Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Clitoris & The Roadies

And of course by that I really meant The Clematis and The Rhododendrons.

Hope you're not as disappointed as I am....

Actually, I'm not disappointed at all. It's been a good year so far for the flowers here and my clematis and rhododendrons are certainly doing their part to keep 2012 beautiful.

I am, too, just by shaving every day.

Now if I could just acquire some photosynthesizing skills, life would be just about perfect....

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

105 Years Ago Today....

An artifact from April 24, 1907:

Walter's house is still there in Cincinnati

Miss Nass's place in Providence, however, 
appears to have undergone a few renovations

Monday, April 23, 2012

Linwood Dunn

In a recent post I mentioned that the Vine St. Theater where Joey Bishop used to tape his talk show is now known as the Linwood Dunn Theater. Which raises the obvious question, "Who the hell is Linwood Dunn?"

My first guess was that it was someone with too much money and ego who agreed to hand over a significant part of his ill-gotten gains in exchange for getting his name slapped on a theater.

My second guess was that it was someone with too much money whom the owners of the theater were trying to suck up to in hopes of getting a significant bequest upon that someone's death.

Turns out that this might actually be a case where someone actually deserved to have a theater named after them in recognition of their contributions to the art of film.

To quote Wikipedia:

Linwood G. Dunn, A.S.C. (December 27, 1904, Brooklyn, New York – May 20, 1998, Los Angeles) was a pioneer of visual special effects in motion pictures and inventor of related technology. Dunn worked on many films and TV series including the original King Kong (1933), Citizen Kane (1941), and Star Trek (1966–69)....
Dunn's career began by about 1923 when he worked as a projectionist for the American Motion Picture Picture Corp. Following a relative to Hollywood, he was hired as an assistant by the Pathé company in 1925. Early films and serials he worked on as a cameraman were The Green Archer (1925), Snowed in (1926), Hawk of the Hills (1927), Queen of the Northwoods (1929), Flight (1929, Frank Capra's first sound film), Ringside (1929), The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1930), Danger Lights (1930), an early widescreen film, and Cimarron (1931), an Academy Award-winner for Best Picture....
It was Dunn who photographed the rotating RKO radio tower trademark used at the beginning of all RKO films. In the early 30s, Dunn became part of the effects team responsible for the creation of the original King Kong (1933)....
Dunn continued to work at RKO after Howard Hughes bought the studio. Production on The Outlaw (1943) was halted owing to a controversy over how much of Jane Russell's bosom would be visible. Dunn resolved the situation by rephotographing Russell's close-ups with a tiny scrim inserted between the projector and camera, so as to soften the line of her cleavage. Dunn gained a technical Oscar (along with machinist Cecil Love) in 1944 for his work.
After RKO had ceased to exist as a film production company, Dunn did the optical composites and title sequence for West Side Story (1961) and the elaborate fire-ladder sequence at the end of Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), which required 21 different all-color elements to be composited into final images.
Other later large-format and/or high-profile films Dunn's company did opticals for are My Fair Lady (1964), The Great Race (1965), Hawaii (1966), The Bible: In the Beginning (1966), Darling Lili (1970), and Airport (1970)....
Dunn produced the lightning-electrocution scene at the end of The Thing from Another World (1951) by scratching the lightning, frame-by-frame, on a strip of black film and then compositing the best of that footage with live action footage of the monster burning and shrinking (done by Dunn via pulling back the camera on a track while filming the monster image element against a black background), with those two elements then photographically combined with the unmoving image of the floor and walls that surround the creature in the final composite. During the brief 3-D craze and the more permanent shift to widescreen processes such as CinemaScope, Dunn pioneered the use of optical composites using these developments, inventing and refining new equipment to achieve it.
Dunn worked for Desilu Productions, founded by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, their TV production required the occasional use of optical effects, especially for increasingly elaborate title sequences, and Dunn was one of several optical houses that supplied them.
From 1965, Dunn became one of four optical houses that supplied visual effects for the company's (later Paramount) Star Trek TV series. It was mostly Dunn who photographed the 11-foot large Starship Enterprise model....
Dunn also specialized in optical work for special and large format films, creating the equipment necessary to do the jobs. Dunn did optical composite for several special 70mm films shown at World's Fairs, including the multi-panel tour-de-force film, A Place To Stand made for Expo 67. It was Dunn who did what his associates said was impossible, cleanly blowing up 16mm negative to 70mm prints for George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh concert film. Dunn's company later became the first facility in Hollywood that could do optical composites in the ultra-large Imax film format....
In the 1990s, while in his 90s, Dunn joined with Japanese engineers in the development of a 3-D television system that used electronic virtual-reality-type glasses that auto-synched to the TV image, to create the most clear and deep 3-D images ever produced. The system was built for hospitals; surgeons in many facilities are now using the system as a key aid in sorting out the nerve-endings during micro-neurosurgery. The system was profiled on an episode of Alan Alda's Scientific American Frontiers TV series. Always keenly interested in technology, Dunn participated in the development of digital projection for theaters.

