Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2020

There's a symmetry to the coming year. Two twos, two zeroes. Those New Year's glasses that many will soon be wearing will have two circular openings for the eyes. It's a perfect storm for celebrating a new decade.

Or is it really a new decade? Or, who cares if the numerologists and mathematicians will tell you the new decade really starts on 2021, just like the twenty-first century really stared on 2001, not 2000. No one cares.

Every year is a new decade if you count back from it by ten. Or, every year is a the start of a new decade id you define the starting year and then count ten.

And every good newspaper has a mathematician on their staff. The New York Times has Kenneth Chang who tries to unravel in easy-to-understand language the theorems that the leading mathematicians are solving. or what again is a prime number, and why they are important to encryption.

Not to be outdone, The Wall Street Journal has Eugenia Cheng who writes a bi-weekly column in the weekend edition, 'Everyday Math.' She once had a column on check digits. (Look it up.)

Saturday's column was 'Why a New Decade Feels Momentous.' Eugenia goes on to explain that the assignment of numbers to years is wholly arbitrary, something I've often thought about. Why can't it be 1956 to a seven-year-old boy in what we call 2019? I was seven in 1956, and still marvel that I was alive when Elvis became hugely popular, or the Chevy became a classic. A seven-year-boy is still seven no matter what year it is. For my father, it was 1922, and Warren Harding was president.

Fairly simple answer. We need year uniqueness. Can't have two or more 1956s. Think of coins, car models, calendars, documents, history books, newspapers, etc. It would too confusing. Sort of like a remake of a movie with the same name. Just the other day on Turner I found out there was a 1931 version of 'The Maltese Falcon', 10 years (a decade?) before the Bogart version.

Ms Cheng tells us "mathematicians and philosophers have various views about whether numbers "really" exist. I believe that they exist as ideas, which is enough for them to be useful to us."

The reason next year is a momentous sounding 2020 is that the Western world decided to use Jesus of Nazareth as a reference point for counting years. The fact that we have 10 fingers also matters."

Unmentioned, but certainly true, is that the Jewish calendar does not resemble the Julian calendar. Where we see 2019, the Jewish calendar sees 5780. You're not going to see the ball drop in Times Square tonight and see 5781 light up.

Wikipedia tells us:

The Julian calendar was the 365-day calendar that Julius Caesar made official in 46 B.C. It replaced a calendar based on lunar cycles. The Julian calendar provided for a leap year with an extra day every four years. The adjustment ordered by Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582 subtracted 10 days from the calendar.

And boy, was everyone pissed about that. They all felt they were going to live 10 days less, therefore dying earlier. No mention how the actuaries felt about that one.

Eugenie shows her math chops by telling us that because our number system has a base of ten, that makes next year 2020, where if our base was 12 (if we had 12 fingers) next year would be 1204.

I was always pretty good at math, but I stink when the base becomes something other than 10. I'll take Ms. Cheng's word for it that next year would be 1204. It would also be something wildly different if our system was based on say seven. It all starts at the beginning.

Every year when taking that day trip into Vermont on the dark day of Saratoga racing, we go into the Northshire Book Store in Manchester and buy a calendar created by Warren Kimble, a local artist somewhat in the Norman Rockwell vein, for the coming year. Even though it's August, the calendars for the next year are already out.

Whatever year it was, when I presented the calendar to the even older fellow than me at the register I remarked that I wonder, "how high do the numbers go." He didn't get it as first, but then did.

So, next year is 2020. The only 2020 there will be, a decade starter, or ender, or not. How bad can the year have been if you're alive at the end of it writing a blog posting?

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Ancestry.com

No doubt because of computer search engines, much is being offered to those who wish to try and find out who their ancestors were. Based on one ad, someone claims to be an astronomically distant relation of George Washington. And why not, if he slept in as many places as he lay claim to in the famous "Washington slept here" boast. He may not have always slept alone, and Martha may not have always been with him. Men.

I truly have no interest in any of these services. I'm fairly well-informed as to who my grandparents were on either side, and where they came from, etc. I have no need to find out I'm the 9th generation offspring of a Spanish sea captain who brought slaves over to the New World from Liberia. (Perhaps you don't want to brag about that one.)

Not that I can't find out something new, but it has to come through a personal recollection, or a newly found document. And one such document has now come to my attention.

My cousin's wife Janice in San Diego for some reason seems to have a good many of the family photos and documents. She long ago created the website to honor my uncle, my cousin's father, and  the father-in-law she never met, who was the first Greek-American to graduate from Annapolis and who became a career Naval officer, retiring in 1959 as a Rear Admiral. He was a fairly highly decorated commander of destroyers in the Pacific during WW II and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

But not all her family photos and documents relate to my uncle George. Whatever made her dig further, she came up with a wedding photo from 1951 of George and his second wife Maria, my cousin's mother, and therefore my aunt.

George is front and center with Maria, flanked by his mother and father, my grandparents, and several others in the back row that I helped identify.

I had never seen the photo, but there in the back row were my mother and father, (my father was George's younger brother) and two other brothers, Angelo (the oldest) and Jimmy (the youngest). Jimmy's wife might be one of the two women alongside Jimmy, but I have no memory of her, or even her name. These two other women still remain unidentified. I had never seen the photo.

As interesting as the photo was, the other emailed piece was even more interesting. It is a photostat of a U.S. Department of Labor, Naturalization Service form filled out by my grandfather, John. It is dated July 29, 1926. My guess is the form was needed to be sworn to before he could be declared a citizen. I've seen family naturalization papers, but never a form that preceded the granting of citizenship.

I now know the stated birthday of my grandfather, March 6, 1886, and where the family lived in 1926, which by then consisted of my grandparents and the four brothers, (the last of whom was born in 1916), one of whom was my father. I had always heard before the 18th Street address above the flower shop at 202 Third Avenue, that I remember, they lived at 32nd Street and Second Avenue, a building my father once pointed out to me. I have no idea if it is still there.

In 1926 they apparently lived at 134 2nd Avenue, hard by St Mark's Place. I always heard of the shoe shine parlor (hats blocked as well) and then flower shop they owned at St. Mark's Place, so I guess then they either lived above the business, or nearby.

If you've ever had a reason to view a NYC birth certificate from the early 20th-century you would see there were choices pre-printed on the form as to what your father's occupation was. I always remember seeing "sawyer" as an occupation possibility. I forget the others listed.

The U.S. Department of Labor form reveals that apparently that government agency ran the Naturalization Services, not the State Department, as I would have expected.

The date of my grandfather's entry into the country is noted: March 2, 1903, coming out of the Greek port of Piraeus, on the vessel "Unknown." Apparently you didn't need to know everything to become a citizen. If he was only 17 when he came here he was not yet married. But he was soon after, because the first son was born in 1907, or so.

From another document I've seen, my grandfather went back to Greece to retrieve his 18-year-old brother Peter in 1912. Together they were business partners for life.

But the best part is the last part: what was being sworn to.

"it is my bona fide intention to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly to (filled in) The Present Government of Greece of whom I am now a subject..."

"I arrived at the port of New York..." there's more to attest to:

"I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to permanently reside therein: SO HELP ME GOD."

So in 1926 the United States was naturally worried about anarchists, because they tended to blow things up. But worrying about polygamists is a fear I never knew the country had.

We've come a long way.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Hard to Believe

If Donald Trump is Maureen Dowd's punching bag, Ms. Dowd is my favorite punching bag when it comes to her work ethic. At the end of the week that President Trump is impeached by the House, she has no column in Sunday's paper. This is like Derek Jeter taking himself out of the lineup in the seventh game of the World Series. It's unfathomable.

How do you write—when she does write—all year about the president, and then are MIA when he's impeached? Okay, impeachment was a forgone conclusion as soon as he was sworn in, but not to even phone something in—seemingly how most columns go—from the airport, or where she hides, is an abdication of her oath as a reporter. The Pulitzer should be returned.

Talk about something that is anti-climactic. The third impeachment, coming so fairly soon after the second, is just another political blip on the horizon. Talk about a story that has a short news cycle.

I missed the chance last week to write about Ms. Dowd's December 15th column, where she introduced us to the word Apollyon. That time she gave a link. The word, from Ms. Dowd's word-a-day-gift apparently, means "the Devil as destroyer." And now no column following the impeachment, and therefore no great word-of-the-day. What is the world coming to?

I'm including the comment I tried to make last week about Ms. Dowd's column. It was apparently too long and was not accepted. I felt hurt.

Maureen, you're at your best when you're not happy with anyone. And rightly so, there are plenty of misdeeds on all sides of the political and cable aisles that if they were fiber optic cable, the entire earth could get broadband for free. A U.K. campaign promise for the Brits. 

Nice to see that the words you use that I don't know the meaning of, such as Apollyon, have a link in the online piece.  That word-of-the-day gift that we hope someone will give you again in 2020. Once you latch onto a calendar-type gift, you should never let go. It's an easy gift to remember to give. It keeps on giving.

My initial thought was that Apollyon was a character on Outlander, Harry Potter, or Games of Thrones. It's nice to become better informed. 

Sarah Lyall the other day wrote how clinically depressed all the Democrats are that Trump is president. Typical NYT claptrap piece about the psychological and mental angst people are enduring over his administration. Did we miss an uptick in the suicide rate?

The Democratic majority in Congress is trying to tell us they all took the high road, and have only reluctantly taken up impeachment proceedings because they want to tell their grandchildren they acted with valor when they inevitably ask, (or so they believe) "Pop Pop, Gran Mama, what did YOU do when the orange blob was ruining everyone's life? Can we blame the falling birth rate on the Administration? Let's try.

