Friday, September 28, 2007

Opportunity to Fail

Back when I was in college, and doing preparation for a play I was involved in (although not as an actor), I remember my drama professor telling me not to "prepare for failure," by which he meant that I might unwittingly cause a problem by wasting time thinking too much about it. He did not intend to convey that I shouldn't be prepared for potential problems. Only that I should direct my energies in the most productive means possible, and to encourage others working on the project to do the same.

But it's one thing to avoid causing problems, and another to be prepared for them, and the distinction between the two isn't always easy to see. So when trying to avoid failure, it can become easy to avoid risk, and risk-aversive people often never achieve great success, either. And that can be a real tragedy.

I was reminded of the need to be able to risk while listening to report on NPR the other day. The John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded a series of "Genius Grants" to a couple of dozen people who do various kinds of work in research, art, and other forms of achievement. Four of these recipients were interviewed for this report. After interviewing the first of these, a scientist who studies the intricacies of spiders' webs, the commentator mentioned she could do "riskier research" because the grant afforded her "the ability to fail."

Of course, none of the recipients of these funds is a stranger to risk in the first place. The only way people get recognized for such honors in the first place is by achieving great things in their fields. One wonders what hardships they had to endure, and what failures they had to face, before anyone ever noticed or cared about their talents. What was their "failure tolerance" early on? That is to say, were they in a position to be able to pick up and start again if their earliest efforts failed, or did they need to build up to their first major failure, accumulating resources (either monetarily or personally) that enabled them to withstand failure when it came?

These may sound like meaningless questions, but I think it's worth remembering that many people can't recover from some types of failures, even if a person in a different position, with different resources, might have been able to withstand the same circumstances. I think that's why programs like the "Genius Grants" exist. By giving people with proven potential a greater opportunity to fail, they give them a greater opportunity for success.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

If You Want Your Student Papers Mailed To You...

One of my many duties here at Fuller is to return student assignments back to them after they have been graded. While on one hand, this provides me with an opportunity to touch base with many people, including many who have become friends, over the course the years I have spent here, there are a few recurring frustrations. Now that the Fall Quarter has started, for example, I have to tell many students (who did work in the just-completed Summer Quarter) that their professors and teaching assistants are not required to turn grades in to the Registrar until the second week of a new quarter, and that there is therefore a good reason why I do not yet have their papers here ready to be picked up!

Of course, many students prefer to have their papers delivered to them, rather than have to come up here to pick them up from me personally. There are two ways of accomplishing this:
  1. If you have a mailbox here at the seminary, please make sure that your name and box number are prominently displayed on the assignment (top right corner is my preference, but there's no rule on this). Having the class and professor prominently displayed (perhaps in the top left corner?) also helps. Unfortunately, even if this is done, there may be other issues. For example, I cannot simply place an assignment in a box if the grade or comments are prominently displayed on the front, due to Federal privacy regulations. However, if a large manila envelope (assignments tend not to fit in the type of envelopes you usually get most of your mail in!) is provided, that can eliminate this problem, and I can therefore get the paper in your student box more quickly.
  2. Provide a self-addressed stamped envelope to be mailed to your home address. This is my preferred method for students who do not live on (or have other reason to regularly visit) the campus.
However, you might be surprised at how little otherwise-intelligent, seminary-educated students think about what's required to make sure that there is sufficient postage on such projects. For example, I just finished processing a stack of papers being returned from one class yesterday, and this included quite a few self-addressed stamped envelopes. A quick eyeball-estimate of the postage on these led me to doubt whether or not they all had sufficient postage, so I took them down and talked to the postal clerk rather than simply dumping them in the box. I'd say about half of the envelopes I was given were fine, but several were not given sufficient postage. Of these, a couple were only a few cents off the mark, so I was able to deal with them using a supply of pocket change set aside for this purpose (partially donated by generous professors who want to make sure that students get proper feedback) to make up the difference and get those envelopes mailed off.

However, in this particular stack, there were two envelopes (one still needing 47 cents, and the other needing an additional seventy cents) that I could not mail using the postage (and change) I had available. So these will be sitting in my office for at least a little while longer.

If you would like to avoid this fate, I have a few suggestions:
  • Realize that student assignments do cost more to mail than your average letter. In fact, if you provide only a #10 envelope, I may not even be able to fit your assignment in the envelope, let alone pay for mailing it with only the standard 41 cents of postage.
  • Take your assignment, along with the envelope you intend to provide to mail it in, to the post office before submitting it to your professor. The postal clerk will tell you how much postage it will require, and give the whole thing back to you. You will then know exactly how much it will cost to mail those materials.
  • However, some students forget that they may have turned in one or two other papers that have not yet been returned to them, and that all of these assignments may be sent to me at the same time. Therefore, you may want to buy postage to cover the additional weight created by these older assignments, just in case.
I certainly have no desire to have unretrieved papers take up space in my office, nor to go through the trouble of shredding them if they haven't been picked up within a couple of quarters of the class finishing (also required by those Federal privacy rules). Unfortunately, I am often left with little alternative. As the cliché goes, "help me to help you."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Clearly Different

I've noticed a trend in my toy collecting in recent times. More and more of the figures I'm picking up use clear plastic. Some of this has certainly been done without conscious thought, as the official Transformers collectors Club has been giving its members clear exclusives as membership incentives each year (and will continue to do so for at least two more years). Now, I know that clear plastic isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I actually think it's pretty cool. There are things you can do with clear plastic that you just can't do with normal plastic.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here are those three figures again (What? You didn't click on the links above already?), this time photographed with a light source directly behind them.

Of course, this type of picture is no substitute for the regular pictures to actually see what the toy looks like, but it's still something you can't do with a regular, opaque figure.

My latest purchase from the guy at Custom Masters was the "ghost Starscream" figure, which works especially well in front of the light. For those unfamiliar with the original Transformers cartoon, Starscream was killed off in the 1986 animated movie, but returned for a couple of guest appearances in the television cartoon as a "ghost" who could possess other Transformers. This character remains one of the most iconic villains in the entire Transformers franchise.

At about the same time (but from a different dealer), I also picked up a couple of imitation Transformers in clear plastic, recreating two classic cassette Transformers, Rumble and Buzzsaw. Like the custom Starscream above, these were not actually made by Hasbro, but still look pretty cool. Sadly, the backlighting effect is somewhat diminished by the stickers (which are still opaque) on parts of the body, so the effect is most pronounced at the extremities.

I actually have quite a few figures in clear plastic. In fact, some are several years old by now. And my collection of clear figures hasn't been limited to Transformers, either, but I think this is more than enough for one post. Perhaps I'll post pictures of some of the others next week.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Groundskeeper Willie Passed Away

No, not this guy. But Willie Slaughter, a man who faithfully served as the janitor of the church that I grew up in, passed away on Tuesday. Quite unlike the infamous Simpsons character, Willie was a very kind man, and I was always glad to see him whenever I'd visit friends and family in Kentucky.

I also have to admit to a certain amount of ambivalence regarding Willie. You see, in our almost-entirely-white-and-middle-class congregation, Willie was a black man, and it didn't take getting to know him long to realize that he was living on very meager income. And our church, being the source of that income, was part of the problem. So while I didn't have any ambivalence about Willie personally, I had a lot of ambivalence regarding my church's part in perpetuating what I can only call a type of systemic racism.

Of course, no one at our church would think of it that way and, to their credit, I do know that our church increased Willie's income in later years, especially as his health began to fail and it became clear(er) that there was a real need. But, still, what does it say about our congregation, who's church building is situated right on the outskirts of downtown Louisville, in the middle of a neighborhood where most of the residents are African-American, that the only (at least, most of the time) African-American person connected to our church was the janitor?

