Tuesday, August 20, 2019

It Was Dark and Stormy

If a horseplayer doesn't have a story to tell you, then they're no longer breathing.You'll have to rely on the eulogy. It may not have yet been a dark and stormy night, but it certainly became a dark and stormy afternoon —fast—about the time for the 9th race on Saturday at Saratoga.

Anyone who knows anything about the weather in August around Saratoga, knows there can be violent thunderstorms that seem to fly out of the Alleghany mountains that quickly render a fast track a sloppy, sealed track, or turn a turf course less than firm.

And that's exactly what happened as the 9th race was set to go off. The sky got dark. The rain came. But the race was run at the planned mile and sixteenth on what was initially described as a "good" turf course. A prior night's rain had already moved the prior day's "firm" turf conditions to "good" as the races began the day.

The six horse field had already lost an entrant to an early scratch when the gates popped open. There were basically two horses vying for favoritism: the Graham Motion-trained Varenka and the Chad Brown-trained Regal Glory.  The race was the 36th running of the Grade II Lake Placid Stakes.

Turf races generally end with bang-up finishes. Tight clusters of horses headed toward the wire, with the outcome usually not decided until the final jumps. And this was no exception.

At the end, only 1½ lengths separated the top 5 finishers. And the top two, Varenka and Regal Glory, looked locked in place at the wire, due to Varenka's stretch run surge.  Regal Glory and Varenka both got past Blowout, who was leading in the stretch? But who finished in front? Who, shot past who?

On the slo-mo replay it seemed it depended on who you bet as to who you felt won. Realistically, as the slo-mo was replayed, despite having bet on Regal Glory, it was felt by this long-time observer that Varenka did have a flared nostril ahead of Regal Glory. But Varenka's number is not coming up. Regal Glory's umber is not coming up. And the clock is ticking way beyond the time you wait for a photo finish to be decided. Waaaaaay beyond. Is this the Kentucky Derby all over again, albeit for a different reason?

Another frame-by-frame replay of the finish leaves you still guessing. The image is as dark as the sky is. How can they tell? Where is the light that usually goes on when it's dark out and the horses cross the finish line? The image looks vastly underexposed as a result, as if Fotomat screwed up your vacation photos and you can't tell Uncle Henry from Aunt Bessie as they stand by the Grand Canyon.

Turns out Saratoga has no light! Not for the main track finish, not for either turf course finish. I go back so far that I can remember my early days when I also tried to pick winners at Yonkers Raceway, a harness track in Westchester County, just north of New York City.

Harness racing at Yonkers, then as now, was held at night, and my friend and I once did a double, daytime races at Aqueduct and a nightly card at Yonkers. We only did that once, and I was never so tired in my life.

Regardless, I did go to Yonkers by myself  in the late '60s, and when there was a photo finish they posted the image in a locked glass case for the public to see. A still wet looking 8x10 glossy print was carried down from offices above, and was physically placed in the case by an official, showing the public how they came to declare the winner.

As advanced as things have become, a freeze frame image is still needed to determine not just close finishes, but all placings. In the age of Superfectas, the top four finishers are needed to be determined to pay out the bet. Accuracy counts.

Time ticks away, and it become 10 minutes before the officials determine who won the race. Both horses did! A dead heat is declared. And when a dead heat is declared, there are multiple payouts for win, exactas, etc. I cash my win bet on Regal Glory, somewhat diminished because the win pool payout is shared with Varenka. Half a loaf is better than no loaf.

The above photo is posted on the monitors to show the public a dead heat occurred. How did they tell? It's dark as a cave.

Well, once home on Sunday and watching the FS2 broadcast, I learned that they determined the finish line photo was inconclusive, they couldn't really tell who won, so the in the spirit of not wanting to just settle it with a coin flip, they declared both finishes to have finished first—thus a dead heat.

Image that! An inconclusive finish to a horse race in the 21st Century! It's one half of the Mueller report, and thankfully it didn't take as long to conclude that they couldn't conclude.

The dead heat decision was gratefully received by the public since Varenka and Regal Glory were co-betting favorites. Afterwards, it was reported that Graham Motion, the trainer of Varenka, teased Chad Brown, the trainer of Regal Glory, that Chad got lucky. Just as I thought on the freeze frame replays that it appeared that Varenka was ahead by the membrane of her nostril.

It was a dark and storm afternoon, and two horses each won the same race. And I had one of them.

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Friday, August 9, 2019

Rosie Ruiz

Memory is a tricky thing. Before reading today's obituary, if you were to ask me which marathon Rosie Ruiz was the "winner" of, only to be disqualified later for having jumped into the race a mile from the finish, I would have replied. "New York." Nope. It was Boston, 1980. I knew the year, however.

It turns out she was mistakenly awarded a finishing time of 2:56:33 for New York's 1979 marathon when she dropped out after 10 miles with an ankle injury, went to the finish line to watch the race, and was inadvertently credited with a finishing time by a race volunteer. It was then that she perhaps got the idea that you could earn a finishing time without actually running all the miles.

Ms. Ruiz's New York time likely enabled her to qualify for an entry spot in the Boston Marathon, since then, as now, you need to meet qualifying standards to legitimately get a number and start the race.

It didn't take long for suspicious to be raised about her Boston finish. Bill Rodgers, the 1980 male winner, said she didn't look "tired enough" to have completed the race.

Rosie insisted she was legit, but everyone else had her down as a fraud—a pariah. Offers were made to have her enter another race and prove she was capable of the times she had been credited with. She wouldn't.

There were stories she had a "plate in her head," thereby explaining her "odd" behavior. Today's NYT obituary doesn't mention anything having to do with a metal plate in her head.

Fame is fleeting, even infamous fame. It didn't take long for Rosie to recede from the spotlight. Turns out she got her herself into quite a bit of trouble embezzling money from a real estate firm, and selling cocaine to an undercover agent. For whatever reasons, the punishments for these offenses were not lengthy prison sentences.

In the photo above, Rosie is being helped by the Boston police after it was thought she had won the race. Prescient. She later was escorted by the police when she was being arrested.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Cardboard

I have read A LOT of obituaries. But I have never read of someone who is described as being so bland that, "if there is single colorful quotation to his name, it has not been found."

Li Peng is described as being without wit. But then again, the clue might have been found in the NYT obituary's headline announcing his death: "Li Peng, Known as the 'Butcher of Beijing' for Tiananmen Crackdown, Dies at 90."

The noun "butcher" is usually reserved for those whose vocation might be chopping pork chops for sale, or Nazi concentration camp commandants. Not that the word is poorly applied in Li Peng's case.

Li Peng is pretty much credited with ordering the bloody crackdown against the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989 as China's youth was expressing their displeasure with the government. No exact number of fatalities is ever given, but generally "hundreds, perhaps thousands" were killed by Chinese troops unleashed on the crowds to eventually restore order.

Li Peng was a trained engineer who was a professional Comrade who managed hydroelectric plants and who rose in the Party's ranks to eventually serve as premier, and later as "chief of the National People's Congress, the country's party-dominated, pro rubber-stamp Parliament."

The one black and white photo of Li Peng in the print edition of the NYT, shows him standing in front of three microphones in a 1997 ceremony for the Three Georges Dam, a massive hydroelectric project that displaced more than a million people before it was finished. He looks completely expressionless, a cardboard figure with four similar cardboard figures standing behind him. My bet is his lips never moved when he was talking, and he only moved when someone came by and picked him up and put him someplace else. No photo-op shirtless pose on horseback, like the Russian nemesis Putin.

But there is an alternate universe when you take in the digital version of the NYT Li Peng obituary. Scrolling through the text you are greeted with a color, 1995 photo of him taken in Mexico, waving a Stetson, smiling and looking like an Asian Harry Truman campaigning from the back of a train pulling through a whistle stop.


Li Peng is survived by a wife and three children. He must have said something that made someone laugh. Or at least smile.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Fifty

Fifty years ago we landed on he moon.
Fifty years ago there were 50 years ahead of me.
Now those 50 years are behind me.
Eternity filled in.




