Friday, February 5, 2016

"Manhattan Tower" by Gordon Jenkins (1956) Complete

This recording has been on my mind and in my heart for over 50 years, at least. My parents had this and it was played a lot. I have looked for this album for years on the net- stopped last summer. Then I looked today and see that it was posted about 2 weeks after I stopped looking!

I have been singing and humming tunes from this recording since I was old enough to cross the street. The recording is like a Broadway show- but it's all audio. Similar in some respects to a classical composition this piece runs the gamut from sad to glad and every emotion in between. If you're a native New Yorker you will really understand it. And if you are from "out of town" it will echo your own wonder at seeing New York for the first time.

So, "Empty the ashtray's, turn out the lights, we're having a party; and the people are nice, the people are nice...."

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cheap Oil - The Downside.

Just a short word on the downside of that really cheap gasoline we are enjoying currently;

The illegal trading of Iraqi oil by ISIS in Turkey and Eastern Europe has caused legitimate sales of crude oil from OPEC/Texas suppliers to fall dramatically; giving a false picture of a supposed reduction in worldwide consumption. The idea that consumption has fallen is a falsehood. These illegal sales are not recorded- kind of like the guy who runs out of Unemployment and isn’t listed as Unemployed anymore. He doesn’t have a job- but since he’s not receiving money the system counts him as working.

Putin hit the nail on the head last month when he spoke about the convoys of oil trucks traveling from ISIS held territory to the Turkish border.  He even intimated that many of the countries represented at that conference were guilty of doing business in this way. The world either took no notice, or laughed him off. But it’s no joking matter. We are paying the bills for ISIS to conduct her war of terror against the West.

Currently our own Texas oil fields are not able to produce at less than about $45 a barrel. That would translate to about $2.50 per gallon at the pump. That’s a fair and reasonable price to pay for gasoline while still keeping our national oil industry alive. The gasoline you are using is coming mostly from Refineries located outside of the United States. Domestic producers of crude cannot compete and many have already stopped drilling altogether.

While it is nice to have gas so cheap after paying $4 a gallon for a few years, this trend will only cripple us in the long run and make our nation even more dependent upon foreign oil. 

Note: The cartoon above is from the 1970's when OPEC was really screwing us in the first "oil shortage". At that time gas went from 35 cents a gallon to a buck overnight. It helped to wreck the economy of the 1970's. Now a different group of radical Arabs are doing the same thing by selling stolen oil at a price the legitimate oil producers can not possibly match, destroying the economy as they do so. Same oil, different tactic, same result. Some cartoons just keep on giving!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Reading a Book and Doing the Math

I don’t post regular reviews anymore; I’m taking the time to really enjoy what I’m reading. But that takes a little extra time for me. For instance, I am reading a book which says that 600 acres are equal to One square mile. I am always curious as to the veracity of any numbers thrown at me, and almost always check them out- longhand.

In spite of failing mathematics throughout my school years I have spent my entire life working at jobs which all dealt with numbers. From navigating a ship by star to estimating earthwork (try it sometime by emptying a pot of dirt and then seeing if you can get it all back in; or digging a hole and then throwing the dirt back in without having some left over) I have in love with the little digits and their perfection. They simply do not lie. Statistics do; but not mathematics. So, you see I just had to check the figure out and determine for myself how many acres are in a square mile.

To begin with I know that a mile is 5,280 LF long so you multiply that by itself and come to the sum of 27,878,400 square feet to a square mile.
Now we need to take the acreage. There are 43,560 sq ft in an acre. The assertion is that there are 600 of these acres in a square mile. So you multiply the 600 acres by the 43,560 square feet per acre and come to 26,136,000 square feet in 600 acres. We have a problem. The acrerage stated in the book is short.

Taking 43, 560 square feet and multiplying it by x for the unknown acreage and making it equal to the square footage we know to be a square mile (27,878,400 square feet) you get 43,560x = 27,878,400, as in square feet. Then you isolate the x.

The equation looks like this; (cross multiplication)

43,560X = 27,878,400 sq ft  = 640
43,560         43,560

And the proof is self-evident. You simply multiply 640 acres by 43,560 square feet to each one and come up with the same number of square feet then divide that back by 43,560 square feet for a total of 640 acres; 40 acres more than stated in the book. It's no big deal; just something I do. 

As usual with any post dealing with mathematics I dedicate this to my father, William Llewellyn Williams, who was so good at numbers that he couldn’t teach me to count;, believing that his failure was my shortcoming. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Calling the FBI

The following is the text of the letter I just sent to the FBI. I phoned them this afternoon with a simple question concerning the stand-off in Oregon and was treated so rudely that I am pursuing the complaint through the FBI as well as my Congressional Office. When an American citizen cannot make a phone call to a law enforcement agency with a concern shared by both parties, then something is radically wrong. I was even cautioned to not call back today as it could lead to legal problems for me. My own thoughts are that the FBI would be better served if they were concentrating on events in Oregon rather than on me...

