Monday, October 31, 2016

Witness the Characters

If you've ever read a Carl Hiaasen novel you know they are populated by an array of people you are nearly guaranteed to never meet in real life. They are not all bad. Even the bad ones have a Jimmy Breslin quality of being part of 'The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight,' Mr. Breslin's long ago ode to fumbling Brooklyn mobsters who get in their own way, but throw off endearing qualities. If you like their sort of thing.

Mr. Hiaasen's latest hero protagonist is Andrew Yancy, a former Key West detective who has been demoted to health food inspector, (Roach Patrol) after committing a somewhat lewd act with a dust buster on someone important. At least that's the back story if I remember correctly. No matter, all you need to know is that Mr. Yancy is very territorial about who might build a house next to his lovely Key West location and block Yancy's gorgeous sunset views. In real estate, location is everything, and views are to be protected with firearms, if necessary.

I can only recall one person in my life who might inhabit a Carl Hiaasen novel. We'll call him Lance, who was my co-worker for many years, and eventually my boss for a short time. Lance was a tall, ruggedly handsome guy who was actually at Woodstock. He still has the $5 ticket that they never collected.

Lance's libido, if measured, was off whatever chart you might devise to measure it. Think Warren Beatty, but not famous. Lance moonlighted in live porno acts and movies, along with his wives. There were several, and still are.

I no longer have the 1971 edition of 'Playboy' that included some photos of his first wife, named Jayme Collins for the story, that featured a narrative about the girls who were into having their naked bodies painted. There was cute Jayme, showing off her naked tush and some sideline views of  her breasts, sporting the latest artwork on her body. It was the 'Laugh-In' era, if you're old enough to remember a former Secaucus truck-stop go-go dancer named Goldie Hawn who gyrated on the show as the camera zoomed in on the painted graffiti on her body. We've always lived in interesting times.

At one point when Times Square was a place where you could come away with a sexually transmitted disease rather than photos of you and Disney characters, there were actual live sex shows, copulating couples on a stage, performing in some play that quickly required clothes to be shed. There certainly wasn't much dialogue at all. If anyone forgot their lines, no one noticed. There were no 'Playbills' distributed.

One lunch hour a few of us from the office took in Lance and Jayme's performance. They were still married at time, no children. Lance took a week's vacation so he could perform with his wife in the show. Lance come toward the stage from the furthest aisle in the theater and popped up on stage and pleasured his wife.

Live sex shows were not deemed to be legal and after a few performances the place was eventually raided, with the cast arrested and taken downtown. I believe the 'producer' got everyone out and charges were dropped. But performances ended. We were lucky enough to have seen the show before it closed down. No many people alive right now can claim that. There is no poster of the cancelled show gracing a wall in Joe Allen's.

Lance's second wife was a stripper and a co-star with Lance in a movie called 'Appetites.' There is no Leonard Maltin review of this celluloid epic, but Lance played someone called Jeffrey, who after tiring of watering the window boxes filled with geraniums at the East Hampton location, took to 'Cynthia' as she walked along the beach as the fog was lifting. I think the director was heavily influenced by a scene in 'From Here to Eternity.'

Lance, in a post-production interview with us, told us the camera guys were very excited by the naturalistic scene being presented by nature as the fog lifted and the waves rolled in. There's nothing like making a classic porn film.

Cynthia also performed at a Queens Boulevard strip joint called 'Lucky's. I don't know how many shows she did a night, but we did catch her act once. After all, we knew the husband and got great seats. No backstage passes however.

Lance's third wife kept her clothes on, and actually held jobs outside the sex industry. With her, Lance settled down a bit and had two children, who now are quite grown and making him a grandfather.

Restlessness set in and he became married for the fourth time, but to a woman who reminded him greatly of his second wife. So much so in fact, it was the second wife, long past her days of taking her clothes off for a living. So, four marriages with three woman. Not an entirely unheard of ratio.

If you've been a reader of Mr. Hiaasen novels as I have, you have a nice collection of covers that line the bookshelf, because aside from having great stuff inside the book, the covers are great as well, as colorful as the pastel homes in Bermuda.

Action in these books takes place principally in the Key West area of Florida. Until reading these books I never knew there were really as many "Keys" in this tip of Florida as Mr. Hiaasen takes us through drives on the highway. Key West of course is most famous for being the haunt of Ernest Hemingway. There's Key Largo, but Google Earth reveals so many other "Keys that you are astounded.

Key West is the nucleus of the action but instead of protons, neutrons and electrons circling it we have a Hiaasen collection of dimwits, nitwits and fuckwits, depending on their IQ, who come and go. Some stay.

Aside from Andrew Yancy the other most central character is Merry (as in Christmas) Mansfield, the cute young thing who stages auto accidents on dead beats who owe other people money.

Merry's way of creating a distraction after expertly rear-ending the subject's car is to appear behind the wheel with her skirt hiked up and her hand holding a razor, feigning distracted driving because she was concentrating on grooming her labia majora and labia minora while steering and operating a gas pedal.

