Tuesday, January 31, 2006


What a day Sunday was!

My flight from Champaign to Cincinnati was to depart at 730am--I got to the airport before 6am--

Mechanical problems: plane delayed. Gets out at 9am--

My connecting flight is at 1130am--at Delta, I believe--it's a Delta ticket--

I arrive in Cin at 1110--losing an hour--where is the gate for the flight? it isn't listed on the monitor--someone at Delta says it's a Continenal flight, and directs me to the wrong gate--I ask again--someone says gate 17--

I ask: Will my luggage be on the flight? Yes, it will arrive before me if I miss the flight---

I hear my name being called out on the PA system--at least, I thought I heard it--

It's 1125--I'm running toward the gate--a woman there sees me. Newark? She asks. Yes! I call--

I get ontothe plane, telling the hostesses that I've lost 2 years of my life--the plane quickly takes off--

Arrive in Newark--no luggage--no driverto pick me up--I phone the driver on my cell--he says it's a Delta flight,not Continental--It IS Continental, I insist--I tell him to meetme at the baggage carousel at Continental--

But I'm not there--I'm at an info desk, tryingto track downmy luggage--which supposedly WAS on the flight--

Finally I get back to the carousel, and he's there--

My luggage: Continental promises to deliver it soon--

And it's delivered thenext monring--with a note insidethat it was inspected by some government agency, on the lookoutfor terrorists--

Exhausting day--but I wound up pitying whoever who rummaged through my dirty underwear--

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Andy Jackson

Reading an absorbing book about Andrew Jackson, called The Passions of... By Andrew Burstein. A violent, suspicious, angry, shallow man. The book succeeds in making me feel that I know him--without admiring him, despite his bravery and loyalty to his friends. I was amazed to read of his off-and-on friendship with Aaron Burr, someone else who killed a man (Hamilton) in a duel.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Racist Email

A recent email:

My name is Eboneesha, an African-American girl who jus got a award for
being the best speler in class. I got 67% on the speling test and 30
points for being black, 5 points for not bringing drugs into class, 5
points for not bringing guns into class, and 5 points for not getting
knocked-up during the cemester. It hard to beat a score of 120%.

The white dude who sit next to me is McGee from the Bronx. He got a 94%
on the test but no extra points on account of he have the same skin color
as the opressirs of 150 years ago. Granny ax me to thank all Dimocrafts
and Liberals for suporting afermative action. You is showing the way to
true equality.
Yo fren,

The friend who sent me this also sent me an anti-Clinton and anti-Hillary email.

How should I respond?

That General Colin Powell said that without affirmative action he would never have risen to where he is?

That if blacks had not been discriminated against for years and years, instead of having good jobs she and I would both be working in Wal-Mart now?

That if you look at professional sports--baseball, football, basketball--you see what happens when people who were discriminated against are no longer discriminated against?

That if it weren't for favoritism the arrogant idiot now in the White House would be selling used cars?

That affirmative action is an ethical and judicious remedy for decades and decades of discrimination?

And that no one named McGee ever scored 94% on any test? (Mockery.)

Comment: Someone told me I should break ofr with my "friend"

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Suzanne gave me pill boxes full of different kinds of chocolates, each label bearing funny comments…such as pills to make Nicole Kidman fall in love with me. (Little does Suzanne know that such pills are unnecessary!) Wow, what a lot of work she did! I guess she must like me.
A lovely family. R said Erika was the belle of the ball.
Marilyn was vivacious and fun; her husband, Jerry, was clever and funny.
Steve and Susan – such healthy, warm people! Susan is still a knockout, despite having been married to Steve all these years. (I know he’s reading this.)
Charlie: as decent and open-hearted a person as you can imagine. With a wicked sense of humor.
Lew telephoned – my best (male) friend. Said I hadn’t aged a bit. Because I always looked old.
Joansie: Such a practical, helpful friend! Driving me to the airport on Thursday. She took a high school photo of me, using it as part of a funny present. Resourceful.
Miriam: She should give lessons on befriending people. And so smart and cultured! Always love her company.
R managed everything superbly. No glitches. Except Mary L. came a day early! I checked and couldn’t find out whose fault it was. If it had been Mary’s error, I wouldn’t have told her. And if she had found that it was my error, I’m sure she wouldn’t have told ME. I sometimes tell people that I’m the 7th nicest person I ever met. Mary is among the top 6.
My kids phoned later on, to sing a raucous, hideous version of Happy Birthday. I told them that I hadn’t heard anything like it since the orphan asylum burned down. (Cf. Mark Twain, after hearing a Wagner concert.)
What a wonderful birthday! I am almost glad that I have reached the advanced age of [illegible].

