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Mork and Mindy

Na-Nu, Na-Nu

September 14, 2021

Na-nu, Na-nu! This phrase – unknown before September 14, 1978 – became a part of the American cultural vernacular thanks to the incomparable Robin Williams in his role as Mork in the sitcom Mork and Mindy.

The show catapulted Williams to fame and fans of the show tuned in every week to see what crazy new thing Mork would do.

The story of Mork began the previous year as a plot line in the popular TV show Happy Days. In one episode Richie encounters Mork – an alien from the planet Ork – who attempts to capture Richie and take him back to his planet for study.

Apparently fans loved the Mork character and the concept. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Mork appears in the Happy Days season five episode ‘My Favorite Orkan’, which first aired in February 1978 and is a take on the 1960s sitcom My Favorite Martian. The show wanted to feature a spaceman in order to capitalize on the popularity of the then recently released Star Wars film. Williams’ character, Mork, attempts to take Richie Cunningham back to his planet of Ork as a human specimen, but his plan is foiled by Fonzie. In the initial broadcast of this episode, it all turned out to be a dream that Richie had, but when Mork proved so popular, the ending in the syndicated version was re-edited to show Mork erasing the experience from everyone’s minds, thus meaning the event had actually happened and was not a dream.”

The spin off show catapulted to the #3 spot on TV during its inaugural season, leaping ahead of Happy Days in the ratings.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

Mork arrives on earth in an egg

Mork arrives on Earth in an egg-shaped spacecraft. He has been assigned to observe human behavior by Orson, his mostly unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James). Orson has sent Mork to get him off Ork, where humor is not permitted. Attempting to fit in, Mork dresses in an Earth suit, but wears it backwards. Landing in Boulder, Colorado, he encounters 21-year-old Mindy (Pam Dawber), who is upset after an argument with her boyfriend, and offers assistance. Because of his odd garb, she mistakes him for a priest and is taken in by his willingness to listen (in fact, simply observing her behavior). Snip

Culturally, the impact was huge and spawned a variety of toys and games

Storylines usually center on Mork’s attempts to understand human behavior and American culture as Mindy helps him to adjust to life on Earth. It usually ends up frustrating Mindy, as Mork can only do things according to Orkan customs. For example, lying to someone or not informing them it will rain is considered a practical joke (called ‘splinking’) on Ork. At the end of each episode, Mork reports back to Orson on what he has learned about Earth. These end-of-show summaries allow Mork to humorously comment on social norms. Snip

This series was Robin Williams’ first major acting role. Pam Dawber found him so funny that she had to bite her lip in many scenes to avoid breaking up in laughter and ruining the take, often a difficult task with Williams’ talent.”

In the fall of 1978, I was 21 years old and in college so I didn’t see every episode of Mork and Mindy. But the show, specifically Williams’ role, made an impression. My fellow sorority sisters and I loved Mork and soon mimicked some of his outrageous phrases and antics.

People magazine cover October 1978

We greeted each other with “Na-nu, Na-nu” and the accompanying hand gesture; we used the term “Kay Oh” instead of “Oh Kay.” The crazier male students attempted to ‘sit’ on their heads. In many ways Mork provided a primer on how to be outrageous which, when you are in college, is a goal for many.

Mork and Mindy was like fireworks, bursting onto the television scene, in a soaring arc of sparks and light. Many tuned in just to see what crazy thing Williams would say and do. I can only imagine how exhausting it must have been for Williams to keep it up week after week.

Although the series remained popular in subsequent seasons, nothing quite compared to its meteoric season one.

Occasionally, I still find myself saying “na-nu, na-nu” or “K-O” without even realizing how these terms – so very novel when first uttered – have become a part of American culture. All due to an alien named Mork who conquered the world in September 1978.

The link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mork_%26_Mindy

Answers to the Facebook post: Three’s Company (1976), Mork and Mindy (1978), Taxi (1978), Welcome Back, Kotter (1975), and Laverne and Shirley (1976)

The Ice Cream Truck

The best thing on a hot August afternoon

August 17, 2021

Lost in the hazy memories of childhood summers are the snippets from hot afternoons spent playing outside with the gaggle of kids who lived on my street.

Our days were filled with pick up softball games, bikes, Barbie Dolls and board games. But there was one distinctive sound which caused our collective to drop everything and run home. That sound was the blare of the song Greensleeves.

In suburban communities throughout the United States, the ice cream truck has been a summer fixture for several generations now.

It seemed to me that the ‘truck’ which roamed our streets was open like this one and the driver turned in his seat to get the treats

They also, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, are very popular in Britain and are described thus:

“An ice cream van (British) or ice cream truck (North American) is a commercial vehicle that serves as a mobile retail outlet for ice cream, usually during the spring and summer. Ice cream vans are often seen parked at public events, or near parks, beaches, or other areas where people congregate. Ice cream vans often travel near where children play — outside schools, in residential areas, or in other locations. They usually stop briefly before moving on to the next street. Along the sides, a large sliding window acts as a serving hatch, and this often displays pictures of the available products and their prices. Most ice cream vans tend to sell both pre-manufactured ice pops in wrappers, and soft serve ice cream from a machine, served in a cone, and often with a chocolate flake (in Britain), a sugary syrup, or toppings such as sprinkles. While franchises or chains are rare within the ice cream truck community (most trucks are independently owned and run), some do exist.”

When one is a child, we often take for granted certain things. One of those things was the ice cream truck which came down our street frequently during the summer. Of course I didn’t think about it much. All I thought about was how I was going to get my hands on the nickel (and when the price went up, a dime and a nickel) I needed to buy a treat.

