Saturday, March 31, 2018
There are the statements made, then there is the reality that follows. Here is a list of 24 historical quotes probably believed when they were first spoken but have since been proven to be very wrong.
24) "There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will."
--Albert Einstein, 1932
23) "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
--Decca Recording Company on declining to sign the Beatles, 1962
22) "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
--Western Union internal memo, 1876
21) "Reagan doesn't have that presidential look."
--United Artists executive after rejecting Reagan as lead in the 1964 film THE BEST MAN.
20) "Train travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
--Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830
19) "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
--Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
18) "X-rays will prove to be a hoax."
--Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883
17) "Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure."
--Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison's light bulb, 1880
--The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903
15) "Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
--Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946
14) "No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free."
--King William I of Prussia on trains in 1864
13) "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home."
--Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society meeting in Boston
12) "If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one."
--W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954
11) "No, it will make war impossible."
--Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, in response to the question "Will this gun not make war more terrible?" from Havelock Ellis, an English scientist, 1893
10) "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?"
--Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter's call for investment in the radio in 1921
9) "There will never be a bigger plane built."
--A Boeing engineer after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that held ten people
8) "How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense."
--Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton's steamboat, 1800s
7) "The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous."
--Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration 1916
6) "I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea."
--HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901
5) "The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most."
--IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959
4) "It'll be gone by June."
--Variety Magazine on Rock n' Roll, 1955
3) "And for the tourist who really wants to get away from it all, safaris in Vietnam."
--Newsweek, predicting popular holidays for the late 1960s
2) "When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it."
--Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson
1) "A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere."
--New York Times, 1936
Right now, somewhere in the world, there is a prominent person making a statement about some new emerging innovation that will give future generations a good chuckle.
Saturday, March 24, 2018
Sunday, April 1, 2018—April Fool's Day or All Fool's Day as it is also known. A date that has been celebrated for centuries. But what in the world could possibly be the origins of a day dedicated to pranks and practical jokes?
The exact origins remain a bit of a mystery, the most widely accepted theory says it dates back to 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar where the new year began on April 1 to the Gregorian calendar where the new year began on January 1 as called for in 1563 by the Council of Trent. People who didn't get the word that the start of the year had moved or refused to accept the change and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the object of jokes and hoaxes. Paper fish would be placed on their backs and they were referred to as poisson d'avri which means April fish. It symbolized a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person. These people were considered fools and had practical jokes played on them.
Historians have linked April Fools' Day to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, which was celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. There's also speculation that April Fool's Day was tied to the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, a time when Mother Nature fooled people with changing and unpredictable weather.
On April 1, 1700, English pranksters began popularizing the annual tradition of April Fools' Day by playing practical jokes on each other. The celebration spread throughout Britain during the eighteenth century. In Scotland it became a two day event in which people were sent on phony errands and had fake tails or kick me signs pinned to their rear ends.
All Fools' Day is practiced in many parts of the world with the playing of practical jokes and sending people on fool's errands. In modern times people have gone to great lengths to stage elaborate pranks. Here's the top ten hoaxes from a list of the best one hundred pranks of all time as judged by notoriety, creativity, and number of people duped.
1) The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest (1957): The respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop.
2) Sidd Finch (1985): Sports Illustrated published a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch, and he could reportedly throw a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. But Sidd Finch had never played the game before. He mastered the art of the pitch in a Tibetan monastery. This legendary player was the creation of the article's author, George Plimpton.
3) Instant Color TV (1962): At the time there was only one television channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white. The station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their television screen.
4) The Taco Liberty Bell (1996): The Taco Bell Corporation announced it had purchased the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia to express their anger.
5) San Serriffe (1977): British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic consisting of semi-colon shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. It described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its leader was General Pica. Only a few readers noticed that everything about the islands was named after printer's terminology.
6) Nixon for President (1992): National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His campaign slogan was, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." Listeners flooded the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Nixon's voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.
7) Alabama Changes the Value of Pi (1998): The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the Biblical value of 3.0. The article soon made its way onto the internet, then rapidly spread around the world. The Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution and had been written by a physicist.
8) The Left-Handed Whopper (1998): Burger King published a full page ad in USA Today announcing the introduction on their menu of a Left-Handed Whopper for the 32 million left-handed Americans. The ingredients were the same as the original Whopper, but the ad claimed all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. Thousands of customers requested the new sandwich.
9) Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers (1995): Discover Magazine reported that a highly respected wildlife biologist found a new species in Antarctica—the hotheaded naked ice borer. The creatures had bony plates on their heads. When fed by numerous blood vessels, they could become burning hot thus allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They used this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice beneath the penguins and causing them to sink downwards where the hotheads consumed them. It was theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837. To the hotheads, the explorer looked like a penguin.
10) Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity (1976): British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur and listeners could experience it in their own homes. Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment the planetary alignment occurred they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman reported she and her eleven friends had floated around the room.
Have you ever played an April Fool's joke on someone, or had one played on you? Tell us about it.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
I came across a news article…actually, it was a couple of years ago…about the Russian government's desire to reunite the remains of their last imperial family in one place—the czar, czarina, and their five children. However, the mission was not without roadblocks, namely the need to satisfy skeptics about the validity of all the remains.
On September 23, 2015, Russian investigators exhumed the body of Czar Nicholas Romanov II and his wife, Alexandra, as part of an investigation into the family's death one hundred years ago—in 1918. It's part of the ongoing attempt to confirm the remains really belong to Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children. Some of the family's remains were tested in the early 1990s (the early days of DNA testing) with the results being that the scientists were pretty confident that it's really them. The remains exhumed at that time included the czar, his wife, three of their children, and several servants. Two of the children, Alexei and Maria, were unaccounted for at that time. But the officials weren't able to convince the Russian Orthodox Church about the authenticity of the remains.
The church officials have not come out with their exact reasons for doubt. There had been some discussion about the Romanov family having been canonized in 2000 which made the remains holy relics which required a different way of treating them. In general, church leaders say they just aren't convinced. The church's approval is important for bringing the family's remains together.
The church did, somewhat reluctantly, allow the family's remains to be interred in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg where most of Russia's other czars are buried. But the church still had not accepted the family's identities in spite of the fact that several rounds of DNA testing had occurred.
In 2007 another burial site was located containing the remains of a young man and a young woman. More DNA testing confirmed they were Alexei and Maria. Those remains, however, were left sitting on a shelf because the Russian Orthodox Church balked at the idea of adding them to the family tomb. The church says it believes the family's remains were destroyed and won't change their position until they are 100 percent sure in spite of the DNA confirmation.
In February 2016 the church once again blocked the reuniting of the remains. Currently, the most prevalent explanation is that the church hierarchy wants to avoid the decision because either choice would alienate key factions. Rejecting the bones will anger some Orthodox adherents, particularly those outside Russia, while accepting them will incense a conservative domestic faction that believes the Soviet government somehow faked the original burial at the time they died and those aren't the real remains of Czar Nicholas II and his family.
And the entire effort remains in limbo.
Saturday, March 3, 2018
Even though Hollywood is a real place (a neighborhood that is part of the city of Los Angeles), that piece of real estate has attained almost mythical status world-wide. It conjures up images of make believe and magic. Or, to be more specific, it represents the home of the film industry even though Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, and MGM as well as many other major film production companies are not physically in Hollywood. In fact, Disney Studios, Warner Bros., and MGM aren't even in the city of Los Angeles. MGM is in Culver City (south of Los Angeles). Disney Studios and Warner Bros. are in the city of Burbank (north of Los Angeles).
For those of us old enough to remember Rowan & Martin's Laugh In, they burst that all of show business is centered in Hollywood bubble by letting everyone know their NBC show was coming to you from Beautiful Downtown Burbank rather than legendary Hollywood.
The Oscar®—Hollywood's annual award for achievement in the film industry. The statuettes for this year's 90th annual awards show are handed out Sunday, March 4, 2018. So, this seemed like a good time to review some statistics connected to the American film industry's highest award.
The first awards ceremony was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (yes, it is actually in Hollywood) in 1929 to honor films released in 1927 and 1928. The first Best Picture award went to the 1927 film Wings. It was the only silent film to receive the honor as the talking picture age was ushered in with the release of Warner Bros. The Jazz Singer in 1927, the first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences.
Although, The Artist, a black and white silent French film paying homage to the silent movie era, won for Best Picture in 2012.
As the award tradition continued, the ceremony settled into a pattern that has stayed relatively consistent to this day. The following statistics were in an article I read that covered the first 85 years of the award ceremonies.
ZERO is the
Number of competitive Oscars® won by a long list of high-profile legendary actors, actresses, and filmmakers. These include Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Richard Burton, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford among many others. Alfred Hitchcock did finally receive an honorary Oscar® in 1968 and Cary Grant received an honorary Oscar® in 1970, both for their body of work over the span of their careers.
ONE is the
Number of dollars for which a winner or his estate must offer to sell his statuette back to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences before attempting to sell the statuette anywhere else. Statuettes awarded after 1950 are bound by this agreement as they are considered property of the Academy unless it specifically waives ownership. Orson Welles' 1941 Oscar (therefore not subject to the 1950 agreement) for Citizen Kane was sold at a 2011 auction for over $800,000.
