Thursday, November 29, 2007


Go to

Write in Horne Sutherland and Norma

Hit the first video

Read the first four comments.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I've read (listened to) Oppenheimer: American Prometheus. Fine book, full of arresting details and clear characterizations. Oppenheimer comes off as a pretentious naif, but brilliant and admirable. Shameful how the McCarthyites came after him later on.

But Oppenheimer and other liberals wanted to share nuclear-bomb secrets with the Soviets. Today we know better than to think that Stalin could have been trusted. But was there any advantage in our getting nuclear weapons before the Soviets did? As for whether developing nuclear weapons was beneficial for humankind--granted, we had to get them before the Nazis did--we won't know the answer for many more years. Or centuries.

Why didn't we warn the Japanese about the bombs--so civilians could have left Hiroshima and other targets? Because, the Army said, the Japanese, forewarned, would have shot our bombers out of the sky. I don't know if that's a good enough excuse.

Another book I'm reading, about Alfred Loomis, who helped develop radar, seems to playsdown Oppenheimer's role in developing WW2 weaponry.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Disappointing. The Coens should have opted for instead of rejecting a Hollywood ending--instead of the abrupt and strange ending they settled on.

Questions: How did the killers so readily track down their quarry? Why wasn't Woody Harrelson armed? What happened to the money? Why the auto accident? Nora Ephron has a clever article in the current New Yorker about this puzzling movie.

Good acting, good suspense, clever dialogue, clearly delineated characters.

Lesson of the film: Don't be nice. Look what happened to the main character when he returned with a bottle of water for the wounded man. And the man with the chickens who stopped to aid a motorist.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Google is God

That's what my son says.

On a trip to Italy 4 or 5 years ago, I saw a wonderful T-shirt -- a painting of Dante spying Beatrice for the first time. I thought: Next time I see it for sale, I'll buy it. I never saw it again during my trip.

Every time a friend goes to Italy, I say: Bring me back that T-shirt! Pat, Kathy, Mary, et al.

Mary just came back from Italy. No Dante-Beatrice T-shirt.

Then it finally occurred to me...

I Googled Dante Beatrice T-shirt.

Guess who's getting the T-shirt in a few days???

My son is right.

I was copyediting a ms the other day. Is Staphyloccocus capitalized? Is it spelled Myanmar? Is the spelling Ukranian acceptable? Did Claire Boothe Luce say that some men say that a situation is hopeless when only the men are hopeless?

What did we do before Google came along?

Now I'll check whether Beatrice is pronounced Beat-trice or Be-A=tri-che.

Theory of Emotions

I have this theory--that all one's emotions, if kept in check, are pleasurable.

I love horror movies and always have--if they're scary enough. Scary means: I have to stop watching. Of course, I don't enjoy being really scared... by a real-life threat.

A woman I know was angry at me. I kept apologizing every time I met her. Finally she broke down and told me that she had forgiven me a lot time ago, but enjoyed by apologies. The emotion: smugness. (My sin: at a lunch, because of my deliberately changing my seat she wound up sitting next to someone obnoxious.)

I enjoy feeling affection for certain people. I'm almost addicted to the affection and miss the people--feel a little pain--when I don't see them.

I enjoy feeling a little angry. (Some people LOVE feeling angry & are angry all the time.)

Other feelings: suspicion...envy...superiority...remorse...

Is it a little pleasurable to feel shame? That may be an exception.

I wonder if I Google "emotions" if I'll learn that this subject has been studied.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blasphemy Act Three

