Number of posts: 13
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By Janet Ward:
Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of humankind’s leap into space. Fifty years ago Tuesday, Yuri Gagarin, the small (5’2″) son of peasant farmers, strapped into his seat on Vostok I and said, “Off we go!” It was just four years after the Soviets had launched Sputnik, the first unmanned spacecraft. Think of that for one minute. Four years from unmanned craft to manned space flight. Four years! This was after numerous monkeys, dogs and mice had been afforded the dubious honor of attempting to discern whether space flight was inherently dangerous. (It was to most of them.)
My husband and I used to joke about having a ’90s family.
I met my husband in the early ’90s. Our meeting was a great sports story. He was a married sportswriter, and he called me from a Final Four (that he was just attending, not covering) because he had been shifted to the Features Department briefly and was working on a piece about fantasy baseball leagues. I happened to be the commissioner of the Manuel’s League, which included a number of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters. He figured it would be easy, but, knowing he couldn’t actually quote anyone from the paper, he called me. During the interview, he asked me how it was being the female commissioner of a fantasy league. I told him I liked to tell people I drafted my team based on cuteness. But, I noted, I had Chris Sabo (a rather homely Reds third baseman) on my team, so, clearly that was a joke. When the article came out, it quoted me thusly, “Janet Ward, the Marge Schott of the Manuel’s League, drafts her team based on cuteness.” I was, to say the least, frosted.
I’m kind of a space buff, and for some years, my sister and I have had a blog dedicated to Garrett Reisman, an astronaut that my sisters and I took an understandable (when you read this) shine to. So, when my friend, Todd Leopold, an entertainment editor at CNN Online, said he was doing a piece on the “Lost Romance of Space” and asked me who he should talk to, Garrett was the first person I thought of. And then I thought, “Hell, why don’t I do an interview with Garrett,” since he’s posted occasionally on our blog and become somewhat of a friend we’ve never met. So I emailed Garrett, who said he’d love to but he had to get clearance from NASA, which we did. Well, I talked to Garrett for about 40 minutes for what was supposed to be a 15-minute interview, and the only reason I […]
Good writers must, by their very nature, know what bad writing is. That is the premise of the Edward Bulwer-Lytton contest.
Starting in 1982, the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (www.bulwer-lytton.com), a clever and whimsical attempt to find the worst opening line of a novel. Brainchild of Scott Rice, then a student at SJSU, who took it upon himself to find the author of what he considered the worst opening line ever, “It was a dark and stormy night,” the contest has drawn thousands of entries over the years.
That opening line, from Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “Paul Clifford,” goes:
Twenty years ago today, STS-31 launched, carrying a telescope that would revolutionize every branch of the planetary and astrophysical sciences. Named for Edwin Hubble, the American astronomer who discovered the importance of the Doppler Shift in determining the existence of galaxies other than the Milky Way, the Hubble Space Telescope carried the hopes of a generation of scientists who thought it had the potential to change everything we know about space.
They waited. When the first pictures came back, they rushed to their computers with the enthusiasm of a five-year-old rushing downstairs at Christmas, only to find that Santa had decided this year to exercise a heretofore unknown sadistic sense of humor by leaving under the tree a gaily wrapped toothbrush.
Turns out the primary mirror was too flat at the edges by an astonishing 2.2 microns. The period at the end of this sentence is almost 400 microns.
When I was young, I lived on MacDill Air Force Base. Our apartment backed up to a baseball field. That is where we met Mehitabel. Mehitabel was a fluffy, black cat. We would use the mowed grass to make forts, and, one day, Mehitabel arrived, hanging out in our fort and acting, for all the world, like she owned the place.
We went home at dusk, and she followed. It took some time, but my sisters, brothers and I finally persuaded our mom to let her stay. Dad named her Mehitabel, after the Don Marquis story about a cockroach named Archy who befriended Mehitabel, the alley cat.
I hate plastic. So much so that I believe were I to be crawling across the desert, cartoonlike, dying of thirst, and I came across a Coke machine that only had plastic bottles, and I actually had $1.25 in quarters, I would have to have a serious conversation with myself before I actually decided whether dying was not better than buying a plastic bottle of Diet Coke or Dasani. My husband hates driving with me on long trips because I am constantly pointing out the plastic bags in the trees and skipping along the roadsides. (Well, that, and the fact that I
What has happened to poetry? Learned men and women used to quote it like we quote the last funny line from “The Daily Show.” But poetry seems to have lost its cache.
