Stephen Hawking

And another one bites the dust. Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

Dr. Hawking was a Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who pondered on and explored the cosmos. In 1988, he wrote A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. He was also the basis of academy-award winning film The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne.

ASL. Before discussing his achievements in the world of science, I need to point out the most fascinating thing about Dr. Hawking is his strength. Dr. Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ASL), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, back in the early 1960s. ASL is a un-curable disease that breaks down neurons to the point of minimal muscle functionality. For Hawking, the disease reduced his movement to the point where he could only flex his finger and voluntary eye movement. His mental strength, fortunately, was left untouched. He was given only a few years to live. He lived for more than fifty years.

The science. Dr. Hawking’s work can be quite intimidating if you are not a science nerd. I, for one, happily admit slight defeat in understanding science, but I happily admit matters pertaining to the universe fascinate me. I will do my best to provide brief explanations on Dr. Hawking’s work.

Post-education life began around the mid-late 1960s. He worked with Roger Penrose to expand the concepts of singularity theorem, which Hawking first introduced in his doctoral thesis. Their paper received second prize in the 1968 Gravity Research Foundation competition. Failing to accept the silver, the duo published a proof in 1970 stating if the universe were to obey Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity plus Alexander Friedmann’s models of physical cosmology, the universe would have originated from a singularity. That’ll show him.

In 1973, Dr. Hawking focused his attention on quantum theory, hoping to connect it with black holes. This came after a visit to Moscow to discuss these matters with some scientists, one of them being Alexei Starobinsky, whose work on black hole radiation was a precursor to Hawking radiation. Calculating it out, Dr. Hawking found that black holes fizzle out, seeping out radiation particles before finally exploding and disappearing. How did he figure this out? He was annoyed by the fact the calculation contradicted his second law of black hole dynamics.

Later in life, Dr. Hawking set out to figure out the massive questions of the universe, such as a singular nature to the universe and what exactly the fate of our universe would be.

The Book. A big believer in universal understanding of science, Dr. Hawking published A Brief History of Time in 1988 for the nonscientific folks (i.e. me). This book provides a simplified insight on the origin, structure, and fate of our universe. In 20 years, it sold more than 10 million copies. By 2001, it was translated into 35 languages.

Fun Facts. My mind is still boggling while trying to comprehend the concepts, equations and theories Dr. Hawking tried to work through in his career. Yes, this is counterproductive to his wish that everyone would know what’s going on in the universe. So, let’s stick to the fun facts.

  1. Dr. Hawking wanted the formula for Hawking Radiation engraved on his tombstone.
  2. In 2015, Dr. Hawking applied to trademark his name. Not sure if that ever got accepted.
  3. Dr. Hawking has been to every continent.
  4. Dr. Hawking would joking apologize for sounding American because of his synthesizer that he uses to speak.
  5. Hawking radiation led scientists on a 30-year controversy to figure out what exactly happened to things after they were sucked into a black hole.
  6. One of the only awards he hasn’t won is the Nobel Prize, but, according to him, that’s because Nobel Prizes are given to theories that can be observed and it is “very, very difficult to observe the things” he has theorized. You can read more about this in Dennis Overbye’s NYT article “Stephen Hawking Dies a 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos“.

Stephen Hawking may you rest in peace. Say hi to Albert Einstein and Madame Curie for me please.

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking at NASA’s StarChild Learning Center. Photo from Wikipedia

December 1, 2017

On this day in 1903, the first Western film, The Great Train Robbery, premiered. Tot think 114 years ago films were primitive pieces of silence that emphasized body language to the max, and to track the progress of advancement is spectacular. It’s eye-opening. It’s fascinating.

Today’s Quote of the Day will be silent to honor such a milestone. I recommend watching TGTR and then going to Google to watch the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer. I like to think that’s a perfect beginning and “current end-point” to track just how far we’ve come and how much further we are going.

October 31, 2017

Linus: “You’ve heard of the fury of a woman scorned, haven’t you?”

Charlie Brown: “Yeah, I guess I have.”

Linus: “Well, that’s nothing compared to a woman who has been cheated out of tricks-or-treats.”


Wise words from a wise kid. Happy Halloween everyone!

From “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”

October 30, 2017

Max: But everyone here knows that Halloween was invented by the candy companies it’s a conspiracy!
Allison: It just so happens that Halloween is based on the ancient feast called ‘All Hallows Eve’ It’s the one night of they year where the spirits of the dead can return to Earth.
– Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw, Hocus Pocus (1993)

Home Again (2017)

This past weekend, my mum and I went to the movies on a “Mommy and me” date. We decided to see Home Again (we are too afraid of clowns to watch It). Home Again is produced by Nancy Meyers (The Holiday), directed by her daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer, and stars Reese Witherspoon.