In the houses up and down my street, our mothers’ doled out the coins needed. Soon we all lined up, patiently or not, for our turn to peruse the desired frozen treats, the cloud of cold steam from the dry ice billowing out like some magician’s trick. The truck always stopped between our house and the Tuttle’s house. This strategic location often produced a dozen eager customers as my family boasted four children and the Tuttle’s had six. Added to our ten were several groups of three additional children within a few houses and even more further up the street. That was a lot of potential customers!

Vintage ad for a Creamsicle from the late 1960’s

Soon I’d have the frozen delight in hand and would sit on the curb with the others. I can envision our gangly group, in pedal pusher pants or shorts and the summer footwear of choice: thongs. For those born after about 1970, we never called them flip-flops, they were thongs and every single one of us wore them all summer long despite the occasional bee sting or stubbed toe.

But I digress. Although I often thought about buying something new and different, I always got the same thing: an orange creamsicle.

My mother, no doubt in a futile attempt to cut back on the money spent at the ice cream truck, developed her own frozen treats. She would fill an ice cube tray with (I think) chocolate fudge jello and freeze the little squares. Into each square was inserted a wooden popsicle stick. These would be doled out on hot August afternoons when the ice cream truck did not come up our street.

When my own children were growing up I would often make Koolaid based popsicles in specially designed holders. My daughter could go through several every day.

Of course one of the reasons for this is that there were no ice cream trucks which ventured the steep driveway up to the house where we lived. Unlike the street where I grew up, my pair of children mostly played with one another or with a friend or two invited over for the afternoon.

A delicious fudge bar and ice cream cone.

When we moved to Kirkland in 2004 the kids were 14 and 11 and past the age where the ice cream truck was a motivating factor. Even so, there were many afternoons when I’d hear the familiar Greensleeves, it’s Pavlovian tune beckoning to youngsters.

In the past three years I have yet to hear or notice an ice cream truck in our neighborhood. Perhaps, with the advent of instant grocery deliveries, it’s now been swept into the dustbin of history. I think our society is a little less rich if that is the case.

Perhaps the next time I’m at the store, I’ll purchase a package of creamsicles, blare Greensleeves from Spotify, and then close my eyes and imagine I’m 8 years old once again, sitting on the curb and savoring that wonderful childhood treat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cream_van

The Driver’s Test

40 was the magic number

August 3, 2021

At one time this test was an important rite of passage for the American teenager, an indication that they were about to enjoy one of the privileges of adulthood: being able to drive.

For one Mariam Hargrave of Yorkshire, England, no doubt it was an ordeal. It was on August 3, 1970, when the 62 year old finally passed her driving test. Although the Infallible Wikipedia has an article about driver’s tests, they ignore poor Mrs. Hargraves. Instead, I was able to glean this information:

“By April 1970 Mrs. Miriam Hargrave had failed her test thirty-nine times. In the eight preceding years she had received two hundred and twelve driving lessons at a cost of £300. She set the new record while driving triumphantly through a set of red traffic lights in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Disappointingly, she passed at the fortieth attempt (3 August 1970) but eight years later she showed some of her old magic when she was reported as saying that she still didn’t like doing right-hand turns. — Stephen Pile, ‘The Book of Heroic Failures’”

Back in 1970’s Yakima it was a big deal to learn how to drive. By the time I was in high school, they were offering Driver’s Ed classes which involved learning the rules of the road and practicing driving. I doubt there were any braver educators anywhere than those who willingly climbed into a car with a 15 ½ year old, hormone driven, child and allowed them to command a 2,000 pound vehicle on city streets.

Yet, they did. I seem to recall my Driver’s Ed teacher, Mr. Breshears, always popping antacid tablets. I suppose the only thing which gave the instructors any comfort at all was the fact that the cars were equipped with a set of brakes for the front seat passenger.

Our simulators looked something like this set up from 1969.

Three students at a time would go drive with the teacher. It was a bit terrifying since not all budding drivers had the benefit of a parent who worked with them after school. There was one student I recall who tested Mr. Breshears patience each time they got behind the wheel. Those instructor brakes got quite the workout.

But the favorite part of Driver’s Ed class was getting to go to the Simulator. It was a windowless trailer which had been equipped with two parallel rows of seats, separated by an aisle sort of like being on a bus, and all faced forward. Each station had a steering wheels, brakes, etc. to look like the driver’s area of a car. At the front of the trailer was a large screen. Once all the students were settled into their places, the lights would be dimmed and the screen would come to life as though one was behind the wheel, driving down the street. It was our job to accelerate in unison with what we saw on the screen. It was also imperative that we hit the brakes at the right time.

From the IKE Reveille year book, 1972

Driver’s training films seemed to mostly consist of tree lined city blocks which, at first, seemed like lovely enclaves of blissful American life. But no. Those streets were every driver’s worst nightmare. Balls of all sorts would suddenly bounce out into the road followed by adorable tikes chasing them. Woe unto those who didn’t hit the brakes in time!

There were dogs and cats; there were other vehicles; things fell off the backs of trucks, branches crashed down. Who knew how truly hazardous things could be in one bucolic town?

Of course, some cheeky student would purposefully ‘run’ over the simulated hazards and a little red light would illuminate on their console, publically shaming them for an egregious infraction. I always wondered if students who ‘ran’ over cats, dogs, and children, failed the course.

Over the years I have learned just how accurate those simulations were as I’ve encountered many of the hazards portrayed. Thankfully, it’s only occasionally that such things happen. The hubby and I, if we are in the car together, will comment in unison ‘Driver’s Training film!’ when something we experienced in the simulator occurs in real life.

This photo is from the Eisenhower High School 1972 annual. The headline above this proclaimed “380 license-hungry students swamp driver education course this year.” Apparently there were a bunch of us who turned 16 that year.

The  instruction I received was successful and on my 16th birthday I took the tests – written and driving – and emerged as a licensed driver and, despite losing points for parallel parking, never came close to Mariam Hargrave’s, 212 lessons, eight years of time, and over $700 (US) spent.