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Saturday, July 27, 2019

GPS Gone Awry

Years and years ago I distinctly remember being in a conference room and telling someone before the meeting started that they looked sad. I asked, "did you just see a Lifetime movie?" "Did a tractor trailer inadvertently pull into your driveway thinking it was an on-ramp to an Interstate and run over your dog or cat?" Turns out, these things happen.

Today's WSJ's A-Hed piece is about GPS systems sending traffic onto people's lawns due to bad mapping that has their greenswards down as thoroughfares.

Back in the day when there were only paper maps, I would occasionally read of the map companies, Rand-McNally, Hagstrom, et al that needed to change a tiny detail of their highly detailed maps when they somehow showed a short road that was really a person's driveway. The owner of the house with that driveway would occasionally get a vehicle, sometimes a tractor trailer, trying to use their driveway as a connecting road, only to find it brought then smack in front of a garage door, or another vehicle parked in the driveway. Backups were often difficult.

Well, the same thing is happening when digital GPS such as Google Maps, Mapquest, or Apple Maps clearly sends instructions to the user that your driveway or cul-de-sac is the back way to the Interstate.  Houston, we have a problem.

The A-Hed piece reports on a flock of stories from across the nation of vehicles being sent down the wrong path and what the adjacent homeowners have taken to doing to correct the situation.

Notifying the creator of the application can result in corrections, sometimes taking a good while, sometime being quickly corrected, and sometimes not corrected at all.


When the situations goes uncorrected for a long time, homeowners have posted signs, such as the ones above, The homeowners have also parked large vehicles in an attempt to prevent through traffic. Sometimes this works; sometimes not.  Mail boxes, front steps and lawns have been driven into and onto before the driver realizes they've made a boo-boo.

A few years I went rock shopping with my daughter and my son-in-law to a rock landscaping concern here on Long Island. I wanted to buy a medium-sized boulder for the backyard to act as a bit of a focal point. I love landscaping, and have learned of establishing focal points.

The stone yard had boulders of all sizes, shapes and colors. River stone, marble, and granite. Everything was priced at 50¢ a pound. The owner would take your chosen piece with a Bobcat forklift and weigh in on a truck scale, then deposit it on the roadbed of the pickup truck you hopefully came in.

Since my son-law works as a land surveyor and is in excellent standing with the owners, he can get access to the company's crew cab Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck. A Godsend for rock shopping.

I even commented on his access to such a vehicle at my daughter's wedding. I said my wife and I were surely not losing a daughter, but were instead gaining a son-in-law who comes with a truck.

The first of the two times we went rock shopping the workers at yard were loading an ENORMOUS boulder onto one of their flat bed tracks using a hoist. The boulder was so big the truck seemed to list with the weight. It looked precarious. We gave that truck a wide berth.

We asked who was buying such a large piece. The story went that a woman whose house was fairly close to a sharp curve was tired of having speeding vehicles take the turn too fast and veer off and come to a stop somewhat close to her house, tearing up the grass in the process.

Her plan was simple. Place the boulder on her property near the curve so that if a driver missed the curve they would whack into the boulder before running up on the grass toward the house. Possibly deadly for the driver, but hey, I guess she thought, you ran into the boulder. It wasn't moving. Hopefully, your airbag is working.

Cars missing the curve is not quite the same as a GPS sending you toward someone's driveway, but if you do come face-to-face with the Rock of Gibralter, you've probably done something wrong.

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Friday, July 26, 2019

The Queen is Carrying

It would be extremely rude to say Queen Elizabeth is an old bag. She's up there in age, but she's not an old bag. And neither is her handbag, which for some reason we constantly see on the Queen's arm.

I don't remember ever seeing Hillary Clinton, or any other American female politicians appearing in public with their handbag. Wen Hillary was campaigning, someone in her entourage paid for the shots and beer she consumed when she was "one of the guys" in 2016. Current Democratic female presidential hopefuls also never seem to be seen slinging a purse. For for some reason the Queen of England is different.

I'm pretty sure when I would watch her entrance at the Royal Closure at Ascot this past June she was toting her bag. And being outside like that might still give her a need to keep her bag close by. You never know when someone is going to steadfastly refuse to serve you alcohol no matter how old you are. My wife, who is 72, has been proofed at a state store in New Hampshire for id.

But what just hit me now is that even when the Queen is pictured meeting someone in Buckingham Palace—her home—she is seen with her bag on her arm. I mean, the Queen is indoors, where she lives, and she's walking around with her purse. Quite honestly, I don't get it.

Is it product placement? Some leather goods concern loaded with Royal Warrants, in business since the age of Cromwell, has insisted that she parade their goods, whether it be saddles, or pocketbooks?

Being male, and American, I can't tell who made the Queen's handbag. It looks practical, but is it really necessary for her to carry it around the palace when she's greeting dignitaries?

I'm sure the queen doesn't answer her own front door when someone comes-a-calling, but what American woman, politician or not, would answer the door with their handbag?

She reminds me of Ruth Buzzi so many years ago on Laugh-In, who was always slugging Arte Johnson on a park bench with her sack of leather when he tried to get fresh with her. Is the Queen similarly prepared to whack someone who she feels is aggressive?

Joan Rivers, when she was making a name for herself as a comedian and appearing as a guest on the Johnny Carson show in 1965, was always schlepping out to the guest chair carrying her handbag. Even when she became quite established she would appear on Carson with a small clutch bag. (Check her and Carson out on YouTube. Humor as it once was.) I suppose Joan, being a native New Yorker, never felt comfortable leaving her bag somewhere out of sight.

The above photo is just the latest example of the Queen, in this one greeting Boris Johnson, the new prime minister and the 14th one to come on duty during her reign, with a leather satchel swinging on her arm.

I did hear a news clip of a press conference of someone asking Mr. Johnson when he was Mayor of London, "how long have you cutting your own hair?"

Boris doesn't quite look as disheveled as he once did, but it just might be that the sly old Queen, rather than beheading Johnson, will whip out a pair of barber shears and give him a haircut.

Now that would be news.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Morgenthaus

Ever wonder why 96th Street is an express stop on the Broadway Line, and not say 88th Street? If Jimmy Breslin is to believed in his biography of Damon Runyon, then it was due to Robert Morgenthau's grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Sr., who, as a NYC developer around the turn-of-the-last-century, among other things, lobbied the Interborough Radid Transit Company (IRT) to make 96th Street an express stop because he was going to be building apartments in the area, and what better appeal could there be to time-sensitive New Yorkers (even then) than to tell them they could live within a traffic light of an express train stop that would whisk them downtown faster than ever?

I love reading about the famously departed whose grandfatherly ancestry predates the light bulb. Robert Morgenthau, Federal and NYC prosecutor, has passed away at 99. His grandfather was born in 1856. That is some stretch of time to only go back two generations.

Robert M. gets the full-Monty obituary treatment in today's NYT obituaries section. Or, very nearly the full-Monty. Sure it's a six column full-page narrative of the highs and lows, but there was no front page obit placement, or even a teaser that his obit would be found further inside the edition. Perhaps it was the late Sunday passing that kept the 21-gun salute off the front page.

Regardless, I remember his father's signature on United States currency still in circulation in the '50s and '60s, because Henry Jr. was FDR's Secretary of the Treasury from 1934 to 1945. Turns out the grandfather, along with building buildings in Manhattan, was President Woodrow Wilson's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, that very large tract of the globe that existed prior to
World War I. You need an old map these days to find the Ottoman Empire.

If Texas Governor Ann Richards said of George H.W. Bush that he was born with a silver foot in his mouth, then it would seem Robert Morgenthau would have been born in a voting booth. But election to any office other than District Attorney of New York was never where Mr. Morgenthau found employment.

Over the years there were always stories in the paper about Robert's non-official life. His living upstate near where he was born and raising chickens. His boat ride with his second wife through the Erie Canal locks. How, despite his leading major prosecutorial offices in New York, he never prosecuted a case himself.

Some of us are just born to be administrators. 

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Mad Magazine

Over the weekend there were two essays that appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, one in the Journal's 'Review' section, the other as an Op-Ed piece in Saturday's Times. Both writers recounted the influence Mad magazine' had on their young lives growing up.

