The Best of Inventions

When you think of Inventors, who comes to mind? Ben Franklin and bifocals? Thomas Edison and the light bulb? The Wright Brothers and the airplane? Steve Jobs and iStuff? How about Les Paul and electric guitar stuff? Or Hedy Lamarr, an actress in the 1930s – 1950s? Her name doesn’t ring a bell? In 2014, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Why? She and composer George Antheil developed “a radio guidance system for torpedoes” which could not be jammed by enemies.

Perhaps with such people and creations in mind, National Geographic magazine has put out a special addition entitled: 101 Inventions That Shaped The World. They describe the 101 most important inventions of all-time. The 101 inventions were divided into 5 categories. To avoid overloading you (or myself) with too much information, here are the 5 categories and 10 inventions from each group.

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Advances in Medicine = Cloning; Oral Birth Control; DNA; Germ Theory (to explain illness); Artificial Insulin; Penicillin; Microscope; Vaccines (eg, polio); Contact Lenses; Band Aids (see above).

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Communication and Transportation = Printing Press; Telegraph; Typewriter; Photography; Motion Pictures; Satellite Communication; World Wide web; Astrolabe (for sailing); Interstate Highway; Parking Meters (see above).

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Military and Industry = Atomic Bomb; Gunpowder; Rifle; Aircraft Carrier; Submarine; Sonar; Rubber (tires); Steam Engine; Duct Tape (see above); Assembly Line.

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Science and Electronics = Spaceflight; Robotics; Periodic Table; Modern Numbers (ie, 0 – 10, etc.);   Computer; Transistor; Microwave Oven (see above); Television; Phonograph; Radio.

WD-40

Everyday Items = Beer; Safety Razor; Drinking Fountain; WD – 40 (see above); Currency; Toilet Paper; Disposable Diaper; Light bulb; Zipper; Video Games.

 

Just for fun, what would you choose as the most important invention in each group? Of your 5 choices, what would be the most important of them all?

And, finally, why isn’t the rubber band mentioned? Any other omissions that you would add?

 

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My Favorite Films

Everyone loves movies and everyone, probably, has a favorite movie site online. Here is one I enjoy: www.AFI.com (American Film Institute) What does it give you? In its opinion, what are the 100 greatest films of all-time, in order. You find their opinion as it was in 1997, and again in 2007. (Citizen Kane had the top spot both times.) What are the top 10 films in each of 10 categories? How about the 100 most inspiring films? How about the 25 best musicals? Who were the 50 best Heroes and Villains? If you guessed: Atticus Finch and Hannibal Lector, you agree with their top two choices. Ever thought of the 100 Greatest Songs from film? Hint: number 1 and 2 are: Over the Rainbow (The Wizard of Oz) and As Time Goes By (from Casablanca). How about the 2 greatest screen legends (one man and one woman)? You know this one, right? Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. And there are many other lists. My favorite? The 100 greatest movie quotes. Number one begins: “Frankly my dear…” And number two starts: “I’m gonna make him an offer….” Obviously, after visiting such a site, there is much information to discuss and debate.

For the rest of this article, I’ll give 10 categories of films, plus AFI’s Best Film in each, and my favorite in each. Obviously, what film is “best” can be debated. But what is your favorite in each category, like my favorites, is pretty subjective. I hope you enjoy what is to follow and visit the site, as well.

 

Category: Animation

AFI’s best film: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

My favorite: Beauty and the Beast, both versions (1991 –the first animated film nominated for Best Film Oscar, and 2017 –thank goodness Emma Watson landed on her feet after leaving Harry Potter).

AnnieHall

Category: Romantic Comedy

AFI’s best film: City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)

My Favorite: Annie Hall (see above) (even though Woody Allen thought the relationship was “a dead shark”)

 

Category: Westerns

AFI’s best film: The Searchers

My favorite: Lonesome Dove I’m breaking my own rules, I know. I’m choosing a TV mini-series here. The script and acting are wonderful. Robert Duvall plays a great cowboy. The story covers a lot of the old west (ie, cattle drive, what happens when the ‘boys visit town, rustling, hanging when and where necessary back then, romance(s), and the good guys don’t all ride off into the sunset).

 

Category: Sports

AFI’s best film: Raging Bull

My favorite: I’m sitting on the fence. The most enjoyable film for me: Field of Dreams –my favorite baseball movie, and that’s saying a lot. But the best and most realistic film: Raging Bull. How about a tie?

 

Category: Mystery

AFI’s best film: Vertigo

My favorite: The Maltese Falcon (Sam Spade v. Mary Astor: guess who wins?) edges Chinatown. Bogart edges Nicholson.

