Nostalgia – Trivia – Popular Culture

Three Now-Obscure Actors

The 1950s were as dull as they’re made out to be. (Oh, to have them back!) Among the landmarks of that dull decade were three actors who, between them, seemed to appear almost every night on one TV drama or another: Henry Jones (1912-1999), John Newland (1917-2000), and Harry Townes (1914-2001). All three had long acting careers, and Newland was also a producer and director. But you probably can’t put faces with the names. Here they are:

Henry Jones
Henry Jones

 

John Newland
John Newland

 

Harry Townes
Harry Townes

Beyond the Far Horizon

Several years ago I began to track some celebrities who had attained the age of 90. The rather quirky list of notables now looks like this:

Luise Rainer 104, George Beverly Shea 104, Charles Lane 102Irwin Corey 101, Herman Wouk 101, George Kennan 101, Olivia de Havilland 100 (on July 1*), Gloria Stuart 100Eddie Albert 99, Michael DeBakey 99, Zsa Zsa Gabor 99, Vera Lynn 99, Mitch Miller 99, Max Schmeling 99, Risë Stevens 99, John Wooden 99Tony Martin 98, Dale Messick 98, Eli Wallach 98John Kenneth Galbraith 97, Ernest Gallo 97, Billy Graham 97, Estée Lauder 97, Art Linkletter 97, Al Lopez 97Karl Malden 97, John Mills 97, Kitty Carlisle 96Monte Irvin 96, Jack LaLanne 96, Kevin McCarthy 96, Harry Morgan 96, Fay Wray 96Jane Wyatt 96, Joseph Barbera 95, Ernest Borgnine 95, Henri Cartier-Bresson 95Herbert Lom 95, Peter Rodino, Jr 95, Sargent Shriver 95, Patty Andrews 94, Sammy Baugh 94, Constance Cummings 94, Lady Bird Johnson 94, Robert Mondavi 94, Byron Nelson 94, Les Paul 94, Ruth Hussey 93, Frankie Laine 93, Robert McNamara 93, Artie Shaw 93,  Richard Widmark 93, Oleg Cassini 92, Ralph Edwards 92Bob Feller 92, Ernie Harwell 92, Lena Horne 92Julia Child 91, Archibald Cox 91, Geraldine Fitzgerald 91, Frances Langford 91, John Profumo 91, William Westmoreland 91Jane Wyman 90.

I was reminded of this list by a name in the “Today’s Birthdays” feature of the newspaper: actress June Lockhart 91. Because only six members of my original list remain among the living, I’m adding Lockhart to the list, as well as these notables of interest to me: baseball player Bobby Doerr 98, justice John Paul Stevens 96, economist and secretary of state George Shultz 95, prince consort Philip Mountbatten 95, actress Betty White 94, secretary of defense Melvin Laird 93, baseball player Red Schoendienst 93, actress Rose Marie 92, physicist Freeman Dyson 92, president George H.W. Bush 92, and actor Hal Holbrook 91.

_________
* By my reckoning, of the dozens (or hundreds) of actors who starred in Hollywood films before World War II, only Olivia de Havilland survives. She attained star billing in 1935, at the age of 19, for her role in Captain Blood. Other pre-war films in which she starred include The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Gone with the Wind (1939).

A Summing Up

I started blogging in the late 1990s with a home page that I dubbed Liberty Corner (reconstructed here). I maintained the home page until 2000. When the urge to resume blogging became irresistible in 2004, I created the Blogspot version of Liberty Corner, where I blogged until May 2008.

My weariness with “serious” blogging led to the creation of Americana, Etc., “A blog about baseball, history, humor, language, literature, movies, music, nature, nostalgia, philosophy, psychology, and other (mostly) apolitical subjects.” I began that blog in July 2008 and posted there sporadically until September 2013.

But I couldn’t resist commenting on political, economic, and social issues, so I established Politics & Prosperity in February 2009. My substantive outpourings ebbed and flowed, until August 2015, when I hit a wall.

Now, almost two decades and more than 3,000 posts since my blogging debut, I am taking another rest from blogging — perhaps a permanent rest.

Instead of writing a valedictory essay, I chose what I consider to be the best of my blogging, and assigned each of my choices to one of fifteen broad topics. (Many of the selections belong under more than one heading, but I avoided repetition for the sake of brevity.) You may jump directly to any of the fifteen topics by clicking on one of these links:

Posts are listed in chronological order under each heading. If you are looking for a post on a particular subject, begin with the more recent posts and work your way backward in time, by moving up the list or using the “related posts” links that are included in most of my posts.

Your explorations may lead you to posts that no longer represent my views. This is especially the case with respect to John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle,” which figures prominently in my early dissertations on libertarianism, but which I have come to see as shallow and lacking in prescriptive power. Thus my belief that true libertarianism is traditional conservatism. (For more, see “On Liberty and Libertarianism” in the sidebar and many of the posts under “X. Libertarianism and Other Political Philosophies.”)

The following list of “bests” comprises about 700 entries, which is less than a fourth of my blogging output. I also commend to you my “Not-So-Random Thoughts” series — I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, and XVI — and “The Tenor of the Times.”

I. The Academy, Intellectuals, and the Left
Like a Fish in Water
Why So Few Free-Market Economists?
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
We, the Children of the Enlightenment
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
The Culture War
Ruminations on the Left in America
The Euphemism Conquers All
Defending the Offensive

*****

II. Affirmative Action, Race, and Immigration
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Illogic from the Pro-Immigration Camp
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
Evolution and Race
“Wading” into Race, Culture, and IQ
Evolution, Culture, and “Diversity”
The Harmful Myth of Inherent Equality
Nature, Nurture, and Inequality

*****

III. Americana, Etc.: Movies, Music, Nature, Nostalgia, Sports, and Trivia
Speaking of Modern Art
Making Sense about Classical Music
An Addendum about Classical Music
Reveries
My Views on Classical Music, Vindicated
But It’s Not Music
Mister Hockey
Testing for Steroids
Explaining a Team’s W-L Record
The American League’s Greatest Hitters
The American League’s Greatest Hitters: Part II
Conducting, Baseball, and Longevity
Who Shot JFK, and Why?
The Passing of Red Brick Schoolhouses and a Way of Life
Baseball: The King of Team Sports
May the Best Team Lose
All-Time Hitter-Friendly Ballparks (With Particular Attention to Tiger Stadium)
A Trip to the Movies
Another Trip to the Movies
The Hall of Fame Reconsidered
Facts about Presidents (a reference page)