Both pieces are a reaction to the news that Mad will no longer produce new material, but will instead recycle its old content. Sort of like a greatest hits offering. Apparently, Mad is no longer as popular as it once was with the male, teenage wiseass who is crashing through puberty. The publisher is hemorrhaging money.

Both authors are noticeably younger than myself. Bruce Handy and Tim Kreider credit Mad for way more things than ever occurred to me when I read it in the '50s and early '60s. Of the two, Mr. Kreider in the NYT (perhaps fittingly) appears to be the most serious, crediting 'Mad' that..."behind all the adolescent satire and parody was a moral agenda."

Both Mr. Kreider and Mr. Hardy are writers, so of course having now grown up they can recognize what the grownups who were producing 'Mad' were all about. But believe me, reading 'Mad' when you're 11- or 12-years-old, you wouldn't know a moral agenda from a German Shepherd.

Both writers have some distinctive memories of the 'Mad' magazine content. Interesting, both recall the parody of Edward Gorey's "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" where Gorey, composing a macabre line of poetry for each drawing of a child he makes for every letter of the alphabet, works his way through the alphabet with couplets like: 'K is for Kate who was struck by an axe...L is for Leo who swallowed some tacks.

'Mad' apparently updated the rhymes with current childhood dangers that reflect the era of school shootings and active shooter drills, something my guess is Handy and Kreider grew up with, just as much as I grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation and "Duck and Cover." drills. Q is for Quinn whose life has just begun...R is for Reid, valued less than a gun."

There have always been dangers lurking as you grow up. Not the same dangers, but ones that will nevertheless snuff out your life.

Aside from my memories of 'Mad' and its various regular features, especially 'Spy vs. Spy,' I will forever remember the 1961 issue whose cover showed us that 1961 is still 1961, even if you turn it upside down!

This was fantastic. What other year could you do the same thing with? It turns out 1881 is a good one. But the pickings are slim. The next upside-down-is-the-same-year after 1961 will be 6009, a year so far in the future you might conceivably be concerned that no one will ever see it. Or at least still be collecting Social Security benefits.

Can anyone tell me what NYC Subway line is depicted on 'Mad' magazine's cover? Or at least on the cover of the issues I would be reading at Siegal's Candy store in Flushing without paying for the issue? Look closely. There is a character jumping out of the M pointing to the IND line. The what?

Years ago my boss, who was several years younger than me and not from NYC, loved it when I explained to him that the NYC subway was once run by three private companies, known by their abbreviations as the IND, the Independent system; the BMT, the Brooklyn Manhattan Trains; and the IRT, Interborough Rapid Transit.

Each company had their own railroad standards, thus the gauge for each company's tracks was different, thereby preventing an IND car from ever rolling on an IRT track, etc. Just some of the baked-in incompatibilities of the current system that it is stuck with forever.

But learning is not always a one-way street. I will forever remember Rob telling how the western part of a town usually had the better homes than the eastern part of time. Rob, who grew up outside of Hartford, CT, with remnants of New England factories still dotting his landscape, explained that with smokestacks, and prevailing winds, soot would blow to the east of the smokestacks, leaving that part of town with dirty wash hung on the line, and therefore, a less desirable place to live. The swells lived west of the smokestacks.

Mr. Hardy credits 'Mad' magazine with leading him not to do so well in school, thus precipitating parental intervention when his grades started to slip. He feels his new found adolescent attention to the magazine caused his attention to wonder, causing him not to apply himself so well in school.

As for myself, I can't say reading 'Mad' caused any parental intervention. Bur my own reading habits didn't escape some parental worrying when the show 'The Untouchables' was popular on television, the story of Eliot Ness cleaning up the Capone-era gangsters in Chicago.

I became smitten with stories of gangsters. I bought a cheap paperback, complete with photos that gave little biographies of the bad boys and girls of the 30s, generally Al Capone, John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, etc. I read the Wanted Posters in the Office. (They really did put them there once upon a time.)

I loved reading about the names of the prisons they were sent to. I tucked the book between the mattress and the box spring in my room, only to have the book discovered, and the worry begin, when the mattress was flipped.

Mom and dad were still around as I got old enough and didn't become a gangster. When the 'Sopranos' was ever-so popular, I was watching something else. I couldn't care less about those guys.

We all move on.

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

H. Ross Perot

I've been waiting a few days to share my thoughts and experience regarding H. Ross Perot. I read Maureen Dowd this morning, and, as usual, she sent me to the dictionary. Her screed this morning is aimed at AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and her tantrums against Nancy Pelosi and the older members of the Democratic Party. Maureen tells us she's been enscorcelled to write about AOC in the past... Well, I've been enscorcelled to write we about H. Ross Perot.

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

I'm sure there's list somewhere of what events changed the course of history. It might even be part of a test in some college course. Certainly the list could be divided into centuries and even countries, but again, you have to be almost of a certain age to realize that H. Ross Perot changed the course of history. He gave us the Clintons.

No, not because he was their father, or even their uncle. He was the third-party candidate in 1992 that upset the apple cart and kept George H.W. Bush from being reelected president.

Ross fittingly rated a front page, below-the-fold NYT obituary on Wednesday, written by the redoubtable Robert McFadden. It has already been noted in these postings that right now, anyone who passes away near, or over 90, it's pretty much a cinch that McFadden has pre-written your obit, waiting for the official pronouncement of your demise. The file is waiting to be dragged to the obits page. Perot was 89.

The Times gives Perot the full-Monty treatment. The page one obit jumps to a full two-page spread, with large photos, a News Analysis and a sort of appreciation column. The guy did change history.

In 1970 the company I had already worked two years for, Blue Shield of New York, or United Medical Service (UMS), decided to outsource the EDP department. It was EDP in those days,  Electronic Data Processing, not IT, and noisy keypunch machines were very much in use. (Computers were also referred to as electronic adding machines, EAM.)

As you might expect, this created quite an uproar because people's jobs were eliminated, and the small EDP department was "re-badged" as employees of EDS, Perot's rapidly growing Electronic Data Services company.

In came Perot's boys, and everyone was male. Suits, ties and white shirts, their work uniform. And nearly everyone was ex-military, Naval Academy types. Perot had graduated from Annapolis, and the military was his pipeline.

We all heard the stories of his delivering newspapers on horseback in Texarkana. He had been  a salesman for IBM, pushing mainframes computers into the workplace. Supposedly, has was so successful at meeting his IBM sales quotas that the stories went he was on the golf course by the end of January.

The EDS contract with UMS was to develop a new claim system for paying claims. Not that Perot's people knew exactly how to do this, or had a proven track record of doing it, but fly-by-the-seat-of- your-pants was the order of the day. They learned as much from us and we learned from them. I was part of a small group of people who tested their efforts before they went into production. And believe me, they were way behind in delivering the final system.

I distinctly remember the day Ross came into the office to meet some of his key people who were working in the office right behind me. As pointed out by Mcfadden, Ross was not tall, and I remember him going right past me, as tall as I was sitting down.

I guess the door was closed, because I didn't get to hear him. But if Alec Baldwin has made a living out of impersonation Donald Trump, Dana Carvey made a living impersonating Perot on 'Saturday Night Live.'  Perot did have a high pitched, nasal voice, that had homespun qualities, a homily sound bite waiting to happen. His presence in the 1992 presidential debates is the stuff of legend.

Mentioned in the obit is Perot's effort at getting his employees out of Iraq as they were being held hostage. I worked with one of those people, Bill Gaylord, when he was assigned to UMS. Perot's business was built on government contracts—domestic and international governments. He knew how to do business with governments and their complex purchasing rules. Anyone who can master the U.S. Government's purchasing manual is destined to get rich.

And Perot certainly did. After completing the work on the private sector of the business UMS administered, Perot and the "whiz kids" went to work on the Medicare Part B side of the business, the contract with the government. A new system for that took way more time than expected as well. But when it was finished, EDS had a system they could promote to all the plans that did Medicare business. And that was lucrative.

On the heels of snaring the contract to do work with United Medical Service, Perot took on Wall Street, trying to modernize the back offices that were awash in paper.

I worked as a clerk at a Wall Street firm, Burnham & Co., and you wouldn't believe how much paper there was. Yes, there were some computers, but stock certificates had to be handled and delivered by hand through the network of "runners"  between firms. The certificates themselves were kept in "Cashiers," a supposedly restricted area surrounded by what looked like chicken wire.