The links:

An entertaining look at early simulators:

https://www.dmv-written-test.com/washington/practice-test-1.html?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=%2Bwa%20%2Bstate%20%2Bdriver%27s%20%2Btest%20%2Bpractice&utm_campaign=DMV%20-%20Search%20-%20WA%20-%20EN%20-%20CAR~Driver%20Question%20Test&msclkid=ee5a27bd586710c0735246b5495d31f5# (Can you pass the written test for Washington State?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driving_test

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Heroic_Failures

Disneyland

The Happiest Place On Earth

July 20, 2021

Where oh where to begin with this week’s topic? For those of us born from the mid-1950’s on, there was never a time when this, the ‘happiest place on earth’ did not exist.

We learned about Disneyland via Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Color which featured Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle against a back drop of colorful fireworks. It was an aspirational sort of thing, I suppose, instilling in our Baby Boomer hearts the desire to go to Disneyland and find our own happiness there.

The crowd running towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle July 17, 1955

It was the third week of July 1955, when the park officially opened, one year and one day from when construction began. Walt Disney’s concept came while sitting on a bench at a park one day and watching his two daughters play. Instead of parents just observing from the sidelines, he mused, wouldn’t it be great to have a place where kids and parents could have fun together?

It would be nearly 20 years before Disneyland would finally become a reality.

The Disneyland most people know today would be nearly unrecognizable to Disney himself. The first rides were, for lack of a better term, rather bland. There was not a roller coaster to be found anywhere within the park. It’s most popular early attractions were “Jungle Cruise,” “Autopia,” and “Rocket to the Moon” (later to Mars). Guests strolled along Main Street, hopped aboard the Disneyland Railroad, or sailed the raft over to Tom Sawyer Island for fun. There were a few carnival type rides but by today’s standards those would be considered ‘kiddie’ rides.

Opening day was a disaster. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

Walt Disney and his grandson taking a break from the 101 degree temperatures on opening day

“Traffic was delayed on the two-lane Harbor Boulevard. Famous figures who were scheduled to show up every two hours showed up all at once. The temperature was an unusually high 101 °F (38 °C), and because of a local plumbers’ strike, Disney was given a choice of having working drinking fountains or running toilets. He chose the latter, leaving many drinking fountains dry. This generated negative publicity since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening; disappointed guests believed the inoperable fountains were a cynical way to sell soda, while other vendors ran out of food. The asphalt that had been poured that morning was soft enough to let women’s high-heeled shoes sink into it. Some parents threw their children over the crowd’s shoulders to get them onto rides, such as the King Arthur Carrousel.

In later years, Disney and his 1955 executives referred to July 17, 1955, as ‘Black Sunday’. After the extremely negative press from the preview opening, Walt Disney invited attendees back for a private ‘second day’ to experience Disneyland properly.”

Despite the inauspicious start, Disney persevered, never resting and always looking for innovative ideas and opportunities to improve the park and thus the experience for paying guests.

The first roller coaster, the now iconic Matterhorn, opened in 1959. It was eventually joined by a second coaster, Space Mountain, in 1977.

The Matterhorn under construction 1959

Although many of the original attractions are still a part of Disneyland, the Disney company has never been afraid to update and upgrade to keep pace with the changing technology or the desires of the public. Many of the attractions kids of the 1960’s and 70’s remember fondly are long since gone.

As a child – and knowing about Disneyland – it was a place I wanted to go. For my family, however, it was not within reach. It was only after the passing of my grandmother in January 1970 that the wheels were set in motion for a trip which took my Dad, Mom, Sister, and me south to Anaheim. I chronicled my first Disneyland visit in a previous blog post https://barbaradevore.com/2020/05/26/the-great-american-road-trip/.

Having gotten a taste of the Disney experience, I was excited when – along with the Rainbow Girls – I had another day at the park in late July 1976. And much like the first visit, it was a one day visit. The rides were few and mostly I recall riding the Matterhorn and meeting the Big Bad Wolf.

My sister encounters the Big Bad Wolf

It was after the hubby and I had been married for nearly eight years when we hatched our ultimate Disneyland plan. We flew to California in January 1988 to spend three entire days at the theme park. While there, we agreed, we would ride EVERY ride they had to offer; see every show; eat all the food. We would immerse ourselves in all Disney, all the time.

A few things stand out from that trip. One, when we arrived at John Wayne airport it was probably 8 or 9 p.m. and 60 degrees. To us, coming from 40 and rain Seattle in January, it seemed like summer. We laughed at a woman standing near the open air luggage carousel who was, literally, wearing a parka, fur hat, and big mittens.

Second, we videotaped pretty much every ride. Alas, without the magic of the machine which can convert VHS those tapes are consigned to a dusty box in the Harry Potter closet. (see article here: https://barbaradevore.com/2020/06/30/winchester-mystery-house/) One of these days I do plan to get those old tapes digitized!

Third, it was truly one of the best vacations the hubby and I took. We were 30 and 31 years old, did not yet have children, could afford to pay for whatever we wanted, and for three days we got to act like teenagers but better. Not only did we go on ALL the rides (yes, even the ‘kiddie’ rides), but we did several of the best ones multiple times. Space Mountain? check/check. Matterhorn? check/check/check. Haunted Mansion? check/check/check. Big Thunder Railroad? check/check/check/check/check.

In the years since, we’ve taken our children to Disneyland a couple of times and to DisneyWorld once. The hubby and I even had a solo day at Epcot a few years ago. But I’m not so keen on roller coasters any more. Those are, sadly, more the province of the young and less fragile among us. Even so, I think it would be fun to return to Disneyland with our adult children (neither of whom have any children at this point) during a time of year when the crowds are reduced and we can once again ride any ride we like as many times as we want. That, to me, would be magical.

