Why You Should Tell Bad Jokes

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Let me clue you in on this from the very beginning: this is another business metaphor. I’m telling you up front this time so you can begin to think about the connections from the moment you start reading it.

I was strolling through the National Comedy Center in Jamestown the other day, taking in with delight the many funny people who have entertained so many for so many years, when a thought struck me. Why do good comedians tell bad jokes?

When a comic sits down to write gags, it becomes an exercise of no-holds-barred brainstorming. This is by necessity. You don’t know what’s really funny while you’re creating it, so you don’t want to restrict yourself in any way.

James Mendrinos, in his book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Comedy Writing, writes: “You have to force yourself to stain the pages, even if you think the jokes aren’t your best work. I’m not saying that bad jokes are better than no jokes. I am saying that if Continue Reading “Why You Should Tell Bad Jokes”

40 Years Later And The Ties Still Bind

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Yale 82 Davenporters

D’porters (et al) begin to assemble at Yorkside

Heraclitus has visited this page in the past (“You Can’t Go Home Again… Or Can You?Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, September 22, 2016). For those new to this column, he’s the Greek fella who said “You can’t step into the same river twice.”

Get it? It might be the same river, but the constant current means the water isn’t the same. It’s a nifty little metaphor about the ever-changing world.

Cool. You can live with that, right?

Now, let me throw a monkey wrench into those churning waters of the relentless Continue Reading “40 Years Later And The Ties Still Bind”

First Hamburger: The Top Ten Myths About Who Invented It

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Who Invented the first hamburger Top Ten MythsFor some reason (and probably a good one if you think about it), the powers that be have decreed May 28th as “National Hamburger Day.” This coincides nicely with the month of May either being “National Hamburger Month” and “National Burger Month,” depending on whose press release you read.

As a result, no doubt you’ve read, listened to, or watched something about the almighty burger at your favorite news outlet. The question you should ask (but won’t know to) is whether what you’re reading, hearing, or seeing is true. Unfortunately, in all likelihood, probably not.

To help set the record straight, here are the top ten myths about the origin of the first hamburger:Continue Reading “First Hamburger: The Top Ten Myths About Who Invented It”

Journey Beyond The Center Of The ‘Stacks’

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Science majors got their own libraries. These contained the specialized journals of their respective fields. Much smaller than expansive University-wide libraries, they offered cozier confines, their size based on the number of students majoring in that subject.

Yale’s Astronomy Library was also probably the smallest library on campus. I was the only Astronomy & Physics major in my class. (Back in my day, the only way you could major in astronomy was to double major in physics. It was a lot of classes, with precious little room for elective courses like philosophy, literature, history, and, well, just about everything else.)

My virtually personal reference room was a treasure trove of ancient knowledge. And by ‘ancient’ I mean the actual data is centuries old. Astronomy, for the most part, collects light data from distant stars, galaxies, and nebulae. The objects responsible for these traveling photons lie lightyears distant, sometimes thousands of light years away.

While a light year represents a measure of distance, it also tells you how long ago the Continue Reading “Journey Beyond The Center Of The ‘Stacks’”

Should Yale (and Other Elite Colleges) Require Students Take a Kobayashi Maru Test?

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When it comes to “The Game,” precedent has no say. The annual Yale-Harvard ritual evokes a rivalry that transcends the ages, as well as the win-loss record of the season’s previous games. So it was in 1979 when the heavily favored undefeated Yale Bulldogs fell to the Harvard Crimson in the season’s ultimate game by the score of 22-7.

Even the final score means nothing. In 1968, when Harvard scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds to earn a tie, the Harvard Crimson headline read: “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.”

This year, the 136th edition of The Game was much anticipated. ESPN had it moved up an hour to a noon start since the Yale Bowl has no lights. Yale, with a record of 8-1, scoring an average of 37.4 points-per-game and fighting for the Ivy League title, was the odds-on favorite to defeat Harvard, losers of four straight. Was anyone surprised, then, that the first half ended with Harvard beating the Bulldogs by a solid 15-3 margin?