If Nancy Pelosi tells us she doesn't hate Trump, that she prays for him every night, my thoughts are I hope that someday you smile. Perhaps even laugh. 

As Dennis Farina told the worry-wort in 'Midnight Run,' "Sidney, have a cream soda."
And of course since last week we've had the actually impeachment vote. But with Speaker Pelosi's delay in sending it to the Senate, we don't have closure. What now emerges is if the bill of impeachment isn't delivered to the Senate, then the president is not really impeached. At least that's where the law professors are squaring off now.

Is it possible the NYT might have to create a large souvenir headline that tells us: TRUMP NOT IMPEACHED. I'd be sure to save that copy as well.

It's like that Miller Lite beer commercial of years ago where Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner square off that Miller Lite tastes "great." "No, It's less filling." This is going to turn into a right-to-life debate. Conception, or months later? Argue away.

If the bill of impeachment dies a slow death and expires before reaching the Senate, we will miss the spectacle of Chief Justice Roberts perhaps wearing a robe with chevrons, like William Rehnqusit did for President Clinton's impeachment. Chief Justice Rehnquist looked like a very senior college varsity member, perhaps in rowing, presiding over the proceedings. Image is everything when it's historic.

My hope is Ms. Dowd is not too distressed about the prospect that the Senate will never reach a two-thirds majority and complete the impeachment process and actually remove the president from office.

Quite the opposite appears to be more likely. The word impeachment carries such gravitas when it means an indictment has been returned by the grand jury. John Gotti got plenty of those. President Trump will in all great statistical likelihood get re-elected in 2020, despite the impeachment label. His base loves him even more when others don't.

My hope in all this is that Ms. Dowd emerges from wherever she is and allows herself to write about it. I miss learning new words.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 21, 2019

KIA

Ever since I started taking out In Memoriam tributes myself in the NYT following the shootings at Empire BlueCross and BlueShield that took the lives of two of my co-workers on September 16, 2002, I've been gazing at that section in the NYT on the obituary page.

Nearly all of them are straightforward remembrances for someone who is still missed. The Johnny Cash song, "I Still Miss Someone" always starts to play in my head as I scan the few that are there every day. You can always figure out the milestone of why the sentiment appears on the day it does. It is always a birthday, or an anniversary of the passing.

But sometimes there are ones that stand out even further. Take the one that was accompanied by a photo of a NYC police officer killed in the line of duty, Thomas J. Gargan, 70 years since he lost his life while responding to a burglary.

And then there was this one a few days ago. Mergenthaler, George Ottmar, August 5, 1920-December 18, 1944 KIA in the Battle of the Ardennes near Eschweiler, Luxembourg.

KIA. Killed in action. Unsigned. This is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the massive German offensive that took weeks to repel, and was the first time the Germans were on the offensive toward the Allies. The Germans nearly won the battle. It is the 75th anniversary of young Mergenthaler's death.

There are a few books out there now on the battle. 'Home Front to Battlefront An Ohio Teenager in World War II' by Frank Lavin, is a collection of the letters from the author's father, Carl, born in 1924. They trace his entire time in the army, from enlistment, the Battle of the Bulge, to discharge.

There is a forward by Henry Kissinger, who was also in the U.S. Army at the time, and was in the same regiment and battalion, but not the same company as Carl. They did not know each other. Frank Lavin's dedication is one that can be made to any group of veterans: "To the men of Company L: We are here today because they were there yesterday."

George Mergenthaler wasn't was lucky as Carl Lavin. With a name as Teutonic as his, he may not have even been American.

No matter. Someone still misses someone.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Flushing Creek

Corey Kilgannon (@coreykilgannon) has done it again: provided the vibration that loosens another chunk of memory. So many pieces of my memory these days are hitting the page that perhaps there will eventually be no more pieces. The memory vein will cease to yield.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, Mr. Kilgannon is a Metro reporter for the NYT who lately has been writing stories that jar my memory.

Mr. Kilgannon is from Nassau county, and to his credit, he's been able to convince his editors that Queens, despite being an "Outer Borough"—outer, although connected to Manhattan by two bridges a vehicular tunnel, along with several rail tunnels—that there are stories that can come from there. This is refreshing, and just another example of how the NYT has become a bit less starchy and is willing to see where their MetroCard can take them.

Quite honestly, there was a bit of a preview to today's story about Willets Point when Mr. Kilgannon a few weeks ago posted via Twitter some color photos of workers from the Willets Point section that is the subject of an online and print story in today's paper. Another good reason to buy a newspaper. I felt there was a story coming, but didn't know what. No one troops around Willets Point junk yards without something in mind, either legal or illegal.

Willets Point is not just a story today, it is a photo essay, in a separate 12-page section, with text by  Mr. Kilgannon and Andrea Salcedo, and photos—tintype photos—by photographers from the Penumbra Foundation, Geoffrey Berliner and Jolene Lupo, and Todd Hessler from the NYT.

There is a section that  explains the tintype process that renders black and white photos that develop a positive image almost instantly with the scene reversed, like a negative. Thus, when you look at the photos in the section, wording, etc is mirror image. The workers and owners from the section are mechanics who work within the junkyards fixing nearly anything automotive.

The photos render the subjects in such a nostalgic light that you have to remember they are photos taken in 2019. Without the words, you might think you're gazing at something from the 1930s, nowhere near Citifield, the National Tennis Center and jet aircraft overhead from LaGuardia airport

This section of Queens, Willets Point has long been filled with junk yards—salvage yards—and repair shops. But the acreage is shrinking. Development is finally coming.

Once upon a time the stacks of junked autos approached at least two stories, maybe higher. Cranes were used to stack the autos. There were once so many salvage yards that the owners encroached onto city property and made a street disappear under junked metal and plastic.

The city got after them, and pushed the yards back to their proper boundaries, but the presence was still there. Police detectives occasionally checked the inventories for stolen vehicles.

Mr. Kilgannon's and Andrea Salcedo's text is about the repair shops that are populated with a decidedly immigrant population, whose continued presence in the area is facing extinction. Sixty acres of land, near commuter and subway transportation, is what makes city planners and developers want in their Christmas stockings.

But for me, it is the map that is part of the story that opens the vault. It is a great map that clearly shows the bodies of water that surround the area: Flushing Creek, and the much larger Flushing Bay.

Since I grew up and lived about two miles east of all this until I was 43, I am familiar with the history.

I've seen maps that for some reason have relabeled Flushing Creek as Flushing River. This is like calling the Knicks a basketball team. The word river can give you the connotation that something flows. Flushing Creek doesn't flow. It is a mass of sulfurous jell-o so rancid and goppy that you wouldn't need to be the son of God to walk on it.

The section of Flushing I grew up in is called Murray Hill, two blocks from the Murray Hill train Station on the LIRR Port Washington line, a train station whose platform is so short that only four cars of any train that stops there open. There is no way to make the platform longer.

Why there is even  a stop there might be a mystery, but I think it has to do with something regarding a president of the LIRR and someone connected with the Murray estate, a large tract of land that once housed a mansion, which, to no surprise, Mrs. Murray lived in. Long gone and is now the Murray Hill Shopping Center.

Ever since the 1950s I would take the LIRR train into the city to the family flower shop with my father. In those days, the LIRR rolling stock had windows that actually opened, inasmuch as there was no air conditioning. It's not quite true that the cars were so old there were arrow marks in the sides from Indian attacks, but they never looked new to me.

When the train cleared Flushing Main Street the next stops west could have been Elmhurst, or even Corona, two stops that no longer exist. The route went right through Willets Point and the Flushing Creek was visible. If you didn't see it, you certainly smelled it. And there in the creek was a fair sized rowboat, or dinghy that was tied to a piling. It was dissolving in the goo.

Low tide was the smelliest. You wouldn't think a strip of rancid water could be affected by the moon, but it was. I passed that spot for decades and always would marvel that the boat, or what was still left, was still there. Remarkable to me.

Even after I moved away in 1992, there were times I had to take that train to say Bayside. Passing that spot always afforded a view of what was now an even further shrinking of that boat—but I could tell it was still there!

Mr. Kilgannon's piece tells the story of the city's saga to get the junkers out. I've heard about plans for the area for decades, but the land is still undeveloped. The problem with that area of Queens, Willets Point and College Point, is that the water table is very high. The ground can't support much weight on it.

They did mange to build Shea Stadium and now Citifield and now the tennis stadiums with no apparent sinking. They seem to have licked the problem.

Umpteen years ago, just east of the area there was a small airport, Flushing Airport, used by small private planes. Development was stalled for decades because they couldn't build on he land. Again, they seem to have solved the problem and that area of College Point is quite developed, even to the point of being where the NYT is printed.

As a kid I remember the landfill that was used to build LaGuardia airport had trouble keeping the control tower up. The tower sank. Eventually, that story too ended, and the control tower seems to be okay these days.

Rikers Island will soon be up for grabs. Nothing above 150', or someone's TV and sink will be coming onto your snack tray. As Roger Miller once sang: "everything changes a little and should; the good ain't forever, and the bad ain't for good."

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Kiwi Who Could Fly

I borrowed the title from I think a Sports Illustrated story about Peter Snell, the great middle distance runner from New Zealand who won three Olympic gold medals and broke seven world records. Peter Snell has now passed away at 80.