Saturday, January 21, 2006

With Apologies to A.E. Housman

With Apologies to A.E. Housman

When I was one and seventy

I heard a wise man say

"Why don't you sell your body

On E-Bay?"

"Nonsense!" I scoffed. "I thought you knew.

"I'm waiting until I'm seventy-two."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wishing Well

We went to a fancy-schmanzy Chinese restaurant. Inside, you had to walk over a litte bridge with a pool underneath, the pool containing fish as well as coins that patrons had thrown in while making wishes.

We gave the kids pennies to throw in. They had finished eating quickly, so we had to distract them. We gave them penny after penny to throw into the wishing well.

At one point, little Bram came back to the table.

He had a chicken leg when he got up, I told my wife ominously.

No he didn't, she insisted.

He had a chicken leg, I insisted.

OK, we'd look into the pool when we left.

We looked down into the pool.

We couldn't help it. We began laughing -- but trying to stafle it.

And hurried away from the restaurant.


Matthew, age 6? 7?, would watch TV's Star Trek with us.

"Why," he once asked, "does the spaceship always go to Bolego?"


"The Enterprise always goes to Bolego. Why?"

So we watched the program with him.

"These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise. Its five year mission: to explore new worlds. to boldly go where no man has gone before."

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfield

An article in the New York Times Magazine, Dec. 11, reports that when new species are discovered, they are often named after famous people, from rock bands to Ernest Hemingway.

"Even Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfield have been honored -- with a trio of slime-mold beetles...."

Beethoven's 9th

For the umpteenth year in a row, Beethoven's 9th symphony has been voted their favorite piece of music by listeners to WQXR. The 7th, 5th, and 6th are high on the list, too, along with the 5th piano concerto. I'm pleased -- but annoyed that Dvorak's New World Symphony has come in second. Above Beethoven's 5th, 6th, 7th, and 3rd.

Recently I asked a very well-educated gentleman, was he familiar with Beethoven? He has advanced degrees in practical subjects. He seemed embarrassed. Yes, he has some classical CDs....

Why should people be familiar with the 9th? For the pleasure that listening to it provides. People have long recognized its specialness. (Furtwangler played it for Hitler on Hitler's birthday.) While you live on this planet, you should experience as much harmless pleasure as possible.

If I were rich, I would buy recordings of the 9th--or maybe the 7th--and send them to all my friends.

But it has recently occurred to me that I've been lucky. In college, as a lark, I took a course in the symphony. Our teacher analyzed the 9th--and I learned that Beethoven, in the final movement, brings back the themes from the first three movements, only to reject them -- the last one, reluctantly -- before introducing a new, powerful theme. (Leonard Bernstein disparaged it as a beer-hall melody.) And then there's the Turkish music introduced into the final movement. And, of course, the claim that Beethoven had to turn to vocal music to communicate better. How many people hear the 9th and recognize these things?

To me, it's a question of how well educated people in general are.

I emailed some friends -- 15 or 20 -- and received responses from three, that, indeed, they are familiar with the piece of music that cultured people consider the single best piece of music ever written.

Whenever I get an opportunity to buy the 7th or 9th cheaply, I shall--and shall distribute it to all my friends who didn't respond.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

My Photo

When I was 5 or so, standing outside No. 6 school in West New York, NJ, a short old man wearing dingy clothes came by. He was leading a donkey. He was taking photographs of the children atop the donkey

I wanted a photo with the donkey.

"Does it cost anhything?" I asked.

No, the short old man said.

Some days later, just as I feared, the old man came to our house and demanded money. $1. My mother was mad at me.


Today I treasure that photograph of the sweet little boy looking so pleased atop a donkey.