I'd never heard of Dunn before coming across his name while doing a bit of research on that silly little Joey Bishop postcard I shared here. Now I have a deep respect for him.

I also now have a deep curiosity about the long gone Esquire Theater in Toledo and the person that old burlesque house may have been named after. Perhaps the inventor of the rim shot or the bump-and-grind?

The mind reels.

Which is a good thing since that's just about the only exercise it gets anymore....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yesterday's Visitors

Well, two of them, anyway.

I wonder if they were looking for the bunny?

What they got was my neighbor's dachshund.

I love dachshunds. Even the snotty ones. But I find myself loving this one a whole lot less every time it comes charging into my yard to chase away the wildlife.

There's no fence between my yard and my neighbor's.

Maybe there should be?

There's no polite way to suggest to my neighbor that there should be, is there?

Maybe I should instead suggest to my neighbor that he pay for the therapy my traumatized duck friends need now?


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Oddest Thing I've Learned This Month

Merv Griffin Died A Closeted Homosexual (Ray Richmond/Reuters-Hollywood Reporter; Aug 17, 2007)....

Griffin, who died of prostate cancer Sunday at 82, stayed in the closet throughout his life. Perhaps he figured it was preferable to remain the object of gossip rather than live openly as "one of them."...

I had more than a passing acquaintance with him, having worked on "The Merv Griffin Show" as a talent coordinator/segment producer in 1985-86 as the show was winding down. Around the office, Merv's being gay was understood but rarely discussed (and certainly never with him). We knew nothing of his relationships because he guarded his privacy fiercely, and we didn't pry.

Merv's secret gay life was widely known throughout showbiz culture, if not the wider America. It gained traction in 1991 when he was targeted in a pair of lawsuits: by "Dance Fever" host Denny Terrio, alleging sexual harassment; and by assistant Brent Plott seeking $200 million in palimony. Both ultimately were dismissed....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bunny & Co.

No animals were harmed in the making of this video last Friday - but I admit that's only because the cowbird that pooped on my solar light flew away before I could get out there to spank him.

Monday, April 16, 2012


"Neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum will budge anytime soon: despite pressure to get out of the race, their defiant personalities and distaste for Romney will get their backs up and motivate them to fight on through the convention...." - Time magazine's senior political analyst, Mark Halperin, in his Between The Lines column that appeared in the issue dated April 9, 2012

"Santorum Suspends Campaign, Clearing Romney's Path" - CNN headline, April 10, 2012

Just a reminder (if one is needed) that even expert analysts are better at reporting the news than they are at predicting it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another View (Or Two) Of Vintage Hollywood Glamor

Close-up shot of the glamor:

Incidentally, The Joey Bishop Show premiered on April 17, 1967 (exactly 45 years ago on Tuesday) and lasted until the end of 1969 (exactly 45 years before the end of 2014).

Although I can recall hearing about the show at the time as ABC's attempt to compete with NBC's Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson) and CBS's Merv Griffin Show, I have only a fleeting memory of actually watching it. It seems to have been one of those things we clicked past after briefly sampling rather than something we ever actually watched. Given the late hour it was on and my usually early bedtime, I'm not sure now how I ever managed to see it at all - but I did.

Joey Bishop himself seems to have been one of the first celebrities I ever encountered who prompted me to ask, "Exactly why is this person famous?" Little did I know that that question would be one of the ones I'd be asking with increasing frequency as the years went by. (Perhaps only "Where the hell did I just put my pen?!" echoes through my house more often these days.)

The Vine St. Theater is still there, by the way, only it's now known as The Linwood Dunn Theater.


It's owned by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is home to The Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study.