Usually I have high regard for the obits in the New York Times. Someone said they are the gold standard. And since I follow their obits religiously, I was surprised to learn from an Australian newswoman I follow (@justjenking) that one of her retweets was from Dr. Stephen Clarke (@StephenClarkeNZ), who on December 13 posted the obituary of Peter from a New Zealand newspaper. WTF as they say in Twitter code these days.

It is now December 16 and I just now see a simple AP obit? Didn't Frank Litsky leave an advance obit on Snell? A Tweet was made to Bill McDonald, Obituary Page Editor at the NYT informing him that Peter Snell has passed away.

Maybe it had an effect, because there is a bylined obit by Richard Goldstein online today. I guess Litsky never got around to it before he passed away.

In the early '60s I paid a lot of attention to track and field. I was a runner in high school. Never very good, but always willing. In later years I picked running up again doing road races, until 2010 when I stopped due to a bad back.

In the '60s there were six indoor track and field meets at Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue. I probably went to at least three of them a year. I never saw Peter Snell in these meets, and I'm not sure he ever competed at the old Garden, but I did see Jim Ryun once, who was booed because he couldn't break four minutes for the mile on the Garden's 11 laps-to-the-mile wooden track. Not fair. No one did in those days.

The Millrose Games of 1988 featured the men's Masters Mile with a field containing Frank Shorter, Jim Ryun, Peter Snell and others. These runners were all in their 40s by then, with Peter Snell at 49. The race can be seen on YouTube. Frank Shorter finished third behind the winner Web Loudat.

It's great to watch these guys, even at that  age with their antelope strides making yards of track disappear under their feet. The AP obit described Snell's stride as "so powerful he often scarred the tracks on which he ran, kicking up puffs of debris, especially on grass or cinder tracks."

Snell's double in the 1964, winning the 800 meter and the 1500 meter races was something no one had done since 1920, and something that no one has done since. Snell wasn't the only great runner to come from the Antipodes. There was Ron Clarke from Australia, who held world records at an ungodly number of middle distance, even records at a time trial, distance run over a set time.

In the 1964 Olympics Clarke was in the lead in the 10,000 meter race when Billy Mills from the United States caught sight of Clarke up ahead and detected he was starting to tighten up. Clarke did, and Billy Mills, a Marine and a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from South Dakota won, giving the U.S. a very unexpected gold medal. Ron Clarke finished third.

For all of Clarke's records, he never won an Olympic gold. There was a Kenny Noe Sports Illustrated story that told of Emile Zatopek, the great Czechoslovakian runner who in the 1952 Olympics won gold in the 5,000, 10,000 meters, and the marathon, the only person to ever do that, who met Clarke  and pressed into his hand one of his gold medals, telling him he should have a gold medal.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Deception

On weekends, there is a feature in the WSJ called 'Weekend Confidential' by Elizabeth Winkler. This past week the subject was a woman, Jonna Mendez, who worked for the CIA for 27 years in undercover service. She rose from secretarial duties to Chief of Disguises.

Ms. Mendez has been retired since 1993, but at 74 she is on the board of directors at the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. She had a hand in its design and planning. If Chief of Disguises sounds a bit vague, it's not. She was in charge of creating fake physical personas for agents to help in their infiltration of spy or terrorist cells, or creating body doubles to throw the suspicious off and throw a wrench in tailing a CIA agent. When a agent wasn't in undercover guise they were called in "true face."

Ms. Mendez took part in undercover assignments, once posing as an Afro-American woman in red stilettos, a disguise she loved.

At the outset of Ms. Winkler's story we are introduced to Ms. Mendez who is sitting in the Oval Office with her boss, Robert Gates, the Director of the CIA, Brent Sowcroft, the national security adviser. and President H.W. Bush.

Ms. Mendez tries to get President Bush to guess what see might have in store for him as a surprise to what the tech people at the CIA are doing. President Bush gives Ms. Mendez a studied once over, even standing up and circling her, but can't come up with she might be talking about.

She ten peels the mask off her face, telling Ms. Winkler she was doing what Tom Cruise did in 'Mission Impossible' long before Tom Cruise did it.

You have to think her boss, Director Gates was in on the presentation, because Ms. Mendez has entered the Oval Office, sat with the president and now shows her true face, which I'd have to guess doesn't match her real id card, but instead perhaps the one she came in with. Deception indeed.

Much is otherwise revealed in Ms. Mendez's interview with Ms. Winkler.

Ms. Mendez had many overseas assignments. She tells us at the height of the Cold War the Russians had 50,000 KGB agents in Moscow. That is way beyond the home attendance at several Knick games.

Ms. Mendez points out several items of deception as she takes Ms. Winkler on a tour through the Spy Museum. Lipstick that is a camera; a period in a text that is really a microdot that will reveal many lines of text; a hollowed out brick to accommodate dead drops.

She and the agent who would become her husband, Tony Mendez, went to Hollywood to study makeup and disguises. Unrevealed is if she could have really made Robert De Niro look more youthful in the 'The Irishman' when he gets his truck fixed by Joe Pesci. Or, if she could have made him look Irish. Details

Mr. Mendez was played by Ben Affleck in the movie 'Argo,' based on the exfiltration of six hostages held in the U.S. embassy in Iraq in 1980. The rescuers pretended to be a Canadian film crew.

But the best part might be what hope she holds out for every conspiracy theorist about President Trump's relationship with the Russians.

In all her assignments, particularly in East Berlin, she would guarantee the East German secret police, the Stasi, had planted listening devices and cameras in any hotel room she was staying in. The same would be true in Moscow.

She doesn't know where Donald Trump stayed in Moscow when he visited there before becoming president, but she is 100% certain the room was bugged, and if The Donald did anything in that room he'd rather not let the world to see, there is a tape of it somewhere. Was The Donald naughty or nice?

A comforting thought for many.

http:://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Monday, December 9, 2019

$1.19

The NYT reporter Corey Kilgannon (@coreykilgannon) is turning out to be a reliable muse for putting my memories into blog postings. His latest Tweet involves a photo taken from the outside of what it turns out is the last Tad's restaurant in NYC.

I didn't even know Tad's was even still around, and apparently after the start of 2020 will no longer be. I find it significant that Mr. Killgannon took a picture from the outside, since it probably means he didn't go in and order any food.

It's a great photo, pictured above, and almost gives you that old-timey feel for a place. And given that they've been around in NYC at my earliest memory since the very early '60s, they are an old-timey place.

Since the family flower shop was on 18th Street and 3rd Avenue, the Tad's Steaks that opened on 14th Street across from the Automat and the Con Ed building proved to be a natural attraction for my father to take me for something to eat.

He was a meat lover who incinerated steaks over a charcoal flame in the Flushing backyard, so a Tad's Steak cooked "to order' was an irresistible chance to get someone else to do the cooking.

At the time, Tad's was $1.19 for the steak, probably a potato of some kind, a salad, and piece of toasted garlic flat bread that to me seemed to be the best part of the offering. The steaks were cooked over a grill from a gas flame, and watching the steaks being arranged on sections of the grill according to how much they were getting cooked was part of the charm. It was almost like watching a pizza guy twirl the dough.

The "chef" would stab at the pieces of meat with a long handled pitch fork and shuffle them along the grill, You grabbed a red tray and waited for your order to be completed. My father would tell me of grandpa who would eat steak and eggs for breakfast.

Steak and eggs for breakfast was not a family secret to long life. Mt grandfather passed away at 76, and my father didn't get past 72. There is no extreme longevity in the family. At least not yet.

Tad's was not a regular place to eat, but we did eat there a few times. I don't know if it was the price increase to $1.29 that put the brakes on any continued meals. Imagine, changing a neon sign from $1.19 to $1.29.

They were steaks that came off the grill. And they were cooked. They were however barely edible, and should have come with shoelaces. It you ordered two, you could have a pair for footwear. And since the 14th street of that era was a bit of a dividing line between near-respectability and the poor fellows on the Bowery, if you saw someone wearing a pair of Tad's Steaks on their feet you could at least be assured their feet were protected.

You could eat a Tad's Steak. If your knife and fork exerted enough downward pressure you could saw off a few bits of something you could chew and swallow. With the side pieces, it wasn't a completely inedible meal.

Sometime in the mid-'70s my wife and I ate at a Tad's on Lexington Avenue. I think I did if for the nostalgia. Even then, I didn't realize they were still around. Later on, sometime in the '90s, my colleague and I laughed at an out-of-town IT contractor who did some work for us and was eager to know where the nearest Tad's Steaks was. We couldn't believe it. Someone wanted to eat there.

I have to think tourists became the customer base. The outlets that were still around were in tourist trafficked area. The New York Post story, linked above, tells the story of a couple from Finland who spent $67 on a meal for two, since they added a $22 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

I don't remember Tad's having a wine and beer license, bur I can imagine a couple from Finland feeling they were getting a good meal, even for $67, with wine. I remember watching a detective series set in either Finland, or Iceland and watching what the inhabitants there, especially north of the Arctic Circle, ate.

Eating at Tad's would be like eating at a fine NYC steak-house compared to the bony offerings depicted in that series.

Bon appetit.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Subway Map

Another good reason for buying a daily print paper is to see in this morning's NYT a full page devoted to the evolution of the subway map as we now know it. (A 1939 vintage subway map above is not in NYT story. Note World's Fair in Queens.)

The ability to print the maps shown in color of course enhances the presentation. There is also an online interactive version which for some reason is not linked or referred to in the story, but is available if you follow @emmagf on Twitter, the NYT mass transit reporter who has now been promoted to be the City Hall Bureau Chief and who now rides a different subway to work.

