Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Eh, What's Up, Doc? It's Bugs Bunny's 75th Birthday!

Bugs Bunny unfazed by Marvin the Martian - Warner Bros.

A rabbit resembling Bugs Bunny, in character and appearance, made his debut on April 30, 1938 in the cartoon Porky's Hare Hunt (video at left below). Although he wasn't identified by name as Bugs Bunny at the time, he certainly looked, talked, and behaved a lot like him! This prototype Bugs is generally regarded as the nascent Bugs Bunny, but he made his official appearance on July 27, 1940 in A Wild Hare (video at right below). And the rest is lagomorphic history. Mel Blanc brought Bugs to life ever since his prototypical debut, and the character simply wouldn't have been the same without that inimitable voice! Of course, pretty much most of the Looney Tunes characters were branded with Blanc's unique voice, but Bugs Bunny somehow stands out because of his everyman character. In all of his cartoons, there's never a time you're not rooting for Bugs, in spite of the frustrations of his hapless foes. I think we all want to be like Bugs - indomitable, cool under fire, and always the winner :) 


Monday, April 29, 2013

100th Anniversary of the Zipper!

animation of zipper
Animation of zipper created by Dominique Toussaint,
Wikimedia Commons
What would we do without that clever invention, the zipper? We lose buttons, but zippers don't go anywhere, though they can get stuck :(  But we rely on this device everyday to keep our clothes fastened on us, not to mention keep our luggage closed and our lips sealed (zip your lip!).  So, who thought of this first? A hundred years ago, Gideon Sundback received the first patent for a "Separable Fastener" by the US Patent Office, which was the first working zipper. The name "zipper" was coined, however, at the B.F. Goodrich Co. in 1923 when they started using zippers for boots. It wasn't until another twenty years that zippers were used for other products such as clothing. Apparently, it took awhile for the public to get used to this novel invention and it had to be tweaked several times before it became widely accepted. Having perfected it, Sundback gave us a uniquely useful tool that helps us keep it all together.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Another BMW commercial, though the song hasn't been definitively identified. Some on the web say it's "Sail" by AWOLnation, but others disagree saying it doesn't sound exactly like it. Some say it's a remix possibly, others say it could just be highly produced stock music which BMW has made use of before. Whatever it is, it's addictive and can't be shaken off easily.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Walter Lantz's 114th Birth Anniversary

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz photo by D. Ramey Logan, 1990
contributed by WPPilot, Wikimedia Commons
                                                                                        Woody Woodpecker - The Screwball

The birthday of another birdman of sorts follows on the heels of  Audubon's birthday. Walter Lantz, creator of Woody Woodpecker, was born 114 years ago today. Probably the wildest, wackiest woodpecker ever conceived! An interesting story about the voice of WW is related in the Wikipedia article: "In 1950, Lantz held anonymous auditions. Grace, Lantz's wife, had offered to do Woody's voice; however, Lantz turned her down because Woody was a male character. Not discouraged in the least, Grace went about secretly making her own anonymous audition tape, and submitted it with the others for the studio to listen to. Not knowing whose voice was being heard, Lantz picked Grace's voice to do Woody Woodpecker. Grace supplied Woody's voice until the end of production in 1972, and also appeared in other non-Woody cartoons. At first, Grace voiced Woody without screen credit, because she thought that it would disappoint the children to know Woody Woodpecker was voiced by a woman. However, she soon came to enjoy being known as the voice of Woody Woodpecker, and allowed her name to be credited on the screen. Her version of Woody was cuter and friendlier than the manic Woody of the 1940s, and Lantz's artists redesigned the character to suit the new voice personality." I remember as a child, along with my friends, trying to imitate this unusual voice! Another interesting chapter in the annals of animation history. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

228th Birth Anniversary of John James Audubon

John James Audubon by John Syme - portrait
located at the White House (public domain)
One of the world's greatest ornithologists, Audubon was also a leading naturalist and artist. He painted over 400 true to life works of art depicting the birds he encountered. His body of work forms a significant contribution to the field of ornithology, which was made possible by shooting the birds first and then painting them. It seems harsh today, since we shoot birds with cameras now, but in earlier times, when cameras couldn't zoom or display color, it was the only way to create an accurate portrait. Many naturalists of his time adhered to the maxim, “What's hit's history: what's missed's mystery.” The University of Pittsburgh is one of the few institutions to own a rare and complete set of Audubon's Birds of America plates. The entire collection has been digitized and can be viewed online; the images are of very high resolution and quality. Wikimedia Commons also displays Audubon images, and they are also very hi-res. Audubon painted his birds not only in great detail, but also with some feeling for the character of each breed. He did observe how dedicated birds were to their offspring and portrayed them beautifully in their natural setting.
Audubon's Ivory-billed Woodpecker
Google doodle for Audubon's 226th anniversary