This appearance greatly disarms the victims (always a male), and helps set other things in motion. In a YouTube interview Mr. Hiaasen explains the Merry character was created after his reading of someone who was doing something very similar whose accident got some press coverage, principally due to her lack of coverage.

As far-fetched as all this sounds I just heard on a news show last week of the Texas A&M girl who was taking a topless selfie of her breasts while driving that she was going to share with her boyfriend. Unfortunately for this young lady she really did become distracted by trying to do all this while steering and she rammed the back of a police car. To add further charges to the write-up she had an open bottle of wine next to her on the seat. No word was released about how her photographic efforts might have turned out, but her photo (with top down) was taken as she was booked. She wasn't smiling.

There is some violence in 'Razor Girl,' but it is almost cartoonish in quality, and when it happens to the bad guys it is swift and you grieve not at all.

Mr. Hiaasen is always up-to-date. In addition to this South Florida locales he has now added Cuba, since we now once again recognize that land mass that lies 90 miles south of Miami.

Because of Andrew Yancy's findings in the restaurants he inspects, you have to wonder how well Mr. Hiaasen is received by proprietors who might be familiar with his books. I mean, we've all heard of rats, but Gambian rats? They sound like something that mauled Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant.'

Will Merry and Andrew find each other romantically? Will sand get exported from Cuba by an outfit named Sedimental Journeys? Will the reality show Bayou Brethern survive a missing star? Will Andrew Yancy get his detective shield back?

Follow the action through Florida's southern causeway. You'll come away knowing more about the place than when you started.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Things Australian

For perhaps over 50 years now I've always liked the Australian song 'Waltzing Matilda.' I've loved the melody as well as the Australian slang that has to be fully understood to appreciate what the song is about. Hobos I guess always represented free spirits, even if they were a bit down and out. Quick, what is the 'waltzing Matilda' referring to? You're going to need to do some research.

The Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr movie 'The Sundowners,' was always a favorite when it rolled around on television.

As probably already mentioned somewhere in these postings, my youngest daughter visited Australia about 11 years ago. She set out on the day after Christmas to visit her school-mate Kelly who was teaching there in some kind of exchange program. Kelly was in Sydney, and Susan went up and down the Gold Coast surfing and I suspect drinking some spirited liquids. She and Kelly climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, at night I believe, after passing the sobriety test they administer to prospective climbers willing to pay money for the privilege to crawl on steel beams wearing a safety harness and lighted helmet.

If you don't already know, the Sydney Harbor Bridge is a replica of New York's Hell Gate railroad bride that connects Queens with the Bronx and send trains into Upstate New York and New England. No one has ever thought to make climbing Hell Gate a tourist attraction. Perhaps it is the name.

Given this, and meeting in Penn Station my Twitter-pal Jennifer King (@justjenking) and her husband, my Australian fascination has increased. I loved telling the two of them at as we stood there on the Amtrak level Madison Square Grden was directly overhead. I got a kick of their marveling at that.

That later in the day, the Garden would host an NHL ice arena, and 20,000 fans would be in their seats to watch the Rangers open their season. New York is built vertically, with layers of things and events going on below. Just there, at that two square block of real estate in New York, lies three railroad stations, the confluence of two subway lines, Madison Square Garden, and The Theater at Madison Square Garden. How New York doesn't cave in is a wonder.

So, after my Aussie rendezvous I thought about the Australian flag. It's very colorful, depicting the Union Jack is the upper left corner, a seven point Sovereign Star below, and the Southern Hemisphere Constellation on the right. I just had to have an Australian flag.

Internet, of course. And now I have a dozen 4" x 6" Aussie flags with short plastic poles. Great for the garden next spring. How much? $5.99, including shipping from China!

Now that's a trade agreement.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Elliptical Orbits

The news is now over a week old that Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Dylan, being Dylan has only just now acknowledged that he's received the award, and is not yet committing to telling anyone he'll be at the award ceremony in Sweden.

Despite never being a huge Dylan fan, even though nearly contemporary in age, I do have to say I'm excited. Someone I'm familiar with won the prize, and it's someone I've come to certainly like more than when he first started. The saying is right: stick around long enough and you gain respect.

I never really liked the people who liked Bob Dylan when he started to come to fame in the 60s. I was not a protester, and I was not a disaffected teenager full of angst and rage, even though I was very eligible for the draft.

I find it incredibly ironic that back then I liked Frank Sinatra, (still do) and that Dylan now puts out a CD of Frank Sinatra songs. It's almost as if we've been traveling through the same ozone layer in elliptical orbits, only just now converging as we have each passed the Medicare milestone, and then some.

In several papers reporters wrote about the news of the October 13th announcement and offered some background and analysis of his work, and why it might fit under the Swedish Academy's now stretched definition of literature. It is exciting to have a near-contemporary and an American now be awarded the prize. It is someone I've heard of, and whose records I have some of.

