The Bard by Any Other Name

by Bob Sparrow

Just a friendly reminder that there’s a special birthday coming up at the end of this week, on Saturday, April 23rd.  No, don’t worry that you only have a few shopping days left, he’s virtually impossible to shop for, plus . . . he’s dead.  Coincidently, he died on his birthday in 1616.  Yes, it’s my old friend, William Shakespeare.  OK, he’s really not my old friend, I’m old, but not that old!  Like most of us, I was introduced to ‘The Bard’ in high school.  I remember sleeping through class, as English teacher, Miss O’Brien, droned on about a guy who, I think, sold deer meat, called ‘The Merchant of Venison’.  I clearly wasn’t paying much attention during most of my high school years.  That fact was recently brought to my attention on a Zoom call with a number of my former high school classmates, a few weeks ago.  Our former student body president, Billy Dale Hall, who was on the call and reads our blog, said, in a most respectful way, something like, “I’m surprised that you write a blog, could you even write in high school?”  OK, maybe it wasn’t that respectful, but to his point, I could barely read in high school.

Dr. Viola Chapman

Fast forward to Westminster College where I was fortunate enough to ‘have’ to take a literature class from a Dr. Viola Chapman (Yes, in this photo she looks a bit like Norman Bates’ mother, but she was a really good teacher); fortunately, I had discovered a love of reading a year or so earlier, and in her class, I was learning to recognize and appreciate good literature.  Before I graduated, I had taken every class in English and American literature that Dr. Chapman taught, and ended up with a minor in English.  I was particularly drawn to Shakespeare because she made him so interesting.  Thank you, Viola!!

After reading most of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets and visiting his house in Stratford-upon-Avon, England (he wasn’t home), I started reading things about how Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare’s plays and speculations about who might have.  Why, you ask, would anyone question the authenticity of William Shakespeare as the greatest writer in modern history?  Here’s a few bullets:

  • There’s no record of him ever attending grammar school, much less a university
  • Both his parents and his three children were illiterate
  • He writes intimately of kings and queens, yet had no access to the royal court
  • He wrote in detail about foreign places, but never personally left England
  • There was no public mourning at the time of his death
  • His will, which listed several gifts, did not include a single book from what would presumably be an extensive library

There’s more, but I think you get the drift here.  Those who have followed this ‘cold case’ for any length of time, know many of the likely suspects who might have or could have written Shakespeare’s plays.  My favorite is Christopher Marlowe, not because I think he’s definitely the one that wrote the plays, but because he has the most intriguing story.

Marlowe or Shakespeare                                      Who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays?

Marlowe was born in the same year as Shakespeare, 1564, but supposedly died at the age of 29, around the same time that Shakespeare started to write his plays. One theory is that Marlowe was a spy in Queen Elizabeth I’s secret service and his death, in a bar room fight, was faked to save his life and put him under cover.  After he went into hiding on ‘the continent’, he continued writing and sending his work to an actor/playwright broker in London named William Shakespeare.   Pledged to keep Marlowe’s identity a secret, Shakespeare submitted the plays with his own name on them.   It is also speculated that ‘Slick Willie’ collected plays from others who were high in the queen’s court and didn’t want to put their name on anything that might have jeopardized their position or their life!

For the lay person, the reading about ‘who wrote Shakespeare’s plays’ may be more interesting than the plays themselves, and for those of us who who even care about this, we hope that some day a ‘Rosetta Stone’ will be discovered that will solve this mystery once and for all.  In the mean time, our birthday boy, William Shakespeare, enjoyed a great life and an even greater after-life.  So I guess, All’s Well That Ends Well!

 

Time, Space and the Dinosaurs

by Bob Sparrow

Sputnik

I have been fascinated with space from an early age, and as I have mentioned in previous blogs, my teachers always referred to me as the kid who just took up space in school, but that’s another story.  Most who read our blog are part of the generations who have eye-witnessed the exploration of space first hand.

We remember the Russians, back then it was the U.S.S.R., as the first to explore outer space, as opposed to today’s Russian heart-breaking exploration of Ukrainian space. They opened the ‘space age’ in 1957 with the first satellite to circle the earth, Sputnik, which translated from Russians, means ‘satellite’ – hey, it’s not rocket science . . . well, actually I guess it is!  (Note how small Sputnik is in the attached photo).  A few weeks later, they were the first to send a living creature into space, a dog named Laika, but typical of the Russians, they neglected to send ‘poop bags’ with him, so he returned quite messy.  Subsequently, Americans feared they were falling behind in the ‘race for space’, which we were, so after two mulligans, we finally launched a satellite, called the Explorer, into orbit in January 1958.

