WABAC to the 1st Grammy Awards

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?


“Let’s attend the very 1st Grammy Awards, Sherman My Boy.”

1st Ever Grammy Awards Held.

No Rock and Roll!


Spin the disks of history

On May 4, 1959, the first ever Grammy music awards were held, with no category for rock and roll despite the fact that this new type of music had already long taken the country by storm.

The big winners with 2 Grammys apiece were: Ella Fitzgerald (Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Female and Best Jazz Performance by an Individual, for compilations of a Irving Berlin song and a Duke Ellington song, respectively); Henri Mancini (Best Arrangement and Album of the Year, both for The Music from Peter Gunn); Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., better known by his stage persona of David Seville, (Best Comedy Performance and Best Recording for Children, both for “The Chipmunk Song”); and Domenico Modugno (Song of the Year and Record of the Year for “Volare“).

The only award in the Best Country and Western Performance category went to The Kingston Trio for their hit “Tom Dooley.”  Other major categories included Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Male, which was won by Perry Como for “Catch a Falling Star,”  and Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus, which was won by Keely Smith and Louis Prima for “That Old Black Magic.”

The winners who most closely approached rock and roll were The Champs with “Tequila” for which they received the Grammy award for Best R&B Performance.

In all, only 22 Grammys were awarded that first year, far fewer than the 83 categories recognized in 2015.



WABAC to the 1st Grammy Awards

WABAC to the Gasoline Engine

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?


“Let’s go back to 1885 Germany and check out the 1st gasoline engine, Sherman My Boy.”

 Daimler Patents the Gasoline Engine


Fill ‘er up…

On April 3, 1885, German engineer Gottlieb Daimler had his internal combustion engine that was fueled by gasoline patented, paving the way for the development of what would become the main type of automobile engine.

Where is the hood?

Only 5 years later, fellow German Rudolf Diesel patented the rugged engine that bears his name, and the second most prevalent automobile engine was born.

Even before Daimler and Diesel, other Germans had done pioneering work in regard to engines. Siegfried Marcus patented his version of the internal combustion engine in 1864 and later patented a type of magneto used in all subsequent gasoline engines.  Nikolaus Otto patented his “Otto Engine” in 1876, the first practical 4-stroke-cycle engine.  Karl Benz was granted a patent for his two-stroke engine in 1879 and, in 1886, received the first patent for an automobile.  And later, in 1929, Felix Wankel patented his first rotary engine and, in the 1950s, developed it into a useful engine, lighter, smoother and more powerful than conventional engines.  Unfortunately, emissions standards forced changes to the Wankel or rotary engine and kept it from taking a larger chunk of the automobile market.

Although Germans did not invent fuel injection, German engineers certainly developed it further for their aircraft engines during World War II and continued the trend with gasoline-driven cars after the war.

With premier manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz (Daimler-Benz), Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, BMW (For some strange reason, I have run into many folks who think this abbreviation stands for “British Motor Works.”  It does not.  It stands for Bavarian Motor Works or, of course, the German equivalent.), German cars and engineering are generally the most respected and desired in the world.  Opel, another German automaker, has been in business since 1862 and building cars since 1899.  Today it is a subsidiary of General Motors and is designing and building cars that are sold under other GM nameplates such as Buick, Holden and Vauxhall.  The developer of high-speed highways (the autobahn), Germany needs cars capable of safely tripping along at high speeds with the handling to complement the power, and that is exactly what they produce.

Other countries also make powerful cars, and some of these cars even handle fairly well, but no other country makes cars with the panache of the German automakers.  You could buy a fancy Italian sports car for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but will it be as reliable as a Porsche?  Will it be as safe in an accident as a Mercedes?

Ok, I admit I “buy American”!

WABAC to the Gasoline Engine

WABAC to Real Life Adventurers

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

Real Life Adventurers

Who Make Indiana Jones

Look Boring

Dr. Henry Thomas Jones, better known as Indiana Jones, is one of the most beloved film characters in history. While both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have said that Dr. Jones isn’t based on anyone specific, there are a few people who had amazing adventures in the pursuit of knowledge, and who risked life and limb just to satisfy their own curiosity. So while none of the people listed here carried a bullwhip, they all faced dangers for the sake of preserving history.

“Let’s start with 1922 Africa, Sherman My Boy.”

10. Wendell Phillips


Born in 1922 and achieving his degree in paleontology in 1943, Wendell was 27 when he went on his first expedition to Africa. His most famous expedition came a year later — he led a team to a remote part of the Arabian Desert, in what’s now known as Yemen. The expedition, sponsored by none other than Dodge and Coca-Cola, led to Phillips and his team excavating two major sites. The first was the Qataban Kingdom of Tinna. The other was Marib, which was apparently the home of the Queen of Sheba.

