Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Never a Bad Day?

Live to be 86, and you would think you will have lived long enough to have experienced at least a few bad days. But then again, maybe not.

For those of you who may not be familiar with that other newspaper, The Wall street Journal you might be interested to know that obituaries have been put back as part of the paper. Well, not daily obituaries, and not by Stephen Miller, but a guaranteed layout of three obituaries in the Weekend Edition, the one encompassing Saturday and Sunday.

The Journal is hardly what it once was, a strictly financial newspaper. Ever since Rupert Murdoch took over several years ago the paper has become more of a general interest paper. even with a sports columnist, Jason Gay, and others.. When Rupert took over the paper, you could count on some days plowing through 5 sections. It was rather robust. But even Rupert can't staunch the flow of readers away from print. The paper these days is still general interest, but the articles are shorter, there are only two sections, and the heftiness is gone. The paper is on a diet, and frankly some days is downright anemic. Rolled up, it would hardly swat mosquitoes. It is not worth the now $4.00 newsstand price they are asking for it.

But who pays retail? Digital or home delivery is what the papers want, and they offer home delivery discounts. Thus, I don't pay full freight. A charge I would be reluctant to pay, when also wanting to buy the New York Times print edition, which is now $3.00. Spending $7.00 a day at a newsstand would be a budget buster, even if I was working full-time, or any time at all.

James R. Hagerty generally gets to have three obituaries appear in the weekend edition. The arrangement gives the reader a main obit, three columns, about half a page, of someone, usually connected with business, alongside two smaller obits, two columns apiece, and much shorter. These smaller obits are almost like speed dating. A few paragraphs, short on ancestral trees and survivors. They are an ESPN highlight reel is there ever was one.

Consider Gerhard Andlinger from a few weeks ago. The years beneath the name give us the boundaries of his life: 1931-2017. The headline: 'Essay-Writing Contest Launched Entrepeneur'
The breathless details:
  • As a boy in Austria during WW II Gerhard stole sweet potatoes and brought home coal from the train tracks that fell off the coal cars.
  • The New York Herald Tribune ran an essay contest in 1948, asking high-school students in Europe to write an essay titled "The Kind of World I Would Like to Live In."
  • (If  you remember essays you might also remember The Herald Tribune, one of 8 daily NYC newspapers that went out of business in the 1960s, not long after a crippling newspaper strike. I still miss The Herald Tribune.) 
  • Gerhard wins a trip to the U.S. and meets President Harry Truman, dines at the Waldorf, becomes impressed with Princeton University (what's not to like?) and wins a scholarship there, then an M.B.A from Harvard.
  • Works for McKinsey & Co. and ITT before creating his own investment firm, buying struggling companies with the mantra, "You see problems.  I see opportunities."
  • Gerhard is described as "tall, trim and dapper, owning a 8,300 square-foot apartment overlooking Central Park; buys an airplane and hires a yacht-racing crew.
  • (Dapper. Since this is a "speed" obituary we do not know if Mr. Andlinger was married, and if so, how many times. The singer Buddy Greco was certainly dapper and was married 5 times. I'd like to think Mr. Andlinger had women draped all over him, perhaps rivaling the 84-year-old music producer Quincy Jones's assertion that he has 22 girlfriends worldwide. 
  • Even Mr. Andlinger's last day on earth doesn't seem so bad. He died at his home in Manhattan, in his sleep, at 86.
I don't have enough years left to catch up to Mr. Andliner when I grow up. I'm sure of it.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Benson, Vermont

One of the last things I ever expected to read in the obituary for a deceased dissident Soviet theoretical physicist who was active in human rights issues is that he passed away in Benson, Vermont, a tiny town I'm quite familiar with and have passed through many times.

But there is it, Valery Chalidze, 79, 'Soviet Dissident Exile and Advocate of Justice' passes away at 79 in Benson, Vermont.

Benson sits in the western part of the state not too far from the New York state border and Lake Champlain. There is a tow-wire ferry nearby that carries a few vehicles. It just goes back and forth all day, no schedule. It is also free.

