video: Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel and The Roots perform "Let It Go" on
The song as it appears in the film was undoubtedly assembled from
multiple takes and enhanced electronically- a necessity when you're
planning to exhibit it in huge IMAX venues with several thousands watts
of audio amplification.
video: Idina Menzel performs "Let It Go" in "Frozen.")
Frankly, her Oscar performance wasn't her best... having John Travolta
mangle her name didn't help. Think about it- you're following Bette
Midler, you're the last musical performer of the night, singing what
everyone expects to win the Oscar for Best Song, the live
orchestra is in a recording studio over a mile away, and "Let It Go"
(which its authors say was specifically written to be "Idina's Badass
Song") is the Power Ballad from Hell, ranging from F3 to
Go ahead... follow along...
video: Let It Go arranged by Larry Moore)
Anyway, it was nice to see her actually enjoying herself with Fallon and
Published Thursday, February 13, 2014 @ 12:00 AM EST
Isaac Sidney "Sid" Caesar (September 8, 1922 – February
12, 2014) (Richard Drew/Associated Press)
Sid Caesar, a comedic force of nature who became one of television's
first stars in the early 1950s and influenced generations of comedians
and comedy writers, died on Wednesday. He was 91.
Mr. Caesar largely faded from the public eye in his middle years as he
struggled with crippling self-doubt and addiction to alcohol and pills.
But from 1950 to 1954, he and his co-stars on the live 90-minute
comedy-variety extravaganza 'Your Show of Shows' dominated the Saturday
night viewing habits of millions of Americans. In New York, a group of
Broadway theater owners tried to persuade NBC to switch the show to the
middle of the week because, they said, it was ruining their Saturday
Albert Einstein was a Caesar fan. Alfred Hitchcock called Mr. Caesar the
funniest performer since Charlie Chaplin.
Television comedy in its early days was dominated by boisterous veterans
of vaudeville and radio who specialized in broad slapstick and snappy
one-liners. Mr. Caesar introduced a different kind of humor to the small
screen, at once more intimate and more absurd, based less on jokes or
pratfalls than on characters and situations. It left an indelible mark
on American comedy.
'If you want to find the urtexts of 'The Producers' and 'Blazing
Saddles,' of 'Sleeper' and 'Annie Hall,' of 'All in the Family' and
'M*A*S*H' and 'Saturday Night Live,' ” Frank Rich wrote in The New York
Times when he was its chief theater critic, 'check out the old
kinescopes of Sid Caesar.'
A list of Mr. Caesar's writers over the years reads like a comedy
all-star team. Woody Allen and Mel Brooks did some of their earliest
writing for him. So did the most successful playwright in the history of
the American stage, Neil Simon. Carl Reiner created one landmark sitcom,
'The Dick Van Dyke Show;' Larry Gelbart was the principal creative force
behind another, 'M*A*S*H.' Mel Tolkin wrote numerous scripts for 'All in
the Family.' The authors of the two longest-running Broadway musicals of
the 1960s, Joseph Stein ('Fiddler on the Roof') and Michael Stewart
('Hello, Dolly!'), were Caesar alumni as well. (Click
here for the full New York Times obituary.)
Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little
curlicue at the end.
If I don't believe it, I don't care.
In between goals is a thing called life, that has to be lived and
New Year's Eve we got five dollars for the evening- but that was from
eight to unconscious.
The best thing about humor is that it shows people they're not alone.
The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented
the other three, he was a genius.
The remote control changed our lives... The remote control took over the
timing of the world. That's why you have road rage. You have people who
have no patience, because you got immediate gratification. You got
click, click, click, click. If it doesn't explode within three seconds,
click click, click.
The trouble with telling a good story is that it invariably reminds the
other fellow of a dull one.
When I did comedy I made fun of myself.If there was a buffoon, I played
the buffoon. And people looked at me and said, 'Gee, that's like Uncle
David', or 'That's like a friend of mine'. And they related through
that. I didn't make fun of them. I made fun of me.
You gotta come down to go up.
You have to be prepared for luck. You have to work with luck.
YouTube video: Mel Brooks on working for Sid Caesar
YouTube video: Sid Caesar reminisces with Barry Mitchell. ABC
World News Now
YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 1 of 6 emmytvlegends.org
YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 2 of 6 emmytvlegends.org
YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 3 of 6 emmytvlegends.org
YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 4 of 6 emmytvlegends.org
YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 5 of 6 emmytvlegends.org
> YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 6 of 6 emmytvlegends.org
Published Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 6:17 AM EST
Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977) was an American
singer, musician, and actor. One of the most significant cultural icons
of the 20th century, he is often referred to as "The King of Rock and
Roll", or simply, "The King". Presley is one of the most celebrated
musicians of 20th century. Commercially successful in many genres,
including pop, blues and gospel, he is the best-selling solo artist in
the history of recorded music. He was nominated for 14 Grammys and won
three, receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36. He has
been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. (Click
here for full Wikipedia article)
Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.
Don't let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.
Don't criticize what you don't understand, son. You never walked in that
I believe the key to happiness is: someone to love, something to do, and
something to look forward to.
I don't feel I'll live a long life. That's why I have to get what I can
from every day.
I don't know anything about music. In my line, you don't have to.
I have no use for bodyguards, but I have a very special use for two
highly trained certified public accountants.
I was training to be an electrician. I suppose I got wired the wrong way
round somewhere along the line.
I'd never do anything vulgar before an audience. My mother wouldn't
Music should be something that makes you gotta move, inside or outside.
My voice is ordinary. If I stand still while I'm singing, I might as
well go back to driving a truck.
Rhythm is something you either have or don't have, but when you have it
you have it all over.
Singers come and go, but if you're a good actor, you can last a long
Talent is being able to sell what you're feeling.
The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to
live up to an image.
The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep
The only thing worse than watchin' a bad movie is bein' in one.
There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when
he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well
Those movies sure got me into a rut.
Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't
When things go wrong, don't go with them.
When you're a celebrity, people treat you nicer. The bad part is, they
also tell you what they think you want to hear, which ain't always the
You only pass through this life once; you don't come back for an encore.
Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century.
He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it's a
whole new social revolution- the 60s comes from it. -Leonard
We're the Axis of Elvis. -John Lileks
America is Elvis Presley- the most beautiful, talented, rebellious
nation in the history of Earth. And now, you're in your Vegas years.
You've squeezed yourself into a white jumpsuit, you're wheezing your way
through 'Love Me Tender' and you might be about to pass away bloated on
the toilet. But you're still the King. -John Oliver
He was a unique artist… an original in an area of imitators. -Mick
A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music,
when in fact almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage
mannerisms from Elvis. -Jackie Wilson
On a scale of one to ten, I would rate him eleven. -Sammy Davis,
Festivus, a well-celebrated parody, has become a secular holiday
celebrated on December 23 which serves as an alternative to
participating in the pressures and commercialism of the Christmas
holiday season. Originally a family tradition of scriptwriter Dan
O'Keefe working on the American sitcom Seinfeld, the holiday
entered popular culture after it was made the focus of a 1997 episode of
the program. The holiday's celebration, as it was shown on Seinfeld,
includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum "Festivus pole,"
practices such as the "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength,"
and the labeling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles."
(YouTube video: "Seinfeld")
"The tradition of Festivus
begins... with the airing of grievances!"
So we're dealing with the "free speech" stuff again.
The First Amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment guarantees that the government can't control your
It doesn't guarantee you freedom from the consequences of your
The government won't punish you for posting on Facebook that your wife's
new Christmas dress makes her ass look fat.
It doesn't have to.
"I'll tell you who I feel sorry for, folks... A&E. With this
controversy, they may have just lost Duck Dynasty's massive black and
gay audience." -Stephen Colbert
Published Wednesday, December 18, 2013 @ 6:45 AM EST
Hector Hugh Munro (December 18, 1870 - November 13, 1916), better known
by the pen name Saki, and also frequently as H.H. Munro, was a British
writer whose witty, mischievous and sometimes macabre stories satirized
Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short
story and often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. Influenced by
Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, and Kipling, his work influenced A.A. Milne,
Noël Coward, and P.G. Wodehouse. (Click
here for full Wikipedia article)
Saki was one of the authors presented by my high school English teacher,
Ira Handelsman. He had a wonderful method of insuring his students were
familiar with the material: he read the stories, aloud, to the class. I
vividly recall his presentation of Sredni Vashtar, which, at
least in my memory, was as riveting as this performance by Tom Baker:
Ira did not have an English accent, but he had precise diction and a
voice perhaps best described in contemporary terms as serious NPR
announcer-ish. Even the densest of jocks in the class fell silent as the
story continued. At its conclusion, Ira received, if not applause,
several grunts of approval.
Thus began my appreciation of H.H. Munro.