Perot was going to modernize the NYSE and bought a firm, dupont, Glore Forgan. This exposed the salty Texan to hard-bitten, cynical New Yorkers. It was not a good fit. Perot retreated from trying to modernize Wall Street, but not before losing a bundle and taking a parting shot and calling Wall Street a 'Red Light District.'  Perot did not stand for what he perceived to be immorality, and Wall Street, to him, had plenty to go around. Still does.

Yes, Ken Follett's best-seller, 'On the Wings Eagles' did recount the hostage rescue in Iraq. Not mentioned in the obit is the 1983 movie  'Uncommon Valor' staring Gene Hackman, Robert Stack, and Patrick Swayze about rescuing prisoners held in Laos after the Vietnam War. The movie is a thinly veiled story about Perot's efforts to liberate POWs. In the movie, more rescuers die than those that get rescued, but it is an action film.

Did Perot have an effect on the 1992 Presidential election? Was he a precursor to the rise of Donald Trump and alleged Russian influence in 2016 through social media? The obit says no, even though he got 19% of the popular vote, he got no electoral votes.

But he did sway states that might have gone with their electoral votes to create a majority within the state for George Bush? Bill Clinton picked up electoral votes that George H.W. Bush would have won. Perot changed the course of history.

But why did he jump into the election? George H.W. Bush was asked if he knew why Perot jumped in and hurt his chances. Ever the diplomat, Bush demurred and basically said he didn't know.

But there were known factors at work. As vice president for Reagan, Bush had to confront Perot and scotch his efforts at going to Southeast Asia and trying to free POWs. Perot's mission got cancelled, and the feeling is he never forgave Bush for that, even if he was just the messenger.

The other factor at work is a little harder to pin down, but Texans do not like interlopers, those that come into the state and do well. And George H.W. Bush was a Connecticut Yankee who conquered part of the Texas oil business and became quite wealthy. The Bushes were not real Texans.

The newscaster, Dan Rather is from Texas, and he seemed to have a misguided mission to embarrass the son, George W. Bush, with a story about getting out of the Army and into the National Guard during the draft era surrounding the Vietnam War.

Dan Rather steadfastly used a document that clearly could not have been typed when it was said to have been written. A use of an ordinal number with a 'th" could not have come from the purported timeline. Rather kept at it,  and eventually was booted from CBS News along with his producer, also from Texas. When your family is not from the from the Lone Star State, you are not a Texan. You can't say, "Remember the Alamo."

The 1992 debates were pure theater. Perot with his graphs, George H.W. looking at his watch, and Clinton being a country boy. It may never happen again; three left-handed people running for president at the same time.

Those were the days.

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Wisdom on an 8-Year-Old

Like many things that I remember, you have to be of a certain age to also remember them. Take Coca-Cola. Does anyone remember when there was a "New Coke." Certainly not the people in the film 'Yesterday' where the main character goes into a store and asks for a Coke. They stare at him blankly, and say they only have Pepsi. The execs in Atlanta are wondering how that got into the script.

Ditching the formula for 7-x took courage. I've always heard that Coke's formula is hidden in a safe in Atlanta. But in 1985 Coke launched a campaign to promote New Coke. They were discontinuing the "old" Coke. It may not have been the "shot heard around the world," but you'd have thought they were doing away with the $1 bill.

The new taste was supposedly less sweet. Between Coke and Pepsi, Coke was always the sweeter of the two. As for my childhood preference I really didn't favor either one. I drank enough Mission cream soda that it's a wonder my teeth followed me into adulthood.

The only Coke and Pepsi I liked were the empty bottles we could find at the athletic field. There was a 2¢ deposit on the empties, and a 5¢ deposit on the "family" size bottles. We rarely found any 5¢ empties.

Coke was always unique to the other sodas of the era in the '50s. 7-Up and Pepsi could be purchased in 7 oz. bottles; Coke in 6½ oz. bottles. They had to hold back that ½ oz. Marketing.

Coca-Cola syrup, the gallon bottles that soda fountains mixed with carbonation, also had therapeutic properties. In 1958 when I had my appendix out and spent what was then the recovery period of 7 days in the hospital,

I distinctly remember it was 1958, because the Top 40 song of the summer on AM radio was 'The Witch Doctor,' sung by David Seville and his creation of Alvin and the Chipmunks. The song did have lyrics, but the hook was the sounds of the song: Ooo-eee-Ooo-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang, repeated four timers as the chorus.

I was nauseous from the effects of  the ether administered as the anesthetic (The surgeon's bill was $75.) I distinctly remember a nurse giving me a cup of Coke from the gallon jug. Pure Coca-Cola syrup. It was good. I remember feeling better.

I was reminded of the summer of 1985 when I read the obituary for Philip H. Geier Jr., 84, Empire Builder Who Made an Advertising Giant Even Bigger.

The uproar over New Coke was raging. It turns out Mr. Geier was the head of an advertising agency that was responsible for convincing the Atlanta execs that a "New Coke" would give them the edge in the "Cola-Wars" (Billy Joel's, 'We Didn't Start the Fire.')

New Coke was DOA. In three months Coke abandoned the product and restored what was the "old" Coke to the shelves.  The campaign was an unmitigated disaster, and probably entered into a case study at Harvard Business school.

And if you think the uproar was an exaggeration, consider the 8-year-old boy Scott who lived next door and wondered out loud at the July 4th cookout, "how could they do that?"

I remember the post-mortem analysis was they felt the mistake they made was that by introducing New Coke they cut off access to the "old" Coke. Only "New" was available. They didn't count on the uproar they would generate when people were told they could no longer get their old standby.

They just didn't ask Scott.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Phrase Makers

There is nothing like the obituary of a salty print journalist to bring out the best in newspaper quotes.

And when the deceased is Steve Dunleavy, 81, "Avatar of Murdoch News,"  it's all the better because there is a greater body of work and acquaintances to draw on.

Mr. Dunleavy  had been at his trade so long there's even an Ava Gardner story. Ava, reluctant to give an interview to Steve at a New York nightclub, thew a glass of champagne in his face, trying, I'm sure, to underline what "no" meant.

Well, even "no" is a story, especially when you can create a headline: "Last night I shared a glass of champagne with Ava Gardner. She threw it: I wore it."

Mr. Dunleavy was with the New York Post as one of the original journalists to join the paper after Rupert Murdoch took it over in 1976, beginning what I would call the golden age for the paper.

Dunleavy was Australian, as is Rupert Murdoch, and with Ray Kerrison, editorial cartoonist Paul Rigby, Page Six gossip and photos, along with headlines like "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar," they all contributed to putting the Post ahead of the Daily News as to which tabloid was the sauciest. Given a choice as to which one I'd pick up if they were both left on a seat, I would always choose the Post.

Sam Roberts in the NYT obit gives the journalist's equivalent of a 21-gun salute, a 6-column account of his career. It's an affectionate narrative that gives Dunleavy credit for breaking major stories in addition to getting champagne in his face at the Stork Club from a temperamental actress. I suspect Mr. Roberts wrote the obituary on deadline rather than relying on something prewritten.

Dunleavy exposed Elvis Presley's drug use, and interviewed some very unpopular subjects: the mother of Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy's assassin; Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler.

"Mate, I've never had a bad day in journalism in my life. You win, you get drunk because you won. You lose, you get drunk because you lost." A bar on West 47th Street, Langan's served as his second office.

Reporters who knew him would observe: Charles Leduff, "Dunleavy doesn't take food with his meals."

And two of my favorites checked in. Pete Hamill, "I always thought he was writing his columns like he was double-parked."

Jimmy Breslin, "...and he wrote simple declarative sentences that people could read, as opposed to these 52-word gems that moan, 'I went to college! I went to graduate school college! Where do I put the period?'"

Over the years I've heard the Breslin quote repeated often, but I never knew the context. I immediately thought of Breslin's comment when I was reading something in the New Yorker by Robert Caro, I think, that was a sentence that went on for 101 words. Not run-on, as the thirds grade teacher always warned us against, but a true sentence that used dashes, clauses of all varieties, and prepositional phrases, that if diagrammed would require two pieces of paper and look like a schematic drawing for landing gear. No wonder Caro is still working on his last book in his Lyndon Johnson series.

