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Tune o’ the Day

According to rock musician Mark Knopfler, he wrote the 1985 hit song “Money for Nothing” after hearing a delivery man in an appliance store make comments about the musicians on MTV.

Knopfler said it happened in a store in New York. On a back wall, several TV sets were tuned to MTV. While watching the bands perform, a male employee wearing a baseball cap used the terms “money for nothing,” “that ain’t working,” and “what are those, Hawaiian noises?”

Knopfler has been criticized for including the term “faggot” in the lyrics. In 2011, the tune was even banned in Canada for being offensive — which created howls of protest about banning songs. Knopfler maintains it’s a term the song’s character would use.

Bonus fact: Knopfler shares the songwriting credit with Sting, who wrote and sings the “I want my MTV” lines.

Dire Straits-1

Money For Nothing

By Dire Straits, 1985
Written by Mark Knopfler and Sting

I want my MTV.
I want my… I want my MTV.
I want my… I want my MTV.
I want my MTV.

Now, look at them yo-yos. That’s the way you do it.
You play the guitar on the MTV.
That ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.

Now, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain’t dumb.
Maybe get a blister on your little finger.
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

The little faggot with the earring and the make-up —
Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair.
That little faggot got his own jet airplane.
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

Got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchens deliveries.
We’ve got to move these refrigerators.
Got to move these color TVs.

I shoulda learned to play the guitar.
I shoulda learned to play them drums.
Look at that mama. She got it stickin’ in the camera, man.
We could have some fun.

And he’s up there — what’s that? Hawaiian noises?
Bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee.
Oh, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Get your money for nothin’, get your chicks for free.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

Listen here…

Now, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
You play the guitar on the MTV.
That ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.

Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.
Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’. Chicks for free.

Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.
Your money for nothin’, the chicks for free.
Get you money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.

Look at that, look at that.

I want my… I want my… I want my MTV.

Get you money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.
Money for nothin’, chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.

Easy, easy money for nothin’. Easy, easy chicks for free.
Easy, easy money for nothin’. Chicks for free.

That ain’t workin’.

Dire Straits-2

Dire Straits-3

 

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), the “dean of science fiction writers,” was a stickler for scientific accuracy in his fiction. No surprise for a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and an engineer. Science was in his genes.

In 1952, Heinlein published a story in Galaxy Magazine in which he predicted where science, technology, and society would be in the year 2000.

Most of the predictions were misfires, not that you or I would have done better. But Heinlein was gutsy enough to go on record.

Here is what he wrote.

———

So let’s have a few free-swinging predictions about the future. Some will be wrong but cautious predictions are sure to be wrong.

1. Interplanetary travel is waiting at your front door — C.O.D. It’s yours when you pay for it.

2. Contraception and control of disease is revising relations between the sexes to an extent that will change our entire social and economic structure.

3. The most important military fact of this century is that there is no way to repel an attack from outer space.

4. It is utterly impossible that the United States will start a “preventive war.” We will fight when attacked, either directly or in a territory we have guaranteed to defend.

5. In fifteen years the housing shortage will be solved by a “breakthrough” into new technologies which will make every house now standing as obsolete as privies.

6. We’ll all be getting a little hungry by and by.

7. The cult of the phony in art will disappear. So-called “modern art” will be discussed only by psychiatrists.

8. Freud will be classed as a pre-scientific, intuitive pioneer and psychoanalysis will be replaced by a growing, changing “operational psychology” based on measurement and prediction.

9. Cancer, the common cold, and tooth decay will all be conquered; the revolutionary new problem in medical research will be to accomplish “regeneration,” i.e., to enable a man to grow a new leg, rather than fit him with an artificial limb.

10. By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system, and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be a-building.

11. Your personal telephone will be small enough to carry in your handbag. Your house telephone will record messages, answer simple inquiries, and transmit vision.

12. Intelligent life will be found on Mars.

13. A thousand miles an hour at a cent a mile will be commonplace; short hauls will be made in evacuated subways at extreme speed.

14. A major objective of applied physics will be to control gravity.

15. We will not achieve a “World State” in the predictable future. Nevertheless, Communism will vanish from this planet.

16. Increasing mobility will disenfranchise a majority of the population. About 1990 a constitutional amendment will do away with state lines while retaining the semblance.

17. All aircraft will be controlled by a giant radar net run on a continent-wide basis by a

multiple electronic “brain.”

18. Fish and yeast will become our principal sources of proteins. Beef will be a luxury; lamb and mutton will disappear.

19. Mankind will not destroy itself, nor will “Civilization” be destroyed.

Here are things we won’t get soon, if ever:

— Travel through time.
— Travel faster than the speed of light.
— “Radio” transmission of matter.
— Manlike robots with manlike reactions.
— Laboratory creation of life.
— Real understanding of what “thought” is and how it is related to matter.
— Scientific proof of personal survival after death.
— Nor a permanent end to war.