The north/south Route 22A runs through Benson. For years and years we would vacation in the Beebe Pond, Lake Hortonia region, in what is known as Hubbardton, the site of a rear-action retreat by Seth Warner during the Revolutionary War that thwarted the advance of the British. There is a Hubbarton battlefield, visitor center, and by all appearances the landscape looks the same as it has since 1776. Route 30, a major north/south state road in the area is known as the Seth Warner Memorial Highway. That's Vermont.

This whole region of small towns and hamlets helps contribute to the ruralness of Vermont. It is considered the most rural state in the Union because of the small towns that dominate the state, creating tiny clusters of population. Google Earth basically shows Benson to be trees. You've driven out of it before you know you've driven into it.

The Benson, et al. area is particularly scenic, especially in the fall. Benson sits south of Orwell, a "large" small town that boasts a bank that is worth going to just plain see. The bank still has wicket windows that make you think Jesse James, or maybe Willie the Actor Sutton once came by and made everyone lie on the floor as they leaped over the iron cage and scooped up the cash.

Orwell has been the subject of a prior post regarding its ordinance about garlic breath and basketball games. A stop at Buxton's the general store is a must.

And while all this sounds quaint, the whole area is just south of Middlebury College, considered a small school Ivy League member noted for languages and economic disciplines that I'm sure attracted visits from Mr. Chalidze.

Mr. Chalidze apparently moved to the Benson area in 1983. After traveling to the United States to give a lecture, the Soviets prevented his return to his homeland. Thus, he took up residence in New York in exile, and eventually moved to Vermont. He never went back to the Soviet Union, despite an olive branch offering from Gorbachev.

He and his wife acquired 500 acres in the Benson area and built homes and raised horses on the properties. Valery's mother had been an architect. His father had been an engineer.

The only other Russian of notoriety that I knew to once live in Vermont was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel-prize winning writer who lived in Cavendish for many years, before moving back to Russia in 1994, where he passed away in 2008. Solzhenitsyn and Chalidze never crossed paths, there being philosophical enmity between the two.

The last hook in all this is that on reading Mr. Chalidze's obituary in the Rutland Herald it was disclosed that a celebration of his life was held at the Fair Haven Inn on January 7. Fair Haven is another town in the area that hugs the New York border and the Fair Haven Inn is more than familiar to us because we've been stopping by there for decades, and continue to do so on Saratoga's Dark Day of Tuesday.

Seen above, the Inn is owned by a Greek couple who have created a Parthenon-looking structure in the ruralness of Vermont. The menu proclaims they are 'poets of fish.' And they are. You will never get a bad meal there.

And I'm sure those who came to celebrate Mr. Chalidze's life were fed well.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


If I were more of a gambling man than I am, I would take bets at 2-1 that whenever there is a front page NYT obit plopped on the front page the byline will be Margalit Fox.

Ms. Fox is a seasoned obituary writer, and I think right now is assigned to creating and updating the advance obits. These are the ones in the box, ready to be mixed with the news that someone of some notoriety has passed away. Think Betty Crocker, if you will.

Typically, when the deceased has passed the age of 90, a nonagenarian, the byline is Robert McFadden, the Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who is considered the best rewrite man in the business. (I watch a lot of old movies.)

If you pay attention to these things, you almost invariable see McFadden's name, front page or not, whenever the deceased is over 90. Obviously, McFadden, who I understand is still active, had been assigned the task of creating advance obits. So, when the advance subject ages on the vine and eventually falls off at 90+, we have a McFadden byline. Simple as that.

Ms. Fox is the heir ascendant. She's been doing obits for a good number of years, and can be counted on to approach nearly every subject in a unique manner. Take yesterday's obit for Naomi Parker Fraley, 96, who it turns out was the real inspiration for the WW II Rosie the Riveter poster. Most obits start with the deceased's name, followed by a comma, then a lede that connects phrases and clauses like a cantilevered bridge, and pretty much tells you all you might really need to know about the deceased. Want more info? Read on. It will be interesting.

Ms. Fox's treatment of Naomi, whose death she doesn't get to until the third paragraph, is to start off with one man's research that went into establishing that Mrs. Fraley was the real inspiration for the poster, and that she has been uncredited for it for nearly 70 years, not through malice, but just through benign acceptance and path of least resistance, that someone else was the model, so to speak.

Once you get past the rather confusing caption that accompanied a photo of the poster in the print edition I got (Margalit, when queried admitted the caption was awkward, and was created by a production error and has since been revised.) you learn of all the twists and turns the authentication took. The obit has it all.

