Sunday, December 31, 2006

Andrea Marcovicci in a Tribute to the Incomparable Hildegarde

There could be no better singer to pay homage to The Incomparable Hildegarde than Andrea Marcovicci. Ms. Marcovicci is probably the best-known cabaret artist in New York today, and is the undisputed queen of the Algonquin’s legendary Oak Room (2006 is the 20th anniversary of her first performance there). Likewise, Hildegarde was a legend in her own time, setting fashion trends and counting kings among her most devoted fans. She continued performing until she was 89, and died just short of her 100th birthday only last year. I’m Feeling Like A Million, La Marcovicci’s loving tribute to her creative predecessor, has all the class of a royal ceremony, and is a delightfully charming look back into the birth of modern cabaret.

As much a symposium as a concert, Ms. Marcovicci’s concert is an education for those who know little about Hildegarde, and a lovely stroll down memory lane for those who fondly remember the glamorous “First Lady of Supper Clubs.” There are many songs that Hildegarde made popular, including Cole Porter’s “Wundebar” (performed by Hildegarde before Kiss Me, Kate reached Broadway), “12th Street Rag,” and her standard “Darling, Je Vois Aime Beaucoup,” written by her manager Anna Sosenko. But it is Ms. Marcovicci’s narration that makes the concert so much more involving and exciting than a mere hour of songs could be. In between numbers, Ms. Marcovicci tells the fascinating story of Hildegarde’s extraordinary life and career, from rural farmgirl to legendary chanteuse who had kings at her feet. The songs become punctuation for each story, capturing the essence of the legend’s style and charisma while commenting nicely on each step in her career.

A Surfer's Woody

Click the Link below for more interesting images:

Architecture Worth Ogling --- Chicago's Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Frank Gehry, winner of the National Medal of Art, applied his signature style to this revolutionary outdoor concert venue. The Pavilion stands 120-feet high, with a billowing headdress of brushed stainless steel ribbons that frame the stage opening and connect to an overhead trellis of crisscrossing steel pipes. The trellis supports the sound system, which spans the 4,000 fixed seats and the Great Lawn, which accommodates an additional 7,000 people.
This state-of-the-art sound system, the first of its kind in the country, was designed to mimic the acoustics of an indoor concert hall by distributing enhanced sound equally over both the fixed seats and the lawn.The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is home to the Grant Park Music Festival and other free concerts and events. It was named in memory of Chicago business leader Jay Pritzker, who with his wife Cindy, established the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1979.

Football Hasn't Always Followed the Rose Parade

In 1915 an ostrich like the one above pulled a parade entry in Pasadena's Rose Parade on New Year's Day. Before football became the tradition, ostriches were raced after the parade.

"Angels Flight" Makes an Entrance in Los Angeles

Dec. 31, 1901: "In the presence of an admiring and awestruck multitude," Los Angeles Mayor Meredith "Pinky" Snyder was among the first passengers on Angels Flight, the 298-foot funicular from Hill Street to the top of Bunker Hill, The Times reported. A large crowd gathered at the top to watch the "new double-barreled railroad," The Times said:

"A hush fell upon the vast concourse and enveloped it like a wet towel. Inside the little engine-house came the sharp tinkle of an electric bell, and the engineer grasped the lever and threw it back. Behold, the cars began to move! The one at the top moved down and the one at the bottom moved up."

The crowd watched for the mayor, who finally made the trip, "holding on by the dashboard with one hand and his other hand back to his pistol pocket, prepared to shoot the cable in two if the car showed any symptoms of shooting over the hill and into space," The Times said.

Later, Snyder "spoke of the time when as a lonely young man, far from his home and people, he had climbed up to the top of this same hill and looked out over what was then a little city. He contrasted the present view that presented itself, looking over a metropolis."

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A New "Brasilia" is Rising Deep in the Nation's Vast Interior

PALMAS, BRAZIL — This planned city boasts stately boulevards, universities, a gleaming airport and beaches — no small feat for a place deep in Brazil's interior. Never mind that only 208,000 people currently reside in a space designed to accommodate 3 million residents, giving Palmas the feel of an empty movie set. Above we see the Palacio Araguaia, the main government building in Palmas.