GroundhogDay

Category: Fantasy

AFI’s best film: The Wizard of Oz

My favorite: A lot of competition here. With Field of Dreams already mentioned (see Sports), I like Big, and Miracle on 34th Street (a Christmas must), but I love Groundhog Day. (see above) Bill Murray, with enough time, becomes a good guy. Remember the groundhog driving? And Bill coaching?

 

Category: Science Fiction

AFI’s best film: 2001: A Space Odyssey

My favorite: Even a tougher choice than Fantasy. I like The Day The Earth Stood Still representing 1950s sci fi (1951 –and a lot of my youth); Terminator 2: Judgment Day (proving 2 is better than 1); Aliens (Sigourney Weaver at her very best; the monster should have stayed in its weight class); but I must go for: Blade Runner (Rutger Hauer makes a good case for what AI will bring in our future; M. Emmet Walsh is wonderful, as always; and Edward James Olmos makes himself known before Miami Vice).

 

Category: Gangster

AFI’s best film: The Godfather

My favorite: I agree. Sorry Pulp Fiction.

ToKill

Category: Courtroom Drama

AFI’s best film: To Kill A Mockingbird

My favorite: A lot of great ones have been made. But my wife and I MUST vote for Gregory Peck (the handsomest man she’s ever seen, even with me in the room) and To Kill A Mockingbird.(see above) As good a performance as we’ve ever seen. But remember: A Cry in the Dark (Meryl was robbed of an Oscar here; she played such a nasty character even Oscar voters forgot her); 12 Angry Men (there’s never been a better cast; go to www.IMDB.com and check the names AND faces); Judgment at Nuremberg (a brutal and great film; my Father was among the liberators at Bergen-Belsen and brought home pictures; the film comes close to reality); The Verdict (Paul Newman was at his best here; but lost an Oscar that had to be made up later).

 

Category: Epic

AFI’s best film: Lawrence of Arabia

My favorite: Saving Private Ryan. Tom Hank’s performance and my Father’s history in WWII make this choice for me.

DefendLife

And finally, a suggestion for your viewing pleasure (Romantic-Comedy): Defending Your Life (see above)(1991). A film written, directed, and starring Albert Brooks, co-starring Meryl Streep and Rip Torn. The film is best described as “the first true story of what happens after you die.” In the afterlife, everyone must examine the events of their lives to determine if they must return to Earth for another attempt at living appropriately or can they “continue to move forward.” Brooks’ life is examined; he meets and falls in love with Streep (of course); and is guided by Rip Torn (giving a hilarious performance) while Brooks fate is determined. For me, its Brooks’ best writing and acting efforts. A very funny film which might be correct in its opinion of our afterlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More Views…More Likes…More fun

Queen

The Queen and 3 Subjects

The article I posted on August 6, 2017, The Great British Baking Show, received a wonderful number of Views, although I assume Beyonce is viewed more often. Plus, it received a record number of Likes (8), although, once again, Beyonce is more liked than I am. (And, according to Wikipedia, her net worth is approximately $349.999 million more than I am, even if I include both my used cars). And, finally, Writing the piece was a great deal of fun.

So, I must ask myself: What was the secret of the article’s popularity? The photograph capturing the marvelous beauty of the shows contestants? Possibly. The humor and good judgment of the hosts and judges? Could be. The tasty pictures of the bakers’ culinary masterpieces? Partially, of course. But the common thread running through all of these reasons is: The show was a production of Great Britain! It’s so obvious, really. Some of the Likers themselves were from “this sceptered isle…this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” I think those words come from a popular poet. Possibly Wordsworth. (But, I could be incorrect. I have not read Wordsworth since high school.)

But since I am once again putting pen to paper, or, more correctly, fingers to computer, can I turn to that country for inspiration? Of course! Look at the photograph at the top of this piece. (see above) It screams out to me: “Write about The Queen and her Corgis.” That’s a topic that begs to be examined. But it’s no doubt been done, on multiple occasions, by a variety of publications within the Queen’s own country.

How about the Queen’s husband: Prince Philip. No. He’s just retired from public life. Perhaps the Queen’s son? Charles. He was married to Princes Diana. Oops. No; he was the one who rejected her. The cad!! He’s old news. Who’s more up to date?

royalfam

Yes; I’ve got it! The Next Royal family (pictured above) who everyone, even Charles, is waiting for! Look at those faces. So young, so innocent, so lacking in guile. William and Kate. Who could be more photogenic? George and Charlotte? What’s that? Too young, you say. No one is too young to go unreported by the tabloids. Just give them 2 or 3 more years to develop their vocabulary. So, back to William and Kate it is. But wait a moment! I see flaws. William’s hair –or lack of it to be precise. But such an attractive man, educated, polite…but, sadly, deficient in hair. And so we are left with Kate. Magnificent hair, winning smile, always properly dressed… but…my wife says she needs a good meal. What? What about that old cigarette commercial: “You can never be too thin, or too rich.” (Virginia Slims) So close. So very close. But, still, a few hairs or another 2 or 10 pounds too shy.