When the crew went to Marib, they left an area controlled by Britain. Not only did they have to do delicate excavations in an inhospitable environment, they had to do it while watching out for tribesmen. One man was beaten with rifle butts, while another was held captive for 28 days. They were finally run out when the tribesmen started firing rifles over their heads. Phillips never returned to Marib, but his findings showed how important the Middle East incense market was thousands of years ago.

9. Qadir Temori


In 2007, the Afghan government sold copper mining rights to a Chinese mining company. To get to the $100 billion worth of copper, they have to go through the Mes Aynak archeological site. Mes Aynak is the home of a 2000-year-old Buddhist city and relics that date back 5000 years.

When the mining rights were sold, only 10% of the site had been excavated. So Qadir Temori, the head of the Afghan archaeological department in Kabul, knew that it was up to him and his team to race the clock and excavate as much as they could. With pressure from the Chinese company, Temori and his team also had to avoid run-ins with the Taliban and deal with their own hostile government. The site was set to be destroyed in 2013, but the plan was pushed back to the end of 2015. Temori and his desperate excavation process was featured in a documentary, Saving Mes Aynak.

8. Farish Jenkins


Born in 1940 in Manhattan, Farish Jenkins was an artillery officer in the Marine Corps before he attended Yale. He graduated with a PhD, and while his title said he was a paleontologist, he had a berth of knowledge in areas that included anatomy, zoology and vertebrate paleontology. After graduating he became a professor at Harvard, where he was known as a charming and charismatic teacher. His personality wasn’t the only thing that made Jenkins a colorful character — he was also known for wearing his Czechoslovak rabbit-fur hat, sporting a pocket-watch and carrying a flask of vodka and a gun.

His fieldwork took him to Africa, where he got a picture beside a black rhino. After the picture was taken the rhino charged at him, but he was able to make it back to his vehicle without being injured. He also traveled to northern Canada and Greenland to collect fossils, all while dealing with extreme weather and polar bears. While these expeditions were dangerous, they were also quite successful. One of his major finds was a fossil known as Tiktaalik roseae, a 375 million year old fish with legs, rudimentary ears and a snout. It serves as a clue as to how creatures started living on land instead of water.

7. Jim Patton


Jim Patton has been the curator at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkley for over 40 years. Throughout Patton’s career he’s traveled to remote parts of the world to study mammals, and along the way he’s been shipwrecked five times. The first and most dramatic wreck happened off the coast of Mexico in 1966, while he was still a student. He and a Mexican fisherman were on a small rowboat when they were caught in a downpour that nearly sank their boat. The boat ended up smashing against the rocks in a cove, where they were stranded for 10 days and forced to survive on rats. Another time, off the coast of Costa Rica, his boat caught fire in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He spent a day on a life raft with 13 other people. His final shipwreck happened in 1992 in a river in the Brazilian Amazon, when his boat sunk in less than a minute. So while he may be a great adventurer and curator, you may not want to get on a boat with him.

6. Ivan Šprajc


Despite modern technology, there are still many areas in the world especially in South America, that remain unexplored. Due to the denseness of the Amazon rainforest, most expeditions need to be done on the ground. The man who’s leading many of the most successful searches is Ivan Šprajc, an Associate Professor at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Šprajc went to university in Mexico, where he got his PhD in anthropology. He’s since gone looking for Mayan ruins any time he gets funding.

Hacking through dense jungles with a machete isn’t without its perils. During his treks, he has come across jaguars and pumas, but the biggest dangers are poisonous snakes and insects. The lattre can infect people with leishmaniosis, which causes terrible skin sores, and Chagas disease, which can be life-threatening. While there are many dangerous aspects of his job, Šprajc says, “It’s tough work, but it’s dead romantic.”

5. Hiram Bingham III


Hiram Bingham III was born in Hawaii and earned a PhD from Harvard. In 1906 he began exploring remote areas of South America, and in 1907 he was appointed lecturer at Yale.

His most famous find was in 1911 when he was hiking in Peru searching for Vitcos, the last capital of the Incas. Bingham’s Peruvian guide offered to show him some ruins he knew about, so they made a trek that involved crossing a log bridge tied together with vines. Then they had to climb a steep mountain slope.At the top, 2000 feet above the river below, they came across a series of walls. It was the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. While there’s some controversy over whether Bingham was the first Westerner to find Machu Picchu, he was definitely the first to go public. Today it’s a World Heritage site, and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites ever discovered.

