Archive for March, 2016

Happy Birthday, Pearl Bailey!

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Actress, singer, author, and humanitarian Pearl Bailey was born on March 29, 1918 and went on to became both accomplished and well-loved.

471px-Pearl_Bailey_Ed_Sullivan_Show_1968

At the age of 15, she won a talent show and immediately scuppered her plans to become a schoolteacher. Pearl Bailey embarked on a career as an entertainer, and became an award-winning star of stage and screen. However, in addition to her professional accomplishments, she engaged in civic, political, and humanitarian causes, touring with the USO during WWII, and was appointed special ambassador to the U.S. Mission of the United Nations General Assembly.

She also gave commencement addresses and received several honorary degrees despite never having graduated from high school. While she gave one such speech at Georgetown – where she was proclaimed a Doctor of Humane Letters – she remarked, “Who knows, folks. I may be coming to this school.”

Pearl Bailey was better than her word: she enrolled the next year as a freshman.

In almost every way, Pearl Bailey enjoyed the typical college experience: she went to lectures, sat for exams, and cheered on the Hoyas. However, she also registered for classes amidst a flock of journalists and photographers, her GPA was reported in the college newspaper, and when she needed an excuse to be absent from class, former President Gerald Ford vouched that she was not playing hooky – she was performing in a benefit for his charity.

Ms. Bailey’s father had been a minister and at the age of 67 she followed in his footsteps. Georgetown University awarded her with a B.A. in Theology – eight years after they had given her a doctorate.

Arbitrary Vegetable of the Day

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Jicama.

Pachyrhizus_erosus_2

Happy Birthday William Shatner!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Though William Shatner is perhaps most often recognized as the original Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise, he has portrayed many other characters on television, in film, and on the stage.

For instance, William Shatner starred in the horror movie Incubus, which featured Esperanto, a constructed language.

Do you know what’s weird? He also played Captain Kirk in Star Trek, which featured Klingon, another constructed language.

In fact, it cannot be denied that Shatner and Kirk share amazing coincidences to rival those of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy:

Captain James T. Kirk resembles William Shatner very closely.William Shatner was chosen to portray Captain James T. Kirk in the television and movie series, Star Trek – perhaps owing to this very physical resemblance!
Captain James T. Kirk rode horses at his uncle’s farm in Idaho, on Earth. William Shatner rides horses at his own horse farm in Kentucky, on Earth.
James T. Kirk, is to be born on March 22, 2233. William Shatner was born on March 22, 1931!

Feliĉan naskiĝtagon William Shatner!

William Shatner qoSlIj DatIvjaj!

Happy birthday to the uncanny William Shatner!

Future_Birthplace_of_Captain_James_T_Kirk

Happy Escalator / Voting Day!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Two important inventions were born on March 15, 1892.

3-15

Inventor Jesse W. Reno received the patent for the “inclined elevator,” known today as the escalator. Although it wasn’t the first escalator to be patented, it was the first to make it to production. Although Reno’s invention didn’t help people get around shopping malls – it was first used as a ride at Coney Island. People were much more easily amused in those days.

Reno kept on inventing. And although his plan for a double-decker subway in New York City never came to fruition, people take the escalator to and from trains every day.

Also on this day in 1892, Jacob H. Meyers’ voting machine (the “Myers Automatic Booth”) was first used in Lockwood, New York. Meyers’ machine was groundbreaking not just for its technology, which integrated a huge amount of moving parts, but due to its transformation of electoral politics. The machine instigated the secret ballot in New York State, and it also allowed illiterate voters to cast their ballot without assistance. Grover Cleveland carried the county – one of the few counties in upper New York State to vote for him over sitting president Benjamin Harrison. Coincidence? (We really don’t know what Cleveland and Harrison thought about the voting machine so we’re just spreading rumors here.)

So thanks to this day in 1892, humankind was freed from the tyranny of stairs and unfair elections!

Happy Birthday to Joseph Lee, Playground Pioneer!

Monday, March 7th, 2016

If you spent a significant part of your childhood on playgrounds, you owe a debt of gratitude to Joseph Lee! (If you didn’t go to playgrounds as a child, your parents were MONSTERS.)

He graduated from Harvard with a law degree, but instead of using his education to make his wealthy family even wealthier, he turned his substantial intellect and resources to giving poor children opportunities for exercise and play. (If you didn’t learn about Joseph Lee in school as a child, your teachers were MONSTERS.)

Joseph-Lee_0-1

Lee championed the well-being of poor children, and became a tireless advocate, philanthropist, social reformer, and author. His book, Constructive and Preventive Philanthropy (read it here) advocates building recreational facilities for poor children, who had no place to play outside their cramped homes and tenements. The streets were not only dirty and dangerous, the kids playing there were subject to unsavory activities, temptations of the idle-hands variety, and even harassment or arrest by zealous law enforcement officials (sound familiar?).

In 1885, Boston boasted the first playground in the nation: a massive – and massively popular – sand pile dumped on a street corner in the North End. But it was reserved for the little children.

Joseph Lee improved upon the sand lots and built playgrounds that featured equipment, supervised activities, and plots where children learned to garden. The structures on these early playgrounds were challenging and exciting – nothing like the low-slung cushiony Habitrails of a contemporary playground that prioritizes litigation prophylactics over fun. The first playground equipment was made of metal tubes with chains and ladders and slides and the opportunity for multicolored bumps and bruises and trips to the emergency room (or not) that usually accompany real thrills.

We have come to see that Joseph Lee had been right all along about the importance of play:

“It is the supreme seriousness of play that gives it its educational importance. Play seen from the inside, as the child sees it, is the most serious thing in life.”

(If we don’t turn our own intellects and resources to giving poor children opportunities, we are MONSTERS.)