Hubby and me with the two littlest ones on the Disneyland railroad 1995
Hubby and kids waiting for Big Thunder Railroad roller coaster circa 1998
Disneyland circa 1998

As Walt Disney said on opening day in 1955:

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”

Disneyland Map 1970

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland

A Puzzle for the Ages

The Rubiks Cube

July 13, 2021

Choices, choices. That’s what today, July 13, gives us. A number of Tuesday Newsday worthy people are celebrating birthday’s today. I thought I had it all figured out until my brother, who is a disc jockey and sends me his show prep once a week, included the birthday of a person whose invention changed the toy landscape of the world.

The yummy Indiana Jones aka Harrison Ford

So what to do? First of all, I say Happy Birthday to actor Harrison Ford who is 79. Ford, for those might have been living in a monastery in Tibet, is known for multiple memorable roles: Bob Falfa in American Graffiti, Han Solo in the Star Wars films, Jack Ryan in The Patriot Games, and the swashbuckling Indiana Jones. There is much more to Ford’s career which has now spanned 51 years. There is currently another Indiana Jones movie being filmed.

To learn more about Ford and his career, the Infallible Wikipedia can be accessed here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Ford

On a personal note, the closest I ever got to Ford was during a trip to Disneyland the third week of February 1995. The Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride – based on the Indiana Jones movies – was slated to open in early March. That’s when we learned about ‘soft openings.’ On our last day at the park they opened the ride… two weeks before its official opening date. I was jazzed and the hubby and I figured out how to take turns on the attraction since our daughter was only two and not tall enough to participate.

My sister and nieces outside the brand new Temple of the Forbidden Eye attraction, February 1995

Once the ride was over, it was time to head back to the hotel for some down time and we worked our way to Main Street and the exit. Our plans were thwarted – in a good way – when a parade halted our progress. The crowd was excited and we asked someone what was going on. “Harrison Ford is in the parade,” one enthusiastic woman said. Yes, it was a parade to celebrate the opening of the newest Disneyland attraction.

Sure enough a few minutes later both Ford and Carrie Fischer (who had no role in the Indiana Jones movie but was still there) rode by in a pair of convertibles.

Now on to the second birthday of note. Until I looked at his Wikipedia page I could not have picked this person out of a police lineup. Yet one of his inventions lives at our house and has done so since nineteen eighty something. Happy 77th Birthday to Erno Rubik, inventor of the popular cube puzzle.

For most people I imagine their cubes look like this most of the time.

Rubik is a Hungarian inventor, architect, and professor of architecture. The invention of the Rubik’s cube came about, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, when Rubik, using blocks of wood and rubber bands:

“…set out to create a structure which would allow the individual pieces to move without the whole structure falling apart. Rubik originally used wood for the block because of the convenience of a workshop at the university and because he viewed wood as a simple material to work with that did not require sophisticated machinery. Rubik made the original prototypes of his cube by hand, cutting the wood, boring the holes and using elastic bands to hold the contraption together.

Erno Rubik

Rubik showed his prototype to his class and his students liked it very much. Rubik realized that, because of the cube’s simple structure, it could be manufactured relatively easily and might have appeal to a larger audience. Rubik’s father possessed several patents, so Rubik was familiar with the process and applied for a patent for his invention. Rubik then set out to find a manufacturer in Hungary, but had great difficulty due to the rigid planned economy of communist Hungary at the time. Eventually, Rubik was able to find a small company that worked with plastic and made chess pieces. The cube was originally known in Hungary as the Magic Cube.

Rubik licensed the Magic Cube to Ideal Toys, a US company in 1979. Ideal rebranded The Magic Cube to the Rubik’s Cube before its introduction to an international audience in 1980. The process from early prototype to significant mass production of the Cube had taken over six years. The Rubik’s Cube would go on to become an instant success worldwide, winning several Toy of the Year awards, and becoming a staple of 1980s popular culture. To date, over 350 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold, making it one of the best selling toys of all time.”

Since that article was posted, an additional 100 million cubes have been sold which places it as THE bestselling toy of all time.

The Rubik’s cube has been a true conundrum for the average person. It’s unsolvable unless one understands and applies at least two algorithms as they move the pieces around. In fact, according to an article on Ruwix.com, there are 43 quintillion possible combinations. Another interesting note is that it took Rubik himself over a month to solve it once he invented it!

Over the years there have been books written as to ‘how’ to solve the puzzle. There are now links on the internet providing the algorithms for free.

One Felix Zemdegs of Australia holds the world record for the fastest solving time. His record: 4.75 seconds. It’s pretty amazing to watch:

As I said, we have had a cube floating around our house over the years. After our son arrived, he became fascinated with all the games we owned. It was a daily affair for the game cupboard to be unloaded. Of course the cube was of interest. When he was probably 5 or 6, he became frustrated in his cube solving attempts. No amount of telling him that adults (including his mother) were incapable of solving the puzzle appeased him.

Who knew Ford was a Rubik’s master?

Then one day he walks into the kitchen and proudly shows me the ‘solved’ cube. I was impressed until I detected that some of the colored paper stickers on each cube were a bit crooked. On closer inspection it was obvious someone found the ‘easy’ way to solve it.

But his engineering brain was not to be deterred. We got him a new cube a couple of years later for his birthday and then he set about learning the final algorithms needed to solve the puzzle.

I’ve been able to get one face and then two rows of color correct, but that’s as far as I’ve ever gone. I’m okay with that. As someone who does not have an ‘engineering’ brain I’m content to watch in awe as those that do solve the Rubik’s cube, the world’s most famous puzzle.