The full page depiction is great, but only goes as far back as 1972, a year I'm sure that predates Emma and most of the NYT Metro Desk reporters, but a year that hardly predates myself. My comment to Ms. Fitzsimmons is one she can understand coming from me: you didn't go back far enough.

The other morning I checked out Turner Movie Chanel (TMC) and was rewarded with Clark Gable at Hialeah in a 1937 movie titled 'Saratoga.' The movie had already started, but through the ability of the DVR I was able to record the movie from the start. Being a life-long horse player, I'm looking forward to a full viewing later.

The scene I caught was the Gable character, clearly a fast-talking bookmaker of the pre-parimutel era, (in a double-breasted suit with sharp labels, no checkered coat) sitting with someone else and discussing the upcoming day's races. The person sitting with Gable describes the wiles of a woman as someone "who double-crossed you like the 6th Avenue El."

Well, maybe a close second to Gable, who has laid the hypnotic desire in Walter Pidgeon to place  a $5,000 bet on a nag called Rest Her. Gable has apparently spent some time with Walter's girlfriend who is back at the hotel, and got her to convince Pidgeon, the pigeon that she's got a premonition that Rest Her is going to score big time.

Gable offers 7-1 odds to Pidgeon, who sits and watches the unfolding of the race, with Rest Her fading badly to finish last and who will likely only make it back to the barn, "just in time for dinner." Chicanery rules.

But the 6th Avenue El reference hits home. At one point there were elevated trains on 9th, 6th, 3rd and 2nd Avenues. I only remember the 3rd Avenue El that came down around 1955. The others were respectively demolished between 1938 and 1942.

My friend's father, who passed away in 1968, was born in 1902 near the 9th Avenue El in upper Manhattan. We remember him telling us it was one "high up there" line. At points, it looks like a roller coaster.

If you've ever seen photos of the 6th Avenue El wending its way through Herald Square you would know why the character sitting with Clark Gable remarks that is was crooked. It certainly was, as it would need to be if you understand how 6th Avenue and Broadway cross each other at Herald Square. (They still do, but now it's mostly a pedestrian plaza with bistro chairs and tables, a sometimes piano, and a permanent ping-pong table. Yes, a ping-pong table. And Mom always said you shouldn't play in the street. The times, they are a changin'.)

Somewhere in my collection of paper I have an old subway map that shows at least the 3rd and 2nd Avenue Els. The map is of course black and white. I also have photos of the 2nd and 3rd Avenue lines.

The 1972 map has been referred to as the Mondrian Map, as its straight colored lines can be seen to resemble his famous paintings. The map was a favorite depiction on t-shirts and coffee mugs, and I'm sure can be obtained at the Transit Museum gift shop.

That map resembled the 1930s map of the London subway. It's drawback was that it didn't show what was around the various stops. It really gave you no sense of say how to get to the Museum of Natural History.

All that was addressed in the 1979 and the 1998 versions. The current version is a true visual map of what's next to each stop, with the city's geographic terrain accurately depicted as well as the true shape of the subway lines.

You don't need an old map to pick out there are many "crooked" subway lines. Is it just my imagination that they seem most crooked in lower Manhattan, where the stock exchange, courts and City Hall are?

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Friday, December 6, 2019

Welcome to New York Sports

I know Michael Powell has been with the NYT for a bit now.  I've been reading pieces under his byline for just as long when they are about a sport I care about. And I care about the Mets.

I miss the daily 'Sports of the Times' column that originated from the minds of Arthur Daley, Red Smith, Dave Anderson and Robert Lipsyte. But Mike today, under the banner of 'Sports of the Times' 'proves he can be in their league.

Unless you've been heavily sedated, you should know by now that the ownership of the Mets is quickly headed toward a majority ownership by Stephen A. Cohen, a hedge fund billionaire and likely the model for Bobby Axelrod, of Axe Capital in the Showtime series 'Billions.'

Mike drops several nuggets in his piece telling us, "Cohen commands a great pile of stones in Greenwich, Conn.—a palazzo with more bedrooms and more bathrooms than you could count in this and another lifetime..."

"As Cohen is a raptor's raptor, I would bet a large sum of money I don't have that the Wilpons will quickly become potted plants..." They will no doubt be seen in a private box, and perhaps won't have their belt buckles wanded as they enter, but the words "putative ownership will apply.

"A new owner who will burn bonfires of his cash in pursuit of a championship is like water falling on the desert of Mets fandom"

Mike's admission of caring for the Mets matches my own, but mine goes back to their inception. I lived about two miles east of Shea Stadium and sometimes walked to the games. I remember all the owners, especially the first, Joan Payson, sister of John Hay (Jock) Whitney, publisher of the now long-defunct Herald Tribune.

Mrs. Payson was not a flashy owner, and was one who also owned horses, particularly Stage door Johnny, who won the 1968 Belmont Stakes for Greentree Stable. An older fellow who was part of our original crowd commented, "there she in the winners circle in her dress from Macy's." She was a lifelong fan of the New York Giants and desperately wanted to bring a National League team back to the city. She also adored Willie Mays, and was able to eventually get him to be on the Mets, although late in his career.

The Duponts and M. Donald Grant were notable for causing heartache, but the Wilpons and Nelson Doubleday did help create some glory.

The Wilpons have probably never recovered from the Bernie Maddoff wipe-out. Selling a controlling interest to a hedge fund billionaire might just be their revenge for the bath they took when Bernie was sent to prison for life.

Steve Cohen of course skirted a similar fate through a carefully constructed organization that gave him a stay-out-of-jail card: plausible deniability.

Wealthy people own teams. You have to be to own one. If I'm right, the Green Bay Packers might be the only mutual ownership there is—fans own shares.

So, Steve comes into town with the memories of George Steinbrenner still in some peoples' heads. George was a character in himself, and eventually a convicted felon for running afoul of campaign laws regarding monies to Richard Nixon.

But that is so far in the past that it is outside most contemporary memories. It is unlikely Cohen will interfere with running the team so much that we see a Billy Martin carousel come through Flushing. After all, there will never be another Billy Martin, not with statistical driven baseball and replay reviews. Umpires do not have to shine their shoes so often these days, and mangers don't have to grab a bat when free beer in Cleveland goes a bit crazy. Can you imagine Billy giving a dugout interview to say Jessica Mendoza, or a guy with a bow tie?

Steve A. Cohen is the perfect new owner for the times. Stock picking has become driven by algorithms, probabilities and programmed trading. The "Quants" rule. The new Holy Grail is a self-adjusting, heuristic trading program that makes millions while you sleep, taking advantage of every time zone there is in a a 24-hour world. The bunt sign is driven by the results appearing on an iPad.

Say what you will about Mr. Cohen's brush with the Feds and a $1.8 billion fine that probably came out of petty cash. Any Met fan will tell you, in the immortal words of Al Davis,"just win, baby, win."

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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Smoke A Rope

Something will forever remind me of something else, and the news that thieves are stealing hemp plants thinking they're marijuana plants in the hope they can smoke or sell the plants and get high is just another example.

Yesterday's NYT carries the story from Salem, NY by Sarah Maslin Nir about hemp farms being mistaken for marijuana growth is a perfect example of why a good daily newspaper matters. I mean, where else are you going to read that Salem, NY—a Washington County town not terribly far from Saratoga Springs—is home to hemp farms and thieves who think they are acting like a Mexican Cartel and making off with plants, that when smoked, will do nothing for your high but cloud up the room.

The Times has certainly become far less starchy when the headline to the story goes: "Dude, Drop the Plant, It Won't Get You High." It's not your grandfather's newspaper anymore.

I still get the print edition of The Times, and with home delivery, I also get the online edition, which carries the same words but more photos, and in sharp color.

From Ms. Nir's Twitter profile I can easily see that perhaps when the idea was pitched to do a story on marijuana plant thieves, her hand went up. She's certainly youthful looking enough.

But you certainly don't need to be a thirty-something or a jazz musician to understand what marijuana is all about. I have a contemporary friend who is slightly older than myself who was an advocate for decriminalizing the stuff ever since the '60s when he was stuffing the green flakes in little rubber 35mm film canisters. He has now lives in Simi Valley, CA and has lived long enough to see his movement come to pass state legislatures. He was at Woodstock, and still has his ticket that went uncollected.

If you're not familiar with Salem, NY you won't find it in Westchester County—that's North Salem, NY—and naturally south of Salem, NY. The story goes that hemp farmers are finding their fields illegally harvested by those who think they are making off with marijuana plants. Hemp and marijuana are in the same botanical family, and bear more than a strong resemblance to each other in sight and smell.

Hemp is distinguished chemically by containing only trace amounts of THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychotic component that delivers the high. Hemp does contain CBD, cannabidiol, a chemical that is now increasingly used as a pain reliever and is widely available in pharmacies.

My first reaction to reading about hemp was that's where rope comes from, no? Yes, for thousands of years hemp has been used to makes sails and sailing ropes, and is probably what I used as a kid to tie newspapers up. I still tie newspapers up, but it's probably sisal rope I'm now using, or whatever Home Depot sells in huge spools.

The current farms are growing hemp for industrial use, but rope is not mentioned in the story. In an accompanying story the farmers can now get loans from banks for their crop. They are no longer lumped in with drug cartels.