And my dislike of ferrets.
A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanation.
A woman who takes her husband about with her everywhere is like a cat
that goes on playing with a mouse long after she's killed it.
Addresses are given to us to conceal our whereabouts.
All decent people live beyond their incomes; those who aren't
respectable live beyond other people's; a few gifted individuals manage
to do both.
Children are given to us to discourage our better emotions.
Confront a child, a puppy, and a kitten with a sudden danger; the child
will turn instinctively for assistance, the puppy will grovel in abject
submission, the kitten will brace its tiny body for a frantic resistance.
Every reformation must have its victims. You can't expect the fatted
calf to share the enthusiasm of the angels over the prodigal's return.
He is one of those persons who would be enormously improved by death.
His socks compelled one's attention without losing one's respect.
I always say beauty is only sin deep.
I hate babies. They're so human.
I hate posterity- it's so fond of having the last word.
I love Americans, but not when they try to talk French. What a blessing
it is that they never try to talk English.
I think she must have been very strictly brought up, she's so
desperately anxious to do the wrong thing correctly.
I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be
In baiting a mouse trap with cheese, always leave room for the mouse.
Never be a pioneer. It's the Early Christian that gets the fattest lion.
People talk vaguely about the innocence of a little child, but they take
mighty good care not to let it out of their sight for twenty minutes.
People vote their resentment, not their appreciation. The average man
does not vote for anything but against something.
Poverty keeps together more homes than it breaks up.
The fashion just now is a Roman Catholic frame of mind with an Agnostic
conscience: you get the mediaeval picturesqueness of the one with the
modern conveniences of the other.
The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have
reminiscences of what never happened.
There is no outlet for demonstrating your feelings towards people whom
you simply loathe. That is really the crying need of our modern
Think how many blameless lives are brightened by the blazing
indiscretions of other people.
To be among people who are smothered in furs when one hasn't any oneself
makes one want to break most of the Commandments.
To have reached thirty is to have failed in life.
Women and elephants never forget an injury.
You can't expect a boy to be vicious till he's been to a good school.
Published Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 5:57 AM EDT
As long as there's a man alive on the face of the earth, this day will
always be remembered the world over. -Dick Gregory
(YouTube video: NBC's "wrap-up" of the march on Washington.)
(YouTube video: Peter, Paul and Mary perform prior to Dr. King's
On August 28, 1963, I was a few weeks short of nine years old and
spending most of my time at the Ninth Avenue Playground across from the
Homestead Police Station. It was the Wednesday before Labor Day, the end
of summer vacation and the beginning of the fourth grade. I was on my
way back out to the playground when my grandmother stopped me. She
called me into the living room and told me to sit down and watch the
television. Lots of people were in Washington, DC talking about
As a nine year old desperately trying to wring enjoyment out of the last
week of his summer vacation, the last thing I wanted to do was watch a
bunch of adults I didn't know give boring speeches about things that
didn't matter to me. But She Who Must Be Obeyed wouldn't take no for an
answer; she wasn't even swayed by the knowledge that the reason for my
urgent trip to the playground was to retrieve a pot holder I had made
for her before the lunch break.
She had been originally attracted to the newscast when she heard Mahalia
Jackson singing. My grandmother claimed to be a Baptist (although I'd
never seen her in a church in my life), and loved to listen to black
gospel singers. I remember her sitting on her chair with her soiled
apron, clutching a dishcloth and watching the screen intently.
You listen to this," she told me. "This is important."
I plopped down on the floor and watched as a black guy I didn't
recognize approached the microphone. He was standing in front of the
Lincoln Memorial, and there were more people there than I had ever seen
in my life.
Then he spoke.
I am happy to join with you today, in what will go down in history as
the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we
stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came
as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been
seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous
daybreak to end the long night of captivity.
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro
is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is
still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of
discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely
island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners
of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we
have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When
the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the
Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a
promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was
a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note
insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this
sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which
has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that
the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are
insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So
we have come to cash this check- a check that will give us upon demand
the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to
this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This
is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the
tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark
and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's
children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of
racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment
and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering
summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is
an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty three is
not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to
blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the
nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor
tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship
rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations
of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the
warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of
gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let
us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup
of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and
discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into
physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights
of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy
which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of
all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their
presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up
with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We
cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil
rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long
as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in
the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be
satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto
to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in
Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing
for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be
satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials
and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of
you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered
by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police
brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to
work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back
to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities,
knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not
wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and
frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply
rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the
true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident:
that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of
former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit
down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert
state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be
transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where
they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips
are presently dripping with the words of interposition and
nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black
boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys
and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill
and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and
the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord
shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South.
With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a
stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling
discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With
this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to
struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom
together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing
with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of
thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride,
from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let
freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom
ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the
heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From
every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and
every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed
up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews
and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and
sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at
last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Even as a nine year old, I knew I had witnessed something special. Years
later, it occurred to me that the first political speech to which I had
ever paid attention turned out to be what most agree was the finest
example of public oratory delivered in the 20th century. In fifty years,
I've never heard anything that remotely approaches its perfect
composition and delivery.
I looked over my shoulder and saw something that really disturbed me...
my grandmother was crying.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
The unschooled old woman, born in the hills of West Virginia, shook her
head. "Nothing, Kevie," she said. "You just remember what that man just
said. You do what that man said, and everything will be all right."
It's been 50 years, and things still aren't "all right."
Perhaps my grandchildren will finally realize the dreams proposed
on that hot August day.
America's democracy is still unfinished. The effort to create a more
perfect union is a never ending one.
We must remember that. Thankfully, many do. And their efforts, like the
situations they strive to correct, will never end.
It's probably because 15-year-old Lucy's vision, hearing, and sense of
smell aren't what they used to be, but I like to think she doesn't mind
sharing the yard with the bunny that lives in the tallgrass stand. After
the rabbit ran away, Lucy took no notice; she just continued her twice
daily inspection of the back yard and reported in that everything was
fine, and that it was time for me to carry her upstairs to watch
television on the couch, and to wait for her 9 pm
In light of the Edward Snowden/NSA scandal, CBS' science fiction series Person
of Interest now more closely resembles a reality show:
While not quite as memorable as "Space... the final frontier," the
series' opening voice over provides a pretty good summary of the premise:
"You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine
that spies on you every hour of every day. I designed the machine to
detect acts of terror, but it sees everything... violent crimes
involving ordinary people. The government considers these people
'irrelevant'. We don't. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret.
You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up...
we'll find you".
John Reese (Jim Caviezel), a former Green Beret and CIA field officer,
is living as a derelict in New York City after the death of the woman he
loves, and is presumed dead. He is approached by Harold Finch (Michael
Emerson), a reclusive billionaire computer genius who is living under an
assumed identity. Finch explains that after September 11, 2001, he built
a computer system for the government that uses information gleaned from
omnipresent surveillance to predict future terrorist attacks. However,
Finch discovered that the computer was predicting ordinary crimes as
well. The government is not interested in these results, but Finch is
determined to stop the predicted crimes. He hires Reese to conduct
surveillance and intervene as needed, using his repertoire of skills
gained in the military and the CIA. Through a back door built into the
system, Finch receives the Social Security number of someone who will be
involved in an imminent crime, at which point he contacts Reese. Without
knowing what the crime will be, when it will occur, or even if the
person they were alerted to is a victim or perpetrator, Reese and Finch
must try to stop the crime from occurring.
They are helped by NYPD Detectives Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a
corrupt officer whom Reese coerces into helping them, and Joss Carter
(Taraji P. Henson), who in early episodes investigates Reese for his
vigilante activities. Although Reese arranges for Carter and Fusco to be
partners in the NYPD early in the first season, neither learns that the
other is also working with Finch and Reese until season two.
Periodically, the team also enlists the aid of Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco),
a professional "fixer" who applies her skills to particularly difficult
tasks. The series features several subplots. One significant story arc
involves "HR", an organization of corrupt NYPD officers in league with
budding mob boss Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni); in the course of this
arc Fusco is forced to go undercover. Another important storyline
revolves around Root (Amy Acker), a psychopathic female hacker who is
determined to gain access to the Machine; she asserts the device is
actually God, and that she has been summoned by "her."
Ah, The Machine...
The Machine is a mass surveillance computer system programmed to monitor
and analyze data from surveillance cameras, electronic communications,
and audio input throughout the world. From this data, the Machine
accurately predicts violent acts. Under control of the U.S. Government,
its stated purpose is the identification of terrorist and their planned
assaults. However, the Machine detects future violent acts of all kinds,
not just terrorism. Unknown to Finch, his partner, Nathan Ingram,
installed a routine called "Contingency" prior to delivering the system
to the government. The covert software causes the machine to also act on
non-terrorist crime. Finch is appalled that Ingram has the data sent
directly to him. After Finch fails to prevent Ingram's
computer-predicted murder, he further modifies the system so that
"irrelevant" non-terrorism data is transmitted to him in the form of
social security numbers, via coded messages over a public telephone.