In 1961 the Russians etched another notch in their ‘space belt’ by being the first to put a human in orbit around the earth, Yuri Gagarin, which in Russian translates to ‘Neener Neener’.   The Russians had a few other ‘firsts’, one of them being sending the first woman into space, although some say she has still not returned.

“One giant leap for mankind”

President, John F. Kennedy in May 1961, in an effort to put an end to Russia’s dominance in space, made a speech that challenged our scientists to land a man on the moon (and get him back safely) before the decade was over.  While most of our generation remembers where they were when they heard that Kennedy had been assassinated, we also remember where we were in 1969 when we watched Neil Armstrong deliver on Kenney’s promise, and walk on the moon, as well as proving, once and for all, that the moon was not made of green cheese (it was a rumor at the time, kids!).

Clearly the moon landings have been the biggest event so far in human space travel, but since then the launching of various satellites and telescopes that enhance communication and observation, as well as explore other galaxies have taken over the headlines.  In 2017 I wrote here about the satellite Cassini, that took nearly seven years to traveled over 4.9 billion miles to Saturn, made nearly 300 orbits of the ringed planet, took over 450,000 photos (Not all of them got Saturn smiling) and then crashed into the planet that it knew so well, and remains there today.

70 x 46 feet. The sunshield is the size of a tennis court

The next big thing in space happened in 2003 with the launching of the Hubble Telescope, which has provided astronomers with countless new observations about the vast regions beyond our solar system.

And now, we have the James Webb Space Telescope, which was just launched in December of last year (2021), and has now reached its final destination about a million miles from earth, where it will now orbit around the sun.  To say the least, astronomers are giddy!  Why?  Because with this giant telescope we can see further back in time than ever before.  OK, if that statement just made you shake your head, here’s a quick study on the space-time continuum that even those who didn’t take up space in school should be able to grasp. Light is not instantaneous, even though it seems that way when you turn on a light switch, but it is really fast; it travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second.  OK, you still with me? The moon is our nearest celestial body in the universe, a short 238,900 miles away, it takes light about 1.3 seconds to travel from the moon to the earth, so we are seeing what the moon looked like 1.3 seconds ago.  Expanding that same logic, the Virgo Cluster of galaxies is the largest

I think that’s me in there somewhere!

nearby collection of galaxies at about 60 million light-years from the Milky Way. Still with me? The light we see today from galaxies in the Virgo Cluster started on its path toward the earth at the same time as the age of the dinosaurs was ending on Earth. So, if you were in a Virgo Cluster galaxy today, and you had a telescope powerful enough to study the Earth, you would be able to see the dinosaurs roaming the earth.  What?!!!  Yeah, I don’t fully understand it either!  But I’m thinking that perhaps one day they will be able to figure out how some of us old dinosaurs that are roaming the earth today will be able to actually travel back in time!  Naah, I’m not sure I want to relive all that all over again!!

It is mind-boggling, but so fascinating for those of us that are still just taking up space.

 

Did You Miss Earth Day?

by Bob Sparrow

If you’re not sure, you probably did!  It was two Thursdays ago, April 22nd.  With everything else going on in our world today, don’t beat yourself up if you missed it.  But in an effort to ‘keep you informed’, as we here at From a Bird’s Eye View, are committed to doing, I’ll provide you with a brief history of celebrating the day we honor our planet (hang in there, it will get more interesting . . . maybe!).  Inspired by students in the anti-war movement, former Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson and others helped to organize the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.  It inspired about 20 million Americans to come out and demonstrate against the impacts of industrial development on our environment. OK, brief enough.

If you forgot to celebrate, worry not; you’ve probably already been doing your part by staying home this past year and thus lowering your total carbon emissions. Good for you!

While listening to the Darren Hardy’s ‘Darren Daily’ episode on Earth Day, I learned a few interesting facts about our ‘Mother Earth’ and thought I’d share them with you.

What’s in a name?  How did we get the name ‘Earth’?  While all the other planets are named after Greek or Roman gods, we get our name from both English and German words, ‘ertha’ and erde’ which means ‘ground’.  Pretty sexy, huh?

Flat Earth

Earth flat?  We all know that the earth isn’t flat, right?  Ok, there is the ‘Flat Earth Society’ that believes evidence to the contrary is fabricated by NASA and those ‘Round Earth Conspiracy’ theorists.  But the earth is not round either, it’s oval, like a squished ball – fatter at the equator.