Home Again is a romantic-comedy (or divorce comedy depending on how you look at it) about Alice Kinney, a recently separated mother of two who moves back into her deceased Hollywood legend father’s home. On the night of her 40th birthday, she meets three young aspiring filmmakers and drunkenly takes them home with her, which leads them to stay with her for a period of time. The film was more like three young hunky versions of Mary Poppins. They take care of the children, give Alice advice and make life much more enjoyable. Of course you add the romantic aspect between Alice and Harry and the ex-husband Austin coming into the picture for a conflict to arise.

My absolute favorite part about the film is the house, the main set where all the going-ons take place. Conflicts arise and resolutions are made in this house. It’s a gorgeous 1920s home in the Brentwood, CA area. Fun little fact, I found out on  the house used in Home Again was previously owned by supermodel Cindy Crawford and then Jennifer Garner & Ben Affleck in the mid-2000s. Cote de Texas explores the history of the house’s interior design and even found pictures.

Home Again is a great “Mommy and me” date movie. It’s the tamest PG-13 movie I have seen in years. It’s a refreshing film amidst a deep sea of superhero blockbusters and their sequels, remakes and the too-often fight against Netflix binge-watching. Reese Witherspoon is bubbly as always and the film flows smoothly. If you need a simple feel-good film, then this is for you.

July 25, 2017

Television is fast and loose. You have two or three takes to get your part right, and if you have a problem, well, by the time you figure it out, everyone’s moved on to the next scene. It’s good training, keeps you on your toes.

-John Heard

A little delayed but still can’t wrap my head around all these celebrity deaths…RIP John Heard

Dunkirk (2017)

I love going to the movies. It’s the perfect escape from reality. Some escapades though aren’t always the most enjoyable though.

Saw Dunkirk today. The two hour film was about the evacuation of the Allied forces in Dunkirk, a commune situated in Northern France. It starred Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh. It was directed by Christopher Nolan, who has directed films such as “Interstellar”, “Inception”, and the “Dark Knight” trilogy.

The film started with soldiers walking the abandoned streets, picking up propaganda flyers that fell from the sky. All is silent. Then, out of nowhere, gun shots ring your ears and your heart begins to race. One of the soldiers in that group finds the shooters, stated he was British and heads to the beach where the evacuation was taking place. The film focuses on three plot lines: the soldiers on land heading to sea (“The Mole”), the Spitfire pilots mid-air, and three civilians heading to sea to rescue those evacuating Dunkirk. Each story is on a different timeline. The Mole is on a one week. The civilians are on a one day timeline. The air pilots are on a one hour timeline. Very Nolan-esque if you ask me.

There’s not much talking in the film. The film is dictated by bombs, guns and film score. Nolan tries pretty hard to downplaying their big name cast members. In a movie review given by NPR, David Edelstein insists there was a “running joke directors [insisted] on covering [Tom Hardy’s] great face” (Hardy played one of the Spitfire pilots).

I did not mind the fact there was no gore. Pretty much the only blood you saw were the wounded soldiers on the beach. I applaud the music department as they did a wonderful job adding a deeper level of panic, hope, and suspense to the film. I also applaud Hoyte Van Hoytema, the Director of Photography. The parts where the British pilots spun and dove over the glistening Channel was beautiful. The bombs hitting the boardwalk shook fear inside of the audience.

In terms of the acting, as I said earlier, there isn’t much talking. There is also a lack of representation of the French, Belgian and Dutch soldiers. I counted one main French soldier (Barnard and one Dutch man who was not even a soldier. I didn’t see any Belgians (granted, I was not looking for the Belgians. Sorry Belgians. I was too busy trying to slow my heart down after hearing five bombs go off on a ship full of men).

Kenneth Branagh provided a great performance. Branagh (who I will forever see as the Shakespearean man thanks to a theater class in college) played the selfless Commander Bolton. The downside to Branagh’s performance is the fact the real commander at Dunkirk in 1940 was named Commander James Campbell Clouston. WTF? Why change the name of the hero? In an article on the Daily Beast, Clouston’s family was not at all pleased by the use of a fake name.

Harry Styles. The first time I saw him in the film, he looked out of place. I don’t know if it’s because I have the 1D image of him in my head. Fortunately, he was able to blend in quickly. Was it a grand performance? Branagh was better. Would I like to see him in other films? Sure why not?

If you’re faint-hearted, this film isn’t for you. If you need backstory, you are not going to get it. There isn’t any backstory on the characters. They are men in uniforms, most of them unnamed, retreating from a gruesome battle. Yet, you feel their pain, suffering and willingness to survive at all costs. It’s emotionally and psychologically draining from minute one to the credits. There’s no laughing, only tears. Tears when the civilians fail to reach their goal and tears of joy when the glimmer of hope for the British comes through.

