Friday, April 7, 2017

Discover water, metals, minerals: Maybe, that is.

There has been much skepticism about “water witching” and Martin Luther, a major figure in the Protestant Reformation, once condemned the practice as witchcraft and termed it equal to devil worship.  But, you know something?  What we call dowsing can have its origination traced back to something like 7,000 years.  All around Europe there was extensive use trying to discover coal and water during the Middle Ages.

It didn’t come to a screeching halt in the 19th century but there certainly were some setbacks in believibility when science called it “occult” and proclaimed the practice invalid.  A big-wig in Ireland’s Royal College in Dublin issued quite a put-down.  In 1897, Sir William Barrett stated, “…few subjects appear to be as unworthy of serious notice and so utterly beneath scientific investigation as that of the divining rod.” 

There is a related activity called radiesthesia but it actually is aimed at different targets, so to speak.  It is often used to help detect illness and come up with prescribed treatment.  It has even been utilized in searching for animate objects, like a missing person, for example.  The medical diagnosis aspect is allowed in Europe and Great Britain but outlawed in the U.S.  Although, the concept varies quite a bit from more commonly known dowsing it has reached the point the two ideas are basically synonymous in many discussions. 

Both of them use a forked divining rod.  In the past, it was more or less traditional at one time for it to be made of a hazel branch because, for reasons beyond the norm, that wood has, or had, a reputation for having magical qualities.  Supposedly, woods of ash, willow and rowan have also been considered to have whatever magic there is.  On the other hand, some of the rods have been made out of aluminum and copper and some dowsers have used something as simple as twisted coat hangers.  There are advocates for just about anything that has been successful in finding water.
Let me tell you about someone we met when we were traveling in Wisconsin and my wife, Carol, wanted to check on the European-style atmosphere of a Danish village shopping center called Windmill Square in Hayward.  She didn’t count on the added bonus of meeting Clarice Tarkington of California.
“I’m a water-witch,” Clarice told her in the course of conversation, “but I guess it sounds better to call me a dowser.  Even that’s questionable, because I heard of a geologist once who said, ‘Only a jackass would believe in dowsing.’ Sure would like to meet that worthy gentleman.  I’d introduce him to some jackass friends of mine who’ve got the best sweet-water wells you could ever want.”

So, Carol claimed another first, the first dowser she’d ever met, and she questioned her new acquaintance about how you become one.

“Oh, some people think it’s an inherited thing; others think it can be learned.  I just always seemed to have the knack, so I can’t really say.  It’s just that some of us can take a forked twig or something and it’ll turn down in our hands when we get over underground water.  Take me, now, my ‘divining rod’, if you want to call it that, is made out of whalebone.  I’ve heard of other dowsers who use either dry or fresh-cut twigs from willow or peach trees; even knew one man who rigged up a wire coat hanger, and it worked just as well for him.”

“How does it work?” Carol wanted to know.  “What do you do?"  

Clarice didn’t make much to-do about it.  “It’s really pretty simple as far as I’m concerned.  I keep my elbows at my side, with my arms extended about chest high.  I keep my hands with the palms up and the end of the ‘rod’ up, then I just walk out across wherever they’ve got in mind, and when the end of the ‘rod’ goes down, that’s it.  I even heard of a dowser who had only one arm.  He’d let his son hold the stick and he’d hold the boy’s wrists as they walked along; seemed to work just fine as long as they didn’t break contact.  That’s another thing, only about one out of ten dowsers is a woman, so I’m kind of a rarity.”

Carol wondered if she had ever used her dowsing talents looking for oil or anything besides water. 

“Well,” Clarice replied, “they call it doodlebugging when you’re looking for oil and I only tried it once.  I got a ‘find’, but I told them I thought it was probably water.  They drilled a hole anyway and sure enough, water it was. I don’t know how to switch over, or even if I could, so I reckon it’s best for me to just do what I do.” 