*****

IV. The Constitution and the Rule of Law
Unintended Irony from a Few Framers
Social Security Is Unconstitutional
What Is the Living Constitution?
The Legality of Teaching Intelligent Design
The Legality of Teaching Intelligent Design: Part II
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
An Answer to Judicial Supremacy?
Final (?) Words about Preemption and the Constitution
More Final (?) Words about Preemption and the Constitution
Who Are the Parties to the Constitutional Contract?
The Slippery Slope of Constitutional Revisionism
The Ruinous Despotism of Democracy
How to Think about Secession
Secession
A New, New Constitution
Secession Redux
A Declaration of Independence
First Principles
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
The Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate
Does the Power to Tax Give Congress Unlimited Power?
Does Congress Have the Power to Regulate Inactivity?
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
The Southern Secession Reconsidered
Abortion and the Fourteenth Amendment
Obamacare: Neither Necessary nor Proper
Privacy Is Not Sacred
Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
Obamacare, Slopes, Ratchets, and the Death-Spiral of Liberty
Another Thought or Two about the Obamacare Decision
Secession for All Seasons
Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead
“We the People” and Big Government
How Libertarians Ought to Think about the Constitution
Abortion Rights and Gun Rights
The States and the Constitution
Getting “Equal Protection” Right
How to Protect Property Rights and Freedom of Association and Expression
The Principles of Actionable Harm
Judicial Supremacy: Judicial Tyranny
Does the Power to Tax Give Congress Unlimited Power? (II)
The Beginning of the End of Liberty in America
Substantive Due Process, Liberty of Contract, and States’ “Police Power”
U.S. Supreme Court: Lines of Succession (a reference page)

*****

V. Economics: Principles and Issues
Economics: A Survey (a reference page that gives an organized tour of relevant posts, many of which are also listed below)
Fear of the Free Market — Part I
Fear of the Free Market — Part II
Fear of the Free Market — Part III
Trade Deficit Hysteria
Why We Deserve What We Earn
Who Decides Who’s Deserving?
The Main Causes of Prosperity
That Mythical, Magical Social Security Trust Fund
Social Security, Myth and Reality
Nonsense and Sense about Social Security
More about Social Security
Social Security Privatization and the Stock Market
Oh, That Mythical Trust Fund!
The Real Meaning of the National Debt
Socialist Calculation and the Turing Test
Social Security: The Permanent Solution
The Social Welfare Function
Libertarian Paternalism
A Libertarian Paternalist’s Dream World
Talk Is Cheap
Giving Back to the Community
The Short Answer to Libertarian Paternalism
Second-Guessing, Paternalism, Parentalism, and Choice
Another Thought about Libertarian Paternalism
Why Government Spending Is Inherently Inflationary
Ten Commandments of Economics
More Commandments of Economics
Capitalism, Liberty, and Christianity
Risk and Regulation
Back-Door Paternalism
Liberty, General Welfare, and the State
Another Voice Against the New Paternalism
Monopoly and the General Welfare
The Causes of Economic Growth
Slippery Paternalists
The Importance of Deficits
It’s the Spending, Stupid!
There’s More to Income than Money
Science, Axioms, and Economics
Mathematical Economics
The Last(?) Word about Income Inequality
Why “Net Neutrality” Is a Bad Idea
The Feds and “Libertarian Paternalism”
The Anti-Phillips Curve
Status, Spite, Envy, and Income Redistribution
Economics: The Dismal (Non) Science
A Further Note about “Libertarian” Paternalism
Apropos Paternalism
Where’s My Nobel?
Toward a Capital Theory of Value
The Laffer Curve, “Fiscal Responsibility,” and Economic Growth
Stability Isn’t Everything
Income and Diminishing Marginal Utility
What Happened to Personal Responsibility?
The Causes of Economic Growth
Economic Growth since WWII
A Short Course in Economics
Addendum to a Short Course in Economics
Monopoly: Private Is Better than Public
The “Big Five” and Economic Performance
Does the Minimum Wage Increase Unemployment?
Rationing and Health Care
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health-Care Reform: The Short of It
Trade
Toward a Risk-Free Economy
Enough of “Social Welfare”
A True Flat Tax
The Case of the Purblind Economist
How the Great Depression Ended
Why Outsourcing Is Good: A Simple Lesson for “Liberal” Yuppies
Microeconomics and Macroeconomics
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
The Deficit Commission’s Deficit of Understanding
“Buy Local”
“Net Neutrality”
The Bowles-Simpson Report
The Bowles-Simpson Band-Aid
Competition Shouldn’t Be a Dirty Word
Subjective Value: A Proof by Example
The Stagnation Thesis
Taxing the Rich
More about Taxing the Rich
Money, Credit, and Economic Fluctuations
A Keynesian Fantasy Land
“Tax Expenditures” Are Not Expenditures
The Keynesian Fallacy and Regime Uncertainty
Does “Pent Up” Demand Explain the Post-War Recovery?
Creative Destruction, Reification, and Social Welfare
What Free-Rider Problem?
Why the “Stimulus” Failed to Stimulate
The Arrogance of (Some) Economists
The “Jobs Speech” That Obama Should Have Given
Say’s Law, Government, and Unemployment
Regime Uncertainty and the Great Recession
Regulation as Wishful Thinking
Extreme Economism
We Owe It to Ourselves
In Defense of the 1%
Lay My (Regulatory) Burden Down
Irrational Rationality
The Burden of Government
Economic Growth Since World War II
The Rationing Fallacy
Government in Macroeconomic Perspective
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
How High Should Taxes Be?
The 80-20 Rule, Illustrated
Economic Horror Stories: The Great “Demancipation” and Economic Stagnation
Baseball Statistics and the Consumer Price Index
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Vulgar Keynesianism and Capitalism
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
“Ensuring America’s Freedom of Movement”: A Review
“Social Insurance” Isn’t Insurance — Nor Is Obamacare
The Keynesian Multiplier: Phony Math
The True Multiplier
Discounting in the Public Sector
Some Inconvenient Facts about Income Inequality
Mass (Economic) Hysteria: Income Inequality and Related Themes
Social Accounting: A Tool of Social Engineering
Alienation
Playing the Social Security Trust Fund Shell Game
Income Inequality and Economic Growth
A Case for Redistribution, Not Made
McCloskey on Piketty
The Rahn Curve Revisited
The Slow-Motion Collapse of the Economy
Nature, Nurture, and Inequality
Understanding Investment Bubbles
The Real Burden of Government
Diminishing Marginal Utility and the Redistributive Urge
Capitalism, Competition, Prosperity, and Happiness
Further Thoughts about the Keynesian Multiplier

*****

VI. Humor, Satire, and Wry Commentary
Political Parlance
Some Management Tips
Ten-Plus Commandments of Liberalism, er, Progressivism
To Pay or Not to Pay
The Ghost of Impeachments Past Presents “The Trials of William Jefferson Whatsit”
Getting It Perfect
His Life As a Victim
Bah, Humbug!
PC Madness
The Seven Faces of Blogging
DWI
Wordplay
Trans-Gendered Names
More Names
Stuff White (Liberal Yuppie) People Like
Driving and Politics
“Men’s Health”
I’ve Got a LIttle List
Driving and Politics (2)
A Sideways Glance at Military Strategy
A Sideways Glance at the Cabinet
A Sideways Glance at Politicians’ Memoirs
The Madness Continues