Who’s tallest? That aforementioned ‘squished ball’ visual, begs the question, what is the tallest mountain in the world?  You’re thinking Everest, right?  But, depending on how you measure, there could be two other answers.  Everest is the tallest, 29,033 ft from sea level, but, if you’re looking for the mountain that is furthest from the earth’s center and thus closest to the moon and stars, it would be a mountain in Ecuador, Mt. Chimborazo – it’s right on the earth’s bulging equator.  However, if you’re measuring from the ocean floor instead of sea level, it’s Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, which measures 33,496 feet from the ocean floor to its summit – told you it would get more interesting!

What?! We’re not the Center of the Universe!  When asked who was the first to discover that the sun, not the earth was the center of our solar system, you’d probably respond with the name of that Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, who published his work in 1543.  But you’d be wrong.  Did you say, Aristarchus of Samos, the Greek astronomer and mathematician, for his discovery around 270 B.C.?  Nope, but he was influenced by the first to proffer the idea that the earth was not the center of the universe, Philolaus, another Greek philosopher who lived around 400 B.C. and was the first credited with originating heliocentrism, the theory that the Earth was not the center of the Universe – much less the center of our solar system.

Mt. Chimborazo

How old is earth? The earth is approximately 4.54 billion years old – don’t ask me who was counting or when earth’s birthday is, but just to put our existence on this planet in perspective, let’s assume that the 4.54 billion years was converted to a 24-hour day.  Homo sapiens (that’s us) would have been on the earth for . . . wait for it . . . 4 seconds!

How fast are we going?  The earth is hurling through space at a speed of 66,000 miles per hour as we travel around the sun.  It is also spinning at a rate of 1,040 miles per hour.  Dizzy yet?  Thanks to a thing called gravity, we don’t fly off into space.

Land & Sea One-third of the earth is desert – the largest desert?  Nope, it’s Antarctica, it gets only about 2 inches of precipitation per year.  Seventy percent of the earth is made up of water, but only 3% of that is fresh water.

Got a light?  Lightning strikes on earth about 100 times . . . per second!  That’s about 8,600,000 per day

Earth’s largest desert – Antarctica

Free Fall: If a large hole was drilled through the center of the earth, it would take about 46 minutes to free fall from one end to the other.  You’d need a pretty good ‘fire-suit’ as temperature in the middle of the earth is about the same temperature as the sun’s surface – 10,000 degrees.

Who Owns the Most Real Estate on Earth?  Not Bezos, not Musk, not Zuckerberg, Not Buffett (Warren or Jimmy), not Gates, not some Saudi prince, but . . . Queen Elizabeth – she is the ‘legal’ owner of 1/6 of the earth’s land surface.

Happy belated Earth Day!  Yeah, we’re too late for this year’s gala celebration of Earth Day, but you’ll be ready to wow them next year!

 

 

SUBTRACT THE ADS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, it’s been quite a week.  Finally…I think…the election is over.  The bonus is that our lives will not be filled with campaign ads every second of the day. Living in Arizona this year has been like living in an advertising vortex.  We’re used to the normal local campaign ads for dog catcher and county judges, but the races for President and Senator were tightly competed here and resulted in record spending on TV ads.  The only refuge was Netflix and shows we recorded that could be fast-forwarded.  Now that the election is over, watching TV feels like I’ve stopped banging my head against the wall.  This respite got me to thinking…how did political ads start and do they really work?

Historians believe that the genesis of campaign advertising began in 1791, when groups that supported and opposed Alexander Hamilton published competing newspapers in hopes of swaying the electorate. It’s been a downhill slide since then.  Today, almost all successful campaigns include a huge budget for television advertising. In late October CNBC reported that election spending would top $14 BILLION, doubling the previous record.  When all the dust has settled it will be interesting to see what the final tally is.  All I can think when I see that big of a number is how many schools it could improve, families it could house and feed, or potholes it could fill.

But, back to history.  Campaign slogans became popular in the mid-19th century.  In 1860 Abraham Lincoln campaigned on “Vote Yourself a Farm”, referring to a Republican party promise of free homesteads to settlers of western lands.  By1880 candidates had to rely on other means to get their message out so political songs were written and distributed throughout communities for inclusion in local gatherings.  That sounds pretty dreadful, given that most people sing like drowning cats.   In 1900 William McKinley promised “A Full Dinner-Pail”, only to be outdone by Herbert Hoover’s 1928 slogan, “A Chicken In Every Pot”.  Of course, the Depression hit the next year and this slogan was chided in 1932 by the Democrats with the addition of “…and two cars in every garage” to show how out of touch Hoover was with the average American.

Campaign advertising entered the television age in 1952, when the adman previously famous for M&M’s “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” slogan, suggested television advertising to Dwight Eisenhower.  By making one trip to New York to record a commercial, Ike reached 19 million television sets.  By comparison, in the previous election Harry Truman travelled 31,000 miles in his famous Whistle Stop tour.  It’s impossible to know exactly how many people he spoke to on that tour but it was likely far fewer than 19 million. Today there is a specialization within the advertising industry focused just on planning and promoting candidates through the media.