A Facebook exchange made me remember. A friend posted a line that went:
“Jerry Grillo is filled with fantastic terrors never felt before. Maybe this is a good day to take opium and bury someone alive.”
Most of the people who responded got it. It’s a line from “The Raven
One day, some years ago, I was driving through Fernandina with my mom during an election period. I noticed signs along the road, “Elect So-and-so For County Commissioner,” and “Vote So-and-So Tax Commissioner.” I told my mom I would never vote for someone whose signs were grammatically incorrect. They should say, “Elect So-and-so County Commissioner” and “Vote FOR So-and-so FOR Tax Commissioner.” My mom looked at me and said, “Do you make everyone around you crazy?” Truth is, yes, I do. I am reluctant, and those of you who know me will be surprised at this, to correct my friends on their grammar and punctuation. Still, some mistakes grate on me (greatly). Here they are: Under way is two words. The only time it’s (not its) one word is when it’s (again) used as an adjective: “The underway activities on the cruise ship.” I personally believe this is the most […]
I am a baseball fan. That will come as no surprise to many of you. My heroes are Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, JR Richard, Bob Gibson, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers (the last because he was the only Democratic ballplayer I knew during the 2000s). Seven of those 12 names were black players. I mean, black, as in African-American, not Latino-American.
I went to a late-season Braves-Marlins game, and I was talking to a friend. She mentioned that she liked Garrett Anderson; I don’t. I think Garrett Anderson doesn’t, as they say in the stupid world of sports talk, “give 100 percent.” He doesn’t take the extra base, doesn’t move runners over, isn’t a wiz in the field.
But as we were talking, it occurred to me: Garrett Anderson was the ONLY black player on the team.
What has happened to baseball? There are few black players, with the exception of black Latino players, whom anyone would consider “stars” nowadays. Why is that?
Jack and I recently learned of the death of Frank Ludden. Frank and his wife, Louise, owned the Sunset Lounge on Long Island, where Jack’s parents, Jack, Sr., and Fitz, would go on their “date nights.” According to the story that Jack tells, an elderly woman would go to the bar most nights to have a drink or two. When she was through drinking, Frank would drive her home. Having no kinfolk, when she died, she left her house to Frank and Louise, who used the proceeds from the sale to move to Kissimmee, Fla., where they spent what would be Frank’s last years. Frank would call often. A “professional Irishman,” as Jack, Sr., called him, he would always say to me, “Hi, darlin’. How are ya?” before asking, “Is himself around?” You couldn’t help but be charmed. Often Jack wasn’t home, and I would report Frank’s call when he […]
By 1995, we had become accustomed to the Braves in the post-season. I worked for a stats wire service and Jack covered the team for the AJC. It was often my job to troll the press row to find out how many people would not be using their tickets to go to the post-game party, so that we could make sure we had enough tickets to get in. In 1995, we took our two daughters, ages 11 and 9, to the first game of the World Series. As we were walking out of the game, I told the girls, “You may see a hundred World Series games in your lifetime, and you will never see one pitched this well.” It was Greg Maddux against Orel Hershiser. Maddux, one of my all-time favorite pitchers, beat Hershiser, going the distance and giving up two runs on only two hits. The Braves countered […]
My Dad died around 3:30 am on the morning of April 16. My sister, Cathy, and my brother, Joe, had just gotten in at around Noon on Wednesday from their respective Chicago and Maui homes. My five sisters and two brothers were at his bedside when he died. Dad Andrew Johnson “Drew” Ward The funeral was lovely, especially the graveside service, which included a wonderful Air Force Honor Guard from Moody AFB in Valdosta, a nine-gun salute (you have to be a really big wig in the military to get a 21-gun salute, apparently) and a bugler playing Taps. My dad was a 90s dad in the 60s. He so loved his kids. He wasn’t one of those fathers who came home expecting his wife to be in a June Cleaver dress and apron with a cocktail in hand. (Believe me, my Mom had June Cleaver dresses, but she wouldn’t […]