Friday, January 13, 2006


A new group that we are forming: luncheons for fine-wine drinkers. Our old group is ROMEO, Retired Old Men Eating Out. Now, in addition to ROMEO, we'll have regular luncheons featuring top-quality wines.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Unexpectedly, former Mayor Giuliani was the first speaker at a celebration for Rise Stevens, the opera singer, last night. He pronounced Cherubino’s name “ch” instead of with a hard c, and I heard someone in the audience repeat it contemptuously. But the former Mayor was winning and sincere.
We waited until the very end to see Rise, and while her hair was white, her speaking voice – mostly she said thank you-- voice was very strong. Wow.
Film clips, TV clips, reminiscences. Singing Delila and Orfeo, she was absolutely wonderful – clear, smooth, powerful, irresistible.
And what a healthy personality! As a lark, and a favor to Ed Sullivan on his show, she once sang a commercial for Mercury cars – very funny. She danced a bunch of dances with Ray Bolger – charming. She sang while ice skating. (Earlier, the program had mentioned that she had skated while she was growing up in the Bronx. Yes, she was born there, and her real name was Steenberg. Norwegian ancestry, but some Jewish people in there.)
A great clip: Her “Carmen,” with Richard Tucker, fine singing, fine acting. On the Ed Sullivan show.
Good story: Olin Downes wrote that she sang one opera, in German, as if she didn’t understand the words.
Rise sat next to Downes at a party. She spoke to him in German. “I don’t understand German,” he said. “But I do,” she said.
Co-hosts were Van Cliburn, good speaking voice, cheerful personality, and mezzo Jennifer Larmore. Gorgeous. Did she lose weight?
The first opera I ever saw was at the Met and it was “Carmen.” In the early 1950s. Who sang Carmen? I searched my memory: I think it was Rise, and her performance was not memorable. Perfunctory.
As a young man, I spotted her in the audience at the Met. She looked at me and gave me a big smile. I turned away in embarrassment and…pleasure.
Bravo, Rise! (No, not brava, which I heard several times last night.)
Re Olin Downes: It reminds me that Time magazine panned a movie with Sophia Loren, and the headline was, “Some spicy meatballs.” (An old catchphrase from an ad.)
She invited the writers/editors to her place. She served meatballs. The writers/editors didn’t laugh. Aren’t these spicy meatballs? she asked.
Talking of Time: Linda Ronstadt sang in a performance of La Boheme. Time’s headline: Her tiny voice is cold.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Favorites (1)

A series on some (but not all) of my favorite people--living and not--no close relatives--

Among them: Rosemary Latimore, Dr. Harry Kruse, Dr. Roy Pollack, Suzanne Chazin, Mary Dunlop, Mary Linley, Linda Burgess, Dorothy Purplitt, Al Vogl, Ruth Horowitz, Joan McBride, Pat Brennan, Tom Benz, Lew Azaroff, Charlie McGill.

Why are they my favorites? Not necessarily because of their charm or wit or good looks or intelligence. But because of their decency.

To be followed by a series on some of my UNFAVORITE people--

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Medical Economics is a magazine where I worked on three separate occasions.
When I left, the last time, one of the editors--a rather disturbed gentleman--sent word back to me that I had burned my bridges behind me. I would never be welcome at Medical Economics again.

I sent word back: I would regard an invitation to work at Medical Economics again the same way I would regard an invitation to join the Gulag Archipelago.


John Simon could go too far. Today's Times, in reviewing a new book of his, has him writing about Liza Minelli ... "the nose always en route to becoming a trunk, blubber lips unable to resist the draw of gravity, and a chin trying its damndest to withdraw into the neck...."

A few months ago, another Times critic, Joe Queenan, went too far in calling the author of a book a "jackass." (The book was an amusing account of the author's reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. The editor of the Times Book Review did NOT apologize but defended the review -- a review, obviously, reeking of envy.)

Carson McCullers once told me that she had cried after reading a hostile review of one of her novels--by Times critic Charles Poore. She called attention to his name.

Letter to the editor

Columbia Journalism Review has an article about the effort to put more conservatives into journalism schools because polls have shown that most journalism teachers -- and teachers in general -- are liberals.

A letter I'm writing to the magazine:

Isn't it obvious that great majority of decent, educated human beings will always sympathize with and side with the victims in our societies and will therefore become left-wingers, liberals and Democrats?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

My momma done tole me

When she was a little girl, my mother said, she and her class were taken to New York City and to the Metropolitan Opera to hear an opera.

A little fat man was singing.

She thought it so strange--to come to New York City (from Brooklyn?) to hear a little fat man sing.

Later she learned why: It wss Enrico Caruso.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Someone I admire

Jim Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School at Rutgers, is a prolific author and a fine speaker. Among other things, he has a nice sense of humor.

There are three types of NJ economists. One can count, and one cannot count.

Many people want Mercedes Benz services at Kia prices.

When someone told Hughes he was sad to be getting old, Hughes reassured him that he still had romance, mystery, and... "a lot of other great things to read about."