*****

VII. Infamous Thinkers and Political Correctness
Sunstein at the Volokh Conspiracy
More from Sunstein
Cass Sunstein’s Truly Dangerous Mind
An (Imaginary) Interview with Cass Sunstein
Professor Krugman Flunks Economics
Peter Singer’s Fallacy
Slippery Sunstein
Sunstein and Executive Power
Nock Reconsidered
In Defense of Ann Coulter
Goodbye, Mr. Pitts
Our Miss Brooks
How to Combat Beauty-ism
The Politically Correct Cancer: Another Weapon in the War on Straight White Males
Asymmetrical (Ideological) Warfare
Social Justice
Peter Presumes to Preach
More Social Justice
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
Empathy Is Overrated
In Defense of Wal-Mart
An Economist’s Special Pleading: Affirmative Action for the Ugly
Another Entry in the Sunstein Saga
Obesity and Statism (Richard Posner)
Obama’s Big Lie
The Sunstein Effect Is Alive and Well in the White House
Political Correctness vs. Civility
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
Sorkin’s Left-Wing Propaganda Machine
Baseball or Soccer? David Brooks Misunderstands Life
Sunstein the Fatuous
Tolerance
Good Riddance
The Gaystapo at Work
The Gaystapo and Islam
The Perpetual Nudger

*****

VIII. Intelligence and Psychology
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and “The Authoritarian Personality”
The F Scale, Revisited
The Psychologist Who Played God
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
Intelligence as a Dirty Word
Intelligence and Intuition
Nonsense about Presidents, IQ, and War
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
Alienation
Greed, Conscience, and Big Government
Tolerance
Privilege, Power, and Hypocrisy

*****

IX. Justice
I’ll Never Understand the Insanity Defense
Does Capital Punishment Deter Homicide?
Libertarian Twaddle about the Death Penalty
A Crime Is a Crime
Crime and Punishment
Abortion and Crime
Saving the Innocent?
Saving the Innocent?: Part II
A Useful Precedent
More on Abortion and Crime
More Punishment Means Less Crime
More About Crime and Punishment
More Punishment Means Less Crime: A Footnote
Clear Thinking about the Death Penalty
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
Cell Phones and Driving: Liberty vs. Life
Another Argument for the Death Penalty
Less Punishment Means More Crime
Crime, Explained
Clear Thinking about the Death Penalty
What Is Justice?
Myopic Moaning about the War on Drugs
Saving the Innocent
Why Stop at the Death Penalty?
A Case for Perpetual Copyrights and Patents
The Least Evil Option
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Round Up the Usual Suspects
Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case
Free Will, Crime, and Punishment
Stop, Frisk, and Save Lives
Poverty, Crime, and Big Government
Crime Revisited
A Cop-Free World?

*****

X. Libertarianism and Other Political Philosophies
The Roots of Statism in the United States
Libertarian-Conservatives Are from the Earth, Liberals Are from the Moon
Modern Utilitarianism
The State of Nature
Libertarianism and Conservatism
Judeo-Christian Values and Liberty
Redefining Altruism
Fundamentalist Libertarians, Anarcho-Capitalists, and Self-Defense
Where Do You Draw the Line?
Moral Issues
A Paradox for Libertarians
A Non-Paradox for Libertarians
Religion and Liberty
Science, Evolution, Religion, and Liberty
Whose Incompetence Do You Trust?
Enough of Altruism
Thoughts That Liberals Should Be Thinking
More Thoughts That Liberals Should Be Thinking
The Corporation and the State
Libertarianism and Preemptive War: Part II
Anarchy: An Empty Concept
The Paradox of Libertarianism
Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty
The Fatal Naïveté of Anarcho-Libertarianism
Liberty as a Social Construct
This Is Objectivism?
Social Norms and Liberty (a reference page)
Social Norms and Liberty (a followup post)A Footnote about Liberty and the Social Compact
The Adolescent Rebellion Syndrome
Liberty and Federalism
Finding Liberty
Nock Reconsidered
The Harm Principle
Footnotes to “The Harm Principle”
The Harm Principle, Again
Rights and Cosmic Justice
Liberty, Human Nature, and the State
Idiotarian Libertarians and the Non-Aggression Principle
Slopes, Ratchets, and the Death Spiral of Liberty
Postive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part I
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part II
The Case against Genetic Engineering
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part III
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism
Libertarian Whining about Cell Phones and Driving
The Golden Rule, for Libertarians
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part IV
Anarchistic Balderdash
Compare and Contrast
Irrationality, Suboptimality, and Voting
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
The Political Case for Traditional Morality
Compare and Contrast, Again
Pascal’s Wager, Morality, and the State
The Fear of Consequentialism
Optimality, Liberty, and the Golden Rule
The People’s Romance
Objectivism: Tautologies in Search of Reality
Morality and Consequentialism
On Liberty
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
Democracy and Liberty
The Interest-Group Paradox
Inventing “Liberalism”
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
What Is Conservatism?
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Law and Liberty
Negative Rights
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
Tocqueville’s Prescience
Accountants of the Soul
Invoking Hitler
The Unreality of Objectivism
“Natural Rights” and Consequentialism
Rawls Meets Bentham
The Left
Our Enemy, the State
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
What Are “Natural Rights”?
The Golden Rule and the State
Libertarian Conservative or Conservative Libertarian?
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
Evolution, Human Nature, and “Natural Rights”
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
On Self-Ownership and Desert
Understanding Hayek
Corporations, Unions, and the State
Facets of Liberty
Burkean Libertarianism
Rights: Source, Applicability, How Held
What Is Libertarianism?
Nature Is Unfair
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Human Nature, Liberty, and Rationalism
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance
Libertarianism and Morality
Libertarianism and Morality: A Footnote
What Is Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism?
Liberty, Negative Rights, and Bleeding Hearts
Cato, the Kochs, and a Fluke
Why Conservatism Works
A Man for No Seasons
Bleeding-Heart Libertarians = Left-Statists
Not Guilty of Libertarian Purism
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
The Fallacy of the Reverse-Mussolini Fallacy
Defining Liberty
Getting It Almost Right
The Social Animal and the “Social Contract”
The Futile Search for “Natural Rights”
The Pseudo-Libertarian Temperament
Parsing Political Philosophy (II)
Modern Liberalism as Wishful Thinking
Getting Liberty Wrong
Romanticizing the State
Libertarianism and the State
Egoism and Altruism
My View of Libertarianism
Sober Reflections on “Charlie Hebdo”
“The Great Debate”: Not So Great
No Wonder Liberty Is Disappearing
The Principles of Actionable Harm
More About Social Norms and Liberty