Seventeen years ago, Palmas was little more than a blueprint and scrubby pastureland. It has sprung from the red dust to become this nation's fastest-growing state capital. Although most of Brazil's 188 million residents still live within a few hundred miles of the Atlantic Ocean, the nation's vast interior is experiencing a surge of growth and investment.

The opening of Brazil's so-called cerrado, an immense expanse of tropical savanna in the center of the country, began in earnest in the 1950s with the construction of Brasilia, about 400 miles south of Palmas. The meticulously planned federal district was an effort to spur development in the interior and shift population growth away from the southeastern megalopolises of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. From pastureland the government has built Palmas into a shiny state capital with soaring buildings. Now, it just needs people to move in.

And here we see the beauty and the magic of Brasilia:

First Freeway in L A Opened to Great Fanfare

On Dec. 30, 1940, the Arroyo Seco Parkway, now known as the Pasadena Freeway, opened to great fanfare, with Sally Stanton, the 1941 Rose Queen, untying the red silk ceremonial ribbon.

"Six miles of six-lane highways important to traffic, history and national defense received official benediction of the men who built them and the people who will use them," the Los Angeles Times reported. "They are the glass-smooth miles from the Figueroa Street tunnels in Los Angeles to Glenarm Street, Pasadena."

The parkway cost $6 million, the newspaper said.

Gov. Culbert Olson, who attended the opening, said motorists would travel the new parkway "from one end to the other in seven, eight or perhaps nine minutes … from the very heart of Los Angeles, through Highland Park and South Pasadena, to the very heart of Pasadena … in easy, nerve-free comfort and safety."

And how did things turn out: See the picture below where the Pasadena, Santa Ana, Hollywood, Santa Monica and Harbor Freeways intersect.

George Shearing "the Legend" is Honored With Knighthood

Pianist George Shearing, who composed the iconic jazz standard "Lullaby of Birdland" received British knighthood in the New Year's Honors List published today.

Shearing, 87, a London native who was born blind, led the George Shearing Quintet and other notable combos in the 1950s and 1960s. He has entertained Queen Elizabeth II and was invited to play for U.S. Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan.

"Lullaby of Birdland" is one of his 300 compositions.

Speaking from New York on Friday, Shearing said it was "amazing to receive an honor for something I absolutely love doing. Receiving such an honor as a knighthood might also show young people what can be achieved in life if one learns his craft and follows his dreams."

Friday, December 29, 2006

There are Seventeen Dolphins in This Picture --- Can You Find Them ??

Image by Steven Gardner --- For more info click link below:

The Day Rasputin Refused to Die

In the waning days of the Romanov dynasty, December 19-30, 1916 Russian 'monk' Rasputin (Grigory Yefimovich Novykh) was assassinated. A group of conspirators had lured him to a private home then poisoned and shot him, although he did not die. They then tied him up and threw him into the Neva River, in which he drowned. Rasputin had gained enormous influence with Russian Emperor Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra, claiming divine inspiration and the ability to perform miracles, especially in helping young Czar Nicky, a hemophiliac. He also urged severe measures in dealing with the peasant masses and for a time had virtually dictated government policy.

You really have to make an effort to get your name thoroughly synonymous with evil and debauchery. It doesn't just happen spontaneously. It takes a special kind of person to be a Vlad the Impaler, or a Pope Innocent III, or a Rasputin.
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was born a Siberian peasant in 1872, which is not the kind of background that usually lends itself to great success in life.

Despite the fact that he could barely read, Rasputin managed to rise to a position of nearly unprecedented power on the basis of personal charisma, evil genius, body odor, sexual profligacy and being hard to kill. Nice work if you can get it.

The young Rasputin did a brief stint in a Siberian monastery, but wisely determined that he could do better making up his own religion. Early in life, he established a name for himself by employing an apparent power to heal the sick and see the future.

Rasputin was well on track to a life of obscurity as the big fish in an exceedingly small pond, when the Virgin Mary intervened. According to his daughter, the Black Virgin of Kazan (a purportedly miraculous Russian icon) appeared to Rasputin and inspired him to make the move from rural witch doctor to power behind the throne.