Reading all the accounts and analyses I was struck that no one reiterated what I thought was gospel, that Robert Zimmerman named himself Bob Dylan in recognition of the poet Dylan Thomas, the great Welsh poet who basically drank himself to death, and died in 1953. Dylan Thomas's works were cascading waterfalls of words, much like Zimmerman's, so I always believed in the association.

One of the two NYT reporters who I wrote to about what I thought was a major omission sent me a link to a refutation that Dylan made that he didn't choose the name Dylan based on the Welsh poet, despite the similarities in spelling. Bob Dylan claimed not to have even read much Dylan Thomas. He claims the name came from his mother's maiden name, which is not Dillon, or, it came from Marshall Dillion on the show 'Gunsmoke.' I wrote back that of course, Dylan's being Dylan.

The "Dylan being Dylan" is pretty much the reaction to his so far ignoring the Swedish Academy's award, and not yet getting in touch with them that he plans to attend the award ceremony on December 10. Or not attend. What he hasn't said is that he is going to refuse the prize. So, he probably isn't going to.

This year's ceremony will be the 120th anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death. Alfred Nobel, noted most famously for inventing dynamite, was also a noted philanthropist. You'd have to say, that's one explosive that keeps on giving and giving.

The Swedish Academy, for the most part, has taken a rather sanguine view of the lack of response. Except for one member who spoke for themselves and called Dylan "impolite and arrogant," the Academy has stated that attendance is not required for the recognition. And, given that there are 1,300 people in attendance at the ward banquet, it is quite understandable that Mr. Dylan might not feel too comfortable in the company of that many people who didn't come to hear him perform. He has always been publicity shy and somewhat of a recluse. Just not as bad as J.D. Salinger.

Bob Dylan of course is not the only one who can be cryptic. Don McLean's famous love song to Buddy Holly, wrapped in an elegy to his rock and roll, 'American Pie,'  refers to Bob Dylan several times, once as the "jester who sang for the king and queen, in a coat he borrowed from James Dean." Again, "while the king (Elvis) was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown." And finally, in recognition of Dylan's motorcycle accident, "with the jester on the sidelines in a cast."

Rosanne Cash, in her NYPL interview with Paul Holdengraber in April acknowledged that Dylan was who made it possible for all the singer/songwriter's who have come after him.

We're in the process of painting the living room in advance of new carpeting. Anyone who has done this for themselves will no doubt share the experience of the unexpected things you find when you move furniture around. At least a dozen catnip toys that went under the furniture have been recovered and discarded.

Not discarded is the LP that fell behind a stereo cabinet of Richard Burton reading 15 poems of Dylan Thomas.

After the room is back in shape, I'm going to listen to some Dylan.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Style Points

The competition for world's most photographed woman, 2016, is still going neck and neck entering the far turn. Britain's Theresa May is giving Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel a run for the money as they meet to talk about the money and migration at an E.U. Summit conference in Brussels.

The two pictures could not be more unalike. There's Ms. Merkel looking all serious sitting down reading prepared remarks. And there's Ms. May, looking a bit flirtatious with her pearls and nicely buttoned tailored jacket, getting her hand squeezed by Ireland's Prime Minister Edna Kenny. No further evidence is needed to alert you to the fact the world has changed than to see the Irish making nice with the British.

And based on the man in the middle of the above photo, Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece, we may have to open up a newly created category: Best Looking Foreign Leader Without
A Necktie.

Anyone who has ever been to a diner in New York City, or really anywhere in the tristate area, even upstate New York, will know that diners are predominately owned by Greeks. And the Greek male is a bit of peacock, always checking themselves out in the mirror, finger parting their hair (if they have any), sucking their teeth clean, and most of all, twirling their chest hairs, all while passing a mirror and retrieving the pie, cheesecake, chocolate cake, or rice pudding from the display cabinet.

If Prime Minister Alexis was so bold as to open up one more button on his nicely pressed dress shirt, tufts of well groomed chest hairs would puff up under the shirt. Guaranteed.

The competition will be interesting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Assembled Gather

Four of the five Assembly members had agreed to make their last on-track appearance on Saturday, and the weather cooperated with a gorgeous autumn day that left everyone with the words most horse players love to hear: "The weather's clear, the track is fast and the turf is firm." Let's play nine today.

The fifth member, Joe C. sings bass in a doo-wop group and ever since joining The Excellents he's been busy with many more singing dates than his old group, The Emotions. Joe has been singing in these groups since his early 20s. He's now over 65, like three of the other four members. We haven't seen him at the track now for about two years. We expect to see him replace 'The Jersey Boys' someday.

For those who might have forgotten, The Assembled all at one time worked for the same company. Four of us were in Tower One when the plane hit on 9/11. We all share a lot in common.

It is hard to believe I've been coming to the same place now for nearly 50 years. Belmont. The ivy has grown to the top of the brick walls outside, and the tress have gained enough height to start to almost obscure the building. It could be a distinguished university building. It is distinguished.