Stuart Marques said, "there are a million Steve Dunleavy stories and they're all true, even the ones that never happened."

The news marches on.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Declaration of Independence

Live long enough, and you'll forget more than you remember. I've read many things, but it just seems some things stick more than others. How do you explain prominently remembering something you read decades ago, but you're unable to recall yesterday's headline? No matter.

For decades I've been carrying the memory around of the family I read about in the NYT that, lead by the senior member, would gather around each July 4th and take turns reading aloud passages from the Declaration of Independence.

I remember nothing about the name of the family, or where they gathered. But if it didn't get me thinking of doing something similar, it did have the effect of my paying more attention to the facsimile reprint of the Declaration that the NYT would reprint on the back of one of its sections each July 4th.

I don't know when the the Times started doing this—and they are still doing it—albeit they've shrunk the reprint from a full page to something smaller,  making it even harder to try and read it from the inimitable cursive script used by the colonists that has the letter "s" written in a looping "f." I never knew what was up with that, but if you can detect an "f", it's really an "s."

The Times has however provided a transcription in regular print surrounding the shrunken facsimile. And below, they've listed the signers and the states they were from. Reading the Declaration made easier.

You have to hand it to the colonists who actually took quill pen to parchment to write the Declaration out. It can't have been easy to write a lengthy document without the aid of white-out, or word processing. There are no cross outs in the Declaration.

It was fun to get past the Biblical opening..."The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands..." and dive down a little deeper into the text. It's hard to decipher, and it makes you wonder why are there so many people missing cursive writing?

The most fun was always found in trying to see who singed the document. Most people know the main signature belongs to John Hancock. Growing up I always remember the phrase..."put your John Hancock right there..." when someone was instructing you to sign something. I wonder how many people today would look at you if you were to now so instruct a signature to be placed somewhere. "John who?"

Where I grew up in Queens, there is main street that runs a very cow path route north/south that crosses Northern Boulevard: Francis Lewis Boulevard. There is a high school named after the fellow. And who was he? Well, he was one of those who put his John Hancock under John Hancock.

No, the family that reads to Declaration, the Seymour clan, were not signatories to the document. But with the scion's name of Whitney North Seymour Sr., followed by Whitney North Seymour Jr., married to Catryna Ten Eyck, a descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island (not a signer of the Declaration) you might think about the toast by of John Collins Bossidy at a 1910 Holy Cross Alumni dinner...

And this is good old Boston,
 The home of the bean and cod,
Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots,
 And the Cabots talk only to God.

And how was I reminded that it was the Seymour family that gathered on Cape Cod on July 4th and took turns reading from the Declaration? How else? Someone dies and I read it in an obituary.

Whitney North Seymour Jr., a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in New York, passed away at 95. And being a nonagenarian, there is no surprise that Robert McFadden has written the obituary.

And right there in the lead is the word that McFadden used when John Lindsay passed away, "patrician."

"Whitney North Seymour Jr., a patrician Republican who battled graft as President Richard M. Nixon's United States attorney in Manhattan in the 1970s..."

I remember the name, and I remember the headlines he created as he attained convictions.

When I thought of Whitney Seymour North Jr. I always thought of Whitney Darrow Jr., a New Yorker cartoonist who contributed pieces for over 50 years.

It's the name Whitney, first or last name,  that creates an air of high social hierarchy. But it can be deceiving. When I was giving a demonstration of some fraud software to a Dr. Whitney and he mentioned Saratoga, I immediately thought, hey, this guy might be one of the wealthy Whitneys associated with horse racing. Maybe I'll get a pass.

When I inquired if he was connected to the racing Whitneys, he dryly asked, "are they someone who is rich and famous?"
 "Yes."
"Then it's not me."

Close your eyes, say Whitney North Seymour Jr. a few times and you correctly imagine a private school education, Princeton, and Yale law school. His father was President Hoover's assistant solicitor general and a partner in a white-shoe firm Simpson Thatcher and Bartlett. For a brief point in Junior's career he worked at his father's firm.

Mentioned in the obituary are books he wrote, and a reference to contributing articles to the Times and other periodicals. Not mentioned is the one article I so distinctly remember that he wrote that appeared in the Sunday Times magazine section.

The 1974 story is a several thousand word essay recapping a vacation trip with a station wagon and a trailer to Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona and the Seymour's run in with the law: "Frontier Justice: A Run-In With the Law." It seems the Seymour's got a traffic summons for "parking on the roadway."

It doesn't take you long into the story before you realize that the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York is splitting hairs with an Arizona state trooper over the definition of "roadway." It's turning into a Federal case.

When you're finished reading the story, there is a denouement, but you are left wondering why would you go through all this?

It's easy to understand when you know the family takes turns reading the Declaration of Independence every July 4th.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Mother Goose

The not fully Assembled—are we then the Disassembled?—met at Belmont on Saturday. A quorum was not achieved since there were only two members present, Johnny M. And Johnny D., perhaps the two who can be considered the Founding Members of the group.

The June 29th date had been settled on nearly a month ago. The members wanted to get a card in before the early transition to Saratoga, and the perhaps prolonged hiatus from Belmont due to the construction of the new arena for the Islanders, a thoroughly ambitious plan that puts a hockey arena within a horseshoe throw of the Belmont grandstand.
It is not yet yet fully known if the 2020 Belmont Stakes will even be at Belmont. It is possible it could be run at Aqueduct. Fine by me. I no longer try and even go. Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.

The card for Saturday's racing was anemic. There were only 61 horses for what was only a 9-race card, rather than the usual 10-race weekend card. There were three 5-horse fields, with eight being the highest number of horses entered in a race. Three races at the recently run Ascot meet accounted for more entrants than found lining up at Belmont. Sunday's card is no improvement, with only eight! races filled. Unheard of. Troubled times have come to the horse racing industry.

The only added attraction for us on Saturday was the entry of Cassies Dreamer in The Mother Goose, a race that once was part of a NYRA promoted filly Triple Crown, but no longer seen as such. Years ago, The Acorn, The Mother Goose and The Coaching Club American Oaks were linked by NYRA and billed as the "Filly Triple Crown," the "Tiara."

The designation was discontinued in 2009, but I saw many of the horses that did complete the series with three victories, notably Dark Mirage, Shuvee, Chris Evert and Ruffian. Davona Dale, Mom's Command and Open Mind were three winners that came later.

The Assembled live vicariously through the majority ownership of Cassies Dreamer by Bobby G's longtime friend, Hayward (Richie) Pressman. True ownership will likely elude The Assembled forever.

Cassies Dreamer has been written about several times in these postings as she progresses from her 2-year-old start to her 3-year-old campaign. Going into The Mother Goose she has six starts, two firsts and a nice sum of $224,2540 in earnings. Richie has shed his New York Bred beginnings and gone all in on Cassies Dreamer in the emotional attachment department.  It is love.

I've met Richie several times and wanted to wish him well. I rightly figured he'd be coming out of the Trustees' Room and heading for the paddock for the saddling of the 8th race.

I caught Richie's attention with my Cassies Dreamer cap that he so generously sent me, and met his entourage, Peter, Rusty Jones, a Kentuckian who is a co-owner of the horse and the managing partner of Turf Stable Racing, and Richie's lovely wife Donna—who Richie named one of his horses after—Sweet Moving D— to acknowledge her love of dancing.

I cadged an invite to the paddock, which admittedly was an ulterior motive for the "ambush" outside the Trustees' Room. The only times I've ever been in the paddock have been because Richie had a horse running. My highest win payouts have been achieved with Richie's horses. I love the times his horses meet my bets in the winner's circle.

The Belmont paddock is usually as tranquil as a monastery, but Saturday it was a bit frantic. Usually the owners meet the jockeys and the trainers, and exchange some small talk before the jocks are told to report for "riders up."

But Saturday was different. A threatened thunder storm was rolling in right on time, with the skies darkening, wind picking up a bit, and lightening flashing in the distance. The jocks went straight to the stalls, mounted, and were told to stay there by the paddock judge. No one wanted anyone to get whacked by lightening.

