By the Writer

Dave Barry Speaks, We Listen

Every great journey begins with one little joke:

“The other thing is that I write very slowly—painfully slowly—and while yes, I really want it to look spontaneous and random, generally I’ll spend a lot of time just on the first joke, till it seems right, and then I’ll think, OK, what would be a good one to go after that. At that point I’m really not thinking about how it’s going to end or how it’s going to be structured—only about what the next joke will be. And then the next joke after that.”

Sergeant Gander, the Newfoundland

Reader Tasha McGee has kindly sent along a story related to one we did in our brand new Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into Canda, Eh, and also related to her own family history:

I was just reading “Plunges Into Canada” (love it, but the way), and I came accross the story about Gander the dog. Well, I was in Ottawa in August ’09 for the Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall unveiling (my grandpa was a P.O.W) and there was a bunch of… memorabilia, I guess you’d call it, about the war time. I took the following pictures that I thought I would share.

Really appreciate it, Tasha, must have been quite a trip. Here’s that photo of Sergeant Gander:

That is one good looking dog. And from Plunges Into Canada (page 37)—here’s the truly amazing story of Sergeant Gander:

Doris E. Travis, Last of the Ziegfeld Girls

The New York Times reports that the last of the chorus girls from the one-time American entertainment institution, the Ziegfeld Follies, has died:

“For a quarter century, Florenz Ziegfeld auditioned hundreds of thousands of young women vying to become chorus girls, the Ziegfeld Girls, those lace and chiffon visions of glamour who were as much a part of the Jazz Age as Stutz Bearcats, the Charleston and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In all, from 1907 to 1931, he picked about 3,000, and on Tuesday the last Ziegfeld Girl died. She was Doris Eaton Travis, and she was 106.”

She had quite a story:

Mrs. Travis may have been the youngest Ziegfeld Girl ever, having lied about her age to begin dancing at 14. She was part of a celebrated family of American stage performers known as “the seven little Eatons.” George Gershwin played on her family’s piano, and Charles Lindbergh dropped by for “tea,” Prohibition cocktails.

And she kept on dancing until she was 104, and even appeared at a charity event just two weeks ago.

• Here’s a book that was written about Mrs. Travis in 2006, Century Girl:

Similar in approach to a graphic novel, this biography-in-collage tackles the life of Ziegfeld Follies star Doris Eaton. Each page offers a wild mix of illustrations, doodles, photos and memorabilia from Eaton’s archives, accompanied by handwritten text outlining her fascinating life, which comes across like something out of the musical Gypsy.

• Here’s video of Doris dancing—when she was 104:

Jupiter Has Lost a Stripe

It was there a few months ago—but now it’s gone. Astronomers have no idea why:

Jupiter has lost one of its prominent stripes, leaving its southern half looking unusually blank. […]

The band was present at the end of 2009, right before Jupiter moved too close to the sun in the sky to be observed from Earth. When the planet emerged from the sun’s glare again in early April, its south equatorial belt was nowhere to be seen.

Check it out:

Gulf Oil Spill: How You Can Help [updated]

Over at our Facebook page a commenter left an email address where people could send ideas to help with the Gulf oil spill – and what a great idea! (Thanks, Krazy Wild Mann.) That led us to do some snooping, and we found several places where people can find out how they can help, whether by reporting finding oiled birds if you’re in the Gulf region, or contributing to cleanup funding efforts. So here goes.

• Here’s the official Deepwater Horizon Response Web site: