Sunday, October 26, 2014

Travel Ban for Ebola - Common Sense

I’m starting this off with my last sentence because otherwise it will be dismissed as politically incorrect. But I am not Ann Coulter, or Rush Limbaugh. I have no political ax to grind. And the slimy politicians who want to politicize this are, well, slimy politicians. I am more interested in the lack of common sense which has prevented a travel ban from being put in place to begin with. It’s a shame that we have come to the point where I must apologize in advance for our opinions; but since it’s my blog, here goes.

"Lastly; but most importantly, think of this; if we are busy fighting Ebola here in the United States; where we never had it before; then how we will be able to help those in Africa? Already tens of millions of dollars have been diverted from that front."

“Medical officials, aid workers and health experts have overwhelmingly condemned calls for a travel ban, not because it will hurt anyone’s self-esteem, but because they fear it will vastly hinder their efforts to contain the virus at the source of the outbreak, which they insist is the most effective way to prevent its spread worldwide. The more restrictions put in place on travel, they argue, the harder it is to get aid in and out of the afflicted countries and to stabilize already teetering governments on the front lines.”

This is a bunch of crap. All it takes to exempt humanitarian aid flights from a travel ban is the signature of the leaders who won’t allow a travel ban in the first place. And the media that report this type of bunk as fact are equally at fault for the lack of a travel ban. If the New York Times said that we should have a travel ban then the leaders of our country would jump through flaming hoops of fire to start one today.

I won’t speculate on the reason why a travel ban was not put into place at the outset of this whole affair. But I will tell you that I will be sticking to my guns on this issue. They said it couldn't happen here, but it is happening. And don’t tell me that there are 450,000 deaths from heart attacks and another however many hundred thousand die from drug overdoses, car accidents etc. The number of people who die from Ebola may be smaller, but the percentage is way higher. 

I have nothing but compassion for the people in Western Africa. We should be doing all that we can to alleviate their suffering. And that can be done with a travel ban. Remember the tsunami a few years back? No one was traveling there for fun at the time. As a matter of fact the only flights allowed in were humanitarian aid flights. Samaritan’ Purse; the United Nations; etc. were all able to fly in under exemptions.

Now, here’s a valid question; and please remember that the argument against a travel ban is incomplete without taking this into consideration. Lastly; but most importantly, think of this; if we are busy fighting Ebola here in the United States; where we have never had it before; then how we will be able to help those in Africa? Already tens of millions of dollars have been diverted from that front.

Note: Sometimes it is necessary to go back and read about the past outbreaks, going back to the first Marburg viruses of the 1960"s, which eventually became the Ebola we know today. For more information go to the Oxford Journal of Infectious Diseases at;

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Cleaning House" - The Captain and the Kids (1938)

Here we go again with the Captain and the Kids. This time the whole family gets in on the action as Mama tries to get the house cleaned up a bit. If she’s expecting any sincere help from either the Captain or the Kids, she’s going to be sorely disappointed.

As the children fool around and try to convince Mama that they are the two little angels she thinks they are, the Captain is busy trying to do as little work as possible. This proves to be harder than “factually” working, and when faced with the 2 choices; working or faking it; he decides to fake a heart attack instead. Mama is beside herself with concern, but the boys are wise to the Captains trick.

Dr. Quack; from Dr. Quack and Stork; is summoned and turns out to be an imitation of W.C. Fields along with a little mannequin who is unmistakably Charlie McCarthy. That’s what I like about these old cartoons; they take license to poke fun at other entertainers of the time. And guess what? Nobody sued one another over it. There was still a sense of humor in the entertainment world.

Anyway, Dr. Quack hurries over and Dr. Stork follows with a Bundle of Joy, thinking a baby is coming. Mama slams the door in Dr. Stork’s face- she doesn't want any more kids, thank you. Meantime the boys have gotten the Captain into bed just in time for Dr. Quack to check him out. What follows is a series of antics all designed to get the Captain to admit his slacking and beg for relief from Dr. Quack.

