Ramblings and Revolutions

I think, therefore I'm dangerous.

Say What? #1 — The Watchmaker’s Four

Welcome to the first edition of a feature likely to become a regular here at Rambs & Revs — the Say What?

Say What? will be a rant description of something that exists, but doesn’t make sense. (Insert your own Justin Bieber joke here.) There are a lot more of these things around that we realize, but I’ll try to keep ‘em down to a couple of times a month or so.

Today’s example is a good way to kick off the series: The Watchmaker’s Four.

Ever heard of the Watchmaker’s Four? No? Me neither, until I stumbled across it today. Here’s how it goes:

We’ve all had at least a cursory education in Roman numerals. It’s pretty straightforward that the sequence Paul McCartney counts off at the start of  “I Saw Her Standing There” is represented as I, II, III and IV.  (Or, in McCartney’s words, “one, two, three, faw!”)

And so it’s been for millennia — I, II, III, IV.  But some watchmakers, who produce impressively expensive timepieces made obsolete by the modern cellphone, don’t do it that way. Instead, they use:


Say What?  IIII?

It makes no logical sense. From a strictly numerical standpoint, it’s flat out wrong

It makes even less sense from a musical standpoint. Instead of McCartney’s “Faw,” Ay-Ay-Ay-Ay gives us Axl Rose’s howl in “Sweet Child O’Mine.” Hardly the same.

So what’s the reason IV it?

There are a number of explanations offered online. One alleges that King Louis XIV (irony alert!) of France insisted to a clockmaker that the correct way to depict the preteen part of his suffix was the now legendary IIII.  Seems a trifle apocryphal at best, that one.

Other explanations say it’s a matter of visual balance — the IV on the right side of the clock doesn’t balance with the VIII on the left.

There are other explanations as well, but none well-documented.

All things considered, it’s about as logical as paying thousands of dollars for a watch.


Music — The Universal Language

Marie-Chantal Toupin speaks my language. So does Marie Fredriksson. And Elefante.

That’s a little more complicated than you think. Like most Americans, I’m monolingual. Other than the occasional phrase (“c’est la vie”) that’s crossed borders, I speak and write only English. Toupin is French-Canadian. Fredriksson is Swedish. Elefante is a band from Mexico.

Yet all speak to me when they sing. Fredriksson is the only one who routinely sings in English, as a member of Roxette. She also sings in her native Swedish. To my knowledge, Toupin sings only in French, and Elefante only in Spanish.

But their voices, their emotions, transcend words. No matter what language they sing in, the feeling comes through. The music moves me. Even if I don’t know “Ta Vraie Nature” is French for “Your True Nature” (thanks, Google Translate!), Toupin’s wail and the guitars backing her make me feel what she means.

Some friends say they won’t listen to singers without knowing the language being sung. They have to know what’s being said in the lyrics before they’ll even consider the song. That’s unfortunate. They’re missing out on some great songs that could (literally) rock their world.

Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to explore the world. And when it comes to music, there’s so much out there for the listening. Go ahead, try something new today — even if you don’t speak the language, it will speak to you.  Here’s a couple of places to start:

Ta Vraie Nature — Marie-Chantal Toupin

Mentirosa — Elefante

Back To School

School started this week for the students in our fair county here in Florida. It brings back memories for me of the promise the first day of school always held, the first week really. Every new year was so full of new possiblities. Students, teachers, administrators, everyone was always brimming with the prospect of greatness.

Sure, it didn’t always work out quite that way. Boredom, social anxiety, tough classes, funding cutbacks, all take their toll as the year goes on. But for most, the year turns out OK by the following spring. And for now, the promise still remains.

So here’s to scholars of the 2014-15 school year. Good luck, and may all of you have a great year!

THIS is what youth sports should be

I’m pretty much a casual sports fan. I generally don’t follow any sport or team particularly closely, beyond a cursory reading of the sports page of the newspaper or news websites.  But every once in a while, something comes along to make me sit up and take notice. Such an event happened yesterday.

Youth sports get a bad rap sometimes. We’ve all heard about the screaming coaches, or worse, the screaming parents, who sometimes do little more than berate kids who, when it comes down to it, just want to have fun on the field.

On the other side, fortunately, are people like Dave Belisle. He coaches the Cumberland, R.I. Americans Little League baseball team. He embodies, in my opinion, the essence of what all youth sports should be. Read on, and you’ll see why.

The Americans lost a heartbreaker 8-7 in the Little League World Series Monday night. The game was televised on ESPN. After the game, the team was devastated by the loss, and still on camera.

