A Little Less Magic in the World.

13 06 2007

Don Herbert, AKA Mr. Wizard, died today at the age of 89.  He’s one of those people that had drifted to the foggy background of my memory, but when I saw the news of his passing, the recall was instantaneous.  I loved Mr. Wizard as a child–this is the man that taught me how to slice a banana while it was still in the freakin’ skin.  He’s the man who made me really, really want dry ice.  (I still do, where do you get the stuff?).  When I was a kid, I wanted Legos and Transformers, but I also wanted a Chemistry set and a rock tumbler–and it was thanks to him.

Once in High School I happened across an episode of Mr. Wizard’s World on TV very early in the morning.  He was terribly low-key, I found him a bit…erm…dull.  You know how teenagers are, they need the frenetic, ADD, pow-pow-pow in-your-face pacing of an action movie.  Bill Nye became my teenage-years Mr. Wizard.  Still, Don Herbert was the original and helped instill a love of science and learning in me at an early age.  His influence on me and an entire generation of Geeks was enormous.  Even though he lived to a generous age, it’s sad to see him go.  This world was better for his having been here.


Sho ’nuff

6 02 2007

Anyone who’s e-mailed me, IMd me or spoken to me long enough to say “thank you” has probably gotten a “sho ’nuff” where they might expect a “you’re welcome”.  I’m not a Kentucky Colonel, I’m a Jersey-Boy.  So how did this folksy little country-fried colloquialism enter my vocabulary?

Actually, I remember specifically.

Back when Comedy Central was in its infancy, they had an excellent show called “Short Attention Span Theatre” (which I still miss). The show was all clips, from stand-up acts and sit-coms.  One particular clip they showed was from an old sitcom.  How old?  Old enough to be black and white and that’s all I can offer.  In the clip, a southern boy was agonizing over a decision to accept an offer to play baseball for the New York Yankees.  After all, how can any decent southern gentleman play for a team called The Yankees?  To help convince the young man, the Yankees manager brought the team down so they could be introduced.   It was all a ruse, however.  Each member of the Yankees was dressed up just like Colonel Sanders and would come up, tip their hat and say, “Sho ’nuff”.  Each one in turn, exactly the same (except for Yogi Berra, who messed it up).  Being a good southern rube, the young man’s worries were assuaged by the ploy and he joined the team.  The scene didn’t actually make me laugh, it was amusing at best.  But somehow that phrase “Sho ’nuff” snaked down into my brain and burrowed into my vocab.

Why and how it stuck?  That, I’m afraid, I can’t answer.

The teeth of knitted gears turns slowly through the night

15 01 2007

Recently I’ve come up with a theory on the brain, or maybe a metaphor.  The brain is like a giant Rube Goldberg Device that at its end cranks a gumball machine that dispenses a memory.  You see, something happens that triggers the machine.  As the machine works in the background your brain moves on to other things.  Then later, all of a sudden, the memory is dispensed and pops up into the foreground. 

 The metaphor is, perhaps, a bit strained.  It could be the type of gumball machine that has a marble roller-coaster before the treat is delivered.  Or it could be one of the tall ones that send the gumball down a long spiral.  The point of the Rube Goldberg Device is the delay between and the stimulus and the response.  And the reason I am calling it a gumball machine at the end is that the memories can seem rather random.

 I thought this up after reading through my high school yearbook for the first time in a long time.  Some memories were rather instantaneous.  Faces long forgotten were suddenly before me and the corresponding details came immediately to light.  However, in the background, the device had been triggered.  Later at work the following day, memories kept plunking down from the gumball machine.  Some memories were fresher and cleaner and others required some dusting off.  I guess high school is now far enough in my past that many of its memories are deeply buried in the old filing cabinets in an abandoned part of the memory warehouse.  It was actually rather enjoyable to be nostalgic about high school.  Someday, another 13 years from now something may trigger the device and this memory will come spilling out of the gumball machine.