Arrive a little less than an hour before the 12:55 first race post and the place is as empty as an office elevator at midnight. In fact, count the people sitting outside in the third floor Clubhouse area and you wouldn't exceed an elevator's occupancy maximum.

The place is clean, the floors waxed, but there is a tired air about the place. There is definitely some deferred maintenance when it comes to some painting. And for some reason, a few years ago, they stuck a bar inside the cafeteria. It just doesn't go. It's no wonder the Breeders' Cup hasn't come back since 2005.

The third floor is the self-service floor. There are no people at the windows, save for one person manning the Voucher Window, where you can buy a voucher and bet at one of the many betting machines using the touch screens and the prompts. Most of The Assembled have developed the know-how to do this. The rest either bet on their phone accounts, or scurry to the second floor where there are tellers at the windows.

Saturday's nine-race card was a rather typical non-big day card. Maiden Special Weights, Maiden Claimers, open Claimers, a few allowance races, two stake races, one Grade 3, the other a Listed race. Good variety and distances, dirt and turf to challenge those who take the game seriously.

The day started out well, with a straight winner by the second race. And then it got even better.

To me, one of the most annoying words used by those who give handicapping advice is to tell you something has "value," or "no value." This means the odds are commensurate, or better, with their chances, or, the odds are too short given their chances. "Shopping for value" is a totally bogus concept in my view.

The "price-is-never-right-people" will tell you that because a likely winner's odds are too short, you should go shopping for something with more value, a horse who you think will pay a better price if they win.

It's ass backwards to me. You're picking your winner on the premise that their odds are better than something that might be the favorite; therefore you'll make more money if your "value" bet wins.

The odds should never determine who you think is going to win. Your handicapping is there to do that. Once landing on your selection, you then need to look at the odds and figure out your bet. And being flexible with making a variety of bets should be in your arsenal. Win bets, exactas, trifectas, quinellas. For my taste, I hate multi-leg bets, the so called "horizontal" bets so touted by TVG and others. These bets take your hard-figured winners and place them on a ticket that is more likely to lose than win. A multi-leg wager is only appropriate if you're going to also bet the races singularly. Few people do. They chase the rainbow and wind up with a empty pot.

The type and amount of wager you make after your single race selection(s) is where you create the elusive word "value."

Take Saturday's third race, the Grade 3 Futurity at 6 furlongs for 2 year-old colts, $200,000. Pay attention. Possible Derby horses come out of this race.

Only five horses, but all types of wagering are in play because it is a stakes race. There is an overwhelming favorite, Theory, making his first start since Saratoga, coming off a rehab for a hoof injury, but said to be ready, and showing it in the works.

Theory is 1/5. If you really think Theory is going to win, you've made your selection. Now then the type and amount of bet. Don't search for a better paying horse who you really don't think is going to win. If you like Theory, use him. But how?

The exacta type of wager has little value--small payouts--even if you're betting Theory cold with something else, or perhaps with two other horses underneath. And a boxed wager just adds more losing bets to the ticket, making any profit there is minuscule, or even perhaps non-existent.

All exacta payout possibilities are displayed. That's the advantage of exactas, you know just about what you'll get back if you pick correctly.

Now, if you don't like the return on the exactas, the "value" is low based on your selection and the amount of bet, a trifecta should be considered. The disadvantage here is that you don't know the possible payouts. But, you know from experience, a triple will pay more than an exacta.

Given that I liked Theory to win and he achieved a huge number in my handicapping system, and exactas were not to my liking, I went trifecta, picking Theory on top, keying him, with two others boxed below him for a $4 bet. This is the part the "analysts" avoid telling you. Tailor the type of bet you make after you make your selections. They keep sending you off on longer shots just because they'll pay more, when on a probability basis, they are very unlikely to win.

The $4 I've now got bet on the race is within my betting range. But it is arranged on a trifecta, a sometimes hard wager to hit. A hard point to make, if you play craps.

My good day so far gets even better when my keyed trifecta with two horses underneath Theory comes in and I get a payout of $44 on my winning trifecta. I've cashed a $44 tickets, risking $4 with a 1/5 to 2/5 shot on top. That's value.

I have another straight winner and then apply the trifecta logic to the 7th race, a New York State Bred Maiden race, with several unraced 2 year-old fillies.

Most horse players will tell you 2 year-old fillies are among the most erratic of runners. Anything is possible. This proves to be true.

My bet becomes a two-horse key on top, the very short-priced Linda Rice favorite, Stonecoldfox with an unraced prospect, Easy Way Out. I put three horses underneath, boxed, for a $3 bet, $1 bet on each of the three trifecta sequences. In effect, by keying two on top I'm picking that exacta cold, but extending my wager to the trifecta type. The cold exacta payout for my selection is too small for my taste, and even less if boxed. That's where I've determined there is little "value."

The start of the race sees what can happen when unseasoned horses leave the gate: demolition derby. The 9 horse, ridden by Antonio Gallardo wipes out everything to their left, that on replay makes you marvel that all the riders that were affected by the chain reaction collisions stayed on their mounts.

