24 June 2010

How Dry Is Dry?

You've surely heard the old saying that, in Arizona, it's a dry heat. Generally, that's true -- except during our summer monsoons when the humidity kicks in and makes it a very wet heat, indeed.

Well, you are probably saying to yourself, how dry is dry?

Thanks to our good friends at the National Weather Service, we know that today tied for the lowest level of humidity ever recorded in the Phoenix metropolitan area: 2%. That's right. A measly 2% humidity.

So, on a day where the temperature peaked at 112 113 degrees, our humidity was only 2%.

I know you are asking yourselves what other dates we had such low humidity. Here they are:

08 May 1904
16 May 1907
13 May 1976
21 December 1977
21 April 1979
04 June 1982
27 April 2008
24 June 2010

Now you can impress your friends with this interesting bit of tid.

14 June 2010

Boring Broadway

Wow! What is it with musicals on Broadway anymore? If last night's Tony Awards were any indication, musicals are now nothing more than singers screaming something unintelligible, dancers doing period-inappropriate back flips, and lighting design stopping at the instructions "install 100 strobe lights facing the audience: use often."

I am all for new kinds of musicals showcasing voices rarely if ever heard, but rock concerts and punk rock mosh pits are proving to be the beginning and end of inspiration for new generations of "artists" working in musical theater.

Seriously, if Stephen Sondheim were dead now, he would be spinning in his grave.

13 June 2010

Garden Goodies

It's been 15 weeks since we planted a bunch of seeds and hoped something would sprout. Well, something sprouted, all right, and now our little victory garden is overflowing with gigantic tomato plants ("Day of the Triffids," anyone?), bean plants, onions, carrots and lettuce that is growing so big and fast one almost thinks it's going to pull up its roots and start walking across the back yard. (We also spotted our first yellow pepper a couple days ago, so they are up and coming.)

This photograph shows what we pulled about 15 minutes ago to add to our dinner tonight (grilled shrimp over pasta). We'll add fresh beans and carrot shavings, and Matt will top off his with some green onion (which I cannot eat 'cause I cannot digest it). So, there you have it. Gardening success!

10 June 2010

Running Interference

Go ahead: call me weird. We are entering into an 11-year cycle in which solar storms will start to become really active -- and by "really active" I mean so active that they could lash out from the surface of the sun and literally fry satellites which could disrupt all kinds of things on the good old surface of terra firma.

Remember the last time this happened? It was October 2003 and it caused all kinds of problems including the interruption of television signals. Of course, it was not as bad as the 1859 solar storm which is the strongest in recorded history. How strong? It shorted out telegraph wires igniting wild fires and was three times greater than the strongest storm in modern times.

What will happen this time? Who knows? Is this the beginning of the 2012 doomsday scenario (where the Earth blows up or something on 21 December 2012)? Who knows?

Is this going to be cool? Totally!

You can read more about the coming solar storms here, the 1859 solar storm here and see a list of major solar storms in the past 200 years here.

08 June 2010

Lost and Found

Back in 1986 I found myself at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art wandering around a really cool exhibition called "Hollywood and History: Costume Design in Film" which displayed the original sketches and costumes for historical films contrasting them with what actually would have been worn during those time periods. On display were costumes from the 1917 silent "Cleopatra" starring Theda Bara (pictured). Signage on the costumes said the designer was unknown.

Of course, anything "unknown" is, to a journalist, like a piece of meat to a starving dog, and -- in this case -- started me on a years-long odyssey to discover the name of the person who designed the costumes. Unfortunately, I never found any documentary evidence for the costume designer, although several sources said Bara designed them herself, which has about as much veracity as saying Angelina Jolie did her own stunts in the "Tomb Raider" movies.

Even though my research resulted in a featured article in the December 1989 issue of Los Angeles magazine, it was frustrating because this 1917 film is thought to be lost, part of the 80% of all silent films made before 1920 that disappeared owing to the ravages of time, willful damage or just plain old neglect. Only a few scant seconds are known to exist of a film that was one of the first really big Hollywood epics.

My heart gave a little leap, then, Monday when it was announced that a veritable treasure trove of silent films had been discovered in a film vault in New Zealand -- could "Cleopatra" be among them? Sadly, it is not. However, quite a few gems are included in the lot of 75 films, including a complete copy of a previously-thought-lost John Ford film.

So, I guess it is still possible for "Cleopatra" to be sitting in some other film vault in some other far away land (or maybe tucked away in your garage) to be found one day.

You can read more about this great discovery

07 June 2010


If you know me at all, you know that I think very little good popular music has been created since the war (that would be WW2). It's all just so much noise to me -- especially the work of Janis Joplin. To my ears, it's all shrieking and screaming. Don't really get the appeal of it at all.

However, I will say that today I have a lot more respect for Joplin and her very short career after hearing a fascinating story about her on NPR.

Although I will never like her music, I totally appreciate how she felt like an outsider and strove to make something of herself without regard to what other people said. Had she not succumbed to the lure of drugs, she might have gone on to make music I actually would have liked. We will never know.

You can hear the story here.

01 June 2010

Agatha Christie And Nuns?

Did you know that the manner in which you write a sentence at the age of 20 can provide a statistically significant indicator of whether you will get Alzheimer's later in life? I didn't either.

NPR today did a really fascinating story about new research into dementia -- which you can hear here.