MAY 4, 2021 "I AM LEAVING"
Here's the story of a moment from television history which I didn't see. Neither did my parents. I describe it, more than 61 years later, because the incident was mentioned during Sunday's first episode of the CNN documentary series The Story of Late Night.
Originally The Tonight Show was broadcast live. However, with the advent of video tape the network began the practice (which continues today) of recording each program several hours in advance so the staff, and particularly the guests, don't have to hang around the studio past midnight. Also, the network can edit out any inadvertent obscenities before airing the tape.
During the February 10 taping, Paar spent about four minutes telling a humorous tale about misunderstanding the abbreviation W.C., which to British folks means water closet. A water closet is, of course, a small room containing a flush toilet. Told to much self-conscious laughter from the audience, the joke went like this:
An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room for a more extended stay, and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms, and when everything was settled, the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move.
When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a "W.C." around the place. So she immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there were a "W.C." near the room.
The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English, so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tried to discover the meaning of the letters "W.C.," and the only solution they could come up with for the letters was for a Wayside Chapel. The schoolmaster then wrote the following note to the English lady:
The story didn't contain any dirty words, but it did lead the audience to picture (in their minds) a very public toilet. In those days, toilet talk violated network standards & practices. NBC removed it from the show and substituted a few minutes of news coverage. Paar was not happy. (He was also becoming tired of the grind of presenting seven hours of network television every week, although NBC had begun giving him more time off.)
Then it was Thursday, February 11, 1960, the fourth and final taping of the week. After the lesser-viewed first 15 minutes of that evening's program, Paar began complaining about a clown censoring him the night before. I believe I was let down by this network at a time when I could have used their help. Then he announced, I am leaving The Tonight Show. There must be a better way of making a living than this. And he got up from his desk and walked out of the studio! (He would not return until a month later, admitting, Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. ...I'm totally unable to hide what I feel.)
I was not yet 13 years old and typically went to bed around 10:00, listening to the radio beside my bed. From the radio I learned that Jack Paar had unexpectedly walked off his set, and NBC was going to air the episode as scheduled at 11:15 that night.
My parents usually watched the 11:00 news for the weather forecast before switching off the TV and going to bed themselves. They knew about The Tonight Show but rarely stayed up for it.
At breakfast the next morning, the story of the late-night surprise was big news on the radio. When I boasted of my advance knowledge of what NBC was going to air, my mother scolded that I should have said something! We all could have stayed up late to see it.
MAY 1, 2021 TWEET! QUACK!
For the past few years, as I see interesting quotes on the Internet I've been copying them into a Word document. I've even located illustrations for some of them. For example:
Gene Collier Baseball is now better defined as two guys playing catch while eight others stand around, one of whom is holding a large stick for purposes that are not often apparent.
Ken Jennings I like Take Me Out to the Ball Game a lot, because if they don't win it's a shame! is the maximum healthy amount to care about any sport.
Scott Renshaw I clearly don't have the right temperament to be a pro athlete, because whenever I hear someone say it's win or go home, go home always sounds more appealing.
My collection is now 46 pages long, over 16,000 words. I've condensed it down to 4,600 words on more serious topics, called The Roundtable. Take it for what it's worth.
The newspaper in my old hometown, the village of Richwood, Ohio, features old news items. Yesterday I received an inquiry from one of my high school classmates:
Well, Roy Rogers did advertise Chevrolets on a national basis. For example, he and the Sons of the Pioneers filled in 14 times for Dinah Shore on her Sunday-night NBC-TV Chevy Show from 1958 through 1960. But I dont think he ever made a special pitch for my fathers dealership.
Most likely, General Motors prepared artwork showing Roy with a Chevy pickup and sent it to Chevrolet dealers so that they could use the picture in their local newspaper advertisements. The suggested copy was probably something like Western star Roy Rogers is spreading the good word for Hometown Chevrolet ... 0000 Main Street, Anytown, USA. Wed fill in the local details.
However, my parents and I had in fact crossed paths with Roy two years earlier.