Of course, you only see this after the inquiry sign goes up, posted by the stewards on the 9 and you view the head-on shot where the foul is flagrant and obvious. The 9 horse has finished third, and is not one of my three horses underneath. The fourth place horse is one of mine.

But, a blinking light always offers hope. "He's coming down" is the refrain from the Assembled, and a scattering of the other bettors in the section, those whose bodies interrupt the wide vista of empty seats.

And down he does come, being placed 7th, and moving the fourth place finisher into the third spot, completing my trifecta and paying $44 for a $1 triple. Once again, I've gotten terrific "value." I am having an exceptional day.

The day ends and The Assembled compare wins and losses. Two of the four of us have come out ahead. I wipe my shoes off vigorously so that I don't track any "skata" (Greek for excrement) I might have stepped in to achieve such nice outcomes.

All the Assembled wish each other well. No one begrudges the other's luck, because when we meet again, the outcomes are sure to change.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Robert Zimmerman

It has come down to this. There are surprises left in the world. And perhaps the biggest surprise in a good while is that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature yesterday.

Of course this doesn't resonant, good or bad with all. That oracle of sports talk, Mike Francesca on WFAN yesterday started the show with the announcement that the plugged in had already heard. Except in Big Mike's alternate universe he dryly noted that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

When the first caller up reminded surly Mike that it was the prize for Literature, sweetheart Mike, immediately annoyed he was being questioned, acidly asked the man, "is that why you called me up," then hung up.

There were certainly reactions to the announcement, from it's about time, to simply being dumbfounded that a singer/songwriter with perhaps a voice that could sand wood could even be considered for an award that has gone to some paragons of literature who boasted a lifetime of writing books, not songs.

Never mind the contretemps the announcement brought, it brought true surprise and delight from those who counted.

Back in April when the Mets still had a chance to win the World Series, Rosanne Cash gave one of those 'Live from the New York Public Library' series interviews, with Paul Holdengraber crafting the questions. This was covered in a prior posting.

Part of Paul's technique was to show Rosanne a series of pictures that were sharply projected on a screen for all the see. This was not a blind taste test, Rosanne knew what the images were going to be when Paul asked her to comment on them. Thus, photos of needlework,  family, roses, an exploding airplane, a favorite example of an interior decorator's work, and paintings were clicked through and commented on.

Then the photo of a young Bob Dylan came up. Rosanne, with the barest of pauses commented with almost a hushed tone of awe and reverence that "Dylan is responsible for all the singer/songwriters after him; without him we wouldn't be here."

In today's Times there are several stories and essays on Dylan, including Rosanne's Twitter quote from early Thursday morning that I responded to by adding my two cents to that it is still possible to be pleasantly surprised in this world. Rosanne tweeted:  "Holy mother of god, Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize." In Literature Mike, not for Peace; someone else already got that one.

Back in April, Rosanne knew what the Swedish Academy has now told everyone.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Aussie Rendezvous

I told my wife I was going into Penn Station today to meet a woman I know from Twitter. She told me to knock myself out...would I be home in time for dinner? Yes.

Given the Internet, emails, Twitter, Facebook, and FaceTime, and any other platform that allows communication through the World Wide Web, my guess is interest in being a HAM radio operator is at an all time low.

I'm sure there are people who probably don't even know what a HAM radio operator is. HAM of course stands for Heinrich Hertz, Andre-Marie Ampere and Gugliemo Marconi, pioneers in radio waves and electronics.

I say of course, because that's what I've always known the acronym to mean, and it does. Apparently however, there is a very coarse definition that has come into use, all through the Internet form of communication. We'll leave it at that.

I knew a fellow at work who was a HAM radio operator. He told stories of talking to Russian cab drivers, among other people in other countries. The thing about the HAM radio is that you're broadcasting, so that anyone who wants to listen into your call letters, can do so. You can have an audience way beyond one. You're the Fan; You're on 'The Fan.'

The Twitter acquaintance was born out of a common appreciation of obituaries. "@lifeasinzy, meet @jdemet," Tweeted @marilynajohnson, author of 'The Dead Beat.' @lifeasinzy has now undergone a handle change to @justjenking. This is what is similar to HAM radio operators who get call letters. The operators do have to be licensed by the F.C.C. in this country, and can't just start spewing out whatever they want just because they feel like it. There are broadcast standards, unlike of course Twitter, where anyone can get a user name.

Twitter does have standards of conduct, but the regulations are somewhat self-generated, and self-enforced by the audience, who can block those who they'd rather not hear from. The rogues of course can just keep getting new user names.

Regardless, the woman from Australia who I met is Jennifer King, (a shelia?) rendezvousing under what is a new arrivals and departure board on the Amtrak level at Penn Station. She and her husband Steve were waiting for The Northeast Regional train to take them to Washington, D.C. where Jen can use her press credentials to gain access to a White House News briefing (if there is one while she's in town), and a tour of the Library of Congress.