Is there a symbol or sight that says in CAPITOL letters: England! Perhaps Big Ben? It could be written off as a pocket watch on steroids. The Tower? No; it might be confused with that tower in Paris (ie, Eiffel). Red phone booths? People will think Doctor Who, nothing else. Double decker buses? For those in England, a possible solution. But on this side of the pond, it would be just another symbol for poor public transportation. Stonehenge? Once again poorly educated American citizens would see it as a mere suburb of London in need of a makeover, funded by the public. A definite no go. London’s Eye? I can hear the complaints already: it’s a damn ferris wheel with good PR!

Let’s start over. England is known for its cooking, yes? Yes! What dish says England, Great Britain? Fish and chips? Arthur Treacher’s? Not known in the U. S. any more.  Long John Silver’s? Not known outside the U. S. Tea? It’s the drink for everybody, just behind water in popularity. Tea, plus small sandwiches, scones, small cakes? Ohhhhh. It will get women’s attention. But how many men take afternoon tea? Oh, so close to the goal. The full English breakfast? (pictured below) What’s in it? Eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms, beans, black pudding? What’s black pudding? You’re joking. No, sometimes it has that. Men could go for it, but…?

fulEngbfast

Good grief. There has got to be someone or something that stands for England. Work with me. Monty Python? Winston Churchill? Sherlock Holmes? Mrs. Peel? The Beatles? The Rolling Stones? Shortbread? (pictured below) Shortbread?! Is it made in the U.S.A.? Real shortbread is made in Scotland. That’s not part of Great Britain. Right now, it is. What’s it taste like, what kind of bread? It tastes like a fantastic cookie, lots of butter, sugar, flour –that’s all. Who makes it? Walker’s is the best. How do you know? My wife gets it for me every Christmas., the biggest box she can find. So, that’s it? Yes. Shortbread is it.

Sbread

 

What would you choose to symbolize England?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Great British Baking Show

contestants

 

The Great British Baking Show is different from most cooking shows. Why do I say that? To start with, the program is filmed in a gigantic green meadow under a large white tent where the cooking takes place. No studio is necessary.   Each week, the bakers (12 at the beginning, minus one each week of the competition until only the finest baker remains) tackle 3 different baking challenges. Cakes, cookies, and pastries are produced according to the instructions given by 2 judges and 2 hosts. Each contestant has an oven, refrigerator, and all the tools and ingredients they will need.   No one fights for a machine or the last of some ingredient. Devious actions play no part in the outcome.

The contestants (pictured above), in addition to being good bakers, come from a variety of careers. For example, Andrew was a straight A student at Cambridge and presently works for Rolls Royce, designing jet engines. (He finished runner-up.)

Mary Berry (a writer of 70 cookbooks) and Paul Hollywood –his given name? (a top artisan baker) serve as judges. Hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc give instructions to the bakers and provide some comic relief.

Contestants voice the normal jitters, but say and do things a bit differently from other cooking shows. One young man, sitting during a break, said to no one in particular: “I’ve never been so stressed about dough in my life.” He was gone the next week, without complaining.

Occasionally, if a baker finishes their work early, they offer help to another baker still working. One such baker rubbed a competitor’s back and reminded him, gently, to “breathe.”

The 2 hosts (pictured below) are a bit different, as well. At the start of every baking assignment (3 are given each week), they give instructions and both say –in unison—“Ready…Set…BAKE.” The same 3 words sound different every time they are used, often for comic effect. During the competition, a host will announce how much time remains, and may offer encouragement to a baker. After 2 hours of a 3 hour project, one host told the group of busy bakers: “As Anne of Cleves (knowing her fate) said to Henry VIII: ‘You’re two-third’s done.’” (For those unfamiliar with Ms. Anne, she was the 4th of King Henry VIII’s 6 wives. Plus, since the show is made in England, everyone got the joke.) And once, as bakers were readying themselves to work, a host said: “Get ready, my Lords and Ladies.” The 12 bakers, 6 male and 6 female, smiled. One host heard a harried baker saying to herself: “It will be fine.” The host replied: “The more we say it to ourselves”…and then the host and baker said, jointly: “the more it WILL BE Fine.” And later, it was.

