FEB. 19, 2019 GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE BEGINS FRIDAY
FEB. 17, 2019 YOUNG WOLVES AT MID-CENTURY
All the 20th-century rules of propriety are being observed. Of the couple's four feet, the prescribed minimum of three are on the floor, and the parlor door has been propped open with a wastebasket to discourage surreptitious shenanigans.
But how did the young man learn the blonde's name and address? He used his Wolfbook. The cartoon above appeared on the cover. The photos inside included one particular freshman who today is an 86-year-old emeritus professor, still living near the campus.
My latest article gives you a peek at Wolfing in 1950.
Decades earlier, when Delazon Smith was an Oberlin student, he also served less than a full term. His disagreement with school policy and philosophy ... earned him an invitation to leave and not return. Thereupon he promptly published a book telling what was wrong with the college including even the vittles.
The college's leaders therefore prohibited such sinful substances as pork and pepper and coffee and tea. Students sometimes had to subsist on bread and water, like prisoners! They were, however, allowed salt.
Smith bemoaned the ban on all types of tea, including Bohea and Imperial and Gunpowder. He claimed that folks from other towns could tell that a young man was from Oberlin by his emaciated appearance, his lean, lantern-jawed visage.
He was so appalled that he exclaimed, We are led to cry out in the language of the poet! The nine-stanza tirade that resulted is the highlight of this fortnight's installment from Smith's book, entitled Board and Mode of Living.
FEB. 11, 2019 A GRAY DAY IN HISTORY
On this date 172 years ago, Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio. There was a college in the next county, but he never enrolled there.
The sketch was dated February 11, 1876. Alexander Graham Bell's patent drawings wouldn't be filed until three days later!
My latest article tells about Elisha Gray, The Edison of Oberlin College.
8, 2019 THESE
BILLS ARE CONFOUNDERATE!
Now it's more than 150 years old, and you don't hear about it anymore unless you're a collector, which I'm not. However, the many variations of these graybacks and other denominations are interesting.
Below is a note from the third series, issued in 1861 and signed and numbered by hand. Although backed only by bonds, within the Confederacy it was supposed to be receivable in payment of all dues except export duties and it would have been worth real money if the South had won the war. Six months after the ratification of a Treaty of Peace between the Confederate States and the United States, the Confederate States of America will pay to the bearer Ten Dollars.
The man on the lower left is the CSA Secretary of State, Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter. To balance the design, a stock image of innocence was chosen for the lower right. Later it was discovered to be a vignette of one Alfred L. Elwyn. But in 1861, Elwyn was no longer a child. He had graduated from Harvard and co-founded the Pennsylvania Institution for the Blind as well as a school for mentally disabled children. Now he was serving as the treasurer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And, of course, he was an abolitionist.
Imagine a basketball arena reduced to 1/20 scale, with a court the size of a Foosball table and the players four inches high. You and your friends gather around the table and watch the action from any angle you choose. Or maybe instead of little athletes, you could see little actors performing a play. I actually wrote up my idea as an essay, now long lost, for my eighth-grade English class.
How would it work? I guessed that the positions of the players on the court could be detected with some sort of radar beam, or perhaps with one of those newly-invented "lasers." That would constitute the camera.
In your living room would be the receiver, a transparent rectangular cube about four feet on a side. Inside the cube, electronic circuits would precisely schedule the firing of millions of little guns, shooting tiny particles from one side of the interior to the other. The guns would be timed so that 30 times a second, the particles would have reached positions in space corresponding to the surfaces of the real players. At that instant, a strobe light would fire, illuminating the particles and forming ghostly images of miniature players. A thirtieth of a second later, the next firing of the strobe would reveal a new set of particles in slightly different positions, and your eye would fill in the gaps. Of course the expended particles would fall to the bottom of the box, and eventually you'd have to empty the litter tray like a birdcage.
My English teacher Mrs. Endsley said that she had no idea what I was trying to describe, but it certainly sounded clever.
Half a century later, in the January issue of Broadcast Engineering, Anthony R. Gargano muses about the state of television technology. He seems to share my vision from long ago.
The proposed technology may be completely different, but my dream from 1960 is still alive!
FEB. 3, 2019 STAGING
It was the second Tuesday of September in 1969. Some 120 miles to the southeast, they were still cleaning up from the Woodstock music festival, though it had been over for three weeks. I myself, however, was on the campus of Syracuse University. With about 70 other young adults, I was joining Sequence 22 of a Master's degree program in Radio and Television.
One such Manual Labor System had been established in 1827 by Charles Finney's former pastor, Rev. George Washington Gale. Gale's new Oneida Academy along the Erie Canal prepared students for advanced theological training, but it also required them to perform manual labor. This made it affordable to more people, including Black students who were admitted there on an equal basis in 1833.
In 1835, Finney arrived at Oberlin, which likewise began admitting Blacks. In the same year Oberlin also enrolled Delazon Smith. The latter might have been a mistake.
Smith observed at close hand the school's vaunted academic and financial-assistance programs, and in 1837 he exposed their shortcomings in his pamphlet Oberlin Unmasked. The heading of my latest fortnightly installment of that book is Course Of Study, And Manual Labor.
FICTIONAL UNINFORMED INTERLOCUTOR: Have you seen how cold it is? I'm freezing! Whatever happened to your global warming?
CLIMATOLOGIST: It's still happening. World-wide averages have already risen about 1° Fahrenheit this century, and the rate is increasing.