Dr. Stork gets past Mama and delivers the baby; who turns out to be the Charlie McCarthy mannequin; the Captain is horrified that he has had a child. He confesses all to Mama and she puts him to work doing everyone’s chores. The boys never do get “found out” in this one. The cartoon closes out with everyone but the Captain eating dinner to the strains of “There’s No Place Like Home.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

National Recording Registry - Library of Congress

One of the greatest treasures we possess as Americans is our Library of Congress. Of course I feel that way about all libraries in general, but the Library of Congress is truly special. It’s not just the books; there is art and photography and film; all of which trace the course our cultural history. There is also one fascinating section called the National Recording Registry, which contains the most important sounds recorded since a Frenchman first made a sound recording several decades before Thomas Edison did in 1888.

There are not that many items in the Registry; somewhere around 300 in all. The link to the list is provided at the bottom of this page, and I hope you will peruse it. It is really a journey, beginning in 1853 and continuing on through the present day. There are additions made almost each year. And they run the gamut from the first primitive recordings on wax rolls to today’s digital recordings of Tupac Shakur.

The Registry is not only a technological record of what we have done with the technology of sound in the less than 2 centuries it has been available to us, but also a place where you can take a quick overview of the changing culture of that same period. It’s another window into who we are today and how we got here.

I hope you will take the time to look at the list and; more importantly; when you see something that you are unfamiliar with, you will take the time to google it and learn more about the collective “we”. One of the finest aspects of this registry is that it tells you what was so special about the item listed that led to its inclusion in the Registry; in other words; why it’s important from either a musical, technological or societal point of view.

And, if you have never had a chance to visit the Library of Congress you have been cheating yourself. Even if you have no desire or interest in books, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington. It’s a bit non-descript on the outside, but the inside is truly a work of art; almost a bit on the art deco- psychedelic side.  So, even if you don’t like books, it is worth a visit for that reason alone.

Here is the link to the National Recording Registry;

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Fall in My Backyard"

Fall in My Backyard

The elephant ears were 7 foot tall;
they stood to defy the arrival of fall.
But now they don’t seem so tall at all
as they await the coming of winter.

The magnolia tree with its blossoms white;
is fading away with summer’s light.
She’ll be back next year; to my delight;
after the cold days of winter.

The little flowers that fill the bed;
the chill in the air is something they dread.
There’ll be something else comes spring in their stead,
after the passing of winter.

We are young, the cycle’s old;
this wandering from heat to cold;
around a sun of shining gold,
into the grips of winter.

What is this loss I seem to feel;
when the sun begins to peel
the veneer of warmth which felt so real,
Laying us bare to winter?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Land of the Blind" with Donald Sutherland and Ralph Fiennes (2014)

Ralph Fiennes plays a freedom fighter named Joe in this film about failed revolutions. Joe tells the story of  a man named Thorne; played by Donald Sutherland. Thorne was a terrorist who was jailed and tortured for his crimes against the state, which only served to make him a hero to his countrymen. Joe; who has seen the brutality suffered by Thorne; is recruited by the terrorist for a coup to overthrow the tyrannical government for which Joe actually has been working.

But Thorne proves correct the old adage that violent revolution does little more than to replace the corrupt regime with another corrupt regime. This leads to a cycle in which Joe must now overthrow Thorne.

This was an excellent script, with superb acting. The only thing which could have been better about this film is the direction. The movie seems to drag in spots where it should be getting the audience pumped up; or even angry. There is so much to like about this film; two veteran actors in roles that are deep and meaningful. Perhaps that is what kept me watching the film all the way through.