The jocks were told to go straight to the post, and post time was moved up in hopes of beating the weather. I did get to shake Barclay Tagg's hand, but could exchange no words.

Barclay is 81, thin, well dressed in a blazer, tie and patterned shirt, holding himself with an almost military bearing of a Captain in the Queen's Artillery Regiment. Because of his first name, for years and years I always assumed he was British. Turns out he's very much an American, a graduate of Penn State, and a former steeplechase jockey, a fact I just learned through that marvelous creation, the Internet.

I'd been playing his horses for years, with good success with his turf entrants. I started following him back in the late '80s, so when he got all the attention for his 2003 training of Funny Cide, winner of the Derby and the Preakness, he he was already a household name to me.

I keep a picture of Julie Krone holding up five fingers as she guides her fifth winner to the Saratoga winner's circle on August 20, 1993. Five wins on a card put her with some notable achievers, Angel Cordero and Ron Turcotte. Nice company to join..

Online I brought up the NYT coverage of her achievement in Saturday's paper. I re-read the piece and was reminded that another female jockey  Georgina Frost, rode two winners that day on the card. Thus, female jockeys rode 7 of the 10 winners that day. Historic.

I would have liked to confirm something I always tell people: that two of Julie's winners that day were trained by Barclay Tagg.

It is no shame in racing to lose to a superior entrant, And this year's Mother Goose was no exception. In the race as the 1 horse was Dunbar Road, a Chad Brown trained filly making her fourth start for mega-buck owner Peter Brant. Brant and Chad have been gobbling up victories ever since Peter came back into the game.  Chad leads all trainers at the meet with the most money won: $4.6 million. No one else even has $2 million. Brant is ranked fourth as an owner with money won: just under a $1 million. Attention will be paid when they enter a horse.

Dunbar Road deserved to have the money she had bet on her. She was being ridden by Jose Ortiz, who would go on the ride four winners on the card, and was sporting Beyer speed figures that were only going up: 76; 89; 90, with two wins and a close second in a Grade 1 race at Gulfstream.

She won with authoritative ease, and went off at 30¢ on the dollar, paying the minimum for place and show, $2.10.  Cassies Dreamer chased, even being in front of Dunbar Road three-quarters into the race. But the lion's share of the purse goes to the winner. Cassies Creamer finished fourth, and would take home $15,000 of the purse money.

I wasn't with the Cassies Dreamer's owners as the race was run, instead going back to my third floor Clubhouse perch to rejoin Johnny M. Will Cassies Dreamer keep going against stiff competition, or will the owners and the trainer start to look around for a more forgiving condition?

The horse is till eligible for "non-winners of two, other than," NW2x. And having started out as $50,000 claimer, the horse still has plenty of conditioned claiming eligibility or starter allowance conditions remaining. After a horse wins two races, the water gets deeper.

Cassies' breeding shouts turf, and turf is where she might move back into the winner's circle. Her race before The Mother Goose as taken off the turf. But, she won in the slop. If she does turn into a decent turf horse she'll be a double-barrel threat because the conditions that take a race off the turf are the conditions she excels at.

And the weather? Did it pour on The Mother Goose? No. The rain held off and delayed the 9th race with a typhoon-type downpour. Unfortunately for Cassies Dreamer and her connections, her race was the 8th race, the feature, since there were only nine races. Thus, she missed a wet track that would have greeted the 9th race, but that one was carded for the turf, and thankfully for me and the winner I picked, did remain on the turf.

Cassies Dreamer loves the slop. Some horses just outperform themselves when they meet the wet stuff. Cassies Dreamer missed getting her favorite surface by about a half hour. Such is racing. The racing Gods did not intervene.

Small fields, small payouts. Winners were picked to the point I was just about writing checks to myself. But the amounts were small; the enjoyment however remains huge.

http://www.onofframp.blogspot.com

Monday, June 24, 2019

Income Inequality

Even if you don't follow politics with zeal, you've probably by now heard the phrase 'income inequality.'

Current presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are big on using the phrase. The freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC, to all) is big on it. New York City's mayor Bill de Blasio is perhaps the biggest of all on it. (At 6' 5' the mayor is tall, and is sometimes referred to as 'Big Bird' by those who do not particularly like him. So yes, he's big on things.)

Has anyone ever really looked at their cable bill. he ones from Verizon now are pretty easy to read. Each month, there is an additional array of charges, taxes, fees, whatever, that for me at least inflates the bill by $37.96. Want a breakdown? Easy.

  • NY State and Local Sales Tax           $6.24
  • 911 Surcharge                                     .35 
  • NY State and Local Tax Surcharges     5.14
  •  (The first item wasn't enough. The 
  •   surcharge is greater than the tax)       
  • Federal Universal Fee                        4.04 
  • Video Franchise Fee                           6.17
  • Regulatory Recovery Fee-Federal         .06
  • Regional Sports Network Fee              7.89 
  •  (I questioned this one once, 
  •  thinking maybe I'm missing out on a 
  •  sports cable channel. No. It's some 
  •  sort of community fee for local 
  •  broadcasting. Perhaps to stream 
  •  Little League games. How precious.) 
  • Fios TV Broadcast Fee                       4.49 
  • FDV Administrative Charge    
  •  (Too tired to ask what FDV is.)           .99 
  • NY Municipal construction                 2.49  
  • Surcharge
  •  (I guess I helped rebuild the
  •  Tappan Zee Bridge and paid for
  •  the change in signage to the
  •  Mario M. Cuomo bridge)

  • Subtotal                                       $37.96
The expense of the cable bill is a pet peeve of mine. When Hillary Clinton was a New York Senator I wrote to her about the fees. No answer.

Gas prices? Filled with tax underneath the pump price. When you buy gas outside your locality you realize there can be a wide price difference. Attributable to tax.

Sales tax. I think it's over 10% in Chicago, and a hair's breath under 9% in most parts of New York state, no matter where you are.

College education? Big story there amongst the candidates. Forgive the debt? Someone paid the bill, loaned the money, and now the strategy is to not allow them to collect? Someone's going to be mad.

There could have never been a time when there with people with more than others. "The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer." That phrase has been around a long time.

Campaign claptrap and folderol. Much easier solution than trying to give  money to balance the scale. Income inequality?

I'd have a lot more money if things cost less.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

How Do I Say Thee?

I'm sure a good number of people are familiar with the sonnet 'How Do I Love Thee" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that 19th century Romantic poet. I'm sure either the sonnet, or Browning, or both, have been an answer on Jeopardy.

The series Billions has run its course for the season. Twelve episodes. I would strongly expect there will be another season. And in the next new season I'm sure we can expect everyone to be out to fuck everyone else.

When I was young and sillier than I am now, I loved to go to dictionaries and see how they defined the curse words I knew. I loved how dryly the definitions read. Of course there is only one great curse word that sits on top of the mountain. The word Richard Burton called that great Anglo-Saxon word of all time: fuck.

I'd have loved if Richard Burton did a complete soliloquy containing as many iterations of the word as anyone could mash in there. It's a pity Shakespeare stayed away from the word. But then again, he probably valued his head.

No worry. If you ever feel a need to hear the word repeated in as many iterations as a screenwriter can work into his characters mouths, you only have to tune into any episode of Billions and listen to the f-bomb fly.

All the characters utter it. Even Richard Thomas, a long way from his John Boy role on The Waltons as he plays Sanford Bensinger, a composite character of a financial buyout titan. Is he Carl Icahn?

Having Richard utter the word is a shock to anyone who watched The Waltons and followed John Boy's march to maturity. It's almost like having Shirley Temple uttering the word because she broke a nail. It's jarring.

It's no surprise that a 12-episode miniseries is a progression of each episode advancing the viewer to the windup. And Billions is no exception.

The season can be summarized as Chuck getting back in the prosecutorial spotlight as New York's Attorney General, a job that doesn't require him to ever appear in Albany; Wendy's tussle with the Medical Board over the suspension of her medical license; Chuck's private war with the U.S. Attorney General "Jock" and the U.S. Attorney for New York's Sovereign District, Bryan Connerty.