Audubon's Goosander

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Stunning New Images from Hubble

New infrared view of the Horsehead Nebula  Hubbles 23rd Anniversary Image
New infrared view of the Horsehead Nebula - Hubble's 23rd Anniversary Image -
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is 23 years old and in celebration it has sent us some truly beautiful new images, especially of the Horsehead Nebula in the Orion constellation. The new image is notable for its amazing clarity and shows in great detail the structures of the nebula which were previously obscured by stellar dust. The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most recognizable celestial features and the Hubble has revealed its beauty in a whole new light. 
Infrared and visible views of the Horsehead Nebula
 Infrared and visible views of the Horsehead Nebula.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

213th Anniversary of the Library of Congress

Main Reading Room Library of Congress
Main Reading Room, Library of Congress - loc.gov
An Act of Congress, passed on April 24, 1800 and signed by President John Adams, enabled the establishment of one of the greatest libraries in the world. The legislation originally provided $5,000 "for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress ..., and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them...." The LOC is the largest library in the world with holdings of over 150 million items located on about 838 miles of bookshelves. Its services benefit more people than just members of Congress: it runs the Talking Book program helps the blind and physically handicapped. More interesting facts about this magnificent library can be found on LOC's website, where its history and collections are detailed. The LOC page also lists the 25 most frequently asked questions, such as "Where are the books?" Well-worth checking out.

Library of Congress photographed by Carol Highsmith
Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer - Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints & Photo. Div.
Wikipedia's list of external links on further reading about the LOC:

  • The Library of Congress website
  • American Memory
  • History of the Library of Congress
  • Library of Congress National Book Festival authors roster
  • poets.org (About the 2012 National Book Festival from The Academy of American Poets)
  • Search the Library of Congress catalog
  • thomas.loc.gov, legislative information
  • Library Of Congress Meeting Notices and Rule Changes from The Federal Register RSS Feed
  • Library of Congress photos on Flickr
  • Outdoor sculpture at the Library of Congress
  • Standards, The Library of Congress
  • Works by the Library of Congress at Project Gutenberg
  • Library of Congress at FamilySearch Research Wiki for genealogists
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Congress, Library of". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920. 
  • C-SPAN's Library of Congress documentary and resources
  • Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    449th Birth Anniversary of William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout 1623
    William Shakespeare - copper engraving
    by Martin Droeshout, 1623 - public domain
    One of the greatest observers of human nature, who put his finger on just the right pulse of emotion and motivation, the Bard remains a tremendous literary force centuries after his own era. His works, naturally, abound in libraries everywhere and continue to provide librarians' livelihoods. Even those who have never read his works are still familiar with phrases and passages from them. He is eminently quotable and the internet is replete with pages of his most famous aphorisms. For all his eminence, so little is actually known about him personally; although many feel they have a good sense of who he was since so much has been written about him. Not long ago, Bill Bryson published a very nice encapsulation of what is known about Shakespeare and what still remains a mystery. In Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage, we learn that a lot remains a mystery, including even his physical appearance. He states, “Even Scientific American entered the fray with an article proposing that the person portrayed in the famous Martin Droeshout engraving might actually be--I weep to say it--Elizabeth I.” We may not know the man, but we can enjoy and appreciate his wondrous literary legacy. Thank you, Will!

    Monday, April 22, 2013

    Happy Earth Day!

    Earth from the Moon taken by Apollo 8 crew on Dec 24 1968 NASA
    Earth from the Moon, taken by Apollo 8 crew on Dec. 24, 1968 - NASA public domain
    So fitting that this day follows John Muir's birthday, which is an additional reminder of the importance of taking care of our home.  This year's Google Earth Day doodle is another fun interactive one - read instructions here to enjoy all its features. "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!"