So the question remains, do the ads work?  Apparently they do, at least for a certain segment of the population – the undecided voter.  Let’s face it, that was a very small number of people in this election but they were the ones who could make the difference in the outcome.  Online ads have become more popular – they can target specific voters with pinpoint accuracy and they are cheaper.  Television is just the opposite of that, but campaigns still pour the bulk of their budgets into it for one big reason:  it is still the easiest way to reach those people who are undecided and don’t necessarily seek out politics on their own.  And, unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s proven that in a short ad (usually 30-60 seconds) negative information about a candidate sticks with us longer than an uplifting message.

So my proposal for 2024 is that we round up the small number of undecided voters and put them all in one location.  The campaign advertisers can have a field day and the rest of us can keep our sanity.  In the mean time, my heart goes out to the good citizens of Georgia who no doubt will be inundated with campaign ads for the senatorial run-offs January 5th.  My guess is Netflix subscriptions will be the big winner in the Peach State.

Finally, my brother and I would like to send our appreciation out to all of those who have served on this Veteran’s Day week.

 

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

by Bob Sparrow

If you really have nothing else to do, you can continue reading, however, ‘spoiler alert’ there may be a bit of ‘advertising’ in this blog.

(Nine years ago, this month Suzanne and I started writing together – it wasn’t exactly this blog then; we called it Morning News In Verse, where we provided examples of what we could do in our new-found business, call Red Posy, a business of writing rhyming tributes.   At that time in this space, we would take the four sections from the national newspaper, USA Today, main news, sports, business and entertainment, and write some rhyming news items.  In March 2012, we closed our Red Posy business (I think it was due to too much business!), but found that we really enjoyed writing together, so decided to just write and post a new blog, From A Bird’s Eye View, every Monday about ‘Life’s Little Observations.’  My reason for this brief, albeit rather mundane history of this site, is that what with Word Press expenses, GoDaddy annual fees, the cost of website analytics, up-dating plug-ins, Akismet anti-spam software and Wordfence website security, not to mention Suzanne’s and my valuable time and effort, all coming to you free of charge, we decided that we needed a sponsor to help absorb some of these on-going expenses.  And so, my reverse mortgage business leaped into the breach.  We ask that you please indulge us as I provide four of my, ‘true-life’ reverse mortgage experiences that I needed to put up on my new business website: https://bobsparrow.myloanofficer.us/aboutWe will have then satisfied our ‘commercial obligation’ and will press on with the usual drivel that you’ve become accustom to in this space).

These stories are true, the names have been omitted to protect the innocent and to keep me from getting sued.

  1. HEY, YOU SMASHED MY CAR!

After dinner at a restaurant in Orange, I backed out of my parking place and scraped the fender of a car parked behind me.  Don’t you hate that sound of metal on metal?!!  So, I stopped, got out of my car and wrote on the back of my business card, “Sorry I bumped into your car, my contact information is on this card”.  The next day I got a call.

“Is this Bob?”

“Yes”

“You ran into my car last night”

“Yes, I’m sorry, I can have my insurance company take care of it”

“Nah, that’s alright, I’m in the auto business and can have that buffed out without a problem, but I noticed from your card that you were in the reverse mortgage business and I’d like to know more about how it works”

So, I made an appointment for the next day, when I got there, the good news was that he had already had the car dent buffed out; the bad news was that he was living on ‘leased land’, and a reverse mortgage cannot be done on lease land.  So no deal, but I initially thought about a ‘car accident market plan’, but quickly dismissed it as a bit too risky.

     2. TOO OLD FOR A REVERSE MORTGAGE?

A man called me asking about reverse mortgages; one of his first questions was, “Is there an age limit for getting a reverse mortgage?”  I said there is a minimum, 62, but no maximum age limit.  He said, “Not even 104?”  I responded, thinking that he didn’t sound like he was that old, “Not even 104”, I replied.  He then proceeded to tell me that his mother-in-law was 104 and she had been bed-ridden for a number of years and that the in-house care they were providing her was taking a toll on the family’s budget.  And since the 104-year-old was still living in her home that had plenty of equity, we did a reverse mortgage for her that enabled her to keep the long-term care in her house, without affecting the family’s finances. No, she’s not alive today; she passed away about a year ago.

