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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a penchant for time travel stories. So, it is with some interest that I find that the old-fashioned TV networks are lining some up time travel TV for the new seasons.

NBC has Timeless, billed as a thriller about some misfits time traveling to try to stop a criminal mastermind.

On ABC, we’ll get Time After Time  which has the 19th century sci-fi author H.G. Wells (who wrote The Time Machine and started a lot of this) searching for an escaped Jack the Ripper who has traveled to modern-day New York using Wells’ time machine.

If that sounds familiar, it is because it is based on a 1979 movie also called Time After Time . That’s a film I really enjoyed. Jack the Ripper, a serial killer of the 19th century, turns out to be a doctor acquaintance of Wells who evades the police by using Wells’ time machine. However, Dr. Stevenson may have escaped to the future, but because he does not have the “non-return” key, the time machine automatically returns to 1893. H.G. Wells uses it to pursue Stevenson to 1979, where the machine has ended up on display at a museum in San Francisco.

Wells, the real life author now fictionalized, is shocked and disappointed by the future. His predictions had been of an enlightened socialist utopia. He finds a future of war, crime and bloodshed that is better suited to Jack the Ripper.

On FOX, they are going in a comic direction with the mid-season show Making History which will have  buddies who jump in time back to historical events, such as the Revolutionary War.

Minus the comedy, that last one reminds me of The Time Tunnel show that was on in 1966–1967. It only lasted one season, but that was in a time when a season ran for 30 episodes.  The show was inspired by the 1964 movie The Time Travelers.

I loved that show in 1967. The special effects look pretty poor by today’s standards, but the plot was also about two top-secret U.S. government time travelers who move from one period in history to another. Episodes were set in the past and future. In the series, the two travelers literally jumped into the “tunnel” before the technology was really ready and so become lost in time. I figured back then that I was learning some history when I watched the show. It also was the first time I thought about that paradox of what would happen if you went back in time and changed anything.

UPDATE:  I don’t know if the series currently reruns on any channels, but it is available from Amazon. A reader emailed me to say that the series is available, though in an odd format, for free on YouTube. I watched a few episodes today. It is pretty much as I remember it, and about as dated as any memories I have of 1966. Corny, with tacky effects and I can completely see why it appealed to my 13 year-old brain.

Tiffany Shlain is referring to the Internet when she quotes naturalist John Muir: “When you tug at a single thing in the universe, you find it’s attached to everything else.”

Shlain is a filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards (the “Oscars of the Internet”), She helped popularize the practice of the “tech shabbat” with her own family by setting 24 unplugged hours each week.

Obviously, she doesn’t hate the the Net, but she wants some restraint in our technology-enhanced lives. She sees the Net as our global brain and wants us to take care of it better.

Listen to Tiffany Shlain talking about “Growing Up the Internet” on



I’m planning a road trip for next month and a vacation for June and in my notebook I found a list of travel films that I have learned lessons from watching. Queue them all up and you have a good on-the-road film festival and prep session while you look at maps and guides and make reservations.


road oz

The Wizard of Oz – Pick your travel companions with care. Don’t be concerned with food or lodgings. Do be concerned with witches and flying monkeys. No matter how good the trip, it should also be good to be back home again.


National Lampoon’s Vacation – A road trip with family, as child or parent, will present many lessons. As with life and school, you will fail at some.


Before Sunrise – You should take a serendipitous journey alone. You should meet a beautiful/handsome person along the way. If you go back there at sunset or midnight, don’t expect things to be as good as they were before.



Up – Take that trip you and your spouse have been talking about for years now before it’s too late.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Take a trip with your Dad. Or son, depending on your age and point of view. (What film could be the Mom or daughter version?)



Broken Flowers – Go on one cross-country search for old girl/boyfriends in search of answers. (Not connected to any 12-step program)



The Darjeeling Limited – Go to an exotic place filled with things that you have never seen and smells that tell you that you’re not in Kansas anymore.



Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Be nice to fellow travelers. You never know.
The Lord of the Rings – Undertake an adventure trip full of possible peril. Once. After that, there is no need for you to do it again. You have nothing to prove. Your home is quite comfortable and there are so many books unread and films unseen.