This film is worth watching; even just to reinforce the lesson that sometimes the devil you know may the same as the devil you wish for. One caution before watching the movie; don’t let it spoil your revolutionary spirit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brotherly Love - The David Greenglass Story

Last July 1st a man passed quietly away in New Jersey. He was living under an assumed name; and though he insisted that he was not ashamed of what he had done; he still never used his real name again. This is the story of David Greenglass; brother of Ethel, and brother in law to Julius; or more succinctly, the infamous Rosenbergs.

The Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953 at Sing Sing prison in New York for allegedly selling the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Undoubtedly they had something to do with it, but with Mr. Greenglass testifying against his own sister; and then recanting that testimony later in life; you have to wonder just who actually did transfer the documents to the Soviets.

Mr. Greenglass testified that he watched his sister type up the notes detailing the research data which he himself had been privy to while working at Los Alamos in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project. He was a machinist with access to the working plans for the bomb. His testimony was given in exchange for a lenient sentence. In essence, he did the spying, got his sister and brother in law involved, turned State’s Evidence against them which ensured their conviction for espionage and ultimately the death penalty. 

The Rosenberg’s had two sons; Michael and Robert. Their uncle David was instrumental in sending their parents to their death. The boys were adopted by Abe Meeropol and his wife Anne, both of New York City. Abe Meeropol was the school teacher who wrote the song “Bitter Fruit” in 1937. The song was immortalized by the great Billie Holiday in 1939. 

David Greenglass wrote a book about his life and the trial in 2001. He also gave an interview with CBS in which he stated, “As a spy who turned his family in…. I don’t care. I sleep well.” He also claimed that his sister was “stupid” and “could’ve cut a deal.”  In the 1989 Woody Allen film “Crimes and Misdemeanors” Mr. Allen says this about his arrogant brother in law, “I love him like a brother- David Greenglass.”  Let that be his epitaph.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"The Times of the Sixties" - Edited by John Rockwell (2014)

There is nothing pretentious, or confusing, about this title. Plainly put, this is a book of some of the most emblematic stories which appeared in the New York Times during the 1960’s. I don’t say the most important; although there are a number of those; I say emblematic because that what this book is. It is a wonderful representation of the things which made the 1960’s the memorable decade which it was, and still remains.

Organized into 8 sections covering 317 pages the book begins with the top stories in National news beginning with the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit- ins; which would come to characterize the Civil Rights Movement for much of the decade. That was on February 15, 1960. By November of that year JFK was President and Eisenhower bid us a farewell, warning us against the “military-industrial complex” which he had helped to create. The March on Washington, the Civil Rights demonstrations; and riots; are all covered. This section of the book speaks loudly to the little news junkie I was back then; with my 6 transistor radio always glued to my ear, or under my pillow at night.

In addition to the Civil Rights Movement, the National section also recalls the death of General MacArthur, JFK’s assassination, and just about every other important news item which would have an impact on the rest of the decade. The last article in this section is from August 1969, and is about Charles Manson.

The International section begins with a typo in the article about Francis Gary Powers being shot down over the Soviet Union in a U-2. The heading reads May 9, 1965. It should be 1960. The accompanying photo is dated correctly. From Eichmann’s kidnapping in South America to Krushchev pounding his shoe at the UN, this section is very colorful. The world still had some pretty colorful political leaders left; political correctness had not yet begun in earnest, making it possible for Politicians to still act somewhat candidly. 

The beginnings of our real serious involvement in Vietnam is chronicled; as well as the Communist expansion in just about every corner of the world; including Cuba. The rise of the Berlin Wall, the death of Pope John XXIII, Diem’s assassination only weeks before JFK’s killing, Israel fighting with Palestine, it’s all here. Mandela convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life in South Africa, while our own streets burned with the desire for freedom recall my struggle to make sense of why Apartheid was wrong in South America while it was still being practiced here in the United States. Communist China getting her own bomb, and Ho Chi Minh’s death, close out the International scene.

