Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers

I am Chairman of the American Institute of Wine and Food for Orange County, California.  As such I am in contact with National Officers and Chapter Chairs and others working with this group in their efforts to provide funds for Scholarships in the Food and Wine industry and Days of Taste; the program that brings good food knowledge to Title 1 fourth and fifth graders.  The other day I received such a call and, knowing it required my undivided attention I excused myself to turn off the radio.

“Radio!  You still listen to the radio?” asked an incredulous Daniel: chef, entrepreneur, and culinary school contributor from South Miami Beach.  I confessed my addiction to NPR, which Daniel admitted he listens to on Sirius XM as it streams from his car’s 12 speaker system.  When we finished our conversation I began to reflect of what part radio has played in my life.

Click and Clack
A fitting topic as this month marks the end of one of radio’s most popular shows, Car Talk.

The show had humble beginnings.  Tom Magliozzi was encouraged by his younger brother Ray to appear on a local radio station as part of a panel of local (Boston) mechanics to answer listeners’ questions.  No one else showed up, but Tom’s easy manner and breadth of knowledge impressed the show’s host enough to invite him back the next week with Ray.

After ten years of weekly appearances, for the most part unpaid, the Brothers were picked up by NPR as a commercial project.  The show is by any measure a success, with 3.3 million weekly listeners on 660 stations, according to NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher, making it NPR’s top-rated weekend program.  NPR intends to continue broadcasting repeat shows for the foreseeable future.

This is somewhat ironic in that during the twenty-five year evolution of the show, an ongoing feature is blending some past shows with the current one in a seamless and unaccredited manner. Other features of note include who has called in for advice; for example several celebrities, including John Grunsfeld, who called in from the Space Shuttle.  In fact NASA has called more than once, including one session where an anonymous caller was asking about problems surrounding a car kit, which eventually was identified as the Mars Rovers.

For many years I listened to one or more of the 660 stations broadcasting Car Talk and thoroughly enjoyed the humor and caller involvement.  There is something about a blonde trying to mimic the engine sounds of her 1998 Volvo as it goes through its gears that is unique.

Even before Click and Clack my generation had a love affair with radio.  When my wife Mary would come home from school she would listen to The Lone Ranger before going out to play “Hide and Seek” or ‘I’ll Draw the Frying Pan”. We grew up to follow the Masked Man into television, film and even personal appearances.  The voice and one of the most famous of those appearing belonged to Brace Beemer, a six-foot five personality who actually could ride and shoot, but whose greatest claim to fame was his deep voice which announced at the start of each show, “Hi-Yo Silver — A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver … the Lone Ranger!”

There are many who have memories of the personal appearances.  The most popular of which is on You Tube as Jay Thomas’ memory of the Masked Man on the David Letterman Show.

Another classic from the Golden Age of Radio was The Shadow, which as I remember it was one of the Sunday Evening's must-hear.  There are few of us around anymore who “Know what evil lurks in the hearts of men”. I also remember the tremendous variety of the radio shows: the drama of the Lux Radio Hour, the humor of Burns and Allen, Jack Benny and so many others, the suspense of the Serials, and the mystery and terror of the creaking door from Inner Sanctum or Orson Welles War of the Worlds adaptation, whose anniversary we celebrate this month.  And of course there were the educational elements of Let's Pretend.

As my friend reminds me, we still can have those shows, streaming to us as we commute, but it isn’t quite the same as hunkering down, close to the radio, often as a family, sharing the experience.  I can’t help but feel we may have lost something, especially now that Click and Clack are leaving us.  What do you think?

Next Wednesday I will be sharing a little about my book, Harnessing a Heritage and offering contact with some interesting fellow authors who blog.  Please come and visit.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tim Burton

I overheard my wife talking to someone about the controversy surrounding Tim Burton’s new film Frankenweenie and I was reminded of the enormous and complex talent that man has.  Mary and I attended a show of his work in mid-2011 at the LACMA, a fitting venue for the native son from Burbank.  Prior to that I had no idea of the body of work he has generated over a thirty year career, nor how diverse it was.  Of course he started early.

There is actual footage of a film he did as a 13 year-old and by then he had been playing with film or animated film for five years.  His art took a serious turn when he was at CalArts in Santa Clarita where a student project Stalk of the Celery Monster caught the attention of animators in the Disney Studio.  He was hired, but was never a good fit for the strict corporate structure of Disney and fairly soon branched off on his own, shortly after they released Frankenweenie, which he wrote and produced as animation in 1984. When asked where the idea came from he confessed there was a lot of his own childhood in the story.

