Monthly Archives: October 2012

Celebrity Babe of the Month: October

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Real Name: Mildred Ella Didriksen

Babe-ification story:

As the 6th of 7 children, she was called “Baby” as an infant. By the time #7 came along, the neighborhood boys had already adjusted Mildred’s nickname to Babe (after Babe Ruth) because she hit so many home runs in their sandlot baseball games.

Celebrification story:

The Early Years

During high school, Babe was recruited by Employers Casualty Insurance Company’s sports manager Colonel Melvin J. McCombs to play basketball for the company’s women’s team, the Golden Cyclones. After a smashing season, the Golden Cyclones also competed in swimming, baseball, and tennis. Then McCombs had Babe compete in the AAU National Championship track meet…as a one-woman team.

The One-Woman Team

She won. At 21 years old, she competed in eight of the meet’s ten events and singlehandedly outscored the 2nd place team (which had over 20 members) 30 to 22. She placed first in five events and tied for first in another. In the process, she broke four world records (three of which belonged to her already) and qualified for the 1932 Olympics.

The 1932 Olympics

Babe competed in three events and medaled in all of them. In the javelin throw and the 80-meter hurdles, she took gold and broke (her own) world records. In the high jump, she and an opponent cleared the same height in a jump off but Babe was awarded the silver medal due to controversy about the legality of her form. (The Fosbury flop was still more than three decades in the future.) Coming off her unprecedented victories in track and field, she seemed unstoppable…until it was time to go pro.

Going Pro

Babe floundered after making the decision to earn money as an athlete. She dabbled in show business, spending a week as the star of a vaudeville act and participating in exhibition games in billiards, basketball, and baseball. But by the end of 1934, she had been taking lessons and keeping a strenuous training schedule, and she was ready to compete in the next sport…

The Next Sport

…golf. She entered and won her first tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. Babe went on to win 82 golf tournaments in her career, including 17 amateur women’s tournaments in a row (which hasn’t been done since). By 1950 she had won every golf title available to women at the time. She is now remembered primarily for her career on the green.

More Babe Stuff

  • Babe met professional wrestler George Zaharias when they were partnered for a golf tournament and married him in 1938. Although their marriage was not always happy, they remained loyal to one another.
  • When a friend introduced her to teenage golfer Betty Dodd, the two became fast friends (often arousing George’s jealousy) for the rest of Babe’s life. Dodd even lived with the Zahariases for a while.
  • She was instrumental in founding the Ladies PGA.
  • Babe’s confidence was as wide as her native Texas, and her verbal swagger matched it. She was known to shout to competitors before a match, “Okay, Babe’s here! Now who’s gonna finish second?”
  • She received the Associated Press’s Woman Athlete of the Year award six times, a record still unmatched today.
  • She was proficient on the harmonica, which she played on stage in her one week of vaudeville and later with Betty Dodd, who sang and played guitar.
  • In 1953 she underwent surgery for colon cancer. She went on to win the U.S. Women’s Open shortly thereafter. Her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, but that information was kept from her until it became evident. She was in and out of the hospital during her last year of life and finally succumbed in 1956 at age 45.

Babe’s legacy includes more than athletic accomplishments: she spent much of her career bucking the notion that women did not belong in sports. Up until a year before she competed in the Olympics, the inclusion of women’s sports in the Games was still a subject of heated debate. Later, when Babe was touring with a men’s baseball team, newspaper columnist Joe Williams wrote of her, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.” But sportswriter and fan Grantland Rice lauded Babe as “the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination the world of sport has ever known.” By her unflagging pursuit of her own ambitious athletic goals, Babe helped to open up the world of professional sports for future women athletes.

Note: I highly recommend Russell Freedman’s Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion, which was my principal source for this post. I found the chapter about Babe as a one-woman track team especially entertaining.

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R.O.U.S.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the movie The Princess Bride. This presents me with a plethora of post potential, but I have finally decided to focus on R.O.U.S.: Rodents of Unusual Size.

So in honor of this guy…

Rodent of Unusual Size

…let’s take a look at this guy…

a real-life ROUS

…a real-life R.O.U.S.

That there is a capybara.

Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world. A full-grown cap (my nickname for the capybara — not okay if you’re talking to someone who cares about accurate rodential nomenclature) can be the size of a baby hippo.

The Neighborhood

If you want to find a capybara in its native ghetto, try the South and Central American rainforest & tropical grassland, near or in water. But caps also travel – this one went on holiday in Cali.

The neighbors usually stick together, led by a dominant male. You might see 10 or 20 or even 30 caps hanging out together in a family group, and sometimes family groups will band together into herds of up to 100. Everybody keeps a lookout for bad guys (jaguars, caimans, anacondas, and folks with guns), and whoever spots danger alerts the rest of them so they can run or swim away. All I’m sayin’ is, it ain’t easy to bust a cap in this ‘hood. (Er, sorry…I had to try it.)

This is not a picture of an anaconda. It’s a picture of a capybara. Inside an anaconda.

Dining Out

These critters are herbivores, so their daily grub is mostly grass and water plants. In fact, if they don’t eat enough tough grass, their teeth will get too long (because like all rodents, their 4 incisors keep growing their whole lives). On occasion, caps will partake of a bit of gourmet cuisine, like melons or squash.

Mostly, caps eat out during twilight time, which makes them crepuscular. But if there are lots of bad guys near the ‘hood, they’ll behave a bit more nocturnally.

The other important c-word to describe the cap’s eating habits is coprophagy. In order for food to provide enough nutrients, it requires two rounds through the capybara’s digestive system. So caps eat their own poo. Don’t worry, it’s cool. They like it.

cap teeth (heh)

Love

Boy capybaras emit a paste from their nose which they wipe on the girls to “claim” them, making capybaras not entirely unlike 1st graders. They also chase the girls in and out of the water to show them they’re interested (also 1st grade behavior). When the boy and girl finally reach an agreement, capybaras do it in the water.

A litter is usually 4 or 5 babies, and all the gals in the family group will take care of everybody else’s kids. I told you it was a tightly knit neighborhood.

Adorable.

I never thought I’d put “adorable” and “rodent” in the same sentence. But I just did.

Capybaras: The Trivia Night Run-down

  • They can stay underwater for nearly 5 minutes at a time.
  • Some people keep them as pets.
  • They’re very vocal. Babies purr, and adults communicate with barks, grunts, chirps, and whistles.
  • They have webbed feet.
  • They dig wallows, which are shallow ditches that fill with water and mud. Then they…well, wallow in them.
  • In the wild, caps live 8-10 years.

Okay, folks, that’s all I’ve got for you on real-life R.O.U.S.

To find out more, you can visit The Capybara Page.

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Dr. Who?

Here are a few famous doctors to know about. MD not required.

Dr. Seuss

For a guy who didn’t even like kids, Theodor Seuss Geisel certainly made his mark among children. Luke Luck licks lakes.

Dr. Seuss postage stamp

Be hip about Dr. Seuss:

Importance: prolific author and illustrator of books for young children

Most well-known volumes: The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Drop this at a party:

    • He wasn’t actually a doctor, and he purportedly wasn’t crazy about children.
    • A successful Broadway musical, Seussical!, is based on characters from his books.
    • He had a knack for astute social commentary disguised as children’s stories (check out The Lorax and The Star-Bellied Sneetches).

More on Dr. Seuss:

He was pursuing a Ph.D. in literature from Oxford, but dropped the course of study when he married his first wife, Helen, thus making him Nearly-Dr. Seuss.


Dr. Who

I am probably permanently banished from Comic-Cons worldwide for listing this one as Dr. Who. After all, as every self-respecting science fiction fan knows, the character is simply The Doctor.  The television series title, however, is Doctor Who, a reference to the cryptic ineffability of the main character. He travels across space and time in his TARDIS to do whatever needs doing in order to save the universe and its unaware residents.

the eleven faces of The Doctor

To date, eleven actors have portrayed The Doctor.

Be hip about The Doctor:

Importance: hero of the cult favorite BBC sci-fi series and its 2005 redux (ahem, reBOOT)

Drop this at a party: His time/space travel craft, which looks on the outside like an old British police call box, is called the Time and Relative Dimension in Space, or the TARDIS.