A couple more links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ern%C5%91_Rubik

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubik%27s_Cube

Pokémon Go

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

July 6, 2021

Until early 1999, I had never heard the word “Pokémon” which is a shortened version of the Japanese term for the iconic Gameboy creatures, Pocket Monsters, created in 1996.

Pikachu – the iconic symbol of Pokémon .

It was in the spring of 1999 when Pokémon trading cards took over the elementary school where my son was in the third grade. For a number of months we made frequent treks to the card store so that my son could buy a packet of the cards to add to his collection and, ostensibly, trade with his school mates.

Like all such fads, the trading card obsession faded and by Fourth grade year, it was over. Or so I thought.

If everyone thought the Pokémon cards were a big deal they had not, in the words of the Bachman Turner Overdrive song You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

It was on July 6, 2016 when Pokémon Go was launched and became a worldwide experience.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The game was referred to as a ‘social media phenomenon’ which has brought people together from all walks of life. 231 million people engaged in 1.1 billion interactions that mentioned Pokémon Go on Facebook and Instagram in the month of July. Numerous media outlets referred to the surge in popularity as ‘Pokémon Go Mania’, or simply ‘Pokémania’.The massive popularity of the game resulted in several unusual positive effects. For example, the game placed players where they can help catch criminals and report crimes in progress, although it has also placed some in harm’s way, and has even aided law enforcement’s community relations. albeit with caveats. Businesses also benefited from the nearby presence of PokéStops (or them being PokéStops themselves) with the concomitant influx of people, and the intense exploration of communities has brought local history to the forefront.

The highly coveted Charizard trading card

For those unfamiliar with the game, it popularized AR – Augmented Reality –with users being able to find and capture the Pokémon which appeared as animated creatures on an i-phone or Android device. Think of it this way: when you open the Pokémon Go app on your phone, the world appears in a cartoonish form with grass, trees, water, and buildings. If a Pokémon is nearby it will materialize on the screen and provide the user an opportunity to ‘catch’ it by throwing a Pokéball at the creature. Once caught, the Pokémon is added to the user’s collection. The goal, initially, is to catch at least one of every Pokémon. These, most often, can be evolved into a new Pokémon – so long as you have earned enough points to do so by capturing many, many of the original Pokémon.

PokéStops can be found in every community, and when accessed give the user rewards in the form of additional Pokéballs and other game enhancers.

Despite many of the initial players not continuing, the game’s early success garnered a number of firsts. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The game was awarded five Guinness World Records in August 2016: most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month ($206.5 million); most downloaded mobile game in its first month (130 million downloads); most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month (top game in 70 different countries); most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its first month (top grossing in 55 countries simultaneously); and fastest time to gross $100 million by a mobile game (reached in 20 days on July 26). By September 2016, Pokémon Go had been downloaded over 500 million times worldwide, and became the fastest game to make over $500 million in revenue. Pokémon Go was awarded the App Store’s breakout hit of 2016. Pokémon Go was reported to be the most searched game on Google in 2016.

The crowd which descended upon us in search of Charizard on August 21, 2016 in Bellevue.

Pokémon Go arrived at my house about a month after its release. I’d been in Yakima and arrived back in Kirkland about 7 p.m. one August evening and just as I turned down our street I notice my son out walking. I pull to the curb and ask him where he’s going. At that moment he admits his friend Vincent had gotten him started on Pokémon Go.

Curious, I went out walking with him the next night to see how it all worked. This went on for two weeks and then I cracked and loaded the app on my phone. Soon my son and I were venturing out in search of rare Pokémon, making trips to parks and other places to ‘catch them all.’

The ‘oldest’ creature in my collection is the Charizard I caught on August 21, 2016. AR allows one to take ‘pictures’ with your Pokémon

The most amazing Pokémon day of all was on August 21, 2016. We had driven to the Downtown Park in Bellevue (across from Bellevue Square) and there – with hundreds of our ‘best’ friends – wandered about the park capturing digital monsters.

And then it happened. The rarest of rare Pokémon, the ONE everyone had coveted from way back in the card collecting days of 1999, pops up on our screen and we are standing – literally – a few feet away from the GPS location where it spawned.

A collective roar goes up across the park and – I kid you not – the pounding of hundreds of pairs of feet headed our way shake the ground like an earthquake. My hands are trembling as I attempt to capture Charizard (I’m still a very green novice at this point), ignoring the masses who are descending upon us in their frenzy to capture the beast. Of course I am attempting the same thing. On the third attempt, the elusive fire dragon is locked in my Pokéball and the son and I emerge from behind the bushes to an unreal scene. I did have the presence of mind to snap a couple of photos of the massive crowd that evening.

Since that day both my son and daughter have quit playing the game. I admit it has lost a lot of its appeal; it was a fun way to spend time with my adult children. Even so, I still play it as it gives me something to do when a passenger on a trip. But nothing will ever replace the thrill of the hunt on that August night in the summer of 2016 when Pokémon ruled the world.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Go

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon

The conversation is between my son and I after the great Charizard spawn and capture on August 21, 2016

Answers to the FB post: Machop, Chancey, Eevee, Grimer, Drilbur

Monty Python

And now for something completely different

May 11, 2021

May 11, 1969 was one of the most important days in television, nay, world history. Why, you might ask? It was on that day when the British sketch comedy show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, was launched.

The name of the show alone is nonsensical. But then again, pretty much everything they did over the years bordered on the ridiculous.

That said, Monty Python forever changed the face of sketch comedy, stretching the boundaries of good taste and was, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, “an important moment in the evolution of television comedy.”