One of the featured actors in the film was Shelley Duvall, and Burton started what would become a signature; working with the same people over and over again.  The person who scored Frankenweenie was Danny Elfman who has continued in that role on all but two of Burton’s films: Sweeney Todd, which used Stephen Sondheim’s music and one other film when the two were briefly estranged.

The variety of film topics is truly amazing, ranging from Beetlejuice, which connected him with Michael Keeton, who he then cast in Batman and Batman Returns through Edward Scissorhands, which started a longtime deep friendship with Johnny Depp and reunited Burton with Winona Ryder featured in Beetlejuice, to films inspired by authors who influenced his youth, like Roald Dahl, who had written “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach”.  Along the way he brought us such cult classics as Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Beginning with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure so many of his films have become box office hits that securing backing is no longer a problem, and it seems the farther off-the-wall the concept, the better.  In the current 3-D Black and White Frankenweenie he finds humor and pathos in a boy, whose dog dies.  He has capitalized on the recent craze for Lincoln with his adaptation of “Abraham Lincoln; Vampire Hunter”, joining Bill O’Reilly and Steven Spielberg in giving perhaps our greatest President a different spin.  I am anxious to see what Daniel Day Lewis does with the role.

When Mary and I were at LACMA I was also amazed at what Burton’s contributions were to the features of his films: from the costuming of Planet of the Apes, to dressing Danny DeVito as a Penguin and Jack Nicholson as The Joker, to Johnny Depp’s actual Scissorhands.  The Exhibit also had examples of his art; he is truly a Jack-of-all-Trades.  His movies have won several costuming Oscars and been nominated for many more, as have Elfman’s scores.  Many of his lesser known or at least less successful films are also notable: Ed Wood, Big Fish, and perhaps Dark Shadows come to mind.  And one of his films, which I confess I turned off while on a flight, Alice in Wonderland for a long time was the second highest grossing movie of all time.

At one time I envisioned this post as sharing the careers of Tim Burton with Sir Richard Branson, who has a new book out, but I will save the Virgin owner for another day. There was just too much to say.

My next post, or at least the first post in November, will be a departure.  I have been asked by another author to join a project called Blog Hopping, where we discuss a recent book we have written, in my case “Harnessing a Heritage”, and introduce those who read our blog to five or more authors who have done the same, by answering ten questions about our book.

I hope you will join me for that November 7 Post.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Army Corps of Engineers

Harry Shearer 2007

Mary and I are almost addicted on Saturday and Sunday to listen to Weekend Edition  on one of our PBS radio stations.   While we often share stories as points of discussion, both between ourselves and with friends, she is unavailable for immediate discussion on Sundays because she brackets that show with two of her own: Sunday Morning on TV and Le Show which follows Weekend Edition on KCRW.

On occasion I will catch a portion of Le Show, partially because of its unique and excellent host, Harry Shearer.  Mr. Shearer is a true jack of all trades, having started as a child actor on Thee Jack Benny Program , made several movies, including a classic he wrote and starred in, “Spinal Tap”, was a longtime writer on Saturday Night Live, and most recently voices about ten characters on The Simpsons.  We had the privilege of seeing Mr. Shearer when he appeared at a local venue about a year ago.  He is a great entertainer, using the power of his voice and personality to keep an audience riveted to their seats for an enjoyable hour or more.

Repairing Hurricane Damage
I have always had one problem with his Sunday show: not his “Apologies of the Week”, which I thoroughly enjoy, but his seeming obsession with finding faults with the Army Corps of Engineers.  His angst most likely stems from the fact that he splits his time between Santa Monica and New Orleans, which certainly suffered from poor choices made by the CoE when Katrina hit.  More recently their efforts were tested by Hurricane Isaac, with mixed reviews.

If you move away from the present and recent past and away from New Orleans, the CoE has a much different story to tell.

West Point 1802
George Washington felt the need for a militarily-dedicated group of Engineers to provide roads, bridges, and fortifications in the event the Revolutionary War wasn’t the end of conflicts on U.S. soil.  To that end he formed the CoE and staffed it with engineers, mostly from then-friendly France. An interesting factoid is that Congress, attempting to find a home for the newly established corps, settled on West Point, which remained exclusively a training point for engineers until 1866.  For a long time it was the only engineering school in the country.

I found it interesting that during the Civil War several of these engineers distinguished themselves as tacticians: a couple of Georges for the Union; Meade and McClellan and for the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee.