Act 3

A podium, on the left, front; a platform on the right, middle. While the narrator speaks, men slowly began building a primitive scaffold.
The narrator enters, a bandage on his nose.
Narrator: Yes, it’s me again. I had a little altercation with the author backstage (pointing to bandage on his nose). This is where he bit me -- he insists that I’m ruining his play! (laughs)
You may find this hard to believe, but this so-called playwright wanted to insert a happy ending to this tragedy. A Hollywood ending! He was even toying with the idea of introducing a totally fictional girlfriend of Aikenhead’s, a slender but bosomy blonde, who rescues our hero at the last moment, a la Beethoven’s Lenore, and the two of them then hop a freighter for America to start life anew. I wouldn’t hear of it. Even though I know that so many local theaters have all these actresses and no roles for them to play. (He actually told me that Nicole Kidman could play the girlfriend in the movie version!)
He argued and argued. “Giuseppe Verdi himself wrote an opera about Joan of Arc—and at the end of the opera she’s rescued! And gets married! And Prokofiev planned to write a ballet about Romeo and Juliet where the lovers don’t die! I guess they got married, had kids, and then, of course, got a messy divorce. Shouldn’t have married so young in the first place.
Forget it, I told him. No happy ending. And there’s no earthly reason for the girlfriend to walk around the stage just wearing lingerie.
What the hell? [He is startled to notice the scaffold being constructed and quickly becomes serious]…
Oh, yes, Thomas Aikenhead was hanged on Jan, 8, 1697, on a cold afternoon. A long, long time ago. At 18. If he had lived to the ripe old age of 72, he would have died…[takes out calculator, punches in numbers] in 1750. Before our war of independence! Two hundred and 50 odd years ago! In 1750, George Washington was only 18 years old! Eighteen when Aikenhead died at 18.
And what if Aikenhead had died by being trampled by a wild horse at age 18…or carried off by the plague…or had run away to sea and had never been heard of again? Nobody would even know his name today. A great many very, very promising young people have had their lives snuffed out in their primes.
Did you know that Caesar and Cleopatra had a child? A boy? Octavian had him put to death. At age 17. Yes, people are cruel. They were cruel then and they are now. How Caesar and Cleopatra’s child might have altered history! I mean, if you wept at every tragedy in the sordid history of the human species, you would be shedding tears day in and day out.
But...okay, Thomas Aikenhead was a dazzlingly bright and talented lad. Gifted of tongue and mind. He deserved to have lived longer, and with his gifts he probably would have amounted to something. A respected theologian. A playwright. [pause] A talented playwright. Another Erasmus, perhaps. He might have lived to fall madly in love, to father children, and to put grandchildren on his knee, to teach other sassy whippersnappers like himself a little humility; he might have lived to visit Venice and London and Vienna, to taste new delicious and exotic foods, to marvel at paintings by Rembandt and Raphael and statues by Michelangelo, to read Cervantes and Shakespeare and to try to understand Isaac Newton’s Principia, to listen to Bach and Handel — in short, to have lived a full life -- the full life that a remarkably intelligent and quick-witted young man might have enjoyed at the beginning of the Age of Reason. But it was not to be.
Poor Joan of Arc was burned at the stake around 200 years before Aikenhead was murdered. She’s one of the most famous women in history. Francois Villon mentioned her in a poem; Mark Twain and Bernard Shaw wrote about her. Carl Dreyer directed a memorable film about her. And what is there to commemorate the short, tragic life of Thomas Aikenhead? He deserved Shakespeare, or at least Eugene O’Neill. And [shaking head] look what he got.
