Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gene Wilder (1933–2016)

In memory of Gene Wilder (born Jerome Silberman June 11, 1933; Milwaukee, Wisconsin) here is a video clip from Young Frankenstein (1974) in one of the funniest parts of the movie. Wilder wanted to make people laugh, and that he did. Wilder was married to the late great Gilda Radner (1984-89), who passed away from ovarian cancer (aged 42) in 1989. After her death, Wilder raised awareness of ovarian cancer, promoting early detection and treatment. Wilder passed away on August 29th; he was 83.

The Lovin’ Spoonful: Summer In The City (1966)

The Lovin’ Spoonful, an American rock/folk band, play “Summer In The City,” a 1966 hit song written by John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian and Steve Boone. The song is apropos for Toronto (and many other cities around the world), given the hot, sticky weather we have been experiencing since late June/early July. The song was first released as a single on July 4, 1966, and then placed on the last track on their third album, Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful, released in November 1966. The band has its origins in the folk music scene of NYC’s Greenwich Village (lower Manhattan) during the early 1960s. The original four members are John Sebastian (lead singer/keyboard), Zalman Yanovsky (lead guitar), Joe Butler (drums) and Steve Boone (bass); the group derived its name from a lyric of “Coffee Blues,” Mississippi John Hurt’s classic blues song.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Rural Post Offices

Photo of the Week

71316, David at the Old Post Office, Acme, LA: Harper's writes in “Browsings“: “Rachel Boillot from Post Script, her series documenting the closure of rural post offices in the South, which is currently on view at the Half King Photography Series, in New York City.”
Photo Credit
Rachel Boillot 
Source: Harper’s

I have a love of post offices, particularly rural ones; for me. they form a means of communication to the outside world, and the people who work there are conduits of information. I enjoyed my regular trips to the post office to mail letters, packages and parcels. (The U.S. Postal Service always provided excellent service.) Such was my feelings of appreciation when I resided in rural New Hampshire (03225) more than a decade ago.That many such post offices are not only being closed, but torn down, does not bode well for future communication of the kind that involves intimate contact, a physical proximity. Sure, it is about something being lost, but not only a physical building. Assuredly, not everything can be measured in a financial ledger, and the people who think it can have likely never been to a rural post office to send a package across the country.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Guess Who: Hand Me Down World (1970)

The Guess Who, the legendary Canadian rock band, perform “Hand Me Down World,”which was released as a single in Canada in June 1970 and a month later in the United States. It is the third track on their seventh studio album, Share the Land, released on October 5, 1970. Hand me downs are second-hand goods, suggesting something old and previously worn, often in sufficiently good condition, but sometimes not. It suggests something not in vogue, not au courant.

The song was written by guitarist Kurt Winter, one of the two lead guitarists (the other being Greg Leskiw) who replaced Randy Bachman earlier in 1970. Bachman had left the band due to creative differences, chiefly a result of his conversion to Mormonism. Burton Cummings is the lead singer here. Rounding out the group is Jim Kale (bassist) and Gary Peterson (drummer). They continued as the Guess Who, with many changes in its members, until they officially disbanded in October 1975.

The generation gap persists today, largely explaining the song’s cri de cœur. Every new generation gets a hand-me down world, fashioned by previous generations, seeing its deficiencies as glaring and thus seeing and feeling a need to protest in some form. Behind such thinking is a fear of the status quo, thus motivating a desire to repair the rot, to turn bad into good, to make the world better, more just. Such is the prerogative and energy of youth—fueled by idealism and righteous indignation—and no matter how previous generations tend to view such actions and behaviours, it needs to run its course.

Without the possibility of positive change, without the hope of improvement, humanity finds itself lost and locked in hopeless despair and cynicism. That being said, is not youthful idealism better than its counterpart? To fight the good fight? But not with anger and divisive language; this only makes things worse. The goal is to bring people together for a common good.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dark Matter, Dark Energy & Dark Forces Of Nature

Particle Physics

Large Hadron Collider (LHC): Physicists tend to be cautious when announcing the discovery of a new particle. An anomaly in an experimental run is insufficient reason to say a new particle has been discovered; for scientific certainty, it requires five sigma effect, or 99.99994% confidence. So far, such explains the blip found in December 2015 at the world’s largest atom smasher, the LHC. Cathal O’Connell of Cosmos magazine writes: “New particle ... or nothing at all? Unfortunately, a bump in a graph from the Large Hadron Collider turned out to be the latter.”
Image Credit: David Parker; Science Photo Library

An article, by Cathal O’Connell, in Cosmos magazine discusses the possibility of whether particle physicists are on the right track to confirming another fundamental force of nature, thus adding to the four already known. Or is this just another case of an anomaly leading to nothing significant? Such describes much of the work of particle physics today: trial and error.

