David Blaine White (b. 1973) was born in Brooklyn to a Puerto Rican father, and a Russian-Jewish mother who raised him alone through tough times. He saw his first magic act on a subway at age 4 and was inspired. He loved drama, too, and would appear in several TV commercials and soap operas. By 21, he was already doing magic for wealthy private audiences and celebrity parties. Blaine recorded one of these performances and sent the tape to ABC, who were hooked immediately. At 24, Blaine’s first TV special, Street Magic, was aired and has since been hailed as revolutionizing the world of magic, with fellow magicians Penn & Teller even claiming it was the “biggest breakthrough done in our lifetime.” His subsequent amazing stunts included entombing himself in a 3-ton underground tank for 7 days, encasing himself in a block of ice for over 63 hours, standing atop a 100-foot high (and 22 inch wide) pillar for 35 hours straight, going 44 days without food while sealed in a case above London’s River Thames (losing 25% of his body weight!), freeing himself from a rotating gyroscope on which he spun for 52 hours straight, and holding his breath for over 17 minutes. Blaine uses his magic for good, too, performing at countless children’s hospitals and charity events, and fundraising for organizations like the Salvation Army (from whom he’d received clothing as a child). He also holds several world records. David Blaine joins other great Jewish magicians, including past Jews of the WeekHarry Houdini and David Copperfield.
Words of the Week
The Jewish people, no matter where they are, they become the best in the world.
– Joseph Mengele, Nazi Officer and Physician
Stanford Ovshinsky (b. 1922) was born in Akron, Ohio to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Belarus. Instilled by his father with a sense of working for the good of the public, Ovshinsky went on to invent over 400 things for which he holds patents. He first created a special high-speed lathe that was used in the war effort to rapidly produce artillery shells. In 1951 he moved to Detroit to work in the auto industry and invented, among many other things, electric power steering. Besides mechanical engineering, Ovshinsky studied a diverse array of other subjects and one of his main focuses was neurophysiology. He was able to fashion a model nerve cell that was hailed as a breakthrough in nanotechnology. He also discovered what became known as the “Ovshinsky Effect”, which led to the development of rewritable CDs, DVDs and flat-screen displays. Ovshinsky is most famous for his work in batteries and solar cells. He invented the rechargeable (Ni-H) battery, and shattered all expectations by creating a 30 megawatt solar generator at a time when even 5 megawatts was a dream. Although he is nearly 90 years old, Ovshinsky continues his work, mostly on photovoltaic cells, with the express goal of making fossil fuels obsolete. He has been compared to both Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, and is often called the “world’s most important energy visionary.” TIME Magazine named him “Hero of the Planet” in 1999. He has won countless awards and published over 300 scientific papers. His latest thin-film PV invention may soon be powering all of your devices, but you’ve probably never heard of him (until now). His humility can be summed up in his own words: “I’m not going to tell you about it, I’m just going to show you”.
Update: Sadly, Stanford Ovshinsky passed away on October 17, 2012 – five months after this piece was originally posted.
Words of the Week
Study the past if you want to define the future. – Confucius
The Three Stooges. From Left: Larry, Curly and Moe
Of all the comedy acts ever produced, few can claim the wild popularity and success of the Three Stooges. The act began in 1925 as “Ted Healy and His Stooges”, with the first film produced in 1930. But it only catapulted to success after 1934, when the cast was solidified as the famous “Larry, Curly and Moe” trio. Moses “Moe” Horowitz (1897-1975) and Jerome Lester “Curly” Horowitz (1903-1952) were brothers born to Jewish-Lithuanian immigrants in Brooklyn. Despite his on-screen debacles, Moses was actually a child prodigy who had a photographic memory. His brother Curly (whose birth name was Yehuda Lev) was initially a well-known ballroom dancer and singer. They had a third brother Shmuel “Shemp” Horowitz (1895-1955) who was also part of the original act, and later returned after Curly died of a stroke in 1952. Meanwhile, Louis “Larry” Feinberg (1902-1975) was a Jewish-Russian comic and violinist from Philadelphia (who was once a professional boxer!) Together, Larry, Curly and Moe revolutionized farce and slapstick humour, and film comedians today owe a great deal to these pioneers. The Three Stooges starred in 220 films, at one point under contract to release 8 films every year because of their incredible popularity. They also appeared in four TV spin-offs, and between 1959 and 1966 recorded popular music albums. In the 1980s, a Three Stooges video game was created. It was so successful that the game was reintroduced in 2002 for GameBoy and in 2004 for PlayStation. Episodes of the Three Stooges continue to re-run around the world (and are particularly popular in East Asia). A new “The Three Stooges” movie is currently in production, reportedly starring Jim Carrey.
Words of the Week
When the mind is occupied… there is no room for stupid and vain thoughts devoid of substance. – The Lubavitcher Rebbe in Hayom Yom, Cheshvan 16