MAY 22, 2017 HIGH-TECH BROADCASTING
Our family occasionally saw The 50-50 Club on WLW-C in Columbus. And on that station on Saturday evenings, we watched Midwestern Hayride. This show featured country music and also (in a nod to Cincinnatis German neighborhoods) Polka Time. My father enjoyed the country tunes, my mother enjoyed the polkas, and I shrugged at the square dancing.
An RCA publication describes WLW-Ts color coverage of baseball. To air a dozen Cincinnati Reds games each year, they would take their three cameras apart, carry them downstairs to the truck, and drive a mile and a half to Crosley Field. There they positioned the cameras overlooking home plate and first and third bases.
Six years ago, when I wrote about my brief career as a Bingo caller on a local cable channel, I saw it coming. "Nowadays the big networks are cutting back their expenditures. Labor troubles with both writers and actors are threatening scripted shows, and we're seeing more 'reality' TV, which is cheaper to produce. What could be cheaper than Bingo? Is Regis Philbin available to call the numbers? If not, perhaps Tom Baby could be persuaded to make another comeback."
Sure enough, last night National Bingo Night made its debut on ABC-TV.
Compared to the show we used to do on cable, this is a much glitzier version, with a lot of the glitz added during post-production. However, one fact hasn't changed: simply calling the Bingo numbers makes for boring television. You've got to do something entertaining at the same time.
NBN solves that problem by simultaneously playing a gimmick game, in which a single contestant triggers the calling of the numbers and tries to use them to reach some sort of goal before any of the 200 Bingo players in the studio audience gets five in a row.
The first game last night was an emotional rollercoaster. We rooted for the contestant, Joe, as he got closer to his goal. On O-67 he reached it, winning $50,000 for himself and his family, who were cheering him on from the back of the studio. But wait! Eighteen of the studio players had been one number away from Bingo before O-67 was drawn. Had O-67 given any of them five in a row? After a long, tense interval to set up the drama, one studio player did jump up and shout out "Bingo!" He was happy and jumping around. Joe was devastated. Moments before, he had been happy and jumping around, thinking he'd won big, but now he would go home with nothing.
This rang false with me. The studio player had four in a row and was saying to himself, "Come on, O-67!" That very number was drawn, and he had a winning card. But the show's producers had told him not to call out that fact immediately, as he would in a normal Bingo game. No, he had to wait more than a minute and a half, in the version that aired. And when he was allowed to proclaim his win, it seemed as though he was celebrating a theft. He'd stolen the money away from Joe, the nice guy we'd been pulling for.
But of course, the show was arranged so that in the third of the hour's three games, the gimmick contestant did win, and she brought her celebrating family onstage as the credits rolled. Everybody was happy.
Update: Click here.
MAY 14, 2017 MY SUSPECT ANCESTOR
A century ago, some people considered my great-great-grandfather George Scholl to be an enemy alien, although he was 89 years old and had been an American for seven decades.
Born in Heidelberg, George had immigrated to the United States as a teenager with his family. He still had a German document in his possession a Bible. But now America was at war with Germany, and President Woodrow Wilson had declared in his third State of the Union message, The gravest threats against our national peace and safety have been uttered within our own borders. There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit, born under other flags but welcomed under our generous naturalization laws to the full freedom and opportunity of America, who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life.
I added some background about this incident (in a box labeled 2014 Update) to my article about a trip to Georges adopted home town. Its this months 100 Moons article.
Incidentally, one of those relatives was my fathers brother Philip. Near the end of the Mothers Day article, he arrives with his family.
MAY 11, 2017 JUDGING THE JUDGES
A 2004 law requires Pennsylvanias 12 casinos to pay their host municipalities an annual fee. The amount is either two percent of their slot-machine revenues or $10 million, whichever is greater.
As a result, smaller casinos have to pay the full $10 million. For them, that may be five or ten percent an unfair competitive disadvantage. They would prefer the assessment to be a consistent two percent for every gambling mecca, regardless of size.
On the other hand, many taxpayers want to keep the law the way it is. If it were changed, cities with small casinos would be denied their guaranteed $10 million windfall, and the cities taxpayers might have to make up the budget deficit.
