Bruno Mars—as you’ve (probably) never seen him!

I’m teaching contemporary literature this quarter at Milwaukee School of Engineering, and the text we’re discussing this coming week is literally hot off the presses—”The Flick,” which is the play that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama last spring and which just came out in book format about a month ago.

Anyway, as I was paging through the play tonight to prep for tomorrow’s class, I reread a section where one of the characters, who is a major film lover, discovers in a dream that his favorite movie was not a classic or anything by Truffaut or Tarantino but was, instead, Honeymoon in Vegas.  Not knowing much about this film, I went straight to Wikipedia to see if I could figure out how its plot relates to the play.

I quickly got sidetracked when I glanced through the cast list and saw a familiar name: Bruno Mars.  What?

First of all, just in case you don’t know who Bruno Mars is, here is his spectacular Super Bowl halftime performance from last winter.

So back to Honeymoon in Vegas.  How could Bruno Mars have been in that film?  It came out in 1992.  Mars was born in 1985, which would have made him seven in 1992 and even younger when the movie was shot.

Well, Mars turned out to be one of the film’s many Elvis impersonators.  Take a look at his adorable “Little Elvis” scene below.

The first time I ever saw Mars perform was at the Grammy Awards show in February 2012.  Electrifying!  And I marveled that someone could be so very polished and accomplished at such a young age.

Little did I realize:  Mars had already been practicing his craft for over twenty years!

Posted in Books and reading, Life, Movies and film, Music, Photos and video, Popular culture, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Football Genius?

I was about to toss yesterday’s Wall Street Journal into the recycling bin this morning but realized I hadn’t read the “Review” section.  Am I glad I took a minute to page through!  On page C3 was this excellent essay/article, “Fitzgerald and the Football Revolution,” by Kevin Helliker.

The gist of the article—and I love stories like this—is that in 1956 a romance languages graduate student at the University of Michigan thought to interview the head football coach, Fritz Crisler, for the school newspaper to see whether, by chance, he’d ever had contact with F. Scott Fitzgerald during his years coaching the Princeton team.

Apparently what this graduate student knew, and most people didn’t, was that Fitzgerald was a lifelong devoted fan of Princeton’s football team.  When Fitzgerald died of a heart attack at age 44, according to the WSJ article, he was in the middle of reading a Princeton Alumni Weekly analysis of the upcoming football season.  (The WSJ article also notes that Fitzgerald had written notes in the margins, “which makes college football the last thing he ever wrote about.”)

Why, yes, Head Coach Fritz Crisler told the grad student, Donald A. Yates.  He had had contact with Fitzgerald during those years at Princeton.  In fact, Fitzgerald used to call him up in the middle of the night before game day with ideas about plays the coach should use.  Often Crisler could hear “the laughter and cries of a dying party” in the background.  (Crisler’s Princeton coaching years were 1932–1937.)

Fritz Crisler is famous for inventing “two-platoon football,” or the use of two separate offensive and defensive teams.  Prior to that innovation the same eleven players played the entire game, switching off between offense and defense.  Yates knew little about football, so when Crisler told him that one of Fitzgerald’s “fantastic” ideas was “a scheme for a whole new offense.  Something that involved a two-platoon system,” Yates didn’t realize the import of that statement and didn’t think to follow up by asking whether Fitzgerald, in fact, gave Crisler the idea that revolutionized the sport.

Reflecting on the interview conversation today, Yates (a professor emeritus of Latin American literature at Michigan State) says, “That seems to be what he is saying.”

The author of the WSJ article found additional support for Fitzgerald’s influence in a 1962 Fitzgerald biography written by Andrew Turnbull.  Turnbull cites an athletic manager under Crisler at Princeton who remembers getting a call from Fitzgerald during those years saying, “Princeton must have two teams.  One will be big—all men over two hundred [pounds].  This team will be used to batter them down and wear them out.  Then the little team, the pony team, will go in and make the touchdowns.”

