David Bruce: Don’t Fear the Reaper — Education, Fans

Education

• An engineering professor gave his class this question on a final exam: Using a barometer and any other tools you wish, how would you measure the height of a building? Note: You must use the barometer.” Only one student gave the correct answer: “I would climb to the top of the building, tie the barometer to a piece of string, lower the barometer to the ground, then I would measure the length of the string. This would tell me the height of the building.”

• The first dance choreographed by George Balanchine that ballerina Illaria Obidenna Ladré ever saw was performed by Mr. Balanchine and Olga Mungalova to Arthur Rubenstein’s “Night.” Because she was a young dancer studying with other young dancers, and because the choreography was very daring, Illaria and her classmates were forbidden to watch the rehearsals — so of course they all did.

• When Jon Scieszka was in the 5th grade, his teacher asked him, “What’s so funny?” Jon replied with a story about a man who had no arms but made his living as a bell-ringer by hitting the bell with his head. Someone asked, “What’s that guy’s name?” Someone else answered, “I don’t know, but his face sure rings a bell.” The students laughed; the teacher didn’t.

• Influential dance teacher Nicolas Legat knew and studied under Marius Petipa, the choreographer of Swan Lake. Mr. Legat described Mr. Petipa’s “system” in this way: “To look for beauty, grace, and simplicity, and obey no other rules.”

Fans

• Dolly Parton respects her fans, and she wears full makeup even when she is traveling to a photo shoot at which she knows that her makeup will be immediately removed and reapplied. Makeup artist extraordinaire Kevyn Aucoin once asked her why she did that, and she replied, “I have to look my best at all times for my fans — what if I’m in a car accident?”

• In the days of American slavery, General George Washington was walking down the street when an aged African-American saw him and took off his hat and bowed out of respect. General Washington promptly took off his hat and returned the bow. Later, he explained to a shocked white politician: “I cannot be less civil than a poor Negro.”

• Bob Denver played Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, a role that has followed him ever since. While he was vacationing on Hawaii, a Hawaiian family found out where he was staying and sang the Gilligan’s Island theme song outside his window at 6 a.m. until he woke up and said hi.

Fathers

• Roger Ebert’s father, whom Roger called “Daddy,” used to tell a story that he had learned from his own father. The story was about an immigrant from Germany to this country. In the old country, he had learned the English words “coffee” and “apple pie.” At a restaurant, he ordered apple pie, and when the server asked if he wanted anything on top of it, he said, “Coffee.” Roger started writing early for a newspaper. Before he was in his junior year of high school, he got a job covering the Urbana Tigers for The News-Gazette even though this meant that he had to work until 1 or 2 a.m. a couple of nights a week, and he had to drive home by himself. Roger was good at the job, and he won the Illinois Associated Press sportswriting contest for an article that he wrote during his senior year of high school. When Roger’s father lay dying of cancer in a hospital bed, Roger took him the framed certificate that he had received for winning the contest. Although Roger later won a Pulitzer Prize for his movie criticism, he says about the award that he took to his dying father, “It was the most important prize I ever won.” During one visit to the hospital, following his father’s surgery, Roger saw his father and mother do and say something that he is grateful to have seen and heard. Roger writes, “He sat up on the edge of his bed. ‘Hold me, Bub,’ he said. ‘It hurts so much.’ She took him in her arms. ‘Oh, Wally,’ she said, ‘I love you so much.’”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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