Lost In Translation – Be prepared to be a stranger in a strange land. Try to have Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson around just in case.


I’m sure you have other films to add to the festival list. How about if you make a comment and give us a film and a short reason for its inclusion.


The crocuses bloomed three weeks earlier this year in Paradelle.

Things are blooming in Paradelle, so I have started recording them in my garden notebook. Have you noticed any changes in when things sprout or bloom in your neighborhood? Maybe flowers tend to bloom a little earlier in the year or birds that used to migrate are hanging around your yard through the winter?

In some ways my garden notebook is a nature notebook as I find myself also recording first and last frosts, snow storms, the appearances of birds, insects and wildlife. Some of those things I report here, both seriously and also as a kind of weather lore. My posts about predicting the weather based on signs in nature seem to get a lot of hits, so I am not alone in my interest, scientific or not.

Most people have never heard of phenology. but if you have ever paid attention to the timing of natural events, like blooming flowers and migrating animals, you have been practicing this -ology. Phenology is the study of the timing of recurring plant and animal life cycle events.

If you want to make those observation to be more “official,” you can become a citizen scientist by connecting with groups like Nature’s Notebook. It  is an online project sponsored by the USA National Phenology Network. Americans can practice phenology in their own habitat and share their observations with other members and have their data shared with scientists who will use the data for research and decision-making.

It saddens me how disconnected people are to the natural world of plants, animals, the earth and sky. s a lifelong teacher, it really saddens me to see how disconnected kids become as they get older. The interest is always there in very young children, so it is something that is lost.

We may not all be as observant as Sara Schaffer of Nature’s Notebook who suggests that we notice the “slightest blush on a maple leaf that foreshadows the coming fall” or the “new, more vibrant feathers warblers put on days before mating.”

robin-pixabayDo you see the appearance of the first robin on your lawn as a sign that spring has arrived? I grew up hearing and believing that. But I have observed and recorded robins every winter. Once I saw four of them sitting on my fence in a February snowstorm. Robins as indicators of spring is a good example of weather lore.

Most robins do migrate south, but some are probably still around your neighborhood all winter – no doubt better protected in the woods than on your bare lawn. The robins that do migrate to the South in the fall, return in the spring, so then we see many more of them on that soggy lawn and field in search of food.

Geese flying south in Paradelle is a daily occurrence. They fly from the reservoir south to a pond. They never migrate and leave any more. What does that indicate? Perhaps some of it is climate change, but it is also the prime water and grass we provide them in parks, golf courses, school fields and corporate settings. Why leave?

Though thinking a captive groundhog can predict the end of winter is certainly weather lore, paying attention to events like true bird migrations can help us understand long-term trends and predict future events. That is why many observers may be reporting small changes that can help more accurately predict the long-term impacts of climate change and shorter-term events in the near future.

And observing when the smell of smoke from fireplaces changes to the smell of barbecue smoke is a definite indicator of suburban seasonal change!

The idea of a working phone booth on a dirt road in the middle of the Mojave desert, over a dozen miles from the nearest pavement, is intriguing to me.

It caught the interest of the wonderful radio/podcast (I don’t really make a distinction any more) called 99% Invisible. The program is about “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. You probably never heard of it because somehow podcasts are still kind of a fringe thing, but with 80 million downloads, 99% Invisible is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.

Last week I listened to their show about that phone booth.  They track one person, Godfrey (“Doc”) Daniels, obsession with it. He read about it in a zine called Wig Out! letter to the editor back in 1997.

Dear Wig Out!,
Recently, I spotted a small dot with the word “telephone” beside it on a map of the Mojave desert, 15 miles from the main interstate in the middle of nowhere.

Intrigued, I donned a cheap, brown serape and a pair of wing-tips and headed out to find it in my old jeep. After many hours I do find it (the glass is shot out and the phone book is missing) but it works! Apparently, this booth was put in after WWII for the use of a nearby mine which ceased operations in the 60s; why the local phone company keeps it operational is anybody’s guess.