Python was the brainchild of six writers, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. The fact that they were writers – and not actors or stand up comedians – provided the environment needed for their unpolished, fly by the seat of their pants, style of comedy.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“…Jones remembered an animation Gilliam had created for Do Not Adjust Your Set called ‘Beware of the Elephants,’ which had intrigued him with its stream-of-consciousness style. Jones felt it would be a good concept to apply to the series: allowing sketches to blend into one another. Palin had been equally fascinated by another of Gilliam’s efforts, entitled ‘Christmas Cards,’ and agreed that it represented ‘a way of doing things differently.’ Since Cleese, Chapman, and Idle were less concerned with the overall flow of the programme, Jones, Palin, and Gilliam became largely responsible for the presentation style of the Flying Circus series, in which disparate sketches are linked to give each episode the appearance of a single stream-of-consciousness… (snip)

Writing started at 9 am and finished at 5 pm. Typically, Cleese and Chapman worked as one pair isolated from the others, as did Jones and Palin, while Idle wrote alone. After a few days, they would join together with Gilliam, critique their scripts, and exchange ideas. Their approach to writing was democratic. If the majority found an idea humorous, it was included in the show. The casting of roles for the sketches was a similarly unselfish process, since each member viewed himself primarily as a ‘writer,’ rather than an actor eager for screen time. When the themes for sketches were chosen, Gilliam had a free hand in bridging them with animations, using a camera, scissors, and airbrush.”

In the four years the comedy show aired in Britain it became a cultural phenomenon. It was exported to the United States after season two, airing on PBS. Americans loved the British humor and embraced not only the TV show, but the multiple movies produced by the group.

In the late 70’s I saw my first Python movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, at a drive in movie. I’m a terrible drive in movie goer because, for some reason, I always tend to fall asleep at some point. My date could not understand how I could do that since he was laughing through the whole thing. Eventually I saw the movie again in later years and appreciated the humor of Knights that say “Ni”, the encounter with the Black Knight who loses limb after limb, the killer bunny and, of course, the ridiculous question as to the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. The entire movie was irreverent and poked great fun at the Arthurian legend.

By the time my son was in junior high, I had introduced him to the comedy of Alan Sherman, and he also like Weird Al Yankovic. So for his birthday that year the hubby and I got him the complete Monty Python Flying Circus on DVD.

We had hit the Holy Grail of perfect gifts. Most days after school he would pop one of the DVD’s into the player and he and his sister would watch the shows. Soon laughter erupted from the family room and Python sayings were quoted at the dinner table. My kids learned how to walk silly, and imitate the voice and mannerism of a ‘Gumby’ who believes in peace and smashing bricks together. Randomly, someone might declare “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

The son invited his friends over to watch Monty Python, playing favorite sketches over and over. We felt responsible for introducing the irreverence to a new generation. The kids loved it and I never got complaints from other parents.

Like all things, his obsession eventually passed, but the enjoyment continues on. Occasionally, one of us will find ourselves quoting MP and it always brings out a smile.

This video covers 10 of the most memorable sketches. But, truly, you could spend all afternoon on YouTube going from one to the next and not run out of material.

The Infallible Wikipedia article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Python

The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls

April 6, 2021

99 years young

The official emblem of the Order

My mother in law has often said that the toughest job in the world is being a kid. Her argument being that kids have so much to learn and are faced with ever changing rules and expectations, that figuring it all out is a difficult job.

I would add, however, that it is the teenage years which are the most challenging for any young person. You take hundreds of puberty driven boys and girls and put them in giant Petri dish called school and, well, it’s a tough few years.

For many teenagers – if they are lucky – find their salvation through sports, music, other arts, or outdoor programs like Scouts. My saving activity was The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. It was founded on April 6, 1922, now just one year short of its 100th anniversary.

Its beginnings were humble enough. A group of adults who belonged to the Mason and Eastern Star organizations in McAlester, Oklahoma, had learned of a group for teenage boys, The Order of DeMolay, and decided that they would start their own similar program but for girls.

At the time, it was vogue for such groups to have ceremonies of initiation as well as those which were followed to open and close their meetings. Thus it was a Methodist minister, the Reverend W. Mark Sexson, who wrote the ceremonies for the organization, basing them on the Biblical story of Noah, the great flood, and the rainbow of promise.

Each Assembly consists of 20 officers who include the president, known as the Worthy Advisor, and a set of four additional elected officers who, in succession, become Worthy Advisor. Additionally, there are a Secretary, Treasurer, Chaplain, Drill Leader, Musician and Choir Director. There are also seven officers who represent the seven colors of the rainbow and, finally, two officers who let people in and out during the meetings.

Fun activities such as a weekend at Potts of Gold – a Rainbow Camp on Hood Canal – make up the varied program.

For the record, I do consider myself an expert on the organization and was able to write all of the above without research. Even so, I was curious what the Infallible Wikipedia had to say on the subject. I discovered the following:

“The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls has Assemblies in 46 states in the United States as well as in several other countries. The states that do not currently have Assemblies are Delaware, Minnesota, Utah, and Wyoming.

The countries outside the United States that have assemblies are are Aruba, Australia (in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia), Bolivia, Brazil (in Parana, São Paulo, Distrito Federal, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Tocantins, Para, Espírito Santo and Santa Catarina, Canada (in Ontario and New Brunswick), the Philippines, Italy, Mexico, and Romania. Rainbow has had assemblies in the following countries, mostly due to American military presence: Cuba, Germany, France, Panama and Vietnam.

Its headquarters are at the International Temple in McAlester, Oklahoma built in 1950-1951 for the Order’s use.”

Over the years, the focus of the organization has changed. The early years were ones of expansion with the opening of more and more assemblies being the primary mission.

Community Service is a huge part of the organization’s focus. Here the girls’ are collecting donations for MEOW cat rescue.

By the 1940’s and WWII, the first indicators of a change of mission were seen with the members stepping up to aid in the war effort. After the war, the social aspects took precedence. The organization grew to its largest in the 1950’s boasting an international membership of over 250,000 girls. Today the group primarily emphasizes community service, public speaking, and personal development of the young women who are its members.

