David Bruce: Boredom is Anti-Life — Science and Scientists, Television, Theater

Science and Scientists

• Edward Hitchcock was the first American to study dinosaur fossils, although he did not realize what the fossils were — the study of dinosaurs was still in its infancy then. Even as a teenager, Mr. Hitchcock demonstrated his high intelligence. A publisher once offered a prize to anyone who discovered any mathematical errors in a new nautical almanac. After young Mr. Hitchcock discovered 80 errors in the almanac, the publisher withdrew the offer of the prize.

• When astronomer Carl Sagan was a boy, he went to the library and asked for a book about stars — the librarian handed him a book about movie stars. After young Carl had explained what he wanted in more detail, the librarian showed him the library section devoted to astronomy.


• The Simpsons live in Springfield, but in what state? Springfield, Ohio? Springfield, Oregon? Springfield, Massachusetts? Springfield, wherever? In one episode, Marge is talking on the telephone and saying where she lives when Homer walks in: “Springfield, Oh hi ya, Homer.” In the May 2012 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Simpsons creators Matt Groening talked about the Simpsons’ Springfield: “Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon. The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show Father Knows Best took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown. When I grew up, I realized it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, ‘This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.’ And they do.” Over the years, he has been kind to people who want to believe that Springfield is in their state. He said, “I don’t want to ruin it for people, you know? Whenever people say it’s Springfield, Ohio, or Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, wherever, I always go, ‘Yup, that’s right.’”

• The Star Trek actors who played James Tiberius Kirk and Mister Spock, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, are both Jewish. In fact, the famous Vulcan hand greeting with thumb stretched wide, the index and middle fingers together, and the ring and pinkie fingers together, comes from a priestly blessing of ancient Jerusalem and is still used in some present-day Jewish congregations.

• While on The Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson, fashion designer Oleg Cassini described one of his dresses in this way: “This is a lovely hostess dinner dress with a very low neckline for easy entertaining.” By the way, when Johnny Carson learned that one of his TV guests had had twins, he said, “That’s about the greatest labor-saving device in the world.”

• Comedian Lucille Ball once appeared on an TV show called The Virginia Graham Show. A second guest was a magician who used balls in his sleight-of-hand tricks. While demonstrating his tricks, he asked Lucy, “You think I have two balls?” Lucy replied, “I hope so.”


• My Fair Lady was a major hit on Broadway and tickets were very difficult to buy. One lady and her husband showed up at the ticket office and were forced to admit that they had mislaid their tickets; however, they did have the stub of the check which they had used to pay for the tickets, and they did have the numbers of the tickets written down on the check stubs. The theater manager showed the couple to the orchestra stall, where they discovered their next-door neighbors sitting in the seats they had purchased tickets for. Astonished, the woman asked, “How did you get those seats?” The next-door neighbors explained, “Your daughter sold the tickets to us.”

• As a young man, L. Frank Baum, who later wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, formed a Shakespearean troupe. One review of the troupe’s Hamlet stated, “The only successful performance occurred when the ghost of Hamlet’s father fell through a hole in the stage. The audience, which happened to be composed of oil workers, was so delighted that the unhappy ghost had to repeat the stunt five times.” By the way, on 16 June 1902, a theatrical version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz opened. In the beginning part of his performance as the Scarecrow, Fred Stone was required to sit on stage motionless on stage for 18 minutes.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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