Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Separated at Birth 6: Frank Asaro and The Bearded Who

Another in the continuing series dedicated to the Separated at Birth phenomenon.

So a few days back I was watching an old episode of the show "In Search of..." called "The End of the World" for a blog I was writing on the subject.  The episode came from the fifth season of the show, way back in 1981.

One of the experts consulted on the subject of various possibilities for the end of the world in this episode was a scientist from Berkeley named Frank Asaro.  Now, I can't say that I'd ever heard of Mr. Asaro before watching this old show, but for whatever reason there was something about him that seemed very familiar to me.

Frank Asaro: Scientist

I couldn't quite place it at first, but this familiarity seemed to have something to do with the epic beard he was sporting.  The first thought was that he resembled former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.  A case could probably be made that Frank Asaro and C. Everett Koop were indeed separated at birth.  They were supposedly born eleven years apart, but are certainly contemporaries of each other.

C. Everett Koop
Frank Asaro

But, as you've probably noticed, the title of this edition of Separated at Birth doesn't mention C. Everett Koop.  No, there seemed to be something else nagging at my mind when I saw Mr. Asaro.  I saw the "In Search of..." episode less than a week before Christmas and it felt like Frank Asaro's long-lost "relative" must have had something to do with the season at hand.  The answer was found in the old animated Christmas special "How The Grinch Stole Christmas"(1966).  This Boris Karloff-narrated show was alway a favorite of mine as a kid (and still is, as a matter of fact).

In the show, when the Whos of Whoville started singing the song "Welcome Christmas" there's a moment when a bearded Whovillian appears alongside some of his fellow citizens.  This particular Who had a very distinctive beard.  A beard not unlike...Frank Asaro's (and C. Everett Koop's too for that matter).

Now, note the resemblance between the bearded Who and Frank Asaro.  Similar Beard.  Similar hairline.  Throw some glasses and a tie on the Who and it's almost uncanny, right?
The Bearded Who
Frank Asaro

I can't say for sure that Frank Asaro and the bearded Whovillian were indeed separated at birth.  The fact that one is a human being and one is an animated character would seem to make it rather unlikely.  But then again, we have seen some rather odd pairings in earlier Separated at Birth installments: like Tim Tebow and Bigfoot, and Reese Witherspoon and Sister Bear (from The Berenstain Bears).  I suppose a less dramatic explanation could be that Mr. Asaro was simply inspired (consciously or unconsciously) by a viewing of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas".  Either that or (probably more likely) he was a fan of Abe Lincoln's style.

Abraham Lincoln
Frank Asaro

I don't know what ever became of the bearded Whoville resident in the years since he helped usher in Christmas by singing "Welcome Christmas" back in 1966.  Does anyone happen to know what the average life span is for a Who?  HIs bald head and white beard would seem to indicate that he was already an elder of the town, but I really couldn't say how old he would have been back when the special first aired, or if he'd be likely to still be alive today.

However, thanks to the internet we do have a better idea of what happened to Frank Asaro in the three-plus decades since his appearance on "In Search of...".  According to his Wikipedia page he's still "an Emeritus Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory associated with the University of California at Berkeley."  And according to Berkeley's Environmental Energy Technologies Division website he's part of the Sustainable Energy Systems Group.  Here's a more recent photo of Mr. Asaro from that site:

Note that after all these years he's still rockin' his trademark beard!
...Even if it is cropped a little closer these days.

See more instances of people (and other things) that seemed to have been "Separated at Birth" below:

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's The End of the World ...Again

I'm writing this at a little after midnight, and December 21, 2012 is just getting under way.  Of course, December 21 started many hours ago on the other side of the earth, but that's beside the point.  Despite what many believe the ancient Mayans predicted, I have a feeling that December 21, 2012 will be a lot like December 20, 2012--and December 22, 2012 for that matter.  True, there are still twenty-four hours to go before I can safely say that nothing bad or "earth-shattering" happened on this date, but I feel pretty comfortable believing that the world is not going to end today.

The End of the World, Doomsday, The Apocalypse, Judgment Day, Armageddon and many other ideas about  how and when our planet will end have been predicted for centuries.  It seems like every couple of years we are presented with a new date for the end of the world.  Heck, it was only about a year-and-a-half ago that we were hearing all about Judgment Day and The Rapture (which passed very quietly).  Sometimes these dates are based on translations of writings/predictions from centuries ago.  Sometimes they come from some mystical cult leader who will somehow manage to convince a dedicated following that he/she knows what they are talking about.  With any luck these predictions will simply pass, the leader will be discredited and those poor souls under the cult's spell can try to get back to their lives.  Unfortunately, in some instances the leader's personality and magnetism are so strong that his/her followers might be led to believe that they must kill themselves to satisfy some need of the Gods or aliens or whatever crazy story the leader dreams up.

Predictions about the end of the world can come from biblical passages, from oracles and prognosticators of the future (like Nostradamus), from self-styled messengers of God (see cult leaders above) or many other sources.  While most of these predictions seem mystical and religious in nature there was also a very real threat of global destruction which for decades had the world teetering on the brink of disaster.  This was the threat of atomic and/or nuclear disaster known as the Cold War.  It's probably hard for someone growing up today to imagine how real this threat felt at the time.  From the late 1940s right up until 1989 there was a general sense of potential doom as the United States and Russia held a dangerous stalemate between them.  One bad decision or one small mishap or miscommunication could have ushered in a man-made disaster the likes of which had never been seen.  Over the years the two main combatants of the Cold War were joined by other countries which managed to develop their own nuclear arsenal.

Even though the Cold War is now over, there is still a very real possibility of all-out nuclear war.  While stockpiles of weapons have been lessened, I'm sure there are still plenty of them left to devastate large swaths of the planet if they were to be detonated.  And unstable governments like North Korea and Iran are still trying to gain access to the not-so-exclusive-anymore club of countries that possess those weapons.  Whether the end comes by way of nuclear weapons, a meteor or asteroid (or rogue planet), natural disaster, biblical prophesies come true, some form of Super Flu, global warming, alien invasion or even the Zombie Apocalypse, there are many possibilities to continue to worry about if one so chooses.  But at least we can say that, despite what Hollywood might have us believe (see movies like "2012" and "2012: Doomsday"), the earth should live to see the dawn of 2013 and perhaps beyond.

I'm no expert on this topic, but from what I've been reading it seems that the Mayan calendar responsible for all this December 21, 2012 stuff simply ends on that date, only to start over with a whole new cycle.  I suppose it's pretty boring to say that you just go back to the beginning to start that new cycle and it's more "interesting" to say that the cycle ends with death and destruction before a new cycle can begin ("re-cycle"?).

For a look at the Mayan civilization and its "predictions"--from a 1970s point of view--here is an episode from the classic TV series "In Search of..." from 1977 titled "Mayan Mysteries".

In Search of...  Mayan Mysteries

Interestingly, this episode says that the ancient Mayan calendar we hear so much about ends on December 24, 2011 instead of December 21, 2012.  I believe that this discrepancy is due to the fact that the Mayans didn't have leap years.  Thirty-five years after this episode we have finally reached the end of the Mayan Calendar.  Hopefully December 21, 2012 will end the same way as thousands and thousands of days have ended before it and we will live to see December 22, 2012.  Then perhaps we can finally feel safe again.  ...But, for how long?