*****

XI. Politics, Politicians, and the Consequences of Government
Starving the Beast
Torture and Morality
Starving the Beast, Updated
Starving the Beast: Readings
Presidential Legacies
The Rational Voter?
FDR and Fascism
The “Southern Strategy”
An FDR Reader
The “Southern Strategy”: A Postscript
The Modern Presidency: A Tour of American History
Politicizing Economic Growth
The End of Slavery in the United States
I Want My Country Back
What Happened to the Permanent Democrat Majority?
More about the Permanent Democrat Majority
Undermining the Free Society
Government Failure: An Example
The Public-School Swindle
PolitiFact Whiffs on Social Security
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
About Democracy
Externalities and Statism
Taxes: Theft or Duty?
Society and the State
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
The Capitalist Paradox Meets the Interest-Group Paradox
Is Taxation Slavery?
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
The Hidden Tragedy of the Assassination of Lincoln
America: Past, Present, and Future
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
Progressive Taxation Is Alive and Well in the U.S. of A.
“Social Insurance” Isn’t Insurance — Nor Is Obamacare
“We the People” and Big Government
The Culture War
The Fall and Rise of American Empire
O Tempora O Mores!
Presidential Treason
A Home of One’s Own
The Criminality and Psychopathy of Statism
Surrender? Hell No!
Social Accounting: A Tool of Social Engineering
Playing the Social Security Trust Fund Shell Game
Two-Percent Tyranny
A Sideways Glance at Public “Education”
Greed, Conscience, and Big Government
The Many-Sided Curse of Very Old Age
The Slow-Motion Collapse of the Economy
How to Eradicate the Welfare State, and How Not to Do It
“Blue Wall” Hype
Does Obama Love America?
Obamanomics in Action
Democracy, Human Nature, and the Future of America
1963: The Year Zero

*****

XII. Science, Religion, and Philosophy
Same Old Story, Same Old Song and Dance
Atheism, Religion, and Science
The Limits of Science
Beware of Irrational Atheism
The Creation Model
Free Will: A Proof by Example?
Science in Politics, Politics in Science
Evolution and Religion
Science, Evolution, Religion, and Liberty
What’s Wrong with Game Theory
Is “Nothing” Possible?
Pseudo-Science in the Service of Political Correctness
Science’s Anti-Scientific Bent
Flow
Science, Axioms, and Economics
The Purpose-Driven Life
The Tenth Dimension
The Universe . . . Four Possibilities
Atheism, Religion, and Science Redux
“Warmism”: The Myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming
More Evidence against Anthropogenic Global Warming
Yet More Evidence against Anthropogenic Global Warming
Pascal’s Wager, Morality, and the State
Achilles and the Tortoise: A False Paradox
The Greatest Mystery
Modeling Is Not Science
Freedom of Will and Political Action
Fooled by Non-Randomness
Randomness Is Over-Rated
Anthropogenic Global Warming Is Dead, Just Not Buried Yet
Beware the Rare Event
Landsburg Is Half-Right
What Is Truth?
The Improbability of Us
Wrong Again
More Thoughts about Evolutionary Teleology
A Digression about Probability and Existence
Evolution and the Golden Rule
A Digression about Special Relativity
More about Probability and Existence
Existence and Creation
Probability, Existence, and Creation
Temporal and Spatial Agreement
In Defense of Subjectivism
The Atheism of the Gaps
The Ideal as a False and Dangerous Standard
Demystifying Science
Religion on the Left
Analysis for Government Decision-Making: Hemi-Science, Hemi-Demi-Science, and Sophistry
Scientism, Evolution, and the Meaning of Life
Luck and Baseball, One More Time
Are the Natural Numbers Supernatural?
The Candle Problem: Balderdash Masquerading as Science
Mysteries: Sacred and Profane
More about Luck and Baseball
Combinatorial Play
Something from Nothing?
Pseudoscience, “Moneyball,” and Luck
Something or Nothing
Understanding the Monty Hall Problem
My Metaphysical Cosmology
Further Thoughts about Metaphysical Cosmology
The Fallacy of Human Progress
Nothingness
The Glory of the Human Mind
Pinker Commits Scientism
Spooky Numbers, Evolution, and Intelligent Design
AGW: The Death Knell
Mind, Cosmos, and Consciousness
The Limits of Science (II)
Not Over the Hill
The Pretence of Knowledge
“The Science Is Settled”
The Compleat Monty Hall Problem
“Settled Science” and the Monty Hall Problem
Evolution, Culture, and “Diversity”
Some Thoughts about Probability
Rationalism, Empiricism, and Scientific Knowledge
AGW in Austin?

*****

XIII. Self-Ownership (abortion, euthanasia, marriage, and other aspects of the human condition)
Feminist Balderdash
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Privacy, Autonomy, and Responsibility
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
The Case against Genetic Engineering
A “Person” or a “Life”?
A Wrong-Headed Take on Abortion
In Defense of Marriage
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty
Dan Quayle Was (Almost) Right
The Most Disgusting Thing I’ve Read Today
Posner the Fatuous
Marriage: Privatize It and Revitalize It

*****

XIV. War and Peace
Getting It Wrong: Civil Libertarians and the War on Terror (A Case Study)
Libertarian Nay-Saying on Foreign and Defense Policy, Revisited
Right On! For Libertarian Hawks Only
Understanding Libertarian Hawks
Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style
The Illogic of Knee-Jerk Civil Liberties Advocates
Getting It All Wrong about the Risk of Terrorism
Conservative Revisionism, Conservative Backlash, or Conservative Righteousness?
But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?
Sorting Out the Libertarian Hawks and Doves
Shall We All Hang Separately?
September 11: A Remembrance
September 11: A Postscript for “Peace Lovers”
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Non-Aggression?
NSA “Eavesdropping”: The Last Word (from Me)
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown
Thomas Woods and War
In Which I Reply to the Executive Editor of The New York Times
“Peace for Our Time”
Taking on Torture
Conspiracy Theorists’ Cousins
September 11: Five Years On
How to View Defense Spending
The Best Defense . . .
A Skewed Perspective on Terrorism
Not Enough Boots: The Why of It
Here We Go Again
“The War”: Final Grade
Torture, Revisited
Waterboarding, Torture, and Defense
Liberalism and Sovereignty
The Media, the Left, and War
Torture
Getting It Wrong and Right about Iran
The McNamara Legacy: A Personal Perspective
The “Predator War” and Self-Defense
The National Psyche and Foreign Wars
Inside-Outside
A Moralist’s Moral Blindness
A Grand Strategy for the United States
The Folly of Pacifism
Rating America’s Wars
Transnationalism and National Defense
The Next 9/11?
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
September 20, 2001: Hillary Clinton Signals the End of “Unity”
Patience as a Tool of Strategy
The War on Terror, As It Should Have Been Fought
The Cuban Missile Crisis, Revisited
Preemptive War
Preemptive War and Iran
Some Thoughts and Questions about Preemptive War
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown (revisited)
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
The World Turned Upside Down
Utilitarianism and Torture
Defense Spending: One More Time
Walking the Tightrope Reluctantly
The President’s Power to Kill Enemy Combatants