When Willie began to fade more in the past few years, he finally retired, and the role of janitor is now taken by a (white) member of our congregation. On one hand, this does mean that the poor impression we left by having the janitor be our sole representative of African-American culture is no longer present. But, since that means we (probably? I haven't been there in a bit) don't have any African-Americans present in our church that still exists in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, I'm not at all confident that we've really improved much. A church should reflect and serve the population in which it exists, and I'm just not confident that this church does so. Of course, it would hardly be alone in this distinction....

To be fair, I know that this kind of systemic problem is very difficult to address, and I'm sure I didn't do much to help matters, especially since I left the area at about the same time I might have been old enough (or at least, aware enough) to actually take a more proactive position. But at the end of the day, all I can say is: I'll miss you, Willie. I'm sorry that we didn't do better by you. Please forgive us, as I hope that God will forgive us.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Does One Sue God?

I'm not sure that I have too much to contribute to the debate that's no doubt raging ever since Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers decided to sue God for various natural disasters (after all, insurance companies do call them "acts of God"). Ben Witherington tackles most of the theological issues better than I could hope to, and so I'm going to talk about another dimension of this issue entirely.

Although Chambers has expressed some clear anti-Christian statements, I'm not really all that bothered by his actions. And, given his filing of the suit in response to what he considers "frivolous lawsuits," he probably doesn't expect the suit to get very far (although he does say, and Witherington seems to agree, that "there are very serious issues" raised here). Still, let's assume that he does want to use this case to make a point about "frivolous lawsuits." He has to act like he's taking the case seriously in order to use up enough resources to demonstrate why such lawsuits are a problem. Just getting the publicity about the issue doesn't really accomplish what he seems to want.

So, assuming that one has to take the case seriously, there are some serious practical issues that come up. Chambers makes his case asserting that since God is everywhere, God is in Douglas County (the venue for the case, apparently). OK, granted. But how does one compel God to appear in court? Assuming God doesn't "show up," who represents God in court? What punishment does Chambers seek to impose against God if Chambers wins? How would such sanctions be enforced? Would some church or religious body be held responsible as God's "proxy"? How would the proxy be determined?

Perhaps even more importantly, Chambers has to act like he believes God exists to continue with his case (note: I cannot find a statement asserting Chambers is an atheist. Only that he doesn't attend morning prayers and is known for criticizing Christians). I kind of doubt that we'll hear much more about how this case turns out (assuming, of course, that it even gets beyond the filing), but I'm definitely curious to see how things progress if I can.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More Interpretive Issues

After getting myself an MP3 Player, I followed up on a plan to utilize the time during my drive to work by listening to an audio Bible, and picked up the TNIV on MP3 CDs for this purpose. Already, I have been able to listen to the whole of the Gospel of Mark and roughly a third of the (much larger) book of Jeremiah during this time.

My practice so far has been to listen to each chapter about three times, so as to make sure that I "get" everything. Even still, I begin to notice some difficulties that had not occurred to me, at least not in this way, while reading the text as usual.

For example, take a look at Jeremiah chapter 12, as it is written out in text form. As with many modern interpretations, the TNIV adds headings to the top of many sections. These are not (and do not claim to be) part of the original text. In fact, a preface to the text version of the TNIV (the copy I usually use, anyway) specifically says that these headings "are not to be regarded as part of the biblical text and are not intended for oral reading." In keeping with this philosophy, the headings are not included on the audio Bible, and so I've been listening to this chapter without the benefit of the information they provide. I found myself extremely confused in the first few verses by the abrupt switch in voice from addressing God (where "you" clearly is intended to refer in this direction), to a switch later where "you" clearly does not refer to God.

If I had seen the text version, where we are told where "Jeremiah's Complaint" begins and ends, and where "God's Answer" takes over, perhaps I might have been spared this difficulty. But, as I mentioned, those headings are not part of the original text. Believers over the centuries, not to mention the scholars who did the work of translating the text into English, have had to contend with this passage without the aid of such outside assistance.

