A funny thing happened on Unreal's way into the St. Louis Science Center last Tuesday: A wholesome blonde offered a spare $8 ticket -- free -- to the woman ahead of us in line. "God bless you," said the recipient. "God bless you," said the giver.
"That's not scalping!" Unreal almost interjected before remembering that this was an evening of fellowship and friendly contradictions. The Science Center's three parking lots were chock-full on this cold, rainy school night, and inside thousands of small fry and their parents were scurrying around. It was Christian Family Night at the Science Center!
They came for the Omnimax, the planetarium and the Pizza Hut pies, but the main attraction was a sun-kissed Florida fellow named Ken Hovind (street name: Dr. Dino), who held court in the basement with a colorful PowerPoint presentation and a breezy preachin' patter, outlining all the "lies" science teachers tell our kids about the Big Bang Theory and the Age of Dinosaurs. (The latter still live today, per Hovind.) The denouement came when Dr. D paraphrased Hitler's minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels: "If you tell a lie long enough, loud enough and often enough, people will believe it."
Hovind attributed the quote to Hitler. He also delivered his 48-minute homily four times. Some folks listened twice. They opened their checkbooks for his home-schooling DVDs, workbooks and databooks. They ogled photos of his dinosaur-themed park, museum and science center in Pensacola. And when Hovind concluded each oration with an admonition -- "Somebody needs to start a creation-based science center here in St. Louis!" -- they applauded mightily.
Between sessions, born-again Christian Keith Griffith of Cedar Hill beamed. "Ken Hovind is right on. The bottom line, I think, is science is about knowledge. All too often we hear what other people tell us and we assume it's the truth, the facts. Hovind's saying we need to keep an open mind to the truth."
Science Center president Doug King couldn't agree more. "Hovind pointed out the way we as scientists or science centers say things that are dogmatic: 'This is true.' I think he makes a good point there," King says. "Science is about learning the truth, not about telling you what the truth is."
Still, King finds Dr. D's shtick to be less a challenge than an edict in its own right. "The main thing I learned," he concludes, "was it's interesting how many people agree with him."
Which, on this night, amounted to a coup for the Science Center's coffers, Unreal mused as we made our way out into the starry night. But we couldn't help wondering what might be next -- an annual poachers' convention at the Saint Louis Zoo, perhaps?
Local Blog o' the Week
Finally, finally, finally
Author: Andy Hobin
About the blogger: Hobin is an aspiring filmmaker and Webster University student who describes himself like this: "I love words. Next to vomit and maybe teeth, they're the stuff that most frequently comes out of my mouth."
Recent Highlight (January 23, 2005): EDIT TO YESTERDAY'S JOHN GOODMAN-RELATED ENTRY: He was totally at karaoke last night.
Didn't really expect him to show up, so I only came with four other people, but lo and behold, there he was. Jan brings me back to where he's pulling himself a beer and our exchange goes thusly:
GOODMAN: "Nice to meet you, Andy."
I shake his hand, which is the size of a Christmas ham.
GOODMAN: "What're you going into?"
GOODMAN: "Huh. Well, good luck."
HOBIN: "Thanks. Hey, you gonna do a song later?"
GOODMAN: "Eh, I might."
HOBIN: "Well, you should. I saw you on the Oscars. Good stuff."
GOODMAN: "Hey, thanks."
And that was it! I was in the clear! I didn't say a single solitary stupid thing!
Then I had three martinis!
Remember the martini rule, kids? They're like boobs. One is too little, three is too many. And when I got up to do "Walking In Memphis," Here was my dedication:
"Hey! Heyyy! This one goes out to Governor Huey P. Long! [He played Huey in a TV movie!] There will be an Emmy one day! Oh yes there will! [Because he's never won!]"
And immediately I knew that I had blown it. I just knew. There was my token stoopid thing to say in front of a famous person. Still, I looked back and saw Goodman laughing and clapping, so apparently I done good! WHEW! He also came up and did a BADASS version of "Ring of Fire," but then Rob unfortunately had to follow him with "Beyond the Sea." HA! He also did "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," which was terrific, but his "Born to Run?" Mine was so much better.
Before I headed out, Goodman gave me a signed headshot. It read, "To Andy, O'Leary's Best 'Piano Man.' Thanks & good luck, [a squigle that could only mean John Goodman]."
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For Robert Lannert, deep thinking comes by way of the tractor saddle. So it was that the part-time farmer was plowing his fields three years ago when his mind wrapped itself around the age-old question: Why is it that agricultural technology has advanced from 12- to 34-foot-wide field cultivators, while snow removal remains hamstrung by decades-old technology?
"When we started the 21st century, the snowplow industry was still handicapped with the paradigm of using 12-foot plows," says the 54-year-old Lannert, who spends the workweek in Jefferson City serving as an engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation. "My farming experience allowed me to apply my experience to overcome the history."
The result: TowPLow, a trailer-type plowing device that hooks to the back of a conventional plow truck, extending its snow-clearing capabilities to 28 feet.
"I recognize that our means of living and things we do are dependent on transportation," Lannert says. "When it slows, everything slows down. When transportation comes to a stop, what is the impact on our lifestyle?"
TowPLow debuted last month in MoDOT's Kansas City division; St. Louis will get ours sometime in the next two weeks. Lannert says folks from transportation departments in other states have expressed interest as well, but he shrugs off Unreal's suggestion that his profound plowing improvement might make him rich.
"I've got things in snow-removal I still want to do," he says modestly. "For now, I'm flying below the radar."
Plow on, Mr. Lannert. Plow on!
Do the Numbers
St. Louis County officials expressed disappointment earlier this month when a street count revealed just 23 homeless people. Organizers of the tally declined to say how many homeless they'd hoped to find in the county but feared the low number could jeopardize federal grant money for the indigent.
Looking to put the number in perspective, Unreal did some county counting of our own. The chart below reveals the ratio of homeless to other denizens of St. Louis County.
Idle rich 1:152
Tribute bands 1:27
Suburban Journal titles 1:1.5