4. William Montgomery McGovern


Born in 1897 in Manhattan, William Montgomery McGovern spent most of his childhood in Asia. As a child, his mother took him to Mexico just to witness the revolution. For schooling, he received a divinity degree from a Buddhist temple in Kyoto when he was 20, then got his PhD from Oxford at 22. He also had a knack for languages — he spoke 17 of them and wrote an instructional book on colloquial Japanese.

After finishing school, McGovern set out to explore remote parts of the world. His first adventure had him travel to the “forbidden city” of Lhasa in Tibet. He crossed the Himalayas, but during his trek there was a snowstorm and he came down with dysentery. Yet he was able to sneak into the city by wearing a disguise — he darkened his skin with walnut juice, put lemon juice in his blue eyes to make them darker, and wore the clothes of a servant. That made him one of, if not the first Westerner, to ever make it inside the city. Once in, he told government officials who he was and that he was sick. They hospitalized him, but when the local monks found out that an outsider had snuck into the city, they surrounded the hospital and threw rocks at it. McGovern put his servant’s disguise on, left the hospital and joined the angry crowd in hurling rocks.

Just a few years later, he spent two years looking for Incan ruins in the Amazon and the Andes. McGovern lost one of his crew-members to drowning, and on another occasion McGovern was forced to shoot a 28-foot anaconda that was charging their boat. At some point McGovern and his crew were forced to live off of monkey meat, and he also participated in a ceremony with a Native tribe that involved drinking a hallucinogenic concoction.

After his years as an adventurer, McGovern settled down and became a professor at Northwestern at the age of 32. He taught Political Science and, because of his unique knowledge of Asia, he was a special adviser to President Roosevelt during World War II. He died at the age of 67 in 1964.

3. Percy Fawcett


Born in 1867, Percy Fawcett came from a family of adventurers and explorers. Prior to Fawcett’s excursions, he was a member of the Royal Artillery and then went to work with the British Secret Service. In 1901, he started studying map-making with the Royal Geographical Society. In 1906, he set out on his first of seven trips to South America. He made some important geographical discoveries and incredible headway in mapping out previously uncharted areas of the continent. He saw things that were amazing to people of the early 20th century,like a 62-foot anaconda, a double-nosed Andean tiger-hound and giant Apazauca spiders. His reports about his trips to the Amazon inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a friend of Fawcett’s, to write The Lost World.

Fawcett is most famous for his theory about the Lost City of Z. After looking at local records and legends, he thought there was a lost civilization hidden somewhere in the Brazilian Amazon. Financed by a group called “The Glove,” Fawcett, his oldest son Jack, his friend Raleigh Rimell and two Brazilian laborers set off on April 20, 1925 in search of the Lost City. On May 29, Fawcett sent a telegraph to his wife. That was the last anyone saw or heard of Fawcett and his crew.

Since then, many adventurers have tried to trace Fawcett’s footsteps to find out what happened. It’s believed that they either succumbed to to illness or were killed by natives. A fringe theory is that Fawcett never planned to return to Britain, but instead wanted to set up a cult in the heart of the Amazon.

2. Roy Chapman Andrews


Born in Wisconsin in 1884, Roy Chapman Andrews finished his schooling in 1906 and got a job at the American Museum of Natural History. His main area of interest was marine life, and he traveled to places like Alaska, Indonesia, China, Japan and Korea to observe life and collect bones. During his travels he narrowly escaped death no less than 10 times — he was almost torn apart by wild dogs, he had a nasty encounter with a python and he was nearly killed by bandits.

Andrews really gained fame with his expedition in the Gobi Desert. On the first expedition they found dinosaur bones, the first time dinosaur fossils were found north of the Himalayas. On their second expedition they found mammal fossils from around the same time period, which are incredibly rare. On the third expedition, Andrews and his team made a groundbreaking discovery — fossilized dinosaur eggs. Experts had long thought that dinosaurs laid eggs, but there had been no evidence of it.

These expeditions weren’t without their dangers either. In one instance, Andrews was coming back from a supply run and was driving down a steep slope. At the bottom there were four bandits on horses holding rifles. Andrews sped up and scared off three bandits, before pulling up to the remaining man and shooting a hole through his hat. Another incident involved vipers that made their way into their camp — Andrews and his men ended up killing 47 snakes that night.

Andrews wrote several popular books about his expeditions, and in 1934 he became director of the American Museum of Natural History. He retired in 1942, and passed away in 1960.

