Did You Know . . . ?


Bluetooth is a technology that allows electronic devices to communicate wirelessly with one another.  For instance, if your smartphone can be paired with your car radio so you can talk without holding the smartphone in your hand while driving, you are most likely using Bluetooth to do so.

It has many other, and more important applications as well.  For instance, my mother has a pacemaker.  By putting an electronic “reader” over the pacemaker, data concerning the functioning of the pacemaker, battery life remaining, and a history of her heartbeats for the last six months or so can be obtained and transmitted wirelessly from the reader via Bluetooth to an app on my smartphone, which in turn sends the information to her cardiologist via the internet.

But why is this technology called “Bluetooth”?  Back in 1997 Jim Kardach was working on the technology that is described above.  At the same time he was reading The Long Ships, a historical novel by Frans G. Bengtsson.  One of the characters that appealed to Kardach was a Danish king named Harald Bluetooth who united a number of independent Danish tribes into a kingdom.  Kardach’s invention unites electronic devices, in a way, so it seemed natural to him to call that technology “Bluetooth.”

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There was once an author named Jacques Futrelle.  Where would you think he was born?  France, perhaps?  No, this Jacques Futrrelle was born in Pike County, Georgia on April 9, 1875.  Futrelle is best known as the author of a number of short stories featuring Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen.  Professor Van Dusen is known as “The Thinking Machine” because he is able to logically think his way out of any problem presented to him.

In the short story “The Problem of Cell 13” (1905) Professor Van Dusen is challenged to escape from a prison cell by a certain date.  He is searched and placed in the cell, and the warden has him closely watched.  Nevertheless, Van Dusen enters the prison from the outside world on the date by which he said he would escape. He explains how he did it, and it seems like a very logical process.

In a real-life tragedy Futrelle did not fare as well as his fictional creation.  He and his wife were on the Titanic when it struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912.  Futrelle forced his wife to board one of the few available lifeboats, but refused to board it himself.  The last time she saw him he was standing on the deck smoking a cigarette with John Jacob Astor IV.  Both men perished.  Astor’s body was recovered, but Futrelle’s was not.  Futrelle was 37 years old.

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Anne of Avonlea

The village of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island in Canada, was originally named “New Warren” when it was settled in 1904, but its name was changed to “Avonlea” in 1911 in honor of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s famous 1909 novel Anne of Avonlea.  Today it is commonly known as “Avonlea Village.”

Montgomery wrote nine novels about Anne Shirley, but the final novel, given to her publisher the day before she died, was lost until the early part of this century.  It was published as The Blythes Are Quoted in 2009.  (Anne Shirley became Anne Shirley Blythe when she married Gilbert Blythe with whom she had had an  antagonistic relationship for many years.)

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William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes both died 400 years ago on the same date, April 23, 1616, but they did not die on the same day.  That’s possible because Cervantes died in Spain which was using the Gregorian Calendar while Shakespeare died in England which was still using the older, less precise Julian Calendar.  The Gregorian Calendar, named after Pope Gregory XIII, had been adopted in Spain about three decades before the death of Cervantes because it lined up much better with the solar year than the Julian Calendar.  In order to get the calendar and solar years synchronization, the Gregorian Calendar added a leap day every four years, and cut (i.e. jumped ahead) ten days during the year of its adoption.  Regardless of its precision, the English, who were anti-Papist, refused to adopt a calendar associated with a Catholic pope.  So when Shakespeare died in England on April 23rd, it was already May 3rd in Spain, and Cervantes had been dead for ten days.

The British stubbornly refused to adopt the Gregorian Calendar until 1752.  By then they were forced to cut 11 days from the calendar that year rather than ten.  The Eastern Orthodox countries were even more resistant to the Gregorian Calendar than the British.  Russia didn’t adopt it until after the Bolshevik Revolution, and Greece refused to adopt it until 1923.

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The term “cold war” was coined by author George Orwell.  It first appeared in an essay entitled “You and the Atomic Bomb” which was published on October 19, 1945.

Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery . . . James Burnham’s theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications—that is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of “cold war” with its neighbours.

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The Godfather

Many movies are base either totally or in part on literary works.  The American Film Institute (AFI) has published lists of the top 100 movies of all time on two occasions – most recently in 2007.  The top 10 films from that list are shown below (in the order of their ranking) along with the literary works they are based on (if that is the case).

  1.  Citizen Kane
  2. The Godfather (The Godfather by Mario Puzo)
  3. Casablanca (based in part on the 1938 unproduced play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison)
  4. Raging Bull (Raging Bull: My Story by Jake LaMotta and Joseph Carter)
  5. Singin’ in the Rain
  6. Gone with the Wind (Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell)
  7. Lawrence of Arabia (based in part on the writings of T. E. Lawrence)
  8. Schindler’s List (Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally)
  9. Vertigo (D’entre les morts (From Among the Dead)) by Bouleau-Narcejac (Pierre Bouleau)
  10. The Wizard of Oz (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)

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The groundbreaking miniseries Roots, based on the book of the same name by Alex Haley, was a phenomenal hit when it was broadcast on ABC in 1977.  It was shown in eight episodes beginning on the evening of January 23, 1977 and for seven consecutive nights thereafter.  It remains one of the most watched and most influential programs in the history of television, and is considered a milestone in telling the truth about slavery and its aftermath.

A “reimagined” version of Roots will be simulcast on The History Channel, A&E, and Lifetime over four consecutive nights beginning on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.   The cast includes Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Anna Paquin, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Anika Noni Rose, and newcomer Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte.

Two of the notable people involved in developing the project are LeVar Burton, the original Kunta Kinte, and Mark Wolper, son of David L. Wolper the executive producer of the original miniseries.

You can find out much more about the upcoming miniseries here (be sure to explore the entire website), and read about it in a New York Times article here.  The miniseries was filmed in Louisiana and South Africa according to the Times article.

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