It was the last time the words "Rasputin" and "virgin" would appear in the same sentence without the word "defile" in there somewhere. Rasputin traveled to St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, and set up shop as a healer.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Huntington Beach: the Way It Used to Be

Oil discoveries in Huntington Beach, California in 1920 and 1921 drove local residents in the words of one observer, "stark. staring. oil mad." Speculation was in the air because people saw this as the land of easy money. In 1928, Huntington Beach was lined with oil derricks as pictured above.

How Surfing Came to California




Human Tower of Musclemen

Local bodybuilder Harold Zinkin poses at the bottom of a human tower of musclemen that includes, in ascending order: Deforrest "Moe" Most, Jack LaLanne and Gene Miller, in this undated photo. Muscle Beach was an international magnet for bodybuilders.
(Angel City Press)

Schmadribach Falls in Switzerland

The Reality (above) followed by the vision (below)

"Les chutes de Schmadribach"

Painting by Joseph Anton Koch. 1822

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Early Aircraft Looked Like Eggbeaters and Mousetraps, Shook Like Leaves, and Shed Parts Regularly....But They Made Immortal Aviation History

Back in the days between 1907 and 1912, when flying was the Great Experiment, and such pioneer “birdmen” as Hoxsey, Paulhan, and Moisant were making flight history, airplanes were called “crates’’ and ‘‘kites.’’ Certainly they looked the part, flimsy in construction, made of bamboo and ‘‘doped’’ fabric, to which anything might happen any moment, they were aloft. And as for their unpredictable engines—well, the slogan of the day was : “Fly at six—repair all day.’’

It required real courage to buck the then unknown laws of aeronautics in these fantastic contraptions which were as fragile as kites, for, when something did happen, there was no bailing out in a parachute. The birdman remained in the old crate and took his chances with the inexorable law of gravity in his plunge to earth.
Most of these intrepid birdmen have long since been forgotten. A few won lasting fame, such as Eugene Ely, who first took off and landed on a boat; Philip Parmelee, Charles Willard, and Louis Paulhan, who revealed the possibilities of the airplane as a military weapon; Lincoln Beachey, the stunt flyer, who could scoop up a handkerchief with a wing tip in much the same manner as a cowboy; and Hoxsey, the gentleman aviator who wore a pince-nez elegantly and was also the undisputed hero of the air during his short career.
The death-trap crates and their intrepid birdmen are long gone, hut their invaluable accomplishments made possible the foolproof masterpieces of aircraft we have today. Certainly, in the annals of aviation, their historical importance will live forever.

(Excerpts from an article by Dr VANCE J. HOYT in Air Trails Magazine, February 1946. For the full story click on Link)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


The rock towers of the Torres del Paine are some of the most famous and difficult summits in the world, not climbed until the 1950s. The summits are protected from climbers by the technical difficulty of the rock and Patagonia's severe weather. They are situated in Chile on the the edge of the Hielo Sur (the Patagonian Ice Cap). This is the third largest ice field in the world after Antarctica and the Greenland Ice Cap. The ice cap and the mountain ranges on its edge are surrounded by the south American pampas (enormous grassy plains). The sun heats up the pampas during the day and the warm air on the plains rises up into the atmosphere, to be replaced by the heavier cold air which flows down off the ice cap. This movement generates the incredible winds which tear around the Torres constantly.

The Legends of "Kilroy Was Here"

There was one person who led or participated in every combat, training or occupation operation during WWII and the Korean War. This person could always be depended on. GI's began to consider him the "super GI." He was one who always got there first or who was always there when they left. I am, of course, referring to Kilroy Was Here. Somehow, this simple graffiti captured the imagination of GI's everywhere they went. The scribbled cartoon face and words showed up everywhere - worldwide. Stories (some even true) abound.

There are many Legends about how "Kilroy was here" got started. One Legend says it started with James J. Kilroy, a shipyard inspector during WWII. He chalked the words on bulkheads to show that he had been there and inspected the riveting in the newly constructed ship. To the troops in those ships, however, it was a complete mystery — all they knew for sure was that he had "been there first." As a joke, they began placing the graffiti wherever they (the US forces) landed or went, claiming it was already there when they arrived.