The Business Section begins with a raise in the minimum wage in the United States. JFK pushed through a bill making the new wage $1.15 per hour. The steel crisis; when Kennedy faced off with the steel producers over a price increase which would have triggered mass inflation; DOW breaking 1,000 points for the first time;  the Bank of America rolling out credit cards; and oil leases in Alaska all show a vibrant and growing economy.

There is a section devoted solely to New York City; which is appropriate, given that this book is about the New York Times coverage of the 1960’s. First up is Casey Stengel being let go by the Yankees for the crime of being 70 years old. The next big story is the collision of 2 airliners in the fog over New York, one landing in Park Slope section of Brooklyn; and then the fire on the aircraft carrier Constellation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which killed 46 and injured hundreds. Both of these horrific events happened one week before Christmas in 1960 and so always stand out in my memory.TV news broke both of these stories to me. I was just 6 years old. 

The Twist, the folk music scene and a young Bob Dylan at Gerde’s Folk City; the World’s Fair; Shea Stadium; the Verrazano- Narrows Bridge; the theft of the Star of India from the Museum of Natural History; the Blackout of 1965; all of these stories took me back to my days delivering the New York Post by bicycle; reading the headlines as I loaded up for work each day.

Science, Technology and Health is subdivided into 3 shorter categories. Science dwells on the Space Race; which we were losing at first. The Soviets put a man in space before us; orbited the earth before us; even space walked before we did. But we cheered our astronauts on to victory with the first manned landing on the Moon. If you were alive then you will remember that day and how it felt.

Technology concerns itself with portable electric typewriters and battery powered tooth brushes, the advent of the cassette as the wave of the future in music; and the first “jumbo” jet, a Boeing 747. The only thing still relevant is the battery powered toothbrush. All of the other achievements have been surpassed. But my toothbrush is still about the same; only cheaper.

Health covers the first Pacemakers, plastic contact lenses, open heart surgery, Medicare, cigarettes causing cancer; birth control and lung transplants.

Life and Style is one of the more interesting sections as it directly affects us all. From Barbie dolls to Mustangs, skateboarding and marijuana, this section is fairly representative of the way we were back then.

Fashion covers Jackie Kennedy, miniskirts, Audrey Hepburn, big glasses and Twiggy in a highly entertaining way. The articles fairly sing the praises of the subjects they explore.
Food and Drink is another section which is fairly interesting. It’s easy to forget that a microwave once coat about $1,200 in 1955. By 1962 this had dropped to $795, still out of reach of almost all Americans at the time.  The rise of fast food and artificial sweeteners also dominated the news at the time.

Sports is a vivid recollection of the Lakers, Wilt Chamberlain, the Mets, Roger Maris, the first Superbowl, the consolidation of the NFL and the AFL, Cassius Clay becoming Muhammad Ali, and the triumph of the Mets over Baltimore in 1969.

Arts and Entertainment starts off with the architectural achievements in New York at the time. From the new airline terminal at Idewild; with its observation deck; to the opening of the Pan Am Building, and the Whitney in Manhattan, the changing skyline of Manhattan reflected the rapidly changing world.

When the book gets to Music and Art it really showcases the color and dynamics of the 1960’s. From the Beatles to James Baldwin and everything in between, this is one of the most entertaining sections. Andy Warhol and his Chelsea Girls film had me running to the computer and You Tube to see what I missed as a kid. Ava Gardner reading “The Feminine Mystique”, Monty Python, A Clockwork Orange, Tom Wolfe, James Earl Jones, Andy Griffith, Hair and Woodstock are all represented as examples of the culture of the times. The last entry, closing out the section and the book, is the Altamont Concert in California.

It’s always interesting to look back and see how far we have come in certain areas; and how little progress we have made in others. In 1961 the Senate was struggling with the issues of healthcare and equal pay for women; both of which are still unsettled today. It's possible that we have not advanced socially as far as we would sometimes like to believe. Maybe we haven't come "such a long way baby". Inadvertently, perhaps that is the message of this wonderful book.