Over the course of each episode, the viewer periodically sees events as
a Machine-generated on-screen display of data about a character or
characters: identification, activities, records, and more may be
displayed. The viewer also sees a Machine-generated perspective as it
monitors New York. Commercial flights are outlined by green triangles,
red concentric circles indicate no-fly zones around tall buildings, and
dashed boxes mark individual people. The Machine classifies the people
it watches by color-coding the boxes: white for no threat or an
irrelevant threat; red for perceived threats to the Machine,
red-and-white for individuals predicted to be violent; and yellow for
people who know about the machine, including Finch, Reese, Ingram,
Corwin and Root. The white-boxed "irrelevant threat" targets include the
Persons of Interest that Reese and Finch assist.
As the series progressed, a wider governmental conspiracy emerged. Known
as "The Program", it revolves around the development and utilization of
the Machine. Apparently led by a mysterious figure known only as
"Control", an unnamed official (Jay O. Sanders) from the Office of
Special Counsel begins eliminating key personnel who are aware of the
Machine's existence by deploying teams of Intelligence Support Activity
(ISA) operatives who believe they are acting to eliminate perceived
terrorist threats on the recommendation of a department known as
"Research". The members of the elimination teams are classified by the
Machine using a blue box.
Person's producers have hinted the third season of the hit
series, which moves to a new day and slot (Tuesdays at 10 pm, premiering
on September 24) will attempt to be more, er, science fiction-y. Like
all television shows, Person does have some reality-bending
elements, but the suspension of disbelief level required is remarkably
low. The bad guys are still lousy shots, and the key characters make
miraculous recoveries from concussions, lethal injections and various
forms of physical trauma, often before the show's end credits roll. But
hey, it's episodic broadcast television, right?
Where the show excels is in production values and technical accuracy.
While Mr. Finch's technology boasts features which are a couple software
releases in the future, the indulgences can be forgiven. The show's
cellular phone networks, computers, and other devices work at blinding
speed. But when you have to shoehorn a rich narrative into 40 minutes of
actual episode time, you really don't want to watch systems execute
communication protocol negotiations in real time; trust me.
Particularly impressive is the effort the show puts into elements that
have perhaps a second or two of screen time. Thanks to high definition
and digital video recording, I've been able to freeze frame some of the
monitor shots- and it's obvious these guys have some real-world Unix and
TCP/IP knowledge. A one-second blip of a phony newspaper article reveals
someone actually wrote a faux news story and, apparently, follows The
Other one-hour drama series spend eight days or less to film an episode. Person
of Interest spends nine and a half, with more camera coverage,
extensive location shooting, and substantial post-production work.
They spend money on this show, and it's all up on the screen. The
episodes have a decided theatrical motion picture feel.
So... when planning your television viewing for the upcoming season,
give Person a shot. Like certain other Warner Brothers shows, the
studio hasn't made it available for free, on-demand viewing- you have to
buy the DVDs or download the show from iTunes.
Just type CBS Person of Interest into Google and you'll find hundreds of
useful fan sites and video clips from key episodes.
One caveat- the series is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost fame,
which means there's a chance that at some point the whole thing could
take a sharp turn into stupidity. But, based on the first two seasons,
it's worth the risk.
(YouTube video: ComiCon trailer for "COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey," a
13-part docu-series debuting in 2014 on FOX.)
The original 13-part Cosmos: A Personal Voyage first aired in
1980 on the Public Broadcasting System, and was hosted by Carl Sagan.
The show has been considered highly significant since its broadcast;
Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times described it as "a watershed moment
for science-themed television programming". The show has been watched by
at least 400 million people across 60 different countries.
Following Sagan's death in 1996, his widow Ann Druyan, the co-creator of
the original Cosmos series along with Steven Soter, a producer from the
series, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, sought to create a new
version of the series, aimed to appeal to as wide an audience as
possible and not just to those interested in the sciences. They had
struggled for years with reluctant television networks that failed to
see the broad appeal of the show.
Seth MacFarlane had met Druyan through Tyson at the 2008 kickoff event
for the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a new LA office of the
National Academy of Sciences, designed to connect Hollywood writers and
directors with scientists. A year later, at a 2009 lunch in NYC with
Tyson, MacFarlane learned of their interest to recreate Cosmos. He was
influenced by Cosmos as a child, believing that Cosmos served to
"[bridge] the gap between the academic community and the general
public". MacFarlane had considered that the reduction of effort for
space travel in recent decades to be part of "our culture of lethargy".
MacFarlane, who has several animated shows on the Fox Network, was able
to bring Druyan to meet the heads of Fox programming, Peter Rice and
Kevin Reilly, and helped to get the greenlighting of the show.
MacFarlane admits that he is "the least essential person in this
equation" and the effort is a departure from work he's done before, but
considers this to be "very comfortable territory for [himself]
personally". He and Druyan have become close friends, and Druyan stated
that she believed that Sagan and MacFarlane would have been "kindred
spirits" with their respective "protean talents".
Gary Kildall could have become a household name and, possibly, the
richest man in the world.
In 1980, IBM approached Bill Gates at Microsoft to license a BASIC
interpreter for their soon-to-be-released Personal Computer (PC). They
mentioned they also needed an operating system, and Gates referred them
to Digital Research, Gary Kildall's company.
For various reasons, things didn't work out, and IBM went back to
Microsoft. You know the rest.
There are various accounts of what actually happened, and the Wikipedia
article on Kildall offers what appears to be a neutral report.
I used DR-DOS. I used GEM. And I wish more people remembered Kildall's
(YouTube video: Dean Cain on Jimmy Kimmel: Live!))
The always charming Dean
Cain learns that they somehow made Man of Steel without him.
Cain spent more time on screen in the iconic costume than any other
actor. Hard to believe, but Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of
Superman premiered nearly 20 years ago, in September, 1993.
Baritone Frank Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was
indisputably the 20th century's greatest singer of popular song. Though
influenced by Bing Crosby's crooning, and by learning from trombonist
Tommy Dorsey's breath control and blues singer Billie Holiday's rhythmic
swing, Frank Sinatra mainstreamed the concept of singing colloquially,
treating lyrics as personal statements and handling melodies with the
ease of a jazz improviser. His best work is standards- Cole Porter,
Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and the Gershwins- but Sinatra, despite his
1957 denunciation of rock & roll as degenerate, recorded songs by the
likes of Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, Jimmy Webb, and Billy Joel. Not
only did his freely interpretive approach pave the way for the
idiosyncrasies of rock singing, but with his character- a mix of
tough-guy cool and romantic vulnerability- he became the first true pop
idol, a superstar who through his music established a persona audiences
found compelling and true. (Click
for full article.)
Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy.
Being an 18-karat manic-depressive and having lived a life of violent
emotional contradictions, I have an overacute capacity for sadness as
well as elation.
Cock your hat- angles are attitudes.
Fear is the enemy of logic. There is no more debilitating, crushing,
self-defeating, sickening thing in the world- to an individual or to a
For years I've nursed a secret desire to spend the Fourth of July in a
double hammock with a swingin' redheaded broad... but I could never find
me a double hammock.
Hell hath no fury like a hustler with a literary agent.
How can a free people make decisions without facts? If the press reports
world news as they report about me, we're in trouble.
Hunger is inexcusable in a world where grain rots in silos and butter
turns rancid while being held for favorable commodity indices.
I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. It's not
necessary for us to make it to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can
find Him anyplace. And if that sounds heretical, my source is pretty
good: Matthew, Five to Seven, The Sermon on the Mount.
I like intelligent women. When you go out, it shouldn't be a staring
If you possess something but you can't give it away, then you don't
possess it... it possesses you.
I'm gonna live 'til I die.
I'm not one of those complicated, mixed-up cats. I'm not looking for the
secret to life... I just go on from day to day, taking what comes.
I'm not unmindful of a man's seeming need for faith; I'm for anything
that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a
bottle of Jack Daniel's. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing
in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in
I'm supposed to have a Ph.D on the subject of women. But the truth is
I've flunked more often than not. I'm very fond of women; I admire them.
But, like all men, I don't understand them.
I've always had a theory that whenever guys and gals start swinging,
they begin to lose interest in conquering the world.
People often remark that I'm pretty lucky. Luck is only important in so
far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After
that, you've got to have talent and know how to use it.
Put your sunglasses on, because you ain't going home 'til the morning
Stop worrying about communism; just get rid of the conditions that
What I do with my life is of my own doing. I live it the best way I can.
Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I
sing, I believe. I'm honest.
When lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on
Wednesday and absolution on Sunday, cash me out.
You can be the most artistically perfect performer in the world, but an
audience is like a broad- if you're indifferent, endsville.
You gotta love livin', baby, 'cause dyin' is a pain in the ass.
The first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, Chris
Hadfield, is scheduled to return to earth this evening with U.S.
astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko.
Hadfield's been in orbit for 148 days, and during that time he's not
only done whatever it this they do on the ISS, he's maintained constant
contact with the people of this strange little blue ball via Twitter
and other media. But he obviously saved the best for last.
(YouTube video: "A Space Oddity," from the ISS.
Godspeed, guys. May you have a safe and uneventful landing.
Possibly the funniest Trek-related commercial ever made. Definitely the
one with the most Spocks. Congratulations to Leonard Nimoy for achieving
a Shatner-esque level of self-aware self-parody, and Quinto for being
such a good sport. (Quinto, by the way, is from the Pittsburgh suburb of
Green Tree and is a graduate of Central Catholic and CMU.)
(YouTube video: Zachary Quinto vs. Leonard Nimoy: "The Challenge")
Speaking of self-aware self-parody, Nimoy outdid himself with this oldie
(YouTube video: Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song [official alternate version])
Jonathan Harshman Winters III (November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013)
When the otherwise forgettable The
Fish That Saved Pittsburgh arrived here in 1979, my father was
working the "extra list" at Teamsters Local #249. One afternoon they
received a call from Lorimar Productions, and my dad- who had been told
by a friendly union steward to make certain he was there that day- found
himself with a lucrative temporary gig as Jonathan Winters' chauffeur.
At the end of the shoot, the locals working on the production received
an official "Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" belt buckle, which I still have.
They also received an unpleasant surprise years later, when they learned
Lorimar had never paid payroll taxes to the Feds, which caused my father
and others much grief when they applied for Social Security benefits.
The situation resulted in my Dad's monthly stipend being a few bucks
less than it should have been. But he didn't complain. "I spent three
weeks driving around with Jonathan Winters," he recalled with a smile.
"That was worth it."
"More influential than successful, Mr. Winters circled the comic heavens
tracing his own strange orbit, an object of wonder and admiration to his
peers." - William Grimes, The New York Times
15 of the funniest people on earth died yesterday - and they all lived
inside of Jonathan Winters. -Denis Leary
Bill Cosby was once asked whom he would choose if he had $50 in his
pocket to buy a ticket to see only one stand-up comedian, live, in their
prime. The comic legend barely took a breath before answering, "Jonathan
Winters will make every last one of us stand there in awe."
Winters, who died [April 11] at the age of 87, was a master of voices,
mimicry, and right-field spontaneity. "What I do is verbal paintings,"
he told National Public Radio in 2011. "I paint a picture. Hopefully
you'll see the characters and what they're doing and what they're
For decades after he became famous for his comedy albums, he was a
coveted late-night guest because no one- not the audience, not hosts
like Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, likely not Winters himself- knew what
he was going to do. An evening with Winters on the sofa was can't-miss
television, and a generation of comics that followed him- like Robin
Williams and Jim Carrey- marveled and were inspired by his daring,
Winters often joked about the mental hospital, playing slightly
disturbed characters who belonged to or claimed to have escaped from the
asylum. He was drawing from personal experience. At the height of his
early fame, he had committed himself to a mental hospital and went on to
live with what he diagnosed as bipolar disorder. "I need that pain-
whatever it is- to call upon it from time to time, no matter how bad it
was," he told NPR.
So there was a bit of the tortured genius to him, but his comedy was
rarely dark. It was manic and sly. Cosby compared Winters' talent to
jazz master John Coltrane, a improvisational artist who could inflate
whole stories and characters off a single verbal cue. He was
unstoppable, unpredictable, and inimitable.
(YouTube videos: Jonathan Winters on The Jack Paar Show)
Jonathan Winters quotes:
God is in my head, but the devil is in my pants.
I couldn't wait for success so I went ahead without it.
If God had really intended man to fly, He’d make it easier to get to the
If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it!
Improvisation is about taking chances, and I was ready to take chances.
Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.
Now the freaks are on television, the freaks are in the movies. And it's
no longer the sideshow, it's the whole show. The colorful circus and the
clowns and the elephants, for all intents and purposes, are gone, and
we're dealing only with the freaks.
When you wear so many hats in society, you never know who you are.
That's the beauty of it. Because once you find out who you are, you're
You come into this world, not knowing who you are, and sometimes, if you
live long enough, you go out not knowing who you are.
(YouTube video: the official trailer for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A
Space Odyssey, which premiered 45 years ago, on April 2, 1968.)
A linear projection into the future of any science or technology is like
a form of propaganda- often persuasive, almost always wrong. -Pamela
All scientifically possible technology and social change predicted in
science fiction will come to pass, but none of it will work properly. -Neil
All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent. -David
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged
demo. -James Klass
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -Arthur
Cheese in an aerosol can is the greatest advance in technology since
fire. -James Angove
Each fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, football fans
cheer for their favorite irrational number: “Cosine, secant, tangent,
sine, three point one four one five nine!” -Bruce Watson
Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human
relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers away from
ustomers, romantic interests, and other people who can't handle the
truth. (From Engineers Explained) -Unattributed
Even though today's technology provides us with mountains of data, it is
useless without judgment. -Felix G. Rohatyn
Everyone has a right to a university degree in America, even if it's in
Hamburger Technology. -Clive James
For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality
of life, please press three. -Alice Kahn
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public
relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. -Richard P. Feynman
Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons. -Buckminster
I may be just an empty flesh terminal relying on technology for all y
ideas, memories and relationships, but I am confident that all of that,
everything that makes me a unique human being, is still out there,
somewhere, safe in the theoretical storage space owned by giant
ulti-national corporations. -Stephen Colbert
If the Catholic church couldn't stop Galileo, then governments won't be
able to stop things now. (re: regulation of information technology.) -Carlo
If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be
easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough
ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself
with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is
gambling in human lives. -Freeman Dyson
If we had had the right technology back then, you would have seen Eva
Braun on the Donahue show and Adolf Hitler on Meet the Press. -Ed
In the old days, writers used to sit in front of a typewriter and stare
out of the window. Nowadays, because of the marvels of convergent
technology, the thing you type on and the window you stare out of are
now the same thing. -Douglas Adams
[Information Technology] people are so hypnotized by the technology hey
don't look for real results. -Peter Drucker
Levitt's First Law of Information Technology: If it's free, adopt it. -Unattributed
[N]either technology nor efficiency can acquire more time for you,
because time is not a thing you have lost. It is not a thing you ever
had. -James Gleick
Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the
steamroller, you're part of the road. -Stewart Brand
One can prove or refute anything at all with words. Soon people will
perfect language technology to such an extent that they'll be proving
with mathematical precision that twice two is seven. -Anton Chekhov
Screams erupted at a nearby hotel, where Microsoft founder Bill Gates
was addressing an education and technology conference. (Associated
Press report of a Seattle earthquake) -Unattributed
Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we need not
experience it. -Max Frisch
Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand
what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not
Technology is really civilization, let's face it. -Arthur C. Clarke
Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything,
except over technology. -John Tudor
Technology today is the campfire around which we tell our stories.
There's this attraction to light and to this kind of power, which is
both warm and destructive. -Laurie Anderson
The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women
who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have
been a breathtaking example of emerging technology. -Sam Harris
The human race has today the means for annihilating itself-either in a
fit of complete lunacy, i.e., in a big war, by a brief fit of
destruction, or by careless handling of atomic technology, through a
slow process of poisoning and of deterioration in its genetic structure. -Max
The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic
emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is
terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis
overall. -E.O. Wilson
There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology- the tendency to
do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good. -Robert Pirsig
We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that
works. -Douglas Adams
We have lots of information technology. We just don't have any
information. (New Yorker cartoon caption) -Sydney J. Harris
We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly
depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that
almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription
for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later
this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in
our faces. -Carl Sagan
While modern technology has given people powerful new communication
tools, it apparently can do nothing to alter the fact that many people
have nothing useful to say. -Lee Gomes
Published Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 1:27 PM EST
I imagine our Shelties all would have Scottish accents if they could speak, and Lucy, the oldest,
would sound just like Deborah Kerr in the original Casino Royale.
They should just create a "Best Quentin Tarantino Film" category and be done with it.
How can you not like an Oscars show with two Captain Kirks?
I wish Spielberg had won best director. How great would it have been for him to talk too
long and to have the Jaws music start..
The Pope's tweets come from an Apple device, which is kind of funny when you think about it...
Since I'm not a fan, I was a bit apprehensive about Seth McFarland hosting the Oscars.