      3. I THINK MY HOUSE COULD ROLL AWAY

A lady in Hemet called asking about reverse mortgages; she was a real talker, probably lonely and finally got someone on the phone that would listen to her for as long as she wanted.  She said I was referred to her by someone she trusted and proceeded to tell me everything I needed to know about how she was living, what she did in her spare time, how her cat was doing (not that well) and on and on.  From the numbers she gave me, it sounded like she could do a reverse mortgage, so I scheduled a time to go out to Hemet and give her a proposal.  On my drive out to Hemet, about 80 miles one way, she calls me and sheepishly tells me that her house is not a ‘regular’ house.  I asked, “Does it have wheels?”    “Well, it could”, she replied.  Oh great, I’m thinking I’m driving over 150 miles today to tell her that we can’t do a reverse mortgage on a mobile home.  When I get there, I find out that it’s not a mobile home, but a ‘manufactured’ home – and we can, and I did, do a reverse mortgage for her, but not without getting regular up-dates on her cat.

      4. THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE QUEEN

I got a call from nice, young lady (young is a relative term in ‘reversemortgagees’ – typically someone in their mid to late 60s) wanting some information about reverse mortgages.  I asked her some questions and determined that she and her husband could be eligible, so made an appointment to do a proposal.  I arrived and met the lady of the house, who was just as sweet as she sounded on the phone and then met the husband, who was gruff, rude and bombastic.  He proceeded to tell me how successful he’d been in business, but someone really screwed him over these last few years and he had been given some bad advice about some investments.  He treated his wife as a sub-human, in fact, he treated me that way also.  But I bit my tough and we did the loan.  The wife thanked me; the husband just grunted.  The next week, I got a call from the wife.  Her husband had just passed away!   Yes, less than one week after the loan had closed!  I may have heard a hint of glee in her voice in this otherwise sad bit of news, but she seemed most concerned about whether the reverse mortgage that had just funded was ‘still valid’.  I told her, “Yes, you can live there, mortgage-free, for as long as you want”.  I think that made her happy, or perhaps something else already had.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Music is the Moonlight . . .

by Bob Sparrow

“Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” Jean Paul Richter

Not that life is gloomy right now or anything, it’s just that it’s . . . different.  We find ourselves looking for things to do around the cell, er, house; things that will help us keep our sanity while in solitary or familial confinement.  We’ve completed most of those DIY ‘projects’, at least the ones that we were actually capable of completing, not the ones like fixing that leaky hot water heater valve or rewiring that electrical box.

So, let me suggest something that has helped me ‘pass the time’ – music.  Like me, you have probably found some solace in listening to  music, singing in the shower or watching (and re-watching) concerts on TV; and I say keep doing those things, but I’m proffering some additional literary therapy and documentary escapism.  Over the past few months, and particularly now that reading is one of my more athletic activities during the course of a day, I have found three excellent books and one Netflix documentary that I would recommend to any pop music lover.

The Wrecking Crew by by Kent Hartman

Flyleaf notes: “A sweet and wistful meditation on the early days of the music business, full of little gems and wonders fit for serious music fans and a commendable, long-overdue tribute to the legendary Wrecking Crew – the ridiculously talented, go-to guys behind so many hits. This book will make your head spin.”  You think you know who played the music on most of the hit songs you listened to?  You don’t!”

The Song Machine by John Seabrook

Flyleaf notes: “There’s a reason today’s ubiquitous pop hits are so hard to ignore―they’re designed that way. The Song Machine goes behind the scenes to offer an insider’s look at the global hit factories manufacturing the songs that have everyone hooked.”

Goodnight, LA   also by Kent Hartman

“The rise and fall of classic rock – the untold stories from inside the LA recording studios.  The music scene in Los Angeles was dominated by rock ‘n’ roll. If a group wanted to hit it big, L.A. was the place to be.”  Let the in-fighting begin.

Echo in the Canyon Netflix

Echo In The Canyon celebrates the popular music that came out of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas and the Papas cemented the ‘California sound’.

If you enjoy popular music, and by that I mean songs that were popular from the 60s to present day, you should enjoy the myriad of stories about the lives of people who made it all possible.

 

                                                                                           

“If music be the food of love, play on.”  William Shakespeare

Stay well!!!

Super Bowl: The Ads, the Half-Time Show, the Bets and Oh Yeah . . . the Game

by Bob Sparrow

The Million Dollar Backfield

Before the Game

I’ve started writing this blog several days before the Super Bowl, so I’m still full of optimism for a team that I’ve rooted for since 1952 when I attended my first 49er game at the old Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park – 49ers lost 20-17 to the Chicago Bears!  Those were the days of the 49ers ‘Million Dollar Backfield’ of Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson, all Hall of Famers today.  The reality is that even though they were know as the ‘Million Dollar Backfield’ their four combined salaries didn’t even add up to a million dollars! As a point of reference, current 49er quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo makes about $1.7 million PER GAME!  While I’ve enjoyed the many Super Bowl years of 49ers past, particularly the two won by my former college coach, George Siefert, it’s been a little lean in terms of wins in recent years; so I’m really looking forward to this game in spite of it being played against, in my opinion, the best player in the game today, Kansas City Chief quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.

I’ve concluded that people watch the Super Bowl for three main reasons: 1) they like football, 2) they are mostly watching the ads (which cost about $5.25 million per 30-second ad) and the half-time show, or 3) they like to bet.  I guess there is a fourth reason, they just like to party, but they are probably not watching much of the game or the ads!  So while I can’t comment now on the game, the ads, the half-time show or the party you attended, I can comment on the betting. OMG!

Mahomes & Garoppolo

Of course you can make the two most common bets, the outcome of the game with odds (giving or getting points) and total points scored (the over-under), but the ‘fun’ bets are called the proposition bets or ‘prop bets’.  Here’s just a few, and even though it’s after the game, you can still pretend to bet on these and see how you’d have done:

  • Will Alex Rodriguez be shown during the halftime show, where fiancee Jennifer Lopez is performing, and how many wardrobe changes will Lopez make?
  • Will Demi Lovato omit any words when singing the National Anthem, and will she perform the anthem in under 2 minutes or over 2 minutes?
  • Will the Golden Gate Bridge be shown at any time during the telecast? (the game is in Miami)
  • Will the coin flip come up heads or tails? (Tip: to date more people have bet on heads, but more money has been bet on tails)  Sorry not much of a tip was it?
  • Will there be more points scored in the 2nd quarter or the 4th quarter?
  • If you are a hockey fan who wants to combine a hockey bet with a Super Bowl bet, you can actually bet if Pittsburgh Penguin players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are going to score more points than the number of times that Mahomes will be sacked. (Answers below)

And so many more!  The estimate of total money on all bets on this Super Bowl is $6.8 billion!

Winning Chief Head Coach Andy Reid

After the Game

Well, as one might suspect from this die-hard Niner fan, I was happy with the game up until the 4th quarter, but then, not so much.  I can take solace in the 49ers loss in that they are a young team, but then again, Mahomes is only 24 years old!

Answers to above bets:  Alex was shown, Lopez had 3 wardrobe changes, Lovato sang all the words to the Anthem in just under 2 minutes, the Golden Gate Bridge was not shown, Coin toss – tails, more points in the 4th quarter, Crosby and Malkin got 2 points and Mahomes was sacked four times.

Wait ’til next year!

I Love L.A.?

by Bob Sparrow

Nah, not really, in fact as a northern California native I was conditioned from an early age to hate L.A. It’s as if those from northern California get a ‘Hate L.A.’ gene at birth. We quickly are made aware that L.A. freeways are parking lots, that there are too many people there and the air is brown and you can actually sink your teeth into it. When I moved to southern California over 45 years ago, I heard my northern California friends say things like, “Can you believe he went to the dark side?” and “Don’t worry, he’ll be back!” I tried to tell them I was moving to Orange County, not L.A., but to someone in northern California all of southern California is L.A., except San Diego, which seems to get a pass. I found myself fairly welcome in Orange County as they also hate L.A. and are constantly trying to tell people who don’t know, that they are from ‘The O.C.’ not L.A., so I felt somewhat ‘back home’ in that regard.

Owens Valley Aqueduct

After a few years of living in southern California I guess I became ambivalent towards L.A., I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t spend too much time there, since getting to and from the ‘City of Angels’ is usually a nightmare. But I’ve visited and enjoyed a good number of L.A. area sites, some recorded here in the blog, like Venice Beach, Watts, Rodeo Drive, Chinatown, Old Italy, Griffith Park and Malibu to name a few. But I just finished reading a book about how L.A. came to be, it’s entitled, The Mirage Factory, by Gary Krist and I was fascinated by the story of how L.A. was invented; yes, that’s the word he uses for the origin of Los Angeles.

From around 1900 to 1930, Los Angeles went from a dusty hinterland town surrounded by deserts and mountains to a burgeoning city of 1.2 million on the shoulders of three ambitious and restless outsiders – civil engineer William Mulholland, filmmaker D.W. Griffith and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.

William Mulholland

You’re only recollection of Mulholland may be of Mulholland Drive, a famous road carved through the Santa Monica mountains, where early teenage Angelino boys took their girlfriends to park and ‘watch the submarine races’. It is now the road on which some of the most expensive homes in the U.S. are built, as it affords a magnificent view of the Los Angeles Basin, the San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood sign. Los Angeles would just not be, were it not for Mulholland, who understood that there was no way L.A. could grow significantly, because it was essentially in a desert with no potable water supply. Mulholland solved that problem by heading up the building of a 233-mile aqueduct that brought water from the Owens Valley, which stretches from Lone Pine to Bishop on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, to Los Angeles. The building of the aqueduct was not without its share of contentiousness between the builders and the Owens valley residents, who saw their water being redirected to the south. Shootings and lynchings were not unusual.