*****

XV. Writing and Language
Punctuation
“Hopefully” Arrives
Hopefully, This Post Will Be Widely Read
Why Prescriptivism?
A Guide to the Pronunciation of General American English
On Writing (a comprehensive essay about writing, which covers some of the material presented in other posts in this section)

–30–

Another Trip to the Movies

Before I resume regular blogging, I must follow up on “A Trip to the Movies.” Here’s another look at the films voted Best Picture (or the equivalent) by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

Ratings of best pictures_2

Each entry highlighted in red indicates a Best Picture winner that is also the highest-rated film among that year’s releases:

Most highly rated films, by year

If you put stock in the ratings assigned by users of IMDb, a movie-watcher in search of good entertainment will often find it in a film other than one from the Best Picture list. But don’t put too much stock in the relative ratings of films across the years. If you’re in search of a great comedy, for example, go with one of the top-rated choices from the 1930s — It Happened One Night, A Night at the Opera, or Bringing Up Baby, for example — as opposed to more recent fare, such as Toy Story, The Big Lebowski, or The Grand Budapest Hotel. (If you’re not familiar with IMDb’s Advanced Title Search, you should be.)

It’s a sad fact that movies have become progressively worse since the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but user ratings don’t fully reflect the decline. (For a definition of the Golden Age and a detailed explanation of the reasons for the decline, see “The Movies: Not Better Than Ever (II).”)

Before I get to that, I must point out that I’m “pickier” than the average person who rates films at IMDb. As indicated by the following graph, the films that I have chosen to watch have been given higher ratings than all films:

Ratings of films ive seen vs ratings of all films
Note: These averages are for 64,600 films designated by IMDb as “English-language,” of which I have rated 2,100.

The next graph illustrates two points:

  • IMDb users, on the whole, have overrated films released from the early 1940s to about 1980, and from the late 1990s to the present. The ratings for films released in the latter period undoubtedly reflect the dominance of younger viewers who “grew up” with IMDb, who prefer novelty to quality, and who have little familiarity with earlier films. On the other hand, I have rated 852 films that were released in 1996-2014, and 1,248 films from 1920-1995.
  • My ratings, based on long experience and exacting standards, indicate that movies not only are not better than ever, they are generally getting worse as the years roll on.

Movie ratings_annual and overall

Thank you for your kind attention. Regular programming will resume shortly.

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A Trip to the Movies

FOOTNOTES ADDED ON 04/22/15

Once upon a month ago I tried to watch Birdman, which won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2014. It failed to rise above trendy quirkiness, foul language, and stilted (though improvised) dialogue. I turned it off. It’s the only Best Picture winner, of those that I’ve watched, that I couldn’t sit through.

There have now been 88 Best Picture winners, and I’ve seen 69 of them. (I include Birdman because the several minutes of it that I watched seemed like two hours.) How do they stack up with the average viewer who has rated the films at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), and how do they stack up with me?

Here’s the story. Best Picture winners are listed according to the average rating assigned by IMDb users, as of today (highest to lowest)*:

Ratings of best pictures

A blank in the “Me” column means that I haven’t seen the film.  The gaps tell a story: I usually avoid films about war because of their propagandistic aims. (The exception here is one of the earliest anti-war films, All Quiet on the Western Front, which is an artistic masterpiece that puts all subsequent anti-war films to shame.) I also tend to eschew melodramas, musicals, “message” movies, and movies about the Holocaust (I don’t need to be reminded; Barack Obama does). There are exceptions to these rules; I am not foolishly consistent.

I prefer films that entertain — that evoke laughter, challenge the mind, or put great writing or acting talent on display. Here’s how I assign ratings:

1 = So bad that I quit watching after a few minutes.

2 = I watched the whole thing, but wish that I hadn’t.

3 = Barely bearable; perhaps one small, redeeming feature (e.g., a cast member).

4 = Just a  shade better than a 3 — a “gut feel” grade.

5 = A so-so effort; on a par with typical made-for-TV fare.

6 = Good, but not worth recommending to anyone else; perhaps because of a weak cast, too-predictable plot, cop-out ending, etc.

7 = Enjoyable and without serious flaws, but once was enough.

8 = Superior on at least three of the following dimensions: mood, plot, dialogue, music (if applicable), dancing (if applicable), quality of performances, production values, and historical or topical interest; worth seeing twice but not a slam-dunk great film.

9 = Superior on several of the above dimensions and close to perfection; worth seeing at least twice.

10 = An exemplar of its type; can be enjoyed many times.

And here are the 69 feature films that I have rated 10 or 9**:

My favorite films_rated 10 or 9

As you’ve probably guessed, based on the year of release, Dr. Jack isn’t about Jack Kevorkian. It’s one of Harold Lloyd’s many hilarious productions.

Enjoy.

*     *     *

Related posts:
A Hollywood Circle
Movies
Christmas Movies
Pride and Prejudice on Film
The Movies: (Not) Better Than Ever
At the Movies: The Best and Worst Years
My Year at the Movies (2007)
Forgotten Stars
The Quality of Films over the Decades
More about the Quality of Films
The Movies: Not Better than Ever (II)
The Longevity of Stars
2013: A Bad Year at the Movies

__________
* Sunrise (1927) won for Unique and Artistic Production (a category used only once), not for Outstanding Picture (as the Best Picture category was then called). The award for Outstanding Picture went to Wings. The apparent gap between 1927 and 1929 is due to the timing of the first six awards, which were given for 1927/28, 1928/29, 1929/30, 1930/31, 1931/32, and 1932/33.

** I have given a rating of 8 to 635 movies (see my reply to the comment by Ron Pavellas). By my count, I’ve seen 2,405 feature films made in 1920 or later, and have rated 2,100 of them.

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Presidential Trivia: Recurring First Names

Among the 44 Presidents of the United States, there are eight first names that occur more than once. Do you know the eight names? Do you know the middle names (if any) and last names that go with the first names? Try to answer those questions without peeking at a list of presidents, then go to the bottom of this page for the answers.

Radio Days, and Beyond

This trip down memory lane is about some of the shows that I remember from the 1940s and 1950s.