His performance reminded me of Calvin Trillin's suggested state motto for New Jersey: "Not as bad as you
might have expected."
"Why Seth MacFarlane's Oscars were mean spirited and misogynistic, coming up next after our
review of the worst dressed women." -@Crutnacker
Totally unrelated: It turns out Person of Interest is more of a documentary...
Published Saturday, February 09, 2013 @ 7:41 AM EST
The Beatles made their first appearance on
The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.
The show was watched by 73 million people.
Trivia: The Beatles' performances and recordings of "Till There Was You," the love ballad from the
Broadway musical "The Music Man," earned writer Meredith Willson more money than all of the
show's royalties combined. The Fab Four wanted something in their repertoire that would appeal
to parents and critics. Sir Paul McCartney now owns the publishing and performance rights to
Meredith Willson’s music catalog.
Published Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 12:46 PM EST
Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" was the first film
shot in Paramount Pictures' proprietary VistaVision widescreen process.
Twentieth Century Fox's previously introduced Cinemascope used
anamorphic lenses to squeeze a wider image onto the film; the process
was reversed during projection. When you see a film clip where everyone
looks extremely tall and skinny, you're seeing a widescreen anamorphic
print being projected in error by a normal lens.
The problem with all this image squeezing and unsqueezing was the effect
on image quality. Distortion was introduced which couldn't be completely
eliminated during projection. Color motion picture film in the 1950s was
also rather grainy, and the fuzziness could be detected when the image
was projected on the larger, wider screens.
Instead of using lenses to squeeze a wider image on the negative,
VistaVision cameras moved the film horizontally past the lens,
exposing the equivalent of two standard 35mm frames. This doubled the
width of image without the introduction of anamorphic distortion and
graininess. Think landscape vs portrait photo printing on your computer,
and you'll get the idea.
Very few VistaVistion projectors were built, and they were used only at
special previews and premieres. Since twice as much film was used to
record the image, it had to move through the projector twice as fast, at
a somewhat terrifying three feet per second. For regular exhibition at
the local neighborhood movie house, the VistaVision negatives were
printed down to standard vertical 35mm reels, while keeping the
widescreen aspect ratio. A VistaVision print could be projected with a
regular lens, which meant theater owners didn't have to buy special
equipment or deal with switching lenses when the second movie on a
double feature was shot in non-widescreen format.
Technology marched on; higher quality film stocks were created as well
as better anamorphic lenses. VistaVistion's bulky cameras and high film
costs doomed the format. After being used on about three dozen or so
films, VistaVision disappeared for the most part in the early 1960s.
Jump cut to the mid-1970s. John Dykstra was looking for cheap motion
picture cameras suitable for shooting special effects. Effects shots
require multiple exposures and multiple printing steps, each resulting
in increased film grain and loss of detail. The old VistaVision cameras,
with double the negative size of a standard 35mm frame, were ideal-- and
were dirt cheap, since no one had used them for 15 years. Even better,
the lens mounts on the old cameras and printers could be modified to use
readily available, high-quality Nikkor lenses from 35mm Nikon still
cameras. (I vaguely recall an ad by Nikkor on the back cover of Popular
Photography magazine boasting how their lenses made Star Wars
possible, but the issue's long gone and I can't find the ad online
Dykstra bought the old equipment, added motion control hardware and
software, and the VistaVision cameras that shot Bing Crosby and Danny
Kaye in White Christmas and Charleton Heston in The Ten
Commandments (a 1956 Paramount release) became the Dykstraflex
system that made Star Wars' groundbreaking effects possible. The
old VistaVision equipment carried Industrial Light and Magic's multiple
award-winning efforts until the replacement of optical-based special
effects with computer generated imagery.
Published Thursday, November 22, 2012 @ 8:30 AM EST
WKRP in Cincinnati: "Turkeys Away" (Season 1, Episode 7, aired 10/30/1978)
Mr. Carlson is beginning to feel useless at the new formatted rock station so he
decides to create a big Thanksgiving Day promotion. His idea? Get a helicopter,
with a banner attached to it saying "Happy Thanksgiving From WKRP", and drop
live turkeys from the helicopter. What could go wrong?
(YouTube video: "The turkeys are hitting the ground
like sacks of wet cement!")
Two legendary talk show hosts with entirely different personalities and
approaches; yet the prosaic King and the cosmopolitan Cavett both killed
on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson earlier this year.
(YouTube video: Larry King inhabits the body of Geoff the Robot.
(YouTube video: Including such delights as a joke based on an obscure
reference to Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.)
Published Saturday, November 17, 2012 @ 2:19 AM EST
I think America might just have spent all day obsessing over loss of
Twinkies. This is why we're not getting a greatest generation book. -@pourmecoffee
What if the Mayan calendar ends in 5105, and we've just been holding it
upside down? -Aaron Karo
Hostess will sell the rights to all their snack cakes, and Twinkies will
once again pour off the production line of a different company. I
wouldn't be surprised if several years' worth of Twinkies aren't already
stockpiled in a warehouse somewhere. I mean, It's not like they're going
to go stale or anything...
A blonde walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a double entendre.
So he gives it to her.
This new thesaurus isn't just terrible, it's also terrible. -Justin
Viagra can cause sight loss. So, you can go blind either way.
(YouTube video: The Big Bang Theory Flash Mob!)
James Bond beat Abraham Lincoln at the box office. Boy, it's really been
a lousy week for Republicans, hasn't it? –David Letterman
No hurry- take all the time you have. -The Covert Comic
Isn't the Twinkie too big to fail? Where's the bailout, Obama? -The
If you were born in or after April 1985, you have never experienced a
colder than average month. If you've lived in Pittsburgh during that
period, you've experienced the highest and lowest temperatures on record
as well as the greatest 24-hour rain and snowfall totals. So if grandma
or grandpa start to tell you how bad the weather was when they
were growing up, tell them to stick a sock in it.
It's also interesting to note that in April 1985 Coca-Cola changed its
formula and released New Coke.
There are really only two small sections of the Unites States
Constitution that I've memorized. There's the last part of Article VI:
"...no religious Test shall ever be required as a
Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States."
The emphasis is mine, and identifies the only place in the entire
document where the word "ever" appears. This is handy when dealing with
those who refuse to acknowledge the founders' intent to keep religion
and government separate. I mean, what part of "ever" don't you
And I also know the Preamble.
Boy, do I know the Preamble.
I recited it for a Veterans Day program in Homestead's Frick Park in
1962. I remember it was cold, and I was wearing my Cub Scout uniform.
And I didn't make any mistakes, because I had been studying it, living
with it, for an entire month.
I learned the Preamble from Margaret McGeever, the principal of my
elementary school. And when Margaret McGeever taught you something, you
not only memorized it, mastered it, and could recite it on command, you
assimilated it into your very DNA structure. It left a virtual,
indelible mark on your psyche, not unlike the actual physical hand print
of hers that I still have on my left shoulder, a result of The Bell
Telephone Movie Incident In The Auditorium.
Miss McGeever not only principaled, she taught drama. She emphasized
that the Preamble was not a jumble of words to be hurriedly recited in a
dull monotone. It had to be read correctly, with a combination of zeal,
reverence and perfect enunciation. "This is the very foundation of who
we are," she rumbled in her high-pitched yet gravelly voice. "Just
fifty-two words that define who we are."
And I learned them. Really learned them. I spent a half hour
every day finding the words in the huge dictionary in her office and
transferring their definitions to sheets of blue-ruled white bond paper,
the good stuff we used when taking our penmanship tests.
It took me more than a week. She looked through the sheets. She stacked
them, placed her folded hands on the neat pile, then gazed at me over
the top of her glasses.
I froze. It was not the look of satisfaction I had expected.
Her brow was furrowed. Actually, it was always furrowed; the
woman had the forehead of a Shar Pei. But the creases were even deeper,
and her voice was sharp.
"Mister Barkes," she intoned. "Your work is not acceptable. You have
forgotten one very important word: Preamble. You've managed to omit the
title of the work."
I looked at the copy of the Constitution I held in my pudgy, shaking
hands. I didn't see the word "preamble" anywhere.
"You won't see the word 'preamble' anywhere," Miss McGeever said, which
was simultaneously comforting and terrifying. "I don't see your name
written anywhere on your body, but I know who are, and if I were to
write about you, I would certainly put your name at the beginning."
"Preamble," she said. "An introduction. From the Latin 'pre', meaning
'before', and 'ambulare', to walk. Literally, to walk before, or to
lead. 'Ambulare' is interesting. So many English words are derived from
Latin. What English words come from 'ambulare'?"
"Ambulance?" I asked. She nodded. "Amble?" She nodded again.
I was blank. "Do you know what they call baby strollers in England?,"
"Prams?" I replied. "Right. Pram is English slang for perambulator.