More on Dr. Who/The Doctor:

  • The original series, which aired on BBC television from 1963 to 1989, holds the Guinness World Record for longest-running science fiction television show in the world. It was rebooted in 2005 and is currently still in production.
  • The Doctor is a Time Lord, a species that can regenerate their bodies when they are about to die, thus lending credibility to the fact that The Doctor has been portrayed by eleven different actors over the course of the show’s run.
  • The Doctor’s most well-known recurring nemeses are the Daleks, a race created by a scientist to destroy all inferior beings (i.e., everyone else). In a UK series of postage stamps celebrating pop culture icons, one stamp featured a Dalek.
  • Spinoff series include Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and K-9, as well as innumerable single episodes, mini-series, books, stage plays, and two feature-length films.

Doc Watson

A legendary name in bluegrass, old time, and folk music, Arthel “Doc” Watson racked up seven Grammy Awards (including one for Lifetime Achievement) and continued to play music all the way up until his death at age 89.

Be hip about Doc Watson:

Importance: blind guitarist credited by many with establishing the acoustic guitar as a lead instrument in folk and bluegrass music

Drop this at a party: “Applause is like an amplified friendly handshake.” –Doc Watson

More on Doc Watson:

  • Doc started Merlefest, an annual acoustic music festival named after his son (Merle), who often performed with his dad before he died in a tractor accident in 1985.
  • Watson’s career breakthrough came at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival.
  • The story of the nickname “Doc,” according to Watson himself: An announcer remarked during a live radio broadcast that Arthel was an odd name, and a nickname would be easier. An audience member volunteered the advice, “Call him Doc!” (a suggestion which may be an allusion to Sherlock Holmes’ assistant, Dr. Watson). It stuck.
  • Watson went blind before his first birthday due to an infection.
  • He was also proficient on the banjo.


Spin Doctors

Lowercase spin doctors are those clever, well-paid folks who take a terrible situation and convince the public to see it as a godsend. But capitally, the Spin Doctors were a rock n’ roll jam band significant enough to make the cover of the January 7, 1993, issue of Rolling Stone.

Be hip about the Spin Doctors:

Importance: American rock band with a couple of Billboard hits in the early ‘90’s

Drop this at a party:

    • The band’s biggest hit, peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, was “Two Princes,” off their first studio album, 1991’s Pocket Full of Kryptonite.
    • Original member John Popper left the Spin Doctors to focus on his other band, Blues Traveler.

More on the Spin Doctors:

  • The band’s first studio album was preceded by a live EP called Up for Grabs…Live.
  • Between 1991 and 2005, the Spin Doctors released five studio albums. Pocket Full of Kryptonite was the most successful commercially, going Triple Platinum and hitting #3 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart.
  • The band is still playing shows.


Dr. Kevorkian

You may know him as Dr. Death.  The controversial Dr. Jack Kevorkian served prison time for euthanizing over 130 terminal patients.

Be hip about Dr. Kevorkian (that sounds kinda weird):

Importance: championed the cause of, depending on which side you’re on, physician-assisted suicide or a patient’s right to die, bringing the issue of euthanasia to public attention

Drop this at a party: He was also a painter and a jazz instrumentalist who sold limited copies of his work, including a 1997 composition called The Kevorkian Suite: A Very Still Life.

More on Dr. Kevorkian:

  • If you’re keeping a list called Kevorkian’s Controversial Death-Related Positions, add to it his belief that inmates on death row should be able to opt for what amounted to death by scientific experimentation (as fully anesthetized patients in medical research).
  • Kevorkian died (unassisted) in 2011 at age 83.
  • The band Acid Bath used one of his paintings for their album Paegan Terrorism Tactics.

Note: I had a really hard time narrowing down doctors. So many good ones were left out – Dr. No (first James Bond movie villain, works for SPECTRE, metallic hand); Dr. Claw (Inspector Gadget’s nemesis, works for MAD, only ever see his hand and his cat, spoof of Dr. No); Dr. Phil (spawned – er, launched – by Oprah’s daily talk show; professional good-advice-giver); Dr. Pepper (duh)… I wouldn’t rule out a Part 2 of this post at some point in the future.

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