Tuesday, August 14, 2018

An Ode to the 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

1952 Vincent Black Lightning
by Richard Thompson

Says Red Molly, to James, "Well that's a fine motorbike.
A girl could feel special on any such like."
Says James, to Red Molly, "My hat's off to you.
It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.

And I've seen you on the corners and cafes, it seems.
Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme."
And he pulled her on behind,
And down to Boxhill,
They'd Ride.

Says James, to Red Molly, "Here's a ring for your right hand.
But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man;
For I've fought with the law since I was seventeen.
I've robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine.

And now I'm twenty-one years, I might make twenty-two.
And I don't mind dyin' but for the love of you.
But if fate should break my stride, then I'll give you my Vincent,
To Ride."

"Come down Red Molly, " called Sargent McQuade.
"For they've taken young James Aidee for Armed Robbery.
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside.
Oh, come down, Red Molly, to his dying bedside."

When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left.
He was runnin' out of road. He was runnin' out of breath.
But he smiled, to see her cry.
And said, "I'll give you my Vincent.
To Ride."

Said James, "In my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a '52 Vincent and a Redheaded girl.
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeves' won't do.
Oh, they don't have a Soul like a Vincent '52."

Well he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys.
He said, "I've got no further use...for these.
I see Angels on Ariels in leather and chrome,
Swoopin' down from Heaven to carry me home."

And he gave her one last kiss and died.
And he gave her his Vincent.
To Ride.

Red Molly
Now it's time to have a listen to Richard performing his song.

To hear the soul-stirring sound of a vintage Vincent, press HERE

Museum of Contemporary Motorcycles Referenced in the Song
1952 Vincent Black Shadow, similar to the Black Lightning

1949 Vincent Red Rapide

Let's agree with Richard Thompson: compared to the Vincent models, the contemporary Nortons, Indians, and Greeves' simply won't do. 

1952 Norton Model 7 Dominator, the Norton factory's first twin cylinder machine

1953 Indian Chief, big and bulky and built for the wide open road

1955 Greeves 20T, a time-trial bike

1957 Greeves Fleetwing

To my eyes, the Ariel comes the closest to matching the soul of the Vincent. Still, isn't quite right, either. Not even the 1938 Red Hunter seems fit for a leather-clad angel on a soul-saving mission. 

1938 Ariel Red Hunter

I can't imagine why the Triumph fails to get a mention in this song.

1952 Triumph Thunderbird

Being more of a Harley man myself, I propose an edit:

"I see Angels on Harleys in leather and chrome, 
Swoopin' down from Heaven to carry me home." 

Just for the sake of comparison (and as if to prove my point), here is an image of my angel's preferred chariot. When my time comes. take me home on a Harley! 

1952 Harley-Davidson FL Hydra-Glide
As we know from another post on this blog, 1952 was a big year for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. That's the year that their large-frame bike, the FL Hydra-Glide, was fitted with a new style of transmission featuring a hand clutch and a foot shifter. This would soon become an industry standard. The old EL model, with its foot clutch and hand shifter, was discontinued. Note: my leather-clad angels would not let a suicide shifter deter them for a moment!  

But this post is about the legendary Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle, capable of speeds up to 150 mph, setting many records in its era. In January 2018, it set one more record: A 1951 Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle sold at auction for the highest price ever paid: $929,000!
Jack Ehret set the Australian land speed record (141.5 mph) on this motorcycle in January 1953

The most expensive motorcycle in the world is one of only a few dozen known to exist and one of only 19 with full matching numbers (same numbers on both the frame and the engine). It bears Jack Ehret's signature on the fuel tank. Bonhams sold it in Las Vegas in January 2018 for $929,000–a record for any motorcycle at auction

Read more about the bike on The Hot Bid, and learn about a second Vincent Black Lightning going up for sale at Bonhams in Alabama in October 2018.

I wonder if Richard Thompson, whose folk song adds to the lore of the Black Lightning, will get a share of the proceeds?

"Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme."

