Archive for the ‘Glamour Profession’ Category

What’s Eating the Man of the Future?

December 13, 2006


Bill Nye the Science Guy and I discussed everything from I-Pods to God in a diner on Madison Avenue yesterday. Frenetic and peripatetic, he led the discussion from the starting point of each question I asked to the fork in the road of his answer. I was David Letterman to his Robin Williams, just sitting back, smiling amazed, trying to maintain control as he shot in unanticipated directions. Innocent like a child, wise like a seasoned comedian, Nye explored ideas, contradicting himself from time to time the way most interesting people do. I watched his eyes flash, watched him smile and laugh as he made little discoveries in his own statements. It was like watching Dave Brubeck perform on stage.

Nye, wearing a periodic table bowtie, ordered a plate of the diner’s “World Famous French Toast.” I drank cups of coffee. He was on California time–11:00 a.m Eastern meant breakfast for him. We had the diner pretty much to ourselves for a while. Then the lunch crowd filed in with their double takes—“Hey, that’s Bill Nye,…The Science Guy!”

Here is one of my favorite stretches of transcript (verbatim®), including a perfectly-timed visit from the waitress:

Bill: The biggest health problem we have in developed countries is that people just eat too much. I don’t mean to be weird on you. But, if you could go back in time to Ogg the Cave Guy and say, “Hey Ogg, I’m from the future. Check this out. I’ve got food with no calories!” he’d go, “What’s your deal? Check us out, man, we’re in Cave Times. All we do is get calories. That’s our business. Are you high? What’s wrong with you, man of the future?”

Me: That’s an interesting point. To what extent has science taken us away from our basic human nature?

Bill: Science is a human idea. Humans made up science.

Me: Well, who took the calories out of food?

Bill: Scientists did. Is that what you mean?

Me: Yeah. They did a lot of other things. They invented TV. There is an interesting book called Galileo’s Mistake, written by Wade Rowland, who headed the news operation for Canada’s pubic broadcasting network. His point is that the Inquisition didn’t take Galileo to task strictly for espousing Copernican ideas about the universe–Galileo got sent up for insisting that the only way to comprehend truth is through the application of science to the exclusion of faith and revelation. The book asks whether our quality of life is essentially better now than it was in the Middle Ages—it takes a good look, really, at the dehumanizing effect of the Age of Reason.

Bill (to waitress): Can I get some bacon?

(Stay tuned for the next episode of My California-Time Breakfast with Bill Nye, the Science Guy or Blowing Stuff Up is Really Cool!)

Photo by Rick

Sign of the Holidays

December 10, 2006

The light-write billboard on the Parkway that recently held “Go Rutgers!” up to a backdrop of brilliant yellow maple leaves now reads “Manhattan Gridlock Alert / Use Public Transportation.” This, every day, against a bramble of bare sticks. The Parkway Authority might want to think about planting a nice painted sign of permanent gridlock alert. As it is, though, this changeable sign serves the purpose of reminding me that the holidays are here and that the Parkway has given up on Rutgers.

The chemical industry’s star-studded New York Holiday Shindig Week starts Monday, so I’ll be publicly transported into the gird a couple of times at least. It’s the usual routine, starting with the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association* dinner on Monday night with entertainment by Darrel Hammond of Saturday Night Live. Last year they had Kevin Nealon—once they had Al Franken! Then it’s Super Tuesday. I start with a breakfast interview with (get this) Bill Nye the Science Guy! Then, lunch with the Société de Chimie Industrielle boys at the Yale Club, at which some guy from my office is the guest speaker. Finally, there’s the famous Eggnog Dinner at the Chemists Club. There, Bill Nye holds forth.

On the home front, my job is to paint the play room in time for a holiday party next weekend. It’s an annual get-together with three old high school friends and their families that we call “Festivus.” The name stuck, lamely, when it was slapped on after a Seinfeld episode 12 years ago. It’s been going on for a long time, and now it includes a bunch of know-it-all college kids who hate it when their dads bust out the ukuleles. Boy-oh-boy has college changed!

I just finished hanging the lights on our storm gutters, and I have a plan that will expedite the renovation of the play room as we swing into another holiday. Tomorrow, a tree will be dragged indoors.

And Last night, Lydia, my seven-year-old, and I read a nice little book that tells the story of St. Nicholas with an introduction by Pat Boone. Did you know that he’s not only the patron saint of marriageable women, but also of sailors at sea? …St. Nicholas, that is?

Froeliche Schlokheit!

*A chemical can, in fact, be both synthetic and organic—a Russian lady-cab driver in Vegas called me out on this once when SOCMA had its convention there. “Can chem-yee-kil be both syeen-tetic ant or-gyan-yic?” she asked me, ending a lull in our conversation at a red light under the Carrot Top billboard. “Yeah,” I answered, “….absolutely.” It was a fair question.