It’s certainly not a formulaic vocation and that led to more research on our part, enough so we quickly discovered this is really an ancient practice that can possibly be dated as far back as 8,000 years ago.  Wall murals of about that age were found in some North Africa caves, one of them showing a man with a forked stick.  Who knows, he could have been dowsing.  Some of the same kind of artwork has been found in Egypt and China.  One observer opined that the biblical story of Moses and Aaron using a “rod” to find water could very well have been “dowsing” of its time. 

No one knows for certain, that’s the essence of the mystic aura that surrounds this activity.  There just isn’t any definitive proof one way or another.  Skeptics express no doubts; they say point-blank it doesn’t work at all.  However, renowned Albert Einstein said outright the process is authentic.  He noted many scientists had the notion it was an ancient superstition along the lines of astrology, but he thought that was an unjustified opinion.  The way he put it, “The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.”

As mentioned there was once a diverse view held by Martin Luther who called dowsing “the work of the devil,” which was a voiced opinion that didn’t measure up to the later Einstein observation.

Even NASA has done exploration for water from space, both on earth and other objects such as Mars and the moon, which could be called technological dowsing.
The mystic aspect continues and the comment by Clarice seems as reasonable as any other:  “I just do what I do.”

I do have to tell you there is one aspect of this I can’t go along with.  We’ve been told there are times when the dowser doesn’t actually go to the location in question and instead a map of that location is brought to the dowser.  Then, we understand, the dowser uses some small pendulums over the maps and this is supposed to help provide answers.  They call this process teledowsing and the theory behind it is there is some kind of telepathic link between the map and the location itself.  That’s just a little far out for me and I just can’t seem to accept the process.  I’m allowed to have my doubts because, like Clarice, “I just do what I do.”

Of course, one of the things I "do" is write books.  My seventeen eBooks are shown at the right and a "click" on a cover will take you to a free sample "Look Inside."  There'll be an eighteenth book as soon as we get the cover designed and get it published, so keep on the lookout for "A Backwater Eddy in the Stream of Time."  I'll tell you about it when we get it ready.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

And, They're Off...

My thoughts on this subject will probably have a great many disputing viewpoints.  That reminds me of a comment by an archeologist who worked for 40 years in and around the ancient Cahokia Mound area in Illinois.  He had thoughts on what had transpired there in long ago times but he knew full well not everyone would agree.  The way he put it, “Place three archeologists in a room and you get five opinions.”

So, the same idea is viable here as I tell about the animal I consider the greatest thoroughbred racer in horse racing history.  As a result, the differing thoughts will be interesting but they won’t change my mind.

Part of my bias stems from the fact I was impressed by a statue of “Big Red”…that’s right, the fabulous Man o’ War…at the Kentucky Horse Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

      Admittedly, that was just emotional reaction but I have more reasons.  Before we get into some facts that may help decide which horse was best let’s take a step back in time to the way things once were in the racing world.

Excitement begins to build as the thoroughbreds and their jockeys are led on the Post Parade from the paddock to the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby, the first of racing’s Triple Crown.  Present day fans can watch live or on TV as horses are led, pushed or pulled into their chutes.  It wasn’t that way August 13, 1919 when one of the most talked about races in history took place.  It was the Sanford Stakes and the favorite was Man o’ War with a six-race winning streak.

In those days, there weren’t any starting gates.  The horses would sort of mill around behind a piece of webbing (sometimes rope) barrier and take off when it was raised.  In the race we’re talking about, Man o’ War was still circling with his back to the starting line when the barrier was raised.  The regular starter wasn’t there that day and a substitute, Charles Pettingill, filled in.  Reportedly, he had poor eyesight and was known for having problems always getting clean breaks.  When such would happen, it was supposed to be a false start and they’d try again, but not this time and Man o’ War had about a four length disadvantage right away, almost left at the post.  The other horses closed ranks and Man o’ War was boxed in, finally had to go wide in the final eighth and nearly pulled off an amazing finish.

