is a game occasionally played in society which eminently illustrates
the value of testimony transmitted with the most perfect good faith
through a succession of truthful persons. It is called Russian
Scandal, and is thus played:
of the party writes a short simple tale, perhaps a single
anecdote. The original composer of the tale, whom we will call
A, retires into another room with B, to whom he communicates it.
A then returns to the party, and sends in C, who is told by B the
tale he had just learnt. B then returns to the party and sends
in D, who is informed of the anecdote by C, and so on until the story
has been transmitted through twelve educated and truthful witnesses.
twelfth then relates to the whole party the story he has just heard:
after that the original written document is read. The wit or
fun of the transmitted story is invariably gone, and nothing but an
unmeaning platitude generally remains.
very interesting case occurred a few years ago in which the wit of
the original story had evidently been lost, but had afterwards been
revived in a different form in the latter part of its transmission.
requires considerable training to become an accurate witness of
facts. No two persons, however well trained, ever express, in
the same form of words, the series of facts they have both observed.
3, 2020 MINSTRELSY
a child musician, I once was a piano player in a non-racist minstrel
show! You can just call me Mr.
1, 2010 HAPPY
World War II, 66 years ago in Calcutta, my father witnessed a Hindu
spring festival called Holi. The Indian people playfully
sprayed each other with colorful powders and liquids.
described the celebration in a letter
home, to which I've added some modern photos.
this year 2010, the full moon having appeared last night, Holi is today!
Calcutta, my father traveled about 300 miles north and then 400
miles east to the province (now state) of Assam. For the rest
of 1944 and 1945, he would be stationed near the town of Chabua.
recently learned about his neighbor the little girl who lived
down the road.
base was surrounded by tea plantations. They were mostly
operated by the British using local labor, as in a photo (click here)
that my father brought back.
turns out that one of those plantation managers lived in the house
on the right, pictured recently in the London Daily Mail. His
name was Frank St. John Christie, and he had a three-year-old daughter.
the war was over, Vernon Thomas left Chabua, returned to America,
and became my father.
afterwards, Frank Christies daughter left Chabua, moved to
England, and became an Academy Award-winning actress. Her
name: Julie Christie.
now you know The Rest Of The Story.