Apparently, the thieves are pervasive, and have led the farmers to resort to all kinds of preventive measure, like video surveillance and guard dogs. But, thieves still steal away in the night, and dogs sleep, and ninjas in cammo with no moonlight do not video well. Hemp is a cash crop, even if for the wrong reason.

I grew up hearing the expression "smoking rope." I never understood why someone was telling my uncles they were smoking "rope" when the best I could tell was they were smoking cheap cigars. They were of course being kidded for stinking up the joint.

But apparently, hemp is smoked, if for the mistaken belief it will get you high. And what does the story of the hemp plants being mistaken for marijuana plants remind me of? Easy.

Years and years ago Playboy ran a cartoon of hippies holding up what looked like a Fink bread truck and coming away disappointed, telling each other that, "Hey man, it really is bread."

They must have been smoking rope.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Annual Column

Every Thanksgiving Maurren Dowd seems to go home and has a meal with her right-leaning family and lets her brother's comments become her column for the week. It is refreshing to realize that the whole family is not like Maureen. If we lived next door to the family we wouldn't be tempted to move.

Maureen's brother Kevin, whose photo accompanies the online edition of her Sunday column, looks more like an Irishman than Robert De Niro trying to play an Irish character in 'The Irishman,' a thoroughly tedious Martin Scorsese rehash of every mob character he ever put on the screen. Kevin is not part of that slice of humanity, but what he does is not revealed, other than what we know about dad being a Capitol police officer who tackled some Puerto Rican nationalists in the 50s who wanted to deprive Truman of his life outside the Blair House.

Kevin is unshakeable in his support of the president, even while admitting President Trump does seem to lack some social graces and is often a bully, "his manners can sometimes be missing. He can be coarse and a bully." Certainly true.

The Donald, certainly never one to miss promoting himself, apparently sent Kevin a signed copy of a Maureen Dowd column he did like, one of course that became Kevin's column. Say what you will about the president, his signature is certainly presidential. In my prior life I used to do audits for a health insurance company and once had to make a field trip to the Hotel Trade Association and verify their membership.

Part of the documentation I reviewed was a copy of a check written my The Donald for his health insurance. It was an unmistakable signature that I, even then, immediately recognized as being authentic. It is of course still unmistakable.

You have to give Maureen credit for putting a family reunion over her sense of politics. And you have to give her family credit for serving her turkey and not making her eat crow.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Man I Never Heard Of

When someone passes away at 94 and has been writing critical reviews based in New York, I'm surprised I never heard of them. But such is the news to me of the passing of John Simon, who by all accounts saw little in life that pleased him, and who used the the most acrobatic of phrases to register his dislike.

Mr. Simon wrote principally for New York magazine from 1968-2005, when they finally got tired of his congenital cynicism. It helps explain why I really never heard of him. I never subscribed to the magazine, and rarely picked it up in a doctor's waiting room, choosing The New Yorker, (cartoons) or Vanity Fair, or sometimes Vogue, for glossy, over-the-top photos of women I can never expect to see, over a logo that reminds me of the Sunday magazine section to The Herald Tribune, which is what the New York logo is: a leftover from the newspaper I still miss.

My all accounts, Mr. Simon was a hard man to please. There was a 'Weekend Interview, The Last Man of Letters' piece in the WSJ on November 2nd by Barton Swaim on Mr. Simon. At that point, Mr. Simon was still with us, and meets Mr. Swaim at Grand Central Terminal's Oyster Bar. What lead Mr. Swain to seek our Mr. Simon at the time is not disclosed. Mr. Simon arrives to the interview on his own, on time, and seems in complete control of all his faculties

It is fun to read Mr. Simon's recollection of being in a NYC restaurant when the the actress Sylvia Miles spotted him there and gets even with Mr. Simon, who called her a "gate-crasher," making a special trip over to his table holding a plate of steak tartare and dumping it on him and telling him that he can now call her a "plate-crasher." Mr. Simon smiles at the recollection.

Interesting to note, Ms. Miles did have a reputation as a gate-crasher. Her NYT obituary on June 12 2019 by Anita Gates makes special note of her party attendance reputation.

"She was, however, beginning to acquire a reputation for going to every party possible in whatever town she was in. She would “attend the opening of an envelope,” the comedian Wayland Flowers was said to have remarked.

In 1976, People magazine ran an article with the headline “What Would a Manhattan Party Be Without the Ubiquitous Sylvia Miles?” In 1980, Roger Ebert, the film critic of The Chicago Sun-Times, interviewed her at a publicity brunch in Los Angeles. “And if a brunch is a party, why then, of course that is Sylvia Miles in the corner,” he wrote. “She is dressed as a cross between an Indian princess, a hippie and a bag lady.”

The obituary writer gets the last word, and doesn't get food thrown at them.

Reading something from the man so short;y before the obituarists and critics take over makes the piece a bit of a treasure to read. That Mr. Simon passed away on November 24 makes the piece prescient to the tributes that followed his passing.

As we've noted in many blog postings, if someone of note passes away these days and they are over 90, Mr. McFadden has probably written their advance obit, waiting in the files for the trip upstairs to make into the paper.

Movies of all genres displeased Mr. Simon. He only favored works of a few directors, and only the good works from those directors. Mr. Simon also wrote for the National Review, and William F. Buckler Jr., the publisher, would quip that Simon "treated movies like pigeons treated statutes." To me, amazingly after using Buckley's picture in my last posting, and a decade after his passing, to read one of his quips, is one of those cosmic coincidences. God, I miss Buckley. The things he would say these days.

By all expectations, Mr. Simon probably hated Disney movies. Did he review 'Frozen?' Love to know what he thought of 'The Lady and the Tramp.' Apparently Mr. Simon's bile was never in short supply, and rivals FCC Chairman Newton Minow one-time assessment of some TV being good, but when it is bad it is a "vast wasteland." And now with a 24-hour news cycle there is certainly more barren ground filled with prickly cacti.

That Mr. Simon lived to be 94 surrounded by all things he didn't like is a testament to something. What doesn't kill you, does make you stronger. And live to be 94.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 24, 2019

If I Wasn't Already Retired...

...I'd want her job. Maureen Dowd's job, that is.

Just as President Trump is her most frequent target, Maureen is mine when I consider the divergence of who is a competent, or at least an interesting journalist and herself. Every Sunday I'm usually reminded of my dislike when I read her what, 400-500 words, probably written between rounds of 'Jeopardy,' on how much she dislikes President Trump and the toilet we're all headed down.

I usually only bat about .500 when it comes to my comments getting accepted for publication in the NYT comments section for her once a week exercise. I'm amazed at the column's brevity and that the NYT still keeps her on board, allowing her to cash a paycheck.

My batting average of .500 shows you I can find what Maureen writes well put together and can even consider it a gem. But it's not very often, and certainly should be coming more often from someone who won a Pulitzer, even if was what, 20 years ago? Prize fighters go on too long too.

Today's column had me going a bit. As I've said before , Maureen can usually be guaranteed to send me to the dictionary to look up a word she's used. So today her lede appears under a gigantic photo of The Donald (the larger the photo, the shorter the piece) with the words:

Donald Trump is a rodomont. Not to mention a grobian. And, of course, a Sinon suffering from proditomania.

Damn. I've got to go to the dictionary already? Am I even going to find these words? They look like they're plucked from 'Game of Thrones' characters, something she's done before.

Read on McDuff. Whew, she tells us she gets a word-a-day from an online feed, and lately has been fed the four words in the lede and that she's noticed a pattern, because they all seem to apply to President Trump. She tells us what the words mean.

Maureen being Maureen goes on, just a bit, because she doesn't seem like writing too much today. I don't read particularly fast, but the scroll hits bottom pretty quickly.

Trump is the gift that keeps giving when you're a journalist and you have the freedom—probably because of a Pulitzer earned 20 years ago—to write what you like and turn it in.  There was only ever one great sesquipedalian, and that was William F. Buckley Jr. I'm sure Maureen is glad not to be considered Bill anyway. I could stop reading Maureen, but then, I'd have less to write about.

Maureen touches nearly all the bases of Trump's week with the impeachment inquiry, and the testimony that is now helping promote the word "narrative" into common usage. I've already seen a cartoon of a little boy being read a bedtime story and telling his father that he thinks he's got the "narrative wrong." It had to happen.

Maureen closes with a Japanese word, seppuku, which translates to another Japanese word, hari kari, which of course is not the longtime announcer for the Cubs, but a phrase meaning ritual suicide for one who has brought dishonor onto themselves.

One thing is certain, The Donald will never consider anything he's done to be dishonorable. Maureen's Trump week omits the president's reversal of military judicial court-martial decisions. This has got to be unprecedented, I don't know everything, but I can't remember a president ever involving themselves with court-martial decisions.

The way is goes these days, we are now more likely than ever to get a president who has never served in the military. My uncle was a career naval officer in WW II and retired as a Rear Admiral. His son retired as a Commander. My father and mother both served in the Army in WW II. I'm always a little skeptical of what a Commander-in Chief might bring to the room when they haven't done a single basic training push-up. My view has always been to not antagonize the guys who control all those weapons and buttons. They are not called the Armed Forces for nothing.

Instead of closing a column with the word seppuku a more appropriate warning might be a movie title: "Seven Days in May."

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Things That Went Bump in the Night


In this case, the things that went bump in the night were two ocean liners that collided with each other in heavy fog off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts on July 25, 1956. The Italian liner Andrea Doria was rammed by the smaller Swedish ship, the Stockholm, and the event just might have been the first live televised coverage of a disaster.