Kilroy became the US super-GI who always got there first — wherever GI's went. It became a challenge to place the logo in the most unlikely places. It was said to be atop Mt. Everest, the Statue of Liberty, the underside of the Arch de Triumphe, and scrawled in the dust on the moon. An outhouse was built for the exclusive use of Truman, Stalin, and Churchill who were there for the Potsdam conference. The first person to use it was Stalin. He emerged and asked his aide (in Russian), "Who is Kilroy?" The tradition continued in every US military theater of operations throughout and following WWII.

In 1946 the Transit Company of America held a contest offering a prize of a real trolley car to the person who could prove himself to be the "real" Kilroy. Almost forty men stepped forward to make that claim, but James Kilroy brought along officials from the shipyard and some of the riveters to help prove his authenticity. James Kilroy won the prize of the trolley car which he gave to his nine children as a Christmas gift. He set it up in their front yard for a playhouse.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wonderful Illusions ---13 or 12 ?? --- Where does the extra man go ??

More Wonderful Illusions

Can you find 9 people here ??

Do you see a skull or a woman in the mirror ??

A Marvelous Collection of Books Written By Robert Ludlum

This posting relates directly to the posting immediately below:

Suspenseful Intrigue and Mounting Terror

The Aquitane Progression was the first book I read by Robert Ludlum. If you've read it, then you know why it led me to read almost every book he ever wrote, even a couple that he wrote under the name Jonathan Ryder. The story begins in Geneva. There American lawyer Joel Converse meets a man he hasn't seen in twenty years, a covert operative who dies violently at his feet, whispering words that hand Converse a staggering legacy of death: "THE GENERALS...THEY'RE BACK...AQUITAINE!" Suddenly Converse is running for his life, alone with the world's most shattering secret. Pursued by anonymous executioners to the dark corners of Europe, he is forced to play a game of survival by blood rules he thought he'd long left behind. One by one, he traces each thread of a deadly progression to the heart of every major government--a network of coordinated global violence that no one believes possible. No one but Converse and the woman he once loved and lost. The only two people on earth who can wrest the world from the iron grasp of Aquitaine.

About the Author
After a successful career in the theatre, Robert Ludlum launched his career as a best-selling writer with THE SCARLATTI INHERITANCE in 1971, the first of twenty-two consecutive international bestsellers. Robert sadly passed away in March 2001.

The Larger Than Life Spruce Goose

Howard Hughes (1905-1976) was born in Houston, Texas. He was a movie producer, aviator and industrialist whose legendary desire for privacy generated many rumors and much curiosity. Perhaps best remembered for designing an eight-engine flying boat, nicknamed the Spruce Goose, which was to carry 750 passengers, although it only made one brief test flight.

The Hughes H-4 Hercules ("Spruce Goose") is an aircraft designed and built by Howard Hughes's Hughes Aircraft company. Its first and only flight was in 1947. Hughes himself detested the nickname "Spruce Goose". The nickname arose as a way of mocking the Hercules project due to Hughes' alleged misuse of government funding to build the aircraft. The Hercules is the largest flying boat, and still holds the record for the largest wingspan of any aircraft ever. Only one was ever built.

Due to wartime restrictions on the availability of metals, the H-4 was built almost entirely of laminated birch, not spruce as its nickname suggests. The aircraft was a marvel in its time. It married a soon-to-be outdated technology — flying boats — to a massive airframe that required some truly ingenious engineering innovations.

In 1942, the U.S. Department of War was faced with the need to transport war matériel and personnel to Britain. Allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean was suffering heavy losses to German U-boats, so a requirement was issued for an aircraft that could cross the Atlantic with a large payload.

The aircraft was the brainchild of Henry J. Kaiser, who directed the Liberty ships program. He teamed with aircraft designer Howard Hughes to create what would become the largest aircraft built or even seriously contemplated at that time. When completed, it would be capable of carrying 750 fully-equipped troops or two M4 Sherman tanks.