The halftime show changed everything.Continue Reading “Should Yale (and Other Elite Colleges) Require Students Take a Kobayashi Maru Test?”

The World – The Universe – That Might Have Been… (Part I)

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There’s this thing. It’s called the “multiverse.” Today we think of it as a series of parallel universes that exist simultaneously. This definition stems from a “lunatic” speculative physical interpretation of his mathematical equations made by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger’s in a 1952 Dublin lecture.

Oddly, American psychologist and philosopher William James originally coined the term in his May 1895 lecture “Is Life Worth Living?” presented to the Young Men’s Christian Association of Harvard University. James meant it to mean a chaotic amoral alternative to the universe we live in.

Today, scientists and science fiction writers prefer Schrödinger’s meaning. The multiverse theory officially emerged with a 1957 paper by Continue Reading “The World – The Universe – That Might Have Been… (Part I)”

A Look Back at Tomorrow – Review of Campusland

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I have to admit, Campusland is not the kind of book I would normally read, precisely because it’s the kind of book everybody reads. When it comes to popular fiction, I tend to abide by the Yogi Berra maxim “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too busy.”

But I had to read Campusland.

Call it “being true to your school” (the author was a classmate of mine).

Call it “reciprocity” (he’s followed my own author’s journey, including, of all things, my being interviewed by his cousin at a radio station in Minnesota).

Most important, call it “inspired curiosity” (the topic promised the allure of topical irreverence).

The story takes us through (literally) the trials and tribulations of several characters during Continue Reading “A Look Back at Tomorrow – Review of Campusland

To the Moon and Back: A Personal Retrospective

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To boldly go…
The Quest…
Man’s calling…
To boldly go…

As simple as opening the door to a strange room.

As complicated as unlocking the key to a new science.

The urge impels us all to take that first step into unchartered terrain.

Some would rather give others the initial chance.

But there comes a point when human nature drives us to follow those pioneers into a new land of innovation and invention.

That’s when we undertake The Quest.

The Quest.
To discover the undiscovered.
To explore the unexplored.
To know the unknown.

*          *          *          *          *

I wanted to write something special, something personal, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of mankind’s greatest voyage of exploration since Columbus… so far. It didn’t take me long to realize I had already written it and it had already appeared in The Sentinel. This Commentary originally appeared as “The Thrill of Beyond” in the July 20, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel to mark the 20th anniversary of America’s lunar landing. Here it is in its entirety. (Click the link in the title to see the original in text form.)
Continue Reading “To the Moon and Back: A Personal Retrospective”

The Secret to Winning: Look for Patterns of Success

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Would you like to know the secret to winning? It’s a system you can easily learn. It works every time. There’s only one trick. I’m guessing you already know what it is.

I’m a Frank Sinatra fan. That means, like any other Sinatra enthusiast, the song “My Way” inspires. (You can read my thoughts on that in “Ruling the World My Way.”) I thank my parents for this, for it was listening to their records that convinced me the Hoboken Hero deserved my attention.

Of course, I was born too late to experience Old Blue Eyes at his vintage best, but I was Continue Reading “The Secret to Winning: Look for Patterns of Success”

You Can’t Have Rainbows without a Little Rain

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photo by Marvin Palmore ’82

It’s raining, so it must be New Haven.

I approached the Elm City from the east along the shore hugging I-95. I had just spent a rare evening in Providence following a lengthy interview with a primary source. This was a much less travelled route for me as I usually visited my Alma Mater via New York City or Hartford. In a sense, then, the intensifying rain was reassuring.

It doesn’t always rain in New Haven, but girl you know it oughta. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it rained. Think all that rain might have put a damper on things? It rained so hard on Thursday my pants didn’t dry until Sunday. Fortunately, years of Boy Scout leader training did not go to waste. I had packed a spare pair.

I hadn’t planned on going to my 35th reunion by way of Rhode Island, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity when it presented itself. The additional one hour and forty four minutes of travel time seemed like a small cost. Because it came up at the last minute, however, I failed to account for other costs. For example, whenever I visit New Haven I try to Continue Reading “You Can’t Have Rainbows without a Little Rain”