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T. Buckingham Thomas:  A Personal Website


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On the Fourth of July, the St. Louis Cardinals led the National League Central Division by 6 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Chicago Cubs were in third place, 8½ games out.  There was a lot of baseball yet to be played, but if the season happened to end that way, the Cardinals would claim the division title and the Pirates and Cubs would claim the two wild cards.

Guess what?  All three teams did hold those positions the rest of the way!  The playoff spots were filled as long predicted.  The race did tighten towards the end, as the Cardinals finished with 100 wins, the Pirates with 98, and the Cubs with 97.  These were the best teams in all of Major League Baseball.  No other club won more than 95.

This graph shows by how many games the Pirates trailed the Cardinals during those final three months — never more than 7 games, never less than 2½ until the final day.

To Pirates fans, it seemed like every time their team won and could have gained ground, their hopes were dashed when the Cardinals won too.

One example:  although the Pirates went 19-9 in August, they actually lost 1½ games in the standings.  On those 19 winning days the Cardinals went 13-6 (.684).

Another example:  the Pirates were 5 games back in mid-September but reeled off eight straight wins.  Did they catch the Cardinals?  Of course not.  On six of those dates, St. Louis also won, maintaining a 3-game lead.

Checking the standings each day was like déjà vu all over again.



The federal government has introduced a website called College Scorecard that allows families to compare universities on several different metrics.  One of them is how much money a graduate can expect to make.

At one end of the scale, alumni of North Dakota’s Sitting Bull College earn an average annual salary of only $11,600.  At the other end, SUNY Downstate Medical Center graduates are paid nearly 11 times as much.  In between are institutions you’ve actually heard of:  MIT $91,600, Harvard $87,200, Penn State $47,500.  My alma mater, Oberlin College, barely beat the national average at $38,400.  In fact, 48% of Oberlin graduates earn less than people with only a high school diploma!

But that’s okay.  I’m not surprised that Oberlinians are paid less than SUNY doctors, or MIT engineers, or Harvard lawyers, or Penn State executives.  We tend to heed less lucrative callings.  We may become educators or social workers or classical musicians or organic farmers or pastors or poets or performers.  Our treasures are not necessarily in our bank accounts.

If you ask whether college is worth it, don’t just compare how much you’ll make to how much it’ll cost.  Consider more than return versus investment.  A college is not merely a trade school to prepare you for a specific career.  A college — particularly a liberal arts college like Oberlin — is a place where young performers and politicians, poets and physicists, talk to each other.  It prepares you for life. 



Fifty years ago I wrote a nonsense genealogy.  In a way, it anticipated George Foreman and his five sons all named George.  And his grill, I suppose.

My story ended with a $1.47 bill for food and drinks at Tim & Clyde’s place.  Prices were cheaper then.  But whatever happened to Tim & Clyde’s?

A couple of weeks ago I happened to be driving through a tiny town along the Allegheny River, and I found it!  Or what it has become, anyway.

The place is on Prospect Avenue in Cadogan, Pennsylvania.  I’ve appended a photo to the original tale and made it this month's 100 Moons article, because why not?



The Beatles released their “White Album” when I was a college senior, and we featured it prominently on our campus radio station WOBC.  One of the great songs on the first of its four sides was George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”   I didn’t discover until recently that George didn’t play the solo; the gentle weeping was provided by uncredited guest star Eric Clapton, who also joined in this performance.

Half a century later, what is it that we should be bewailing?  Pope Francis and I would say it’s the slow death of our planet.

The Associated Press reported last week that according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the month of August “smashed global records for heat.”  So did the entire summer.  “That's the fifth straight record hot season in a row and the fourth consecutive record hot month.  Meteorologists say 2015 is a near certainty to eclipse 2014 as the hottest year on record.”

Many of us don’t want to hear it, but scientists have been trying for years to alert us to global warming.  As more and more people burn more and more oil and gas and coal, the atmosphere is being polluted by greenhouse gases.  In the coming years, low-lying lands will be flooded by rising seas, temperate farmlands will be transformed into dusty deserts, species will go extinct, and billions will starve.

But we can’t do a thing about it!

Why not?  Because we don’t want to.

The rich and powerful can buy and sell us, but they won’t restrain the use of fossil fuels because that would reduce their profits.  None of us want to sacrifice.  We might have to make drastic changes to our lifestyles.  Will we not be able to drive our cars as much?  Will coal miners have to find other jobs?  No, we don’t want to do anything about global warming.  And commentators divert us with excuses to avoid doing anything. 

Sean Hannity: “I don’t believe climate change is real.  I think this is global warming hysteria and alarmism.”  Tucker Carlson: “You can’t tell me that global warming is destroying the earth.”  Rush Limbaugh: “It’s already a hoax, it’s already been established:  There is no man-made global warming.”

The worst catastrophe, if it comes, is still decades away.  I won’t be alive to see it.  Younger folks figure they’ll be able to find a way to cope.  Besides, it won’t happen at all because Rush says it’s a hoax.

I regret to inform you that Rush is the one who’s lying.  He and the other perverted deniers are full of hot air.  They’ve inverted the facts.  The real hoax is their insistence that we can carry on as usual.

               Portrait by Wu Wei

George Harrison is gone now, but he sees the world here that’s sleeping.

“I look at you all.
  I look at the trouble
  and see that it's raging.”

I’ve taken the liberty of rearranging his lyrics slightly.  The words in green are alternate versions from Harrison’s earlier demos of this song.  The words in blue are alternate versions from me.

I look from the wings at the play you are staging
While my guitar gently weeps,
As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
While my guitar gently weeps.

I look at the floor, and I see it needs sweeping.
Still my guitar gently weeps.
The problems you sow are the troubles you're reaping,
While my guitar gently weeps.

     I don't know why nobody told you.
     They all bankrolled the lie.
     I don't know how someone controlled you;
     They bought and sold you.

I look at the world, and I notice it's burning,
While my guitar gently weeps.
With every mistake, we must surely be learning.
Still my guitar gently weeps.

     I don't know how you were diverted.
     You were perverted, too.
     I don't know how you were inverted.
     No one alerted you.

I look at you all, see the coming disaster,
While my guitar gently weeps.
I look at you all . . .
Still my guitar gently weeps.



Starling Marte of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who usually hits left-handed pitchers well, has been slumping since July.  An article in yesterday's paper gave the numbers and ended with the factoid that his walk rate against lefties (3.4 per cent) is only half what it was in 2014.

That sounds like a drastic falloff.  It isn’t.  It’s a drop from 6.3% to 3.4%.  Had it been a drop from 63% to 34% it would have meant something, but Marte’s bases on balls have always been infrequent.  In 2014 he walked six times against lefthanders.  So far this season, only four times.  That’s a whopping difference of one walk every three months.



This weekend I ran across a picture of demonstrators asking why God destroyed Sodom.  These hate-full homophobes think they have the answer, but apparently they don’t read their Bibles carefully.

Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, God doesn’t always know everything.  In this case, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had been accused of unspecified wickedness, and God wondered how bad the situation could be (Genesis 18:20-21).  He decided to send angels to investigate.  If they couldn’t find ten good people (18:32), they would destroy the “cities of the plain” (19:13).

When the angels arrived in Sodom, Lot hospitably invited the strangers to stay with him.  However, Lot’s neighbors had resented him ever since he had immigrated to their town (19:9).  Surrounding his house, they demanded that he hand over the undocumented aliens.  The mob wanted to rape the angels (19:5).  Lot came out and offered his daughters instead, because it’s more virtuous to give up some of your own property than to allow your guests to be treated unkindly (19:8).  But the angels yanked Lot back into the house and warned him to get his family out of town before the rain of fire began.

Aside from the mob’s threat, there’s no indication here that homosexual activity was more common in Sodom than anywhere else.  So why did God destroy the city?  What was its sin?  Hostility to outsiders?  “Sodomy”?  Something more?  The Bible gives us the answer.  It’s in Ezekiel 16:49.

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom:
She and her daughters were arrogant,
overfed, and unconcerned.
They did not help the poor and needy.

To me, the Sodomites sound like present-day Republicans who don’t think taxes on the wealthy ought to be used to assist the less fortunate.

Ezekiel 16:50: “They were haughty and did detestable things before me.  Therefore I did away with them, as you have seen.”