A nearby rancher told me that in the 70s they replaced the old rotary style phone with push buttons because the sheep were having trouble dialing…

Doc didn’t know where it was or if it really existed. But the letter had a phone number for it and he called. It rang, but no one answered. He continued to call and even got others to call.

After a month of tries, he got a busy signal. Someone was there. He kept calling repeatedly and finally he caught the person who was using the phone and she picked up. I’ll leave the details for you to discover when you listen to the program, but I’ll say that the phone was used by some people who had no phone of their own. This was 1997 in that distant century before cell phones. He talked to her for a bit. He was so excited that he forgot to ask about the exact location of the phone booth.

Doc eventually track down the location and went for a visit.

It was 1997 and the Internet was new for most of us, but Doc created a webpage and it went as viral as a page might go back in 1997.

People contacted him, sent him news clippings from all over the world about this off, cultish desert phone booth.

The Mojave Phone Booth started getting a lot more calls. People made pilgrimages to the site.

It became very popular. Too popular. The phone booth was located on a nature preserve and the National Park Service was not happy about all the visitors, traffic and the ringing phone. The booth was removed in 2000.

busPeople continued to visit the place where the booth had been.

It reminds me of the story of Chris McCandless who went to Alaska, somewhat ill-prepared but full of the Romance of adventure. He starved to death there.

But people continue to visit, pilgrim-like, the abandoned bus that Chris lived in. What are they hoping to find there?

A trip the Mojave location after 2000 would have found you staring at the concrete slab where the booth once sat. But even the slab was removed. Some people tried to mark it with a plaque.

The number that Doc was calling is still around, if you want to give it a try.  760-733-9969 is not the Mojave Phone Booth, but perhaps its ghost will answer. It is like making a call out to the universe.

If you’re out in the deserts of the American Southwest, you might want to combine your trip with a journey following the large concrete arrows (seventy feet in length) that are there. They may have a logical origin, but I’d like to believe that they might be landing beacons for UFOs.

dolphin56I really like these odd little items that catch people’s attention.

I’m a follower of Dolphin 56. Back in 1979, he was captured along with five other dolphins in Florida. They were assigned the numbers 55, 56, 57, 58 and 59.  Dolphin 56 was estimated to be about 12 years old. He was weighed and measured and branded with the number “56”.

He was spotted over the years from Florida to New Jersey. He was very comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with people. He became the most comprehensively tracked dolphins on the East Coast. A Facebook page was set up in 2009 to track his movement. People posted photos and video of their sightings.

Dolphin Dolphin 56 went missing around 2012, but people continue to look for him, just like people go to Alaska and to the the place where the phone once sat. The last reported sighting I found reported was that in July 2011 the dolphin was photographed off the coast of Wales – which I find incredible, and not very believable. I prefer to think he is headed back to Jersey waters now as the ocean warms up.

Mojave Phone Booth website

There is even a film that was made about it.  I “rented” it on Vimeo for $5.

Doc did a Kickstarter to get some bucks to write a book about his phone booth adventure.


Verona, New Jersey. Sewing the edge of an American flag at the Annin Flag Company. Photographer: Marjory Collins, 1943

Photogrammar is a web-based platform (via Yale University) for organizing, searching, and visualizing 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information. Today housed at the Library of Congress, the archive primarily depicts life in America during the Great Depression and World War II.

An interactive map puts about 90,000 of those photographs that have geographical information online for you to find. You can search photographer or date, but I imagine most of us will search by location.

I started by looking at Essex County in New Jersey where I grew up.


Americans of various racial groups contribute to the war effort. One worker adjusts the blade in a vise while another reads the angle in a large Eastern plant producing propellers for military aircraft. Curtiss-Wright Propeller Division. Caldwell, New Jersey. Photographer: Howard Liberman, May 1942

I did a search for “Union Station,” that grand train station in Washington, DC, and it came up with 60 photos.

The Roosevelt administration wanted to build support for programs like the New Deal, so they sent photographers all over the United States to document the state of the country.

It is another way to view history.


Washstand, Hale County, Alabama. Photographer: Walker Evans, 1935.

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