Jen is a former operating room nurse who left that profession to become a journalist, who now works for Australia's version of our NPR, ABC News (Australia Broadcasting Company) in Brisbane. In her Twitter profile she describes herself as an 'ex-nurse and fan morphed into @ digital producer/journalist, sharing my favourite stories with the world.'

She doesn't get to do much writing in her current role, but can brag that she wrote the obituary for Rupert Murdoch's mother, Dame Elisabeth Joy, Lady Murdoch AC DBE when she passed away in 2012 at 103. Rupert (85) has been quoted that based on the longevity lines in his family, no one should look forward to his imminent demise. He did just marry Jerry Hall (60), a Mick Jagger-ex, who is certain to carry Rupert further down the field of play and through the uprights.

In a prior visit to the States, Jen did get to meet obituary writer Margalit Fox at her place of work, The New York Times, and did go out to lunch with Stephen Miller (@obitsman), when he was doing obits for the WSJ. Stephen has moved onto Bloomberg News, where obit writing is not as much of a feature. In fact, based on my memory of her Tweets over the years, this current U.S. visit might be at least her third to our shores. She's almost a commuter from the other side of the world. The antipodes.

Jen's husband Steve, who I'll venture to say with his full beard, glasses and perfect diction is either a naturalist, a professor, a documentary film maker, or none of the above, offered that Rupert controls about two-thirds of the media enterprises in Australia. He's not doing bad in the Northern Hemisphere either. Mr. Murdoch owns several floors of the recently completed condominium tower at One Madison Avenue on 23rd Street, the city's latest in place to live, the Flatiron District.

Jen at her Twitter account is one of the most prolific and interesting Tweeters, usually offering pictures, links, and now little colorful emojis. They are an ice cream cone with sprinkles (or jimmies) on top. It's fun to see an outdoor picture from the Southern Hemisphere, with their seasons are opposite ours. Apparently they don't get much snow in Brisbane, so to me the place always looks like spring and summer. The picture she attached of the guy voting in his bathing suit can make you think they just might have an enviable, relaxed lifestyle. And we have LA.

Ms. King Tweets so often during the day that my wonder is that she doesn't get fired for not paying attention. But when you're a digital producer/journalist, your job is social media, so who can tell anyway what she's doing with those thumbs and fingers.

There's a bit of  running joke between Jen's Tweets from Down Under that are directed at me. Australia is famous for one's finding snakes and spiders in rather populated places. She likes to show me pictures of the latest slithery soul that has popped its head out from under someone's refrigerator in their kitchen and is now climbing up their wall. One of her latest was to show off two snakes in someone's house that were wrestling with each other. I returned the Tweet telling her that's a great idea for a new Australian reality show.

Steve explained that the spider/snake preconception is so powerful that they once had a guest who was from LA who entered the front door, walked straight through the house, peered out the back door, and in complete seriousness asked, "what is out there." Steve had to assure her she was in the suburbs, and hadn't somehow wandered onto a Kenyan game preserve.

Train track is now posted. So, did the lifelong New Yorker leave the Aussies with any words of advice? With traffic on the opposite side of the road here, I did mention to make sure you look the way you're not used to looking when crossing the street, beware of bikers, and of course, "if you see something, say something."

They love New York.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Changing Times

Live long enough, keep most of your marbles, and you have to realize the world has changed from when you first entered it.

I often mentally subtract someone's age from the current year to get their year of birth. Not calculus. I then apply whatever knowledge I have of what the world, though particularly the United States/NYC was like, at the year I land on. Thus, someone I know who just turned 80 was born in 1936. Depression, five years before Pearl Harbor, nine years-old when the war ended. Someone who can have distinct memories of the War years, even though they were fairly young at the time. They cover a lot of ground.

My own impression of what parts of Manhattan were like starts around the first Eisenhower administration. There was a story on the front page of this past Saturday's NYT that reported there are plans afoot to build an underground park, something dubbed the Lowline, out of what was once a trolley terminal under the Williamsburg Bridge, on the Manhattan side, abandoned since it closed in 1948. This acre of land beneath Delancey Street would be a space lit by solar piped light, fed to the subterranean area through mirrors that will allow enough light to create and maintain an underground park, with a wide variety of plantings.

The idea is an outgrowth of the success the High Line has had on the West Side of Manhattan, a park/walkway fashioned where an elevated freight line once plied up and down the West Side between warehouses.

An architect became interested in the old trolley space, teamed with an former marketing manager for Google, and developed plans for what could be accomplished with $80 million.

Funding is nascent, but preliminary approval hurdles have been cleared. A proof-of-concept prototype has been displayed twice and generated excitement.

If anyone knows anything about what this area did look like before what even now is hardly complete gentrification, they could not imagine an underground terrarium.

Two people are quoted in the story about what the underground park might mean. One person is fairly negative, voicing probably what many would say, that they like their parks above ground.  Another person is way more positive, saying, "Sounds like a cool thing to take friends to." I can just imagine the Corona beer and cell phone commercials that might get shot in this space. An episode of 'Younger' would surely shoot there.