This summer on the Internet, I’ve found much other material that interests me.  In many cases, the topics are politics and religion, which we really aren’t supposed to discuss in polite company.  Nevertheless, I wanted to pass along some of what I’ve found.  I’ve added a new article to this website:   a collection of what I’m calling Retweets.  Take a look.


SEPT. 13, 2015    LOOK BOTH WAYS

Where children walk to and from school, ideally there should be a friendly policeman to help them get across the street safely.

The little village where I grew up had only three traffic lights and no multi-lane highways, so traffic wasn’t that heavy.  We didn’t have many law enforcement officials either.  But if we couldn’t station an actual cop near a crossing to scare any speeders into slowing down, perhaps we could deploy a metal decoy.

Also, we could deputize older kids to watch out for the younger kids.  Members of the student “safety patrol” wore diagonal white belts and badges, their symbols of authority.

The AAA provided red and white flags on long wooden poles which were held horizontally to block either vehicular or pedestrian traffic, as required.  The belts supported the free end of the poles.

I always thought this arrangement was the norm.  But last month I read that the financially troubled Penn Hills school district has been paying crossing guards.  They’ve been paying 71 adults a total of $600,000 a year!  Now they plan to save hundreds of thousands of dollars by cutting the force to only 25 guards.  Some Penn Hills students do have to cross heavily-used roads, but state law doesn’t mandate any crossing guards at all.

In nearby McKeesport, a 15-year-old student was struck and killed by a school bus ten days ago at the same spot where a 14-year-old was killed by a dump truck a year and a half before.  The busy intersection is fully equipped with traffic signals, painted crosswalks, and lighted “walk/don’t walk” signs.  Were these kids carefully obeying the rules, or were they carefreely jaydarting?  I suspect the latter.  Now the authorities will install barrier railings, lengthen the “walk” intervals, and stagger the bus departures.  They’ll find the money somewhere to hire a crossing guard temporarily.  “It could be a week, five weeks or a year.”  Will that be enough?

Up in Augusta, Maine, last summer, school officials eliminated all of that district’s paid guards.  Board of Education chairwoman Susan Campbell said many children cross the street anyway, even when school is not in session.  “Do you think those kids don’t cross the road all summer long to get to the playground?  I think kids are crossing all the time.”  And Superintendent James Anastasio noted, “Very, very, very few communities have crossing guards anymore, and those who do, cross with volunteers.  Most people are reacting to what they remember, walking to school as children.  But very few children walk to school now.  Many more parents drive their children to school than in the past.”

(These old photos are not from my school.)

Penn Hills had to take out a $12 million loan to balance its budget.  If money is that tight, maybe they should consider once again employing old-school methods:  metal cops and adolescent escorts, no salary required.



Baseball’s best pitchers — especially those who are relatively inexperienced or recovering from surgery — are burning themselves out during the long regular season, then having to sit out the more important stretch drives in September and playoffs in October.

In 2012, the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg on September 9 after 159.1 innings.  This year, Matt Harvey’s agent Scott Boras warned last week that the Mets will put his client in “peril” if they use him for more than 180 innings; the latest guess is that Harvey will make only one more regular-season start.  And Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole already has thrown 180.2 innings, many more than his previous career high; because the Bucs would like to keep Cole fresh for the postseason, he’s skipping his regular start tonight.

How can we avoid these situations?  Let me make two off-the-wall suggestions.

Replace the customary five-man pitching rotations with six-man rotations.  Granted, a manager will still try to find a way to get his ace onto the mound every five days, thus using him up before the postseason.  To minimize this, add a rule that anyone who pitches five innings or more on a given day is ineligible to pitch again until six days later.  If a game is a blowout, the manager might replace the pitcher after 4.2 innings so he could make another start in a few days.  No problem; that would tend to save his arm, while giving a long reliever a chance at a win.

Or . . .

Shorten the season from 162 games to about 142, provided that you can somehow convince the owners to give up the revenue.  Forget the first half of April, when weather in the North can be challenging.  Start the season on April 15 as it did in 1947 and call it Jackie Robinson Opening Day to honor Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers on that date, meanwhile ending the silly custom of making every player wear #42.  Then finish the season early enough to allow the wild-card teams to play five-game series (not one-game playoffs) during the last week of September.


SEPT. 7, 2015    WHAT'S THE SCORE?