And imagine the descendants he might have had! All with his healthy skepticism and his probing intelligence! Hundreds and hundreds of desirable descendants. Instead of the hundreds and hundreds of descendants of those despicable bastards, Sir James Stewart and Mungo Craig…
Sorry. I got carried away…
It’s 1697. The beginning of the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment. The 17th century gave us Newton and Galileo, William Harvey, Kepler, Descartes and so on. But obviously not everyone was enlightened—either then or now.
Let me ask you: When were the Salem witch trials held in the United States? Does anyone know? Twenty-nine people were convicted of being witches and wizards, and 19 were hanged--14 women and five men. [Pause] The trials were in 1692 and 1693. A few years earlier.
People will believe anything. Even Isaac Newton believed in theological nonsense. I’ll bet that even you sophisticated people in this audience believe wacky stuff. I would probably offend you by being more specific, but I cannot avoid mentioning Noah’s ark. [giggles] Two of every kind. Two aardvarks, two fleas, two paramecia…but no unicorns…. And no brontosauruses. Too big. Now you know why the dinosaurs really died out….
I digress. In the late 17th century, in England, a new tolerance of freedom of thought—freedom of religion—was developing. This new tolerance outraged and frightened the leaders of the powerful and conservative Scottish kirk—hence the new law making blasphemy punishable by death. Hence the decision to make an example of someone—of poor, pitiable Thomas Aikenhead.
Scotland went on to become a leader in intellectual thought. Think of David Hume and Adam Smith. Perhaps, as some historians have suggested, Scotland in the years that followed was haunted by the horrible murder of young Thomas Aikenhead. Perhaps that led to Scotland’s greater tolerance of divergent views.
So perhaps he accomplished something in his short sad life. And maybe he will have accomplished something if…tonight…you learned more about him and his unwarranted death…and along with me, you remember him, with pity and sorrow, for the remainder of your life…and …like me you will beg his forgiveness. On behalf of humankind.
[walks off stage]
[a pause of a few mintes]
Thomas Aikenhead is led on stage, dressed in black, his arms tied behind him, looking pale and fearful. He shivers in the cold of January. He climbs a ladder to the scafford.
As he speaks, a knot of clerics (including Sir James Stewart) and ordinary people jeer at him: “Atheist!” “Liar!” “Devil-worshipper!” “You deserve to die!” “You’ll go to hell!”
He speaks in a wavering voice full of fear:
Most of the following text is historical, and it is not always clear.
“I can change the world, if they can stain me, or lay any such thing on my charge, so that it was out of a pure love of truth, and of my own happiness, that I acted. It is a principle innate and co-natural to every man to have an insatiable inclination to truth, and to follow reason wherever it may lead. This I have done, and it has cost me my life. [sobs]
“The chief witness against me was my friend, my friend, Mungo Craig, whom I have to reckon with God and his own conscience, if he was not as deeply concerned in those hellish notions (for which I am sentenced) as ever I was.
“But… but I forgive Mungo Craig. I do forgive him. I do forgive all of those who figured in my trial, who have condemned me to death. And I wish that the Lord forgive Mungo Craig and forgive those who worked to bring about my death.
[Pauses to recover]
“It is my earnest desire that my blood may give a stop to that raging spirit of atheism which hath taken such footing in Britain….
“And now, oh Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in thy hands I recommend my spirit.”
[Narrator returns to stage to watch. Curtain descends quickly, with Aikenhead still standing on the platform and people shouting abuse at him. Led by Stewart.]