The Pickford Center site's rather detailed history of the building includes this somewhat interesting information: "The building was originally built in 1947–48 as a radio and television studio facility at a cost of $3 million.... The building was dedicated on August 18, 1948. It is the oldest surviving structure in Hollywood that was originally designed specifically with television in mind.... The building was the original home of Los Angeles Channel 2, which is now KCBS-TV, through the 1950s. In the 1950s, 1313 Vine Street was the home of KHJ-TV and was the studio for Johnny Carson's earliest mid-'50s television appearances before 'The Tonight Show,' including 'Carson's Cellar' and 'The New Johnny Carson Show.' It was the original home, from 1964 through 1971, of California Community Television, which grew into PBS station KCET. It was also ABC's headquarters for the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics and the home of many ABC television shows. Some of the other shows broadcast from 1313 Vine Street over the years were: 'Queen for a Day'... 'Joey Bishop Show,' 'Barney Miller,' 'Dating Game,' and 'Newlywed Game.'"

It's hard for my mind to think of TV shows like these existing in an actual physical space like The Vine St. Theater rather than in some electronic Never Never Land. It's even harder to think of that actual physical space easily being located as a dot on a map from which a straight line might actually be drawn to my present location (or any other, for that matter). It's like finding out that one can draw a straight line from central Ohio to Oz or Narnia or that glimmering world where women in high heels and evening gowns are still happily waxing their kitchen floors.

Here's a shot of what the theater looked like back in the 1950s:

And another from 1969:

And not that anyone has ever asked, but... I've always thought of Bob Eubanks as some not-terribly-bright network executive's made-to-order version of the ultimate TV host - someone who let people forget the dangers of The Open Sea of Life by forever skating on the slick frozen surface of an extremely shallow reservoir of smirk-inducing innuendo. Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that he used to be one of LA's most popular DJ's in the 1950s and 1960s - and the man responsible for the Hollywood Bowl appearances of the Beatles. In his spare time, he participated in... rodeos.

I've also just learned (from Wikipedia) that Eubanks - a native of Flint, Michigan - is shown in Michael Moore's 1989 move, Roger & Me, telling "an off-color anti-Semitic joke about AIDS."

I've seen that movie but I sure don't remember that joke.

I guess my delicate mind must have repressed the terrible memory.

I hope yours now does the same.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sorry, Kids . . .

This is just one of the joys of life you'll never know because you were born too late:

Sorry, sorry, sorry....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Are Americans Evil?

Well, more evil than the citizens of other countries?

Are they less moral?

Or at least much more likely to break the law?

I dunno. The folks I encounter seem to be a fairly well-behaved bunch, but maybe they have me fooled. Maybe they're just waiting for the right moment to lift my wallet, break into your home, or click on one of those "I have read the terms and agree to abide by them" buttons without really having read a thing.

I was moved to wonder about all this by a piece I read in the April 2 issue of Time magazine. That piece (written by Fareed Zakaria) was entitled "Incarceration Nation" and reminded me once again that the US throws people into jails and prisons at a rate that's far higher than that of just about any other country.

"Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in history is a fundamental fact of our country today," Fareed quotes Adam Gopnik as saying (apparently in The New Yorker). "Overall, there are now more people under 'correctional supervision' in America - more than 6 million - than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height."

Of course Russia in Stalin's day had fewer people than America does today. And I doubt that few correctional facilities outside the Deep South are anywhere near as bad as Stalin's concentration camps were. Still... If Wikipedia's figures are to be believed, there are 32 states with a population under 6 million. Which means that we now have more people behind bars than live in the entire state of Wisconsin. Or Colorado. Or Nebraska, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Wyoming combined.

According to Fareed, the US has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. Brazil has 242. Mexico has 208. Britain has 153. South Korea has 97. France has 96. Germany has 90. Japan has just 63.

Or to put it another way (as Pat Robertson allegedly has), the US has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of its prisoners.

Fareed goes on to say this: "[T]he money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education in the past 20 years. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons vs. $5.7 billion on the UC system and state colleges. Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year."

It wasn't always this way. The year Ronald Reagan was first elected president (1980), the US incarceration rate was just 150 per 100,000.

What has happened since?

The so-called War on Drugs.

According to Fareed, "Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America's federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions."

About a trillion dollars have allegedly been spent on this war in the last 40 years. Fareed quotes a report written by some famous people (George Shultz and Paul Volcker among them) as calling this war a failure. I can't recall ever reading about anyone declaring it a great success.

Are Americans using and selling drugs at a much higher rate than the citizens of other countries?