Coach Belisle’s words could make or break his team’s memories of the game and the tournament. His response was so letter-perfect, so inspirational, that it brought a tear to the eye of more than one adult watching it.  He was still wearing an ESPN mic, which captured every word. Here’s the transcript, from ESPN’s website, of what Belisle told his team:

“Everybody heads up high, let’s talk for a moment here. Look, I gotta see your eyes, guys. There’s no disappointment in your effort. In the whole tournament, in the whole season, it’s been an incredible journey. Look at the score: 8-7, 12-10 in hits. It came to the last out, we didn’t quit.

“That’s us! Boys, that’s us. The only reason why I’ll probably end up shedding a tear is because this is the last time I’m going to end up coaching you guys. But I’m going to bring back with me … and you guys are going to bring back, something that no other team can provide but you guys, and that’s pride. Pride.

You’re going to take back for the rest of your life what you provided for a town in Cumberland. You had the whole place jumping. You had the whole state jumping. You had New England jumping. You had ESPN jumping. Because you wanna know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys that don’t quit. They like guys that play the right way.

“We got down to the nitty gritty, we’re one of the best teams in the world. Think about that for a second — the world!

“We need to go see our parents, because they’re so proud of you. I want everyone to come in here for one big hug and then we’re going to go celebrate. We’re going to celebrate with our parents, and then tomorrow we’re going to celebrate and come home to a big parade.

“I love you guys. I’m going to love you forever. You’ve given me the most precious moment of my athletic and coaching career, and I’ve been coaching a long time. I’m getting to be an old man, I need memories like this, I need kids like this. You’re all my boys. You’re the boys of summer.

“So for the last time we’re going to try to suck it up and we’re going to yell ‘Americans.’

“One, two, three, Americans!”

It’s all a matter of perspective

For an octopus, forewarned is eight-armed….

A New Phrase

On my lunch hour, watching a new 24-hour breakfast emporium being built, it occurred to me that the English language could use a new phrase:

“Built like a brick Waffle House.”

Robin Williams

This was going to be a day for a funny, lighthearted post.

Sorry, but I can’t think of anything funny today.

Even if I could, it would never have been anything nearly as funny as anything Robin Williams could come up with in his sleep. The world has lost a huge talent, an inventive mind and a wonderful soul.

It’s telling that so many people around the world are remembering their favorite Williams performance, posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs about them. No matter if it was a stand-up routine (my wife still talks about the time she saw him perform when she was in high school 30+ years ago), a movie or a television appearance. Everyone has a favorite.

It’s nearly inconceivable that a man who brought so much joy to so many others couldn’t find it in his own life. But that’s the paradox of depression. Sufferers often hide it from others with humor.

The late Jonathan Winters, Williams’ idol and mentor, battled depression for years, writing and speaking candidly about it in later life. Although it didn’t take his life the way it did Williams, it’s clear Winters’ life was shaped by it.

It’s an insidious disease, one that sneaks up without warning, a black cloud that can blot the sun before one realizes what’s happening. For too many — an estimated 30,000 people a year in the U.S. according to one news report — it makes suicide seem like the only solution.

But that doesn’t have to be. Help is available. Depression IS treatable. If Williams’ death changes the way we talk about depression, helps people understand there’s nothing to be ashamed of, he will have helped more people than he possibly could have imagined.

Rest in peace, Robin. The peace that eluded you for far too long.

Just Say No to Selfies!

Hello, and welcome to this, the first official grumble from the Bumble. To Bee or not to Bee — what a silly question! Of course, to Bee!

Our topic at hand, and one that has me quite grumbly is the now-ubiquitous menace to society known as the “selfie.”  OK, they might have been cute once, but now that they’re everywhere on social media all the time, they’re nothing more than a pain in the neck.

Not sure where this whole “look at me” concept came from, but it’s gotten old fast. In recent months we’ve had:

– Selfies at funerals –

– Selfies at the Tour de France (risky business, that) –

– Selfies at the annual running of the bulls in Spain (ditto) –

– Selfies at Auschwitz — Auschwitz!

There’s even more evidence that this tasteless fad is out of control.  Today’s news brings a story of a couple who slipped past the safety barricades at a Lisbono tourist destination and fell from a cliff to their deaths — while taking a selfie.

They left behind two children, ages 5 and 6.  Orphaned by ego.

Granted, most selfie-shooters won’t go to that level of risk. But in too many cases, selfies — and the attitude behind them — still reek of entitlement, egocentricity and arrogance.

Just say no — as this blog has done since 2014.