Particle physicists and cosmologists, among others, are working on weird, not easily explainable, areas of science. Although the connection is not direct, much of the search for a fifth force is a result of trying to make sense of dark matter—so-called non-baryonic matter that we can’t observe, and yet cosmologists and astrophysicists say it makes up a significant part of our Universe. This is, undoubtedly, a mysterious force of nature. 

In “Have physicists discovered a fifth force of nature?” (August 22, 2016), O’Connell writes:
Everything we can see is governed by just four fundamental forces of nature. Three – electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force – are explained to wonderful precision by the standard model of particle physics. The fourth force, gravity, is the realm of Einstein’s much-feted theory of general relativity.
While we haven’t added to this list in more than 60 years, there’s no theoretical reason for there not to be a fifth.
Dark matter, for instance, is an as-yet-unopened treasure trove of potential new physics. We know dark matter is out there, and that it doesn’t interact with ordinary matter. Might it not feel some kind of “dark force” instead?
Perhaps. One of the fundamental questions is determining what is dark matter. Both dark matter and dark energy, adding up to 95%, make up most of the known Universe, astrophysicists say. So, only the 5% measured by our instruments conforms to normal matter. In a nutshell, more is unknown than known when it comes to our understanding of the universe. The Big Bang is discussed rather casually, as if it is understood, when it is not. For example, there is a galaxy—Dragonfly 44— 330 light-years from Earth, and of the same mass as our Milky Way galaxy, which is almost entirely made of dark matter.

No doubt, there is a lot of energy being expended by all kinds of scientists to try to explain some of the strange things that, for example, particle physicists are seeing with their experiments. The question on my mind is whether this fifth force would answer the questions scientists are seeking. Or would it lead to more questions? Yet, it is not time to say that this has been proven. Far from it. If so, it would be the biggest such discovery in particle physics in sixty years.

Science, it appears, has more than a hint of science fiction informing its current narrative of beginnings.

For more, go to [Cosmos]

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Corner Newspaper Stand

Memories & Nostalgia

Newspaper Stand on the corner of av des Pins and boul St. Laurent (Pine and St. Lawrence) in Montreal looks similar to the ones I remember in my youth. By 1996, none existed, a result of municipal bylaws and declining sales. Decades earlier, these mainly wooden corner kiosks were thriving and were as common as mom-and-pop shops. There were many newspaper stands near where we resided on avenue du Parc in the 1960s; the closest was on the corner of Parc and Mont-Royal, across from Fletcher’s Field. Every Saturday morning, my brothers and I would go to buy our comic books, each costing 12 cents (prices were raised two cents in late 1961), the same price as a candy bar. We also picked up the Saturday newspaper, The Montreal Star, which was a fat weekend edition.
Photo Credit: Kate McDonnell, 1991
Source: Spacing.ca

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ray Charles: What’d I Say (1965)

Ray Charles [1930–2004; born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia] and band, along with the Raeletts perform “What’d I Say” in this 1965 British film, Ballard in Blue. In the film, Ray Charles plays himself. The song, written by Charles, is classic American r&b. It is the title track of the album of the same name released on October 19, 1959. Charles always closed his concerts with this song.

The film was directed by Paul Henreid (playing Victor Laszlo) of Casablanca fame. The intended title of the film was Light Out Of Darkness, and it was released in the U.S. as Blues For Lovers.

The Ray Charles Video Museum writes on its excellent site why this film is not widely known by the public:
Ray later said the film was underfinanced, and got too little promotion. The film opened in London in February 1965 and in New York (titled Blues For Lovers) around December 31st, 1965. In Europe it received some distribution in regular movie theaters in the mid and late 1960s. I've also found several tv broadcasts, everywhere in Europe, mainly in the 1970s. 20th Century-Fox Film picked up the American distribution rights in September 1966. I know of one brief review in The Afro American of 28 January 1967 (here), and found a few traces of U.S. theater distribution and TV broadcasts, but it seems as if the film never got proper attention in the U.S.
What a shame; the film seems worth watching, if only for the music.