———

Fascinating stuff.

To me, the lost opportunities represented by the failures of the first and 10th predictions are particularly painful. Not to mention stupid and counterproductive.

Just as the space program was gaining momentum in the 1960s and early 1970s, the politicians — the conservatives, of course — crippled it by cutting NASA’s funding.

In time, the Space Shuttle replaced the Moon landings, and then the Shuttle was retired, too. Now, here we sit, hoping SpaceX can do something.

Heinlein would be steamed, too.

Heinlein quote

 

Overload

Author Basil Wells (1912-2003) began writing fiction in 1940 and continued well into the 1990s. He published 88 short stories, mostly sci-fi and fantasy, but also occasional westerns and mysteries.

Wells was from northwestern Pennsylvania, and he once helped his mother research a book she wrote about frontier life in the region.

The short story below is about frontier life, too — on Mars. You have to wonder if the research prompted the story. Or maybe vice versa.

———

Moment of Truth

By Basil Wells
Published in Fantastic Universe, December 1957

She had been asleep. Now she stretched luxuriously beneath the crisp white sheet that the vapid August heat decreed. From memory to memory her dream-fogged mind drifted, and to the yet-to-be. It was good to remember, and to imagine, and to see and feel and hear…

She smiled. She was Ruth Halsey, fourteen, brunette, and pretty. Earl, and Harry, and Buhl had told her she was pretty. Especially Buhl. Buhl was her favorite date now.

The room closed around her with its familiar colors and furnishings. Sometimes she would dream that she was elsewhere, unfamiliar, ugly places, but then she would awaken to the four long windows with their coarse beige drapes of monk’s cloth and the fantasies were forever dispelled.

Her eyes loved the two paintings, the dark curls of the pink-and-white doll sitting prissily atop the dresser, and the full-length mirror on the open closet door.

The pictured design of the wallpaper, its background merging with the pastel blue of the slanted ceiling… Almost as they had blended together that first day when she was twelve. Yet not the same, she corrected her thoughts, frowning. Sometimes, as today, the design seemed faded and changed. The gay little bridges and the flowered, impossibly blue trees seemed to change and threaten to vanish.

She laughed over at the demurely sitting doll. Essie had been her favorite doll when she was younger. Of course now that she was fourteen she did not play with dolls any more. But it was permissible that she keep her old friend neatly dressed and ever at hand as a confidant. She smiled at the thought. Essie never tattled.

“It must be from that polio,” she told Essie, knowing all the time that she was almost well now and needed plenty of rest and careful doses of exercise. “It makes my eyes — funny.”

Essie smiled back glassily and Ruth laughed. It was good to awaken and see the thick black arms of the maple tree outside the windows. It was good to have the cool green leaves waving at her, and see the filtered dapplings of sunshine cross and recross them.

She loved that old tree. She had played among its long horizontal branches from childhood. Her brother, Alex, who had been killed in the Normandy Landing during World War Three, had loved the tree too. He had built the railed, shingled-roofed little nest high up in the tree’s crotched heart where Ruth kept some of her extra-special notes and jewelry and a book of poems.

One of the two paintings on the bedroom walls was of the old tree. The tree dominated the old story-and-a-half white house with the green shutters that was the Halseys’ home. Her home. Alex had painted that picture as well as the other showing the graceful loop of the river and the roofs of the village of Thayer in the distance. Ruth had been with him as he painted that second picture from the jutting rock ledge five hundred feet above the river.

“I was just ten then, Essie,” she chirped gaily. “I remember how afraid I was of the height and how Alex scolded.”

But Alex was dead now and all she had to remember of him was the paintings and the photographs that Mother kept in a battered brown leather folder. For a moment the bright sunlight in her beloved maple tree’s leaves seemed to dim and the room wavered about her. She wondered about that. She must tell her father or her mother.

Perhaps the polio, light touch of it or not, had hurt her eyesight. Glasses! She shuddered at the thought.

The room shimmered and blurred — and suddenly broke apart to reform into something… She squinched her eyes shut to the hideous vision. And then opened them the merest slit.

Nothing had changed…

“MOTHER!” she cried. “Daddy!” she cried. “What has happened?”

She heard the door to — to this hideous travesty of a room opening. Her eyes darted around the shrunken metal-walled shell, even the ceiling curved overhead, and she saw two grotesque daubs taped to the walls that parodied the paintings of her dead brother Alex.

The coloring was ugly and the proportions out of line. And it was not canvas but curling sheets of paper taped and painted to resemble frames!

A big man, sandy-haired and with vertical wrinkles deep between piercing blue eyes, came into the room. She shrank into the bed, seeing that the sheet she tugged taut across her breast was ragged and blue.

“Ruth,” he said, a slow smile making his face almost handsome, “you’re better. You haven’t spoken in weeks.”