    Sunday, April 21, 2013

    175th Birth Anniversary of John Muir

    John Muir
    "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."  ~ John Muir writing in The Yosemite (1912)

    As the foremost American naturalist, John Muir helped preserve our natural wilderness enabling the growth of the U.S. parks system. In particular, Yosemite Valley and other California wilderness areas have remained in relatively pristine condition due to his activism. He also founded the Sierra Club, which has labored hard to protect American wilderness. This important figure is responsible for raising awareness of the need to protect and appreciate the environment for its myriad aesthetic and essential qualities. The Sierra Club website contains a wealth of information on Muir and his tireless work, including his writings. He led by example and his life and works are well worth examining since our own world is sorely in need of his prescription.

    Left:  John Muir, American conservationist, by Francis M. Fritz 1907 - public domain

    Saturday, April 20, 2013

    Tito Puente's 90th Birth Anniversary

    Best known for his "Oye Como Va" number which was greatly popularized by Santana, Tito Puente was known as, "The Musical Pope." He had no equal in his particular style of Latin Jazz and was bestowed with many superlatives, such as "The King of Latin Music" and "The King of the Timbales" among others. Watching the video of his live performance, you can hear and feel his charisma and the infectious quality of his musical talent. He was a great musical ambassador, combining different styles of music and bringing it to a wider audience. Viva El Rey del Mambo!

    Friday, April 19, 2013


    1.  Buzzfeed - Spock's touching letter to a mixed-race girl in the '60's.
    2.  Dr. Weil - Bi-lingual is better for the brain.
    3.  HuffPost - Maybe it's time to change daylight saving time.
    4.  MIT - Beware of the driverless car - we may not be ready for it.
    5.  New Scientist - How far away is the Large Magellenic Cloud?
    6.  NYT - Green folk remedy for Bedbugs - it works!
    7.  NYT - Deadly but beautiful Dragonflies.
    8.  WP - Tea's popularity goes up due to its health benefits.
    9.  The Appendix - of cats and manuscripts.
    10. Yahoo - People who taste too much.

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    National Bookmobile Day

    ALA's promotion for National Bookmobile Day
    Bookmobile services around the country have been in decline for many years, though there are many rural and urban areas that are still served by them. Changing technology is causing libraries to become more virtualized and less dependent on physical space. In one sense, bookmobiles of yore were a kind of virtual library since they traveled to where the patrons were. As Mary Titcomb, founder of the first U.S. bookmobile said, "The book goes to the man, not waiting for the man to come to the book."  The same could be said of today's eBooks and other virtual library services. A bit of Maryland pride here, that first U.S. bookmobile was part of the Washington County Free Library, where Titcomb was a librarian. Bookmobile vehicles vary according to geography; in some countries, animals such as burros or elephants are used to deliver books. And in Norway, the mobile library floats in on a boat! Children of disadvantaged communities have long looked forward to the weekly bookmobile visit when they could board the vehicle and check out their books. I've never had the pleasure of working on a bookmobile, but I've known colleagues who have and all unanimously agree that it is one of the most rewarding work they've ever experienced.

    History of bookmobiles - Library on Wheels - From Wagons to Buses

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Family Portrait, Crescent Neptune and Triton - APOD

    Crescent Neptune and Triton - Image Credit: Voyager 2, NASA
    This is a stunning photo composition by Voyager 2, taken back in 1989, when both planet and moon were in 
    crescent phase. Neptune is somewhat washed out in appearance, lacking its familiar blue hue, as the sunlight is scattered forward. The APOD page has more details about how this image was possible.

    Monday, April 15, 2013

    Anil Dash on The Web We Lost

    Worth spending the hour watching this. Posted by the Berkman Center:

    "Published on Apr 4, 2013. In the past decade, we've seen an unprecedented rise of powerful social networks, connecting millions or even billions of people who can now communicate almost instantaneously. But many of the promises that were made by the creators of the earliest social networking technologies have gone unfulfilled. In this talk, Anil Dash—entrepreneur, technologist, and writer—takes a look at some of the unexamined costs, both cultural and social, of the way the web has evolved." More info on this event on the Berkman site.

    Sunday, April 14, 2013

    Celebrate National Library Week - April 14-20, 2013

    Poems to learn by heart

    Can't let this day pass by without acknowledging this annual observance in honor of libraries and the people they serve. This year, Caroline Kennedy is serving as Honorary Chair of National Library Week, and it is an appropriate appointment as she has just written a book for children, "Poems to Learn by Heart." This year's theme for NLW is "Communities Matter @ your library." Libraries are all about the communities they serve and wouldn't exist were it not for the support and active participation of their residents. Thank you, libraries and library patrons!

