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The Greatest Show on Earth!

P.T. Barnum is a former state congressman and past mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut so you know you can trust him. His various "hoaxes" are explained away as publicity stunts to attract the public to his museum. After all, who could possibly believe that a monkey from Fiji was actually born with the tail of a fish, or that General Tom Thumb was really that tall? (He was actually a 4 year-old dwarf from Bridgeport who smoked too much.) Despite these dubious publicity stunts, many of his museum exhibits were real. He also promoted the Swedish singer, Jenny Lind whose crystal clear voice attracted tens of thousands. (He made half a million on that deal. She made $350,000 which is like 94 million in 2015 dollars.) He didn't get into the circus business until he was 60 years old and here we are today. He is in competition with the Cooper and Bailey's Circus. They both want to buy a baby elephant named Columbia, the first elephant born in the United States. Barnum and Baily meet in Philadelphia and decide to merge their circuses instead. By next year they will buy Jumbo the Elephant and introduce three rings to the circus. The circus will be called Barnum and Baily's Greatest Show on Earth. It will be bought out by the Ringling Brothers in 1907. Elephants will get the boot in 2016 after the circus wins a lawsuit against animal rights activists, but decides that compliance with local regulations regarding the use of elephants in entertainment just isn't worth the trouble any more. [1]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I was a professional clown, but I'll talk about that in a moment. First, the movie "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952) starring Charlton Heston and freakin' EMMETT KELLY won the Academy Award for best picture. It was good but not THAT good. The contending film, "High Noon," had a COMMUNIST in it and we can't have the All-American Academy Awards going Red! Ah... those were the days. The Las Vegas illusionist Penn Jillette graduated from the Barnum and Baily Clown School, but Penn didn't become a clown. He met this guy named Teller and they talked... well... Penn talked. Teller listened. (That's a gag! Teller can talk.) I became a clown in the 1980s. I was a cook, an earthworks inspector, a magazine editor, a writer, a salesman, an improvisational comedian, a BIOS programmer for Dell Computers, and clowning was in the middle, somewhere. Why a clown? I needed a way to payback the community. I was a very bad boy when I was younger. I apologized for my misdeeds, but there were people I could never find. How was I to repay them? I got training as a real clown. People act differently when you are a real clown. They will walk into traffic for you. I've seen it. Some children and even adults will be frightened. It is your responsibility to help them through that. One day a man tried to hit me, he was so frightened. I turned away. I was willing to let him hit me because I am the clown. I don't hurt. I only help. Clowning is not enough to make up for everything in my past. I know that, but that doesn't excuse me from trying. I tell you this not to make myself look good, but to remind everyone that redemption is possible. In my case, it took a miracle, and it took a few people who went out of their way to help me. [2] [3] [4]

Flex-Electricity is Discovered

I don't know where they came up with the name for this phenomenon, but two French scientists discover that when pressure is applied to certain materials, an electric current is produced. You push the button and BAM! For years scientists have noticed that changes in temperature can cause a static charge to develop in some materials. This is called the pyro-electric effect, but the Curie brothers figure that this effect occurs due to stresses on the crystal structure of the material. Thus, if you flex or stress certain types of material, you should get an electric current. It works! They call it piezoelectricity (That's, PYE-zoh.) They demonstrate the effect on quartz, topaz and cane sugar among other materials! They also reason that if flexing can cause an electric current to be produced, applying electricity to the same substance will cause it to flex. That also works. But it's all just laboratory fun. There can't possibly be an application for this stuff. Is there? [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Today it is a multi-billion dollar business. It started with a submarine detector in World War 1. They send out a sound pulse in the water and measure the time it takes for the sound wave to bounce back to the detector. The detector "flexes" and generates a signal. They find all sorts of applications after this. One is a guitar mike pickup. It's that little device that a musician will attach to his acoustic guitar to transfer the sound to an amplifier or recorder. The sound of the guitar causes a membrane inside the mike to flex slightly, generating a signal. Other applications are as a cigarette lighter that needs no fuel or batteries, various types of detectors and as a source of electricity embedded in a soldier's boots. Those night vision goggles take batteries, so how are you supposed to recharge them in the field? Soldiers can't be sitting around all day waiting for solar power to work. You either carry a lot of batteries along or recharge them from current generated as you walk around. This is wearable electronics. Brilliant.