Does that make them less moral if they are?

Or merely sicker?

Or something else?

Are other countries more accepting of drug use? Or are their citizens less likely to use drugs? Or are other countries more likely to treat drug addiction as a medical issue than a criminal one?

I dunno.

But I do find it ironic that politicians and others can prattle on and on about how great and exceptional and gOd-blessed we are as a people while saying virtually nothing about our extraordinary high incarceration rate.

If we really are so great, why do so many people feel the need to find solace in drugs?

If we really are so great, why can't we think of anything better to do with drug users and their suppliers than to throw them in jail?

If so many more Americans than non-Americans really do deserve to be behind bars, are Americans really that much more evil than others?

If so many more Americans than non-Americans really don't deserve to be behind bars, are America's leaders and criminal justice system that much worse than those of other countries?

It seems that something is severely out of whack here. I'm not sure exactly what it may be, but whatever it is, it's hard for me to escape the conclusion that it reflects very poorly upon us as a country.

The fact that we're in the middle of a campaign season in which lots of lesser issues have been discussed while this one hasn't even been raised (nor seems likely to be) does little to redeem us in my eyes....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Things In My Yard: Exhibit F

Just in case you were wondering, birds aren't the only things that make their way into my yard.

Last week a police citation also found its way there.


I've blotted out certain identifying data to protect The Guilty.

As near as I can tell from the unedited version of this citation, that Guilty Party is someone who lives in my neighborhood - or at least did when he was given this citation some 34 months ago.

Has this paper proof of improper driving really been out there blowing around all this time? I doubt it, given its remarkably good condition. Much more likely is that The Guilty Party had it taped to his windshield as a constant reminder to correct his evil ways until a gust of wind from Satan Himself dislodged it. Satan then allowed it to come to rest in my yard because I, for one, need no such reminders, being perfect and all already.

Much harder for me to comprehend is how a 1996 Plymouth came to still be on the road in 2009. And capable of speeding, no less! Maybe Satan's wind was pushing it from behind?

The hardest thing for me to comprehend, though, is this: Guilty Party was pulled over for speeding and couldn't produce a valid operator's license yet he was let off with a mere warning. Wow. Who knew police officers in Ohio could be so lenient?

Maybe that's why Guilty Party hung onto this citation for more than 2 years?

"Yep, Kristi, I once did 96 in a school zone without a license and managed to talk the cop who pulled me over into letting me go without a fine - here's proof!"

Then again, maybe it's an outrageous forgery put together by the cowbirds and doves to distract me while they secretly infiltrate my attic.

Guess I better go see....

(To see some of the other things that have turned up in my yard, go here.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Gang Of Doves

Now where did THESE guys come from?

Did an asteroid kill off all the cowbirds and allow this species to take over?

Is an asteroid destined to kill this species off in turn?

How many coos do you suppose are left in this group?

Honestly, it's a wonder I ever get anything done with all this constant activity going on right outside my back door.

I guess this explains why few if any hospitals allow surgeons to put up birdfeeders anywhere near their operating rooms....

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Conspiracy Of Cowbirds

Where did they come from?

Where are they now?

Where will they be tomorrow?

Were they as impressed with the new green leaves on the burning bush in this photo as I am?

I wish I knew....

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Easter Woodchuck

MUCH more exciting than the Easter Bunny even though he didn't leave me any eggs.

Hope YOUR holiday has included exactly as much furry goodness as you can stand!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Somewhere In Central Ohio (8:03 AM)

Same day delivery from my East to your eyes.

(If you ordered something different, please contact our claims department.)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Today!

And if that wasn't enough one of my regular gray squirrel visitors put on quite a show for me for much of the day.

See, I tend to hang on to my uncut Halloween pumpkins until they rot away or the spring growing season gets underway - whichever comes first. Well, last week I finally decided to get rid of the last of them - specifically, the big one that had a huge hole in the back. But when I went to lift it I discovered that the bottom half held a gooey pumpkin soup mixture. Not knowing what else to do, I dumped this in one of my raised garden beds and worked it into the soil. Free compost, right?

Well, today Mr. Squirrel sniffed it out and fell crazy in love with the pumpkin seeds. He just couldn't get enough! I didn't think there were all that many seeds in there but there were clearly enough to keep the little guy busy (and apparently happy) for hours.

A real win-win situation.

And if any seeds remain behind and sprout, who knows? It might end up being a win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win situation.