Ruth wanted to giggle. As though they could keep her quiet. Daddy was always shushing her… But who was this big man in his dusty drab coveralls and dropped dust mask dangling upon his chest?

“Don’t you know me, Dear? It’s Buhl, your husband.”

Buhl was fifteen and only a couple of inches taller than Ruth. Of course he had sandy hair like this man. But this man was old enough to be Buhl’s father. This was crazy — like one of the dreams that always made her unhappy.

So? So it was a dream. She felt warmth and release. Why not see what this dream had to offer that might be amusing to remember and tell Buhl sometime soon. Wouldn’t he laugh when he heard she had dreamed about him? And been married to him.

She saw the strip of shiny metal that masqueraded as her mirror, and where her four long windows, with their thick, loose-woven drapes, had been there were only four taped strips of paper with crude pictures of draped windows daubed on them. There were even green dabs of paint and black splashes to stimulate her beloved maple tree.

“Ruth! Do you feel better now? Please don’t smile at me like that. I know you loved the baby, but this Martian atmosphere is tough even for men. It wasn’t your fault.”

“Go ahead and talk,” Ruth laughed gaily. “This is just another bad dream and I know it. I’ll wake up in a little while and be back in my cool old room.”

“Blast your room and your dreams!”

The man went across the room in a swift rush and tore down one of the false windows, the painted strip of paper. And beyond, through a dusty oval glass window, Ruth could see a reddish brown wasteland, where dust clouds spun and shifted slowly, and a dusty huddle of what looked like Quonset huts or storage sheds of metal.

“That is reality, Ruth. You must face it. This pretense, this sleazy imitation of your old room is wrong. You’re strong enough, and I love you — you can accept truth.”

His face changed, all expression sponged from it in an instant as he looked into her eyes, and then it seemed to dissolve into something ugly and yet childish. She saw tears burst through and furrow the dust on his cheeks.

“Dear Lord,” he cried, almost reverently, “must this go on forever? Will she ever come back to me?”

His voice choked off and he stumbled across the room and out the door. She heard it shut behind him, and she was hunting for Essie, already having forgotten the ill-mannered intruder.

There was no Essie, only a mannikin of cloth-stuffed white nylon and lipstick, with black nylon for hair.

And then the room shimmered and broke apart and reformed and she was back in her bed with the sun on the slowly dancing green leaves outside the four long windows. Essie was smiling down at her from the dresser, and the paintings were as always, soft colors and perfectly drafted.

Had she thought there were four windows? How silly of her. The second from the right was a small oval of glass, or rather, a glass-covered picture of desert scene. Odd that she had forgotten about that picture. Oh well, what did it matter.

In a few days she would be well enough again to climb out on the giant limbs and into the tree nest that her brother, Alex, had built. And the boys would come to see her and take her to the drugstore for sodas and sundaes.

Yes, she was sure now. She did like Buhl Austin best…

Mars colony

Depiction of a Mars colony comprised of modular structures from the 2016 TV series “Mars.”

 

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

Rhode Island, the smallest of the states, has the longest official name: “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”

King Francis I of France (reigned 1515-1547), aka “Francis of the Large Nose,” was a major patron of the arts. He attracted many Italian artists to France, including Leonardo da Vinci. Francis acquired the Mona Lisa from Leonardo and hung it in his bathroom.

British filmmaker Duncan Jones (full name Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones), noted for making the sci-fi movie Moon and the fantasy film Warcraft, is the son of the late David Bowie (real name David Robert Jones).

Adermatoglyphia is a condition in which a person is born without fingerprints; the pads are flat, lacking the usual ridges and whorls. The rare condition is caused by a gene mutation and has occurred in only four known families around the world.

adermatoglyphia

Niagara Falls was formed about 10,000 years ago, and in that time, it has eroded seven miles back upstream. At that rate, the falls will disappear into Lake Erie in 22,000 years.

In 2008, the mayor of the Kurdish city of Batman, Turkey, threatened to sue Warner Bros. because it used the city’s name without permission in the film The Dark Knight. The mayor wanted a percentage of the film’s profits, almost $1 billion worldwide. The mayor never filed the suit.

The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. Among the new products introduced at the fair: Juicy Fruit chewing gum, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Vienna Sausage, Cream of Wheat, Quaker Oats, Shredded Wheat, and Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

The Nakisumo festival in Japan is a 400-year-old ceremony in which sumo wrestlers compete to make babies cry. Scaring babies is considered a positive thing, based on the Japanese proverb “crying babies grow fastest.”

Nakisumo

If a person at the seashore looks out to sea, and eye level is six feet above the sand, the horizon will be three miles away.

New York City’s “sidewalk sheds” are temporary structures that protect pedestrians from falling debris and construction accidents. They date back to 1979, when a college coed was killed by falling masonry. On any given day, about 190 miles of sidewalk sheds are in place around NYC.

