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And now for something completely different ...

Another homage to "Monty Python's Flying Circus." The catchphrase was an inevitable non sequitur between skits.

"Naked Lines," by Marciel Cantelmo

Domenic Orten

Streaking the pro cyclist Egoi Martinez of Spain at the 2011 Tour de France

Gary 1982, by Peter Hujar

"Dead Silence," by Elrisha

Nikolai Tsiskaridze being trained by Galena Ulanova

"Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley," by Hans Silvester

Dimitris Papaioannou, by Ardalion

"Adoration," by The Red Riding Hood

Photo by Ewoud Broeksma

Same-sex marriage foe: Marriage equality is inevitable

Senator Hatch is the first leading veteran conservative in the United States Senate to recognize that same-sex marriage will happen nationwide. My own congressman, a moderately conservative Republican, last week announced that he supports same-sex marriage.

"Life is too short to have the force of government stand in the way of two adults whose pursuit of happiness includes marriage," Congressman Charlie Dent told the Washington Post on May 28.

"In future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage," he said. He predicted that in 20 years, people will wonder "what all the fuss was about."

A small but growing number of Republicans in Congress have backed marriage equality:

  • Senator Rob Portman, of Ohio
  • Senator Mark Kirk, of Illinois
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska
  • Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose district runs from Miami to Homestead, Florida
  • Representative Richard Hanna, whose district runs from Lake Ontario to Binghamton, New York

My congressman, Charlie Dent, also has endorsed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and immigration rights for LGBT individuals.

The skies above are clear again

"Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again.

"Altogether, shout it out, 
There's no one who can doubt it now
So let's tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again."

--Milton Ager and Jack Yellin, music and lyrics, respectively

Written and first performed during the depths of the Great Depression, the song was adopted as the theme for Franklin D. Roosevelt's successful campaign for president in 1932. It expressed the optimism that Roosevelt would bring to the nation. The song also is associated with the repeal of Prohibition, that ill-fated social experiment that limited personal freedom.

So here's a wish for the return of happy days, when, as the lyrics promise, "your cares and troubles are gone ... They'll be no more from now on."

Jordie Caskey, by A.J. Ford

Hiking in the Anza-Borrego Desert of southern California

Australian model Jason Boyd

Burns Beach, near Perth, Australia

Albatroz-Rio, 2013

Dimitri and Jonathan, by Luke Austin

Remember the pay phone?

Telephone box in Ireland
Telephone booths (or telephone kiosks or telephone call boxes) were ubiquitous features of street corners across the country. They've become a victim of cell phones.

The credit for developing the telephone booth goes to William Gray, who introduced the first one in bank in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1889, about 13 years after Alexander Graham Bell received the first patent for the telephone itself. Gray was a trusting soul. His customers did not have to pay until after the completion of the call.

Western Electric changed this arrangement in 1898, introducing the prepay system. Public coin-operated phones soon flourished. They were, after all, incredibly convenient. No longer would a caller have to return home (or beg a shopkeeper) to make a call. In 1905, the first outdoor pay phone was installed in Cincinnati, Ohio. These were wooden affairs. Glass and plastic booths came much later. Initially the United Kingdom used concrete. That was back in the 1920s.

(The wooden box of the 1940s is how Clark Kent was able to change into Superman. Some comic books had him using a glass-in booth. It's a miracle he wasn't arrested for public indecency.)

The heyday of the telephone booth was in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1960 Bell System installed its one-millionth pay phone; about four years later, push-button phones began replacing rotary dial phones.

But phone booths were not to last. AT&T introduced a radio-based phone service, the forerunner of today's cell phones, in 1965. The first cellular phone system was conceived in 1973; it had a talk time of 30 minutes and required 10 hours to recharge. By 2000, cell phone began replacing pay phones in a serious way. The penetration of cell phones is so intense that phone companies dismantled most phone booths. Starting with Jordan in 2004 several countries have eliminated phone booths entirely.

Telephone booths always will exist popular culture, whether as Superman's changing room or college students trying to cram as many bodies into a single phone booth. The unofficial record goes to Modesto Junior College in California. The students there squeezed 32 bodies into a single booth. I'll bet they could have fit in one or two more had they left their clothes behind. It would have been more fun, too.

As you can see, not all phone booths are gone. There is no Clark Kent here, but there are some super guys who aren't hesitant about making on-street phone calls. Enjoy.

Kevin in Irish phone box

Toward the end, phone companies tried to save costs by eliminating the booth

Phone booth at Matsushima shrine in Japan

Oxford, England

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