At our newspaper, we quote him all the time. For good reason. He always returns phone calls promptly, and gives intelligent responses.

Years ago, at Money magazine, we often quoted Pearl Meyer--I think that was her name, a career counselor. So smart! Then word came down: Stop quoting her so much!

At Medical World News, the person we quoted a lot was Michael Baden, deputy medical examiner. Enthusiastic, smart, well-informed, opinionated.

Then an MWN reporter happened to be with Baden when a phone call came from another MWN reporter. First reporter told the second later on: Baden had just been cutting up a cadaver. He was covered with blood! He got blood on the phone he was using to talk to you!"

For a short time, we reporters stopped phoning him.

A very short time.

Night Thoughts

Personal problems. Family under a lot of stress. (So are so many other families I know about.) I wish I were younger, to have more time to help work out the problems.

One of my sons is so upset about the government's spying into the lives of ordinary Americans that he is determined to quit his job and leave the country soon. He doesn't realize that he is over-reacting and doesn't see the danger of his just leaving his job and "doing a Gauguin."

Well, think pleasant thoughts. I'm going to interview Muriel Siebert on Tuesday--the stockbroker who the NNJ AAII decided was too old to talk to our group! (It's not "mine" anymore. How desperate to show their power people get when they have no power -- meaning members of the AAII board. Do I regret resigning? Not when I remember that I was not asked to be the next president. Why not? Envy, I suspect.)

A forum on college--and a series I'll write about college. 1. Saving for college, 2. Loans and scholarships. 3. Getting into the college of your choice.

I'm so glad I have such good friends. I look forward to meetings with them--on my forthcoming birthday, for instance.

I'm also glad that I'm determined not to work so hard. There's an 830am press conference in NYC on Tuesday, sponsored by one mutual-fund group. It's not worth driving to NYC that early. Even though I'm going to NY in the afternoon.

If I left my job, what would I do? Read more, exercise more, socialize more. Write more on this blog! Financially I can afford to retire. Would I be happy? I'd miss the routine...the prestige that comes with writing a syndicated column...and the pride. Once, years ago, when I was out of a job, I thought: The world is sending me a message: No one wants to hire me. So...I want to continue working--but at a lesser pace. As PQ has said, we're seniors in high school. We don't have to work that hard.

Another pleasant thought: the spa that I just joined. I'll go there regularly--lose weight--be healthier--live longer. First I'll exercise, then I'll reward myself by going into the steam room and hot tub. Maybe I'll make some new friends.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Getting a massage the other day, I asked the masseuse how old she thought I was. "Guess low," I suggested.
She said I must be about her age -- mid-50s.
I told her I was much older.
Her answer: That's because I dye my hair. Which, she said, was perfectly fine.

I don't dye my hair! I expostulated. I don't dye my hair!

Almost everyone seems to think so. It vexes me. I'm so proud of my thick, brown hair.

Ten years ago, I encountered a woman who told me that all of my contemporaries have grey hair....

I answered: I have grey hair on my chest....
Now you know something that only you and 10,000 other women know.

Someone suggests that my hair has not turned grey because I eat so many nuts. Actually, keeping one's original hair color seems to be a hereditary.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


I was so furious, I was ready to quit. I even typed out a letter of resignation--brimming with anger, with harsh criticism of the people at my newspaper.

Reason: I suspected that my Friday column had been killed.

Perhaps because there was too much "hard" news. (The same editor had once told me that there wasn't enough room for my column.)

Perhaps because the editor didn't approve of that particular column--about ageism.

I sent that editor an insulting note.

He explained that he had simply forgot about my column -- and apologized!

Lesson: Look before you leap. Even you have a history of jumping to the right conclusions

Monday, January 02, 2006


I'm no Einstein." -- Albert Einstein, quoted in the New York Times Book Review, Jan. 1.

"If you tell the truth, you are certain sooner or later to be found out." -- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Dr. Johnson Story (Corrected)

From Samuel Johnson: A Biography by John Wain

"The artist Hogarth, happening to call on Richardson at a time when Johnson wqs also visiting him, was shown into a room where Johnson was standing by the window, absorbed in his thoughts; as usual when in this state, he was twitching, rolling his frame about, and making strange sotte voce noises, and Hogarth assumed that this was a poor idiot to whom the charitable Richardson was giving shelter. When their host arrived, the 'idiot' moved forward and began to speak, so forcefully and eloquently that the thought crossed Hogarth's startled mind that he was witnessing a case of divine inspiration of the insane."