The person with the positive spin is Dave Wiskus, 35, a singer and guitar player in a local rock band, Airplane Mode, who was questioned while walking his Italian Greyhound dog toward Delancey Street.

That anyone is living in this area with a Greyhound! of any national strip is all the evidence you need that things have changed in New York City.

And if that's not enough evidence for the jury, consider that the developers have been so successful growing all kinds of plants with piped in solar light that they were even able to grow mint plants, from which lunch break construction workers on the project peeled off leaves to add to their sandwiches.

Talk about a Subway sandwich.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Race Tightens a Bit

The race between Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May got a bit closer the other day with this publication of Prime Minister May's photo in the NYT. The race, you will remember, is for 'The World's Most Photographed Woman with Clothes On.

Until the ascension of Ms. May's position as a female leader of a large European country, Chancellor Merkel pretty much had the field to herself. Now, here comes Ms. May, seen here headed to giving a speech to delegates in Birmingham, England. Her theme is that there is a 'new center ground' to take.

Ms. Merkel is probably mired down with immigration woes, and the announcement by the U.S. Justice Department of a $14 billion fine against Deutsche Bank, causing people in Germany to start to utter the words, "too big to fail," which by the way was an answer to a final 'Jeopardy' question the other night. (I got it.)

In the photo, Ms. May is seen wearing a simple, age appropriate suit, at an age appropriate length, mid-knee, completed with stylish, but sensible shoes with just he right of heel. Simple, but elegant, as they say.

Watch out, Angela. The British are coming.

Unbuttoned Bill

I haven't worked now for over 5 years. Another way of saying this is I've been retired for a little over 5 years. And it is even longer since I've worn a necktie on a daily basis, despite being employed in white collar jobs for over 43 years.

The last time I put a tie on, someone had died. I did still remember how to make a nice dimpled Windsor knot, but it took me several attempts to get the resulting length correct so that the tip of the tie was slightly above the belt. Several attempts.

I have an image someday of someone having a garage sale with the contents of my closet, and draping the ties I have over say a ladder, and putting a price on any one of them, or making a 5-for- something offer. And no one buys a single tie. Why? Because very few men wear ties these days, no matter what their line of work. I mean, doctors aren't even running all around in white coats these days.

Lucy Liu looked cute in her necktie on this season's first episode of 'Elementary,' but woman don't count when they wear a tie. It is always about fashion with them. With men, it was a habit that became broken.

I have somewhere near a 100 ties, that if tied end-to-end could provide the escape rope to the ground for a convict, or a wife's lover, from a 12 story window. Not as many as the elderly gentleman in Burberry's whose attention I was drawn to years and years ago when I overheard his wife announce to a sales associate that she wanted to take a video, so she could record her husband's 500th purchase of a necktie. She might have been joking. She might not have.

Ties are passe. When AOL and Time Warner merged the CEOs had opposite ideas of what looked cool. The AOL guy showed up with a tie, and the Time Warner guy showed up without a tie for the news conference. No wonder the merger failed. They couldn't agree on the dress code.

The above picture is of former President Bill Clinton, tieless, after hoarsely speaking this past Monday in Flint, Michigan on several subjects, one of which was health care, remarks that are as funny as anything you've ever heard a politician, current of otherwise utter.

Bill, in animated fashion, made remarks that Republicans are having more fun with than perhaps what Republicans should be allowed to have, when the sound byte has Bill telling the crowd that the current Obama health care plan is..."a crazy's the craziest thing in the world...where peoples' premiums are doubled and have their coverage cut in half."

If you've been reading obituaries you know that Eddie Antar, the founder of the Crazy Eddie electronics store chain that years and years ago lit up the New York, New Jersey area with, as Crazy Eddie's famous TV pitchman, Jerry Carroll proclaimed, "...prices that are insane!"

Mr. Carroll has been out of this kind of animated pitching ever since Crazy Eddie went out of business years ago, when a stock fraud scheme consumed its founder. Eddie Antar has only recently passed away, so any hopes that Mr. Carroll will find work hawking the virtues of an electronics store, Crazy Eddie or otherwise, are slim.

But, consider of what use the Republicans can make of the old Jerry Carroll commercials. From now until Election Day there's a window of time that Jerry screaming into a "Paid for By... I Support this Message..." TV ad can once again proclaim that prices are "in-sane!" Obama's. "His health care prices are in-sane!" There are people in advertising who are going to regret not reading my blog.

What has this got to do with ties? I think a loosened neck can be a good thing, or as dangerous as "loose lips sink ships."

Can wearing a tie keep you from saying dumb things? Not if you consider the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, who is always seen in a suit and tie, and probably wears one to bed, or maybe even to the bathroom at 3:00 A.M. when he Tweets about corpulent beauty queens.

The baseline for The Donald is only now being drawn. He's probably been like whatever you want to call him for decades, but is only now getting everyone's due to his presidential candidacy. Bill, on the other hand, was the president who did dress the part, for the most part, with suit and tie.