The 1940s were my radio days. I listened on my parents’ Philco console radio, which resembled this one:

These are the radio shows that I remember:

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
The Adventures of Superman
The Aldrich Family
The Baby Snooks Show
Blondie
Burns and Allen
Challenge of the Yukon (Sgt. Preston of the Yukon)
A Date with Judy
Fibber McGee and Molly
The Fred Allen Show
Gang Busters
Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch
The Great Gildersleeve
I Love a Mystery
Inner Sanctum Mysteries
The Jack Benny Program
Life with Luigi
The Lone Ranger
Lum and Abner
Martin Kane, Private Eye
Meet Corliss Archer
Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons
Nick Carter, Private Detective
Our Miss Brooks
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show
The Romance of Helen Trent (overheard while my mother listened)
The Shadow
Suspense
Tom Mix
Twenty Questions
The Whistler

That’s just a small sample of the shows that aired during the Golden Age of Radio. Several of the shows made the transition to television. Those that I remember watching on TV in the 1950s are Ozzie and Harriet, Superman, Blondie, Burns and Allen, Gene Autry, Jack Benny, The Great Gildersleeve, Life with Luigi, The Lone Ranger, Our Miss Brooks, Suspense, and Twenty Questions.

Some shows that I watched on TV in the 1950s got their start on radio, but I followed them only on TV. Among their number:

Abbott and Costello
The Alan Young Show
Amos ‘n’ Andy
Beulah
The Big Story
The Cisco Kid
Death Valley Days
Dr. Kildare
Dragnet
Ellery Queen
Ethel and Albert
Father Knows Best
Five Star Theater
Four Star Playhouse
The Goldbergs
Gunsmoke
The Halls of Ivy
Have Gun, Will Travel
I Was a Communist for the FBI
The Kate Smith Hour
The Ken Murray Program
Kraft Music Hall
The Life of Riley
The Milton Berle Show
Mr. and Mrs. North
My Friend Irma
The Original Amateur Hour
Perry Mason
Quiz Kids
The Roy Rogers Show
Studio One
The Voice of Firsstone
You Bet Your Life
Your Hit Parade

My parents’ first TV set was a 12-inch Sparton, which resembled the table model at the left in the bottom row:

Sparton wasn’t a misspelling of Spartan. Sparton stood for Sparks-Withington, a company in Jackson, Michigan, that made TV sets until 1956. Not nearly as classy as the Philco radio, was it?

Those were the days when radio and TV were safe for kids: no sex, less-than-graphic violence, actors who didn’t mumble or swear, and musical themes of redeeming value:

The Passing of Red-Brick Schoolhouses and a Way of Life

My home town once boasted fifteen schoolhouses that were built between the end of the Civil War and 1899. All but the high school were named for presidents of the United States: Adams, Buchanan, Fillmore, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Pierce, Polk, Taylor, Tyler, Van Buren, and Washington. Another of their ilk came along sometime between 1904 and 1915; Lincoln was its name.

With the Adams School counting for two presidents — the second and sixth — there was a school for every president through Lincoln. Why Lincoln came late is a mystery to me. Lincoln was revered by us Northerners, and his picture was displayed proudly next to Washington’s in schools and municipal offices. We even celebrated Lincoln’s Birthday as a holiday distinct from Washington’s Birthday (a.k.a. President’s Day).

More schools — some named for presidents — followed well into the 20th century, but only the fifteen that I’ve named were built in the style of the classic red-brick schoolhouse: two stories, a center hall with imposing staircase, tall windows, steep roof, and often a tower for the bell that the janitor rang to summon neighborhood children to school. (The Lincoln, as a latecomer, was L-shaped rather than boxy, but it was otherwise a classic red-brick schoolhouse, replete with a prominent bell tower.)

I attended three of the fifteen red-brick schoolhouses. My first was Polk School, where I began kindergarten two days after the formal surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945. (For the benefit of youngsters, that ceremony marked the official end of World War II.)

Here’s the Polk in its heyday:

PolkSch

Kindergarten convened in a ground-floor room at the back of the school, facing what seemed then like a large playground, with room for a softball field. The houses at the far end of the field would have been easy targets for adult players, but it would have been a rare feat for a student to hit one over the fence that separated the playground from the houses.

In those innocent days, students got to school and back home by walking. Here’s the route that I followed as a kindergartener:

Route to Polk School

A kindergartener walking several blocks between home and school, usually alone most of the way? Unheard of today, it seems. But in those days predation was unheard of. And, as a practical matter, most families had only one car, which the working (outside-the-home) parent (then known as the father and head-of-household) used on weekdays for travel to and from his job. Moreover, the exercise of walking as much as a mile each way was considered good for growing children — and it was.

The route between my home and Polk School was 0.6 mile in length, and it crossed one busy street. Along that street were designated crossing points, at which stood Safety Patrol Boys, usually 6th-graders, who ensured that students crossed only when it was safe to do so. They didn’t stand in the street and stop oncoming traffic; they simply judged when students could safely cross, and gave them the “green light” by blowing on a whistle. In the several years of my elementary-school career, I never saw or heard of a close call, let alone an injury or a fatality.

I began at Polk School because the school closest to my home, Madison School, didn’t have kindergarten. I went Madison for 1st grade. It was a gloomy pile:

MadisonSch

Madison was shuttered after my year there, so I returned to Polk for 2nd and 3rd grades. Madison stood empty for a few years, and was razed in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Polk was shuttered sometime in the 1950s, and eventually was razed after being used for many years as a school-district warehouse.

The former site of Madison School now hosts “affordable housing”:

Madison School site

There’s a public playground where Polk School stood:

Polk School site

I spent two more years — 4th and 5th grades — in another red-brick schoolhouse: Tyler School. It’s still there, though it hasn’t been used as a school for many decades. It looked like this in 2006, when it served as a halfway house:

Tyler School_2

It now stands empty and uncared for. It looked like this in 2013:

Tyler School 2013

The only other survivor among the fifteen red-brick schoolhouses is Monroe School, the present use of which I can’t ascertain. It seems to have been cared for, however. This image is from 2013:

Monroe School 2013

Tyler and Monroe Schools are ghosts from America’s past — a past that’s now seemingly irretrievable. It was a time of innocence, when America’s wars were fought to victory; when children could safely roam (large cities excepted, as always, from prevailing mores); when marriage was between man and woman, and usually for life; when deviant behavior was discouraged, not “celebrated”; when a high-school diploma and four-year degree meant something, and were worth something; when the state wasn’t the enemy of the church; when politics didn’t intrude into science; when people resorted to government in desperation, not out of habit; and when people had real friends, not Facebook “friends.”

