Thursday, June 30, 2011

We're Taking Him to Bellevue

A fairly recent blog entry referred to the practice of taking the publicly disturbed to NYC's famed Bellevue for psychiatric observation.  The practice has been in effect for decades, and is freshly recounted when reading the story of Raymond Velasquez, 34, of Brooklyn, who recently spent two hours 25 feet off the ground on a utility pole in Times Square in the middle of the day rapping and performing calisthenics.

A large response was made, and a large audience ensued. According to the story in the NYT, "Mr. Velazquez finally surrendered shortly after 11 A.M., Tuesday.  That afternoon he was evaluated, under standard procedure at Bellevue Hospital Center." 

Certainly due to privacy regulations, his medical condition was not released.  It's not even disclosed if he was released.  Look up, I guess. But he is expected to be charged with reckless endangerment and other infractions.  Screwy or not, closing Times Square down for several hours is still frowned on.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Current Front-runner

Is Christine Lagarde, the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund, about to edge out Angela Merkel as the world's most photographed woman with clothes on?

Ms. Lagarde has just been appointed to head the Fund following the famous misstep of her predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned following allegations of sexual improprieties in a New York hotel involving a member of the housekeeping staff.  After that resignation. Ms. Lagarde sprinted to the front of the pack of contenders, and now has secured the I.M.F. position.

Given that elevation, her picture is appearing in the paper.  The NYT alone has her as a "reefer" twice: on the front pages of their main section as well as the Business Section, where a little further inside she is seen in a bit of peek-a-boo pose checking someone, or something out.  Time will tell what to make of this Hanes underwear, boxer or briefs Michael Jordan look.

And Angela?  Not forgotten whatsoever.  According to the Times story, Ms. Lagarde has "nurtured a close personal relationship with the German Chancellor."  Angela's picture appears in the same section, on the very next page, as part of another fiscal story, where she is seen inspecting an honor guard of troops in Berlin with the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao.

As they might say at Wimbledon: Advantage, still Ms. Merkel, for staying in the news on Christine's big day.

When Lightning Strikes

@obitsman has once again put out a Tweet that makes reference back to a news story.  This one is from the Chicago Tribune and covers the statistical observation that way more men are struck by lightning than women.  Reasons are offered.

Left out might be the real reason that more men are liars, and might be claiming that that they should be struck "right here on this spot" if they aren't telling the truth.  The Lie Detector in the sky is only too happy to oblige.

This might be what was behind the golfer's Lee Trevino expalanation for what seems like a strange thing to do when running off a golf course during a thunder and lightning storm.  For those who may not know, Mr. Trevino won several PGA tournaments, some majors, but started out in his game as a golf husler in the Texas, Mexico border areas.  Hustlers are inveterate liars, but seen by many as colorful.  Mr. Trevino was certainly in that category.

So, what else could explain Mr. Trevino's choice of running off a golf course during a lightning storm waving a One-Iron over his head for protection.  To Lee, it was simple: "Even God can't hit a One Iron."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pittsburg Phil

Pittsburg Phil proved to be the exception to the generally accepted wisdom that all horseplayers die broke.  Of course "Phil," or George E. Smith, might have died broke if he had been given more time on earth, but he died at what now would be the early age of 43.  It was 1905 and Pittsburg Phil succumbed to tuberculosis before his money ran out.  Thus, before the United States passed the 16th Amendment allowing income tax, there was an estimate that Phil was worth $2 million at his demise, making the $30,000 mausoleum that he is buried in North Pittsburgh's Uniondale cemetery a fitting tribute to a man who actually made money betting on the horses and who truly gave birth to what is now the modern age of handicapping.

I had never heard of Pittsburg Phil until this past Saturday's Daily Racing Form did an extensive story on Phil and his accomplishments in their weekend insert.  Yes, even the Daily Racing Form has a weekend section.

I mentioned Phil to a good friend of mine who cut his journalistic teeth working at a racing publication in the early 70s.  He was shocked I had never heard of Phil.  When he started at the racing paper he worked with a considerably older fellow, Howard Rowe, who was born in 1910.  Howie was so in awe and respectful of Phil's achievements that he had a picture of Phil above his desk.  Thus, in the early 1970s, Phil's legend was still so sufficiently alive in these working quarters that his picture graced an office wall like that of a president or a deity.

And after reading Ryan Goldberg's well-told story of Phil in the DRF, the upward look to Phil's visage was understandably deserved, certainly at least to someone whose interests were similar.

My friend and I still can get paper cuts from winning and losing tickets.  Howard Rowe has only recently passed away.  But Pittsburg Phil, who passed away 106 years ago, looks out in stone atop his grand mausoleum telling us all that we don't have to die broke.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Come On On

By now the news has reached many--certainly Whitey Bulger and his companion--that they are now in the FBI's custody.  There are now TWO vacancies on the TOP TEN MOST WANTED list.