Much of the historical information in this play comes from “How the Scots Invented the Modern World” by Arthur Herman (2001).

Blasphemy Act Two

Act 2.

A blue-and-white sign at the back of the stage: PURGATORY. An angel, representing Justice, dressed in white robes, stands at a podium to the right.
Sir James Stewart, short and stout, stands at a podium to the left. He speaks clearly and loudly; he is very confident.
Stewart: Thomas Aikenhead was a liar! He admitted it. When he was confronted with his blasphemies—Jesus was an “impostor” and the Apostles were “witless fishermen” and so forth—he denied saying these terrible things. He confessed only after five of his friends—five of them!—shocked by his devilish behavior reported his blasphemies.
And after lying, what did he do?
He tried to shift blame upon a close friend of his, Mungo Craig. I—
Narrator walks onto stage from left.
Narrator: I just want to say—
Stewart [shouting]: Get out! You do not belong here! How dare you interrupt me? Get out! Out! Out!
[The narrator is intimidated and begins to leave.]
Justice: You may stay, whoever you are, but be brief.
Narrator: [timidly] I just want to explain to the audience that Sir James Stewart—(turning) this distinguished gentleman—was the lord advocate of Scotland, a powerful and respected figure. [Stewart is pleased.] He could prosecute anyone he wanted to, and he set most of the rules. A high muckamuck in the church—
Stewart: (angrily) A high WHAT?
Justice: Please do not interrupt.
Narrator: He was deeply worried and upset about latitudinarism, the tolerance of different religious beliefs, which was gaining popularity in England. In 1695—
Justice (sighs): Please be brief. I have a long caseload.
Narrator: In 1695, Scotland’s parliament, at the behest of the church, decreed that an “obstinate blasphemer” could be put to death—but only after a third offense. Unless…the blasphemer had cursed God and the Holy Trinity.
Stewart unremittingly sought the death penalty for Thomas Aikenhead. At his trial, there was no defense: There was only Stewart. The jury found Aikenhead guilty. Stewart asked for the death penalty – “to the example and terror of others.”
Aikenhead had one more chance. Britain’s King William and Queen Mary could issue a pardon.
The kirk then sent them a petition: Please do not pardon Thomas Aikenhead. They did not.
Justice: Are you finally done? [Narrator nods hurries offstage.] Good. I don’t know how he got in here. I don’t know what this place is coming to.
Now, Sir James, I would like to ask you some questions, if I may.
Stewart: I am ready to defend myself.
Justice: Didn’t the young man say that his friend Mungo had read the same blasphemous literature that he had read—Voltaire, for example? Wasn’t it possible that Mungo was worried about his own fate and that was why he implicated Aikenhead?
Stewart: It was a pitifully weak excuse. Mungo was a hero, bringing Aikenhead’s blasphemies to the attention of the church. Without Mungo, Aikenhead might have continued to spread his satanic blasphemies.
Justice: Did Aikenhead’s youth suggest that he deserved a little mercy?
Stewart: Someone who commits murder, whether at 18 or 80, is still a murderer. We should execute murderers as early as possible, even at 18, so they don’t commit murders for the remainder of their lives. Are you going to try to refute me?
Justice: That is not my job. I just pass along your defense. Now, you aver that Aikenhead lied about his blasphemies. Wasn’t that to be expected in the circumstances? Have you never lied when you were in a tight corner?
Stewart: I have never lied. And I have only contempt and hatred for all liars.
Justice: Didn’t he abjure his blasphemies? Didn’t he promise to be a devout Christian henceforward? Did he not say that he, quote, “from my very heart abhorre and detest” the words he had uttered? Did he not write to the court that he sincerely believed in the Trinity and in Jesus Christ as savior? Did he not write that as a native of Edinburgh it was, and I quote, “my greatest happiness that I was born and educated in a place where the gospel was professed, and so powerfully and plentifully preached”?
Stewart: What would you expect him to say? If he were Satan himself, and threatened with execution, would he not suddenly and convincingly swear his loyalty to Jesus and to the scriptures? I am nothing if not naïve.
Justice: Sir James, you did everything you possibly could to have young Aikenhead executed, didn’t you?
Strewart: Yes, I did. And my fellow churchmen strongly supported me. Aikenhead would serve as an example to curb the spread of atheism throughout the world—atheism, the worst and most deadly of all plagues. It--
Justice: But is it fair to put someone to death so as to serve as an example to others? Shouldn’t the punishment suit the crime? If there were an epidemic of pick-pocketing, would you cut off the hands of any people newly convicted of being pickpockets just to fight the epidemic?
Stewart: I have scant sympathy for pickpockets.
Justice: Sir James, you seem to have a keen legal mind. But now I have one last and very important question for you. Pay attention. Consider your answer carefully. Did you ever entertain any possibility that you might have been wrong? Was your mind totally closed? Was it not possible that Aikenhead was just acting like a mischievous child, eager for attention, and that he would have become a God-fearing and God-loving citizen?
Stewart: [pauses] I am proud to say that I never thought for a moment—for a moment!—that I could be wrong. I believe in God, in the Bible, in hell and in heaven, and I believe that people who blaspheme, who mock God and who mock religion, will not only burn in hell forever, but so will any unfortunate people they persuade to join them in their heresies. By insisting that Thomas Aikenhead die, I saved an untold number of Christians from spending an eternity in the brimfires of hell. Eternity! Can you imagine eternity in horrible pain? I am proud, extremely proud, of what I did. Justice [coldly]: So you never had any doubts. No…doubts…whatsoever…. That is never a good sign. The worst sins -- in my long, long experience-- are committed by people whose minds are tightly sealed.
We will refer your case to a higher court.
With perhaps a recommendation for mercy.
Stewart: [shocked] For mercy? For mercy? What have I done wrong?
Justice: Next case.

Blasphemy Act One


A Play in Three Acts

By Warren Boroson


Narrator: Dressed in comfortable modern clothes—older man or woman, confident but winning.

Thomas Aikenhead, played by a young man or woman—good-looking, magnetic, a little arrogant.

Justice: Overworked woman employed in purgatory.

Sir James Stewart, Lord Advocate of Scotland.

Students, men and women.

Act One

A dark, grim tavern in Edinburgh, 1696. Three young men sit around an old wooden table on which sits an oil lamp and several tankards. One man is gazing out a widow to the left.