It was a recent Sunday.  I tuned the TV to an afternoon baseball game and curled up on the couch, my back to the screen and my face buried in a pillow and my eyes closed, listening to the commentators.

Since the beginning of televised sport, radio announcers have been enlisted to supply the TV sound track.

I’ve read about Red Barber calling a Reds-Dodgers doubleheader on a pioneering 1939 NBC telecast.  The technology was primitive; the New York Times reported, “At times it was possible to catch a fleeting glimpse of the ball as it sped from the pitcher’s hand toward home plate.”  Viewers might not have been able to comprehend what they were seeing had it not been for Red’s play-by-play description.

It wasn’t until late in the 1980 football season that NBC and Don Ohlmeyer were confident enough in their pictures to broadcast an announcerless game.  I remember watching that one-time-only experimental telecast,  Jets versus Dolphins.  We viewers heard only what we could have heard in the stadium:  cheering, PA announcements, and the sounds of players hitting each other.  I rather enjoyed the realism.

On this recent Sunday, I wasn’t paying nearly as much attention.  Within a few minutes, I had slipped into an afternoon nap.

When I woke up a couple of hours later, the baseball game was still on.  I wondered, “What’s the score?”  I could have bestirred myself to roll over and peer at the corner of the screen, where the score bug is always visible.  But I was too lazy.  I lay there and waited for the announcers to tell me.

For a long time, they didn’t.

Much play-by-play commentary is superfluous.  We can see “There’s a ground ball to shortstop,” so we don’t really need to be told.  Therefore, TV narration has gradually become less comprehensive.  Sometimes if the guys are telling a story, they may not feel the need to interrupt themselves to say “Ball two outside, and the count is now 2 and 1.”

This attitude has now extended to the score.  I’ve heard of radio announcers using an egg timer to remind themselves to give the score every three minutes.  TV announcers don’t worry about that.  An attentive viewer can be expected to know what’s happened in the game so far, and if he forgets, the score bug can remind him.

As an inattentive “viewer,” I had to listen for clues.  If a certain batter had “grounded out in the fourth inning,” that implied we were now in about the sixth inning.  If the announcers started worrying about the Pirates bullpen, the Pirates were probably protecting a small lead.  Eventually, about the eighth inning, when a walk was described as bringing the potential tying run to the plate, the mystery had been resolved.  I could remain in my comfortable semi-napping position.



Those who worship the Bible as an inerrant guide to all aspects of life often claim that their sacred book forbids abortion.

It doesn’t.  There's even a chapter prescribing how to perform one.

As Brother Billy’s guests pointed out in my earlier article — and this minister agrees — the Bible does not define life as beginning at conception.  A developing fetus is not yet considered a person.  Life doesn’t begin until the newborn emerges and begins to breathe the “breath of life.”

And as “cervantes” posted on the Internet, August 28, 2015:  “If human life begins at conception and the gamete is a person, then the greatest public health catastrophe and most urgent medical crisis confronting us is the more than 50% of unborn babies that die naturally.  God is the most prolific abortionist of all time.  100% of NIH funding should be diverted immediately to saving those millions of innocent lives that God is murdering every year in this country alone.”

Sometimes people want to play God by deliberately ending a pregnancy that's resulted from an illicit or adulterous relationship.  Believe it or not, for those situations the Bible gives a detailed recipe for concocting an abortifacient from holy water, as well as detailed instructions for using it to eliminate the misconceived fetus.

I explain in my article Biblical Lie Detector.



I once snapped this Polaroid picture of an intramural basketball game at my high school gym.

That's the venue where, late in 1961, I first pressed buttons to make the numbers change on a sports graphics display.  In other words, a scoreboard.

The details are in this month's 100 Moons article.

00    00



It’s time to get the stadium ready for the high school kickoff!

In the late summer of 1962, Richwood High School’s football players practiced in the morning behind the grade school.  Classes hadn’t started yet; the Richwood Fair ran through Labor Day, and school always reopened the day after.

Over at Memorial Field, the custodians had fired up the tractor and mowed the grass.  As a team manager, I was assigned to rake up the clippings.  Someone took my picture near the visitors’ sideline.

Notice my short hairstyle.  I used to visit the local barber shop fairly frequently.  Nowadays it’s at least two months between my haircuts.  Also nowadays, schools open in August.