I don't really know if it was the first televised disaster, but I do distinctly remember television coverage of what I'm sure was an image of the Andrea Doria listing and sinking, shrouded in heavy fog still. Between the two ships, 51 lives were lost.

It might have been CBS coverage, but I remember  seeing the ship listing in the fog that so often envelops Nantucket. Our television was of course a black and white set that was often in the repair shop. The words no kid liked to hear was the repairman telling his parents that the set needed to go "back to the shop." The memory of all this is kicked off by what, another obituary, of course.

Guido Badano, a junior officer on the Andrea Doria has passed away in Italy at 92. The Andrea Doria, a luxury liner was sailing toward New York from Genoa, Italy when she was rammed on the starboard side by the bow of the Stockholm. The Andrea Dora was carrying 1,134 passengers and 572 crew members, quite a ratio of crew to passengers. The Stockholm was carrying 747 passengers and crew members. Ocean travel across the Atlantic in the '50s was still quite an industry.

Despite the damage to its bow, the Stockholm still had it own power, damaged but seaworthy, and aided in rescuing passengers from the Andrea Doria, as did other ships that quickly changed course and came to the rescue. Amazingly, despite not being able to use its lifeboats, there were only 46 fatalities from the Andrea Doria, 5 from the Stockholm.

The fact that the Andrea Doria—of course considered unsinkable—took 11 hours to finally completely descend into the sea, was greatly responsible for so many people being rescued. The collision occurred at 11:45 p.m. despite each ship having radar. The fog was cotton. and the shipping lane was busy.

Mr. Badano, 29 at the time of the collision, would often tell stories of the event and of Captain Piero Calamai, who didn't go down with the ship, and with whom he was in a lifeboat from the Stockholm, watching the Andrea Doria sink.

Mr Bodano would always recount how the incident affected Captain Calamai, who passed away at 72 in 1975. The Captain may not have gone down with the ship, but his mind did when he asked as he was dying if everyone got off the ship.

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Another Anniversary

Tomorrow is the 56th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. And through the cycle of the calendar, this year, 2019, aligns with 1963. November 22nd was a Friday then, and is a Friday now, and Thanksgiving is a week from today, as late as it can be, the fourth Thursday in November.

Fifty-six years ago is a long time. I don't know what percentage of the population wasn't even born then, but my guess it is probably over 60%.

William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, NY in 1901. Add 56 years to that, and you've got 1957. There were the old guys who hung out at the family flower shop who were old enough to remember the McKinley assassination, as well as JFK's.

There was a 1951 movie on Turner the other day, 'The Tall Target,' starring Adolphe Menjou, Dick Powell, and a very young Ruby Dee. It is a story about a fictional NYC sergeant who has infiltrated a gang of plotting assassins who are looking to keep President-Elect Lincoln from taking the oath of office for his first term in 1861. The plan is to get to President Lincoln, coming to Washington on The Night Flyer Express, and aiming for his head as he makes a scheduled stop for a speech in Baltimore. The assassination conspiracy is true and was known as the Baltimore Plot. The police sergeant upsets their plans.

The movie gives a name to the police sergeant played by Dick Powell: John Kennedy. Remember, the movie is 1951. Alan Pinkerton, the founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency has learned of the plot to assassinate the president and thwarts it by having Lincoln cancel a speech-making appearance in Baltimore, Maryland, a state that has already succeeded from the Union, and of course the state that produced John Wilkes Booth, who did assassinate Lincoln in 1865.

Only in the final scene when Lincoln looks out of the train window and laments "did ever any president come to his inauguration so like a thief in the night," did I remember that sometime, a long time ago I saw the movie before the other day on Turner.

When JFK was assassinated there were all kinds of crazy connections being juxtaposed with his  assassination and Lincoln's.  It was no different that immediately following 9/11 words of Edgar Cayce—The Sleeping Prophet— were being pumped through the Internet as proof that all this was predicted.

Well, the post-9/11 utterings proved to be hooey. I can only remember a few of the match-ups after Kennedy was shot: Did you realize that Lincoln was shot in Ford's theater, and Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln? [car] Get it? Ford's a car; so is a Lincoln.

Lincoln was inaugurated in 1861 and JFK was inaugurated in 1961—100 years later. Can't argue with the math.

But never as high school students do I remember anyone making a comparison to 'The Tall Target' and that a NYC police sergeant named John Kennedy was portrayed as saving the day and thwarting the assassination of President-Elect Lincoln.

It turns out there was a somewhat famous John Kennedy who became a NYC police superintendent in 1863 and who was in charge of quelling the NYC Draft Riots during the Civil War.

Screenwriters. The original prophets.

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Those Were Always the Days

The Tweet was a response (@coreykilgannon) to reading what someone (@jeremybowers) Tweeted in response to a story in the Harvard Crimson about the system crash of using your cell phone to pay for things at Harvard—Crimson Cash—one weekend. Vending and washing machine systems were down, and needed to be fed with coinage, principally a fistful of quarters to do a single load of wash and dry, and somewhat fewer for a can of soda (diet, I'm sure.)

Suddenly, the New Millennials needed some jingle in their jeans, and they were annoyed. I mean, a dozen quarters to make your way through a single load of wash and a single dryer load and you might have to go to the bank and get a roll of quarters for $10. Considering the fact that there are 40 quarters in a $10 roll, there might have been a black market that developed for those who took the trouble to get the coins, selling the unneeded ones at a premium to those who needed them. It had to happen.

A friend of mine who rented an apartment in a three-family home in Queens did her wash in the garage, where a washer and dryer was set up for the tenants, along with the need to feed the machines quarters to activate. Now, she has her own stacked washer/dryer units in her utility room of her new condo. No more quarters.

Once upon a time there was a need in tenements to "feed the gas meter," in order to get gas into the apartment for cooking and heat. Pay-as-you-go.

The Tweet from @jeremybowers, a director of engineering at the Washington Post, pokes fun at students' distress by telling them:

My dudes, let me tell you about a time when you had to pay with quarters to talk on the telephone.

Mr. Bowers is certainly older than a current student at Harvard, but not old enough to remember 10¢ pay phone calls and 15¢ NYC subway tokens. His youthful Twitter profile photo confirms his tender age.

The old-timers at the family flower shop who gathered in the morning in the early '60s to discuss the weather and politics could always be heard to talk about the 5¢ subway fare, where you actually shoved a nickel into the slot for your ride. These guys were born in the 1890s. I am now as old as they were then. And it's a funny feeling.

As for telephone calls, they were once 10¢ at a payphone and x number of message units from what we now refer to as a landline. A message unit?

Yes, a message unit was about 7.1¢ on your phone bill. But how many message units did the call use? That was the secret sauce of telephone billing. You could, if you read your phone book (another vestigial organ) find out how many message units you were using when you called certain numbers. They were clustered by "exchanges." (Also a vestigial organ.) But who would take the time to read their phone book?

It was nearly 30 years ago when I added the phone company's voice mail capability to our account. I called and asked if when I called my number for messages, did that count as using a message unit? The guy laughed. Yep.

Of course, all that was then, and this is now. Flat rate, unlimited calling "plans" abound. As do now the fees, taxes, and extortion charges for what ever "benefits" the community, or helps the MTA build a bridge. A phone bill of under $5 is certainly a thing of the past.

The NYC subway is already phasing in turnstiles that take a phone swipe for the fare. Eventually, the MetroCard will be a thing of the past. It is a stark realization of where does the time go when you are informed the MetroCard has been around for 25 years now,. It is old.

The NYC token was made necessary when the fare went to 15¢ from 10¢. Since the turnstiles took U.S. coins, and there was no 15¢ piece, a token was devised to pay for the fare. Subsequent fare increases generally, but not always, required a new token size to be used. Even "forever" stamps go up in cost. Such is the definition of forever.

I already see people on the commuter trains show their activated phones to the conductor as proof of their ticket. I'm not a complete Luddite. I'm moved past a flip phone, getting a hand-me-down from one of my daughters. I do still favor a desktop computer and still use Windows 7.

I read a piece about the writer John le Carré, who is 88, and who writes his works in longhand, having it transcribed by his wife to the computer.

But the biggest kick I get out of the stories of what-cost-what-when is from a member of "The Assembled, " our coterie of race track handicappers who gather several times a year and do our best at equine prophesy. Sometimes with life-altering results.

The oldest member, who has now crossed another Rubicon and entered his 80s, Bobby G., will sometimes remind us that when his continuity in life was interrupted by Uncle Sam, and he found himself a Captain in the army after he was drafted when he was between his medical internship and his residency, that condoms from the vending machine in base men's room required a 2¢ purchase.

I've yet to ask Bobby G. how many pennies did he walk around with.

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Indianapolis, Indiana

The delayed news out of Indianapolis, Indiana was comical, at least until the part where two people were seriously shot and wounded, and required extensive medical care to recover.

The news was no doubt reported locally when it occurred on April 30, 2019, but it took nearly seven months to become a national story and be reported in Saturday's New York Times. One thing about reading a story that's seven months old, all the facts are in.

Up to the gunshots, the story pretty much runs the course of four people—three males and a female—in this case all judges and a magistrate, of the Indianapolis Courts—all middle-aged, and all sufficiently loaded after hours of drinking, having assembled for a conference, heading for a strip club at 3 a..m, only to find it closed (even pole dancers have to rest), who then get the reflexive idea that just about all partyers get when they've spent hours drinking, head for a White Castle at 3 a..m. (surely rush hour at a White Castle) to get something in their stomachs other than drinks before calling it a night.