Checking Out

UPDATED 06/25/14

The demise of Mickey Rooney at the age of 93 reminded me that several years ago I began to track some celebrities who had attained the age of 90. The rather quirky list of notables, which doesn’t include Rooney, now looks like this:

Luise Rainer 104, George Beverly Shea 104, Charles Lane 102, George Kennan 101, Gloria Stuart 100Eddie Albert 99Irwin Corey 99, Michael DeBakey 99, Mitch Miller 99, Max Schmeling 99, Risë Stevens 99, John Wooden 99Tony Martin 98, Dale Messick 98, Eli Wallach 98, Herman Wouk 98, Olivia de Havilland 97, Zsa Zsa Gabor 97John Kenneth Galbraith 97, Ernest Gallo 97, Estée Lauder 97, Art Linkletter 97, Al Lopez 97, Vera Lynn 97Karl Malden 97, John Mills 97, Kitty Carlisle 96, ,Jack LaLanne 96, Kevin McCarthy 96, Harry Morgan 96, Fay Wray 96Jane Wyatt 96, Joseph Barbera 95, Ernest Borgnine 95, Henri Cartier-Bresson 95, Monte Irvin 95, Herbert Lom 95, Peter Rodino, Jr 95, Sargent Shriver 95, Patty Andrews 94, Sammy Baugh 94, Constance Cummings 94, Lady Bird Johnson 94, Robert Mondavi 94, Byron Nelson 94, Les Paul 94Billy Graham 93, Ruth Hussey 93, Frankie Laine 93, Robert McNamara 93, Artie Shaw 93,  Richard Widmark 93, Oleg Cassini 92, Ralph Edwards 92Bob Feller 92, Ernie Harwell 92, Lena Horne 92Julia Child 91, Archibald Cox 91, Geraldine Fitzgerald 91, Frances Langford 91, John Profumo 91, William Westmoreland 91Jane Wyman 90.

By my reckoning, of the dozens (or hundreds) of actors who starred in Hollywood films before World War II, only two survive:

I should note that de Havilland’s younger sister and life-long rival, Joan Fontaine, died on December 15, 2013, at the age of 96. The de Havilland sisters came by their longevity the easy way; they inherited it. Their father lived to the age of 95; their mother, to the age of 88.

Checking In

UPDATED, 08/11/10

About four years ago (at Liberty Corner) I drew on the archives of Dead or Alive? to list a number of erstwhile celebrities who were then alive at the age of 90 or older. Here’s how the list looks today:

Charles Lane 102, George Kennan 101, George Beverly Shea 101, Max Schmeling 99, Eddie Albert 99, Michael DeBakey 99, Luise Rainer 100, Gloria Stuart 100, Dale Messick 98, John Wooden 99, Mitch Miller 99, John Kenneth Galbraith 97, Ernest Gallo 97, John Mills 97, Estée Lauder 97, Al Lopez 97, Karl Malden 97, Art Linkletter 97, Risë Stevens 97, Fay Wray 96, Kitty Carlisle 96, Jane Wyatt 96, Tony Martin 96, Kevin McCarthy 96, Irwin Corey 96, Henri Cartier-Bresson 95, Peter Rodino, Jr. 95, Joseph Barbera 95 ,Jack LaLanne 95, Harry Morgan 95, Herman Wouk 95, Byron Nelson 94, Constance Cummings 94, Lady Bird Johnson 94, Robert Mondavi 94, Sammy Baugh 94, Les Paul 94, Sargent Shriver 94, Eli Wallach 94, Olivia de Havilland 94, Artie Shaw 93, Frankie Laine 93, Ruth Hussey 93, Richard Widmark 93, Robert McNamara 93, Ernest Borgnine 93, Zsa Zsa Gabor 93, Vera Lynn 93, Oleg Cassini 92, Ralph Edwards 92, Lena Horne 92, Ernie Harwell 92, Herbert Lom 92, Patti Andrews 92, William Westmoreland 91, Frances Langford 91, John Profumo 91, Geraldine Fitzgerald 91, Archibald Cox 91, Julia Child 91, Bob Feller 91, Billy Graham 91, Monte Irvin 91, Jane Wyman 90.

For many, many more names, go to “People Alive Over 85” at Dead or Alive?

Timely Trivia Question

One person administered the presidential oath of office nine times (a record). Who was that person, and to which presidents did he administer the oath? Scroll down for the answer.

John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835, administered the oath to Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and 1805, James Madison in 1809 and 1813, James Monroe in 1817 and 1821, John Quincy Adams in 1825, and Andrew Jackson in 1829 and 1833.

Roger B. Taney, Marshall’s successor as Chief Justice (1836 to 1864), administered the oath of office seven times. Warren E. Burger (Chief Justice from 1969 to 1986) administered the oath six times.

For more trivia about inauguration day, go here.

Musical Memories

The six songs I remember from an early age:

I’ve Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle” (probably sung by Gene Autry)

You Are My Sunshine” (probably sung by Jimmie Davis, who wrote it)

Cool Water” (sung by the Sons of the Pioneers)

Always” (sung by Dinah Shore)

Mairzy Doats” (probably sung by the Andrews Sisters)

Let It Snow

Presidential Heights

I once remarked on the longevity of presidents:

The [following] graph highlights trends (such as they are) in the age at which presidents have died (or to which they have survived if still living), the age at which they were elected or succeeded to the presidency, and the number of years by which they survived (or have thus far survived) election or succession. (I have omitted assassinated presidents from the data for age of death and number of years surviving, thus the gaps in the first and third series.)

It seems to me that the early presidents were generally “healthy and wise” (and wealthy, by the standards of their time). That is, they were of superior genetic stock, relative to the average person. Their successors have tended to be of less-superior stock, and it shows in the downward trends after 1836.

The general rise in life expectancies since 1900 masks the relative inferiority of twentieth century presidents. The rising age of accession to the presidency after 1932 and the rise in years of survivorship after 1924 (both with wide variations around the trend) should not be taken to indicate that presidents of the twentieth century are on a par, genetically, with the early presidents. They are not.

These observations are consistent with the following graph of presidents’ heights (here including only those men who were elected to the presidency):

Source: “Heights of United States presidents and presidential candidates” at Wikipedia.

With the notable exception of Lincoln, presidential heights generally diminished from the late 1700s to the late 1800s. The upward trend since 1900 attests to the general health and vigor of the population; it says nothing about the relative robustness of the men who have been elected to the presidency in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Random Thoughts

Why is “gunite” pronounced gun-ite, whereas “granite” is pronounced gran-it?

If, in 1950, Harry Truman had said “four score and seven years ago,” he would have been referring to 1863, the year in which Abraham Lincoln uttered that famous phrase.

In the computer industry, “email” is preferred to “e-mail.” But it seems to me that “e-mail” better represents the phrase “electronic mail.” The meaning of “e-mail” is immediately obvious to me; “email,” at first glance, looks like a typo.

If the dismal northern weather of early April and late October — which delayed the start of the 2008 baseball season in some cities and then disrupted the World Series — doesn’t convince Major League Baseball to lop two weeks from each end of the regular season, nothing will.

One of the funniest movies I’ve seen is Harold Lloyd’s Dr. Jack (1922). It starts slowly, but builds to a hilariously frantic finish. Lloyd’s Safety Last! is better known — and deservedly considered a comedy classic — but it isn’t half as funny as Dr. Jack.