It’s also time to get the fans ready for the college kickoff!

There’s a story in the local paper almost every day about another school’s prospects as it wraps up its scrimmage games and training camp, preparing to open the season.  I often find myself reading such articles without being completely up to date on the personalities involved.

This Monday, there was such an article labeled “Duquesne.”  Duquesne is a local university that as recently as 1992 played lowly Division III football, though they’re now in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. 

Apparently it’s a well-financed university, as we shall see.  The story began:

In a strange way, Jim Ferry was too focused on his own team to fully process some of the absurd scores by which it was winning.

I guessed this Ferry person might be the Duquesne football coach.  I’ve heard his name before.

On its four-game trip to Ireland earlier this month, a program that has endured three consecutive losing seasons didn’t look the part.

I wondered how they’d managed to find four Irish teams that knew how to play American football.

The Dukes didn’t just beat their opponents, but eviscerated them, winning matchups by an average of 38.8 points.  A team that struggled to clamp down on even middle-of-the pack Atlantic 10 teams held its foes to 48.8 points per game.

That’s a lot of touchdowns for a defense to allow.  And for some reason, they seem to be proud of it.

Ferry admitted the competition was suspect, but the things Duquesne hoped to achieve — an extra 10 days of practice, a chance for team bonding, an opportunity to work on a new defensive scheme — it largely did, even without taking into account the lopsided wins it registered.

“Everything we wanted to get out of the trip, we got it and more,” coach Jim Ferry said.  “It was a great experience.”

Sounds like he’s looking forward to kicking off the season next week.

Playing without sharpshooting guard Micah Mason ....

Aha!  That changes everything!  A sharpshooting guard doesn’t play football.  No rifles are permitted on the offensive line.  A sharpshooting guard might be a member of the security detail or the basketball team.  That suggests Ferry is probably a basketball coach, and because “Micah” sounds like a boy’s name, Ferry must be the men’s basketball coach.

Now I understand — though I still wonder why the article couldn’t specify the sport up front, and why a team would fly across the Atlantic to practice hoops in August. 



Construction began 2,327 years ago on the famous Appian Way.  In Italy, the old road leading south from Rome is lined with monuments and tombs of ancient patrician families.

I found a miniature modern version in Union Cemetery, on a hilltop across the river from my apartment.

These family tombs face the rising sun.  They bear the names, from left to right, of Paletta, DeMao, Innocenzi, Ciappetta, Roperti-Dancsecs, Mazziotti, and Santoro.


Not the whole cemetery is like that.  Many of the 20,000 residents aren’t even Italian, judging from their names.  Most have opted for conventional below-ground interment.

But there’s the occasional family that has invested in a private funerary temple, such as this obsidian-like mausoleum.

Requiescat in pace.



Sprouting from a crack in the sidewalk next to my apartment, a lowly weed has reached unprecedented heights.  Why did it grow so tall?

Back in 1979, I described an article I’d read about the seemingly intelligent behavior of certain jungle vines in Costa Rica.  I think something similar is taking place in my own back yard.

My young weed looked around and saw the dark vertical bars of the metal railing only inches away.  It reacted as though those were rival plants.  It would have to become tall to outreach them for the light, so it quickly grew long stem segments with only one leaf apiece, dozens of them.  It grew straight up, and it grew and grew until it had reached a height of three feet, taller than the competition.  Only then did it bend to the right toward the sun and begin producing buds.

Would you know enough to optimize your growth like this?

Who says animals are smarter than plants?

Speaking of biology, associate professor PZ Myers is a biologist way up in Minnesota.  He had a high school experience not unlike mine, according to his blog from August 16:

I attended my 40 year high school reunion last night.  It was interesting and strange.  But mostly pleasant.  I know many people have horrible memories of their school years, and all too often public schools are nightmarish mills of cliques and bullying and ugly social oppression, but I was lucky.  I was the wimpy nerd, I would have been the easy target for bullying, but it didn’t really happen, and I had friends among all the little petty in-groups — the jocks, the cheerleaders, the stoners, the AV weirdos, everyone — and they were always pretty porous and accepting.  Dang it, I don’t have any good horror stories to tell from those years!  I went through high school without getting beat up (which, I know, is a low bar to set, but still...)  I think the thing is my high school class was generally just a decent group of people. I was lucky that way.