Mungo Craig: [gazes out window, then returns to seat] Our friend, clever Thomas, talks as if he sits on the right hand of God. So all-knowing, so arrogant.
Student one: He actually sits on the right hand…of Satan.
Mungo: That’s good, that’s good.
Student one: He’s going to get into deep trouble one of these days, with his foolish and frightening remarks about the church and Jesus. I’ve warned him, but it does no good.
Mungo: We’ve all warned him. Time and again. But he’s so proud of how clever he is, how [sarcastically] courageous, how much attention he gets—from not just men but from the young ladies. He dotes on attention, he insists that everyone know just how clever he is. But the English bible says that pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit--
Student Two: [Teasingly] But I thought you were a good friend of his.
Mungo: [glares at the student, but says nothing]
Student one: Did you know that a law was just passed, making blasphemy punishable by death?
Mungo: Of course I knew! And it has me scared, I don’t mind telling you.
Student Two: Unless the blasphemer was not in his right mind.
Mungo: Aikenhead is in his right mind, all right. Very clever fellow. He will go far.
Student one: Maybe as far as the gallows. He’s going to get into deep, deep trouble—mark my words.
Mungo: And I am a friend of his—when he isn’t making those insane comments. I remember--
Narrator: [walking onto the front of the stage]
Excuse me, excuse me! I’m sorry to interrupt, but this is important. I’m with the Hackensack fire department, and I’m afraid we have to close down this theater – right now-- because of serious fire hazards. This place is a fire trap. So I want all of you in the audience to leave, this row first. Everybody please stand up…
Hey, I’m just kidding! I’m actually the narrator of this play. [The actors stare at him impassively as he speaks.] I was having my little joke, sorry if I frightened anyone. There are no fire hazards, honestly. But I would like to explain a few things to you about this play, which you otherwise might not understand…
Now, the author and I had bitter arguments about whether this play should have a narrator or not. Hard as it may be for you to believe, the author of this… primitive play once took a course in playwriting, at the New School in New York City, and he was told that plays with narrators are written by amateurs. Clumsy, clumsy, clumsy. He and I argued this back and forth. What about “Our Town”? I asked. Name another good play with a narrator, he scoffed. And while he may have won the argument… well, here I am.
Is he in the theater? [looks around] I don’t blame him for not showing his face. He’s probably in the FBI witness protection program. [laughs]
This is a true story, the one you are seeing. The year is 1696. Scotland. Edinburgh. These are students at the university. The clever student, whom the others are talking about, is named Thomas Aikenhead, and he is 18. Very bright, gifted with language, but a trifle…too much.
Now, isn’t this better than having one of the characters say, “Isn’t the summer of 1696 unusually cold, and how are you, today, Thomas Aikenhead, age 18?... Are you still studying theology?”
It’s approaching the 17th century, the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason. But back in 1696, the church was powerful, resentful, suspicious, and … It was an inauspicious time to be mouthing off against the church and against Christianity. Here he comes… [He hurries off stage as Aikenhead and other students come in.]
Aikenhead: Brrrr! It’s so cold that I wish right now we were in the place called hell, to warm myself there.
The students around him laugh and nod their heads—but look uncomfortable, too.
Mungo: Thomas, you’re as always the cleverest among us, a veritable Scottish Shakespeare. We all agree that you will go far. [He looks at the other students knowingly.]
Aikenhead: [beams] Thank you, Mungo, thank you so much.
Mungo: [to Aikenhead and to the gathered students] What was the most memorable thing Thomas has ever said? That Jesus was an impostor? That he was a magician, but that Moses was a far better magician? That the raising of Lazarus was a cheap trick? That the Apostles were witless fishermen? That the Bible is full of Aesop’s romances and is not the literal word of God? That Christ’s resurrection was a myth? That the founder of Islam, Mohammed, was superior to both Moses and Jesus? That God, nature, and the world are one?
You see, Thomas, I remember almost everything you’ve told us! [claps Aikenhead on the back]
My favorite saying of yours is that Christianity will be “utterly extirpated” by the year 1800.
[The other students are a little dazed by these shocking statements and look at one another.]
Thomas, you are a wonder! You are amazing!
[Aikenhead smiles, savoring the praise.]


I've written a play, and the first person who read it suggested a drastic, terrible change.


I'll post the play on my blog after one more go-through.

I hope I don't have a case of post-partum depression now that the play is done; fortunately, I have another major project in the works.

A friend has not communicated with me for quite a while--despite my messages to him urging that we get together. I'll excise him from my list of friends.

I wonder what novel of Doris Lessing's I might read?

A member of a club I run has been deliberately rude to me. I'll have to consider my options. Criticizing him front of other members is best, I suppose. I guess he's envious.

When am I ever going to get time to sort through my videos? My photos? I could find time, I guess; it's just that I prefer doing other things.

I ordered a SmartCar.