I became aware of the Rainbow Girls through my older sister who was invited to join by a friend. Off my sister would go to this mysterious place every two weeks and was often gone for activities on the weekend. So, like any self-respecting younger sister, I bugged her until she relented and brought home a membership application one day in March 1971.

It is a very distinct memory I have of sitting on the floor of my room, the sun streaming in the western window, as I filled out the paperwork. I was stumped when I got to the first blank.

“What’s the name and number of the Assembly?” I yelled to my sister in the next room.

“Yakima number one,” the shouted reply proclaimed.

Well, that’s cool, I thought. Who wouldn’t want to be in the number ONE assembly?*

I finished the application and it was turned in and then, one month later on April 19 I became a member. It was love at first sight. Everything about the Rainbow Girls appealed to me and played to my strengths (which were not sports, band, or wilderness survival!). It was Rainbow where I learned to plan and organize things; I loved being with just girls at a time in my life when boys were icky and awful. I got to hang out with older girls and adults who were patient in teaching me how to be a valuable member of a team. I had activities that were wholesome. Mostly, I seized every opportunity to improve myself, take on responsibility, and learn to be a leader.

In January of 1974 I was my Assembly’s Worthy Advisor and then repeated that job when one of the members had to step down in May 1975. I supported my sister when she became the president – the Grand Worthy Advisor – of the state level program for Washington and Idaho the next month. A year later I was selected to serve as the Editor of the jurisdiction newspaper and then subsequently elected to one of the top five jobs at the state level the next year, completing my time in the order.

My sister presents me to be installed as Worthy Advisor of Yakima Assembly #1, January 1974

Or so I thought. Over the next decades I found a multitude of ways to give back to the organization which gave me so much. I served as an adult advisor in a variety of capacities, motivated to insure Rainbow would be there for my own daughter when she arrived in those perilous teenage years. My stated mission was to successfully get her from childhood to adulthood in a safe place without falling prey to the many temptations modern society presents. In that mission I succeeded.

There’s a song which was written for the order and it has a line in it which is “Rainbow, you’ll always be mine.” For so many of the women I know who have belonged, this thought – more than any other – encapsulates just exactly how we feel about The International Order of the Rainbow For Girls.

My final meeting as Mother Advisor for Bellevue Assembly #120, January 2010

*Yakima was the first Assembly in the state of Washington, not the world. I plan to tell that story on August 3, 2021… so stay tuned.

A couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Order_of_the_Rainbow_for_Girls

https://www.gorainbow.org/

www.nwrainbow.org

Answers to the Facebook questions:

Order of the DeMolay, now known as DeMolay International, was founded March 24, 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri

The Order of Jobs Daughters, now known as Jobs Daughters International, was founded October 20, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Infallible Wikipedia

The World’s greatest Encyclopedia

January 12, 2021

Back when the internet first started there was an explosion of new programs and new concepts. Connections were slow and done only via dial up. Pretty much anyone over the age of 40 no doubt recalls the noise the computer made as it connected you right before the computer generated AOL voice intoned, “You’ve got mail.”

Wikipedia’s familiar logo

In those days, all of our information came from traditional sources like newspapers, television, and books. Who among us – having grown up in the 1950’s through to the 1980’s – did NOT have a set of encyclopedias we used for research when those pesky term papers were due?

The physical encyclopedia was replaced in the late 1990’s by a CD program you loaded whenever you needed information. But it was not long – with the advent of higher speed internet and improvements in technology – a few people figured out that the internet itself was the most massive library in the world. Enter The Infallible Wikipedia.

It was on January 12, 2001, when Wikipedia was registered as a business. The rest, as one might say, is history.

In the early days there were a number of online encyclopedias which popped up. Several of those were offshoots from traditional encyclopedias. But they could not keep up with Wikipedia’s unique structure.

From The Infallible Wikpedia about The Infallible Wikipedia:

“Wikipedia is a multilingual open-collaborative online encyclopedia created and maintained by a community of volunteer editors using a wiki-based editing system. It is one of the 15 most popular websites as ranked by Alexa, as of January 2021 and The Economist magazine placed it as the “13th-most-visited place on the web”. Featuring no advertisements, it is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, an American non-profit organization funded primarily through donations.

A person reading a Wikipedia article. From http://www.playfm.gr

Wikipedia was launched on January 15, 2001, by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Sanger coined its name as a portmanteau of “wiki” and “encyclopedia.” It was initially an English-language encyclopedia, but versions in other languages were quickly developed. With 6.2 million articles, the English Wikipedia is the largest of the more than 300 Wikipedia encyclopedias. Overall, Wikipedia comprises more than 55 million articles, attracting 1.7 billion unique visitors per month. (snip)

 In 2006, Time magazine stated that the open-door policy of allowing anyone to edit had made Wikipedia the biggest and possibly the best encyclopedia in the world, and was a testament to the vision of Jimmy Wales. The project’s reputation improved further in the 2010s as it increased efforts to improve its quality and reliability, based on its unique structure, curation and absence of commercial bias.”

Since its founding, Wikipedia has done much to improve accuracy. That said – as with everything – it is up to each researcher to verify their sources. I have found that the links at the bottom of each Wikipedia article is a good place to start.

A set of traditional encyclopedias

For me – as an information junkie – I love that Wikipedia exists. While it doesn’t have articles on every topic in the world, the amount it does have is stunning. My parents’ set of 1950 something Encyclopedia Americanas can’t even begin to compare.

By the time I was using our family’s Encyclopedia set they were at least 10 to 15 years out of date

I do think I must credit my son with coining the phrase ‘The Infallible Wikipedia’ It was likely around 2002 or 2003 – as Wikipedia was just starting to take off – when our family became aware of the site. Every time one of us would often go to the internet in search of information, it seemed as if Wikipedia would be one of the hits. Because of the unique way Wikipedia uses its volunteer editors, however, one never knew if the information one found was accurate or not.