Burma 1944
The first project the Corps undertook was the fortification of Bunker Hill and, after the war of 1812, they took on the task of fortifying New Orleans, which required their getting into controlling rivers in the United States.  Following the Civil War they were assigned the task of mapping and otherwise surveying the lakes in the country.  Today they are the heart of Homeland Security projects.

Iraq 2006
I recently attended a Leadership Conference for the Military Officers Association of America.  There I met a distinguished retired Brigadier who was an Army Engineer. He enlightened me by revealing that the CoE is a viable career path for advancement in the Army.  He mentioned that, in contrast to the Seabees of the Navy, most labor in the CoE is actually by civilian contracts, providing major stimulus to our economy.  They also have played a prominent role in wars: from WWII in Burma to Current efforts in Iraq.

Louisiana 2006
Now, if I can just get my new-found knowledge to Mr. Shearer.

I have shared it with Mary.

For my next post I have a tough decision to make: whether to write about Tim Burton or Sir Richard Branson. Both are in the current news and I have been fortunate to see a retrospective of Mr. Burton at the LACMA and to hear Mr. Branson as part of the ADA Distinguished Speaker Series.  Either one should make for an interesting Blog.

In early November I will be stepping away from my usual format to participate in an interesting concept called “Blog Hopping”.  Besides promoting my book. Harnessing a Heritage,, it should provide you (and me) with several interesting Blogs to follow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Tooth Fairy

The other day NPR pointed out one exception to the economic crisis contributing to the Fiscal Cliff the world appears to be on the brink of…what the Tooth Fairy is putting under the pillow or in the glass these days.  The National average appears to be $ 3.00, although they didn’t adjust that for cultural or regional variance.
Julie Andrews

My grandson seems to have a sliding scale from $5 to $2 depending on whether he is part of the extraction process.  It got me thinking about my many experiences with the Tooth Fairy.

My father was a dentist ad I can’t remember a tooth he didn’t take out for me, most if not all with his strong fingers.  In my case, my boys had a more professional approach.  Possibly because Tim fell at age one-plus and fractured the root of one upper front tooth and devitalized its companion.  That meant a full blown visit with dental chair, tools and minor restraints.  I don’t precisely remember but doubt if the Tooth Fairy made a visit to the bank to open a Minor’s Account with Tim’s first income stream.

The Dental Museum
There are more ways to remove the wiggly tooth than I have room to mention.  I linked a few clips that I thought were exceptional.  Note the parental involvement.  In researching the subject I found the American Dental Association has contributed a goodly number of articles and even set up an opportunity for children to meet the Tooth Fairy in person at the Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore.

Rise of the Guardians
The Tooth Fairy is understandably international and seemingly one of the older mythical characters, much older than Santa Claus who joins her with Jack Frost and the Easter Bunny in a soon-to-be-released animated film called Rise of the Guardians.

The shedding of the first tooth, which is noticeable because it’s right in front, usually occurs between six and eight and the remaining 10 deciduous (baby) teeth follow in a sequence that compensates for the growth of the jaws and eruption of the permanent teeth.

As a dentist the parental concern I heard most often has to do with the lower permanent teeth coming in inside the lower baby teeth, a natural process that, although temporally ugly, allows the tongue to move them to their proper place in the lower jaw.  Occasionally a deciduous tooth does not get loose.  Sometimes this is because there is no permanent tooth to push it out.  We see this quite often in the deciduous first or second molars when genetics doesn’t form a subsequent bicuspid.  In those cases the tooth may last at least until age 35 before it fails to handle the stress of adult chewing.

In the case of my twenty-two year old granddaughter, the permanent cuspid at the corner of her upper jaw was partially impacted (buried) and only recently has decided to peek out behind her baby cuspid to see what it is like outside.  When that happens, we usually see a need to assist the process with an orthodontic procedure.

I like to use the loss of baby teeth as an opportunity to involve the child in learning about their mouth and more importantly about their personal role in maintaining a healthy mouth.  While it is a little late to teach them about the danger of “catching” the bacteria that cause decay (that happens between the age of 1 ½ and 3), it is the perfect age to teach them about brushing and flossing.  Baby teeth usually have enough space so they don’t need flossing like their permanent friends.  And the child’s dexterity and sense of time suggest this is the age to learn to brush; twice a day for two minutes.

That’s the name of the new ADA/CDA campaign that you’ll be seeing in the media; social and otherwise.

2x2Minutes.  Pay attention.

Next post I’ll teach you more than you thought you would ever want to know about Army Corps of Engineers.  I hope to have my posting issues resolved by them.