We were on a three-week vacation trip, driving through the West. As we passed through Idaho on Friday morning, July 17, 1959, I began checking the guidebooks to pick out a place to stay when we arrived at Salt Lake City. We planned to visit the Mormon Tabernacle that evening, so my first choice was the Utah Hotel Motor Lodge, located on the other side of North West Temple Street. (On this Google Earth image, the site where the Motor Lodge used to be is marked with a yellow pushpin.) It sounded like a very good place, but perhaps a little too expensive.
Across West North Temple Street from the Motor Lodge, in the right foreground of the above picture, there was a cheaper place: the Salt Lake City TraveLodge. Thats where we stayed. It was quite close enough; our room was only 800 feet from the domed Tabernacle.
The next day kicked off the week-long Days of 47 celebration, commemorating Mormon leader Brigham Youngs arrival in 1847 when he proclaimed, This is the place. On this Saturday night in 1959, there was going to be a big rodeo at the State Fairgrounds, located on land thats now a part of the airport. The star was going to be Roy Rogers. That morning we went downtown and bought three $1.50 tickets, then visited an open-pit copper mine 28 miles southwest of the city, then returned to our motel.
Before heading out to the rodeo, we wanted to eat supper. The nearest restaurant was the café in the Motor Lodge across the street, so we walked over there, were seated in a booth, and placed our order. Then Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and their family were seated at a large table not far behind me!
My mother remarked, And you thought that we should get a room in this hotel! This is the fancy place, where the movie stars stay. She asked whether I wanted to switch sides with her in our booth so I could watch the famous folks dine. At first I declined, not being one to get all excited about celebrities, but later I changed my mind and switched places. However, we didnt approach the celebrities for autographs or anything like that.
Later that evening, we and Roy and 11,000 other spectators traveled about four miles west to the big rodeo. (The photo above, showing the family in a 1959 Chevy but probably at a different event, comes from strangecosmos.com.)
My review that night: not too many contestants; Rogers troupe made it interesting. I found the show less exciting than another rodeo we attended two nights later in Cody, Wyoming.
So I'm fully vaccinated. However, no vaccine is 100% effective, and not all of my neighbors have received it. For now, I'll continue keeping my distance from other people. Will I dare to dine out, not taking my mask off until the food arrives? Maybe once a week, perhaps at 3 PM on a Tuesday or a Wednesday when most tables will be empty.
Daniel Engber writes in The Atlantic, The country is in the hands of the vaccine-hesitant. If patterns of refusal continue to develop along partisan lines Gallup had the spread between Republicans and Democrats at 40 points in January, and they tend to cluster in different places a large partisan gap in vaccine uptake would likely lead to hot spots of infection.
Paul Harris, double-dosed like me, believes that the vaccine-resistant group also includes a certain percentage who have gotten the shots but continue to tell pollsters otherwise, because owning the libs remains an important part of their makeup. I think all those resistant numbers are going to decline in the coming weeks thanks to pressure from family members or employers or friends who have escaped the cult and reported no negative effects. I'm not saying all of them will line up for shots, but enough to get us a wee bit closer to herd immunity. But if they don't, well, I was never gonna have dinner with them anyway.
Unfortunately, the chosen date in 1991 was the night before the ACADEMY AWARDS. The newspapers were full of Oscar talk and didn't even mention the wrestlers, and because of poor ticket sales the event had to be moved from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to a smaller arena.
Of course, that's television. Plots about striving towards a goal, like who'll win the big game, lead to happy endings.
Among the many sitcom story lines about craving formal recognition, the longest running must have been Sheldon Cooper's quest for a Nobel Prize.
But I must point out that the goal of a real Sheldon Cooper isn't to earn a medal or to cash in on a patent. Awards merely validate and promulgate a scientist's actual accomplishment: a discovery that promises to be of the greatest benefit to mankind.
Without government funding and philanthropy, both companies might have gone bankrupt. Without HIV-vaccine failures forcing scientists into strange new fields, without an international team of scientists unlocking the secrets of the coronavirus's spike protein, we might not have known enough about this pathogen to design a vaccine. mRNA technology was born of many seeds.
And, according to Thompson, the story likely will not end with COVID-19. This year, a team at Yale patented a similar technology to vaccinate against malaria. Pfizer says that it is planning to use it against seasonal flu. BioNTech is developing individualized therapies to teach the body to fight off advanced cancer. Synthetic-mRNA therapies have been shown to slow and reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis.