D. W. Griffith

I’m not necessarily a big fan of Hollywood, but I found the story of how L.A. became the movie-making capital of the world fascinating. You may think of Cecil B. DeMille as the premier movie pioneer, but D.W. Griffith was his mentor. Griffith’s story of transplanting the movie industry from New York to Hollywood recalls lots of names you might be familiar with like Fatty Arbuckle, Mack Sennett, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, all silent movie stars.

Aimee Semple McPherson

I was at least vaguely familiar with the previous two men’s name, but I’d never heard of Aimee Semple McPherson, but she was one heck of a evangelist, literally bringing thousands of people to her sermons every week. She was a determined juggernaut who dealt with much controversy in her teachings, sermons, healings and even a kidnapping, or was it fake? Using radio for the first time, she almost singlehandedly brought religion to this bustling and growing metropolis that would soon take its place as a world class city.

So, while I don’t love L.A., I now have a greater respect for how the city was built, or invented; and how it has become one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the world.

Just read the book!

The World What???

by Bob Sparrow

This past weekend started the biggest sporting event in the world, and you very well might not have even had an inkling that it was even taking place. No, you didn’t miss the World Series, the Super Bowl or March Madness, you missed the start of the World Cup. It usually doesn’t get much play here in the U.S. and it particularly won’t this year as the U.S. didn’t even qualify for the tournament, which seems almost impossible given that countries like Morocco, Iran, Croatia, Serbia and Senegal did make the top 32 teams in the world.  A good analogy might be as a kid, this would be worse that being the last guy picked on some pick-up ball game in the neighborhood, it’s like being sent home to practice the piano while the rest of the neighborhood played the game.

So, why are we so bad? Possibly we have a hard time getting grown men to run around on a big field for several hours hitting the ball with their feet and heads all resulting in a score of 1-0. But the rest of the world loves football, what we call soccer, so one wonders, ‘what are we missing?’.  World Cup history is filled with stories of fights and even deaths over a team winning or losing a World Cup match. World Cup fans make the Oakland Raider faithful look like they are attending a Shirley Temple birthday party.

Victoria Beckham. Not really interested in what David looks like!

I’m a bit conflicted on this year’s World Cup. Again, I’m not a big fan of soccer, sorry I still can’t call it football, but I haven’t really taken the time to understand the nuances of the game. For me it’s a bit like hockey, where at least I know most of the rules of the game, but none of the intricacies or strategies, and even though there is not typically a lot of scoring, I’ve grown to like hockey. So maybe there is hope this year for me to enjoy the world’s most-watched sporting event along with the estimated 3 billion fans that are expected to watch the tournament this year.

If you’re like me and a) weren’t aware that the World Cup was even going on, and b) do not really understand or care to understand the nuances of the game, and c) aren’t exactly sure what ‘Bend ’em like Beckham’ means, but you’d recognize Victoria Beckham in a Groucho Marx disguise, then perhaps you’ll enjoy some things I learned over the weekend from my local newspaper and the Internet regarding this year’s World Cup that may pique your interest . . . or not. Just think of it as focusing on lady’s hats and mint juleps instead of the horses at the Kentucky Derby.

This year’s World Cup, in Moscow, started last Thursday and continues until the finals on July 15! Yes, a nearly month-long tournament. Since Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the host, it might be important to know some of the history of the host countries. The host gets to pick a lamb for their first opponent – already Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 (yes, they qualified for the World Cup!) on Thursday in the opening round. In 1934 Mussolini’s Italy, which didn’t have a particularly great team, magically won the tournament!! Same thing happen in the ‘70s when a post-Juan Peron’s military junta insured that a less than stellar Argentina team won it all in 1978. So don’t be surprised if a below-average Russian team does something spectacular.

Still don’t care?  OK, here’s some World Cup trivia that you’ll need to know if you want to pretend that you’re the least bit interested in the biggest sporting event in the world:

  • The World Cup tournament started in 1930 and has been played every four years except 1942 and 1946 due to that skirmish going on in the world at the time.
  • Brazil’s team is the most expensive team in this year’s tournament with a worth of approximately $1 billion!
  • Average age of the top players in the tournament – 24
  • 66,000 Iceland fans (yes, Iceland made the tournament too!) wanted tickets to the games in Moscow meaning that 20% of the population of that country wanted to go to Russia to watch the games.
  • Next World Cup is in 2022 in Qatar – yes, they have a team too!
  • If you can catch NBC Latino tv/radio, after a goal you’ll be entertained by renowned soccer announcer, Andres Cantor’s when he calls out his famous Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaal!