The anniversary of the Woodstock music festival rolled around again this weekend, which reminds me again of Melanie Safka.

I wrote about her in 2008 and again in 2009.  She looks like this now, but in 1969, she was there on stage, in the rain, singing.

Afterwards she recalled:

We all had caught the same disease,
And we all sang the songs of peace.
Some came to sing, some came to pray, 
Some came to keep the dark away.

Little sisters of the sun
     Lit candles in the rain.
Fed the world on oats and raisins,
     Candles in the rain.
Lit the fire to the soul,
     Candles in the rain.

To be there is to remember,
     So lay it down again.
Lay down, lay down,
     Lay it down again.
I think that men can live as brothers!
     Candles in the rain.

I’m still finding out more about Melanie.  I recommend this performance of Gary White’s sad ballad, rawer and more evocative than Linda Ronstadt’s 1970 hit.  And I also recommend these remarkable 2015 duets with a current music star.  “C’est la seule chose que je peux faire.”

When my song becomes a part of the river,
I cry out to keep me just the way I am.

Will our blood become a part of the river?
All of the rivers
     are givers
          to the ocean
according to plan, according to man.

There's a chance
    peace will come
        in your life.

Please buy one.



My pastor from the 1960s, John C. Wagner, has passed away at the age of 84.

      I’ve written about him elsewhere on this website: 
  the experiment to make sermons more interactive,
   the trip to Mississippi to integrate churches there,
     the communion service in our living room,
       the going-away party, and
         his efforts to include Muslims in the “one great fellowship of love.”

“It was partly because of his suggestion that I went to Oberlin College,” I recalled to his son John Jr. this week, “and it was partly because of his example that I adopted Oberlin’s attitudes of peace and inclusiveness towards all humanity.”

What I haven’t described here was his paralysis.  He was 14 years old when he contracted polio in 1945, yet he continued to smile while getting around with crutches.  By 1955, he was married (to Miriam, seen here in Richwood) and had a B.D. from Yale Divinity School.  He later earned a Ph.D. from Ohio State and studied at the Sorbonne and two other institutions.

I learned these details from his obituary, which continues, “As a young pastor, he asked to be appointed to ‘a small church in a small town where I could learn to be a minister.’  He served United Methodist congregations in Green Camp and Richwood, Ohio.”  He was in Richwood from 1961 to 1965, when I was in high school and he was in his early thirties.

After leaving Richwood, Rev. Wagner left the pulpit.  He was on the United Methodist Church conference staff and then served as an administrator and professor at United Theological Seminary before retiring at the age of 65.

According to the obituary, “In retirement, he continued teaching at the Church of the Messiah in Westerville and the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.  He was a wise, brave and compassionate man who took genuine risks for social justice.  Against the wishes of his bishop and superintendent, he protested the segregation of churches in Mississippi in 1963, and the Columbus Athletic Club.   He demonstrated against the wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Iraq, and was an advocate for the full inclusion of all persons and perspectives in the UMC.   Deeply Christian, he cherished his relationships with people of all faiths.  He was intuitively kind.

“Polio kept taking its toll on his muscles, his mobility, and finally, his breathing, but he never wavered in using his voice for love, justice, wry wit, and endless puns.”  A few years ago Yale reported, “Since 2000 he has used an electric wheelchair and scooter. With Miriam's help John gets around very well and hasn’t hit anybody.”  The obituary notes, “John leaves behind Miriam, his wife of 62 years, who made his long life and ministry possible.”

The funeral is tomorrow in Delaware, Ohio.



In the foreground:  the Stony Creek Mill Pond, built in Michigan in 2003.  Across the pond:  a weaving shop, built in Georgia before the Civil War.

No, this isn’t a photoshopped composite.  It’s a picture I took in a place called Greenfield Village during a vacation trip I took last month.

Since then, I've been arranging my photos and researching the places I visited.  I saw a roundhouse and a round house. I pondered playing a contrabass triangle.  I ate schnitzel, watched wind make electricity, and bought a blue Santa.

All the exciting details are in my new article Revisiting Michigan.



I described in this article how, as a high school student, I experienced the sudden termination of the John F. Kennedy era in 1963.

