Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recommented Websites

To read my recent financial columns:

To see my debut as a stand-up comedian:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Comment on previous post

Yes, there are clips of J. Robert Oppenheimer on YouTube--

And a clip of Conchita Supervia singing from Carmen!!! Wow! How would I ever have seen that otherwise? (She sang with a thrilling trill--but died at only 34 or so--a Met star--a lovely woman)

The comment on my previous post came from an editor I've been writing for--

Seen On YouTube

Wow! You can see old films of great singers of the past, like Pinza and Bjoerling and Tibbett--even pop singer Ruth Etting--and a fine old singer I just encountered, Marion Harris--sometimes it's just a recording--but what a great new source of pleasure!

I'm listening to a bio of J. Robert Oppenheimer. I wonder if I can see him in an old film clip?

Monday, October 22, 2007


Good editorial in the Times today about the pervasive hatred of immigrants. Even some of my intelligent left-wing friends spew forth so much vemon against (illegal) immigrants. I tell them, if I were living in Latin or South America, I'd try to sneak into the US.

Although, if a Republican gets elected President, I might try to sneak into Canada! (McCain is the only GOP candidate I'm not disgusted by.)

Teaching English to Foreigners

It's going to be difficult. (Even though I've taken 15 hours of lessons on this.) Good teachers are patient, and patience is not one of my virtues.

I've learned some important things about teaching, though. Essential lesson: be flexible.

Keep things contemporary and personal. Show students how to read a menu--talk about the country they come from--repeat and repeat and repeat.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Year My Parents Went on Vacation

This film had some wonderful things in it--the little girl who charges little boys to peek at women trying on dresses, for instance--but it went on and on and on.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Scandal in Hackensack

Some ambitious prosecutor should look into landlords who use whatever pretext they can to swipe some of their tenants’ security deposits.
I recently left Hekemian & Company’s apartments at the Carlyle in Hackensack.
I didn’t get my entire security deposit back.
I was assessed $135 because of “broklen blinds.” They were broken when we moved in. The manager who decided we were responsible for the broken blinds wasn’t there when we rented the place.
We were also assessed for “items left dirty” in the kitchen. No specifics. And for “dirty” in one bathroom. Again, no specifics.
We had spent a day cleaning the apartment—kitchen, bathrooms, and so forth. (OK, I grant that there was a stain on a wall where a glass of wine had spilled.)
But we had lived in the apartment for four years, and when we left it was in excellent shape. We had no cats, no dogs, no children.
We’re not going to small-claims court for $135. But we’re insulted by the word “dirty.”
I propose that an independent agency evaluate the condition of an apartment before and after tenants leave. It’s grossly unfair to have a landlord make the decision unilaterally.

A Complaint About the Third Avenue Funds


My son had been frustrated trying to get his money out of a Third Avenue Value fund. Actually, all that he is trying to do is transfer the money to Fidelity Investments, where he already has an account.
He has had statements notarized; sent letters and emails; reported changes of addresses.
Nothing seems to work.
How does Keane know we have been having trouble getting that money back?
I have a suspicion.
Now comes a letter from PFPC saying that there is a RPO stop order on my son’s account, and he must submit a letter of instruction – bearing a Medallion Signature Guarantee. Whatever the hell that is. Ok, it’s a surety bond. The required amount: $1,000,000! (I think my son has $3,000 in his Third Avenue account.)
The problem, writes PFPC, is that the Post office has returned mail as undeliverable to my son’s former address.
Well, he moved. And he has sent in a change-of-address letter.
My son checked with banks in the area where he lives; none had ever heard of the term Medallion Signature Guarantee.
Anyway, is PFPC/Third Avenue in cahoots with Keane? Is someone at PFPC/Third Avenue getting kickbacks from Keane?
Of course not.
But the superb Third Avenue funds, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Woodstock Film Festival 2

Steal Me a Pencil--about a love affair between two Nazi concentration-camp victims--was profoundly moving. Especially because the two of them--in their 90s and 80s--were in the audience and spoke! The woman, Ina, was one of those special people: wise, confident, good-looking, optimistic, a winner. People like her should be cloned.

Another winner: Under the Same Moon. A fairy tale about Mexican illegals. A modern Lassie Come Home. Hokey but moving. I almost sobbed out loud! The film has such promise that viewers were told not to bring in cellphones -- and we had to underhone a wand search! It WILL be a big winner.

Woodstock Film Festival

Most overrated movie: Reservation Road. Nonsensical coincidences killed it.

Recommended: Iron Ladies of Liberia, showing how a government really works--

Constantine's Sword, lacked depth but a gripping documentary--partly about anti-Semitism

Making Trouble: The funny ladies weren't very funny, except for Gilda--but a pleasure to see those old-time Jewish comedians again--where was Fanny Brice's Baby Snooks?