But think of the name Rosie for a second. It is such a friendly girl's name that anyone with it probably has a face full of freckles and a slingshot in her back pocket. She's fun to be with. A Doris Day.

In the 60s, when I ate at the 14th Street Automat there was a woman named Rosie who worked the steam table. She was a favorite of all the older guys. In the movie 'The African Queen,' who does Mr. Allnut take below deck and bonk? Rosie, of course. Who is the 'Queen of Corona' in Paul Simon's song? Rosie. And it's always Ring Around the Rosie, no?

And who "...wears rings on her fingers and bells on her toes...?" My sister Rose, of course. And Marty Robbins, singing his classic 'El Paso'...where does Falina whirl? Rose's Cantina.

For further proof of how the name Rose can be on someone's mind, think of the priest at the funeral services for my mother, whose names was Ruth, and who at one point was called Rose by the priest. Since he was waving incense at the casket when he did this I didn't want to interrupt and correct him. I let it go and just felt he was using the name as a verb. But our neighbor Rita did interrupt and quickly informed the good Father my mother's name was Ruth.

The obit is as much a tribute to Mrs. Fraley as it is to the Seton Hall professor, James J. Kimble (great name for someone who is trying to get something right) who spent six years tracing whose image was really the one that launched a slogan and a bicep.

Who is the real Rosie the Riveter has not been the all-consuming mystery that say, who is Carly Simon singing about in 'You're So Vain,' or the one-time mystery of who is 'Deep Throat'? Not that we're not left with unanswered questions. Like, "is there life on other planets?" And the real big one..."is there really a Section 51?" And perhaps the even bigger one of "what was on the 18½ minutes of deleted Watergate tapes."

It seems for decades a Michigan woman, Geraldine Hoff Doyle innocently thought she was the one who was depicted by the poster. When Geraldine passed away in 2010, the NYT obituary, and others,  gave her credit as being the inspiration for the Rosie the Riveter poster. Until Mr. Kimble's research, Geraldine was the generally accepted person who inspired the poster.

Ms. Doyle genuinely believed she was the inspiration. She never received any money for it, and never signed autographs next to Pete Rose at baseball card conventions, but think of the people who have tried to pass themselves off as the genuine article.

There was the story of Anastasia, the daughter of Czar Nicholas II, who supposedly survived the firing squad and who tried to convince the Swiss bankers that she was the rightful heir to whatever the Czar had secreted away in the Swiss banking system. Over the years several women came forward trying to pry the fortune from the numbered account. None were considered to be the real Anastasia.

They made a pretty good movie about that with Yul Brenner, Ingrid Bergman and Helen Hayes years ago.  Like Bitcoins with no identifiable owner, who gets the Czar's fortune now that no one can rightfully claim it? Putin, again?

Then there was the famous Life magazine photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt of the sailor dipping and kissing a startled nurse in Times Square when the news of Japan's surrender hit the billboard news scroll.

Since the photo does not show the nurse's face, there were always a few women who put themselves in the frame as the lips that were kissed by the U.S. Navy. Eventually, I think someone was authenticated as the nurse in the photo.

And then was have James J. Kimble, associate professor of communication at Seton Hall who set out years ago to try and authenticate the source of the Rosie poster. After taking six years of on-and-off effort, Mr Kimble, like the fictional Richard Kimble who finally catches up to the one-armed man who killed his wife, finds that the photo below of a wartime defense plant female worker at an industrial lathe was Naomi Parker Fraley.

The 1942 photo is of course black and white, but the unmistakable bandana is atop her head. Women of that era working in the defense plants had to keep their hair tied back, or up, so as not to get caught in the machinery. I remember one newsreel story that told the tale of the 1940s movie actress Veronica Lake being asked to choose a different hairstyle that if imitated by the women would not put their locks in danger of pulling the worker's head into the machine.

When you read the obit you learn that Mr. Kimble was able to authoritatively identify the above photo as that of Naomi Parker Fraley working in a Almeda, California Naval Air Station machine shop. The photo was widely circulated in newspapers of the era. It shows Naomi, looking like the 21-year-old cutie that she was, operating an industrial lathe. Despite the bandana and the sackcloth dress and sensible shoes she's wearing, it is easy to see what caught the photographer's eye.