Robert S Williams

                                                                                                                            January 4, 2016
FBI Charlotte
7915 Microsoft Way
Charlotte, NC 28273 
(704) 672-6100 
Re: Complaint  

To Whom It May Concern;

I called the Charlotte office of the FBI this afternoon at approximately 12:55 PM. I called 704-672-6100 and used Option #5. I was connected to a woman who did not identify herself. (I realize that this is probably standard procedure; although she should have provided an employee ID #.) I then asked my question, which was about what was being done about the situation in Oregon. She hung up.

I realize that most things cannot be discussed freely over the phone where criminal matters are involved and ongoing. I think I was looking for some re-assurance that the FBI was on the job pursuing justice in the matter at hand. A simple statement to that effect would have done the trick quite handily. Instead I was left feeling abused and a bit angry. I do, after all, pay for the FBI to operate. I don’t expect to be mistreated at the hands of someone who is essentially an employee.

I called back again and spoke with a man who said there were no women in the office. He then transferred me to the “merry go round” and I hung up. I called again- 704-672-611 option #5 and got the same woman who hung up on me in the first place. And you know what? She did it again, prompting me to call back a third time. Once again I got the man who said the woman did not exist. He again transferred me to the “merry go round” and I wound up with a woman who said she had nothing to do with any of my concerns and doesn’t know why I was transferred to her. Her ID # is 9015. She was very nice and did not hang up on me. She explained the reasons for not giving out agents names etc; which I already understood.

After calling Congresswoman Alma Adams office to alert her to my complaint I phoned the Washington office of the FBI and was told to put my complaint in writing and address it to the Charlotte office with a Return Receipt via Registered mail. I was also cautioned not to call the Charlotte office back today as I might incur their anger. I was told it would be better to let the situation settle a bit before calling back after they have received my letter. I was told that at that time I should ask for the Duty Officer.

I think the last part, where I was cautioned to not call back today, speaks volumes about the problem in America today. Here I was, calling about a militia movement in Oregon taking over a government building, wondering what my government was going to do about it, and I wind up being cautioned that I will be perceived as being the “bad guy” if I call back again to voice my complaint. This is the scariest part of all; that a law abiding citizen, acting in accord with the governments best interests, can be cowed and made to feel afraid simply by attempting to contact my government with my concerns and questions.

I do expect a response to this complaint and have forwarded copies to Congresswoman Alma Adams, the Washington DC office of the FBI, The Charlotte Observer and both Senators from NC.
I hope to hear back in some fashion concerning the training of the employees involved in this incident. I will be following up by phone in a few weeks. A Letter of Reprimand should be placed in the appropriate employees file. I will be asking that Congresswoman Adams follow up on this.
Thank you for your time;

Robert S. Williams
Contact as above

Monday, December 28, 2015

"Bummy Davis vs. Murder, Inc." by Ron Ross (2003)

If any book is a gift in and of itself, and a good book a treasure; then it follows that a good book given as a gift is an even greater treasure. And, so it is with this book; which I received as a Chanukah gift from Glen Slater, a friend who lives in my old neighborhood off Kings Highway in Brooklyn. He also happens to be related to Albert “Bummy” Davis, the subject of this colorful biography.

Albert Davidoff was born in Brownsville in 1920. He arrived at the dawn of Prohibition, and he would live and die at odds with the world of that misguided public policy which spawned the era of Organized Crime, which still stands as a testament to the wisdom of social engineering by the government.

But this story is more than just about politics and gangsters. It is the story of a soulful man living in a world devoid of a soul of its own, and how he came to deal with the hand that life had dealt him. In his case that hand took the form of a devastating left hook.

Author Ron Ross brings life to the character of the man who bore the name “Bummy”. Born as Albert Davidoff to a Jewish family in the East New York section of Brooklyn known as Brownsville, he was a typical kid for the times in which he lived. Surrounded by colorful characters and friends he grows up in a world where making a living was of paramount importance. His father worked at running his candy store, selling newspapers and sodas for 12 hours a day. Each member of the family had their own tasks to perform which brought in the money to feed them all.

Al was a bit different than his brothers; especially Willie, who hung out with the faster crowd and sported pin stripe suits. He also had a reputation for strong arming the local pushcart peddlers and store owners for protection money. In a time and place inhabited by the likes of Lucky Luciano and Abe Reles, this was actually considered a living.