To conserve metal for the war effort, it would be built mostly of wood: hence the Spruce Goose moniker. It was also referred to as the Flying Lumberyard by critics who believed an aircraft of its size simply could not fly.

Development dragged on and was not completed until well after the war was over. In 1947, Howard Hughes was called to testify before the Senate War Investigating Committee over the usage of government funds for the aircraft, as Congress was eliminating war-era spending to free up Federal funds for domestic projects. Though he encountered skepticism and even hostility from the committee, Hughes remained unruffled. During a break in the hearings, he returned to California, ostensibly to run taxi tests on the H-4. On November 2, 1947, with Howard Hughes at the controls, the Hercules lifted off from the waters off Long Beach, remaining airborne 70 feet (20 m) off the water at a speed of 80 mph (130 km/h) for just under a mile (1.6 km). At this altitude the plane was still experiencing ground effect and some critics believe it lacked the power necessary to truly fly.

Hughes had proved the critics wrong, but the justification for continued spending on the project was gone. Congress killed the Hercules project, and the aircraft never flew again. It was carefully maintained in flying condition until Hughes's death in 1976.

Hughes had his entire reputation wrapped up in the H-4 and often said that if the Hercules did not fly he would leave America and never return. In a transcript of a Senate hearing Hughes said the following:

The Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest plane ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That's more than a city block. Now, I put the sweat of my life into this. I got my reputation all rolled up in it. I have stated several times that if The Hercules fails to fly [...] I will leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.

In 1980 the Hercules was acquired by the California Aero Club, who successfully put the aircraft on display in a large dome adjacent to the Queen Mary Exhibit in Long Beach, California. In 1988 The Walt Disney Company acquired both attractions. Disappointed by the lackluster revenue the Hercules exhibit generated, Disney began to look for another organization to take it off its hands. After a long search for a qualified buyer, the plane was acquired by the Evergreen Aviation Museum in 1993, who disassembled the aircraft and moved it by barge to its current home in McMinnville, Oregon (about an hour southwest of Portland) where it has been on display since.

Evergreen Aviation Museum

By the mid-1990s, Hollywood converted the former Hughes Aircraft hangars, including the one that held the Hercules, into sound stages. Scenes from movies such as Titanic, What Women Want, and End of Days have been filmed in the 315,000 square foot (29,000 m²) airplane hangar where Howard Hughes created the legendary flying boat. The hangar will be preserved as a structure eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Buildings in what is today the housing development Playa Vista.

Though the project was a failure, the H-4 Hercules in some senses presaged the massive transport aircraft of the late 20th century, such as the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy and the Antonov An-124 and An-225. The Hercules demonstrated that the physical and aerodynamic principles which make flight possible are not limited by the size of the aircraft, even if the viability of the airplane itself was, mainly by the lack (at that time) of strong enough engines.

On This Day in 1942 the First Surface-to-Surface Guided Missile Was Launched

December 24, 1942 - The first surface-to-surface guided missile, later known as the V-1 Flying Bomb, was launched by German rocket engineer Wernher von Braun. Known as Buzz Bombs, they were used by Nazi Germany against England beginning in September 1944.

In June, 1942, Germany began working on a new secret weapon. It was officially known as the F2G-76 but was also called Vergeltung (Retribution) as it was built in response to the mass bombing of urban areas in Germany.

British intelligence first became aware of this new weapon when on 22nd August, 1942, a Danish naval officer discovered an early test version that had crash landed on a small island between Germany and Sweden. The officer sent a photograph and a detailed sketch of the bomb to Britain and preparations began to deal with this new weapon that had the potential to win the war for Germany.

Military intelligence eventually discovered that the V-1 missile was being built at Peenemünde and in May, 1943, Winston Churchill ordered Operation Crossbow, a plan to destroy V-1 production and launch sites. Over the next few months over 36,000 tons of bombs were dropped on these targets.

The V-1 (also known as a flying bomb, buzz bomb or doodlebug) was a pilotless monoplane that was powered by a pulse-jet motor and carried a one ton warhead. They were launched from a fixed ramp and travelled at about 350mph and 4,000ft and had a range of 150 miles (240km). It was 8 metres (25 feet) long and had a wingspan of about 5.5 metres (20 feet).