This is where their story resembles thousands of stories of partyers who end up trying to eat something after a night of downing whatever it is they were downing.

Spirits are a great uninhibitor. They work so well that Ogden Nash once noted their efficiency in breaking the ice in social situations in a classic two-line poem titled "The Ice Breaker."

Candy is dandy.
But liquor is quicker.

But only one of the four actually enter White Castle. The other three cluster in the parking lot, possibly smoking, when an S.U.V. with two guys in it drive by and shout something out the window.
Given what happens next, there is no doubt these gentlemen are feeling the effects of alcohol intake themselves.

Maybe spurred by seeing a woman with two guys, whatever it was, they shouted something toward the three and gained a middle finger response from the female judge, Sabrina R. Bell, who later admits at the station house that she can get a little "mouthy" when she's drinking.

Never mind, the guys in the S.U.V. head for a parking spot at White Castle and take their "beef" toward the three judges, I'm sure not knowing they are judges, because nothing in their behavior has suggested they might be. The wrestling match that ensues is still within what happens when people drink, yell at each other, and then disagree with something.

Only this time, one of the judges, Andrew Adams kicks one of the disgruntled—likely pissed at being flipped the bird by a woman—and pins him to the ground. The downed S.U.V. fellow pulls out a gun and plugs judge Andrew Adams and Bradley B. Jacobs. Their wounds are very serious, but they recover and face the disciplinary consequences meted out by their employer, The Indiana Supreme Court.

They are all contrite and apologize for their behavior. The shooter faces eight felony and six misdemeanor charges and awaits a January 13, 2020 trial. The other S.U.V. occupant received a yearlong sentence that was mostly suspended.

Say what you will about the series of events. Even with the shooting thrown in, there is nothing that you might not expect to happen when:

  • people devote hours to drinking and remain standing...
  • it doesn't matter gender or occupation, all drinking can lead to untoward behavior...
  • flipping the bird to strangers at 3 a.m. when there aren't a lot of other people around can inflame their inner-self and create a violent reaction that escalates...
  • people carry weapons and might use them when they are not sober...
But to me, the greatest takeaway from all this is to learn there is a White Castle in Indianapolis. Who knew?

I thought the last one on earth is at the corner of Bell Boulevard and Northern Boulevard in Bayside, (Queens) New York, where they have been serving burger sliders and upsetting stomachs for over half a century.

The things you learn when you read a newspaper.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

The Hoax U.K. Style

The obituary for "Frank Giles,100, British Editor Fired by Murdoch Over 1983 'Hitler Diaries' Hoax" appeared in the NYT on the morning after I watched the last episode of 'Press on Masterpiece.' Press, as I have already written is a BBC mini-series on the the inner workings of two rival newspapers in London: The sensational tabloid Post, and the more newsworthy left-leaning Herald. The Post is making money hand over fist; The Herald has mouse traps in its hallways.

The big story that has come both their ways through different avenues, is about a government program called 'Resonance,' a highly secret, approved by the Prime Minister, eavesdropping technology designed to identify terrorist activity, the "chatter" we always hear about.

The Herald can do a story on it. A whistleblower from MI5 has come forward and is willing to go on record and blow the whole thing wide open. The Post, while not having the benefit of the whistleblower talking to them, wants to keep a lid on the program because George Emmerson, the media titan who controls vast media holdings in the U.K. wants to oblige the PM, who he is on speed dial with.

There is of course a meeting of the senior people at The Herald, where  "go", "no-go" opinions are expressed. The story goes to print. This of course is television, but it could be about any newspaper's decision to print The Pentagon Papers, The Panama Papers, WikiLeaks, anything. Decision are made.
Every day decisions are made what to put on the front page; where to put certain stories; run, don't run.

And so, this is what Mr. Grimes is known for, as an editor at The Sunday Times of London who in 1983 became convinced that the Hitler Diaries they had in front of them were genuine—some 60 volumes— and they were going to print them for the world to examine.

Mr. Grimes had help in coming to that decision to print. Hugh Trevor-Roper, a former member of British Intelligence during the war, and someone who in 1947 wrote a highly regarded book on Hitler's last days in his bunker, "The Last Days of Hitler," examined the diaries and came to the opinion they were genuine.

Along the way, however, Mr. Roper started to have second thoughts that perhaps these handwritten diary entries were not genuine. What gave Mr. Roper that idea is not disclosed in Mr. Grimes's obit, but Mr. Roper told someone at a sister paper of The Sunday Times of London that he now felt the diary was a hoax.

You wouldn't know these guys were in the communication business, because Chicken Little talked to Henny Penny, but Henny Penny didn't talk to Ducky Lucky and Mr. Grimes went ahead and published. Rupert Murdoch, who owned the papers agreed. Uh-oh.

Turns out the diaries were a forgery perpetrated by a prolific German forger Konrad Kujau. He sold the diaries onto Der Stern, a German magazine, and Der Stern offered the rights to The Sunday Times of London The media had been had. It was Howard Hughes's autobiography all over again, a 1976 hoax that nearly fooled McGraw-Hill Publishing that Clifford Irving had found Mr. Hughes's autobiography.

When Mr. Roper learned more about the chain of custody he apparently got a funny felling. As Mr. Giles and his senior staff were patting themselves on the back and congratulating themselves, no doubt with very good Scotch, Mr. Giles took a phone call from Mr. Roper.

The phone call is re-creted by Katherine Q. Seelye in the NYT obit. You can only think of an early Bob Newhart telephone bit. To those who were there in the room, it went like this.

"Well naturally Hugh, one has doubts. There are no certainties in this life But those doubts aren't strong enough to make you do a complete 180-degree turn on that?

"Oh, I see. You are doing a 180-degree turn."

Chicken Little was right. The sky is falling, and fall it did. Since they had closed The Tower of London to all but tourists, the British were no longer lopping off heads. But they were lopping off employment, and Mr. Giles was out after a long and distinguished career, now known for one disaster that would provide the lede to his obituary, even if he did live to be 100.

I remember a quote from David O. Selznick who claimed that when he died the credit he earned for being the producer of the movie 'Gone With the Wind' would accompany his name. It did. Do something big, and it follows you.

When the forgery was acknowledged, things in the diary became suspicious. Hitler's arm had been injured in the attempted assassination bombing, thus his handwriting from that point on should have shown a deterioration.  It didn't.

There were references to his inner circle that didn't jibe with what was known about what Hitler would say. I would love to know if the German forger wrote that Hitler called someone a dummkopf.

But most telling about the diaries was that the paper, ink and bindings being more contemporary than something that was supposedly written in the 1940s.

Chalk that last investigative oversight up to the lack of C,S.I. shows on television in the 1980s. No one was thinking of forensic testing.

There is always a great contrast between American and British obituary writing.  When Mr. Roper passed away in 2003 The Guardian gave him an effusive obituary that mentioned the Hitler diary hoax in the heading, but didn't really get around to writing about it until well into the text. And then they put a fell-sorry-for-him spin on it.

For Mr. Giles's obit, The Guardian concentrates heavily from the get-go on the hoax and Mr. Giles's gullibility, along with Rupert Murdoch's. Rupert, who is still very much with us at 88 (his mother lived to be over 103) and now married to Mick Jagger's ex, Jerry Hall, only admitted in 2012 his mistake in publishing the diaries. Apparently, he never liked Mr. Giles, despite appointing him the editor, so he had no problem in letting him carry the blame for decades. What a guy.

The obits for the forger, Konrad Kujau are very direct. He passed away on 2000 at 63. The NYT obit gets it right out there; The Guardian gets it right out there but provides oodles of more information as to how the diaries came to be in existence, and the role a Gerd Heidemann played in duping Der Stern. It is rich reading, and even, in an Elvis-like speculation, allows for the possibility that Konrad is not really dead.

The newscaster Dan Rather became convinced several years ago he had the smoking document that the then current president, George W. Bush had avoided the draft. There were people who doubted the authenticity of the document, and it was pointed out that such a document couldn't have been typed when it was claimed because there was no way to make a subscripted ordinal designation, e.g. 26th, with the "th" raised like an exponent. There was no word processing software then that could do it at the time it was purported to have created. However Dan Rather and his producer kept at it, and were eventually fired.

The urge to believe something is true is a powerful emotion. It drives our daily news. And sometimes it is true. The only question is when?

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Press on Masterpiece, Part II

God, I hope there is a Season 2. A six-episode Season 1 is a very short series to end on the sixth episode. Right now, Season 2 is a possible maybe. People on both sides of the ocean love the show, but the producers are apparently non-committal at this point with one more show to air. Fingers crossed.

With only six shows in Season 1, the penultimate show just aired and really gets down to the business of smear, spinning and the real-life consequences felt by those who wind up on Page 1 of a tabloid screaming about their life.

The sex hookups are out of way: Holly (Charlotte Riley, above) with a rival reporter from The Post, Ed; Peter and Amina, Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief at The Herald. Holly has switched sides and joined The Post, upset at the inertia of covering stories at the financially weak, and somewhat seedy offices of The Herald. There are mouse traps in the hallways.

Holly's been lured by the editor at The Post, Duncan Allen, a man for whom the truth means whatever he says it is. He's been quoted as saying, "I decide what the readers are interested in. They have no idea."  He's been trying to get her to join the staff by sending presents, (e.g. a laptop) but Holly has so far just returned then.