He passed all the other horses but one and missed by about a half-length in catching the winner, named “Upset” of all things.  
                                                         The upset by "Upset"
His record for his two-year old campaign was 9-1 and he didn’t race in the Kentucky Derby, with the Triple Crown not yet of the significance it finally received.  His owner didn’t like the distance or time of year for such young horses and bypassed it.  He did go ahead to win the Preakness and Belmont.  One of his other victories came in a match race against Sir Barton, the 1919 first Triple Crown winner (wasn’t called that until 1923).  It wasn’t even close as he won going away.  
That's Sir Barton way back there

Over his two-year career Man o' War won 20 of 21, set three world records, 2 American records and 3 track records.  As further evidence that one loss was a fluke he raced against “Upset” six more times and won all of them.
As a sire, his greatest offspring was War Admiral, who later became a Triple Crown winner.  He did it in 1937, taking the Derby easily…
                                                 …the Preakness in a close call…                                 

                                       …and stretched it out more in the Belmont.

In 1966 37% of stakes winners were descendants of Man o’ War.  Overall, he produced 64 stakes winners and various champions.  Several other horses have been called the greatest ever, among them such as Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Citation and a few others with most of the attention focused on Secretariat because he set records in each of the Triple Crown races in 1973, taking the Belmont by an incredible official 31 lengths.  But, you know something, he wasn’t always invincible.  His career mark showed 16 wins in 21 races, with three second place finishes and once each third and fourth and he never led the U.S. sires list.

Some statisticians have compared the best times of the two at various stages of a race and Secretariat had the edge in each case.  However, some major differences have to be recognized.  There have been improvements in drain technology and the practice of hosing down the dirt has made tracks faster.  That’s plus the fact that horse shoes have evolved from steel to aluminum and sometimes synthetics to make them lighter.  Weights assigned were always a disadvantage for Man o’ War and he once carried a whopping 130 pounds in six straight starts, carried as much as 138 pounds, sometimes conceding as much as 30 pounds to his rivals.  This was done to give other horses more of a chance, but it didn’t matter, he won anyway.  Modern Triple Crown weight assignments are 126 pounds with 121 for fillies.

So, like the opening comment by the archeologist, take your pick, it won’t change my opinion.

Monday, January 16, 2017

New Info About a New Product

       Sometimes being unique is not a boon.  Let me explain.    

       I've been telling you about something I first did about twenty years ago.  At that time I recorded historical reenactments of some World Series Classics.  This was similar to the way many baseball games were broadcast in the past.
       For example, when one of my pleasant tasks was to do play-by-play of Triple-A baseball action it was in a period when home games were done live and road games were re-creations.  We would get info on a teletype from Western Union operators.  This was generally quite sparse and announcers like me would sometimes have to rely on their imagination.  I know that when a team would come in for a live broadcast I would make notes.  These would be something like: "First baseman Joe Doakes, left-handed batter stands deep in the batter's box, feet close together, bat held high, outfielders play him shaded toward right field."  When the two teams met on the road I would use that info because I figured overall the circumstances and description wouldn't have changed.
       This method began long before I was doing games.  Hall of Fame sportscaster Red Barber did it way back when.  Harry Caray worked that way with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1945, before going all-live the next season.  Another that might surprise you was "Dutch" Reagan on WHO in Des Moines, Iowa.  Ronald Reagan was known by that nickname before he turned to acting and politics.  We talked about it in an interview I had with him when he was just President of the Screen Actors Guild, hadn't even been Governor of California yet.  So, it's a lost art, if it can be termed that.  I know we had many listeners who didn't realize the games were being re-created.

       This experience led me to recording some World Series Classics: 1945 Chicago Cubs vs. Detroit Tigers (that made it 71 years before the Cubs got back to the Series and eventually won in 2016.  Also, 1956 New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, two years before the Dodgers moved to L.A., featuring the famous perfect game by Don Larsen along with the 1946 St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox with the wild 8th inning run home from first by Enos Slaughter that scored the winning run and gained the Series title.