As always, thank you for reading PhilosFX. Feel free to follow, comment, and share if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Parable About Space and Time

This parable is inspired by a prophecy told by the Lummi people, the original inhabitants of Washington's northernmost coast and southern British Columbia. For thousands of years, they have worked, struggled and celebrated life on the shores and waters of the Puget Sound.

A parable about space and time
by Kyle Dome Doane

Before the storyteller, there was nothing to see.

The Universe was perfect
and everything was perfectly clear

There were no thoughts...
  • No words
  • No time
  • No stars
  • No planet
  • No mountains
  • No trees
  • No animals
  • No people
  • No human beings
Like a perfect mirror, anyone who looked into the universe would only see their own reflection. Most human beings were afraid to look for longer than a blink. But, the Storyteller wanted to understand the Universe. The Storyteller stared unblinkingly into the reflection.

After a time, The Storyteller saw deeper than just personal reflection. Was the Storyteller in the Universe? Was the Universe in the Storyteller? The Storyteller began to see the structure and form and void of the Universe.

But, thoughts began to form, then words. A question began to materialize within the Storyteller. When the Storyteller spoke The Question, the universe shook and shattered into countless fragments.

The Storyteller gathered many scattered words and ideas and tried to fit them back together, but pieces were missing and the new story was incomplete, rough and sometimes painful to hold.

The Looker took the story from the Teller and turned the story over and over to examine from different points of view. It wasn't easy. The sharp edges sometimes cut. The Looker could see current universe story, but could only see glimpses of the Way the Universe had once been.

The Hearer accepted the story without question and without examination. The Hearer copied the story and passed it to other Hearers who, in their turn passed the story to their lineage of Hearers. Sometimes Hearers would accidentally break off parts or accidentally add their own. This was seldom purposeful creation. Each lineage was certain their Story was the Truth of the Universe.

The versions of the story began to differ. Each time the story got handed down, it became smoother. More polished. Easier to hold.

Some stories became so polished, so perfectly clear that they simply reflected the image of anyone who looked into it.

And that is all.

My Brother's Stellar Show: Cosmic Perspectives

I am heading to Santa Fe to attend and participate in this production, and I cannot wait! Join us! Or support the effort with a donation. Proceeds from this show will support the renovations at the Santa Fe Community College Planetarium.

Saturday, May 12 at 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM MDT
Paradiso Santa Fe
903 Early Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

Bring your dreams and hang them on the stars...

Every culture has looked OUT to get a better view of what is INSIDE themselves. Cosmic Perspectives utilizes astronomy, dream interpretation, improvisational theater and imaginative play to weave a new cosmic story based on the characters from your dreams. Together we create a new perspective that may deepen your relationship with the cosmos.

This is a Storytelling and interactive event that will take place inside a 12-foot domed planetarium that will be put up inside Paradiso!

Bring: a dream journal, a small palm-sized gift, and a sense of exploration.

Tickets: Sliding Scale, $10-$30

About the Facilitator: Kyle is a storyteller, a student of the universe and sometimes silly. After years as a commercial crab fisherman, Kyle's son helped him discover a passion for teaching about the amazing world on which we live. Kyle works for Digitalis Education Solutions and helps set up planetaria around the world.

A Prophecy of the Lummi Nation

This post is a prophesy passed down by the Lhaq'temish, the People of the Sea. The people of the Lummi Nation are the original inhabitants of Washington's northernmost coast and southern British Columbia. For thousands of years, they have worked, struggled and celebrated life on the shores and waters of the Puget Sound.

A loooong time ago, the mountains thought they were the people.

A loong time ago, the trees thought they were the people.

A long time ago, the animals thought they were the people.

Someday they will say, "A loooooooong time ago, the human beings thought they were the people."

And that is all.

I love the idea that mountains, trees, animals, and humans are responding to a universal life force, on a quest for fulfillment, all striving to become ... 

See also:

Comments welcome!

H/T: Kyle

Monday, April 2, 2018

A Method for Ranking Wes Anderson Films, or What's with the Low Tomatometer for 'Life Aquatic'?