 

judgeshosts

In my opinion, the judges (pictured above) are the biggest difference between this and other cooking shows. Near the end of each show, the 2 judges discuss how the bakers performed. Their exchange of opinions always results in agreement on who was the best and weakest baker –the one who will not return to the show. But their comments to competitors, while baking is being done, are most unique. Here are some remarks that were given to bakers. “You’re spot on with the flavors.” “Your lovely flavors go so well together.” “You’ve done a really good job on your textures.” “It’s too sweet –but so good.” “Oh, I think I’m going in for another bit (of food because it’s so good).” “It’s such a lovely thing and a pleasure to eat.” A judge, so happy with a person’s baking, said: “I’m feeling a bit giddy.” Once, a judge said to a baker: “You’re taking on a lot (for this assignment).” The baker spoken to responds, sadly: “I always do.” Her work earned her the weekly best baker title of “Star Baker.” She made it to the final competition –and won.

In this cooking show, baking skill is rewarded. Plus, the values of encouragement, compliments, cooperation, and humor appear. Unfortunately, this season’s 10 episodes have finished. Hopefully, PBS’s broadcasting of The Great British Baking Show will resume in the future. It is one of a few “must see” TV programs for my wife and I.

 

Here are pictures of a variety of the program’s bakers’ finished work:

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Actors and Characters

 

TracyHepburn

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (see below)

Many actors portray characters that live on in our minds long after a film ends. But can you recognize the Names of such well-defined fictional people? Here is a quiz to test your memory. Hopefully, this exercise will be more enjoyable than your last high school History quiz. (When was the Magna Carta signed?)

Below, you will find 2 lists of names. One list will be the names of actors and actresses , and the other will be a list of characters they portrayed in films or television. Can you match the names of actors with the individuals they played.   For example: A good answer would be like this = Gregory Peck and Atticus Finch, from “To Kill A Mockingbird”; Meryl Streep and Sophie, from “Sophie’s Choice.” (The answers will follow the quiz.)

 

1) Javier Bardem ……………………………… A) Rick Blaine

2) Ingrid Bergman …………………………….B) Anton Chigurh

3) Halle Berry ……………………………………C) Rooster Cogburn

4) Humphrey Bogart …………………………D) Christina Drayton

5) Marlon Brando ……………………………..E) Matt Drayton

6) Jeff Bridges …………………………………..F) Katniss Everdeen

7) Clint Eastwood …………………………….G) Fantine

JFonda

8) Jane Fonda (above) ………………………H) Marge Gunderson

9) Jodie Foster …………………………………I) Grace Hanson ***

10) Anne Hathaway ………………………….. J) Raymond Hoffman

11) Katharine Hepburn ……………………..K) Carl Kolchak ***

12) Dustin Hoffman …………………………..L) Ilsa Lund

13) Jennifer Lawrence ………………………M) Terry Malloy

14) Lucy Liu ……………………………………..N) Troy Maxson

15) Frances McDormand …………………..O) William Munny

McGavin

16) Darren McGavin (above) …………….P) Leticia Musgrove

17) Chris Pine …………………………………..Q) Mattie Ross

18) Hailee Steinfeld ………………………… R) Clarice Starling

19) Spencer Tracy …………………………… S) Steve Trevor

20) Denzel Washington …………………… T) Dr. Joan Watson ***

*** A TV show, not a film

 

 

Answers = 1 – B, in “No Country For Old Men”; like his haircut?

2 – L, in “Casablanca”; a great film …still

3 – P, in “Monsters Ball”; first African-American woman to win Best Actress Oscar

4 – A, in “Casablanca”; see 2 – L comment

5 – M, in “On The Waterfront”; his first Oscar, in his 4th nomination in 4 years

6 – C, in “True Grit”; 2010 version

7 – O, in “Unforgiven”; a western that’s different than “High Noon” (20 years earlier)

8 – I, in “Grace and Frankie”; co-starring Lily Tomlin, it must be said

9 – R, in “The Silence Of The Lambs”; anybody want fava beans?

10 – G, in “Les Miserables”; she sang better than Russell Crowe

11 – D, in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”; her 2nd Oscar, 10th nomination

12 – J, in “Rainman”; 2nd Oscar; how many matches fell on the floor?

13 – F, in “The Hunger Games”; 1 Oscar, 4 nominations, she’s –what?—27?