Then there's Taylor Mason, the breakaway hedge fund that Bobby Axelrod so wants to destroy for the temerity to break ranks with Bobby and go out on his own. Bobby tells you when you're through. Not the other way around.

The penultimate episode has Bryan Connerty getting his safe-cracking brother to gain access to Chuck's father's safe. Bryan is certain the Rhoadeses are up to something hugely illegal and wants to see what the wiretaps can't tell him.

Along the way, we have the Feds busting in on Chuck Sr. as he lays in bed with his Native-American mistress and love child in an upstate motel. Pure embarrassment. But, a pure endorsement that sex doesn't end when you're past 60. The old guy has has "got it together" as Bryan admits to having seen him naked.

Bobby and Rebecca continue their dance to save the Saler enterprise. (Read Sears) But somehow, underneath it all, you do have the sense that Bobby is still Bobby Axelrod, and he smells financial gain beyond saving the ice cream counter that Rebecca fondly remembers from growing up. Bobby is not sentimental.

Taylor has already pinched the company that supplies Saler's with their appliances. And the alternative manufacturer, acquired by Rebecca, turns out to be toxic with the stain of child labor at its manufacturing plants in South America. Oh-oh. Bad news on the doorstep.

Now we get to the word fuck in all its grammatical glory. Looking the word up in the OED we get two entries. One for the verb, one for the noun. "Coarse slang" on both.

Sir Richard was of course right. It's the greatest word in English language. And dead certain a shame Shakespeare didn't get to use it.

Fuck. How do I say thee? Let me count the ways

No need to repeat the definitions, you can look them up yourself. What I always love about the OED is the section that iterates the phrases, or other compounded uses of the word. Thus, we are treated to the examples: fuck about adv; fuck around adv; fuck up adv; fuck off adv; fuck-me adj; fuck-up comb; fuckwit noun; fucker noun; fucking vb, adj, adv.

The final episode is of course the wind-up. And it's here we get to count the ways people get fucked.

The opening and closing of the episode treats us to how elaborate the equipment has to be for Chuck to get a spanking from the dominatrix. Definitely assembly required.

The prelude also has Bobby asking Rebecca to do him a favor and get Wendy a "state changer." Take her somewhere where she can get things out of her head. Spa, shopping, something. Rebecca knows just the thing.

If you know your famous people, then it's easy to spot Mark Cuban in fron of earth moving equipment, greeting Wendy and Rebecca and introducing them to the gentleman who is going to teach them to run heavy equipment for the day. (Famous financial celebrities now and then make cameo appearances. Not Bernie Madoff, however. Porn stars have also been on the bill.)

The scene further unfolds with Wendy and Rebecca in separate cabs of earthmovers, graders, front loaders, going free reign on a large tract of land. They smash junker autos. They have a ball playing with boy toys. Back at the pub for a celebratory drink they congratulate each other on having moved "fucking" earth today. They resist the advances of the local lotharios and head outside for Axe's waiting helicopter to take them back to prosaic urban life.

Bobby outmaneuvers Rebecca, gains control of Saler's with John Boy's fucking help, gained from eating pancakes created by a chef flown in for just that: breakfast. Pure Axelrod.

Bobby has designed his torpedo to kill two birds with one shot. Taylor's holding in a stock now loaded with crushing debt has sent his fund's value plummeting. Rebecca's relationship with Bobby is over, even though Bobby has pointed out the closing of Saler's for parts will personally net Rebecca at least a billion dollars, and probably laudatory profiles in all the financial publications, Rebecca can't see past the betrayal. Bobby has fucked Rebecca and fucked Taylor. Look for a new gal pal for Bobby next year.

Wendy's anticipated suspension of her medical license has been bought off by Bobby contributing $25 million for pancreatic cancer research, obviously a pet project of the Medical Board members. Good deeds do go rewarded. Wendy is back with a verbal warning. But, Chucked is fucked when Wendy realizes her husband didn't come to her rescue. Chuck's not going to get fucked anytime soon by Wendy. since shes spends the night at Bobby's apartment, all chaste surroundings, in a guest bedroom. No fucking going on there. At least not yet.

A fucked Taylor is forced to crawl back to Axe Capital, with his team, working under the umbrella of Axe Cap.

But like a Shakespearean play, we do get some great soliloquies. And one of the best characters to deliver them is Chuck and Waylon "Jock" Jeffcoat.

Jock, being from Texas, with a great mane of silver hair, nice suit and tie and imposing build, comes out with some beauts. Like, he's going to come out "cleaner than a choir boy's pecker." "I'm here to crush you, publicly...as loud as a cow elk trying to squeeze out breached twins." God, what is it like to grow up in Texas? The man is Will Rogers with a diploma. And Will was from Oklahoma.

Chuck of course is one for the stage. He gets in Waylon's face with an extended soliloquy, in Italian, from something is grandfather said. Chuck's memory and breath control is showstopping, and ends with that most Italian of gestures of all that is the back of one's hand scraping the chin and stopping in front of his oppo's face. A long way to go to say "fuck you." It's beautiful. Even Jock gets a kick out of it. Two stags clashing horns in the forest. And neither one is in Albany or Washington D.C.

The die is cast. Jeff threatens destruction. Chuck says come and get me. The traps are set. But which one will catch who?

Back at the U.S. Attorney's office on St. Andrew's Place in New York, Bryan is exhibiting information withdrawal. He's desperate to know what's on the redacted tape recording of a conversation in Chuck Sr's dining room. He knows if only he can get to the tape. But by law, he's prohibited from listening to the full tape. His No. 2, Kate Sacker is adamant that Bryan stop trying to find out who the "idiot" is referred to on the tape. Bryan is convinced it will lead him to the person he can flip to get the Rhoadeses convicted on conspiracy and bribery charges over the development of Sr.'s real estate project.

Bryan cracks. He breaks the evidence seal on the tape and listens to the full tape. Bryan has been fucked. Big time.

Bryan is the idiot. The Rhoadeses have set him and Jock up to break the law. In a murder-solving recap by Inspector Poirot, Chuck explains to a very fucked Bryan the elaborate sting operation they have played on Bryan and Jock. Flashbacks to what we hadn't seen fill the screen.

Chuck always knew Bryan could be made to cross the line. He knew they were bugged. He concocted enough conversation to give the listening Connerty the belief that something of a major illegality was being concocted by the Rhoadeses. They purposely crafted their conversation to lead Bryan to think there was someone who could be flipped and used to bring the house down. The "idiot." Guess who the idiot was?

They bugged Bryan by having Kate replace Bryan's flag pin with a flag pin with a bug in it. A conversation between the equally overzealous Jeffcoat and Bryan, where Bryan is ordered to beak the law is captured. Bryan at the computer listening to the tape late at night in the office is captured via a video feed. Bryan is fucked. A picture of that is what comes out of Sr.'s safe that is being emptied via a Bryan Connerty executed search warrant. Oh Bryan, what have you done? A Fordham boy who went to church and stayed in touch with mom at the holidays.

So, will next season give us no Waylon Jeffcoat and no Bryan Connerty? Only their agents know for sure. Will we see the rise of Kate Sacker?

The prior season ended with a new alliance being formed between Chuck and Axe. Now we're going to see a new alliance between Taylor and Chuck to bring Axe down. Taylor is poised to watch the two stags kill each other and leave him standing.

We know that's not going to happen. The two stars are not getting written out. Unless the show is not going forward. Then everyone gets written out.

What we can count on, are great soundtrack selections. Peter Townsend's "Behind Blue Eyes" plays as Bobby calculates. What color are Damian Lewis's eyes? Dave Hause's "Sabateurs" plays as the players drink scotch and figure out how to fuck each other.

There's a lot of scotch being consumed when these people think. And then they fuck each other often.

Any less fucking and the show would be cancelled.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Death in the Family

I'm not much of one for reading memoirs, biographies, or autobiographies. Non-fiction, murder mysteries and police procedurals tend to make the night stand.

But years and years ago, I did read Molly O'Neill's 2006 memoir of growing up with her five brothers. one of whom was playing right field for the New York Yankees, Paul O'Neill.