Life doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

He's Baaaaack

From yesterday:

Maybe he's looking for a towel?

I *know* what he was looking for this time.
Fortunately, he didn't find any.
Not while I was looking, anyway....

In other news.... I saw the first green tops of my crocuses coming up on Feb 12. The first bloom popped open on Feb 20. The dates last year for these events were March 1 and March 12.

I can't wait to see if this means we'll be celebrating Independence Day in mid-June this time around.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

7 Things I've Learned Since Monday

----- There are more than 280 lakes hidden deep beneath the ice of the Antarctic. (How many icy lakes are hidden in the hearts of men?)

----- Some 382,000 Americans are relying upon some form of dialysis to keep them alive. (Some have been on dialysis for decades.)

----- There are 91 million head of cattle in the US. (That's the lowest number of cattle here since 1958. Should I start hoarding them?)

----- A ticket to the first Super Bowl in 1967 cost $9. The average price of a ticket to this year's Super Bowl was $3800. (The only thing I'd pay $3800 to see is tomorrow - and then I'd probably be disappointed enough to demand a refund.)

----- About 18% of adult Americans have an anxiety disorder. That's about 40 million people. (But what if calmness is the real disorder?)

----- Americans legally gamble away about $160 billion a year now. It's estimated that they illegally gamble away ten times as much. (Can that be possible? How much would you bet on it?)

----- Movie attendance in 2011 hit a 16-year low. DVD sales are dropping, too. (Is it a coincidence that Donald Pleasence died 16 years ago?)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mailed 47 Years Ago Today....

"Dear Kids - We had this motel offered to us a week ago, so we didn't go to Florida - weather was too bad anyhow. We went up Sunday and looked at it and signed the papers to take it yesterday - will move as soon as a replacement comes here. We will come home for a couple of days before we move, so shall see you soon - will write if I get time. Hope you feel better Gus. Anxious to see your new cubbards Bill. Love The Rodmans."

That's what I *think* it says, anyway.

Now if I could just figure out where the hell Hairland, Ohio is....

Sunday, February 5, 2012

18 Seconds With A Hawk

That's one of the things I saw today.

I also saw a bunch of yellow crocuses blooming, but... no video of that. Sorry. Even though it's terribly, terribly early in the year to be seeing such things here in Ohio, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Of course, being a skeptic and all, I'll understand if you refuse to do that.

But I won't believe you're really refusing to do that unless you give me some good evidence on which to base that belief.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Now You See It, Now You Don't (2-B)

So yesterday was the day that the last part of the Seneca County Courthouse came tumbling down.

Not surprisingly, that last part was the central clock tower, seen here being nibbled away on Thursday:

According to the news story that accompanied these photos, the Art Deco tower top replaced the ornate 1884 original in 1943 - not the 1950s as I had speculated here. It was supposed to be the prelude to a general modernization that never took place. Not only was this replacement some 30 feet shorter than the original, it was also about as stylistically jarring as seeing 1959 Cadillac fins fused onto a Model T. If it taught a lesson to other cities contemplating a similar "renovation" I guess it served its purpose.

And even ugly has its place. Much of history is ugly. We haul it away and forget it at our peril.

Not that I always felt this way. In reviewing my own personal history I seem to remember finding demolitions quite the exciting event when I was young. There's a drama and an excitement associated with heavy metal balls and claws tearing into brick and stone and glass and metal right in front of your eyes that's hard to experience any other way. You learn just how much damage one man with a machine can do. And you learn how buildings are put together as they're stripped away, bit by bit. Perhaps best of all is the visual absurdity of intact doors suddenly opening onto empty space, and stairs suddenly leading up to empty sky, and terribly stupid signs pointing the way to places that are disappearing even as those signs point on and on in their ignorance.

And of course as a child all that drama was coupled with high anticipation as to what might come next. "Out with the old and in with the new!" you know.


"Higher and higher!"

"Every day in every way, things are getting better and better!"

Except that after a few years or decades of watching demolitions, you start to realize that that just isn't true.

Not always, anyway.

And perhaps - in some sense, on some level - never.

Information as well as brick and mortar is destroyed with every demolition and it's a wise person indeed who knows exactly which information we can dispense with without regret.

And even the brick and mortar has its value as an enduring symbol, if nothing else, of the countless hours of labor expended by the many people who drew up the plans and ordered the materials and hauled it to the site and then put it all together in a functional and often quite pleasing way. The ease with which one man with one machine can quickly reduce it all to rubble is sobering, to say the least.