Funds I bought recently are not doing well. But I took money out of my 401k plan, and this is that money; if I had kept the money in the 401k, I might have done poorly, too.

A friend invited me to lunch; I had to turn her down--too busy. I hope she isn't hurt; I suggested another day.

Winter is coming; a close friend is leaving for Florida; our high school reunion has been canceled. I hope that my play is well received!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"How do we beat the bitch?"

When Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in tennis, years ago, I felt terrible. She should be tested for drugs, I said angrily.

And to this day I still am pleased when I see that, in marathons, where men compete against women, the men are far superior.

Being a man, and being therefore superior to women, still is, clearly, imbedded in my brain.

Boys in grade school and high school didn’t carry books next to them, but at their sides. Unlike girls.
If you threw a ball ungracefully, you threw like a girl.

A high school classmate – angry, isolated – told me, feel ‘em, fuck ‘em, and forget ‘em. (I suspect that, as an older man now, he’s still a virgin.)

A neighbor of mine in St. Louis once showed me his resume. At the top were the two things he was most proud of: male caucasian.

So a woman asked McCain, how do we do beat the bitch?

Do you remember when Barbara Bush said that Geraldine Ferraro, who was running for vice-president against her husband, was something that rhymed with witch?

Hillary hatred-. I get emails from men – older men—so threatened by a woman’s possibly being placed above them that they are overflowing with hatred. One email called her a cunt.

I like Hillary. She’s pro-choice and anti-war. For national health insurance. What else does anyone need to know?

So, why do women hate Hillary? They identify with certain insecure men. Women should, they believe, stay in their place. The way they themselves do.

As for women like the intelligent Arianna Huffington, well, these ambitious women are pissed that someone else is making it big in politics. They are envious.

Anyway, I’m reconciled to the fact that Billie Jean King was able to beat Bobby Riggs. I’ve matured. A bit.

Unlike the Hillary haters.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Norman Mailer

Ralph Ginzburg claimed to be a close friend of Norman Mailer's, and sent him a note asking him to write an article about the time he stabbed his wife--an article for Fact Magazine, where I worked.

"Too direct," I said, shocked. He won't do it.

Some time later, I asked Ralph whether Mailer had responded. No, he said, puzzled. So he wrote to Mailer again, inquiring why his previous note hadn't been answered.

Mailer wrote back: "Some letters just don't get answered."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nora Ephron

Her writing is delicious. One of a very few writers (Paul Krugman is another) I compulsively read.

But recently she denigrated Al Gore because of something that a Right Wing apologist had written in the Wall Street Journal. That apologist is the spiritual sister of Ann Coulter. Peggy Noonan.

I met Nora briefly many, many years ago, when, I believe, she was married or engaged to Dan Greenburg. She gave me a flirtatious look.

Nora, come to your senses. Endorse Hillary and ignore contemptible people like Noonan.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

"It's All About the Mustard"

“It’s All About the Mustard”

