A Big Black Dot in the Sky

The Big Black Dot in the Sky

An eclipse happens on the earth every 18 months, but it has been around a century since the last total eclipse passed across America. For the past week, social media has been filled with pictures and comments.

My turn.

Where I live there was 99.97% totality. Pretty good. But my father, a scant 50 miles away, would see 100% totality. Well, that solves that. Unfortunately, my wife had to work and help with the local library’s eclipse program – they had almost 200 kids that day!

So my daughter and I headed to grandpa’s house. Her cousins headed further south with their mom and dad but my other sister drove down from Indiana to see the eclipse. So we would have a nice visit with her and grandpa.

My father said he remembers a partial eclipse in the late 1960s or very early 1970s because we were in the old house (we moved in 1972 and my father still lives there) and remembers telling my sister and I not to look directly at the sun. I do not remember that.

I DO remember the partial eclipse in 1978 or 1979: there was snow on the ground (unusual for where I live) and I made my own cardboard box/viewer. I watched the eclipse through the viewer, drew the stages of the “bite” taken out of the sun and as the shadow swung around the sun’s lower half, and wrote up a report about it for my high school science class.

The next eclipse (all of these partial) happened when I was a lawyer working in Belleville – 1993 – 1995. I was driving from court on the interstate and saw the cows in the fields herd together as if it were nighttime.

But this was my FIRST total eclipse.

The family was outside at 10:30. It was very hot and humid and we spent most of the time under the old tree at my dad’s house. My daughter wanted to go inside frequently to cool off and get some drinks. I joined her.

We waited and waited for 11:12am.

You could barely see a “dent” in the sun in the upper right – if it were a clock it would be near the one.  My sister and father relaxed in lounge chairs and watched. I played basketball and softball with my daughter and waited.

By 11:15 the “bite” in the sun was noticeable. My daughter was excited – much more excited than she had been sweating it out – literally – a few minutes before. I loved the look on her face.

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Now it was easier: we’d play a little bit but then she would grab her glasses and watch the “bite” of the sun get bigger and bigger. She grew more and more excited and wanted to keep watching it. I said it was like looking at a clock – it was slow but you could see it move if you were patient.

It was down to a crescent, then it was as thin as a fingernail.

Of course, I had to peak at it without my glasses once in a while, but the sun was still too bright to see the shadow upon it.

I know, I know, I wasn’t supposed to do that. But I am only human. A dumb, blind human; but a human nonetheless.

At first, I was surprised (and disappointed) that I could not see the moon. I couldn’t even spot it at 8:00 that morning when we left. Even the hour before and after I couldn’t spot it – the sun was too bright.

And we were very lucky to have a perfectly clear sky that day!

While waiting outside under that old tree (under which I played with my bucket of soldiers and, later, taught myself to play guitar) we enjoyed listening to the crickets – even at 10:30 before it started getting dark … well, less light. My daughter listened to her first owl hoot! This was a disappointing part of the eclipse – my wife told me at work they heard crickets start chirping and birds calling … but we heard crickets before anything happened!

Finally, the sun was a tiny sliver – the size of a child’s fingernail clipped away and laying on the bathroom floor. Then an even smaller orange dot.

Then totality.

It was amazing, truly. Pictures do not do it justice. It was as if someone painted a dark black dot in the middle of the sky. A bright halo surrounded it – but not so bright you had to avert the eyes.

It looked like those science fiction shows about black holes.

I was expecting night time – but the sky was still the blue of pre-dawn and after dusk – just before the sun pops up or disappears on the horizon for the day. We could see Venus, but no other stars.

It was darker on the ground, but again no darker than it is first thing in the morning.  I took a photo of my daughter during totality – it shows how “dark” it was outside (note the sun was still casting shadows) …

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No wonder the pagans of aulden days panicked! Where the sun once was hung a dark, round … thing. A thing that ate the sun!

I was stunned. Even my dad thought it was amazing – and that morning he said he did not care too much about it. My daughter was “wowing” through the entire thing.

I was still looking at totality when it ended.  I literally said, “I wonder what happens when AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” I looked down quickly as the sun popped out from behind the moon on the upper right side, but it really hurt my eyes. The sun appeared on the opposite side of where it disappeared – as if someone flipped the film and ran it backwards.

No snakes. My cousin told me that sometimes an eclipse causes waves of light to flutter on the ground – as if it were the writhing of snakes. Reading social media posts over the next few days gave no sign of anyone seeing snakes.

My sister told me about crescent shadows. THOSE we saw. I even managed to get some good pictures.