I find it fascinating that people who are creative innovators in one area so often turn out to be creative innovators in multiple other areas.  The term for people like this is “polymath,” and their numbers include people like Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, actress Hedy Lamarr, Doobie Brothers/Steely Dan guitarist Jeff Baxter, and many others.  (Hmm, this is a topic I should probably blog about :) )

This Wall Street Journal article is really interesting and well written.  If you have time you should link over and read it.

Posted in Books and reading, Creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, History, Life, Popular culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cloudy Windows

Here’s a picture I took this morning around 10:15 while walking to the Red Arrow Starbucks.  Not a dramatic image in itself.  But if you click on the top half of the building to enlarge it, the reflected clouds start to assume this weird Magritte or M.C. Escher character, in which it’s not clear where the sky starts and ends or whether you might be gazing up at the sky through an empty grid of concrete.  Kind of fun, so I thought I’d share :)

Cloudy windows

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Milwaukee’s City Hall Under a Cloud

Hee hee :)

Milwaukee City Hall under a Cloud

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“Unsquare Dance” in Silver Linings Playbook

I’m showing Silver Linings Playbook in one of my classes this week, and for the first time I really thought about how interesting it is that Dave Brubeck’s “Unsquare Dance” is the song playing as Tiffany walks out to meet Pat for their first date.  (Well, maybe not a date after all, as Pat orders raisin bran :) )

Brubeck’s “Unsquare Dance” has a 7/4 time signature, which makes the beat very unsettled, kind of asymmetrical and off-kilter.  For Pat, who is attracted to Tiffany while still wrongly convinced he’s in love with his ex-wife Nikki, this moment is full of import.  He is most definitely off-balance and perched unsteadily at the edge of this new relationship opportunity.

Anyway, I wanted to double check the time signature, went to Wikipedia’s entry, and then happened upon a wonderful video of a talented duo dancing to this exuberant song.  Looks like it must have aired on television in the early 1960s.  You know, if programming like this were the norm today, I’d watch a lot more television.  Enjoy!


Posted in Art and music, Movies and film, Music, Popular culture, Television | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Delta’s “Innovation Class” makes flying meaningful

I just stumbled across Delta’s “Innovation Class” program.  What a truly innovative ( :) ) idea!  Which is this: you can apply to sit next to a really cool person who is flying somewhere, usually to a conference or similar event in their field.

The program’s name has such a clever twist in meaning, too—with “class” simultaneously signifying both an airline seating category and a “master class” mentoring/learning experience.

Here’s how Delta describes its Innovation Class program:

Our jets fill up with some of the smartest people in the world. Leaders in technology, science, the arts and more.

But why should a flight just be a simple flight? Could these leaders use this time in the air to not just fly, but to share their knowledge with an up-and-coming professional in the seat next to them? We think so.

From this idea Delta Innovation Class was born.

It’s a mentoring program – that just so happens to take place at 35,000 feet.

We will be selecting leaders in innovation on their way to events around the globe for the program. They’ll be sitting in the mentor seat. The seat next to them will be open. This is your chance to sit in that seat. We’ll fly you to the event, get you in to the event, and, most importantly, give you one-on-one access you might never otherwise get.

The Delta Innovation Class web page even has a place for you to suggest mentors for future flights.  If you have to fly somewhere anyway, how great would it be to sit next to someone really fascinating?  Whom you would never have such access to anywhere else.  And who might offer information and insights that could change your life.

I swore I’d never fly Delta again after a frustrating experience several years ago.  But I’m rethinking that now.

Posted in Creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, Life, Teaching, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fuzzy Wuzzy, “Vintage” Soap

I have no idea why this product from my childhood randomly popped into my thoughts this morning.

I vaguely recall being allowed to get Fuzzy Wuzzy soap at least once.  All my friends were fascinated by it.  Does anyone know the science behind a soap that grows fur?  It’s hard to believe something this innovative is no longer available in stores :)

But look!  Collector alert!  Someone is selling Fuzzy Wuzzy on eBay, five animal-shaped soaps in their original boxes with the store display for $399.  Truly, the world is an amazing place, is it not?



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