Can an obituary have a happy ending? Well, consider that Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who passed away in 2010 went to the grave thinking she really was Rosie the Riveter in J. Howard Miller's poster, a poster designed for Westinghouse as a shop safety poster, but one that found a higher calling.

And think of Naomi Parker Fraley, pictured below, underneath the Rosie poster. She is seen posing in 2016!, when it was acknowledged she was the Rosie in the poster, looking waaay beyond the "remains of a fine looking woman about her."

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Connected World

'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' was on Turner the other night. I've never watched the whole movie, but I remember when the musical was a big success on Broadway.

The musical was made into a 1964 movie, so it is certifiably an old movie at this point, and an old form of entertainment, play, song and dance. A musical. Lots of dance.

Debbie Reynolds stars in the movie, and Ms. Reynolds was certainly in the news recently for having died the day after her daughter Carrie Fished passed away. Hearts can break.

Those of the age that have Social Security checks on direct deposit know Debbie's story quite well. When I've watched the bar room dance scene I marvel at the continuity of the dancing—the sheer length of the scene and the energy exuded.

It always reminds me of what my friend's father, Sidney Piermont, a CBS producer said in the 60s of how a woman got into show business. You had to be a triple threat. You had to sing, dance and act. And certainly Debbie Reynolds and others filled that bill.

The musical/play and subsequent movie is based on a historic figure, Margaret Brown, who did survive the sinking of the Titanic, and who used her wealth and social position for survivor causes, as well as women's causes. She would have had a black dress on the other night if she were still alive.

Margaret was never known in real life as Molly, but show business can take liberties. Watching parts of the movie again the other night I took a further interest in Molly Brown and did the usual Google/Wikipedia thing.

I found out she passed away in 1932 and is buried in Holy Rood cemetery here on Long Island. Holy Rood is a Catholic cemetery and is where one of the victims of the shootings at Empire on September 16, 2002 is buried. Isabel was a co-worker, and I've written extensively about the event, although beyond some small references, none of which has appeared here.

I just got finished corresponding with a Wall Street Journal reporter, Rachel Feintzeig, who wrote a recent informative article about suicides in the workplace and the aftermath.

Ms. Feintzeig was nice enough to answer my inquiry that she would be interested in reading what I summarized in 2005. Within a few days she responded that she read the "harrowing story."

Since Holy Rood is really not far from where I live, I have already visited Isabel's grave site. Her birthday is in May, so on my next visit I am now going to find where Margaret (Molly) Brown is also buried.

We really do live on a Mobius strip.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Side Effects

Being a man, I like to sometimes take my chances and tell people, "all men are alike; but side effects may vary."

I've been doing this for a while, so it is not anything new due to recent movements that are in the news these days. I have no idea if this might be characterized as being in touch with my "feminine side," whatever that is. I like to think it appropriately fits with great comedic timing into the conversation that might be swirling around at the time. Of course, since I'm retired and my wife still works, I find there is very little conversation swirling around me at any one time. I need a talking cat to get a daytime dialogue going.

Short of that, there is of course this blog which allows me to converse with whomever happens to trip along these postings. Even there, I get very few comments, so it's more like I'm talking to myself, but I don't mind. I get along with myself quite well, and seldom disagree with me.

I just caught up to Tuesday's NYT Science section and the sub-section on page 2 labeled 'Observatory: Findings, Events and More.' The editors made some format changes, and have introduced some large photos and capsule-size accompanying stories. Perhaps you caught this section about penguins.

The color photo is great. It shows several penguins  cuddling up to their newborns. The adult penguins tower over the babies, and with their heads drooping downward the adults look like they're trying to find their contact lenses on the surface of the ice.

The headline beneath this photo goes: 'Sure Penguins Are Great Dads, but There are Some Gray Areas.' Sound like something I've been saying? Sort of.

The short article tells us that male emperor penguins are "famous for going without food for months while they mate and then shelter a solitary egg from the winter winds. When it comes to heroic dads, they are hard to be outdone."

Apparently the habits of these warm-hearted dads in the bitter cold of Antarctica became the subject of an extremely popular 2005 documentary, 'March of the Penguins.'