I say this not only to highlight the difficulties that believers must face if they believe in the inspiration of the Bible and want to truly take it seriously, but also to highlight the kinds of choices that translators must make as they seek to make the text accessible to laypersons. Do they choose to avoid adding such headings or other words and phrases that go beyond a "strict" word-for-word translation that attempts to be as faithful to the flavor of the original as possible, thereby running the risk that few will understand what the text says; or do they go ahead and add these interpretive elements in an effort to make the Bible as clear as possible, but thereby run the risk of producing a translation that is too heavily influenced by the interpretive prejudices of the people who created it? As I've said repeatedly, all translation is interpretation, and every translation of the Bible into another language must make decisions that lean to one side or the other this spectrum, although it is certainly possible to be at any of many points along it.

Although I tend to lean toward "accessibility" myself, it must be noted that potentially important meaning may, ironically, be lost in this decision. For example, one of the professors I work for has expressed reservations about the NIV (and, no doubt by extension, the TNIV, although we didn't discuss that) because of some of the choices they make. As an example, he points out that the Hebrew of the Old Testament has a smaller vocabulary than English. One of the things this means is that a single Hebrew word may have several different shades of meaning (and therefore several choices of translation) in English. However, there are certain parts of the Hebrew bible where the writer wrote using the same word over and over again in a text, apparently for emphasis. A more "literal" translation may choose to use the same English word, in an attempt to replicate that emphasis, while the NIV apparently uses several different English words, conveying the meaning the Hebrew word may have most accurately had in each specific instance, but completely eradicating the emphasis created by the repetition of the original in the process.

Clearly, there is no easy answer, and I would certainly suggest that anyone wishing to study the Bible pick up several translations (not to mention learning the original languages!). But for now, for regular devotions, I'm sticking with the TNIV, despite its admitted shortcomings.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

One of our local television stations (well, more or less local. It's actually based in Orange County, as the commercials remind us with astonishing frequency) has recently started airing reruns of Get Smart in the evening, and I have enjoyed getting to revisit the exploits of Maxwell Smart, 99 and the agents of KAOS before I go to sleep at the end of the day.

I am reminded that the show is truly an element of the time in which it was created. I don't mean the fact that the spy genre itself was so popular in the 1960's (although it was), but rather I mean in the way that women are portrayed. On one hand, you have Agent 99. There's little denying that she's more intelligent and competent than Max, and she's very often responsible for making sure that he doesn't ruin everything through his bumbling. In this sense, 99 represents the trend towards gender equality. But the illusion of women's "equality" is fairly short-lived, as 99 is invariably the one asked to get someone's coffee, or write something down, or some other stereotypically "female" task. True, on some occasions, this is intentionally to make a point that these stereotypes still exist, but more often than not it passes without comment. And let's not even get started on her inexplicable attraction to the inept and none-too-intelligent Max. There can be little doubt that one of the main reasons for 99's presence on the show is to serve in the "romantic interest" role to the main character. And I haven't even mentioned the way other women are depicted....

My wife would be quick to point out that almost all of the writers, producers, and staff on Get Smart were male, and so perhaps this is even more to be expected. But I have to confess that it makes enjoyment of this show (and make no mistake, I still enjoy it) somewhat embarrassing.

Just as Get Smart has both its good and bad moments when it comes to issues of gender roles and equality, I am reminded of how complicated it can be to talk about people's positions on important issues. I have often said here on the blog that whether one is "liberal" or "conservative" depends on what aspect one is talking about, but even saying that doesn't convey reality adequately. There is a current thread on the Allspark complaining about the apparent "banning" of several Tom and Jerry cartoons on an upcoming DVD collection (said to be the last, indicating that all cartoons should be out by now). The stated reasons for the lack of inclusion of these cartoons is said to be due to racist content. Such content was not uncommon in cartoons of the era, and neither has it been unknown to have such cartoons "banned" in recent years.