1. Otto Rahn


One of the possible main influences for Indiana Jones was a German named Otto Rahn. Rahn is a bit of a legendary figure, and no one’s really sure what stories about him are true. Born in 1904, from a young age he was obsessed with the Holy Grail, the cup that collected Jesus’ blood as he was crucified. While in University, Rahn became convinced that a small Christian sect called the Cathars, living in what is now France, had the Grail. They were massacred in 1244, but from his research Rahn believed that three Cathar knights escaped. So in 1931 Rahn travelled to Languedoc, where the Cathars lived and died, and found a complex series of caves that had been used as an underground Church.

Rahn wrote a book about his travels and called it The Crusade Against the Grail. The book caught the attention of Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. Like Rahn, Himmler was obsessed with finding the Grail. He wanted Rahn to join the SS, who would fund his search. Himmler was dead serious — he had a castle prepared to house the Grail.

So Rahn, who was openly homosexual, joined the SS, telling a friend that he couldn’t exactly turn down a request from its leader. Rahn hunted for the Holy Grail without success, and Himmler grew frustrated. After Rahn was involved in a drunken sexual escapade with another man, Himmler sent him to be a guard at Dachau. What Rahn saw at the concentration camp disgusted him, and he sent his resignation to Himmler. That went about as well as you’d expect.

In March 1939 the SS went kill Rahn, and he was apparently given the option of committing suicide. So he climbed to his favorite spot in the Tyrol Mountains and ingested poison. The 34 year old was found dead the next day. Rumors and legends persist that Rahn didn’t really die, but tricked the Nazis and escaped to live out the rest of his life in Italy.

WABAC to Real Life Adventurers

WABAC to Women in Aeronautics – You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Let’s head for 1910 France and watch the 1st female pilot get her wings.”

First Woman Issued Pilot’s License


Look up to see…

On March 8, 1910, the Aero-Club of France issued pilot license #36 to Raymonde de Laroche, making her the first licensed female pilot in the world.  Although sometimes referred to as the first woman to fly an airplane, it is likely that 2 other women had flown before her.  Note: A female aviator is also called an “aviatrix.”

Can it be?

Laroche had been born Elise Raymonde Deroche in France in 1882.  Despite the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers, the fervor over the new aeronautical industry was in Europe, not North America, and Laroche took her keen interest in the new sport to Chalons, east of Paris, where she undertook training.  When she made her first flight, it was a solo flight as the crude airplane could only fit the pilot.

Although legally able to fly, La Roche was not permitted to fly for France duringWorld War I and instead drove officers to and from the front, often under fire.

Obviously, flying was a dangerous activity in those early years, and Laroche had been seriously injured in a plane crash in 1910 and again in an automobile crash in 1912.  Not dismayed, she continued her flying and after the war, she picked up where she had left off, becoming a test pilot.  During that time, she achieved some records for altitude and distance flying.

Unfortunately, her career came to a quick and early end in 1919 when an experimental airplane she was either flying or flying in crashed, killing both her and the other pilot.

A statue of Laroche stands at Le Bourget Airport, and her feats were celebrated March 6-12, 2010 on the 100th anniversary of her earning a pilot’s license when over 225 girls and women were introduced to planes and piloting.  Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is timed to coincide with March 8 and was created to honor the contributions and accomplishments of women in aviation. (Note: International Women’s Day also falls on March 8 of each year.)

WABAC to Women in Aeronautics

– You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down

Roman Language Leftovers – WABAC to The Rubicon

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Let’s go back to the time of the Emperor Ceasar and try not to fall on your gluteus maximus.”
“Do I have one of those?”

Words and Phrases We Got

From the Romans 


Roman roots

On January 10, 49 B.C., Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River as he marched toward the city of Rome with his legions.  Since it was forbidden to cross the Rubicon with an army, it was seen as a threat to the Republic, and by doing so, Caesar made a bold statement about his intentions to seize power.

Ever since, when we say someone has “crossed the Rubicon,” we are talking about someone who has taken a fateful and irreversible step, such as when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Unearthing Italy

The Romans also gave us the Latin jacta alia est which translates into “the die is cast,” a meaning similar to crossing the Rubicon in that it describes events that  have already been set in motion and cannot be stopped or undone.   Unlike many other Latin phrases, usually we say this one in English.  Another phrase used in English rather than Latin and attributed to Caesar is, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Have you ever heard about a man being “worth his salt?”  This is another one of those Latin sayings that is more commonly repeated in English.  Some Roman soldiers were paid in salt which was a valuable commodity those days, and a worthy person who rightly earned his pay was said to be “worth his salt.” Nowadays, this description sounds so much better than “worth his minimum wage.”