FUI: One degree? That's all?
C: Even one degree affects things like sea levels and growing seasons. The real damage comes later this century if temperatures rise even faster.
FUI: Phooey! There's no warming. It was ten below at my house this morning!
C: And if there had been no warming, it would have been eleven below. You should be thankful.
Quotes from Yogi Berra are funny because their imprecise language makes them seem nonsensical. Yogi once claimed that not all his alleged sayings were authentic. But his claim got another laugh from its unpolished phrasing: I didn't really say everything I said.
Another Yogi-ism: Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded. What he meant, of course, is that now that the place has become popular with the masses, nobody among his acquaintances goes there anymore.
We often say nobody when we mean nobody I know.
Thirty years ago when I worked in Washington, PA, we avoided scheduling TV programs after 9 pm on Mondays in the fall. Who would watch our local channel when they could be watching Monday Night Football? We knew that we were certainly going to tune in to the NFL game, as did 33% of the nation when the highly-rated series premiered on ABC in 1970. But two-thirds of the nation was not watching. Two-thirds is not nobody.
Small-town Americans sometimes assume that because all their friends attend the local Baptist church, nobody could possibly object to having the Baptist preacher invoke the blessings of Jesus before the high school football game. But there are some non-Christians in town, and they are not nobody.
So even if every one of your buddies loved that new movie, that doesn't make their opinion universally unanimous.
JAN. 27, 2019 TIME TO HIBERNATE
Is it going to be frigid next week where you are? Personally, I'm getting too old for winter.
I've had to plan the next five days by carefully consulting the forecast. This chart from Weather Underground uses a light background for daytime and a darker background for night.
Here in the Pittsburgh area, Monday will be above freezing in the afternoon, so I'll lay in some groceries. Tuesday I'll probably have to shovel a couple of inches of snow. But then I'll stay huddled inside my apartment for the next 72 hours straight, because at dawn on Wednesday the FLT will be -5° and at dawn on Thursday it will be -22°! I won't venture out again until Friday afternoon, when I'll be able to collect three days' worth of morning newspapers because the FLT will have climbed to a bearable 10° above.
A local NWS meteorologist calls this the worst cold snap in a quarter century. The last time we had an outbreak like this was 1994, says Lee Hendricks. And before that, 1985. Fortunately, once we get past Groundhog Day the actual temperature is expected to moderate into the forties.
JAN. 24, 2019 A PASSAGE TO THE SOUTH
True story, as far as I know...
In 1893, James M. Black was a Methodist Sunday school teacher in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. One day he was taking attendance. Bessie, the daughter of a drunk, had failed to show up. Black thought to himself: if our names were called from the Book of Life in heaven and we were absent, how sad it would be! He grumbled something like, "I called the roll and she's not here, but I trust that when the roll is called up yonder, she'll be there." He searched the songbook for a hymn to that effect, but there was none. When he got home, he sat down at the piano and wrote one himself.
When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
A few years later, in a church in Kentucky, Lydia Morton (my future Grandmother Thomas) joined in the singing of "When the Roll Is Called up Yonder." She later described how the song leader stood before the congregation, holding a hymnal in one hand, conducting with the other, index finger outstretched. Usually his swinging finger pointed upward. But when he reached the final note of "I'll be there," he pointed down. Apparently, at the time of the heavenly roll call, he himself would be in the lower regions. My grandma and her friends giggled.
Fictional story that could well have happened...
In 1953, the Sunday services at a small Texas church always followed the same pattern. After forty minutes of preliminaries, the pastor would preach a long-winded sermon. Then there would be a prayer. The congregation would sing a psalm. Next the offering plates would be brought forward; there'd be another prayer; the plates would be passed around and returned to the altar for yet more praying. Finally, the preacher's plump wife would sit down at the piano and accompany herself as she sang an inspiring hymn. Then the preacher would recite the benediction and the service would finally be over.
One Sunday, little Ernie got restless as the plates were being passed. "When is this gonna end?" he whined. "I wanna go home!" His older brother shushed him, reminding him that "Church ain't out till the fat lady sings."
That struck the kinfolk as comical. People weren't supposed to mention the preacher's wife's corpulence. The story was whispered around town to much giggling.
Another true story, thanks to Michael Quinion...
A 1976 booklet called Southern Words and Sayings actually printed the line "Church ain't out till the fat lady sings."
That same year, a Texan named Ralph Carpenter, "one of the world's funniest guys," came up with a variation. He was the sports information director at Texas Tech. In the finals of the Southwest Conference basketball tournament, his team seemed to be on its way to an easy victory. However, Texas A&M came from behind to tie the score at 72-72. Bill Morgan of the SWC said, "Hey, Ralph, this is going to be a tight one after all." Ralph replied, "Right! The opera ain't over until the fat lady sings."
Perhaps Ralph revised the saying because it didn't seem right to joke about "church" in a press box. At any rate, his comment caused an uproar among his colleagues. Two years later another Texan repeated it on national TV, and it became a proverb.
The meaning, of course, is that we shouldn't assume that the outcome has already been determined just because one team is ahead. Until the game is actually finished, the losing team always has a chance to come back and win.
However, there's a website called "World Wide Words." In one entry, Michael Quinion explains how the term "dry run" for a rehearsal may have arisen from certain competitions. (I helped televise such contests back in 1970.)
And in another, he documents the story of "the opera ain't over until the fat lady sings" the one that I've outlined above.