Notable Births

  • Douglas MacArthur. US Army General. He will fight in the Philippines in World War 2, occupy Japan, and invade Korea until President Truman fires him for insubordination. [6]
  • Helen Keller. Socialist. Born deaf and blind, she will overcome her handicaps with the help of Anne Sullivan. [7]
  • B. C. Forbes. Financial journalist. He will found Forbes Magazine in 1917. [8]
  • Tom Mix. Film star. He will define the western cowboy in film. [9]
  • W. C. Fields. Comedian and professional cynic. "Don't say you can't give up drinking. It's easy. I've done it a thousand times." and "I never vote for anyone; I always vote against." [10] [11]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1880, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “Independently of Castello and Coup, James Anthony Bailey had teamed up with James E. Cooper to create the Cooper and Bailey Circus in the 1860s. The Cooper and Bailey Circus became the chief competitor, then they started looking at 'Columbia,' the first baby elephant born in the United States, in March 1880 in Philadelphia, to 'Babe' and 'Mandarin.' Barnum attempted to buy the elephant. They eventually agreed to combine their shows on March 28, 1881. In 1882, the combined 'Barnum & Bailey Circus' was successful with acts such as Jumbo, advertised as the world's largest elephant.”
  2. The Greatest Show on Earth (film) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “Another likely reason The Greatest Show on Earth was voted Best Picture of 1952 was that it was seen as a 'last chance' vote for Cecil B. DeMille, to honor him for a lifetime of filmmaking going well back into the silent movie era. DeMille's best work had been done before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) was created. It may be that the members of the Academy (which included many veterans of the silent era) felt that as an elder statesman of Hollywood and founding member of the Academy, he deserved the honor even if other films that year were better than The Greatest Show on Earth. Many people agree that The Ten Commandments, DeMille's next (and last) film which he produced and directed, was more deserving of the 1956 Best Picture Oscar than Around the World in 80 Days and more deserving of an honor to DeMille's magnificent and legendary career and his contributions to the growth and evolution of cinema than The Greatest Show on Earth.”
  3. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) - IMDb. imdb.com (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “The dramatic lives of trapeze artists, a clown, and an elephant trainer are told against a background of circus spectacle. Director: Cecil B. DeMille”
  4. Penn Jillette - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “In 1974, Jillette graduated from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.”
  5. Piezoelectricity - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “The first demonstration of the direct piezoelectric effect was in 1880 by the brothers Pierre Curie and Jacques Curie.[7] They combined their knowledge of pyroelectricity with their understanding of the underlying crystal structures that gave rise to pyroelectricity to predict crystal behavior, and demonstrated the effect using crystals of tourmaline, quartz, topaz, cane sugar, and Rochelle salt (sodium potassium tartrate tetrahydrate). Quartz and Rochelle salt exhibited the most piezoelectricity.”
  6. Douglas MacArthur - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “After more than two years of fighting in the Pacific, he fulfilled a promise to return to the Philippines. He officially accepted Japan's surrender on 2 September 1945, aboard USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, and oversaw the occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1951. As the effective ruler of Japan, he oversaw sweeping economic, political and social changes. He led the United Nations Command in the Korean War until he was removed from command by President Harry S. Truman on 11 April 1951.”
  7. Helen Keller - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled and outspoken in her convictions. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women's suffrage, labor rights, socialism, antimilitarism, and other similar causes.”
  8. B. C. Forbes - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “Bertie Charles Forbes (/fɔːrbz/; May 14, 1880 – May 6, 1954) was a Scottish-born American financial journalist and author who founded Forbes magazine.”
  9. Tom Mix - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “Thomas Edwin Mix (born Thomas Hezikiah Mix;[1] January 6, 1880 – October 12, 1940) was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies between 1909 and 1935. Mix appeared in 291 films,[2] all but nine of which were silent movies. He was Hollywood's first Western megastar and is noted as having helped define the genre for all cowboy actors who followed.[”
  10. W. C. Fields - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “William Claude Dukenfield (January 29, 1880[1] – December 25, 1946), better known as W. C. Fields, was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer. Fields' comic persona was a misanthropic and hard-drinking egotist, who remained a sympathetic character despite his snarling contempt for dogs and children.”
  11. W. C. Fields - Wikiquote. en.wikiquote.org (2016). Retrieved on 28 September 2016. “I never vote for anyone; I always vote against.”

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