So my son started referring to any information we found on the site as being Infallible. Of course it was anything but Infallible.

The nickname stuck and not a one of us: hubby, son, or daughter, refers to Wikipedia without adding the moniker ‘Infallible.’

Four years ago when I wrote my very first blog post about musical legend Jim Croce, here’s what I said:

“You can visit the Jim Croce website for more information: http://jimcroce.com/ and there’s always the infallible Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Croce

Since that day – January 10, 2017 – I have now written 198 blog posts. And every single one of them references “The Infallible Wikipedia” in some way. There have been a few occasions where The Infallible Wikipedia was silent on the topic I chose. But, fortunately for me and my loyal readers, those occasions are rare.

Although it may sound like I’m mocking it, I’m not. Wikipedia is an amazing resource and it sure beats the heck out of trying to find relevant information in a 20 year old encyclopedia or searching through card catalogs at the library, both being methods I had to use during  youth and into adulthood.

So it is with great sincerity that I wish a Happy 20th anniversary to the Amazing, Helpful, Incredible, Irreplaceable, Infallible Wikipedia.

In Pursuit of all things Trivial

Trivial Pursuit – The Game

December 15, 2020

There is a saying that your greatest embarrassment is merely someone else’s momentary amusement.

Such is the case for today’s Tuesday Newsday and the introduction on December 15, 1979 of a game which is a verifiable cultural phenomenon. It was on that date when the game Trivial Pursuit (TP) made its first appearance.

Created by two Canadians,  Chris Haney, a photo editor for Montreal’s The Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports editor for The Canadian Press, the game was invented when the pair wanted to play Scrabble but discovered a number of pieces missing. Why, they mused, don’t we just make up our own game? One does wonder if alcohol was involved that night. Certainly this author – who eschews dangling participles – has been highly critical of the plethora of them for which TP is legend. You would think that people involved in communications and writing might know better. But I digress.

Thanks to the Infallible Wikipedia, we learn that:

“The object of the game is to move around the board by correctly answering trivia questions. Questions are split into six categories, with each one having its own color to readily identify itself; in the classic version of Trivial Pursuit, the Geography category is blue, Entertainment is pink, History is yellow, Arts & Literature is originally brown, later purple, Science & Nature is green, and Sports & Leisure is orange. The game includes a board, playing pieces, question cards, a box, small plastic wedges to fit into the playing pieces, and a die.

TORONTO “Trivial Pursuit” inventors, former journalists Chris Haney (l), brother John Haney, and Scott Abott (r), play their board game based on trivia questions. The game in great demand in the U.S.A. and Canada, is sold out in many retail outlets. Photo dated Feb. 6, 1984.

Playing pieces used in Trivial Pursuit are round and divided into six sections like wedges of pie. A small plastic wedge, sometimes called cheese (like cheese triangles), can be placed into each of these sections to mark each player’s progress.

During the game, players move their playing pieces around a track which is shaped like a wheel with six spokes. This track is divided into spaces of different colors, and the center of the board is a hexagonal “hub” space. At the end of each spoke is a “category headquarters” space. When a player’s counter lands on a square, the player answers a question according to its color, which corresponds to one of the six categories. If the player answers the question correctly, his turn continues; a correct answer on a category headquarters space awards a wedge of that color if the player does not yet have one. (snip)

Once a player has collected one wedge of each color and filled up his playing piece, he must return to the hub and answer a question in a category selected by the other players. If this question is answered correctly, that player wins the game. Otherwise, the player must leave the center of the board and try again on the next turn.”

By the time the hubby and I were married in 1980, TP was all the rage. Of course we purchased the game and played it often with family and friends.

After awhile we became familiar with some of the games less desirable traits. Things like the fact that it could drag on forever and the players would lose interest. Or that there were some topics which were so ridiculous that there was no way any normal person would ever know the answer.

A typical Obscure Author question next to the brown AL bubble… Persian poets? Really?

In fact, to this day, we refer to the original Arts and Literature ‘brown’ segment as Obscure Authors. Now, my hubby is a trivia brain so this game was right up his alley. Except for the Obscure Authors category, that is.

For me, well, my knowledge of stuff was more broad based and mostly I would venture WAG’s* if I had no clue to the answer.

Sometime in the mid-1980’s, during a rather robust game of TP with a group of friends, I was getting close to the finish and the opportunity to win the game when I landed on green, Science and Nature. It should have been my first clue.

I got a question which, when I answered it, turned into a moment of great embarrassment.

For those familiar with TP you know that, except for the occasional true or false, you simply have to know the answer. Here’s a sample:

There are no ‘multiple choice’ options. Just a whole series of ridiculous questions that most people do not know.

We return to the game where I was given the Science and Nature question but, unfortunately, answered it as if it was from the Geography section.

Here’s what I was asked: Where is the Coccyx located?

To which I answered: Egypt.

Contrary to popular belief, the Coccyx is nowhere to be found in this photo…

Guess I should have taken a class in anatomy and physiology.

There are many, in fact now over 100 million coccyx’s in Egypt, so the answer was, technically, correct. The answer on the back of the card, however, informed me that the coccyx is one’s tailbone.

I was pretty much laughed out of the room.

When the hubby and I moved a few years ago, our copy of TP and all the add on card sets we’d acquired were among the things which we donated, having not played the game in years.

And, for the record, there were two other answers which caused family squabbles. The answers were ‘Higher and Higher’ and ‘Cherry Cola.’ Can’t recall the exact questions, but at the time it was a huge controversy. In retrospect it truly was a trivial pursuit.

*WAG = Wild A** Guess

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trivial_Pursuit