But the comments of certain people on the thread remind me of how inadequate it is to speak in terms of "liberal" and "conservative." Many of the folks most upset about the loss of these cartoons speak here in what could only be described as "conservative" terms (if one was forced to choose between only those two alternatives). But I've known some of these folks long enough to know that they are far more "liberal" (again, if forced to choose one or the other) than I am on many, if not most other issues. I expect that it would be far more accurate to describe some of these people as "libertarian," but even here, such terms fail to adequately capture the complex reality of these personalities.

None of this is to say that I think the folks behind the Tom and Jerry collections are making the right choice. I'm certainly sympathetic to their concerns, but why are these two particular cartoons being left out? I'm reminded of a time a few years ago when my nephew was in the hospital with a broken arm. His mother mentioned to us over the phone that he had taken a liking to Tom and Jerry, and so I bought a DVD set for him. I was later informed that they may not have a DVD player (I have since discovered that they do), and so I decided to copy the cartoons onto VHS (legal if the ownership of the DVD and the VHS are both retained by the same person), and send them both. While watching the episodes myself, I noticed that a few of them contained such racist stereotypes as "blackface," and found that I could not, in good conscience, send this collection to my young nephew.

Perhaps my sister-in-law wouldn't have been bothered. I know that a lot of people my age can say, with some honesty, "I watched these as a kid, and I'm not a racist." However, I find myself increasingly mistrustful of such statements. Racism, as with most prejudices, is more hidden, and more pervasive, than such a statement implies. We often do not know what our prejudices are, and I know better than to take a statement such as "I'm not racist," at face value. Practically no one thinks of themselves as a racist. We know that a "racist" is a "bad person," and no one wants to think of themselves as a bad person. I know far too many people who say things like "I'm not a racist," honestly believing that they are telling the truth, yet who in the very next breath (or immediately preceding, in some cases) say some incredibly racist comments.

But I still do, in all honesty, enjoy some of those old cartoons, just as I still enjoy Get Smart. I hope that I can do so with an awareness of the things that were wrong about the eras in which they were made, and which are still wrong when perpetrated today, without throwing out the enjoyable aspects that make them such "guilty pleasures" in the first place.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Lost in Translation

A recent comment to a post on the CBE Scroll alerted me to this blog by Irvine-based pastor Mark D. Roberts, which seeks to articulate some of the issues behind the TNIV "controversy." If you don't know what I'm talking about, just read the first post or two. The whole thing is worth reading, but it's very long. It's done over three web pages, and took me a good couple of hours to read, myself.

To put it briefly, there are Christian leaders who feel that the TNIV (my currently preferred translation) is inaccurate (at best) or even dangerous (at worst). Most of these arguments (but, to be fair, not all) seem to have to do with issues of gender inclusivity.

I've tried, on a number of occasions, to argue that language is dynamic. That is to say, it is constantly changing. The words we use to convey meaning now may not be understood the same way, even by people who purport to speak the same language as we do, in another time. But I've never felt that I've articulated this position very well. I believe that Roberts is a bit more successful when he uses the following illustration:
About ten years ago I had an experience that forever impressed upon me just how transitory our language can be. I was working with my 20-month old son on his animal sounds. You know the drill: “What does a cat say? Meow. What does a dog say? Bark. Etc.” I got to the question, “What does a mouse say?” Nathan answered quickly, “Click.” “Now c’mon,” I responded, “what does a mouse say?” “Click.” “Nathan, you know this one, what does a mouse say?” “Click, Daddy. Click!” In frustration Nathan cupped his little hand, turned it upside down, and pretended to push down on something on the table. “Click, click, click,” he said, “The mouse says click!” At that moment I realized that for Nathan the primary meaning of “mouse” wasn’t “furry little rodent” but “mechanical device that controls a computer.” He was right. A mouse did say “click.”
The problem of the dynamic nature of language is at the core of some of our (that is, anti-TNIV folks versus those of us who like the translation) differences on gender inclusive language. Does the word "brothers," for example, speak generically to both men and women, or is it male-specific? (For Roberts' comments on this specific word, see page 3, but I really do recommend reading the whole thing in order, as each post naturally builds upon the ones before it)