I really don't know how often this happens, but it must be like there being two Supreme Court vacancies at the same time.  Certainly the Bureau wants to pick worthy successors, if only to get the most out of the lease they must have entered into for that Times Square billboard advertising that Whitey, after 16 years was still on the lam.

The billboard owner was surely looking at a good thing when approached by the Bureau to advertise a fugitive who has eluded capture since 1995. Despite Whitey being 81, I'm sure the billboard owner was licking their lips at a long-term rental.  Possibly dead is not good enough to terminate the rental.

Hopefully, the Bureau will continue to use mass marketing in their effort to keep the TOP TEN list in a revolving door status.  The real estate market is depressed enough without the rental of billboards going in the tank as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Top Ten

Most of us at this point have heard that the FBI has a 10 Most Wanted List.  It is availalbe for viewing in the Post Offices, the old fashioned way, hard copy, or online.  Perhaps there will be an app for it for your phone. Who knows.

As a kid I checked the postings out at the local post office.  I was barely tall enough to turn the pages that were on the wall in a hoizontal loose leaf-type flip chart.  No one looked familiar.  The few that I did manage to read about all seemed to have something to do with armed robbery, principally banks, and always in the Midwest.  John Dillinger types.  It was the late 50s, so I realize now that there had to still be some of those guys around.

But now, in connection with the story that the FBI  is openly and creatively advertising their desire to bring No. 1 in, James 'Whitey' Bulger, we read that even though bin Laden has been confirmed as deceased as of May 2nd, they still haven't gotten around to adding a replacement to the list.  

The process of keeping this list has never been thought about before, but it is surprising to realize that right now, the Top 10 is composed of nine guys presumed alive, and one known dead guy.  Seven weeks later. What does it take to move onto the list?  An agent?  A majority vote by the committee?

And although every spelling of bin Laden's first name has been seen to be 'Osama,' the FBI spells it as 'Usama.'  You'd really hate to hear the wrong guy has been iced over a typo.

Nevertheless, why the delay in revising the list?  Aren't there 'alternates' for the list?  Or, a body of juniors ready to be seniors as soon as there's a graduation ceremony?  It is a wonder.

Given what seems like a new way of thinking at the Bureau, when the newly annointed member of the Top Ten is known will they atart to appear on shows and things?

Of course that's silly.  They've got to find them first.  Then eventually take them off the list.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Red Carpet Greeting

Scrutiny of German Leader Builds as Debt Crisis Rattles Europe

Published: June 19, 2011

"Benny, I'm telling you. She's bigger than Krupp Steel."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

She's Back

She's back in the news.  With the European money crisis heating up again, and with Greece teetering toward insolvency, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is once again the world's most photographed woman with clothes on.

She's everywhere.  She's seen with France's  President Nicolas Sarkozy more often than his wife.  She once again appears nearly everyday in the WSJ.

Do I notice her more now because there are photos in the WSJ?  I don't know.

I do know she has a friendly looking demeanor and if the whole European crisis costs her her job, for whatever reason, she should be able to gain employment as their version of Captain Kangaroo.

I can't help it.  She reminds me of Captain Kangaroo.  And nobody didn't like Captain Kangaroo.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Connected in So Many Ways

I was sort of kicking around today, somewhat eager to write something, but had no fresh ideas.  Of course I hadn't yet picked up the paper, so it was probably understandable.  If you can't find something to write or think about after reading or viewing anything that's in front of you, delivered through any format, even something as old fashioned as paper and print, then you are somewhere else.

So when I saw the front page of the Paper of Record provide an advance on an obituary inside I read the blurb.

A Champion of the Bar Code

And when I realized that the teaser was placed squarely over the paper's own U.P.C. code in the lower right hand corner of the front page I suspected I knew who wrote the obit.  I was right.

A highly informative obituary, six columns wide, is given the Margalit Fox treatment.  This gives us some poetic alliteration (perhaps over the top, but fun nonetheless) as well as a solid history lesson in the development and adoption of what is now known as the Universal Product Code (U.P.C.).

And then there's that special something that I'm sure did not escape the reporter's knowledge.  A few years ago they wrote the bylined obituary on Gerard Damiano, the director of one of the largest grossing movies ever made, the prono film 'Deep Throat.'  Fame is achieved in many ways, and Mr. Damiano's was the movie.  Ms. Fox merely recounted his passing.

But, here's where everything in the world sits inside of something else.  Alan Haberman, the champion of the bar code as we know it, didn't invent it, but rather was notable for getting it accepted as the standard to be used by all forms of product manufacturers.     

Ms. Fox uses a passage from a book that was written about the bar code and Mr. Haberman where his consensus building skills are recognized. 

"Mr, Haberman's committee comprised more than a half dozen type-A businessmen, and discussion could be fractious...Mr. Haberman found a spectacularly good way to smooth dissent. First he organized a dinner at one of the city's finest restaurants.  Then he took everyone to a local movie theater to see 'Deep Throat.'

"Not long afterward the committee votes unanimously for the I.B.M. bar code, adopted in April 1973."

To think that consumerism as we know it today was likely propelled along by pornography is to recognize how community standards can be achieved.