The stock symbol of Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. is LVB, in honor of Ludwig van Beethoven.

The Venus Flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, is a carnivorous plant with a specialized two-part leaf structure that snaps shut when triggered by a passing insect or spider. The trap includes gaps around the edges so prey too small to be worth digesting can escape. The plant is found only in the coastal wetlands of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Venus Flytrap

 

The Next New Thing

Friends, I am truly jaded when it comes to fads.

To be clear, I’m referring to fads, not trends. Beanie Babies and pet rocks were fads; electric cars and ebooks are trends.

These days, when I learn of a new craze or obsession — the latest sensation in attire, style, or whatever — my reaction is either a chuckle, a sigh, or an eye roll.

The only reason something clicks and is deemed cool and exciting is that, for a brief time, people have a chance to feel cool and enjoy the excitement, right? We all know the novelty will wear off and the mania will fizzle.

Consider the many fads that came and went in recent times. Bellbottoms, drive-in theaters, fallout shelters, ant farms, tie-dyed clothing.

Zoot suits, leg warmers, eight-track tapes, Rubik’s cubes. Members Only jackets. Break dancing, yo-yos, hula hoops.

The Twist. The Macarena. Bermuda shorts. Mom jeans. Overalls with one strap dangling.

Nothing wrong with a shared enthusiasm, mind you. But, wow, fads sure do lean toward the dopey and pointless.

What, you ask, brings me to opine that embracing the next new thing is dopey and pointless? Simple. I was thinking about myself back in the day, when I was young and foolish, too.

Back in high school, I was — you can trust me on this — a hip and savvy dude. I knew what was happenin’, and I put much energy into following the fads du jour.

Note, for example, how I rocked the epitome of cool in those days, a flattop haircut. Not to mention this stylish tweed blazer.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), about 1959.

Before long, I advanced to a glorified flattop — AKA a Detroit, AKA a “flattop with fenders.” That baby was flat on top and long on the sides, tapering to a handsome ducktail in the back.

Fad-2

When I went away to college in the early 1960s, the times were a’changin’. Flattops were becoming passé on campus, so I heeded the call to go preppy. It was sort of the astronaut or folk singer look.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), freshman year in college, 1960-61.

By the time I graduated from college, the hippies were in ascendance. Long hair was the new thing for men.

But not for me. Alas, I went immediately from college into the Air Force, which tolerated no longhairs. I was obliged to keep the preppy look.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), Cannon AFB, NM.

By the time I was a civilian again, I was married with kids and working 9 to 5 in an office. Becoming a longhair would have been ill-advised as a career strategy. Thus, for a goodly time, the only variation in my hair style was the length of my sideburns.

Eventually, I got tired of worrying about whether my sideburns were the fashionable length of the moment, so I grew a beard.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), 12/25/1984.

That was in the mid-1980s. I haven’t shaved since.

Also, to be honest, a sobering personal reality was becoming obvious in those days: the signs were undeniable that male pattern baldness was in my future. Being a longhair probably wouldn’t be in the cards anyway. Nature can be cruel and without pity.

So can some people. My dad, who kept a full head of hair to the end, found this turn of events greatly amusing.

Anyway, as a result of how the hair thing worked out for me, I bypassed half a lifetime of men’s coiffure fads.

I say that with no regret whatsoever.

Fad-6

Fad-7

Fad-8

Fad-9

And, hey — don’t get me started on skinny jeans.

Fad-10

 

Neck

Prius

Dine out

Metaphors

 

The Questions…

1. In most of the Western world, black cats are considered evil omens or symbols of bad luck. In what non-Western country are black cats a sign of good luck and prosperity?

2. Who invented the odometer?

3. Residents of the English cities of London and Liverpool are called Londoners and Liverpudlians. What are natives of Manchester and Birmingham called?

4. The acronym KIPPERS is used on Wall Street to define adult children living with their parents. What does KIPPERS stand for?

5. Who was the first person to appear as Ronald McDonald in a TV commercial?

The Answers…

1. Japan. In Japanese culture, black cats represent good fortune and prosperity in business, a talisman against danger and bad luck, and positive mojo for your love life.

2. Benjamin Franklin. In 1753, he measured the distance from Boston to New York by counting the rotations of a wheel on his carriage. He marked each mile with a wooden stake, then had the stakes replaced with engraved mile-marker stones.

3. Mancunians and Brummies. Mamucium (aka Mancunium) was an old Roman fort that grew to become Manchester. Brummagem was the original name of Birmingham.

4. Kids in Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings.

5. The first Ronald was Willard Scott, later the resident weatherman on the Today Show. In 1963, Scott was playing Bozo the Clown for a TV station in Washington, D.C. McDonald’s hired him, and he played the Ronald character until 1965.

Black cat

Ronald-Willard