But now there is perhaps contradictory evidence that maybe the males are not so selfless. A 1998 observation by a team led by Gerald L. Kooyman, a marine biologist at the University of California, San Diego reports that the team members were surprised to see penguins swim past their ship as they arrived at Cape Washington, Antarctica. The team reported the penguins were taking breaks from their breeding duties to go fishing. They found tracks marking the ground from the breeding area to the water, suggesting they were going AWOL for a bit.

(There is no explanation why an observation from 1998 is just now hitting the paper, or why the documentary might not have mentioned it. There are strange things done in the frigid sun.)

Who knows? Like most guys, they said they were going fishing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Swearing Saves Horse Racing

Usually it is something in a newspaper article that causes me to take to posting a blog. It started with obituaries, but has since expanded greatly to anything in a newspaper. I don't think I've ever been motivated by a Tweet, and certainly not a video Tweet. Until now.

I don't know how to link to the video directly, but if you go to @joedrape, or @toddschrupp on Twitter you will easily find the video, even easier at Todd's site because it is a pinned Tweet, so it appears at the top of all the Tweets. Todd picked it up from @losalracing. (Los Alamos racing)

Todd describes the video as an example of what anyone who goes to the track knows when they are watching a race being televised live on the screen: there is always one person who is louder that all the other patrons, no matter how few are watching the race.

The patrons in the video can all be assumed to have a financial stake in the race to some degree. The black fellow on the right, who is clearly the loudest of those watching the screen, and who is pounding his hand with a rolled up Racing Form as if he is hitting the horse like the jockey is hitting the horse with the whip, is rooting the loudest and hardest, and who, when the race is over and he obviously didn't win, has some unkind things to say before walking away in frustration.

A closer look at the video shows that the patron in the checkered shirt is applying what all horse players will recognize as body english in an attempt to make his horse pull ahead of the others and win the bet for him. Tilt your viewing angle and you can make it appear that you've won. This is exactly the look bowlers have as they try and redirect the ball they just bowled into a better part of the alley so as to strike the desired pins. Body english at the bowling alley or the racetrack exerts no gravitational force on the outcome, but it does make you feel good if the outcome does go your way.

I know of one fellow who was asked by his constant betting buddy why didn't he yell at the horses and jockeys as the race was being run? His reply was simple. "Because they can't hear me."

There is a story in today's weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal that basically says cursing can be good for you. The front page teaser to the story on C3 goes: 'Yes, dammit, a little swearing can be surprisingly beneficial.'

In 'Gone with the Wind,' Clark Gable, as Rheet Butler, says what instantly become the best movie line to date, when he tells Vivian Lee's Scarlett that he doesn't "give a damn" at the close of  the film. Thinking of that example, and the smirk on Rhett's face, you'd have to agree that a little 1939 swearing did make Rhett feel a lot better. The audience certainly liked it as well.

'Gone with the Wind 'is not mentioned in the article which is really an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Dr. Emma Byrne, 'Swearing Is Good for You' to be published on January 23rd by W.W. Norton.

Dr. Byrne has some incredibly delightful nuggets in her essay, all the more delightful because her essay is published the day after President Trump is said to have categorized some countries as "shitholes." Dr, Byrne's book should be the one flying off the shelves when it is published.

Consider these excerpts from the essay:

"...swearing eases pain, it would seem to work through our emotions, heightening confidence, increasing aggression, and making us more resilient."

"swearing acts as an analgesic."

"It is an escalation signal to give someone space before violence ensuses."

Dr. Bryne's essay has no examples of people at he racetrack. But watch the video again and see how the loudest person is left alone, especially after his diatribe at the result, which clearly didn't go in his favor.

And my god, what about the statements about swearing making us more resilient and acting as an analgesic?

All this helps explain why so many of us goddamn horseplayers keep coming back to the scene of their last defeat. We may not be showing up at the track in person in numbers like we used to, but Dr. Bryne helps explain why you can't seem to get rid of us and why there is still horse racing, which logically, makes no sense whatsoever.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

How Good Is This?

How much better than this can it get for Dr. Emma Byrne who has a book coming out January 23rd titled, "Swearing Is Good for You" that her essay in today's Wall Street Journal—basically excerpts from her book—is just two days after President Trump's categorization that some countries are "shitholes" and the mainstream media prints a word starting with "shit" in their articles and tells us in many, many words why they are printing the word?