    Saturday, April 13, 2013

    Thomas Jefferson's 270th Birth Anniversary

    Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
    by Rembrandt Peale in 1800 - public domain

    Our third President described his achievements best by writing his own epitaph: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson Author of the Declaration of American Independence Of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia." No mention of being President, although that position couldn't have been achieved without his writing the Declaration of Independence to begin with. So, his emphasis on his authorship is well-placed! Every student of U.S. History is already aware of Jefferson's great intellect and wide-ranging interests, from science to religion, politics to philosophy, and much more. The following are some resources that highlight some particularly interesting bits of information about Jefferson, some not so well-known:

    Aerial view of Monticello
    Aerial view of Monticello (www.monticello.org)

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    National D.E.A.R Day - Drop Everything And Read Day

    The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
    The Mouse and the Motorcycle
    by Beverly Cleary - HarperCollins

    This multi-organization sponsored* commemoration falls yearly on Beverly Cleary's birthday. Cleary, as any fan of Children's Lit knows, is the author of the Ralph S. Mouse, Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and other series of juvenile books. D.E.A.R Day promotes sustained silent reading on a voluntary basis to encourage the habit of regular reading. When children are encouraged to read this way, they learn that reading becomes a solace and source of growth which can be relied upon for life. Books truly are the one friend that will never let you down, whatever circumstance in which you may find yourself. There is nothing like the feeling of knowing you have a good book in hand which will envelope you in hours of rapt reading. A wondrous journey that essentially never ends. The beginning and end of each book marks a station break whereupon a new book picks up and resumes the journey in another direction. D.E.A.R. Day promotes this practice and provides children with a lifelong habit that will serve them better than any other on their life's journey.

    *NEA, PTA, ALA, GFWC, NAA, among others.

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

    International "Louie Louie" Day

    This iconic rock'n'roll song has an interesting history and an apparently unjustified notorious reputation. The original version was written and recorded by Richard Berry in the 50's, but The Kingsmen covered it in the 60's when it became a huge hit. The lyrics, as recorded by The Kingsmen drew unwanted and ultimately unwarranted negative attention, even going so far as to be investigated by the FBI. The song today is a Rock 'n'Roll standard and rates 54 among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs. It has also been covered by hundreds of artists, a true testament to its Rock classic stature.

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013

    Library News: Citizen Libraries

    Ourshelves Lending Library in San Francisco
    Ourshelves Lending Library in San Francisco

    Small, community run libraries are cropping up all over the map. It's an interesting trend which likely indicates a deep nostalgia for old-fashioned reading rooms which are fast becoming scarce. Co.Exist writes about San Francisco based Ourshelves, "a communal library with selections curated by editors, readers and longtime booksellers, one which adapts each time a member takes out a book or suggests a new title."  Libraries run by governments and other institutions are rapidly evolving into big box entities which are under pressure to provide the latest innovations in everything but print materials. Not to mention the coziness which is lacking in many average libraries. It will be interesting to see what the growth will be in these new Citizen Libraries. I wish them luck, for they are filling a void which is very common now in Libraryland.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    Paul Robeson's 115th Birth Anniversary

    What a simply magnificent voice! This is how most people remember Paul Robeson and while that was his extraordinary trademark, he also possessed other tremendous talents. He was that rare athlete who was also an academic and attended Law School.  He was a gifted Shakespearean actor whose performance as Othello marked a high point in 20th century English Shakespearean theatre. He became politically active during the Civil Rights era, to the detriment of his career, but he was an honest spokesman on behalf of suffering people everywhere. He became a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement in his early adulthood. His radical views were controversial and he was shunned by many people and institutions during the Cold War, but in later years, he became more respected and appreciated, though his legacy remains controversial. His influence as an actor, singer, and activist is recognized and preserved today, through archives held at the Academy of Arts and Howard University. Ol' Man River, he just keeps rollin' along...

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    100th Anniversary of the Seventeenth Amendment

    Amendment XVII in the National Archives
    Amendment XVII in the National Archives
    Prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, US Senators were selected by state legislatures, not by popular vote. Direct elections to the Senate were held only after April 8, 1913 when the amendment had been ratified by three-fourths of the states. Some states never actually ever ratified the amendment, with one (Utah) expressly rejecting it. A few states only ratified it in the 21st century, notably, Alabama, Delaware, and Maryland. Ironically, although Maryland was the last state to ratify it on April 1, 2012, it was actually the state in which the first direct elections to the Senate were held! Direct elections enabled more democratic outcomes of Senate elections, where before, rural votes often carried more weight than urban votes, sometimes in excess of 200 to 1. Needless to say, this amendment has not been popular with all constituents (particularly business and rural interests), but it was intended to, rightfully, prevent the Senate from becoming an American 'House of Lords.'