       Originally done on cassettes they have now been converted to more modern CDs.  They are each approximately nine hours long requiring 8 CDs and are in a nice case like this (opened to show the cover, spine and all the line scores on the back.)

                                                         Here's the way the CD labels look.

      Our intention was to offer these for sale on Amazon but here is where the unique aspect got in the way.  These were aimed at the Amazon "Sports Collectibles" category.  There is nothing like this anywhere else so that very difference caused rejection, seemingly because there wasn't anything comparable and they didn't fit their pre-conceived notions of category.   So, I'm making alternative plans and vigorously pursuing other outlet possibilities.  They will also be offered to the many fan clubs of the six teams involved.  These original observations of outstanding World Series performances help rediscover top-notch thrills from the past.

       By the way, in line with the tag-line of this blog site, "A Friendly Place to Blow Your Horn," let me do just a bit of that.  When I broadcast baseball a bit more than a half century ago, my home station carrying the games garnered its highest nighttime ratings in ten years.  If that's more braggadocio than "Bloggadocio," I ask your understanding.
      Of course, the Amazon outlet already includes my seventeen eBooks on a wide variety of subjects.  It meant I could select several categories for my eclectic mixture.  A click on any of the covers to the right takes you to a "Look Inside" free sample.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What's In a Name?

Click on any book cover at right to get a "Look Inside" free sample. Check description for more information.)

I guess you could call them pseudonyms, aliases, or whatever but a lot of people in show business changed their names for a lot of different reasons.  Some of the switches resulted from ethnicity, others changed to make it easier to spell or shorter so it might fit on a marquee, just about any reason to make the birth name something more promotable.

I’m going to list a bunch of these to see how many you know.  It’s not really a quiz but it comes out that way when I ask such things as “what was the professional name of Marion Mitchell Morrison?”  Some of you may know, but many won’t realize that was what noted actor John Wayne was christened.  An even more confusing name for some would be Issur Danielovitch.  That’s none other than Kirk Douglas who just celebrated his 100th birthday.

Let’s see, how about Norma Jeane Mortenson, Frederick Austerlitz and Betty Joan Perske?  You probably rattled off right away those refer to Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire and Lauren Bacall.   But, how would you do with Laszlo Lowenstein, Mary Kaumeyer and Ruby Stevens?  How wild were your guesses those were the birth names of Peter Lorre, Dorothy Lamour and Barbara Stanwyck?

Here are three many should know because they were three of our most famous comedians.  I’ll give you their assumed names last this time.  How about Jack Benny, George Burns and Fred Allen.  If those are all before your time, it probably won’t make any difference to you they were, in order, Benjamin Kubelsky, Nathan Birnbaum and John Florence Sullivan.  George Burns used a whole bunch of different names in his early vaudeville days.  He said he had to do it because his act was so bad no one would hire him if they knew who he was.

A young singer with the Ina Ray Hutton orchestra was named Tamer Aswad, certainly not very apt for promotional purposes, so she had him change it to Stuart Foster.  That worked out quite well and he had a good singing career, even appearing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.  The “sentimental gentleman of swing” was so engrossed in his music he probably didn’t know anything different, so Tamer Aswad just faded away.