In the '90's I always saw Molly's byline in the New York Times, writing about food. Then, perhaps as an excerpt from her book, or just an article, she wrote about sports in her family. The piece appeared in the Sports section of the Times, and was so well read that readers expressed interest that Molly be reassigned to the sports beat.

Of course Molly became a famous food writer,restaurant owner and chef. She wrote cook books and ran cooking schools. Her writing was compared to the giants of the genre. She has now passed away at 66.

Anyone who ever followed the Yankees in the '90's and early '00's knows that Paul O'Neill was a major contributor to the Yankees' four World Series titles. The cover of the book is a clue that even though there aren't as many O'Neills as there were Gilbreth's of  'Cheaper by the Dozen', you know you're going to read a heart warming tale of a family coming of age.

The O'Neill family was headed by a father who had been a minor league player who was running an excavation business. Thus, the family photo of Molly and her five coltish brothers—all skinny arms and arms—loaded into a front loader. It speaks volumes.

Dad wanted a baseball team, and after Molly, he got five male youngsters he could put through the paces. He built a baseball diamond on the property. How could he miss grooming a professional player? And of course he did.

Molly, the oldest, was mom's lieutenant. And Paul was the youngest, the baby of the brood, who always gets more attention than the others. Molly tells of the family's devotion to following Paul as he played for the Yankees. In the pre-Internet, cellphone era, they made sure they had a radio handy to listen to Yankee games.

The one aspect of the book that to me was the most endearing was the story of the neighbor who returned all the baseballs that had been blasted onto his property (mostly by Paul) when they family moved. He made a point of coming over with an arm full of hard balls and wishing the family well on their departure from the neighborhood.

I still laugh at this because in my garage is a small collection of baseballs, softballs, and tennis balls I've found nestled in the shrubs, or ivy that I never tried to find who they belonged to. Our property in Long Island suburbia is not anything large enough to be next to a homemade baseball diamond, and if a ball was visible, I did throw it back over the fence as it landed. But the ones I've found otherwise are stacked in the garage.

All I know is, a young Paul O'Neill didn't whack therm over the fence.

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The Garden Hose

You wouldn't know it to look at it, but a garden hose has a mind of its own.

An inanimate, flexible, hallow rubber object does what it wants when you want it to do something else. I have been confounded by garden hoses probably ever since I was eight years old and was helping my father water the lawn.

It's not because it's Father's Day that I mention my father. It's because last night the hose in front turned itself on. But more on that in a bit.

Growing up in the house in Flushing there were no outside spigots to attach a hose. I don't remember any houses on the block that did. It wasn't until sometime in my thirties that we added a spigot on each side of the house.

Until then, my memory is that we attached a hose to the spigot in the cellar by the enormous porcelain tubs that were there to take the discharge from the washing machine, a dangerous looking contraption that had the rollers on the top so that water could be squeezed out of the wash and it could then be hung on the line outside merely damp, not dripping. No one I know lost a hand to the washing machine, but the potential for an accident was there every time a towel was fed through the rollers.

Well, the cellar window was opened, a two-light paned hatch (never locked), hinged on the top, and the hose was passed through the opening and brought to either the front, or the back. If the back needed watering, the hose was strung along the cellar floor and out through the back the storm door. I spent so much time wrestling with the hose that it's a wonder I didn't want to be a fireman.

The homes of that era were once heated with coal, and the hatch window on the driveway side could be flipped out to accept the coal chute, that went into the coal bin. Some homes still had the coal bin in use for a workshop. I still remember one house in the neighborhood that was serviced by a coal truck. Everyone else had converted to oil or gas.

My memory predates coal heating, but my father would tell of me when he and my mom shoveled coal into the burner. Apparently, we weren't advanced enough to have a "automatic fireman" feed that would deliver the coal without so much manual effort. I still have a few of the coal shovels in the shed. They were used to shovel snow. Memories.

A hose just being a flexible line wouldn't seem capable of knotting itself. Or developing a kink that pinches off the flow of water. But there never seemed to be a time in stringing that hose to either the front or the back that it didn't someone knot itself, or got caught on something and require a retracing of steps. Nothing ever went smoothly.

Eventually, with outside spigots things got a little better, but there was still the occasion of a snag. A hose has a mind of its own.

Forward to the present dwelling with outside spigot and hose reel for the back, and hose holder for the front, and you would think nothing will ever delay you. Wrong.

The y-connector allows for two hoses to be attached to the spigot, and toggle tabs allow for separate on/off operation.

Even with a hose reel, in the back, pulling the hose across the patio still results in the kink, or tangle with a piece of furniture.  Since there are sprinklers in the front, there is less need to use the front hose.

Even though it is recommended that when not in use you should turn the water supply off to the hoses, I've taken to leaving it on. The connections are tight enough that there is no dripping, even tiny. And we're always home, so if something happens, then water can be turned off.

The front hose is wrapped around a simple wall-mounted holder that is behind the shrubs. The nozzle is a typical lever handled nozzle, is one of those Dram models that allows you to create specialized flows by rotating the front wheel.

Since the water is always on, using the hose is simple. You unwind it, and press the nozzle. The human side of this is that it takes someone to press the nozzle to make water come out. Unless something else happens. And apparently that something else happened Saturday night, early Sunday morning.

At 2 A.M. trip to the bathroom for bladder relief.it became apparent to the ears that water was running somewhere. Upstairs toilet? No. Downstairs toilet? No. Dishwasher, washing machine? No. Following the sound leads to explore what's going on outside the front door. Sound is louder, pavement is wet, but where is the water coming from?

Check the front spigot, but no leaks at the y-connector. Then, the source is identified. The front hose and nozzle has somehow partially slipped off the holder, bounced the nozzle on the pavement, with the weight of the nozzle pressing down on the handle. A spray of water is squirting up, saturating the front door and pavement. The hose has somehow turned itself on.

Easy solution. Turn the spigot off. Problem identified, and solved. But how did the hose turn itself on in the first place?

Turns out on Sunday morning after my wife woke up, she told me about the water being on, spraying the front door, and her going out to turn off the spigot. I then told told her I turned the spigot off at 2:00 A.M. Apparently she didn't turn it off tight enough, and there was still water coming out of the nozzle.

The hose obeyed one of Newton's law of motion: a body in motion tends to stay in motion. When I used the hose on Saturday I must not have draped the nozzle in a 4, or 5 o'clock position. I must have left it high on the top, 12 o'clock, and the nozzle inched its way down, hit the pavement and turned itself on.

Which of course creates the other law of garden hoses: they have a mind of their own.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Question

Can you pass away if no one knows you're alive?

Such might be the question that can be asked as we learn of the passing of Nicky Barnes, a drug kingpin who is now reported to have passed away seven years ago in 2012, at 78 or 79 years of age.

Apparently his daughters did know he was alive, but since he was in the Witness Protection Program they kept his demise a secret, even as seven years elapsed.

After perhaps 20 years of a lifetime prison sentence, Nicky Barnes started to cooperate with the Federal government and began to supply information which lead to the prosecution and conviction of his former associates, former girlfriends, and even his ex-wife. He felt betrayed by them, and felt his betrayal of them was justified.

Nicky Barnes was released into the Witness Protection Program after his cooperation secured his release from prison in 1998. He lived a thoroughly anonymous life, but did surface in 2007 to meet with a New York Times reporter as a book about his life was being published and a movie, American Gangster was being released about the life of another drug kingpin, Frank Lucas. Despite being every bit as big a dealer as Frank Lucas, Nicky's life is cast in a tangential light. Frank is who the movie is about.

One nugget from the Barnes obituary that I never knew is that Nicky Barnes was the inspiration for Jim Croce's hit, 'Bad, Bad. Leroy Brown.' Nicky Barnes's name was Leroy Nicholas, but he was widely known as Nicky. I will next hear the song in a fresh light.

Why are we now hearing about Barnes's death seven years after the fact? Although unstated, it may have something to do with the passing of Frank Lucas, who just passed away at 88 on May 30. in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. His nephew confirmed his death.

It is thoroughly possible that Nicky Barnes's daughters, one of whom is a former prosecutor, felt it was now time to close the book on their father, one of the two major drug traffickers from the 1970s.

Whatever Nicky and Frank did, they weren't the last to do so.

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