Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Moment of Wikipedia Glory!

Charles and I were surprised and flattered to discover that Who's Bigger has officially been granted its very own Wikipedia page, in English.  By repeating our computational analysis in the future, we will now be able to rigorously determine whether we are bigger than, say, the Bible.   OK, maybe this is somewhat aspirational, but as the first of my five books to earn its own Wikipedia page Who's Bigger already becomes my biggest book by default.

The coolest thing is that for eight hours starting 08:00, 21 January 2014 (UTC) our book held pride of place under Did you know? on the front page of Wikipedia!  Such placement matters.  Statistics show that our page has been accessed 7596 times over the past thirty days, exactly 5144 of which came on January 21.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Professor, R.I.P.

What one is exposed to as a youth can have a tremendous impact on future life paths.   I have spent my full working life as a college professor, but did not come from an academic family. During my youth, there was only one professor I was really aware of, and his model no doubt influenced my choice of career in ways that I am not fully aware of.

I feel moved to acknowledge the influence of Russell Johnson, the Professor on the TV show ``Gilligan's Island'', who passed away today.  He never seemed constrained by disciplinary boundaries; a generalist with deep knowledge of every subject, and a flair for creating high technology items out of coconut shells.  His model of the nerdy academic wandering his tropical island paradise was so compelling that maybe it helped turn me into a nerdy academic wandering my not-so-tropical, Long Island not-so-paradise...

This seems an appropriate opportunity to rank the seven stars of Gilligan's Island by their historical significance:
  • Jim Backus (Mr. Howell) 15,374.
  • Alan Hale, Jr. (The Captain) 23,841.
  • Bob Denver (Gilligan) 26,025.
  • Tina Louise (Ginger) 28,365.
  • Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) 35,815.
  • Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Howell) 43,321.
  • Russell Johnson (The Professor) 48,384.
These actor rankings grossly reflect my sense of reality.   Jim Backus was a genuine movie star (remember him as the father in ``Rebel without a Cause''?) who achieved his greatest cultural role as the voice of Mr. Magoo.  I would have ranked Bob Denver ahead of Alan Hale, but the captain appeared in several movies prior to his role on the show.   None of the four supporting actors ever had any really significant roles outside the show, a typecasting fate which seemed to strike many of the television actors of the era.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Putting "Who's Bigger" in its Proper Place

Not all reviewers of our book "Who's Bigger" have been fully appreciative of our work.   Don't worry: we will look at these in a future blog post.

But the most effective job of putting "Who's Bigger" into proper perspective was done by one Abby Skiena, age 10, the daughter of mine to whom the book was dedicated to.

On the official publication date I presented both of my children with signed copies of the book for them to forever treasure.  Abby was excited enough to bring hers to school the next day for show and tell.

"Abby, did your classmates think the book was cool?," I asked when I got home.

"Kinda," she answered without enthusiasm.  "But you see, I went after Caroline."

"Oh.  What did Caroline have to show?"

"She just got back from Harry Potter World, with lots of souvenirs.  She even passed out Every Flavor Jelly Beans for us to eat.  One kid got vomit flavor..."