If only ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner's efforts had been so noble.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Words In Play

Aside from puns, the WSJ these days can go into overdrive when creating a play on words. Take two great examples from today's Marketplace section.

High-Hopes at Miracle-Gro In Medical Marijuana Field
Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has long sold weed killer.  Now it's hoping to help people grow killer weed.

For Wallboard Maker USG, Recovery Remains Elusive
USG Corp. has hit a wall.

I'm sure there are more.  Just in today's paper alone.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ned Nefer

@OBITSMAN in a Twitter Tweet has once again provided some humorous links.

The first involves his use of the word FRUITCAKE! to describe Ned Nefer, apprently a local lunatic from upstate New York who claims the mannequin he pushes around on a cart is his wife, and that he met her when she was just a head.

Fruitcake is a funny word all by itself, and can connotate the fairly dated reference to someone who is considered nuts, as in, "nutty as a fruitcake."

Russell Baker, once commenting on fruitcake as an edible, said that it was the one food that could be described as a family heirloom.  This was a clever way to describe a fruitcake's durability.  Since no one ever really eats any part of a fruitcake when it is given to someone at Christmastime, it lingers in the house for years, and has the potential to become part of an estate's distribution.

As for Ned Nefer claiming the mannequin is his wife, being called a fruitcake might be arguably a tad harsh. After all, I once heard that, "two can live as cheap as one, if one doesn't eat."

Ned just might be a genius.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Reform Candidate from Prison

If you didn't read this story from what most would consider a reliable source, you'd think it was the plot of some offbeat movie based on a fictional source.  But front page in Saturday's NYT is the story of prisons in Venezuela and the unique way they're run.  In short, the inmates run the place.

Reading the story you'd have to agree that the penal system, its housing, and its unique blend of creature comforts might do more to encourage crime than deter it.  You might be better off in prison, than outside of it.  Commit the crime, and be rewarded with the time.

The inmates' chief, Mr. Rodriquez, a thick-necked longtermer who barks orders into a cellphone, was interviewed as bodyguards shucked oysters for him.  "There's more security in here than out on the street." Asked about his ambitions after incarceration, Mr. Rodriquez said he would consider politics.

Everybody's got to start somewhere.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Norman Mailer Slept Here

Growing up when I did, the politically correct way to say that someone was "nuts" was to announce they should go to, be in, or be forced to go to, Bellevue. Bellevue was and still is a NYC hospital, treating all kinds of conditions. It was always large, and has gotten even larger. But the place became best known as a psychiatric center where the police took people who needed to be "observed" because of what they had done. They might have done it to themselves, as in surviving a suicide attempt, or, something that hurt others, perhaps even killing them.

If the person you were referring to was really around the bend there always was a reference to the key that should be thrown away that might otherwise someday be used to release them. "Throw the key away" was always reserved for special cases.

Occasionally as a teenager I had to deliver flowers to someone who was in Bellevue. Not someone locked up in the psychiatric ward, but the more general medical/surgery wards. At the time, these were large rooms with lots of beds filled with people who didn't seem to move. And there didn't seem to be anyone around to watch that nothing was happening, or to even make something happen. I wandered around until I found the person in Ward J, say, and placed the flowers on the night table. People in hospitals never tipped. They barely seemed to breathe.

Anyway, I was reminded of Bellevue when I came across a passage about it in the recently published book, 'The Mad Bomber of New York, The Extraordinary True Story of the Manhunt that Paralyzed a City,' by Michael M. Greenburg.

Yes, true, and the bomber, George Metesky, is quite a story, having been finally found in 1957, after starting his version of a reign of terror in 1940. After some police and court formalities, he was sent to Bellevue, for observation.

Mr. Greenburg quite delightfully and accurately describes the place, the circumstances that still place people there, while adding the names of other notables that have passed through its iron gates. Certainly revealing something of his own personality, Mr. Greenburg cites a jazz musician, a writer, a playwright and a fictional Santa Claus as being sent to the same place they sent "The Mad Bomber" to be observed.

The nine-story brick and limestone structure that housed the cheerless if not gruesome psychiatric division of the Bellevue Hospital stood against the gray winter skies of Manhattan like a dismal shadow--a harbinger of stormy weather. The fetid East River quietly flowed at the rear of the building while its decaying piers clung tenuously to wooden retention walls along its banks. Tough Bellevue Hospital Center--said to be the oldest general public hospital in the United States--was a cluster of hospital pavilions extending four city blocks along First Avenue and interconnected by a labyrinth of foreboding underground tunnels, the epithet "Bellevue" was often used to denote only its infamous and gloomy psychiatric division.

The red brick and wrought iron gates of the Bellevue asylum had, by the 1950s, been firmly ensconced in the public imagination. A temporary (and often longer) home to the wretched and the poor, the facility also hosted notables such as Charlie Parker, Norman Mailer, and Eugene O'Neill for observation following crimes or activities that defied sanity.

And for a while, George Metesky slept there.