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But no pics of the totality – my poor camera was not good enough.  This is as good as I could get:

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It was a once in a lifetime event – until 2024 when the line of totality crosses North America again! Next time the line of totality will go right over our house, so we can stay home without fighting the traffic. Travelling wasn’t as scary as I expected going there and back – I took the blacktops driven in my wilder youth – although the interstates and major state and US highways had long lines of cars. I had to wait some time for a large enough gap for me to roar through to the other side!

Friends who camped out in state parks met people from Japan, Australia, and the east coast who all came to view the totality – wandering the world like Deadheads following their dark star. I don’t blame them.

I can’t wait to see it again!

***

Photos and text copyright 2017 Michael G Curry

***

About the author:

Michael is the author of Abby’s Road … the Long and Winding Road to Adoption; and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor!

Abby’s Road leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.  Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and then wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=2940045637930

I-Tunes:   https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/abbys-road-long-winding-road/id900104260?mt=11

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/dp/0692221530/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406426653&sr=1-6&keywords=abby%27s+road

 

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Sensory-Friendly Theaters: something good from Hollywood…

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We took our seven-year-old daughter to the theater for the very first time. She did very well and sat through the entire movie! She enjoyed the popcorn and the fruit snacks.

It was 10:00 am on a Saturday morning. 10:00am? Weird time for a movie. But Beauty and the Beast is a huge hit and odd movie-times are not unusual for a hit (see my “review” – more in the way of thoughts on the movie – here). As we walked down the hallway of the multiplex to Theater 1 I noticed a sign saying this was a Sensory-Friendly showing.

A what?

Here is an article from June of 2016 from The Mighty:

https://themighty.com/2016/06/movie-theaters-offer-sensory-friendly-screenings-for-autistic-people/

Loud noises, bright lights and foreign smells can make going to the movie theater or seeing a live performance an overwhelming experience for those with autism spectrum disorder. To make showings more inclusive, an increasing number of theaters across the country are now offering “sensory-sensitive” screenings of movies and performances for people living with autism.

“Many people on the autism spectrum experience intense anxiety and heightened sensory sensitivity,” Lori McIlwain, Co-founder & Board Chair of the National Autism Association told The Mighty. ”By making a few simple adjustments, movie theaters can give individuals on the spectrum the opportunity to enjoy a film without judgment or fear.”

According to the Autism Society, approximately 3.5 million Americans live on the spectrum – a huge market for the cinema arts world to tap into. Sensory-sensitive screenings began in 2007, with AMC Entertainment, the second largest cinema chain in America.

Since 2007, AMC has expanded their program to include 175 cinemas in 33 states, about half of their cinemas. Other cinema groups are starting to broaden their offerings as well. The largest cinema chain, Regal Entertainment Group, offers screenings at about 6 percent of their cinemas, 36 out of 565. Smaller chains, like NCG Cinemas, offer sensory-sensitive showings at all 20 of their locations.

Shows billed as sensory-sensitive often include accommodations such as lowered volume and raised lighting. Other theaters skip the previews and make accommodations for special dietary needs. Allowing families to bring their own food is another way theaters can make themselves more accessible, McIlwain said.

Of the cinemas that have sensory-sensitive offerings, most films are geared towards children and families – limiting showings to one children’s movie playing one morning a month. Others offer more frequent showings once a week or several times a month, as well as discounted tickets. AMC is one of the only theater groups to offer screenings for adolescents and adults with autism, occasionally playing movies rated PG-13 and R.

“It’s important to allow individuals with autism to be in a comfortable, low-stress environment where they can simply be themselves,” she said. These screenings all act as a judgment-free zone where patrons are allowed to get up, make noise and act in ways that may otherwise be regarded as disruptive. Because of their relaxed environment, sensory-sensitive screenings can benefit more than just those with autism. Relaxed screenings can also benefit those with learning disabilities, movement disorders, young children and their families, as well as those with neurological conditions like Tourette syndrome.

Movie theaters aren’t the only venues increasing their reach. Playhouses and other performing arts venues are also looking for ways to become more inclusive. Earlier this month, playhouses in New York and California hosted relaxed performances of “Backstage in Biscuitland,” a show about life with Tourette’s. In December, the California Ballet will become the first West Coast dance company to offer a sensory-sensitive production of “The Nutcracker.”

Inclusivity is key, McIlwain said. “We’re happy to see movie theaters promoting inclusivity and hope more will follow suit.”

Among the theater chains with Sensory Friendly shows include Regal Cinemas and Marcus Theaters.

AMC-Sensory-Friendly-Films

Our local chain is AMC.  Their website describes Sensory Friendly as:

The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!

The idea for the program began with a request from a parent with an autistic child for a special screening at AMC Columbia Mall 14 in Columbia, MD. More than 300 children and parents attended the first screening.