For years, mRNA technology looked like a shrub. In 2020, it blossomed in full view!
So, writes Greg Bardsley, let us thank the scientists. Let's sing their praises. Let's give them ticker tape parades that would have made Neil Armstrong blush!
APRIL 23, 2021 CHILDHOOD FANTASIES
When I was a boy, I noticed a difference between reality and fiction. Mundane events happened in real life IRL, as the online folks say but extraordinary events happened on the radio or in movies or on my grandparents' TV sets. (Our house didn't have television yet.)
As a kindergartener who was sometimes bored IRL, I began imagining my own fictional tales as I paced the floor. If my parents interrupted me, I wailed You spoiled my story! They probably didn't understand.
As a second-grader, one of my more elaborate narratives was a series about birds living on an island and flying around in steam-powered airplanes.
Also, when I accompanied my mother on business trips to the county seat, I imagined that a camera crew was accompanying us to shoot a documentary.
Also, when I talked with a classmate on the school bus he had the aisle seat, I was on the window he spun a story based on World War II movies he'd seen, and I sometimes turned to the window as if it were a camera and delivered a witty aside.
I wasn't the only youngster who did this. On a podcast with Jeff Bayer, answering a question about which movie character is similar to you, Eric D. Snider once told of making up his own stories. But none of his TV shows were picked up by the networks, alas.
APRIL 20, 2021 MORTGAGING THE FUTURE
Debt isn't necessarily bad. If a company borrows to build a factory and create jobs and make a profit, that's good business. If a person borrows to buy a car so he can get one of those jobs and pay off his loan, there's no cause for alarm.
Does the same apply to our national debt, in particular when the purpose is to stimulate the economy? That is not something that the general public should be worried about, says Nobel laureate Esther Duflo. Interest rates are very low. And American government bonds are one of the safest assets to hold, so it's unlikely that the government will ever be called upon to repay this debt.
APRIL 18, 2021 EMERGING FROM THE CHAPEL
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, was celebrated three weeks ago. But because ancient calendars were based on the phases of the moon, the official date does move around. Seventy-eight years ago, Palm Sunday was on April 18th.
APRIL 15, 2021 EMPATHY
It's the small things in life that catch my attention nowadays. I'm sitting in my parked car. On the pavement nearby is a discarded food wrapper. A blackbird spots it and comes in for a landing, though he prudently selects a landing spot several feet away. Szqeet, he says. Keeping a careful eye on his surroundings, he slowly walks over to the wrapper. He takes a close look. No food. Szqeet, he mutters. Just then, one of his friends comes by at low altitude. Szqeet, he calls, and the two of them fly off together.
Birds must lead a fairly interesting life: flying around, exploring their surroundings, sampling things to eat, avoiding the occasional predatory cat or angry crow, socializing with their neighbors, mating.
On the other hand, when I was a boy we had a parakeet who was happy to live in a cage. If we took her out she was very anxious to get back home, where she would be safe. There wasn't much variety, though we did periodically bring in new supplies of birdseed and gravel and water and a new sheet of paper for the cage floor. For entertainment, she could observe our household activities. And the cage was beside a window, so she could look out at the driveway and, beyond it, the sheep in their barnyard.
If we went on vacation, we had to leave the parakeet with relatives who would keep her fed. That required carrying the cage out to the car in the driveway. On those brief trips, the bird would jump up to cling to the bars of her cage, wide-eyed, maybe a little frightened but fascinated by the fact that the dim view from her window had now come brilliantly to life and was surrounding her on all sides.
However, in her life she never had the opportunity to fly, explore, sample, avoid, socialize, or mate. Apologies to Maya Angelou, but I don't think I know why a caged bird would sing.
APRIL 12, 2021 FINANCIAL NEWS
Because I own a small portion of my old hometown's bank, I've attended several annual dinner meetings of Richwood Bancshares stockholders (in 1990, 1994, 2012, and 2017). The 2020 meeting was scheduled for April 13 of that year, and I considered again joining my former neighbors. But when the pandemic came along, the affair had to be first postponed, then canceled.