Thoroughly pissed at The Herald, Holly solicits and gets an offer from Duncan that she feels is good enough to jump ship. For her first day on the job she changes her appearance from a jean-wearing, ponytail, graduate uni-look, to that of a more attractive woman, wearing her hair down, applying some makeup, and even going so far as to wear a skirt, a surprise ensemble that startles her former colleague at The Herald when he sees her heading from the plaza coffee cart that sits between the two buildings and strides over to the rival's offices.

Everything about The Post exudes success. The building is nice, the lobby is nicer, the elevator is probably even better; the hallways don't have mouse traps set out. But Holly is not about creature comforts and "looks" she is about the story.

Having snared Holly to come work for him Duncan hardly fawns over her. He tries to exclude her from the morning meeting of senior writers and editors, despite her status as a "special correspondent" who reports directly to him. He rebuffs her initial story idea and instead tells her his agenda. Well, he is after all the boss.

Holly is no puff piece, and she walks into the meeting anyway. Duncan is setting out the turf for the continued coverage of a 17 year-old kid whose social skills are zero and who put three kids in the hospital at school.

Holly feels the story has exhausted itself. She's not asked, she just says so. She makes unwanted suggestions on the coverage, "look into the lad's background, upbringing" and gets others in the group to agree with her, even the Deputy Editor. Duncan pulls her aside and strands on the outside of the office door, goes back in and continues to hammer away at what's needed: More Page 1 treatment of the "monster."

Holly has been shown her desk, or actually a work-space by Duncan's assistant, (Holly is "sorted"). And she does rate. She's not positioned near the toilets, and has natural lighting at her back. If she turns, she has a view, apparently not a common accommodation in the warrens of modern office space.

Duncan has given Holly a napkin he's pulled out of his office safe where the bombshell stories might come from. The napkin has one word on it, "Resonance" and some numbers. Holly asks what does it mean, and Duncan tells her that's her job to find out. Duncan's been given the napkin by someone at one of those "boozy" lunches Fleet Street is supposedly famous for.

Meanwhile, the office become transfixed with the televised news that the 17 year-old lad, the bully,  has committed suicide, likely caused by being depressed at how he's been smeared over the newspaper as someone who might be sub-human.

Holly was right. The Post had already gone too far. Now what does Duncan do? His coverage is going to be the story since the kid offed himself while staring at the front page story on his iPad of himself with blurred photos of giving the press the finger as they scrummed at his front door.

Duncan is at a loss for how the paper should react to the suicide. An apology is out of the question. Holly, again not asked, offers Duncan what apparently they call on Fleet Street the "reverse ferret" strategy.

Internet to the rescue: Reverse ferret is a phrase "used predominately within the British media to describe a sudden reversal in an organization's editorial line on a certain issue [volte-face]—and generally, this will involve no acknowledgement of the previous position." In other words, having it both ways.

Rupert Murdoch's reversal on telephone hacking in the wake of being caught at it in the phone hacking scandal of messages on the phones of the Royals is offered as a prime example of "reverse ferret."

Duncan's "reverse ferret" consists of the paper taking a stand against bullying; start an anti-bullying campaign; get the boy's mother to join the paper and come out against bullying.  This isn't what Holly had in mind when she suggested a "reverse ferret" to Duncan. But it is what Duncan has in mind.

The Post camps out at the mother's door, gets her on Skype after a reporter offers her £5,000 to read/recite a statement The Post has crafted for her to come out against bullying. Her son as well was a victim of bullying. Duncan has spun, and Holly wants to vomit.

As all the hub bub is swirling around the "bully monster" story, Holly has brought in a Syrian refugee who has a story of tremendous atrocities committed in Syria. The young male adult would like £5,000 to tell the story. It is a whopper.

Duncan has insisted that he met the individual before paying for a story. The fellow gets impatient waiting to see Duncan, and just plain leaves.

In what has to be perhaps the shortest time on record for being a Post employee, Holly disappears and strides back over to The Post and asks for her job back. Amina has just announced to the staff that they're going to be a free paper, wrapped in advertising, there will be some online access, but they are building a paywall on a subscription basis. They are going to be different.

Holly doesn't beg, but she apologizes for harsh words on leaving. Amina tells her she should have always been a reporter, and that  she'll in effect be one The Herald.

Absent any "no disclosure agreements" being in effect,  Holly gets to tell Amina and the Deputy Editor about the napkin fetched from the safe by Duncan. In an earlier episode, it just so happens that a colleague at The Herald,  James Edwards, has met with a source from MI5 who cryptically sat in a car and merely mentioned the word "resonance" to him. No more details than that. Now, through the short speech by Duncan, Holly has been told "Resonance" could be very embarrassing to the Prime Minister. (It doesn't matter which Prime Minister. Just the PM) Obviously, there's a story here somewhere.

Now we have the title of the last episode: Resonance. Coming attractions give an indication that Holly and Duncan might face off somewhere in court? Will "resonance" prove to be connected to the Syrian's story? At the close of Episode 5, Holly has tracked the refugee down and offered an advance from her own money, plus the remainder of the £5,000 from her own funds when the story breaks—at The Herald, of course.

---------------------------------------------

Well, the sixth and final episode of what I hope will be more seasons has aired: Resonance.

The MI5 source about the highly confidential program has come out, met with the reporters at The Herald, and given them enough information that it is necessary for them to offer him safe passage to Ecuador. He's got to get out of the country. He is after all violating the Official Secrets Act and could be thrown in prison. He's sacrificing a lot by offering information.

Ecuador. If any of the plot lines in 'The Press' resemble the NSA, WikiLeaks, Harvey Weinstein, Joel Epstein, Edward Snowden and the sequestering in the Ecuadorian Embassy, you wouldn't be wrong. Don't the British have their own homegrown problems? I guess they're staying away from The Royals.

Nevermind. A good story is a good story, even if it shows that the U.S. and the U.K. are two countries with more in common than a common language with different pronunciations.

The Resonance program is a version of our NSA private citizen spying revelation where any device in a person's home or hand can be turned into an active wiretap—without a warrant. The program has anti-terrorism on its mind, but does it stop there?

The guy who really knows everything in these episodes in George Emmerson, the Rupert Murdoch portrayal who has incredible sources. He tells Duncan that The Herald is doing the story on Resonance.

Holly at The Herald at the same time is preparing a Duncan Allen take-down piece that will be her revenge for watching Duncan turn troubled young man in a suicide victim because of the incredible press coverage of his bullying. Okay, he put three kids in the hospital, but the coverage was over the top by Holly's standards. And the reverse ferret tactic smelled as bad a skunk.

Holly and Duncan met—twice—in the Journalist's Church, a real-life church, built in 1672, designed by Christopher Wren, named St. Bride's. It is located on Fleet Street in the City of London and has been the sendoff place for many press and media types over the years. There are plaques on the walls. It is the Westminster Abbey for scribes.

Holy and Duncan met there for Holly to tell Duncan about the take-down piece. It is going to be a torpedo, concentrating on Duncan's more than aggressive manner in telling a story, his tax returns, his dysfunctional family life, his paid to live-in escort Krystyna, a statuesque Russian or Serbian blonde who looks as if she made her country's Olympic team throwing the discus, and who could easily satisfy any man no matter what their stamina is. She is the gift that keeps giving.

Journalist's Church. The British. Full of history and tradition. I don't know of any American equivalent other than St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church on Church and Barclay in Lower Manhattan, two blocks north of the Trade Center.

The Church Street side of the church now has a piece of steel that resembles a cross from the World Trade Center ruins. There is also a plaque honoring the newsboys, the "newsies" who hawked newspapers for pennies at the turn of the 18th and 19th century. These ragamuffins were the unwashed kids who lived in squalor in the Lower East side.

These kids actually went on strike in 1899 and convinced the major newspaper publishers, William Randolf Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, to buy back the unsold papers from the bundles they bought for 85¢. The closest New York ever had to a Fleet Street was Printing House Square, near City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge where several newspapers had their buildings.

Duncan has learned the whereabouts of the whistleblower and threatens to get him arrested if The Herald goes ahead with their story. He knows they're going to try and get him out of the country.

Duncan has been promised a massive promotion to editor-in chief of all of George Emmerson's media holdings, huge amounts of money to help him counter the nasty divorce he's going through, a football field-size office, and the undying love of Emmerson if he can get The Herald's story killed.

Duncan offers Holly that he won't call the police in and get the source arrested for violation of the Official Secrets Act if Holly kills the piece. Holly gives Duncan a Winston Churchill-type speech in her soft Scottish accent about journalistic responsibility, democracy, and what kind of journalist Duncan used to be before he became a garbage collector.

What happens? Spoiler alert. Duncan calls off the planned police notification, Holly's story runs, and Duncan gets ready to pack up and leave his employment because he couldn't fulfill Emmerson's mandate to kill the story. Duncan caved.

Oh yeah? Duncan is a cornered animal, who in a flash of media instinct, smears Holly on the front page of the next edition of The Post as being an ENEMY OF THE STATE for exposing a program designed to keep the country safe from terrorism, but now has been brought out in the open and with the inevitable dismantling, puts everyone's life in Britain in certain danger from terrorists. They will win.

The shots of war have been fired. Duncan gets all that Emmerson promised him. Emmerson is tickled pink at the ENEMY OF THE STATE headline. Holly appears in front of The Herald's building and faces a scrum of reporters who have descended on her. It is a repeat scene from the first episode where she was in the same position. She introduces herself. The scene fades away.

If ever a series deserved to keep going, this one does. We'll see.

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