The next Presidency, that of Lyndon Johnson, ended when LBJ announced he would not be a candidate for re-election.

I was on a brief break from college and was at home with my parents that Sunday night, March 31, 1968.  We watched the President’s televised Oval Office speech.  For more than half an hour he discussed the ongoing Vietnam War.  Eventually he turned to America’s increasing doubts about what we were doing there.

There is division in the American house now. There is divisiveness among us all tonight.  ...What we won when all of our people united just must not now be lost in suspicion, distrust, selfishness, and politics among any of our people.  Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.

In other words, I realized, Johnson doesn’t want to get entangled in the upcoming Presidential campaign.  He’s not going to run for re-election.  But it took him another half minute to get around to saying it.

With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office — the Presidency of your country.

Yes, I thought, I’m correct.  He’s obviously bowing out. 

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.

It was this last sentence that apparently shocked everybody, but not those of us who were still paying attention after 40 minutes.  We could see it coming.

Then the next Presidency, that of Richard Nixon, ended in his resignation.

Like most people, I had been annoyed by the occasional news reports casting suspicion on the leader of the free world following a relatively unimportant 1972 burglary at the Watergate.  You can listen here to a caller on our morning show in 1973.  Author Rick Perlstein explained, “People want to trust the king.  People don’t want to believe this about their President.”  But eventually the revelations forced us to believe it, and Nixon had to quit.

On Thursday, August 8, 1974 — 41 years ago today — it was announced that the President would be addressing the nation at nine o’clock that night.  They didn’t say he would be resigning, but everybody knew it.  In Washington, Pennsylvania, that afternoon, our TV3 crew was taping a Bronco League baseball game for a delayed cablecast starting at eight PM.  We decided that when nine o’clock rolled around, anybody watching our game would be switching channels to see Nixon quit.  Therefore, we might as well interrupt the baseball playback and put him on our channel as well.

As we recorded the game at Washington Park’s Bronco Field, during the first hour sportscaster Larry Schwingel explained to the viewers that they could stay with us and not miss the historic speech nor any of the ball game.  That night during playback, Tim Verderber was at the controls.  The game was playing on a U-Matic videocassette recorder which had audio/video inputs but also an RF tuner.  We set the tuner to Channel 11.  I was monitoring NBC on another TV set in the back of the control room.  When NBC switched to the White House at 9:01, I cued Tim.  He waited a second, maybe to let Larry finish a sentence, and then pressed the Stop button.  The VCR’s output switched from tape playback to tuner input, and Nixon was on TV3 — as well as virtually all the other eleven channels of our cable system.  When he finished 15 minutes later, Tim merely pressed Play again, and the baseball game resumed.



In the late 1980s, I watched It's Garry Shandling's Show on Showtime.  From this rather offbeat comedy series, I remember one episode in particular which aired live on November 8, 1988 — the night of the presidential election.

Other channels were declaring Republican George H.W. Bush the landslide winner, as shown on this map.

But Garry was presenting his own returns on his own hand-drawn charts, which somehow favored his candidate, Michael Dukakis.  Soul Train host Don Cornelius came on to announce that the Democrat had won.

About 24 minutes into the half-hour, in a happy accident of timing, back in Boston the actual Dukakis appeared at a hotel to concede.  Garry knelt in front of the TV monitor showing the live speech and ad-libbed an anguished plea to his “winning” candidate not to give up.

Then in the next decade, Garry starred on HBO'S The Larry Sanders Show.  As the beleagured host of a late-night talk show, Larry often worried that his network was considering hiring someone else to take his place.  Hey now!

The “someone else,” Larry’s potential successor, kept showing up at the studio with occasional cameos from 1996 to 1998.  I don’t think I’d ever heard of this guest star.  Because he was playing himself rather straight in those six episodes, he did little to impress me.

I’ve since learned, however, that in real life the guest star actually was a finalist to replace more than one late-night host:  David Letterman in 1993 and Tom Snyder in 1999. He did in fact replace Arsenio Hall in 1994.

Finally he came to my attention later in 1999.  Craig Kilborn succeeded Snyder, and this comedian took over Kilborn’s Daily Show on Comedy Central.

Of course, we’re talking about Jon Stewart.




































































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