Nevertheless, the state Supreme Court recently agreed with the small casinos and struck down the either/or part of the provision, ruling that its inequality violates the state constitutions uniformity clause.
A local radio station holds a daily opinion poll. Listeners vote by phone or Internet. One day the question was, Do you agree with the Courts decision? The poll turned out 65% no.
But this is ridiculous. How can listeners know enough to agree or disagree with the Supreme Courts ruling? Do they have sufficient law-school training? Are all of them legal experts on the wording of the Pennsylvania constitution?
No, the majority doesnt disagree with the decision on constitutional grounds. Rather, the majority dislikes the decision because it could raise their taxes.
MAY 8, 2017 SHORT-TERM MEMORY LOSS
In the early days of slow-motion sports replays, a spinning disk held 30 seconds of action. If you wanted to save the replay for later use, you needed to re-record it onto video tape, because the disk would soon be erased to record new action.
Suddenly I was flat on my face, my hat and sunglasses rolling away, a slight cut on my lip and a bruise on my knee. The folks from the nearby Mullens Bar & Grill arrived to offer assistance immediately, helping me back to my feet and treating my cut.
What happened? I assume I must have tripped, probably over a manhole cover (arrow). But I have no memory of tripping and no memory of falling.
One would think I would have such memories, almost in slow motion. Whoops, I stubbed my toe, and my foot has been prevented from striding forward. I need to lift it up and throw my leg forward to catch myself before I lose my balance. But Im old, and I cant swing my leg that fast. Uh-oh, Im tilting forward. I dont want to fall. I hope it doesnt hurt. Here comes the pavement!
All of that might have been recorded in my short-term memory, which holds a few seconds. But then my head bounced off the sidewalk, and the short-term memory was erased without being transferred to long-term memory. It is no longer available for replay. At least thats my theory.
I experienced the same sort of momentary amnesia the last time I fell on a sidewalk. And it also happened when I was in an auto accident at the age of 9½, before seat belts. All I could recall: Look out, here comes a truck! (data missing) Oh, look, the truck is lying on its side, and the driver is climbing out.
I have a set of values, says Average American. These principles are important to me. Obviously, everybody shares these values. All reasonable people agree with me, because I'm right! When people are free to make choices by majority vote, they will make choices of which I will approve. This is why democracy is good. Let the people decide!
Therefore, a few years back, we insisted that the Palestinians hold free and democratic elections. Fine, said the Palestinians, we choose the terrorist Yasser Arafat as our leader. Later, they voted for Hamas. How could this be? wondered Average American. I can't believe they'd elect leaders who want Israel destroyed. I don't want to destroy Israel; I want Arabs and Israelis to be quiet and stop stirring up trouble and settle down and live in peace with each other on the land that they currently occupy. Therefore that's what the Palestinians want too. So why do they vote otherwise? It makes no sense.
We invaded Iraq to remove the Saddam Hussein regime and replace it with democracy, predicting that popular rule would be so successful there that the entire region would adopt it. Obviously any repressed people, given the chance, would vote the way Americans vote, and soon all Arabs would forget tribal differences and become secular capitalists like us (or maybe even become Christians). This experiment, unfortunately, has had a less than auspicious first four years.
Many Muslim clerics oppose democracy on principle. People should not follow their own desires but rather the teachings of the Koran: for example, a man should marry a woman. Give the people democracy, and their representatives are free to pass any legislation they like: for example, two women could marry. And the Muslim people, taught to honor their religion above any personal opinions they may have, tend to agree it's dangerous to give legislatures the opportunity to overrule scripture.
For a different reason, prosperous Chinese may also distrust majority rule, despite our dream The China Fantasy, according to author James Mann that economic freedom will turn them into democratic consumers just like us. Reviewing Mann's book last week, George F. Will noted, His most disturbing thesis is that the newly enriched, Starbucks-sipping, apartment-buying, car-driving denizens of the large cities that American visitors to China see will be not the vanguard of democracy but the opposition to it. There may be 300 million such denizens, but there are 1 billion mostly rural and very poor Chinese. The question is whether the rich minority, prospering under the Communist regime, will ever find it in their interest to give democracy to the billion.