Between novels, I have been slogging my way through Thomas K. McCraw’s Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. There’s too much armchair psychology in it, but it whets my appetite for Schumpeter’s classic Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, which (I hate to admit) I haven’t read. Schumpter’s famous term for capitalism, “creative destruction,” often is applied with an emphasis on “destruction”; the emphasis should be on “creative.”

I must observe, relatedly, that my grandmother’s lifetime (1880-1977) spanned the invention and adoption of far more new technology than is likely to emerge in my lifetime, even if I live as long as my grandmother did.

The Names, They Are A Changing

The popularity of the first names of my grandparents, in the years of their birth (all in the last three decades of the nineteenth century):

Joseph – 7th (all ranks from the Social Security index of popular baby names)
Delia – 126th
Ernest – 24th
Hazel – 26th

As of 2007:

Joseph – 13th
Delia – 989th
Ernest – not in the top 1000
Hazel – 361st

Whereas, in 2007,

Anthony was 7th among male names (103rd when Joseph was born);
Serenity was 126th among female names (not in top 1000 when Delia was born);
Nathan was 24th among male names (136th when Ernest was born); and
Kayla was 26th among female names (not in top 1000 when Hazel was born, probably not a name then).

In 1908, the five most popular female names were Mary, Helen, Margaret, Ruth, and Anna. In 2007, the five most popular female names were Emily, Isabella, Emma, Ava, and Madison. The top five male names in 1908 were John, William, James, George, and Robert; in 2007 the top five male names were Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, and Daniel — an ironic turn toward the Old Testament in this secular age.

My own name — which is associated mainly with an Apostle — stood at or near 10th place from 1880 through the mid-1960s. It has slipped to 51st place.

What’s in a Name?

American League teams include the St. Petersburg (“Tampa Bay”) Rays, the Minneapolis (“Minnesota”) Twins, the Anaheim (“Los Angeles”) Angels, and the Arlington (“Texas”) Rangers. Over in the National League we find the Miami (“Florida”) Marlins, the Phoenix (“Arizona”) Diamondbacks, and the Denver (“Colorado”) Rockies.

The practice of associating a baseball team with a place other than the city in which it plays its home games dates to 1961, when the original Washington Senators became the “Minnesota” Twins. It’s the baseball equivalent of naming a child after a sign of the Zodiac — very “new age,” “countercultural,” and all that. What began as an exception has become the rule: baseball’s four newest franchises (awarded in 1993 and 1998) belong to “Arizona,” “Colorado,” “Florida,” and “Tampa Bay.” (Can you imagine the “Maryland” Orioles, “Illinois” Cubs, “Ohio” Indians, “Michigan” Tigers, etc., etc., etc.?)

Preferring, as I do, real names like Matthew and Mary, I insist on the St. Petersburg Rays, Minneapolis Twins, Anaheim Angels, Arlington Rangers, Miami Marlins, Phoenix Diamondbacks, and Denver Rockies. The residents of those cities should insist likewise.

Sidekicks, with a Twist

A sidekick, according to Wikipedia,

is a stock character, a close companion who assists a partner in a superior position. Sancho Panza in Don Quixote, Doctor Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Batman‘s companion Robin are some well-known sidekicks….

Sidekicks not only provide comic relief but can occasionally be brave or resourceful at times and rescue the hero from some dire fate: such as … Festus Haggen of Gunsmoke‘s Matt Dillon….

Sidekicks also frequently serve as an emotional connection, especially when the hero is depicted as detached and distant, traits which would normally generate difficulty in making the hero likable. The sidekick is often the confidant who knows the main character better than anyone else and gives a convincing reason to like the hero. Although Sherlock Holmes was admittedly a difficult man to know, the friendship of Dr. Watson convinces the reader that Holmes is a good person….

While it is usually the reverse, it is not unheard of for a sidekick to be physically more conventionally attractive, charismatic, or physically capable than the character who is intended to be the hero. This is most typically encountered when the hero’s appeal is supposed to be intellect instead of sex appeal or physical prowess. Such characters are often middle aged or older and tend towards eccentricity; fictional sleuths and scientists for example. Such sidekicks are rarely encountered in fiction because the hero runs the risk of being upstaged by them. However, examples of successful such pairings include Inspector Morse and his sidekick DS Robbie Lewis, Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goodwin….

Other famous sidekicks — whose roles vis-a-vis their partners range from comic foil to friendly nemesis to voice of reason to stalwart ally — include (in no particular order):

I’m sure I’ve omitted other notable pairings. I’ll add them as they come to mind.

Some of My Favorite Cars

The classic era of American automobile design began in the 1920s and lasted through the late 1930s. Here are some of my favorites:

1927 Kissel 8-75 Speedster

1929 Jordan Speedboy G

1929 Duesenberg J 350 Willoughby

1930 Pierce Arrow Roadster

1932 Cadillac 355B Sport Phaeton

1932 Pierce Arrow Model 54 7-Passenger Touring Car

1934 Packard Eleventh Series Eight 1101 Convertible Sedan

1935 Auburn 8-851 Cabriolet

1937 Cord Model 812C Phaeton

1938 Lincoln Zephyr Convertible Coupe

Many collections of classic-car photos and specs are available online. Conceptcarz.com is the best that I have found. The collection there spans the late 1800s to the present. See also the excellent Crawford Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Mystery Solved

William Lyon (Billy) Phelps was, in his day (1865-1943), a noted professor of English literature (Yale), proponent of Jane Austen, writer of popular prose, public lecturer, and preacher (he was also an ordained minister). I learned of Phelps because he and his wife summered at Huron City, Michigan, not far from the village where my grandmother lived.

The Phelps’s summer home (which Mrs. Phelps inherited from her father) is known as Seven Gables. It is preserved as part of the Huron City Museum, a collection of old buildings and artifacts from the early days of Huron City. Below are successive views of Seven Gables. The first is from the road that runs in front of the house. The second shows the house and its seven gables from above. The third shows the house (toward the bottom of the photo) and an abandoned golf course across the road. The fourth, in which the house is a white speck near the center, shows the proximity of the house and golf course to Lake Huron, which is at the top of the photo.


The mystery (to me) was the golf course. Whenever we stopped at Huron City on the way to grandma’s house, I would walk to the edge of the road bordering the course, gaze down upon the derelict fairways and greens, and wonder about the course’s history. Had a country club been founded there in the boom times of the ’20s, only to fall victim to the Depression? Was the course too isolated to be a going proposition?

The mystery was solved when I learned recently that the course was on the Phelpses’ property — a personal, private course — and that Prof. Phelps played there regularly when he was in residence at Seven Gables. There it sits, abandoned — probably since 1939, the year of Prof. Phelps’s last visit to Huron City.