Another name change in the music world found a singer starting life as Shirley Luster, who worked under the name Sharon Leslie for a while.  Band leader Stan Kenton didn’t care for that and since the singer joined them in the month of June that took care of a new first name.  Her first gig with the band was in Corpus Christi, Texas and all they did was replace the “i” with a “y” in the town’s second name and so she was June Christy from then on.  Another female singer found her birth name of Norma Deloris Egstrom changed to Peggy Lee.  It happened after auditioning at station WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota.  Station boss, Ken Kennedy, said, “You have to change your name.  Norma Egstrom…it doesn’t sound right.  ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Norma Egstrom?’  No, won’t do at all.  Let me see.  You look like a Peggy.  Peggy Lynn. No – Peggy Lee.  That’s it!  ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Peggy Lee.”  It was as simple as that.  Still another singer was Clara Ann Fowler who made the big-time as Patti Page.  The last name came from the Page Dairy, which was sponsoring a show she was on…don’t know about the Patti.  Doris Kappelhoff gave way to the more promotional Doris Day and Helen Fogel metamorphosed to Helen Forrest.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the long-time interviewer on the “Sixty Minutes” TV program, the well-known Mike Wallace, who began life as Myron Leon Wallik.  I once had a copy of a show where he used the first and last names as announcer on a program with Spike Jones and his City Slickers.  That band leader didn’t really change from Lindley Armstrong Jones with “Spike” just a nickname that stuck.  The actress who portrayed Our Miss Brooks on radio, Eve Arden, was born Eunice Quedens (Qwuh-DENZ).  Actress/singer Alice Faye began as Ann Leppert.  She had great movie success, of course, along with her career on The Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show (originally The Fitch Bandwagon).  Prior to being Mrs. Phil Harris, Alice was once married to singer, Tony Martin, who began life as Alvin Morris.  He was later married to dancer/actress Cyd Charisse, whose birth name was Tula Ellice Finklea. 

Here’s a real change for you.  Lucille Fay LeSueur turned out to be the famous actress, Joan Crawford.  It was a kind of tangled web for a foursome of performers.  Elizabeth June Thornburg wound up as singer-actress Betty Hutton and her slightly older sister, Marion Thornburg also changed the last name to Hutton and wound up as featured singer with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  Wait, there’s more.  June Marvel Cowan became June Hutton, not sure why she picked that, but she was half-sister to Odessa Cowan who led an all-girl band as Ina Ray Hutton. That’s right, the one who altered Tamer Aswad to Stuart Foster.

Here’s a change that just had to be made.  That’s when James Lablache Stewart came along…Jimmy Stewart, get it?  Of course, that wouldn’t do.  There already was a well-known actor by that name so this one wound up becoming Stewart Granger, who did all right himself in the acting business, naturally under the new name.

Here’s one I’m fairly certain so one reading this will decipher who is meant when we say Umberto Alejandro Valentino.  That was the initial monicker of an actor-singer who became a friend of mine with the assumed name of Herb Jeffries, whose best known recording was “Flamingo” with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Herb, who lived to be a 100 was once married to ecdysiast, Tempest Storm, who began as Annie Blanche Banks.  Oh, yes, “ecdysiast,” that’s high-falutin for exotic dancer, or “stripper,” if you insist.

A couple of well-known sportscasters next.  Melvin Israel was Mel Allen, the long-time announcer of New York Yankee games.  He once told me a story he really enjoyed, one he loved to tell.  At one time, Yankee great, Joe DiMaggio, roomed with relief pitcher, Joe Page.  Page was a free spirit with a lack of discipline and management felt DiMaggio’s presence might calm him down.  However, none of Joe D’s work ethic rubbed off.   Finally, one day the news came that DiMaggio was going to get married to Marilyn Monroe.  Allen related that some of the writers were debating whether this would be good or bad for DiMaggio, until one of them said, “Well, it’s got to be better than rooming with Joe Page.”

The other sportscaster started out as Harry Christopher Carabina but legally switched to a suggested Harry Caray, as he was known for decades as announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, and finally Chicago Cubs, where he became a cult figure with his TV coverage.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Unique, To Say the Least

Some small town names in the U.S. have historical significance, others are just interesting, but in either case the stories behind the names are certainly different and pretty much one of a kind.

For example, I don’t imagine there’s anyone reading this who can think of any place called Pie Town, besides the one in New Mexico.  The speck on the map is around 290 miles east of Phoenix, Arizona and had population of 186 in the 2010 census.  Back in 1919, a soldier just out of service thought he’d try to strike it rich out west and headed in the general direction where he opened a gas station.  Traffic didn’t amount to much so he started making small fruit pies to boost his income a little.  A couple of other folks there thought that was a pretty good idea and started baking pies to sell in their small grocery.  Finally, there was going to be a post office and the town needed a name, so a cowpoke who had been buying their wares said they ought to call it Pie Town.  So, they did and it’s been that way ever since.