I was inspired by a recent ad for the new Wes Anderson film, "Isle of Dogs." Have you seen this ad? I love it! (Isle of It.) https://www.facebook.com/ScreenJunkies/videos/412161772560778/

The ad suggests we revisit all eight of Wes Anderson’s feature films before we head to the theaters to see his latest. The ad then goes on to cleverly describe Wes Anderson’s uniquely meticulous and quirky approach to filmmaking by illustrating the recurring themes, colors, camera shots, and actors that have inhabited Wes’s World.

I shared the video among friends with this question: “How many have you seen?” A few of my fellow Wesophiles responded. And in the comments, I shared the following links:

• Wes Anderson bio on IMDb http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0027572/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
• Filmography and awards on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wes_Anderson
• Rotten Tomatoes for all of Wes Anderson's films (what's with the low tomatometer for 'Life Aquatic'?). https://www.rottentomatoes.com/celebrity/wes_anderson/

Shocked by Rotten Tomatoes' low tomatometer for one of my favorite Wes Anderson films, I began to wonder: If people like Wes but don’t like 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou', just how good are the films I haven’t seen? What am I missing?  My favorite is 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' but I also love Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic. Darjeeling Limited was a bit over-the-top for my tastes.  How would my preferences align with those of the broader public?

I bundled all these lines of inquiry and cooked them down into a single research question: Which is the consensus best Wes Anderson film? 

I Googled "Top Ten Wes Anderson films" and began taking notes in Excel as I am wont to do. The results are shown below for your inspection and review. 

The consensus best Wes Anderson film is The Royal Tenenbaums, released in 2001 when the director was 31 years old. The film earned $52.4 M at the box office, garnered 10 award nominations and won Best Screenplay at the 2001 New York Film Critics Circle Award.

The Grand Budapest Hotel also did quite well, as expected. The Darjeeling Limited is understandably near the bottom of the list. To my dismay, Life Aquatic is in 8th place when the rankings from 10 independent sources are averaged. I guess there is no accounting for taste.

Table 1. Wes Anderson films ranked using scores from 10 independent rating sources


I posed my research question to Uncle Google and obtained an index of websites.  I followed the Google Index to each site in sequence. I noted the source, URL, date, and rankings from 1 to n. Some sites rated short films and commercials in addition to feature films, so n ranged from 8 to 24. A total of 27 items in the Wes Anderson oeuvre were identified. The sites and the numbers of items ranked are shown.

Table 2. Index to sources used

Interestingly, the sites ranked different numbers of films. Some ranked 8, some ranked 13, some included short films and commercials in addition to feature films. To control for this and allow me to calculate average scores, I normalized the rankings. A film that was ranked 1 of 8 got 0.125 points. A film that was ranked 1 of 9 got 0.111 points, and so on.

Table 3. Scores for rankings on each of the ten sources

When you look at Table 3, a couple of observations jump out.

1. Four of the ten sites (40%) chose 'The Royal Tenenbaums' as the best Wes Anderson film
2. Five different films received at least one vote for best film, indicating the lack of a clear favorite 
3. Four feature films listed in either Rotten Tomatoes or Wikipedia are not shown here. None of the ten ranking sites I used listed them, and not including them did not change the Top 3. They placed 4, 11, 12, and 13.

Figure 1. Box office and award nomination performance of Wes Anderson films over time

We'll see how well "Isle of Dogs" does in the court of Public Opinion and in the minds of the voting members of various academies. And if I am so inclined, I'll update the tables and figures. Meanwhile, enjoy the Wonderful Worlds of Wes, and feel free to leave a suggestion or question in the comments.

Links to sources cited

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

“I’ve been developing the ‘Swanson Pyramid of Greatness’ for years. It’s a perfectly calibrated recipe for maximum personal achievement.”

Words of wisdom from Ron Swanson, our hirsute hero. Now available on t-shirts, mugs, and posters. 

Enjoy this extended video presentation of the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness from the season three premiere of Parks & Recreation.