Among other things it raises the question: What might one man with a machine do next?

When I was about 8 I watched a crew tear down a house in my neighborhood by hand rather than by machine. Well, by hand and crowbar. It was a slow process, to be sure, but it allowed them to salvage everything salvageable. And it seemed somehow much more humane. More respectful of the labor that went into the house in the first place... and more respectful of all the people who had kept the house clean and in working order in all the years since.

Does anybody still demolish buildings that way? Not that I know of. Who has the time? Or the willingness? Or the need? Labor costs more than diesel. And I'm sure it's safer to take a building down from a distance than from within. Nonetheless, it seems to me that something is being lost in the process. Maybe the same thing that's lost when one goes from tending a back yard garden to using an air conditioned combine to harvest 400 acres of corn before dark. What is it? A deeper connection to life? To reality?

Or does watching the one-man demolition of a 126-year-old courthouse provide us with the opportunity to connect with the deepest reality of all? You know - the one that says that the courthouse players are long gone now, and the stage is quite properly being struck.

But if we don't take the plays of the past very seriously, why should we pay any attention to those of today?

In any case, and for what it's worth, you can find an interesting video summary of the demolition here:

Deeper issues aside, it's always fun to watch the colorful pixels dance, isn't it?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Three In A Row

It's long been socially acceptable to rag on February without mercy, but honestly... I've never thought it was that bad a month.

It's been especially not bad this year.

Here are Exhibits 1, 2, and 3 in defense of that claim:

Feb 1, 2012 - 5:54 PM

Feb 2, 2012 - 5:45 PM

Feb 3, 2012 - 5:53 PM

Can February continue to behave itself for another 26 days?

Magic 8-Ball says "Ask Again Tomorrow"....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Few Things I Learned This Week

And the week isn't even over yet!

----- 60 hours of video are now uploaded to YouTube every minute. That's five months of video every hour - or about 10 years every day. (According to Time magazine, more video is uploaded to YouTube every month than has been broadcast by CBS, NBC, and ABC in the last 60 years.)

----- Voyager 1 (launched in 1977) is now 11 billion miles out in space. Voyager 2 (launched at about the same time) is 9 billion miles away. (Pluto is less than 4 billion miles away.) The Voyagers travel about a billion miles every 3 years now - almost a million miles a day. It is estimated that they'll escape the last remnants of the solar system - the solar wind - when they pass the 12-billion-mile mark. At their current distance, it takes about 13 and a half hours for a radio signal to reach them. (I'm guessing that this means that neither one of them has won a radio call-in contest for some time.)

----- Ohio produced 125,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2011. That's about 1/100th of a gallon for every Ohioan. (Sorry, I'm not sharing my 1/100th!)

----- Ohio's Franklin County (home of Columbus) now has 16,769 street names. That's up 7% in just the last 10 years. (Apparently we're doing a better job producing new streets than we are at producing jobs. Or Ohioans.)

----- The average price of a hotel room in Columbus is $81.42. (Maple syrup is extra. But radio reception is generally good.)

----- There are an estimated 1000 bobcats in Ohio. (Here, kitty, kitty, kit - OWWW!)

----- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is a fine pianist.

----- Queen Elizabeth collects pepper grinders.

----- About 30,000 Americans have cystic fibrosis.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Postcard Of The Week (Southwestern Splendor!)

I'm told that this was Phoenix's first shopping mall. Built in 1957, it seems to have done ok until the late 1980s.

This postcard was mailed in 1963. When Glen Campbell was singing "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" a few years later, I wonder if this was what he was picturing in his mind.

Cars have changed a lot since then but the clouds have remained the same. How different might they be now if General Motors had been the world's number one maker of clouds? How similar might today's cars be to those of 50 years ago if Mother Nature had been put in charge of those?

Too bad we can't replay history with a few tweaks and find out, eh?

(To learn more about Park Central, go here and here. Or move to Phoenix and tell me what you find.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Tempestuous Relationship

The sky is so mean to me sometimes, I honestly forget why I stick with it.

Today's newspaper, for example, revealed that it's given me just four clear days since Dec 1. Four! Certainly such abusive negligence is sufficient grounds for divorce in any court in the land.