As Al grows up he realizes that he has a talent for fighting and begins to fight in the amateur bouts at the AAU. But he soon comes to realize that in Brownsville everything is up for grabs. Even some of the fights are “fixed” so that the “smart” bettors; the ones who are connected; will always win the big money. Fighters could be marginalized so that they would never fulfill their full potential, while making big money for the “handlers.”

“Bummy’s” big break came in 1939 when he defeated former lightweight champion Tony Canzoneri in 3 rounds. He was finally on his way to the big time. By the close of 1939 he would go on to defeat Tippy Larkin, dispatching him with a mighty left hook in the fifth round. That left hook was his trademark, and enabled him to amass the impressive record of 66 wins and 47 knockouts, with only 10 losses and 4 draws. He is still considered one of the greatest punchers of all time for his weight and class.

His career was marred by his utter distaste for the corruption that went along with the sport of boxing, as well as his own quick temper. His penchant for anger caused him to lose a bout with Lightweight Champion Lou Ambers in 1940. Also that year, he fought Fritzie Zivic, who knocked “Bummy” down in the first round, and continued to harass him in the 2nd round, gouging his eye with a thumb. 
Al went slightly ballistic in response, peppering his opponent with no fewer than 10 “foul” blows, causing him to be disqualified in New York for life. (This suspension was later lifted.)

Along with a terrific account of Al Davis’ life and the fight game, Mr. Ross has also given us a history of “Murder, Inc.”-  the place where the mob went when they needed to have someone “rubbed out.” Abe Reles and the Half Moon Hotel were like local legends to me growing up just about 1 mile or so from Coney Island. The savagery with which they went about their work dwarfs even some of today’s more lurid crimes.

This book reads like a film noir classic; and also boasts a complete record of Al Davidoff’s fights as well as a pretty cool Yiddish glossary to help those who may not be from Brooklyn navigate the dialougue more easily.

In the end Al “Bummy” Davis goes down most unexpectedly. While I was expecting the hail of bullets which ended his life, I expected them to come from a different source. If it’s of any consolation, I think Al Davis was equally surprised.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

"Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore (1823)

Clement C. Moore was a very shy man. His poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was only published in the newspaper after a family friend sent it in to the New York Sentinel in December of 1823, where it was first published on December 23rd in anonymity. It was not until 1844 that Mr. Moore would reveal his secret when the poem was published in a book of some of his other poems. If you're lucky enough to be with the grandkids, or if your own children have never had the pleasure of hearing this poem read aloud; here is your chance to correct that oversight.

"Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kilroy Was Here - Merry Christmas!

I have posted this piece of “Americana” for several years, and always to great response. It’s the true story behind “Kilroy Was Here”, as well as a story about the Christmas spirit. I hope you enjoy it…

“Kilroy Was Here” has been a part of the American vocabulary ever since World War Two. And the story behind it is not often told. In a way, it involves Christmas, so I figured this was a good time to tell the story as I understand it.

During the Second World War, when the United States was turning out ships and planes at a rapid rate, "checkers" were required to make the rounds of the shipyards and factories, inspecting the work. When they were done they placed a mark, with chalk, on the item to show that it had passed inspection. The appropriate riveter/welder would then get credit for the work, and hence, paid accordingly.

Soldiers began to see these marks, along with the words "Kilroy Was Here", wherever they went during the war. Wherever they went, they assumed they were the first, only to be greeted by the words that had become a slogan. There were now several Kilroy’s from coast to coast. But only one was the original.

There is even a story about the Potsdam Conference in 1945 which concerns “Kilroy.” A modern outhouse had been built for the exclusive use of Truman, Stalin, and Churchill. The first person to use it was Stalin. When he finished and came out he asked his aide, "Who is this Kilroy?"

At any rate, fast forward a bit to the end of 1946. The Second World War was over and the shipyards were shuttered. James Kilroy was facing a bleak Christmas, with no toys for the kids. That's when he first heard of the search for the real Kilroy!

The photo above, from the Boston American, dated December 23, 1946 shows the Kilroy family with a trolley car in their front yard. They had won the trolley in a radio contest put forth by The Transit Company of America, offering the trolley as a prize to the individual who could prove that they were the "real" Kilroy. Of the forty odd men who made that claim, only James Kilroy was able to produce officials from the shipyard, and even some of his fellow riveters, to prove his claim. Having won the prize, he now had to get it home! And there was a blizzard coming! So, the real story involves how it almost didn't make it on time.

But, with the help of the Transit Company of America, and a local railroad spur, along with a truck and a crane, the trolley was delivered on time, where it served many years as a playhouse for James Kilroy's children. It was a Christmas they would never forget. And that, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.