TWO is the
Number of words in the shortest acceptance speech ever, delivered by Patty Duke in 1963 after winning the Best Supporting Actress statuette for The Miracle Worker. Her speech was a simple, "Thank you." [note: I read somewhere else that the same 'thank you' is attributed to Alfred Hitchcock and William Holden.]
THREE is the
Number of films that have won all of the big five awards (picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay). They are: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and The Silence Of The Lambs (1991).
THREE is the
Number of animated features that have been nominated for Best Picture. 1991's Beauty And The Beast was the first to earn this distinction, followed later by Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010).
FOUR is the
Most acting statuettes won by a single individual, a record held by Katharine Hepburn. She won Best Actress statuettes for: Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1982).
FOUR is the
The most Best Director wins by one person, a record held by John Ford since 1953, when he won his fourth statuette for The Quiet Man.
FIVE AND A HALF is the
Length in minutes of the longest acceptance speech, a distinction held by Greer Garson, who won Best Actress in 1943 for Mrs. Miniver.
EIGHT is the
Highest number of acting nominations without a win, a record held by the late Peter O'Toole. He did finally receive an honorary Oscar® in 2002 for the body of his work over the span of his career.
TEN is the
Number of musicals that have won Best Picture, the most recent being 2002's Chicago, which ended a 34-year drought. 1968's Oliver! preceded Chicago's win. The Academy took a hard turn away from song-and-dance features with its 1969 Best Picture award to Midnight Cowboy which remains the only X-rated film to claim the biggest prize [and Midnight Cowboy probably would not receive an X-rating if released today].
ELEVEN is the
Highest number of statuettes won by a single film. Three movies are tied for this distinction: Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003). Return of the King won all 11 awards for which it was nominated, another Academy record.
ELEVEN is the
Highest number of nominations for a film that did not win any Oscars®. Two films share that dubious distinction: The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985).
TWELVE is the
Highest number of Best Director nominations received by one person, William Wyler, with three of those nominations becoming wins.
FIFTEEN is the
Length in minutes of the first, and to this day the shortest, Academy Awards ceremony, held on May 16, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Awards (the nickname Oscar® didn't come into being for several years) were handed out in 12 categories with the winners having been announced in advance. Today, statuettes are awarded in more than 20 categories, and ceremonies typically run three hours on average with some running much longer.
SEVENTEEN is the
Highest number of hosts for one Oscars® telecast. For several years, the Academy used a gimmick dubbed Friends of Oscar® that featured a roster of rotating hosts for each ceremony. The broadcast with the most Friends took place on April 7, 1970, and included stars like Bob Hope, John Wayne, Barbra Streisand, Fred Astaire, Clint Eastwood, James Earl Jones, and Elizabeth Taylor. Packing in so much star power paid off for the Academy: the broadcast was the Awards' highest-rated telecast of all time.
EIGHTEEN is the
Highest number of acting nominations for a single person, a record held by Meryl Streep. She broke the previous record of 12, set by Katharine Hepburn. Jack Nicholson is the most nominated male actor, currently tied with Hepburn's 12.
NINETEEN is the
Highest number of Oscar ceremonies hosted by one person. Bob Hope holds that title which includes the first televised ceremony in 1953. Billy Crystal is second with nine hosting gigs.
TWENTY-TWO is the
Number of times that the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars® have gone to different films. The most recent split came in 2013, when Ang Lee won Best Director for Life Of Pi and Argo (directed by Ben Affleck who was not nominated) took Best Picture.
TWENTY-TWO is the
Total number of Oscars® won by Walt Disney, the most ever for a single person. He was also awarded an additional four honorary statuettes, and holds the record for most wins in one year by a single person (four).
THIRTY-FIVE is the
Highest number of nominations earned by a woman in any category and belongs to costume designer Edith Head. She won eight statuettes throughout her career.
FORTY-FIVE is the
Maximum number of seconds that Academy rules stipulate for acceptance speeches, a rule established in 2010 and broken multiple times every year.
FIFTY-NINE is the
Highest number of nominations for a single person in any category. Over-achiever Walt Disney holds that title, too. Composer John Williams is the most-nominated living person, with 49 nominations to his credit.
NINETY-FOUR is the
Length in minutes of the shortest Best Picture winner ever, Marty (1955). Brevity seems to be a theme for this classic film. The 1956 ceremony where the prize was awarded is the second-shortest Oscar® ceremony, lasting just 90 minutes.
TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-FOUR is the
Length in minutes (3 hours 44 minutes) of the longest Best Picture winners ever: a tie between Ben-Hur (1959) and Gone With the Wind (1939). But GWTW has a slight edge when you add in the overture, intermission music, and exit music which takes it to 238 minutes (3 hours 58 minutes).
And there you have it—Oscar® by the numbers.