Monday, February 13, 2017

February 13

Well-groomed gents:

Towel boys:

Al Jarreau

Wisconsin born jazz singer Al Jarreau died yesterday in Los Angeles after being hospitalized for exhaustion, just days after he announced his retirement from performing. Although he was the winner of seven Grammy awards, music was a sideline in his early years. While earning a degree in psychology, he played baseball at Ripon College, then went on to pursue a masters in vocational rehabilitation. He worked as a counselor for the disabled by day and sang in jazz clubs at night. Although he did not release an album until he was 35 years old, two years later he won his first Grammy award. The pinnacle of his commercial success occurred while he was in his forties. Jarreau performed for fans all over the world (often sporting his signature beret), and we shall mss his unique contribution to music in multiple genres.

In this musical example, Jarreau exhibits the influence of
Johnny Mathis.

The bicycle at 200:

The bicycle celebrates its 200th birthday this year. In 1817 a German Baron by the name of Karl Drais von Sauerbronn invented the bicycle. His was an all-wood, steerable two-wheeled means of transport that required  the rider to use balance to remain upright. He called it a “Laufmachine” (running machine), because in order to achieve forward propulsion, it was necessary to push one’s feet against the ground. On his first ride, he departed from Mannheim, Germany, completing an eight-mile circuit in less than an hour. His wooden Laufmachine weighed 48 pounds, sported a rear wheel brake and was equipped with iron-clad wooden wheels.

The Laufmaschine was called “draisine” in England and “draisienne” in France, when  newspapers reported that Baron Drais von Sauergronn had patented his invention in 1818. It was a commercial success, and thousands were sold in France and Germany. Nicknames sprouted up almost immediately – hobby-horse (derisively named after the children’s toy), dandy horse (after the foppish men who rode them), and velocipede (foot propelled). The word bicycle came later, when it was coined by the French in 1860. In fact, it was a French metalworker who, in 1863,  added rotary cranks and pedals to the front wheel hub to give us a product we might recognize today, though pedals located between the wheels and linked by a chain to the rear wheel came later.

Our love affair with the bicycle has continued uninterrupted for two hundred years. I remember the liberation I felt when I got my trusty 24" Schwinn Tornado (below) for my eleventh birthday. I was the happiest fifth grader on earth. Note: The Tornado now awaits ownership by my grandnephew. It was bright red when it was new, but has faded to a sort of cordovan color. A little rust here and there, but it still rides like a dream.

Cyclists - vintage and modern


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