Dr. Byrne's essay has some absolutely delicious nuggets that go:

"...swearing eases pain, it would seem to work through our emotions, heightening confidence, increasing aggression, and making us more resilient."

"swearing acts as an analgesic."

"It is an escalation signal to give someone space before violence ensuses."

Now everyone is saying something that until now was never in mainstream print. And while it might seem everyone is acting angrily to the utterance, they are at the same time feeling better for acting angrily. Dr. Bryne is right.

If anyone has been a follower of this blog over the years you might have noticed that politics is basically never a subject. Too many other people do that. Why add to it? But when the president of the United states complains that immigration to this country seems to come from "shithole countries" an exception will be made.

Never mind the choice of words. Why would you expect immigration to come from non-"shithole" countries? If you are of a right mind, who the hell wouldn't want to leave a "shithole" country if they could? If I'm in a "shithole" I like to get out of it. Like the motel my wife booked us into when we visited our daughter in college a lifetime ago in Rochester. Online, the place seemed fine. But a stroll though the parking lot on our arrival revealed a few cars that looked sketchy, and one in particular with the vanity plates 'SILKYONE.'

Without going into great details, needless to say I was kept awake by a four-hour (midnight - 4 am) card game being played in the adjoining room by what I could easily tell was a group of black woman (SILKYONE herself?) who weren't necessarily loud, but who you could not help overhearing raising and checking because they skimped on the sheetrock when they built the place.

If that motel were a country it was certainly a shithole I wanted to leave. And we did.

Why don't we get immigration from Norway? Because enough of their residents obviously feel the place is not so much of a "shithole" that they are willing to pack up, head for a place where Norwegian is not really spoken in many places and start over. Never mind that we don't eat what they eat, which when it comes to a fish dish of theirs, lutefisk, I don't know why there wouldn't be more people who would be willing to take the chance on a diet of our burgers.

Why don't we seem to get people from Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Lichtenstein and some other hard to place countries? Probably because they are not "shitholey" enough for the residents to want to start a mass migration from.

The Donald, ever one to miss the point, does not more proudly exclaim that there is little immigration from this country, despite all the entertainers who tell us they are headed for Canada but keep showing up on 'Saturday Night Live' or performing in Las Vegas.

The corollary is that we must not be enough of "shithole" country to spark mass migration to some place else.

Maybe it is the burgers.

Certainties in Life

At some time, if you haven't already, you will meet the person who will tell you there are two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. I'm here to tell you the list should be three things: I will hear a Carole King sing a song within minutes of tuning in SiriusXM radio's Channel 32, 'The Bridge.'

You don't subscribe to SiriusXM radio? Then you are only guaranteed the first two things. Your third guarantee, if there is one for you, is something else.

SiriusXM radio's Channel 32, 'The Bridge' plays a list of mostly 70s, 80s music that appeals to people like myself who don't like it too loud, too metallic, or too filled with lyrics that are unintelligible. Thus, artists like Carole King, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Jim Croce, John Denver and many others like that are played.

Carole King's music is fine, but it is the most frequently heard in the time, whatever time that is, that I'm listening to 'The Bridge.' I've taken to calling the station 'The Carole King Station.'

How a song selection of hers can so coincide with whenever I start to listen to the station is spooky. I have no idea if there are other artists who pop up first for other people. I only know what happens when I start to listen. I've mentioned this to others, and they have agreed with me that the station is 'The Carole King Station.' They do seem to hear her songs often, just perhaps not as soon as they tune in.

I've dabbled in statistics and probability, but cannot assign a probability, or chance that Carole King will be the first song up for anyone tuning in, and that my probability of hearing a Carole Kind song first up is higher. I am an outlier.

I remember reading years ago that Bill Gates had a pin, or transmitter that he designed and wore that when he walked into a certain room he would start to hear the music he programmed to hear. Classical in one room, something else in another room.

I have no idea of how this worked out for Bill. Or even if he stuck with it. I haven't heard of such a device being marketed, so something kept it from being offered to the masses.