Six months later, I received a two-pound box which had cost $8.70 in priority-mail postage to send. It was labeled 2020 STOCKHOLDERS MEETING. What? I thought the meeting never took place. But the outside of the box quoted Walt Disney: It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
Opening the lid, I found the colorful 2019 annual report which would have been distributed at the dinner. And the inside of the lid read, We wouldn't miss an opportunity to connect with you. That's why we're bringing the annual meeting to you! Enjoy the show! There was a smaller folder labeled 2020 STOCKHOLDERS PRESENTATION. I opened it, and a five-inch screen began playing sounds and pictures!
The half-hour video included studio appearances by five bank officials including a keynote address (shown above) by the president, Chad Hoffman. I went to school with his parents. He's been with the bank for 26 years, and Richwood Bancshares has expanded to include offices in six other Ohio cities.
The next stockholders meeting, the 2021 edition, was scheduled to be held tonight in the hope that COVID-19 would be under control by now. But it was not a surprise when this spring we received a letter from Mr. Hoffman.
The Board of Directors has approved a new twist on this year's meeting. We will be filming the presentation and will make it available on your investor website. We will also send a copy via mail to your home if you choose. We want to bring everyone together in late summer, but also want you to feel safe and enjoy our presenters. Video once again is going to come to the rescue!
aerial view from Google Earth 3D Buildings
other historic details, Wally's mural remembers Samuel Kier from
Saltsburg, who became the Grandfather of the American Oil
Industry. Kier helped found a canal boat operation in
1838 that shipped coal from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. He had
many other business interests, including salt wells in Tarentum.
That Pennsylvania Main Line Canal was an early example of infrastructure paid for by taxpayers, a public works project. How many of today's dollars did it cost the Commonwealth? Nearly three-quarters of a billion. Large-scale public investment is the American way, writes economist Paul Krugman. We've relied on government infrastructure investment to jump-start economic growth ever since the construction of the Erie Canal by the government of New York State two hundred years ago.
Below is a wider view of the part of the mural that depicts Tarentum's canal in operation. Click it to enlarge.
To make electricity, the fission reaction that powers an atomic bomb can be controlled (hopefully) in a nuclear reactor.
We could generate power even more abundantly and safely if we could likewise control the fusion reaction that powers a hydrogen bomb. However, that achievement is still 25 years in the future. It has remained 25 years in the future for many decades now.
As a college student in the 1960s, I read that Soviet scientists were making progress toward a fusion reactor. They were developing an electromagnetic containment device called TOKaMaK, which is a Russian acronym. Of course, most Americans didnt know about this; they werent involved in science as I was.
Then I read a prediction by Jeane Dixon, the astrologer and alleged psychic. She prophesied that in the coming year, the Russians would announce an invention that would provide the world with unlimited energy. She added that the name of this machine sounds something like Tomahawk.
The name was the key. I realized that Dixon had needed no supernatural insight to arrive at her unusually specific prediction. She had merely read an obscure news story.
(Her prediction turned out to be incorrect anyway. Tokamaks still have not produced usable power, though construction of a 2,000-megawatt reactor is currently projected to begin in the year 2024. [2021 UPDATE: After a ten-year progressive ramp-up of a $65 billion 500-megawatt reactor which will not actually generate electricity, the timeline now calls for full operation by 2035.])
Until the Dixon statement, I had hoped that perhaps psychics could make better predictions than ordinary folks because they could magically foresee the future. But this incident, followed by further research, eventually led me to realize that they cant.
Eventually, technology reached the live stage. Wireless microphones now make it possible to amplify a person's voice in real time, and video cameras can even amplify a person's face.
This performance contained details I'd never noticed before. For example, why does the music require Pilate to leave great pauses when he sings Who? Is? This broken man? Cluttering up? My hallway? As played by Alexander Hanson, he's apparently just come from a workout and he's out of breath.
It must be exciting to attend an event like this, but last year I saw the television version of the performance. Although it's $3.99 on Prime Video, composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber made it available free online for 48 hours last Easter, proclaiming that despite the coronavirus, The Shows Must Go On.