RIP Neil Armstrong (1930 – 2012)

JISHOU, HUNAN — There are many people about my age who can remember being glued to the TV set on July 21, 1969, as the networks (we watched Walter Cronkite on CBS in my house) covered the first manned landing on the Moon. I can remember that July night when Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the lunar lander and became the first man on the Moon. It was a moment of elation for me, and millions of others, because walking on the Moon seemed to be such a fantastic goal at the time — almost like the science fiction movies and TV shows then available. But we did it. Armstrong died yesterday after a heart operation at age 82. I won’t go into his life here, because the big media guys have already done a superb job. He was a farm boy from Ohio who learned how to fly airplanes (and be an engineer — a Purdue graduate, go Boilermakers!) and ultimately ended up as an NASA astronaut. By chance, he became the first human to walk on another world. May we, as a nation, continue to dream big dreams, and then make them happen. It would be ...

Peter Falk, “Lt. Colombo,” 1927-2011

My family knows I am a sucker for cop shows. I confess to a short-term addiction to Law & Order, especially the ones with the late Jerry Orbach in them. But, long before the L&O franchise took over cable TV, I had another favorite cop show, about a quirky police detective named Columbo, who seemed like he was perpetually half-asleep, but in the end, always solved the crime. Peter Falk, who died yesterday at 83, made Columbo the icon that he is. TV detectives and cops come and go, but Falk’s Columbo was as distinctive as Sherlock Holmes. A squinty-eyed look (Falk had a glass eye), a rumpled trench coat (from Falk’s own closet), a beat-up old car (a ’59 Peugeot convertible), a half-smoked cigar and a distinct New York accent (the show was set in LA) all made Columbo a stand-out among TV’s cookie-cutter sleuths. Falk didn’t create the character, but he breathed life into it. A masterful actor, he once explained his character as an anti-heroic Sherlock. “Columbo has a genuine mistiness about him. It seems to hang in the air . . . [and] he’s capable of being distracted. . . . Columbo is an ass-backwards Sherlock ...
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