Ultimately, I find that he is fair to the TNIV, citing both positive and negative aspects of the translation. We do not agree at all points. He still "dislikes" the use of the singular "they," whereas I not only consider it an example of how proper English has changed in recent years, but I'm quite comfortable with the usage, and he also desires to err further on the side of "more literal" than I do (such as in his feelings on how the TNIV translates words once rendered "the Jews" as "the Jewish leaders" in some instances), preferring to leave the interpretive elements for footnotes or commentaries. But these are actually fairly fine distinctions between us, and almost insignificant. To these, all I can do is respond with my old professor's mantra: "all translation is interpretation" (in fact, I'm convinced that he actually agrees with that notion, even if we may differ on the finer points of its application).

But, here's my main point in bringing this up. I expect that he and I could converse with civility even at these points of difference. I am well aware of friends and family members who, while being well-intentioned, have strong feelings (usually conservative) on these issues. I have often sought in vain to find ways in which I might productively engage in this kind of discussion with such people, and wonder if I may have found a useful tool, whereby we don't just degenerate into false accusations of "political correctness" or "closed mindedness." Do any of you have any thoughts to share on Roberts' reflections?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'll Trade You 3 Carnells for an Autographed Mouw

Yesterday was the annual Staff breakfast at Fuller. Traditionally, the event is a way of saying "Welcome back!" at the end of the summer, and designates the start of the new academic term (although classes don't start until the end of the month). Every year, the administration and management folks who put the breakfast together try to come up with a new gimmick to encourage conversation, and to celebrate the history of the seminary. This year, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the seminary, they made up "trading cards" of past presidents and other people important to the history of the seminary.

Pictured here are images of the "Charles E. Fuller" and "Richard John Mouw" cards. Fuller is, of course, the founder of the seminary (although the seminary is, in fact, not named for him, as is often supposed, but for his father, Henry Fuller, as a plaque in one of the seminary buildings attests), and Mouw is the current president of the seminary. On the back of each card are facts and figures, in keeping with the "trading card" concept.

At the chapel service immediately following the breakfast, one of the leaders took the opportunity to ask Mouw to autograph his card, much to the amusement of everyone present. Unlike the more traditional cards, I doubt that you'll find anyone trying to sell these on eBay, but it was a fun way of celebrating.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My (?) Story: Split Second

Folks who know me well, or who have read my posts on the subject, know that I'm a fan of game shows. What's less well known is that I have family history behind it. You see, my grandmother was a contestant on the Tom Kennedy version of Split Second back in the mid-70s. In fact, my aunt, who was only 16 at the time, sent in the application on my grandmother's behalf, and informed my grandmother that she had been invited to Southern California to try out for the show on the day that I was born (August 8, 1974, better known as the day President Nixon announced his resignation from office, effective the next day).

Although most people today don't remember Split Second, it was one of the most popular shows of its time. And since I had just been born just prior to Grandma's being on the show, she got to brag about becoming a grandmother by mentioning me on the show. Grandma eventually left the show as a five-time undefeated champion, but to tell the story properly, I need to back up a bit.

I've already mentioned that my then-high-schoool-aged aunt sent in the application for my grandmother. This was done without Grandma's knowledge, so she actually had no idea that she'd be on the show until that important day early in August. Grandma arrived in Southern California for her rehearsal and taping in September for shows to air a couple of weeks later in early October. Unfortunately, the rehearsal didn't go all that well, and the contestant coordinator was faced with the possibilty of having to send Grandma home without actually putting her on the show. After a few conversations with the contestant coordinator and the producer, it was decided to give my grandmother a second chance, which went much better, and she was allowed to play in the last of six shows being taped that day. Having won that game, Grandma (and the members of our family that had come down to support her) went back home (to Placerville, about a day's drive away) for another week, coming back a week later start the next taping block of shows. Before they returned, however, Grandma got a bit of a cold, and was concerned that it would affect her performance. In fact, she actually lost on her second appearance!