14 – T, in “Elementary”; I love her and Jonny Lee Miller

15 – H, in “Fargo”; Oh, yah

16 – K, in “The Night Stalker”; 20 years before Mulder and Scully, Kolchak tracked a real vampire; And do you watch (McGavin in) “A Christmas Story” every year? I do

17 – S, in “Wonder Woman”; WW had a woman director, made big $, had last laugh

18 – Q, in “True Grit”; 2010 version

19 – E, in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”; his 9th Oscar nomination; died after film

20 – N, in “Fences”; no 3rd Oscar for Denzel; no person of color has a 3rd; Hamilton would say “just you wait”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baseball’s Past in the Present

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Larry’s pack, eh, teammates; story far below

Anyone who knows me, or has read the “About” section of my blog, knows I love baseball. A website I came across, www.baseballspast.com explains Craig R. Wright’s work. He has been turning out stories about baseball for a long time. His articles are unique and interesting. Here are some comments by me about 3 of his stories I’ve found in his twice a week column or his book containing other original work.

Eddie Gaedel

The Story Behind the Midget Batter, Pages from Baseball’s Past, 7/17/17. You may know part of the story already. Bill Veeck was known for stunts to increase attendance at baseball games when he was owner of a ball club (eg, St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians). For example: his home park had an exploding scoreboard; he had fans hold up signs telling the manager what to do; and more important, he signed the first black player in the American League (Larry Doby) and the sport’s oldest rookie (Satchel Paige). In 1951, he sent a midget into a game as a pinch hitter. His name was Eddie Gaedel (see above), age 26, height 3’7”. He didn’t get a hit. He didn’t make an out. He walked on 4 pitches. So, his lifetime stats were: Games: 1; Plate Appearances: 1; On Base Percentage: 1.000. Wright’s article explains why Veeck wasn’t the first or second person to have that idea. Plus, why fans enjoyed the stunt, but it didn’t surprise them. There’s more to the story than Bill Veeck’s creativity.

Tony Gwynn

The Master of Two-Strike Hitting, from Wright’s website. A number of players have been called a”clutch hitter.” But Wright tells you who, according to baseball’s statistics, IS the finest two-strike hitter. You’ve heard of him: Tony Gwynn (see above). In a 20 year career, he batted .338. In his rookie year, his batting average was .289 –and he hit from .309 to .394 in each of the next 19 years. He won 8 batting titles. From 1993-1997, he batted from .353 to .394. The closet a batter has come to hitting .400 since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. But for those five years, with 2 strikes on him, Tony hit .337. No one has ever done better. And how many players hit .337 in their total at bats from 1993-1997 = no one.

Larry, from Wright’s book in 2013. In 1912, the baseball team in Cleveland had a mascot: a bull terrier the team named Larry (after the team’s finest player, Napoleon “Larry”Lajoie). A player, Jack Graney, was injured for much of a season and he trained Larry. Larry would chase and retrieve foul balls, and jump through a “hoop” Graney made with his arms. The crowds loved when Larry played leap frog going from the back of one player who was bent over to a line of players in the same position. Larry joined the players on a train traveling from town to town or rode in Shoeless Joe Jackson’s car. Once, when the man coaching at third base was thrown out of the game, Larry decided to fill the coaching box and “cheer” on his teammates. If Larry needed a “vacation” during the long season, Graney taught him to go on a ferry boat which went from Cleveland (on Lake Erie) to Graney’s parents’ home in St. Thomas, Ontario. Larry stayed with the ship’s captain until the boat reached port. The crew then placed him on a street car and Larry knew when to get off and run to the home of Graney’s parents. When the team played in Washington, D. C. in 1913, Larry met President Woodrow Wilson –and chased a squirrel up a tree on the President’s lawn. Unfortunately, Larry became sick in 1917 and died on July 25 …exactly one hundred years ago.

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Jack and Larry

I don’t work for Mr. Wright or get money for suggesting you consider subscribing to his publication. But as he says on his website: “The basic principle of Pages from Baseball’s Past is simply to tell a good baseball story that is also true and well researched. The final key component is to keep it brief … but I would consider it a failure if it weren’t also gently teaching the readership about the history of the game.”

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Hugs From A Dog

dog-gives-hugs-louboutina-7

A woman can’t believe her eyes!

Do you need a hug? If no one is available, and you are in New York City, there is a dog who can help you feel better. For a few hours each day, Louboutina (“Loubie”), a Golden Retriever, watches people on the street. She hugs those she thinks need her to do so.

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Loubie’s owner, Cesar Fernandez-Chavez, says: “She gets a very good grip. She began her hugging with neighbors she knew. Then, pictures of her started showing up on the Internet. A lot of people say she’s made their day. Like, if they had a bad day at work, maybe that’s just what they needed. It’s nice to see people walk away with a smile.”

Here (see below) are some of Loubie’s new friends.

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Do YOU need a hug?

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