Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Movie Lovers

So, I started a movie club at a men's club I belong to. I wanted to show Passion of Joan of Arc, Counsellor at Law, and other lesser-known movies I'm fond of. I thought 10 people would be interested, and I thought I could bring my portable tv over to the church, where we hold our meetings. Actually, the church has a TV; maybe we could use that one. But over 30 people emailed me that they were interested!

I asked for volunteers for a committee. Six or seven guys stepped forward.

One volunteer started giving me suggestions. One of them: we have a breakfast meeting. Before the meeting, I decided that there should be guidelines. One of them: I make the final decisions about everything. So there are no battles for power, as there were at an investment club I started recently. One committee member--very bossy, challenging, at our breakfast--resigns when he sees my guidelines. He said he didn't know this would be a one-man show. In other words, he thought it might be HIS show.

Another member--I'll call him xxx --tells me he's arranged to use a room and video equipment at the local library. We would be charged only $110 to use it. With 30 members, only $4 a person. No way, I tell him. Then he calls--he may have persuaded the library to charge us nothing! Wow!

But...the library, it turns out, wants to put a different name on the club. The library wants to have the general public attend screenings. The library wants only ME to talk and lead discussions--no other members of the club. (A gross disappointment. I wanted club members to choose films and lead talks about them.) The library gave us a time slot that wasn't ideal--conflicted with other meetings. But...OK.

At a brief meeting with library officials, xxx acts as if he's the boss. I ask for the name of someone who might let us show films; xxx takes the paper. xxx tells the librarians that he wants a certain meeting date--different from mine.

Then the library balks at my movies. It wants Citizen Kane as first movie. And wants me to choose films recommended by the big official groups. In other words, the Usual Suspects.

I argue for Counsellor at Law, if not the silent Passion. They'll get back to me tomorrow. If it's ok, I decide, we'll go through with it. If not, to hell with it. The library wants a film club--and our club members are invited. But it's not under the control of our club members. The library is totally in charge.

That evening, I email xxx. I'm beginning to think the library is not our best bet.

xxx gets furious!!! He threatens to send a note to the library excoriating me! He says the library has met me halfway! That I'm making impossible demands! If I don't return his phone call immediately, he'll never speak to me again! I'm at the office; I can't call him. I email him; don't talk to the library. The long note he sent me is positively insane.

I get home. there's an abusive message from him on my phone. I call him...and lose my temper. You're off the committee! YOU'RE FIRED!!!

xxx is obviously someone who distorts the truth. Someone very unstable. He may have scotched any chance of my getting a compromise with the library. He was DETERMINED that we work with the library--under the library's conditions.

Anyway, what's the lesson? When you ask for volunteers, you get unhappy, dissatisfied people--people out for power and control. Some of whom may be unstable.

Back to square one. Can we get by with just the church's equipment?

Stay tuned. I am determined to start a movie club!

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I need some work done around the house--repairing a light fixture, replacing some wood--

I have a card from a handyman--

Young man comes over, makes notes--

Says he needs $1,000 to reserve time for me in the spring--

I suggest $500--

He accepts--and leaves--promising to return next Saturday--

After some thought, I phoned & left him a message--

I have to see the quality of his work before giving him a large advance--

and I'm stopping the check--which I did, for $25--

Question: Why did I do such a dumb thing in the first place?

Answer: Not something I do ordinarily, hiring a handyman--and I fell for a trap--negotiating over the amount of the advance rather than any advance at all--

Also, I tend to be trusting--not having spent my career in the commercial world--

Now I know how older people get taken so readily--

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Card for Lorraine

I bought a funny card for Lorraine for her birthday.

Then, looking at other cards, I found one that showed an old lady with a donkey:

The card read, "Lorraine and her great big ass."

I laughed and laughed and decided that I had to buy it.

But then...talking to friends..I decided not to give it to her.

Lorraine comes to our party. Brings me a card. Adds that she actually saw a card with her name on it!

Was it....this? Yes, she said! So I could give it to her.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hillary vs. Obama

I think older people, like me, prefer Hillary because we remember all the mistakes we made in our youth because of inexperience.

But I'll be happy with any Democrat.

How come there's no bumper sticker that says ANY DEMOCRAT?

Thought for Today

"Today a piece of cheese isn't just something to eat; it is a reflection of your world view."

New York Times Magazine, 1/20/08, p. 60.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why Mimi and Not Rudolpho Dies

"Mimi and Rudolpho are both poor, in that neither has any money and both live in a freezing apartment, but it is no accident that it is she who dies, not he.... Poverty is more than a lack of money. He and his educated bohemian friends--poet, artist, musician, philosopher--are in control. They live the life they do by choice, in a way that the unfortunate embroiderer does not."