Germany launched its new weapon from Pas-de-Calais on the northern coast of France, on 12th June, 1944. The first ten failed to reach the country but on the following day one landed in Essex. Over the next few months 1,435 hit south-east England. These attacks created panic in Britain and between mid June and the end of July, around one and a half million people left London.

Germany fired 9,521 V-I bombs on southern England. Of these 4,621 were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire or by RAF fighters such as the new turbojet fighter, the Gloster Meteor. An estimated 6,184 people were killed by these flying bombs. By August only 20 per cent of these bombs were reaching England.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas --- the Lights of Portland

The "Wright" Inspiration

From statements and writings left by the Wright brothers, it is clear Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) was an important source of inspiration for their efforts. A case can be made that the writings of Lilienthal directly inspired the Wrights to take on the invention of the airplane as an interesting pursuit. Certainly their early framing of the "problem of flight" was derived largely from Lilienthal's ideas and difficulties.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

On Jan 24, 1907 Glenn H. Curtiss, 28, at Ormond Beach, FL, raced his V8-powered 'monster motorcycle' 136-mph and broke the record and became "the fastest man in the world. "Bullets are the only rivals of Glenn H. Curtiss…" they said.


(Photo by E Yusuf on Flickr)

Imaging Compound May Catch Early Alzheimer's

A new imaging technique could make it possible for doctors to detect Alzheimer's disease in the brain before extensive damage has taken place, researchers report.

A study in the Dec. 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine details the use of a new imaging molecule dubbed FDDNP that literally stains the diseased brain tissue so it shows up on PET scans. Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, were then able to distinguish people with normal brains from those with mild cognitive impairment and those with Alzheimer's disease.

"I think this approach offers considerable promise for a brain test that might be used to detect who would benefit from future treatments," said study author Dr. Gary Small, director of the Center on Aging and a professor at the SEMEL Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

"There is hope," Small said. "We are developing a technique that may not provide a cure, but may offer the next best thing -- identifying the problem before extensive brain damage and impairment in everyday life begins. It will likely be easier to protect a healthy brain than repair one that's already been damaged."

(By Serena Gordon, HealthDay News, Dec. 20, 2006)

"A Gargantuan Plant-eating Dinosaur"

Scientists in Spain have found the fossilized remains of one of the largest animals ever to walk the Earth, a gargantuan plant-eating dinosaur up to 125 feet long and weighing as much as seven elephants, according to a report in the journal Science.

Turiasaurus riodevensis, named for the region and village in Spain where it was found, lived about 145 million years ago and was a sauropod, according to the team of researchers led by Rafael Royo-Torres of the Joint Paleontology Foundation Teruel-Dinopolis. It is the largest dinosaur ever found in Europe.

(For more information on dinosaurs go to:

Genetic Mutation Prevents Pain, Scientists Discover

A young Pakistani street performer and members of three related families have enabled scientists to make a genetic breakthrough that could lead to more effective painkillers.

During his short life, the unnamed boy never felt pain. He was a local celebrity in northern Pakistan, where he astonished crowds by plunging knives through his arms and walking on burning coals. He died on his 14th birthday after jumping from a roof. By studying his case and members of families in the same clan, researchers have discovered that they all had a rare inherited genetic mutation that stopped them feeling pain.

"All six affected individuals had never felt any pain, at any time, in any part of their body," said Dr. Geoffrey Woods, of the University of Cambridge Institute for Medical Research in England. The mutation that Woods and colleagues in Britain and Pakistan have discovered is on a gene called SCN9A. It stops the functioning of a sodium channel, which produces nerve impulses that convey pain signals to the brain.

Drugs that block the function of the channel "have the potential to produce new and potentially safer analgesia," said Woods, who reported the discovery in the journal Nature.

(From Reuters, December 16, 2006; the image shown above is by Ulla Taylor)

A Look Down the Road (Let's Hope We Get There)

The Environmental Protection Agency has cleared the way for major automakers to produce hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars to meet zero-emission vehicle requirements in California and 10 other states, officials said.