Not too long ago I did have some dental work done that resulted in a gold filling being inserted in a back molar. All elements transmit some kind of wavelength. And since gold was the object of desire of Kings, I am now convinced that because of this gold filling I am destined to hear Carole King's music within minutes of tuning in to 'The Bridge.'

My theory accounts for not hearing Nat King Cole music because King is not his surname. It is the only explanation I have. It is my tooth and I'll believe what I want.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Who Can You Trust?

Over half a century ago Johnny Carson had a television game show, 'Who Do You Trust.' Ed McMahon was Johnny's sidekick even then. Aside from it being a precursor to Johnny and Ed teaming up for decades on the 'The Tonight Show' the title should have been taken as a cautionary warning for all to pay attention to as life is navigated through.

I had heard Clifford Irving has passed away at 87, but I hadn't yet caught up to the NYT obituary until just now. I sometimes fall behind in reading the papers. Being behind in reading the papers can have advantages. Things that were worrisome on a given day, or in a given week, lose their importance when left to simmer for a week or so. Just wait, the weather will change. All the worry can go away when you're behind.

The disadvantage however is when I glance at the TV listings and tell myself I want to watch, or DVR a certain show. A show that has now aired perhaps as much as two weeks ago. I try to really skip the TV section when I'm significantly behind.

You really have to be of a certain age to know who Clifford Irving was. When your fame is achieved when you're in your early forties, and you pass on when you're nearly 90, there is more than a generation of people who don't know who you were.

I always like the idea of what Cliff did: fooled the publisher McGraw-Hill into believing that he had achieved exclusive access to the ultra-reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes and was now able to produce a definitive, authorized biography. It was big news, and it earned Cliff big bucks in advances.

It was all a hoax, but it played on everyone's insatiable curiosity of Howard Hughes's life. I loved the story as it unfolded, and got some joy out of the fact that one of the minor players that were in the Irving retinue was a saucy nightclub singer Baroness Nina van Pallandt.

Nina is still with us at 85. She was Clifford Irving's mistress at the time of the hoax and received her share of publicity. Cliff it turns out was married six times before he shuffled off, so it is probably safe to assume he never slept alone at anytime. Except of course, I'll also assume, when he spent time in prison for the fraud.

The Richard Gere movie 'The Hoax' is worth watching for historical reasons and to watch a hoax unfold with near perfection. And to also see the casting lineup that included Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Eli Wallach and Julie Delpy as Nina.

Aside from being a New Yorker of a certain age, you have to be a somewhat keen-eyed, cynical one who delights in word play that remembers the McGraw-Hill building on Sixth Avenue that had the branch of a bank on its ground floor: The Irving Trust Company.

Who do you trust?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Robert Mann, 97, Founding First Violinist of the Juilliard Quartet

Margalit Fox's obit byline hasn't been seen much of lately. Apparently she's been assigned to updating and adding to the pre-written obit pile. These are the obits that are nearly done. They just await the subject to pass on before the rip cord can be pulled and they can float onto the page. Sometimes years can pass by before a pre-written obit can be pressed into publication. Thus, an update is always in order when they finally do.

A Margalit Fox obit can be a bit like trying to find Al Hirschfeld's daughter's name Nina somewhere in one of his drawings. The hair is usually a good place to look, but Nina can be anywhere.

So when I saw Ms. Fox had an obit in today's NYT I was prepared not to look for 'Nina' in her text, but rather some kind of spin, or very unique combination of words that would make it a Margalit Fox obit.

It wasn't front and center, but it was there. As a kid, Robert Mann had a violin teacher his parents engaged for $1.50 a lesson. Robert's lesson with the teacher started when he was 9, but by the time he was 11 the teacher, who it turns out was an alcoholic, was shot and killed, an event that Ms. Fox described as "an actuarially unorthodox end for a classical musician." The Fox jot.

I agree. Line up a list of occupations in one column, with cause of death in another column, and my guess is the probability of a classical musician's cause of death being lined up with a homicide by gunshot will not be great. It will probably even be "off-the chart" at the low end.

Years and years ago I heard of a very posh restaurant in the city, Monsignor, that was staffed with at least one strolling violin player. We used to meet a fellow at the racetrack, our older mentor Les, who would usually spot someone's chauffeur, Nobby, at the track. Who Nobby drove for, I have no idea. I never met Nobby directly, but Les always told us that after the track Nobby would be outside Monsignor while his boss and his party were inside eating.