Michael Marmot, "The Status Syndrome"

His point: Not being in control of your life is linked with all sorts of health problems.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Listening the new biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin--

Very biased in Oppie's favor--but I share the bias--

Lewis Strauss, head of the AEC, comes off badly--obsessed with humiliating Oppie--but the authors don't fully understand why--Strauss is head of the AEC--and Oppie is the one getting and enjoying national attention! The father of the A bomb--

A kangaroo court against Oppie--in the early 1950s, the era of Joe McCarthy--Strauss has Oppie bugged, illegally--the court proceeding is a farce--Oppie was in some respects a jerk, but certainly a patriot--Einstein told him, just quit--maybe he was right--

Prosecutor against Oppie was Roger Robb--Goldwater's lawyer in the suit against Ginzburg, Fact magazine, and me! Clever and nasty--Taken with himself--boasted of having humiliated Oppie--

One exchange with Robb in which I came off well--

Robb: When did you get the idea that Barry Goldwater was doubtful of his masculinity?
Me: In the summer of 1963--(or whatever year)
Robb: (pouncing) I have a letter here that you wrote making that statement in February of 1963--do you want to change your statement?
Me: (Shrugging) It was in the spring or summer of 1963.
Robb: (Looks astonished--after a silence, goes on to something else)

I thought the point was trivial...and showed it.

He caught me on something--I had mentioned that Forrestal while Sec of Defense had committed suicide--making the point that even government officials need screening for psychological stability-- he asked: did I know that he had been hounded by the press? I said I hadn't--and showed surprise--I should have said that he had been paranoid--

I'm told that Robb really lit into Ginzburg later on during the trial, but Rosemary Latimore, very trustworthy, told me hat Ralph had come off well--

I didn't know at the time that Robb had persecuted Oppenheimer--

It was during this trial that I mentioned that I had consulted Erik Erikson on the phone about Goldwater--he was a world-famous psychoanalyst, author of Young Man Luther--

Said the judge skeptically:

What was this Erikson's middle name?

Me (looking shocked, as I was): Homberger!

One of our lawyers said to me that a journalist had commented, after my testimony, he really knows his onions...


In my pretrial deposition, I said that Newsweek, Time, and perhaps US News had written that Goldwater had had two nervous breakdowns--

Robb said, you're lying, arent you?

I just repeated what I said--

The next day, the great Rosemary Latimore came to me with copies of all three magazines --all saying that Goldwater had had three nervous breakdowns--

Our lawyer, Harris Steinberg (very smart), interrupted the proceedings that day to read the quotes into the record--

A Robb aide whispered to him, trying to comfort him, we had no idea about that--

Steinberg later said to me, Rosemary's finding my sources really demoralized Robb--

Rosemary, by the way, was probably the loveliest person I ever met--

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Paths of Glory

I continue to be amazed at how many wonderful singers there have been--who have been forgotten. Even by me, and I have a special interest in older singers. (Actually, the word "forgotten" is wrong: "consigned to oblivion" would be more appropriate. They haven't been "forgotten" because they were never remembered.)

I learned recently that Tulio Serafin, a famous conductor, once said there were three miraculous voices in his time: Caruso, Ponselle, and Ruffo.

I had never heard of Ruffo!

Recently I discovered....Tancredi Pasero. Wow!

How about Pol Plancon? Again, wow! And his recordings date from around 1906-7.

A fellow I know, very well informed about music, listened to a disk I have of John McCormack--and he was astounded. Who is this great singer? he asked.

A woman from Valley Hospital--in her 30s, intelligent--had not heard of
Ezio Pinza
Mario Lanza
Paul Robeson.

I listened to some older singers on a borrowed Bose disk player--and I have to get one. The sound was sensational.

(All this because of a course I'm going to give about wonderful singers of the past.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I gave a talk recently about Richard Crooks, saying he had developed throat cancer, which shortened his career--someone asked me, did he smoke? I said I didn't know--but you could get throat cancer without smoking--someone else said that a singer would never risk smoking-- one time, smoking was considered not unhealthy--thanks to the propaganda put out by the tobacco companies--"not a cough in the carload!" was one ad, quoting doctors--

now i've just read that Enrico Caruso was a chain smoker--and he sometimes left the stage during a performance to get a drag!

proving once again that people will do the irrational--despite the views of many economists--