We are thrilled to now offer the program at many locations nationwide – please see below for a complete list of participating theatres. As a leading theatrical exhibition company, we are so proud to be making a difference in the estimated 1.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder by offering families a chance to see a movie together – often for the very first time.

Good for them! I am all for Sensory-Friendly showings!

Although it does bring in families that would otherwise not buy movie tickets, and that is their ultimate bottom line; when corporate whores act less like corporate whores – even if only on the surface – we should all encourage it.

The lights were not dimmed very much – kind of like when you first walk in before everything starts – but not as bright as when the movie was over and we finally leave (after sitting through 20 minutes of credits to see Samuel L. Jackson ask Belle to join the Avengers).

The sound is turned down. This is never a bad thing. Even so, in B&B the constant slamming of castle doors thunders through the theater. I can understand how that can help the special-needs movie-goer.

My favorite? At 10:00 the movie started. No previews, no Fanta ads, no house ads to keep quiet and turn off the cell phones and go eat something. No music was piped in before the show started.

And it’s not just for children’s movies – at least at AMC. They plan on Sensory Friendly shows for Fate of the Furious for example. Well, that kind of reminds me of my Facebook post from March 16 of 2013:  “One ticket to see The Hobbit, please.” “For an adult or a child?” “That depends on your opinion of people who goes to see movies like The Hobbit…”

I think it’s wonderful and I applaud AMC and the other chains for doing this kind of thing.

Of course, if they were truly concerned about special needs children and their families during these special showings they would also have lowered their concession prices …

… corporate whore baby steps …

#AMCSensoryFriendly

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

About the author:

Michael is the author of Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped

frontcover

The cover of Abby’s Road

Abby’s Road leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

 

Well! A National Adoption Month Spotlight on Jack Benny

Three of the most famous – and funny – comedians of the 20th Century were George Burns, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. They and their wives adopted all their children.

From http://www.biography.com:

For more than 50 years, comedian Jack Benny was a star of radio, the stage and screen. His radio show, The Jack Benny Program, was a forerunner of the sitcom genre.

Jack Benny was born on February 14, 1894 in Chicago, Illinois. Benny came of age during WWI. He developed an ear for music and played the violin. He enjoyed entertaining people and in the 1920s became a successful vaudeville player with a knack for comedy. By the late 1930s, he had become the king of radio with his own show, The Jack Benny Program. In 1950, he started appearing on a television version, which alternated weekly with his radio show. The TV show ended 15 years later, after which Benny made guest TV appearances until he died, on December 26, 1974 in Beverly Hills, California.

His first radio program was in 1932; his last television program was 1965. Always with good to excellent ratings. Such a 33-year run seems unimaginable today.

From the blog “A Shroud of Thoughts” – http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-120th-birthday-of-jack-benny.html

Jack Benny would leave behind a legacy that only a very few other comedians could match. The Jack Benny Program was pivotal in the development of the situation comedies of radio and television, evolving from the sketch and variety format familiar from vaudeville into the sitcom format we recognize today. What is more, it is one of the few radio sitcoms that successfully made the transition from radio to television, running for fifteen years on the new medium.

Jack Benny would also have a lasting impact on future generations of comedians. The influence of Jack Benny can be seen in comics and actors as diverse as Johnny Carson, Phil Hartman, Eugene Levy, Kelsey Grammar, and Jerry Seinfeld.

Of course, Jack Benny’s greatest legacy may well be the works he left behind. His radio show is still widely available, on CDs, in digital form, and through streaming media on the internet. His television show is also widely available, with possibly the entire run available on DVD and many episodes available through streaming media. While many classic radio and television stars have long been forgotten, Jack Benny remains recognizable even to people who were born long after his death. One hundred and twenty years after his birth, Jack Benny is still regarded as one of the greatest comics of all time.

                                                  ***

Actually, Jack Benny left two legacies: his comedy and his daughter.

jack-and-joan-benny

Joan Benny was born in 1934 as Joan Naomi in New York City. She was adopted by Jack Benny and his wife Mary Livingston at the age of three months in September of that year. They decided to adopt after Mary’s second miscarriage.  From Joan’s book Sunday Nights at Seven, 1990, Warner Books:

“I became curious and asked the obvious questions: Who were my real parents? Why didn’t they want me? (My adoptive parents answered) “We don’t know who they are, we don’t know where they are now, and they couldn’t keep you because they couldn’t afford a baby and wanted you to have a good home … Besides, you are luckier than other children – most parents can’t pick the child they want, but we chose you and we wanted you very much.”

frontcover

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

 

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2016 Michael Curry