The EPA approved regulation amendments adopted by the California Air Resources Board in 2003 that allow manufacturers to produce fuel cells as an alternative to the battery-powered cars and light trucks previously required by the state. California regulations call for 2% of the six biggest automakers' new cars and trucks to be zero-emission vehicles, 2% to be gasoline-electric hybrids and 6% to be super-low-polluting gasoline vehicles known as PZEVs. The 2% requirement for fuel-cell or battery-powered vehicles starts in 2009 with a ramp-up period requiring the industry to market at least 2,500 nationwide in the first three years.

Shown above is the General Motors hydrogen-powered car called the “Hy-Wire” which uses hydrogen fuel cell technology. When Hydrogen is mixed with oxygen inside the fuel cell, the electricity produced by the reaction, powers an electric motor which in turn propels the car, the only by-product being steam or water. (From the Associated Press)

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Lum 'N' Abner" --- Who Could Forget Them . . . . . . . Not Me

"Hello, Jot 'Em Down Store. This is "Lum 'N' Abner"

That was one of the most welcome greetings on radio for nearly twenty-five years. Chester "Chet" Lauck ( Lum Eddards) and Norris 'Tuffy" Goff (Abner Peabody) were the creators, actors, writers, sound effects men, directors, and the life of the "Lum 'N' Abner" Program. They received more fan mail than any radio program of the time- one and a half million letters one special week!
Their budding careers began as young, amateur performers in Mena, Ark., where they grew up together, teaming to entertain at many school and civic functions. On April 26, 1931, representing Polk and Montgomery Counties on station KTHS in Hot Springs, Ark., they tried out their old country storekeepers routine. The names, "Lum Eddards" and "Abner Peabody", were a spur of the moment addition and the format was more conversational than situational, but the performers showed so much talent that they were invited back. Then, offered a 13 week contract with NBC and obtaining Quaker Oats as a sponsor, they were off to Chicago for "temporary" show business careers.
Pine Ridge is only slightly smaller now than it was in the early 1900's when it was called Waters, the site of a post office, saw mill, blacksmith shop, and the other services necessary to a farm community. Dick Huddleston built his store in 1909 and bought groceries from a wholesaler named Mr. Goff. Mr. Goff's son, Norris, was learning the grocery business delivering to many Polk and Montgomery County general stores. Mr. Lauck owned the big sawmill in Mena so all of the residents of this logging country knew his son, Chester, checking the trucks of logs being delivered.
Dick Huddleston was a friend to them all and a leader in the community of Waters. The general store of any small town was its hub of activity, especially on a Saturday afternoon when everyone from the surrounding farms came to town to trade goods and stories. That was the inspiration for the Lum 'N' Abner program. By the mid-1930's the radio program was well-known nation-wide and the listeners were asking where Pine Ridge was, so the name of the town was changed in an elaborate ceremony on the steps of the State Capitol in Little Rock in 1936, on the fifth anniversary of the program. Pictures in the LUM 'N' ABNER MUSEUM show all of the participants - the Governor greeting Lum, Abner, and the real-life counterparts of Grandpappy Spears, Cedric Wehunt, Dick Huddleston, etc.

Chester Lauck was born in 1901, in Aleene, Ark., and Norris Goff was born in 1906, in Cove, Ark. Both moved to Mena in 1911 and lived there, marrying and starting families, until the big move into show business. The various sponsors throughout the years required many moves leading to a final jump to Hollywood in 1939 to make motion pictures. Those sponsors were Quaker Oats, Ford Motor Co., Horlick's Malted Milk, Alka Seltzer (the longest lasting association), and General Motors. From the late 1930's to the early 1950's, seven movies were made, with a radio studio provided behind the set to continue broadcasting the daily programs. Retirement from this hectic schedule came after twenty-four and a half years of 13-week contracts! The Goff's stayed in California where Norris Goff died in June of 1978. The Laucks eventually returned to Arkansas and aided in the development of the LUM 'N' ABNER MUSEUM. Chester Lauck died in February of 1980.