'Per' from the Latin through or for, and 'ambulator' from..."
"Ambulare!" This was fun.
Miss McGeever spent the next half hour listing Latin antecedents
("ante-", before; "cedere", to go) for English words. I was sorry when
the end of day bell sounded.
"I'll tell Miss Sullivan she has a prospective Latin student," she said,
smiling. Miss Sullivan taught first year Latin in ninth grade at the
junior high school.
Then the smile disappeared. The stack of Preamble words reappeared.
"Review them. We'll have a verbal quiz on Monday."
Wait. Where was I?
Wow. I hate when I have one of those Billy Pilgrim unstuck in time
Right. The Constitution.
There are a lot of people who say the Constitution has but one purpose:
to restrict the federal government and limit its power. Anything not
explicitly covered within its original 4,543 words and subsequent
amendments should not even be considered.
I think they're missing the big picture. Miss McGeever explained it
quite well. I remember her florid cursive writing on the blackboard:
Who are "We"? The people of the United States of America.
What do we want? We want to:
1. Form a more perfect Union. (The Articles of Confederation just
2. Establish justice.
3. Insure domestic tranquility.
4. Provide for the common defense.
6. Promote the general Welfare.
7. Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
(We're serious about this.)
How are we going to do this?
We do ordain (from the Latin ordinare, to arrange or order) and
establish (from the Latin stabilire, to make stable) this
Constitution (from the Latin constituo, to confirm, arrange,
decide) of the United (L. unus, one, a union) States (L. status,
fixed, set) of America.(Mod.L. Americanus, after Amerigo
Sometimes I think this guy must have been one of Miss McGeever's
students. And after this past election, I know how he feels:
Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012 @ 12:55 AM EST
Failure to write a concession speech is what sealed Mitt Romney's fate:
(YouTube video: "Election Night" episode, The West Wing)
Sam Seaborn: You wrote a concession? Toby Ziegler: Of course I wrote
a concession. You want to tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop
the thing? Sam Seaborn: No. Toby Ziegler: Then go outside, turn
around three times and spit. What the hell's the matter with you?
Published Saturday, October 27, 2012 @ 2:15 PM EDT
Pittsburgh generally only gets remnants of hurricanes, but sometimes
they do wreak havoc. The heavy rains and flooding from Agnes in 1972 and
Ivan in 2004 come to mind. And we've been nailed by large cyclonic
storms, like 1993's "Storm of the Century." But I don't think we've ever
had to deal with a hybrid beast like this one, especially one with high
winds over a sustained period of a day more.
As a public service, here's something to take your mind off the coming
apocalypse: one of the dumbest- and funniest- movies ever made.
Absurdist humor at its best.
Bob: I didn't know you smoked. Nick: Just after sex, Bob. I'm trying
to give it up. Bob: Well, at least you don't smoke that much. Nick:
About a pack a day. Bob: That'll kill ya! Nick: Bob, it won't kill
ya. But it will make you very sore.
(YouTube video: "Real Men" (1987) with John Ritter and Jim Belushi)
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012 @ 8:28 AM EDT
It's the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Allan
Sherman's first record album, My Son, The Folk Singer, which
broke sales records and hit number one on the 1962 Billboard pop album
I was eight when I first heard Allan Sherman.
I memorized all of the songs on all his albums.
That should explain a great deal.
Sherman is best known for his hit single Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.
My favorite Sherman pieces aren't even complete songs, but medleys
comprised of two or four lines, or a single verse, concatenated,
recorded before a live audience, and positioned as the last track on the
Herewith are Shticks and Stones from My Son, The Folk Singer,
and Shticks of One and a Half a Dozen of the Other from My
Son, The Celebrity.
For those of you not familiar with early 60s culture, you may need to
click the links which following to appreciate the references to Levittown,
Sol, and Metrecal..
As for the Medicare reference, the songs were recorded prior to the
program's creation in 1965.
Also note my cats were fascinated by the pigeon in the second video.
Turn down the sound, put it on an endless loop, and watch the ensuring
Published Tuesday, October 23, 2012 @ 12:29 AM EDT
John William “Johnny” Carson (October 23, 1925 - January 23, 2005) was
an American television host and comedian, known for 30 years as host of The
Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992). Carson received six
Emmy Awards, the Governor Award, and a 1985 Peabody Award. He was
inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987. Johnny Carson
was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and received a
Kennedy Center Honor in 1993. Although his show was already successful
by the end of the 1960s, during the 1970s Carson became an American icon
and remained so until his retirement in 1992. Click
for full article.
(A portion of David Letterman's 2005 tribute show for Johnny Carson.)
One of Carson's funniest routines was Carnac the Magnificent, an
alleged psychic who would hold to his head a sealed envelope, divine and
announce the answer, then open the envelope and read the question. He
adapted the bit from routines previously performed by Steve Allen and
Ernie Kovacs, but Carson perfected the format.
Herewith are some of the more memorable Carnac gags. For the complete
list, go to the source at www.nightscribe.com,
But be certain to watch the video at the end...
A: Peter Pan. Q: What do you use to fry a peter?
A: Mount Baldy. Q: How do you play piggyback with Telly Savales?
A: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Q: What were some of the earlier forms of
A: Clean air, a virgin and a gas station open on Sunday. Q: Name
three things you won't find in Los Angeles.
A: Black and white and twenty feet tall. Q: Describe Sister Mary Kong.
A: An unmarried woman. Q: What was Elizabeth Taylor between 3 and 5
pm on June 1, 1952?
A: Cyclone. Q: What do call the clone of a guy named Cy?
A: ”Hi diddly dee.“ Q: How do you say "Good morning" to
your diddly dee?
A: The Orient express. Q: What is a drink made with soy sauce and
A: Gatorade. Q: What does an alligator get on welfare?
A: Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Q: What's the best thing
to do if you swallow a hand grenade?
A: Until he gets caught. Q: How long does a United States Congressman
A: Kumquat. Q: What do you say when calling your quat?
A: Defrost. Q: On a cold morning, what forms on de-grass?
A: Gunga din. Q: What do you hear when you put an amplifier in your
A: Igloo. Q: What do you use to keep your ig from falling off?
A: Shoo be doo be doo. Q: What do you look for when you're tracking a
shoo be doo be?
A: Trapper John. Q: What do you call an outhouse built on quicksand?
A: Rub-a-dub-dub. Q: What does a masseuse do to your dub-dub?
A: Zeppo Marx. Q: What do you get when something gets caught in your
A: Touchback. Q: What's the smart thing to do if a Dallas Cowgirl
A: The big ten. Q: Describe the five finalists in the Miss Universe
A: All the President's Men. Q: Who won't be let out to see the
A: Bifocal. Q: Name a focal that goes both ways.
A: Timbuktu. Q: What comes after Timbuk one?
A: R-O-L-A-I-D-S. Q: How does a stupid person spell “backgammon?”
A: Jello and “Charlie's Angels.” Q: What looks delicious,
quivers all over and can't talk?
A: The Loch Ness Monster. Q: Who will they find sooner than Jimmy
A: The diamond lane. Q: What does Zsa Zsa Gabor call the center of a
A: A nine foot base with two feet of powder. Q: Describe Mick
A: Putting on the dog. Q: What do you call dressing up as a tree?
A: "Yes man." Q: What should you answer to everything
George Foreman says?
A: You asked for it. Q: How do you get it?
A: Big Ben, Joe Namath and the candidates' campaign promises. Q: Name
a clock, a jock and a crock.
Published Wednesday, October 17, 2012 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Quotes of the day- Arthur Miller:
Arthur Asher Miller
(October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright and
essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas
that include plays such as All My Sons (1947), Death of a
Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), and A View from the
Bridge (one-act, 1955; revised two-act, 1956).
Miller was often in the public eye, particularly during the late 1940s,
1950s and early 1960s, a period during which he testified before the
House Un-American Activities Committee, received the Pulitzer Prize for
Drama and the Prince of Asturias Award, and was married to Marilyn
for full article)
A character is defined by the kinds of challenges he cannot walk away
from. And by those he has walked away from that cause him remorse.
A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.
A suicide kills two people... that's what it's for.
An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.
Don't be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is
Few of us can surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense.
The thought that The State has lost its mind and is punishing so many
innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally
He's liked, but he's not well liked.
I believe in work. If somebody doesn't create something, however small
it may be, he gets sick. An awful lot of people feel that they're
treading water- that if they vanished in smoke, it wouldn't mean
anything at all in this world. And that's a despairing and destructive
feeling. It'll kill you.
I figure I've done what I could do, more or less, and now I'm going back
to being a chemical; all we are is a lot of talking nitrogen, you know...
I love her too, but our neuroses just don't match.
