Zanzibar: The Unanswered Questions re Patty Duke’s Cousin

This is the scene immediately after arrival in Zanzibar, the exotic spice island and historic crossroads of East Africa, as you step off the morning ferry from Dar es Salaam. Could this possibly be any more colorful?

You're practically atop the equator with some of the cleanest air in the world overhead.  On a clear day, your eyes almost vibrate from the intensity, even just walking down a random alley.

Btw, I don't like to admit this, but I wound up humming the 1960's Patty Duke Show theme ("from Zanzibar… to Barclay Square!") for the first few minutes.  Sorry to be such a tourist, but there it is.

Which brings me to a fun fact that wildly improves Patty Duke Show reruns on TV Land:

Barclay Square (which is the lyric, per any source you check) is in Tartu, Estonia

Once you consider what this means for the sitcom's mythology, that's fantastically weird.

What the hell was Patty's mysterious British cousin Cathy Lane doing in Estonia under Soviet rule, just after the Cuban Missile Crisis, right at the height of the Cold War?

Espionage.  Had to be.

This whole innocent sitcom suddenly reeks of intrigue. All the hiding and confusion and pretending to be other people — it's hard not to start imagining that this was the classic development of an intelligence "double."

Y'know who else was in the Soviet Union in 1962 and suddenly came back? Lee Harvey Oswald, that's who.

Plus, Cathy's father was the Chronicle's "foreign correspondent." Probably his CIA or MI5 cover. So he could go overseas and keep an eye on his psycho sniper daughter.

And suddenly the "identical cousin" thing starts making a lot more sense.  Plastic surgery to create a cover?  Probably.

Then again, once the third cousin, Betsy, showed up in the second season, looking like a total clone of the other two… you have to wonder about genetic engineering.

Dear gods, how many other mind-controlled identical cousins were wandering around, awaiting their orders?  What were their masters planning?  And was their evil plot averted when the show was cancelled?  Or did they just go underground…?

But I digress.  Zanzibar.  Really beautiful.  Even if Cathy Lane was once based here to covertly monitor Soviet arms smuggling in East African shipping lanes.

Blackbirds falling from the sky and fish washing ashore in four states can only mean one thing

M. Night Shyamalan has started directing our entire lives.

And we're only on page 3.

Well, dang.

Next, watch for aliens, ghosts, demons, alien ghost demons, and exposition shots of Philadelphia.

In four months, there will be a surprise twist that is not remotely surprising.

It will either be (a) our environmental regulations are too lax, or (b) we all actually died during the Bush administration, and the last two years have been a collective hallucination inside Mel Gibson's head.

Sometimes, watching the news, it all feels way too much like (b) anyway.

Our Kiva team: $200,000 and counting!

Friends of Bob Harris, a team of 279 generous people I'm honored to nominally lead, has just passed the $200,000 mark in total funds raised.

That money has gone to help fund nearly 8,000 microloans to schools, clinics, and mom-and-pop businesses in more than 50 countries across the developing world.

If that's not specific enough, here's an example of what these loans do:

Meet Jacqueline, a mother of three in Kigali, Rwanda, who has used loans like these to grow a tiny business trading cassava and sweet potatoes into a small grocery store — thereby providing a better home, better food, and a better overall life for her beautiful children.

Jacqueline was generous and sweet in sharing her story for my book — a story typical of microfinance clients I've met on four continents so far.

Want to kick in a few bucks? You get paid back about 99 percent of the time, after all. Join us!

Happy New Year! Here’s to a fantastic 1997!

Everybody else can welcome 2012. But I say, why gamble on the unknown? 

Besides, 1997 was awesome, at least when it was still the future. In sci-fi, 1997 was when HAL 9000 was activated, the Jupiter II launched, Skynet blew up mankind, V began his Vendetta, and Snake Plissken escaped from New York. All in the same year.

How did I not notice all that? I must have been busy doing my radio stuff the whole time. Man, that was a great year. Except for the complete destruction of mankind.