Animated shorts: Needed better writers.


In a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer: a Jew boasts, while your ancestors werre swinging in trees, mine were forging checks--


Decided to cancel class reunion--I don't want to see most of those old cranky unpleasant people again--ever


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Talk About Richard Crooks

Remembering Richard Crooks

A (1) [3] Ah sweet mystery
He was a very versatile singer—Richard Crooks—he sang in English, in German, in French, in Spanish—he sang Victor Herbert, he sang Sigmund Romberg, he sang Beethoven, Shubert, Wagner, Richard Strauss, and he sang…Stephen Foster.
Here he is singing some Shubert lieder:
B (3) 1& 2 lieder
Today Richard Crooks is almost forgotten, but he was extremely popular in the 30s and 40s. And deservedly, as you will see.
He was born in Trenton, NJ, and he had a silvery but strong voice. His personality matched the sweetness of his singing.
As a young man he began making records with a singing group for Victor—even though he was anonymous on the records.
Here’s a recording he made in 1925 at the age of 25… If you have a really good ear—a really good ear—you may be able to pick out his voice.
C (4) 2 serenade 1925
He sang in Europe, then joined the Met Opera in 1933, and at his debut received 37 curtain calls. He sang there until 1943, when he came down with throat cancer and decided to retire…at the young age of 46.
How good an opera singer was he?
D (4) 9 una furtive
Before we hear more Sigmund Romberg and Victor Herbert, let’s hear more opera. The Flower Song from Carmen…in German.
E (4) 7 flower song
F (4) 5 the prize song from Die Meistersinger
Back to Shubert—his serenade.
G (2) 2 serenade-Schubert
He was considered one of the best interpreters of Stephen Foster. Someone wrote:
It is somewhat difficult to associate the street-wise songster who sings ‘doodah doodah, I’ll go back home with a pocketful of gin’ with the stentorian tenor who regualrly performed the heroic arias of Siegfried.” But, as someone wrote, he treated Stephen Foster with the same respect he paid to Franz Shubert.
I (2) 7 dreamer
J (2) 12 Jeanie
Next month’s program is on Dvorak, so here’s one of his most popular songs:
K (2) 20 songs my mother taught
A lovely but little-known song. A Dream
L (2) 12

Crooks was one of the first opera singers to cross-over, and here he is singing Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg, and Rudolph Friml:
N (1) 4 falling in love
O (1) 6 one alone
P (1) 7 only a rose
Now, one of my favorites: Love’s old sweet song.
Q (4) 11 sweet song
He even ventured to sing Richard Strauss…and you’re about to hear his speaking voice:
R (4) 12 Die Nacht
He was the host of The Voice of Firestone on the radio, he sang Beethoven’s 9th Symphony under Toscanini, and he made records with some of the most famous singers of his time, like Lawrence Tibbet and…and… [Bing Crosby]
S (4) 23 Camptown races
T (4) 24 Beautful dreamer
Why is he all but forgotten? Because a lot of great older singers are forgotten—like Elisabeth Rethberg. Do your own children listen to Ezio Pinza or Rosa Ponselle or Cesare Siepi?
Not all singers of the past were that good, of course. A famous critic, Ernest Newman, said of Nellie Melba that her voice was uninterestingly perfect and perfectly uninteresting.
Richard Crooks’s very last recording, made at the age of 67, may have been this--and you can still marvel at the great singer he was:
U (4) 20 Jesus
He died 5 years later.
Let‘s have a round of applause for a wonderful singer who should not be forgotten…Richard Crooks.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

English as a Second Language

Years ago, when I was in my 20s, I encountered a recently retired superintendent of schools, who began telling me of the awful things he had witnessed on the soap operas he had seen on TV that morning--

I began to fear that that might be my fate--

So I have been keeping very busy--amongother things, joining Literacy Volunteers, which helps foreigners with their English. I joined the Englewood group because an old friend of mine, the late Roy Pollack, had belonged, aand had enjoyed himself. Nice group of teachers and would-be tutors. And a well-organized, thoughtful plan to teach students. Yesterday, for example, someone read a group of words in Mandarin, challenging us to remember what they meant. Difficult! But we got the point. And we learned some basic things about teaching and learning. And dealing with foreign students. Eg, don't lend them your books. They may leave the country next week!

I'm looking forward to it.

But I must also

clean the Woodstock house preparatory to a visit from relatives
write about income annuities
revise chapter for book on finance for high school students
continue writing my play
work on a book about investing
prepare to teach a course on Wed
prepare a talk about Richard Crooks

I guess I'm not gonna wind up like that super of schools!