If a person measures his spiritual fulfillment in terms of cosmic
visions, surpassing peace of mind, or ecstasy, then he is not likely to
know much spiritual fulfillment. If, however, he measures it in terms of
enjoying a sunrise, being warmed by a child's smile, or being able to
help someone have a better day, then he is likely to know much spiritual
If I have to be alone I want to be by myself.
Immortality is like trying to carve your initials in a block of ice in
the middle of July.
It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright
thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly
lead in our time- the heart and spirit of the average man.
Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin
to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more,
The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge
of embarrassing him, always.
The enemy is within, and within stays within, and we can’t get out of
The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home
The wedding of Christianity or Judaism with nationalism is lethal.
The world is an oyster but you don't crack it open on a mattress.
There might be a dragon with five legs in my house, but no one has ever
Until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.
When any creativity becomes useful, it is sucked into the vortex of
commercialism, and when a thing becomes commercial, it becomes the enemy
When the guns roar, the arts die.
Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise
but the absence of any need to choose this action?
Why is betrayal the only truth that sticks?
Without alienation, there can be no politics.
Work a lifetime to pay off a house- You finally own it and there's
nobody to live in it.
You can quicker get back a million dollars that was stolen than a word
that you gave away.
You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away- a man is not a piece
You specialize in something until one day you find it is specializing in
Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997),
known professionally as John Denver, was an American singer/songwriter,
activist, and humanitarian. After traveling and living in numerous
locations while growing up in his military family, Denver began his
music career in folk music groups in the late 1960s. His greatest
commercial success was as a solo singer. Throughout his life, Denver
recorded and released approximately 300 songs, about 200 of which he
composed. He performed primarily with an acoustic guitar and sang about
his joy in nature, his enthusiasm for music, and relationship trials.
Denver's music appeared on a variety of charts, including country and
western, the Billboard Hot 100, and adult contemporary, in all earning
him 12 gold and 4 platinum albums with his signature songs "Take Me
Home, Country Roads", "Annie's Song", "Rocky Mountain High", and
"Sunshine on My Shoulders".
Denver further starred in films and several notable television specials
in the 1970s and 1980s. In the following decades, he continued to
record, but also focused on calling attention to environmental issues,
lent his vocal support to space exploration, and testified in front of
Congress to protest censorship in music. He was known for his love of
the state of Colorado, which he sang about numerous times. He lived in
Aspen, Colorado, for much of his life, and influenced the governor to
name him Poet Laureate of the state in 1974. The Colorado state
legislature also adopted "Rocky Mountain High" as one of its state songs
in 2007. Denver was an avid pilot, and died while flying his personal
aircraft at the age of 53. Denver was one of the most popular acoustic
artists of the 1970s. (Click
for full article.)
Perhaps love is like a resting place A shelter from the storm It
exists to give you comfort It is there to keep you warm And in
those times of trouble When you are most alone The memory of love
will bring you home
Perhaps love is like a window Perhaps an open door It invites you
to come closer It wants to show you more And even if you lose
yourself And don't know what to do The memory of love will see you
Oh, love to some is like a cloud To some as strong as steel For
some a way of living For some a way to feel And some say love is
holding on And some say letting go And some say love is everything And
some say they don't know
Perhaps love is like the ocean Full of conflict, full of change Like
a fire when it's cold outside Or thunder when it rains If I should
live forever And all my dreams come true My memories of love will
be of you.
And some say love is holding on And some say letting go And some
say love is everything And some say they don't know
Perhaps love is like the ocean Full of conflict, full of change Like
a fire when it's cold outside Or thunder when it rains If I should
live forever And all my dreams come true My memories of love will
be of you.
Dr. Neil deGrasse
Tyson (b. October 5, 1958) is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the
Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and
Visiting Research Scientist and Lecturer at Princeton University. Click
for full bio.
(YouTube video: Neil deGrasse Tyson debunks the 2012 Mayan calendar
As your area of knowledge increases, so does your perimeter of ignorance.
Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded
than encouraging people who have not.
Dinosaurs are extinct today because they lacked opposable thumbs and the
brainpower to build a space program.
I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world
than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of
others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.
I simply go with what works. And what works is the healthy skepticism
embodied in the scientific method. Believe me, if the Bible had ever
been shown to be a rich source of scientific answers and enlightenment,
we would be mining it daily for cosmic discovery.
I would request that my body in death be buried not cremated, so that
the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so
that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora
and fauna during my lifetime.
If aliens did visit us, I'd be embarrassed to tell them we still dig
fossil fuels from the ground as a source of energy.
If all that you see, do, measure and discover is the will of a deity,
then ideas can never be proven wrong, you have no predictive power, and
you are at a loss to understand the principles behind most of the
fundamental interconnections of nature.
If pizza sizes were given in area not diameter, you'd see instantly that
a seven inch is less than half the size of a ten inch pie
If scientists invented the legal system, eyewitness testimony would be
In modern times, if the sole measure of what's out there flows from your
five senses then a precarious life awaits you.
My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are
blind to all the universe has to offer.
Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us. I don't know of
any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me.
Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us.
People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey
schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not
scientific and that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about
the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate
ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.
Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy
Scientific inquiry shouldn't stop just because a reasonable explanation
has apparently been found.
Seventy percent of Earth's surface is water and over 99 percent is
uninhabited, so you would expect nearly all impactors to hit either the
ocean or desolate regions on Earth's surface. So why do movie meteors
have such good aim?
So what is true for life itself is no less true for the universe:
knowing where you came from is no less important than knowing where you
The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in
their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy,
billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to
every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to
all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in
the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.
The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you
believe in it.
The more I learn about the universe, the less convinced I am that
there's any sort of benevolent force that has anything to do with it, at
The remarkable feature of physical laws is that they apply everywhere,
whether or not you choose to believe in them. After the laws of physics,
everything else is opinion.
There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational
thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.
We fail in even the simplest of all scientific observations- nobody
looks up anymore.
We spend the first year of children's lives teaching them how to walk
and talk, and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit
When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing
worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.
Whenever people have used religious documents to make accurate
predictions about our base knowledge of the physical world, they have
been famously wrong.
Within one linear centimeter of your lower colon there lives and works
more bacteria (about 100 billion) than all humans who have ever been
born. Yet many people continue to assert that it is we who are in charge
of the world.
You don't take a dead cat to the vet. I mean you might, but why?
Published Thursday, October 04, 2012 @ 1:35 AM EDT
When I think of Charlton Heston (October 4, 1923 – April 5, 2008), I
can't help but recall his performance in the 1974 disaster epic, Earthquake.
At the end of the film, Heston's character; his soon-to-be ex-wife,
portrayed with delicious villany by Ava Gardner; and his stunningly
attractive mistress, played by Geneviève Bujold; are trying to escape
from a sewer being rapidly flooded by a deluge from the
earthquake-shattered Mulholland Dam.
Geneviève Bujold's character has already climbed to safety. On her way
up the ladder, the totally unsympathetic Ava Gardner falls into the
raging torrent and is swept away.
In probably the best display of stereotype self-awareness ever committed
to film, Charlton Heston first looks up the ladder, to safety and the
braless Bujold, who is reaching out to him.
He then looks over his shoulder to see the rushing water carrying away
the überbitch Gardner.
Watch Heston's face. This is a man in torment, a man struggling with the
most important and painful choice he will ever make.
He doesn't utter a word, but his decision and internal dialogue is
nonetheless writ large upon his handsome face:
"Oh, God damn it. I'm Charlton Heston."
And he hurls himself into the rapids, where he, Gardner, and countless
extras are washed into oblivion.
I remember seeing this in its original release at the Warner Theater in
Pittsburgh (remember "Sensurround"?). The cries of disbelief and despair
when Heston made the plunge rose easily above the loud subsonic rumbling.
"Chuck! You're an idiot!"
No, he wasn't.
He made the only choice available to him.
He was, after all, Charlton Heston.
(YouTube video of Charlton Heston being all Charlton Heston-y in
Published Wednesday, October 03, 2012 @ 2:44 AM EDT
(YouTube video: "Lydia the Tattooed Lady,")
Yesterday was Groucho's
birthday, and every other year or so I post this clip of him singing Lydia,
the Tattooed Lady from the classic Marx Brothers film At The
I was just about to re-post the video when I remembered an e-mail I had
received from a reader the last time I published it. A 21-year-old
college student asked if Lydia was a "gibberish" song, because
many of the lyrics made no sense to him.
Lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg was at the top of his form when he wrote Lydia.
It's fiendishly clever, invoking historical and contemporary references,
and he effortlessly blends them with oblique asides describing Lydia's
impressive physical characteristics. The result was an instant classic.
I watched the video again, and then it dawned on me... if my young
reader had failed to pay attention during his history, literature, and
geography classes, he just wouldn't get it.