Many legal, scientific and academic terms are largely derived from Latin and are still said in Latin.  Examples include: habeas corpus; pro bono, corpus delicti; quid pro quo; pro rata; in situ; in utero; rara avis; pro tem; ad hoc; id est (ie.); exempli gratia (e.g.): and et cetera (etc.)  Even the scientific classifications of plants and animals are in Latin.  Those sexy Roman devils also gave us some of our sexual lingo such as: coitus interuptus; fellatio; cunnilingus; labia; mons pubis; and pizza (don’t ask!).

The Romans also left a legacy of entire languages, with Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian (well, duh!) being descended from Latin and known as “Romance Languages” because of their Roman origin.  (I have not checked to see if “New Jerseyian” as an Italian dialect is considered to be a “Romance Language.”)

We also inherited the names of some of our months and days from the Romans as well as architectural terms such as aqueduct (aqueductus) and collosium (Coliseum) and medical and biological terms such as Caesarian section and gluteus maximus.  Latin influences are everywhere!  What would the Catholic Church do without Latin?  Speak Esperanto?

Of course, there are so many more examples of Latin used in English and other modern languages and societies.  If you missed seeing any of your favorites in this article, mea culpa!

Roman Language Leftovers

– WABAC to The Rubicon

Rock ‘n Rollin’ with WIF

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“I feel like shaking my tail, Sherman MY Boy. Let’s go to the 1st Rock and Roller in 1959 New York City.”


November 21, 1959: Alan Freed, Originator of the Term “Rock and Roll” is Fired 


Let Rock ‘n Roll

Into some real music history

On November 21, 1959, music DJ and rock and roll legend Alan Freed was fired by WABC in New York for refusing to sign a statement that he had never taken “payola,” bribes from record companies to play and promote certain records.

Freed is credited with being the man who popularized the term “rock and roll” while he worked as a DJ and song promoter in Cleveland.  In the 1950s, he appeared in movies that brought rock to the big screen, and he even had his own television show similar to what American Bandstand later became.  Sadly, his television show was cancelled after only 4 episodes because Frankie Lymon of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers could be seen dancing with a white girl in a crowd scene!alanfreed2

After his 1959 firing, he became a broken man, unable to get another high profile job.  In 1962, he was charged with bribery and was convicted of 2 counts, receiving a fine and suspended sentence.  Three years later, at age 43, he died of uremia and cirrhosis, probably from alcoholism.

Alan Freed is fondly remembered by the rock and roll community and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland with the first group of inductees in 1986.

Rock ‘n Rollin’ with WIF

Believing Your Eyes – WABAC to Egg-shaped UFOs

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“I have an itch I need to scratch, Sherman My Boy… set our time machine to 1957 Texas, the sight where hundreds of people saw an egg shaped UFO.”
“I didn’t know eggs could fly.”

The Levelland UFO Case


Just what’s up?

On November 2, 1957, the North Texas prairie town of Levelland (population around 10,000 at the time) was the scene of one of the better documented UFO incidents.  Numerous witnesses reported seeing an extremely bright object, often described as egg shaped and 100 feet long, often at or near the ground.

Looking skyward…

Among the witnesses were many credible people, including the fire chief and the local sheriff.  Some witnesses reported that the bright object landed or hovered on the road in front of their cars, causing the cars to experience electrical and motor problems such as dashboard gauges going wild, lights going out and engines sputtering or even dying.  Some witnesses reported a bright red object going across the sky at high speed.

The U.S. Air Force was contacted and sent a team from Project Blue Book out to investigate. (Project Blue Book was an ongoing Air Force investigation of UFO incidents from 1952 to 1970.  Previous studies had been started in 1947.)  The investigation team discounted some of the witnesses as not reliable due to confusion and/or poor education, and their official conclusion was that the remaining witnesses had been experiencing “ball lightning,” also known as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” the weather that evening of the incident being ideal for it.  That was their explanation for the visual phenomena as well as the effects on automobiles.

Prior to closing Project Blue Book, the Air Force produced The Condon Reportsummarizing the events that had been compiled and recorded and concluded that there had been no evidence found of extraterrestrial activity.

Critics of the investigation of the Levelland UFO and of Project Blue Book find it questionable that the Air Force did not interview 9 of the 15 witnesses and that the incident was not mentioned it in the project’s final report.  Outside investigators claim the alleged ball lightning was not the cause of the phenomena, as their study of weather reports indicated no sign of an electrical storm or conditions favorable for ball lightning.  They also expressed their doubt about the ability of ball lighting to cause electrical disturbances and to even stop cars.

Did the Air Force cover up yet another UFO incident?  Are the folks in Levelland good intentioned but deluded at the same time?

Believing Your Eyes – WABAC to Egg-shaped UFOs