    Sunday, April 7, 2013


    It always amazes me how much good music I miss when it first comes out, but I always seem to catch up with it years later on TV commercials. This sad, but sweet tune called Lullaby by Pink Martini has been used on the St. Jude Children's Hospital ads and though it starts off hauntingly, it ends on a more comforting, soothing note. It seems to express a mother's love for her child, with all its joys, travails, and hopes for the future. It's a very effective piece for a plea to support a good cause. Hearing it makes me think that any child would sleep more peacefully under its calming spell. St. Jude also recently released a more upbeat ad with their version of Hey, Jude, or Hey, St. Jude as it's labeled in the video. Very fun and hopeful seeing so many happy, smiling children singing this classic!

    Saturday, April 6, 2013

    Happy 75th Birthday, Polytetrafluoroethylene!

    Structure of Polytetrafluoroethylene  or Teflon
    Structure of Polytetrafluoroethylene - graphic by Ben Mills, public domain Wikimedia Commons
    Or better known to most as Teflon, the brand produced by DuPont Co. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) was discovered, as many things are in the world of science, serendipitously by American chemist, Roy J. Plunkett (not NASA, as is commonly believed). In recent years, Teflon has received bad publicity for its effects on humans and birds, it still has valuable uses in medicine, industry, and sports. While many of us avoid cooking food on Teflon coated utensils, it has many practical uses such as bug repellent (in the sense that bugs can't hold onto surfaces coated with it). So, we appreciate you, Teflon, but won't invite you to dinner!

    Friday, April 5, 2013

    Helen Keller's Miracle

    photo of Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan
    Helen Keller, age 8, with her tutor Anne Sullivan
     in Cape Cod MA - public domain, Wikimedia Commons
    Anyone who has seen or read "The Miracle Worker" will remember with awe the moment when Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, provided her with the key to understanding language by pouring water on her hand and spelling out w-a-t-e-r on it. This day marks the anniversary of that epiphany, when Keller was able to associate the meaning of the letters with the flowing substance on her hand. It took tremendous effort for Sullivan to teach Keller, blind and deaf due to childhood meningitis, the rudiments of language and communication. Years later, Keller would become the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor's Degree, thanks to the influence of Mark Twain who introduced her to Standard Oil magnate Henry Huttleston Rogers, who paid for her education. Twain was a great admirer of both Keller and Sullivan, who together showed the world how people with disabilities can achieve miraculous things. Keller would become an activist, advocate, and pacifist, who opposed Woodrow Wilson. She was very progressive for her day, a fact which is often forgotten since her deafblindness tended to eclipse her other qualities and activities. She remains one of the most admired people of the 20th century.

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    Florida's Quincentennial

    At least, that's how long the western world has known about Florida, when Juan Ponce de Leon claimed and named it for Spain back in 1513. (Archeologists have determined that the area around Florida had been inhabited by Paleo-Indians going back 14,000 years.) When Ponce de Leon came upon Florida, it was Easter week and the Spanish term for that is "Pascua Florida" or "flowery Easter". Flowers were also blooming then and it was fittingly regarded as, "la Florida" ever since. And the rest is history - we now have the land of sunshine, seniors, and sinkholes. And let's not forget citrus. Florida's a land that fills the imagination with low taxes and high fun in the sun. It has a schizophrenic personality that manifests itself in politics, demographics, and geography. Such a unique state deserves a big party on its quincentennial - Happy 500th la Florida!

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    April Fool's Hoaxes

    april fools day

    The Museum of Hoaxes lists the top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes of all time. A nice way to spend April Fool's Day is to peruse their gallery of unbelievable hoaxes, some of which must have taken considerable thought, effort, and even money to pull off!  And when you're through with that, take a look at Wikipedia's chronology of pretty much all of Google's April Fool's jokes. Google has been pulling off these jokes ever since 2000 when they invented their MentalPlex to make searching easier :p  Someday they really may invent this thing, whenever we're able to plug ourselves neurologically into the internet. For now, we'll have to settle for searching the old-fashioned way, using our current faculties.