So, if you've listened to Lydia and found yourself not only
tapping your toes but scratching your head, here are the lyrics. With
There will be a quiz later, so please pay attention.
Lydia The Tattooed Lady (music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by
E.Y. Harburg, the guys who also did "Over the Rainbow.")
Ah, this meeting brings back memories. Childhood days... Lemonade!
Romance! My life was wrapped around the circus... Her name was Lydia. I
met her at the World's Fair in 1900 (marked down from 1940). Ah, Lydia...
She was the most glorious creature under the sun... Thaïs!(1) du
Barry!(2) Garbo!(3) Rolled into one...
Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia? Lydia The Tattooed Lady She
has eyes that folks adore so, And a torso even more so. Lydia, oh
Lydia, that encyclopedia.(4) Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo. On
her back is The Battle of Waterloo,(5). Beside it The
Wreck of the Hesperus(6) too. And proudly above waves the
red, white, and blue(7). You can learn a lot from Lydia!
When her robe is unfurled she will show you the world, If you step up
and tell her where. For a dime you can see Kankakee(8) or
Paree(9), Or Washington Crossing The Delaware.(10)
Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia? Oh Lydia The Tattooed
Lady. When her muscles start relaxin', Up the hill comes Andrew
Jackson.(11) Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia. Oh
Lydia the queen of them all. For two bits(12) she will do
a mazurka(13) in jazz, With a view of Niagara(14)
that nobody has. And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz.(15) You
can learn a lot from Lydia!
Come along and see Buffalo Bill(16) with his lasso. Just a
little classic by Mendel Picasso.(17) Here is Captain
Spaulding(18) exploring the Amazon(19). Here's
Godiva,(20) but with her pajamas on.
Here is Grover Whalen,(21) unveilin' the Trylon.(22), Over
on the West Coast we have Treasure Island.(23) Here's
Najinsky(24) a-doin' the rhumba.(25) Here's her
social security numba.
Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia Oh Lydia the champ of them all. She
once swept an Admiral clear off his feet. The ships on her hips made
his heart skip a beat. And now the old boy's in command of the fleet, For
he went and married Lydia!
I said Lydia... He said Lydia... I said Lydia... We
said Lydia... La la!
(1) Thaïs, a stunningly beautiful and rich fourth
century courtesan who lived in Roman-controlled Alexandria, Egypt. She
eventually saw the error of her ways, converted to Christianity, gave
her money to the church, spent three years immured in a convent cell as
extreme penance, and died 15 days after her release.
(2) Jeanne Bécu, a.k.a. Madame du Barry
(August 19, 1743 - December 8, 1793), the stunningly beautiful and,
alas, final Maîtresse-en-titre (chief mistress) of King Louis XV. She
was convicted of treason for helping people flee the French Revolution
and was beheaded on the guillotine.
(3) Greta Garbo, born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson,
(September 18, 1905 – April 15, 1990), the stunningly beautiful Swedish
film actress and international star. She made fewer than 30 films during
her 1920-1941 career, retired at the age of 36, and spent her remaining
years shunning publicity.
(4)A book or set of books containing articles on
various topics, usually in alphabetical arrangement, covering all
branches of knowledge or, less commonly, all aspects of one subject.
(5)The military engagement in which an imperial French
army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by the armies of
the Seventh Coalition on June 18, 1815.
(6)The Wreck of the Hesperus is a narrative poem
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describing... well, bottom line, we're
talking about a tattoo of a wrecked, ice-covered ship on a reef with a
dead little girl tied to a broken, floating mast.
(7)The colors of the U.S. flag, a reference to the flag
itself, or a reference to the country.
(8)Kankakee, Illinois, a city about 60 miles south
southwest of Chicago.
(9)Paree (Paris), France's capital and largest city.
(10)German-American artist Emanuel Gottlieb's 1851
oil-on-canvas painting depicting, with numerous inaccuracies and
anachronisms, then-General George Washington standing in a boat, leading
his troops in the Christmas 1776 sneak attack against Hessian
mercenaries stationed in Trenton, New Jersey.
(11)Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson (March 15, 1767 –
June 8, 1845), the seventh President of the United States, serving two
terms from 1829 to 1837. He's best known as the guy on the $20 bill and
the first President someone tried to assassinate. Prior to entering
politics, he was a noted military leader whose exploits included leading
his troops up a steep hill near Tohopeka, Alabama on the March 27, 1814
Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the War of 1812. (The War of 1812 lasted
until 1815.) The reader is encouraged to learn more about Jackson.
His presidency makes the current situation in Washington look like a
60s' hippie love-in. Old Hickory was ill-tempered, unforgiving, and the
target of vicious personal attacks. During the 1828 election, his
opponents called him a jackass. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast later
used the jackass to characterize members of Jackson's then newly-formed
Democratic party, a symbol that remains to this day. Jackson had been
involved in numerous duels and had so many bullets lodged in various
body parts that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles."
(12)25 cents. The etymology is left as an exercise for the
(13)An upbeat Polish folk dance.
(14)Niagara Falls, the three cataracts located on the border
of New York state and the province of Ontario, Canada.
(15)The island in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz Federal
Penitentiary operated there from 1933 to 1963.
(16)William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846
– January 10, 1917), whose eponymous wild west shows toured the U.S. and
(17)Either badly-punctuated references to geneticist Gregor
Mendel and artist Pablo Picasso, or lyricist Harburg coupling the last
name of a world famous artist to a funny-sounding Jewish first name. You
know, like Shlomo Warhol. Come to think of it, Shlomo Picasso is
(18)The character Groucho portrayed in the stage play and
film Animal Crackers.
(19)The river in South America, not the website.
(20)In 1028, Lady Godiva repeatedly asked her husband Leofric
(the Earl of Mercia) to not pass along to the impoverished citizens of
Coventry the taxes levied on him by the King of England, Edward the
Confessor. ("Trickle down" had a different meaning then.) Leo told Lady
G that if she'd ride naked through the town market on a horse, he'd nix
the tax hike. The next day she did just that. Leofric kept his promise
and eliminated all taxes in Coventry except for those related to
boarding horses. The bits about her covering her, uh, bits, with her
long flowing hair- and the story that Tom the Tailor was struck blind
when he took a peek as she passed by his shop (the origin of "Peeping
Tom")- are later embellishments.
(21)President of the New York World Fair Corporation.
(22)One of two large structures located at the center of the
1939 World's Fair in New York.
(23)A man-made island in San Francisco Bay between San
Francisco and Oakland.
(24)Vaslav Nijinsky (March 12, 1889 or 1890 – April 8, 1950),
considered by many to be the greatest male dancer of the early 20th
(25)A style of ballroom dancing based on the Cuban
bolero-son. Not to be confused with the terminal emulation software. Or
the autonomous robot vacuum cleaner.
Late Night with David Letterman observed the 30th anniversary of
the iconic disco tune It's Raining Men yesterday with a big
end-of-show production number featuring surviving Weather Girl Martha
Wash; Paul Shaffer on keyboards; an augmented CBS orchestra; six(!)
backup singers; three female dancers; and three male acrobats suspended
from ceiling-mounted silk streamers.
No wonder it's Homer Simpson's favorite song.
Why Letterman, you may ask? The song was co-written by Shaffer, the late
night host's sidekick/bandleader, and was featured early in the run of
Letterman's late night show on NBC- episode 174, which aired on January
Originally written in 1979 by Shaffer and Paul Jabara, the song was
rejected by Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Cher, and Barbra Streisand. Martha
Wash and the late Izora Armstead, originally performing as "Two Tons O'
Fun," became "The Weather Girls" and released "Men" in October, 1982.
An international hit, it sold 6 million copies worldwide. While it
reached #1 on the US disco chart, it only climbed to #46 on the
Billboard Hot 100. In April 2001, Geri Halliwell released a cover
version that was used in the film Bridget Jones' Diary. It was a
big hit in the UK and Europe, but received little airplay in the US.
Used for decades in dozens of films and television episodes, "Men"'s
most recent reincarnation is in the Broadway production of the stage
musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert- The Musical. It was
performed by the show's cast, plus Wash and Shaffer, at the 2011 Tony
The clip from last night is at the bottom of this post.
My all-time favorite version remains this one. The quality leaves a bit
to be desired and the audio is slightly out of sync for the first minute
or so, but it's, well, two tons o' fun. Watch the audience, especially
when Martha heads into their midst and intimidates those in the aisle
seats with her powerful gospel soprano. As Letterman commented later in
the show, "They ripped the roof off the joint."
(YouTube video: The Weather Girls perform live on NBC's "Late Night
with David Letterman" in January, 1983.)
(YouTube video: Martha Wash and Paul Shaffer lead a lavish (for late
night TV) 30th anniversary performance on CBS' "The Late Show with David