However, it was discovered that several errors were made by the folks at the show on that second appearance, and after a number of discussions with various staff members (one of whom was apparently Markie Post, later to gain fame as Christine Sullivan on the '80s sitcom Night Court), my grandma was asked to come back in late-January for a return appearance (standard procedure on game shows when an error on the part of the show has been verified). The shows aired sometime around Valentine's Day, 1975, and my grandma continued on to become an undefeated five-time champion!

Some observers have noted similarities between the Split Second end game and the end game of the '80s version of Hollywood Squares, both of which gave their champion a chance at winning a car by seeing if the chosen car would start when the key was turned. But Grandma tells me that, unlike in Hollywood Squares, where the champion would choose a key on his/her first day as champion, the cars in Split Second already had their keys in them, and that the champion merely selected a car. If the champion had just won for the first time, only one of the cars would start. If they had won two games, two of the cars (all five still being available, unlike in Hollywood Squares) would start. If they'd won three games, three of the cars would start, etc. So, by the time Grandma finally won her fifth game, she'd missed out on winning the car every chance thus far, but was now given her choice of which of the five cars she could take home.* To help make the choice, Tom Kennedy asked my aunt to come up on stage, telling viewers how she'd sent in the application and worked to help pay for Grandma's trip (the only time, to the best of Grandma's recollection, that a family member came up on stage to help in the selection of the car). So my aunt and Grandma chose a blue 1975 Camaro to take home. Ironically, Grandma's gone her whole life without a driver's license, but I'm sure Grandpa and my aunts and uncles (most of whom were still living at home at the time) enjoyed it.

I've talked to a few people who have been on game shows in the past (some of whom I met while trying out for shows myself), and I've been of the impression that, although the games are competitive, there is nonetheless a sense of comraderie that builds between fellow players, and that they often wish that they could all win the big prize. In Grandma's case, this actually worked out, in a way, as the person who won that game Grandma would have lost if not for the producer's errors, a woman named Jacqueline, won her own car on that very show!

Unfortunately for me, I have no memory of ever seeing my grandma's episodes, because most game shows of that era were erased by the network to make space for new stuff (nowadays, electronic storage makes such purges a thing of the past). Only a handful of episodes of Split Second are known to exist. I'm fairly confident that Grandma's episodes are on some reel-to-reel audio tapes in storage somewhere (I used to listen to them when I was young, but that was many years ago now), but attempts to locate the tapes in recent years have yet to produce results.

Split Second actually only lasted a few more months after Grandma's last appearance, the final episode having aired on June 27, 1975. This is a show that I'd love to see brought back some day, as I think that it would fare well in the current game show climate. But I haven't heard so much as a rumor that anyone's considering it. Still, my Grandma's story is something I like to think about, even if I never do get on a show myself.

*UPDATE: October 16, 2010 - I have finally gotten audio recordings from Grandma, including the full first episode she played and highlights of her other games, as well as a couple of other full episodes in which she did not participate. Through listening to these, I have discovered that my original information about the end game is not quite correct. While it IS true that the end game differed from the '80s version of Hollywood Squares in that you could choose any one of the five cars if you won five times, the end game for any other games won was pretty similar, if without the "keys" element. On the first day, a car was chosen at random by the producers prior to the start of the show. Only that car would work if chosen by the winner at the end of the game. If that person won again, a car would be chosen (again at random) by the producers to be eliminated from the optional cars, (with another car chosen at random to be the car that would work). This meant that only one car would work each time a contestant reached the end game, but your chances were improved by the smaller number of cars to choose from (a 1-in-4 chance on the second win, a 1-in-3 chance on the third, and a 1-in-2 chance on the fourth). My apologies for the confusion.

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