By Mark Howell

John Waters, 67, the cult film director of transgressive hits such as “Hairspray” (not to mention “Hag in a Black Leather Jacket” and the unreleased “Reckless Eyeballs” of 1985) was in town last week to give his one-man stand-up routine, “This Filthy World,” as part of the Key West Film Festival.

Its about a hilarious No Smoking theatrical trailer t he made for Landmark Theaters back in the early 1980s. Instructing audiences not to smoke during the movie, he keeps puffing away on a cigarette. This was totally ad libbed and never copyrighted and so it went viral, playing along at many Midnight Movies.

Waters actually gave up smoking years ago. “I used to smoke five packs of King Kools a day,” he told us. “But it’s now been 3,958 days since I’ve had a cigarette.”

asked why he has always made a fetish of wearing impeccably polished shoes at all times (last week was no exception), Waters explained that it’s “in case of spontaneous combustion,” the phenomenon when a person will burst into flames and burn to ash, invariably leaving an empty pair of shoes.

Another phenomenon known to obsess Waters is a very odd ball called Stephen Tennant, who was the basis of leading characters in both Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” and once described by Sir Osbert Sitwell as “England’s last professional beauty.”

Upon his return from globe-trotting with Mrs. Cary Grant (heiress Barbara Hutton), Tennant decided it was time for society to come to him and so he hit the sack big time, retiring to his bed for the remaining 17 years of his life, growing ever more portly and surrounded by his jewelry and Elvis Presley post cards as he received the rich and famous.

He died peacefully in bed in his 81st year.


Why does frozen water expand?

“That’s a good question,” says our son Rafe, a physics PhD who’s now head engineer in a computer company in SiliconValley.

Back in our own schooldays, the expansion of frozen water was an accepted fact taken account but never fully explained.

Here’s why: Most liquids shrink when cooled at a fixed pressure because the molecules move slower and are less able to overcome the intermolecular forces attracting them closer to each other.

Water is one of the few exceptions to this. When liquid water is cooled, it contracts as expected until about four degrees Celsius. After that, it expands slightly until it reaches the freezing point, then it expands by approximately 9 percent.

This has its origin in the structure of the water molecule, which has a strong tendency to form a network of hydrogen bonds where each hydrogen atom is in a line between two oxygen atoms. Once the ice structure is completely hydrogen bonded, these bonds force the crystalline structure to be very open, creating extra open space in the ice.

“Get? Got it? Good.” ( Danny Kaye in “The Court Jester”)


Quote for the Week:

“On the Great Plains, our bison were the source of life and culture for unknown thousands of aboriginal Americans that depended on them for generations beyond counting.

“Up until the ‘ghost dance’ generation — the one that kissed the old life goodbye to face an enemy future — the tribes that had dominated the grasslands for 8,000 years would fight battles over the bison hunting grounds, would eat bison, dress in bison, imitate and talk to bison and die for and by the sacred bison.

“All gone.”

William Least Heat Moon,

 of English, Irish and Osage ancestry,

 on the fate of our native bison

two centuries ago.

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