Bill, I've got a closet full if you want to go back to wearing one. It might help keep you out of being an ad for the Republicans.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Slogan

The Egyptian duo who unwittingly disarmed a bomb in the Chelsea area of Manhattan on September 17 when they reached for a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag have been further identified now by name and occupation: Egyptian airline security guards.

That's right, the, "See something, do nothing" duo actually have jobs as unarmed guards on Egyptian flights. Their role on flights is essentially to handle unruly passengers, air marshall bouncers. They are not under suspicion in any way to be part of the bombs that were placed, but don't really get a glowing review from one official with their airline who tells the world, "These guys are harmless, they would be useless in a fist fight. They cannot in any way be involved." Gee, I feel safer already.

No soup for you guys. The two NYPD detectives from the bomb squad who did disable the bomb as part of their duties received promotions to second grade detective. Is seems the Egyptian guys are painted as pantie-waists.

The two Egyptian men, Abou Bakr Radwan and Hassan Ali are somewhat in hiding due to the attention they've drawn to themselves. Fame of all kinds can be fleeting, but it can take awhile to go away.

Meanwhile, in case anyone was wondering who coined the phrase, "If you see something, say something," all you have to do is read today's WSJ on the man who literally formulated the phrase soon after 9/11, Allen Kay. The phrase is actually licensed by the MTA to other transportation and law enforcement agencies world wide at no fee. Mr. Kay has never received any monetary compensation for the words he strung together.

He does however derive immense pleasure that people have the phrase in their head and do, on occasion "say something" when something is suspicious. And that "something" can turn out to be something that really is suspicious.

I was at the last regular season home game and noticed that the fellow who was in front of us must have left a small carry case under his seat. Did I "say something" because I saw something? No. The fellow was with perhaps his five-year-old daughter and the two of them disappeared for at least three innings to get food at the concession stand. Why people come to a game so famished that their next meal has to be something attained at a long, slow moving line at a concession stand and miss the live action is beyond me. Further, the section I was in you could give a vendor an order and have the food delivered to you. Apparently the father didn't know that.

The woman who did "see something" after seeing the suspicious pot on the New York sidewalk sans its Louis Vuitton bag headed to Egypt was Jane Schreibman, a 66-year-old photographer who first saw the object, continued on, but then doubled back and called the police.

Ms. Schreibman explained that as a New Yorker she's always looking at garbage. I will say this is not a trait performed by all New Yorkers. It is a trait that my father had as he furnished parts of our living room with discards rescued from the curb. I can still see the tilted living room end table brought in from the Sabatino's curb two houses down.

The new slogans, "if you see something, take something...steal something" are of course satirical in origin but not in thought. Umpteen years ago the country singer Roger Miller had a mega-hit with a song he wrote, "King of the Road," about an itinerant hobo who knew how to make ends meet through craftiness, "I know every lock that ain't locked when no one's around."

Roger Miller was born in Oklahoma, not New York.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


One of my all-time favorite pieces of movie dialog occurs in the movie 'Chinatown' when Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, meets Noah Cross (John Huston) at the orchard as Mr. Cross is enjoying a meal outdoors in the California sunshine.

The Noah Cross character is a crusty old man who knows plenty, and is phenomenally rich through land deals and political connections. He is a one percenter of the era, when California is set to take off in a post-war population and building boom. He's poised to reap plenty of money through control of the water that will provide the life sustaining liquid.

He is a power broker. When Jake remarks that the water that Noah's talking about sits outside the county, so how can it benefit the county, Noah patiently explains that the answer is simple: move the county to where the water is. Expand the boundaries, and viola!, the water in now in Los Angeles county. It's so simple it can make you cry. Gerrymander the water rights.

Noah Cross further explains the facts of life to Jake when he tells him: "politicians, public buildings and whores all gain respectability if they last long enough."

Perhaps the screenwriter was paraphrasing someone else's boast, or was making up an original one. It doesn't matter. It's a great piece of dialouge.

As already mentioned in these postings I read nearly every obituary that's published in the NYT and WSJ, and then some if exposed to other papers. I don't like sci-fi moves, or slasher, gore movies. Many people do however, and their production can prove quite lucrative. So much so that when Herschell Gordon Lewis passed away at 90 he was hailed as a horror visionary for literally creating the first output of gore, blood, mayhem and dismemberment to hit the movie screens. He was so far ahead of himself apparently there were no decency codes that could be applied to severed heads and dripping blood when he produced his first filmed blood bath

A good obituary will end with a zinger, or a pithy quote from the decreased that will sum up their entire life, and Mr. Grimes's obituary on Mr. Lewis does not disappoint when he reveals a 2002 quote from Mr. Lewis.

"To some extent, 'Blood Feast' is an embarrassment...but the result has been a realization of my personal philosophy, which is: 'If you live long enough, you become legitimate.'"

Noah Cross and Herschell Gordon Lewis. Partners in longevity.