All in all, I’d give it 90%. The score and the cinematography were the best. But if you were to compare it to history and other war movies that have recently been released (i.e. Hacksaw Ridge), then it falls a bit short.

Johnny Mercer

I was reading an article from Country Living on the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s the other day. I had some vague idea who Johnny Mercer was, so I decided to do a little research project on him.

Mercer was born in Savannah, Georgia on November 19, 1909 to a prominent attorney and a daughter of a Croatian immigrant. It’s been known that Mercer’s family tree is chock full of war fellas. He is the distant cousin of George S. Patton, known best as the leader of the US Third Army post-Normandy in World War II. On his father’s side runs Confederate General Hugh Weedon Mercer, the great-great-grandfather who built the Mercer house in Georgia, though he never finished it. Before him comes a Scottish soldier-physician who served as an American Revolutionary War General, Hugh Mercer. On his mother’s side, Mercer’s grandfather ran a Union blockade during the American Civil War. All these connections to military and war provides a clear picture to his inspiration for creating and performing the 1944 hit “G.I. Jive”.

Mercer moved to New York City in 1928 when the jazz age was booming in areas like Broadway and Harlem. He lived out as a starving artist in Greenwich Village before pairing up with Hoagy Carmichael in 1933 to create “Lazy Bones”, which according to both Mercer and Carmichael, only took 20 minutes. The song became a hit one week after it aired on the radio waves. It is said they made $1250 off of it on royalties (for point of reference, after inflation it’s $23,511.92 in 2017 money). He became a recognized brother of the famous Tin Pan Alley, a group of musicians and songwriters that resided on West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue during the early 20th century.

Unfortunately, the movie business was hitting it big in the 30s, decreasing the demand for revues and stand alone songs, which was Mercer’s specialty. Movies and musicals required songs that emphasized the plot, lighten or darken the mood, and create a deeper level between the characters, the surroundings and the audience. Mercer was no fool. In 1935, he followed the money (and Bing Crosby over to Hollywood.

In 1936, inspired by a road trip through Texas (eyyyyyyy!), Mercer wrote “I’m an Old Cowhand (from the Rio Grande). Crosby sang this in Rhythm on the Range. The ironic part is the fact he wrote this on his way back to Georgia from failing in Hollywood and Hollywood ate every lyric up, despite the fact the song had some satirical jabs at Hollywood. This bankrolled his career and he returned to the Hollywood scene.

The 1940s was a major success for Mercer. In 1942, Mercer co-founded Capitol Records (yes, the Capitol Records) with record-store owner Glen Wallichs and investor Buddy DeSylva. Wallichs was the brains, DeSylva was the guy who gave the $15,000 check as start-up capital, and Mercer was the visionary, handling the artists. Four years later, Capitol sold 42 million records and cemented its reputation as one of the “Big Six”.

The 1950s brought rock’n’roll to the public. People like Chuck Berry and Elvis dominated the radio waves. This cut Mercer’s audience and opportunities to showcase is jazzy/blues talent. This didn’t stop him though. He continued writing songs for MGM and wrote a few for Broadway musicals.

The 1960s was a shining light for Mercer. In 1961, Mercer’s “Moon River” was written and performed on Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You know the scene: Audrey, wearing a white towel wrap on her head, sitting on her window sill next to a fire escape, lazily singing while playing the guitar. For years people believed “Moon River” referred to the Hudson River. Turns out it refers to a river in this South! The song was a nostalgic trip to Mark Twain’s visions of the Mississippi River. It definitely fits the film considering Holly Golightly is really a Southern girl.

In the same year, Mercer also wrote lyrics for Days of Wine and Roses with the help of his partner, Henry Mancini, who also assisted with composing “Moon River”. The duo won Oscars back-to-back for Best Song, the first time in Oscar history.

The rest of the 1960s consisted of writing songs for the greats such as Tony Bennett (“I Wanna Be Around”) and Frank Sinatra (“Summer Wind”). The 1970s was a slower time for Mercer. In the mid-1970s, Mercer was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He died on June 25, 1976 in Bel Air. He’s buried in his hometown, Savannah, Georgia.

Mercer was a creative fella. He wrote what he knew and when the industry changed, he adapted in a snap. He wasn’t a sellout. He was an artist who drew inspiration from his surroundings. Personally he had some tough times, partying too much and all that, but he never truly strayed away from the beats and sheet music.

June 11, 2017

How many actors have a shot at being a part of something that became a part of pop culture? It’s been very rewarding. I’m not getting the 20 million bucks for the new movies, but at least I’m getting warmth and recognition from people wherever I go.

-Adam West

And another bites the dust…RIP Adam West…