But then, just when on I'm the verge of filing the necessary papers, it unexpectedly gives me something like this and all is forgiven:

Jan 30, 2012 - 5:46 PM

Jan 30, 2012 - 5:50 PM

Jan 30, 2012 - 5:54 PM

I'm such a sucker for a pretty sky.

If it ends up dropping a tornado on my head someday, I'll have no one to blame but myself....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Now You See It, Now You Don't (2)

Central Ohio's Japanese Tea House isn't the only well-known structure that's disappearing this month.

Seneca County's courthouse in the county seat of Tiffin is disappearing, too.

After a bitter fight lasting the better part of the last decade, county commissioners finally decided to demolish the structure late last year after savage state budget cuts left them with no good way to pay for the necessary renovations.

This is apparently the first time that an Ohio courthouse on the National Register of Historic Places will have been demolished. It will leave a big hole in the center of Tiffin - a hole that won't be filled any time soon, if ever. Trials and other normal courthouse functions are apparently being held in a "temporary" location that is hard if not impossible for those in wheelchairs to get into.....

Like many of the Ohio courthouses built in the 1800s, Tiffin's (built in 1884) used to be a pretty impressive place.

Here's a postcard view of it, circa 1944:

And here's a more recent view:

I think it was back in the 1950s that the original clock tower was replaced by a streamlined version that never failed to startle me as I passed by during my semi-regular trips through town in the 1980s and 1990s. (Apparently Seneca County has a long history of not being able to come up with the money to do things right.)

Here are two views from the last few weeks:

Jan 4, 2012

Jan 24, 2012

If this destruction were the prelude to bigger and better things it would of course be much easier to accept. Instead, it seems like just one more sign of the decline and fall of Ohio (if not the US as a whole).

Like so much of Ohio, Tiffin seems to have peaked in about 1970. Since that time it's lost nearly 20% of its population. It now has significantly fewer people than it did in 1950.

Is there a limit to the decline short of zero?

I don't know.

But I don't think I'd bet on things bouncing back much in my lifetime.

(To learn much more about all this, go here. Want to get a better idea of what's being lost? Go here and here.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Gap

Jan 15, 2012 - 5:28 PM

Jan 28, 2012 - 5:43 PM

Jan 29, 2012 - 5:37 PM

Note to Mother Nature: Two weeks between visible sunsets is much too long. Don't get me wrong - I really do appreciate the 16 minutes of additional light you've given us in the evenings since Jan 15, but... I miss seeing the sun's slow day-by-day shimmy to the north. Why, the point at which it disappears from view has moved almost an entire house width under the cloak of this month's clouds! This will not do. Please reform your ways immediately. Thank you. (PS - If you're still requiring animals to kill and eat each other in order to survive, I don't want to know.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Seven Things I Learned This Week

----- Since 1961 more than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps. (They've worked in 139 different countries.)

----- 10,000 manhole covers are stolen in Bogota, Colombia every year. (That's about 4% of Bogota's 250,000 total manhole cover inventory.)

----- There are about 5600 Taco Bell restaurants in operation these days. (That's about 1000 fewer than 12 years ago.)

----- About 60,000 novels were published during the Victorian Age (1837-1901). (About 30,000 novels were published in the US last year.)

----- The adhesive on US stamps can withstand temperatures ranging from 158 degrees (Fahrenheit) to 40 degrees below zero. (That's just one of the ways US stamps are better than I am.)

----- About $58.8 billion dollars are spent on lottery tickets every year in the US. (About $18 billion of that is profit - roughly 31% - for the 43 states and the District of Columbia that run these lotteries.)

----- The oldest inmate in Ohio's prison system is 90.

I suppose that's more than 7 things, if you want to get technical. (I don't.)

I hope you've learned at least as much. (Learning, after all, can be a fine distraction from bad weather.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

King Of The Yard

Today would not have been a good day for you to put on your favorite gray sweatshirt and then scurry around my patio like a mouse....

According to my less than perfect records, this is the first time I've seen this guy since December 14. I bet he's been around when I haven't been looking, though. Predators are like that.

Sunday's newspaper told me that hawks like this have become increasingly prevalent in Ohio's suburban areas during the last 10-15 years. Apparently more and more people are putting seed out for the birds, inadvertently turning their yards into smorgasbords for hawks in the process.

Although the newspaper assured me that hawk attacks have little impact on the overall population of birds, the impact they can have on individual birds seems indisputably impactful - especially if I happen to catch a glimpse of that impactfulness while I'm trying to eat my lunch.