Andres Cantor

You’ve already missed the Egypt-Uruguay thriller (yes, they both have teams in the tournament), but check your local listing for Tuesday’s game between Nigeria (Really! They’re in it and we’re not?!) and Argentina, the over-under on total points is 1.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

 

 

Two Sides of Washington D.C.

by Bob Sparrow

Co-Editor’s note: Yes, I’m still part of the Sparrow-Watson writing team and no, Suzanne did not restrict me from getting near the blog for the last three weeks, it’s just that . . . OK, maybe I was told to stay home and get rid of this virus. As usual I only half-listened, I got rid of the virus, but I didn’t stay home.)

Most of our readers have been to Washington D.C., so telling you about my trip and how cool the Air & Space or Spy Museums were or how I could spend all day in the Natural History Museum is a waste of time, so I’ll tell you about my top four emotional experiences in our nation’s capital and environs.

     1. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Top line, Panel 13 E

To those around my age, the Vietnam War happened when we were in college and the years shortly thereafter, which was a time of great social conflict in our country. So seeing all the names on ‘The Wall’ was a sad reminder of that horrible time in my young adulthood. Suzanne does a great job of honoring fallen soldiers from our hometown of Novato each Memorial Day. Among those honored is Allen Joseph Nelson Jr., who was one of the only people I knew personally who was killed in action in Vietnam. Allen and I played high school football together as well as a year a Marin J.C. I knew his sister, Joanne, who was in my class at Novato, and is no longer with us, but I believe the younger brother, Steve, who was in Suzanne’s class, is.  I would ask that anyone who knows him please pass along to him that I located Allen’s name on the wall (Top line of panel 13E) and said thank you and a silent prayer.

 2. The Holocaust Museum

Confiscated shoes in the Holocaust Museum

First opened in 1993, this museum is relatively new to ‘The Mall’. The tour through it is detailed and emotional. Upon entering you receive a passport-like document of one of the victims of the Holocaust, which traces their country of origin and their life prior to being incarcerated as well as what ‘death camp’ they were in, and the date they died or were freed – it really personalizes the tragedy of it all. The museum is filled with photos, artifacts and videos of events leading up to and through the loss of the war by Germany and the subsequent release of the surviving prisoners from the concentration camps. The exhibit that shows hundreds of victims’ confiscated shoes is particularly gut-wrenching.  While most people are generally familiar with the story of the Holocaust, the museum does an excellent job of bringing home the sheer brutality of this heinous crime against humanity. It still seems incredible that it even took place and how many people it affected and particularly how an entire country could let this happen within their borders.

   3. Gettysburg

Overlooking part of the battlefield at Gettysburg

At the suggestion of a friend, who said that if you’re going to D.C. you need to get up to Gettysburg, we rented a car and made the hour and a half drive to this famous Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania.  The information center there is filled with all kinds of memorabilia and ways to learn about one of the bloodiest and arguably the most pivotal battle of the war.  We chose the in-car CD version which allowed us to stop for as long as we wanted at any particular site.  The battle field, which was much larger than I thought (over 9 square miles) is dotted with over 1,300 memorials, markers and monuments.  Being there and listening to the narration, some stories about brother fighting against brother, gives you a real sense of how and where things were taking place.  In the 3-day battle on July 1-3, 1863, the total of casualties for both armies was approximately 50,000. I was astounded to learn that while we have had approximately 1,264,000 casualties in all of our wars up until now, nearly half, 620,000 were casualties of the Civil War.

     4. Arlington National Cemetery

Changing of the Guard

Just across the Potomac River from The Jefferson Memorial, on property once owned by Robert E. Lee, our national cemetery is a tearfully beautiful place. While the tour through the cemetery talks about all the famous people who are interned there, you cannot help but be struck by the total number of simple gravestones all in a line, “like soldiers at attention”, that are there representing fallen soldiers from every one of our nation’s wars – there are over 400,000 in all buried there. We witnessed a changing of the guard at the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’, a classy and somber ritual that occurs every half hour this time of year. The grounds offer  hundreds of amazing stories that go with the brave service men and women who make this their final resting place.

While we really didn’t appreciate the rain that fell everyday we were in Washington D.C. and Gettysburg, it seemed to particularly lend itself to the atmosphere of these four historic landmarks that reminded us that our freedom is not free.

Thursday: A few photos to finish our visit to the capital