One Saturday evening I happened to pass by Monsignor at the height of what would be the dinner hour. There was a small fleet of double-parked limos idling at the curb, waiting for the owners to finish up their meal. I have no real knowledge that Monsignor might have been a mob joint, but at least one of the patrons favored the race track, because Nobby was always spotted at Aqueduct or Belmont by Les.

Thinking of it now, in the context of Margalit's obituary on Robert Mann today and the story about his violin teacher, it is completely possible that the strolling violin player's life at Monsignor could have been in jeopardy, especially if he owed too much money for too long to the wrong people, or, if he got upset at having to play the same thing over and over, and registered that compliant to the wrong people.

Of course there was a famous movie about a pair of musicians whose lives were in danger, those played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in 'Some Like it Hot,' especially after they witnessed a mob rub out in a Chicago garage. But come to think of it, they escaped harm. They were only jazz musicians.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Vote Is In

2017 is in the books. Time to gather the postings and make a single book, a book to join the others, which started in 2009. Thus, I've been at this nine years, and 2017 was a watershed year.

I created the most postings in 2017: 153. This brings my year-to-date total to 1,125 postings. A formidable number that shows continuity of effort. For some reason, I don't seem to suffer any writer's block.

My section of the county seems to have celebrated the end of 2017 and the start of 2018 with fireworks. For 10 minutes or so, it was like July 4th at midnight. This year it seemed a little more excessive than other years. I don't know if it had anything to do with President Trump. Registered Democrats are said to outnumber Republicans in the county, but who knows.

Hard to believe the residents can be happy about President Trump and his new tax bill. Being in a very highly taxed state, county and township, there can't be many, if any, whose taxes won't exceed the $10,000 threshold, therefore exposing more money to the adjusted gross income, thereby creating a higher tax obligation. Perhaps my celebrating neighbors are just bad and math and think they're going to still come out ahead.

The county residents who created lines at the Tax Receiver's office aren't bad at math. They wanted to prepay their real estate 2018 taxes and claim the deduction for 2017. So many people showed up to do this the story made the front page of the NYT. Alas and alack, the party-pooping IRS seems to have put the kibosh on this tactic. No soup for you. No loophole. Again.

All my yearly blog compilations have started with a dedication: to my muse, my family, my buddies at the racetrack. I've pretty much run out of family and close friends to make a dedication to. So, Time magazine makes a big deal out of its annual person, or entity-of-the-year cover, so why can't I make a big deal out of my announcement?

Lynne Truss dedicated 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation'...

To the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution. 

Therefore, I'm dedicating my 2017 collection to something even harder to understand than President Trump. I'm dedicating the collection...

For The Incomprehensible Apostrophe. Long May I  Remember How to Use It.

There are five postings in the 2017 that concern the apostrophe.  I even wrote to my very sometime pen pal Russell Baker asking him what his opinion was on apostrophes. I only get an answer sometimes to my correspondence with Mr Baker. He is a nonagenarian now, and in 2015 he answered one of my missives with a handwritten scrawl on a personalized piece of The New York Times Observer notepaper with his name in the lower right corner that went, "Now that I have attained senility I am exercising the old man's right to stop answering the mail. Best, Russell Baker."

(Notice, that even at 90, Mr. Baker uses the apostrophe correctly when writing ...old man's right...My goal in life: to continue to know how to use it.)

That acknowledgement and non-response was to a birthday card I sent him celebrating his turning 90. In December 2017 I sent him my latest blog entry concerning the apostrophe that was set off by the WSJ A-Hed piece on apostrophes, and their disappearance, basically due to texting. The symbol is beneath the top virtual keyboard, so it goes pretty much unused. It is a pain to get to, and that's if the texter even knows how to use it.

I am pretty sure Mr. Baker will continue to make good on his promise to now not answer his mail. I'm sure he has an opinion on apostrophes—I've already written about his response to my 2001 query on hyphens—he's just not going to share it with me.

I once read that after he left office, former president Ulysses.S. Grant commented he got way less mail once he stopped answering it.

Therefore, the 2017 collection is dedicated to the apostrophe. It leaves a good many of us speechless.