It was a blast. I’m referring to the Baron Investment Conference on Oct. 2 at the Metropolitan Opera House, where for almost eight hours 4,000 shareholders
• received a flood of stock tips from astute Baron portfolio managers – like Intuitive Surgical (microsurgery);
• heard CEOs of various Baron companies speak – the star being the down-to-earth Mickey Drexler of J. Crew Group, a specialty clothing retailer, and
• listened to the mystery entertainer, Bette Midler, sing as well as tell old, dirty jokes, channelling Sophie Tucker (people on stage even called her “Soph”).
The Divine Miss M, at 62, is no longer so beautiful and voluptuous as she once was, but she had three gorgeous dancers on stage with her, and they were smashing. (Earlier, during a break, three fine female classical string musicians had also performed, and they, too, I am happy to report, were not attired excessively demurely.)
First, Drexler, then the stock tips, then the entertainment.
Retail is Detail. The title of this article might have been “Bette at the Met,” but the mustard reference won out. Drexler recalled attending a business luncheon where sandwiches were distributed. Where’s the mustard? he demanded. None was available. And Jews from the Bronx, like him, want mustard and not mayonnaise on their sandwiches. His motto, “It’s all about the mustard,” means: Retail is detail. Everything is detail.
Advice that Drexler gave:
*New leaders should have relevant experience. Don’t put a department-store guy in charge of a car company. (Nardelli from Home Depot to Chrysler?)
* “Women will buy anything, anytime. You don’t get rich off of men. Guys get led into a clothing store, every six months, and they’re scared shitless.”
* Forget about mister, missus and miss. Call people by their first names. Formal terms “create barriers.” By the same token, offices shouldn’t have walls. And don’t be fancy. His own headquarters has a loudspeaker, so everyone can quickly hear important messages.
* Visit your stores and chat with the people. “What can we do better?” (When he worked at Bloomingdale’s, employees were thrilled if top management just said hello.) “Just because you have a lofty position doesn’t mean you’re a big shot.”
* Be available. “Who can do something better and faster than the CEO?” He himself is careful to return phone calls within three hours.
* “Eliminate the crap on your desk every day.”
* Listen to young people. “Although no one listens to you when you’re young.” (When I was in my 20s and working for Pageant Magazine in the 1960s, I knew: I could run this crummy little magazine far better.)
* “You’ll never win just on price. You need price plus an edge.”
* Don’t listen to focus groups. “No one told Apple to produce an iPod.” (He’s on Apple’s board.)
* Do your own research. Don’t ask a headhunter what he or she thinks of an applicant when the headhunter stands to win a commission on a placement. Ask people who worked for the applicant what they think of him or her. Remember that some people can get to the top just by sucking up to their superiors—whereas if you drill down you find that two or three other people were doing all the work.
* Let go of anyone ineffective. “Most wait too long. The team knows when it’s time.”
*Have an exit strategy. In case a sure thing turns out to be a disaster.
* Act like a small company. Apple, like a small company, makes quick decisions.
* “I will continue to rely on my instinct and my gut.”
Asked why more clothes aren’t made in the good old USA, Drexler said, “I’d like to be here, but the expertise isn’t here, and it hasn’t been here in years.” You’ll find expertise in Hong Kong.
Another speaker, Roger S. Penske of the Penske Automotive Group, sang the praises of the SmartCar – of which his company owns nearly 40%. It goes on sale here in January. Forty miles a gallon; 9 feet long, 5 feet wide and tall. Price: $11,500 to $16,500. Repairs will be made by Mercedes Benz dealers. For $99, you can pre-order one. Go to
“SmartCars will be ubiquitous in short order,” he predicted.
Stock Tips. Ron Baron himself described promising areas (“megatrends”): infrastructure, health care, education, financial services. He also announced that Baron is introducing a foreign stock fund.
Portfolio managers and their favorite stocks:
*Cliff Greenberg, Baron Small Cap: SunPower (solar cells), Intuitive Surgical, Great Wolf Resorts, Brookdale Senior Living, Wynn Resorts.
*Randy Haase, Fifth Avenue Growth: Diageo (spirits), Microsoft, Transocean (offshore drilling).
*Mike Lippert, iOpportunity Fund: Apple, Research in Motion, Google.
*Andrew Peck, Baron Asset: VCA Antech (animal hospitals).
Entertainment. Bette Midler was foul-mouthed and funny, and started by complaining that one CEO had “droned on and on.” Her fair is no longer red; it’s blonde. Have you noticed that when men grow older, they become bald—and women become blonde?
At lunchtime, shareholders could choose to hear either Sheryl Crow or someone named Michael Bolton. The Crow room was full, so I went to Bolton. Now, the last famous singer I had heard at the Met was named Natalie Dessay, and Bolton just wasn’t my cup of tea, so I left.
But I enjoyed listening to another singer, after lunch, [FILL IN LATER], from “The Pajama Game”: Powerful voice, nuanced singing.
Okay, I heard a few complaints. Not enough box lunches. Not enough diet sodas. Sometimes everything was too loud, sometimes people couldn’t hear. But the lunches were fine, the entertainment generally first-rate, the talks interesting. And, yes, the funds very worth considering.
I can’t wait till next year and next year’s conference. The mystery guest then will be… [FILL IN LATER].


He's 33, from Guatemala, proud that he has 5 children still there. Pleasant and courteous. Works in a ShopRite in Palisades Park.
Knows more English than I had thought.


Movie "Shut Up and Sing": Thrilling when Natalie, a Dixie Chick, after years of abuse for saying it in the first place, REPEATS before an audience that she's STILL ashamed that Bush comes from Texas.

Watched the final episode of The Sopranos. Tony gets whacked. I felt that I was part of their family!... Italians certainly stick up for themselves. No Milquetoasts, they.... I'll miss them.