Just last week I'd tried to minimize the dangers of hawk attacks by telling my S.O. that cardinals must taste bad since their bright red feathers against white snowy backgrounds don't seem to make much sense otherwise. Well, the newspaper specifically said that hawks eat cardinals. Now I want to establish something like the witness protection program for them.

Do hawks eat elephants? I doubt it. But I guess I'll find out for sure if I dress my cardinal friends up in elephant suits and they end up disappearing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2011: Great Year Or Greatest Year?

Ok, truth be told, I thought 2011 kinda sucked.

But that's pretty much my opinion of every year.

On the bright side: 2011 could have been much worse.

On the brighter side: 2011 was actually better than many years in some ways.

Here are a few examples I gleaned from recent newspapers:

----- Fewer people died on Ohio roadways in 2011 than in any other year since they started keeping records back in 1936.

----- Fewer people were murdered in Columbus last year (92) than in 2010. Or in 2008. Or in 2006 and 2003. And in the 21st century only 2004 had so few summer murders (18).

Um, ok - I thought I'd collected one or two other pieces of good news about 2011, but... I seem to have misplaced them.

Let's hope I can find them again before their loss becomes a strike against 2012.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cardinal Knowledge

So, in my last entry I posted five photos of cardinals that visited my back yard yesterday.

This morning - less than 24 hours later - I opened my front door, brought in my copy of the Columbus Dispatch, and found a story about cardinals in it.

It would seem that I'm surrounded.

And now infiltrated.

Or something.

One thing I'm clearly not, however, is plagiarized as the story didn't focus on red cardinals but on other kinds.

Who knew that there *were* other kinds?

Not me.

Not until I saw their photo of a yellow cardinal, anyway.

There are also allegedly albino cardinals but apparently photos of such creatures aren't fit for publication in a family newspaper. They published a photo of a partial albino instead.

You can see it for yourself by going here.

If you read the article under the photos you'll also learn the following fun facts:

----- There are apparently far more cardinals in Ohio now than before the area was settled by Europeans. It seems that cardinals love our suburban open spaces and more or less hated the old growth forests that once covered much of the state. Consequently, it doesn't look like you're gonna need to join any "Save The Cardinals!" campaigns anytime soon.

----- How many cardinals are there in Ohio now? An estimated 2.4 million. That's roughly 1 cardinal for every 5 Ohioans. (In case you can't tell the two apart, cardinals are the ones who don't clog the airwaves with negative campaign ads.)

----- Both male and female cardinals sing but the females sing a little less vigorously. (Raucous blue jays "sing" - if you want to call it that - far more loudly than either.)

----- In 1879 or so you could buy cardinals in Columbus for about $1.50 a pair. That's illegal now. But you can still buy just about as many assault rifles as you want. Go figure.

----- Sometimes you might see a "bald" cardinal. These poor, crestless birds with their exposed dark and bony heads are suffering from mites. The mites itch. The birds scratch off all their feathers as they attempt to find some relief. Fortunately, most of these mite-infested birds fully recover. (The article doesn't say whether or not the mites survive. I guess nobody cares. If mites ever learn how to sing, maybe that will change. I bet it would even boost sales of assault rifles.)

----- The yellow of yellow cardinals is caused by a genetic abnormality known as "xanthochroism" among scientists who enjoy showing off at parties and such. It mutes the darker pigments, allowing the yellow to show through - or so I'm told. Part of me suspects this is all a put-on from a bored journalist who doesn't think that readers of the Dispatch have ever heard of Photoshop.

----- Cardinals can apparently live as long as 16 years in the wild. Given Ohio's often horrible weather, I'm betting that feels like about 100 years to those cardinals lucky enough to survive middle age.

And just because I know it's impossible to have too much cardinal knowledge, I'll also pass along this: The cardinal is Ohio's state bird. Just like it's the state bird of 6 other states - Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virgina, and West Virginia. That just seems wrong as wrong can be - or at least as wrong as the Cincinnati Reds calling themselves the home team of 7 different cities. When I'm King this is exactly the sort of nonsense I hope to replace with a whole better class of nonsense.

North Carolina is perhaps the most surprising state on that list. I would have thought North Carolinians would be the ones most familiar with the Bible and, as such, the ones who would have picked the bat to be their state bird. I suspect they'll rectify this unholy oversight just as soon as they realize the futility of trying to sell tobacco to cud-chewing rabbits....