A postmaster was also involved in picking the name for a wide spot in the road located 8-point 8 miles from the county seat of Glasgow, Kentucky .  He figured they might as well call it Eighty Eight as anything else, saying he didn’t write very well so he’d just use the figure 88.  However he jotted it down it became Eighty Eight, Kentucky and it still is. That number has had some unusual sidelights.  One happened in 1948 in the presidential election.  When town ballots were counted there were 88 votes for Harry Truman and 88 votes for Thomas E. Dewey.  Then, what took place in 1988 but an August calendar page that indicated it was 8/8/88 and you can bet that got a lot of folks wanting postmarks from there.

The next two names aren’t in states but their naming was just as unusual.  Back when Christopher Columbus make his second voyage across the Atlantic he landed on an island he called San Juan Bautista after “Saint John the Baptist.”  However, in years to come, Spanish ships headed home with large cargos of gold stopped there and they changed it to something meaning “rich port,” or Porto Rico.  Now, of course, we call the unincorporated U.S. territory Puerto Rico, with that spelling change to the correct Spanish form taking place in 1932.

Columbus made another naming effort when he called some other islands honoring “Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins.”  That was too unwieldy to last except for part of it and that’s how they became known as the Virgin Islands and Saint Ursula had to be remembered in other ways.

There’s a great big rock jutting upward from a formation about 22 miles from renowned Monument Valley, so somebody (didn’t find out who) thought it had the shape of an oversized sombrero.  That’s why there is a Mexican Hat, Utah.

If there was a settlement and folks living there were puzzled about what name to use, it was decided that a word denoting puzzlement would be as good as any.  The definition given is, “an inexplicable circumstance, event or occurrence,” and that was sufficient for those town folks to decide on Enigma, Georgia.

There was a mountain a scant one-thousand feet north of a town site in Arkansas.  I haven’t the slightest notion as to whether it looked at least a little like a man in the nude but they once called it Naked Joe (don’t know if there was a guy by that name), but the postal service thought the “naked” part was out of line so the residents compromised and it became just “Old Joe.”  Does Old Joe, Arkansas still exist?  I can’t find even a tidbit of information telling whether it does or doesn’t and furthermore no evidence is available as to who, if anybody, was an actual “Old Joe.”

There was a commercial aspect involved when Hot Springs, New Mexico changed its name.  Radio emcee Ralph Edwards had a successful show called “Truth or Consequences,”  and he dreamed up an idea to get some free publicity in exchange for some of the same for any town that would change its name to the name of his program.  Hot Springs decided to do it and the new name became official, a far cry from the hundreds of years that Indian tribes would go there to take advantage of thermal baths.  Even famous Apache chief Geronimo paid many visits there.  Edwards died in 2005 at the age of 92 but the town continues an annual Truth or Consequences Festival that has been running for nearly seven decades and they even named their main park after him.

A long-ago village clerk told the story of how Echo, Minnesota got its name way back in 1878.  The place was all set to name itself and the town board picked the name of “Rose.”  That didn’t work because state records indicated there was already a Rose Township in Minnesota and state law didn’t permit two townships with the same name.  Okay, then, how about Empire?  Same deal, another township had beaten them to it.  The town board members were a trifle annoyed and said in a half-joking manner, “Since the names came back we might as well call it “Echo.”  And that’s what they did and last count in the 2010 census indicated population of 210.  It wouldn’t be surprising if some of the folks living there have no idea of why it’s called Echo, Minnesota.

If you want to know anything about origination of such town names as Social Circle, Georgia, Seven Mile, Ohio, or Alligator, Mississippi  you’ll have to look it up yourself.  You might have fun doing it, just as I did with the examples above.  It’s possible you might also learn about Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

And, who knows, you might even get enjoyment from some of my eBooks shown to the right.  Just click on covers to get a “Look Inside” free sample.