Friday, January 28, 2022


Some stories become more and more fascinating the deeper we get into them. One such story concerns history with which you're partially familiar.

Exactly a century ago European writer Felix Salten published a novel (1922). It was acclaimed and made the author famous. The book, "Bambi: A Life In The Woods," was a best-seller. Today, Salten's novel is forgotten; it was overshadowed by Walt Disney's later animation which bowdlerized Salten's story.

The novel -- written for adults, not children -- is a remarkable work of real imagination. It depicts the state of nature and confronts major issues of existential importance. My favorite chapter is one in which two leaves discuss what death will be like as they watch their companions wither and fall off a tree. "Do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we're down there?"

Some readers interpret Salten's "Bambi" as an allegory for the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. In fact, the Nazis banned and burned the book. I, however, agree with a New Yorker magazine writer in the current issue; I don't read the book that way. There is political depth to the novel but that wasn't Salten's focus.

Can the story of an interesting book obscured by a cartoon adaptation get more interesting? Yes, it can. Salten's novel was translated into English by Whittaker Chambers. Why is that name familiar to us? Because Chambers was secretly an American spy for the Soviet Union during the 1930s and the center of a huge political scandal. 

Chambers grew up on Long Island (in Lynbrook) and was the most talented writer-editor at prestigious Time magazine. His history includes the Alger Hiss controversy (during a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing in 1948 Chambers accused Hiss of having been a fellow Communist spy), the "Pumpkin Papers" (Chambers hid spy documents in a hollowed-out pumpkin) and, improbably, Chamber's being posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1984. Chamber's story has more angles than a dame in a film noir drama. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Symphony Orchestra

As a music-lover I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never heard a symphony orchestra play. That's about to change.

I recently discovered a fun, comic TV show about classical musicians ("Mozart In The Jungle;" Amazon Prime). It ran for four seasons (2014-2018) and has great actors in it, like Bernadette Peters, Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal, Malcolm McDowell and Wallace Shawn. The characters and their antics are amusing: musicians are as eccentric as any other artists.

After diving into the classical music pool, I thought it fitting to hear the real New York Philharmonic. For a Valentine's Day gift I bought tickets to attend Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. Don't tell Robin!

Have you ever heard a symphony orchestra play?

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Ice Hockey

Devils win! And we were there!

At the Rock last night the Devils scored seven goals and beat one of the best teams in hockey (Carolina Hurricanes). It was easily the most exciting hockey game I've been to. Woo!


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Flowers & Birds

I visited Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, NY today. It's free and uncrowded this time of year.

Some of these flowers look like animals. Which do you like the most?

Sunday, January 16, 2022


Surgeons ought to excise a part of my brain.

I'm not just capable of crazy behavior, I'm prone to it. I mean, who else thinks -- when the temperature is 16-degrees and fierce wind makes it bite deeper -- that it might be fun to go to the seashore and take pictures? No sane person. Even seagulls looked at me oddly yesterday.

I had to remove my gloves to operate cameras. (I took three.) Instantly my fingers froze stiff and fell off. Now I have only stumps. But... I came home with pictures. Most are on film so I have to wait three weeks for developing/scanning.

Shortly before I went outside, I got a taped message: "As always, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Ally."

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Gwen Verdon

Movies, with their capacity for close-ups, favor the beautiful. In fact, the Hollywood industry is based on privileging highly-attractive people whereas other performing arts (e.g., theater, dance) don't care so much about physical beauty.

Personally I prefer to see a talented, ordinary-looking performer display skill instead of watching an attractive airhead make faces at a camera.

A good example of the former is dancer/actress Gwen Verdon. Her talent was extraordinary. Gwen was successful before, during and after her marriage to Bob Fosse, as shown in the terrific, award-winning 2019 mini-series "Fosse/Verdon" where she was portrayed by Michelle Williams.

In my opinion nobody should miss seeing Gwen Verdon perform "Whatever Lola Wants" in the 1955 musical film "Damn Yankees." She's absolutely masterful and entertaining. In fact, go to Amazon Prime right now, select the movie and fast-forward to 1:02. (The rest of the movie can be skipped.) You'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Future Is Here

In 1973 I saw a sci-fi movie called "Soylent Green." Now considered a classic, the movie stars Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson (in his final film). 

"Soylent Green" depicts a horrifying future for New York with illness, food shortages and misery. Most inhabitants suffer badly while a privileged elite are comfortable behind guarded fortresses.

The year depicted in the film is... 2022. Think about that for a moment.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Meatless Fried Chicken

Which came first, the chicken or the pea?

KFC just started selling meatless fried chicken. Yes, fried chicken made without chicken. It's made from plants, primarily peas. When I told Robin about it, she laughed and laughed; she was sure I was joking and couldn't wrap her head around the idea of faux fried chicken.

I stopped by today and tried 'em. Remarkable. You would assume they're chicken if you weren't told they're not. The outer coating is identical to normal fried chicken; the "meat" inside tastes like chicken; and most important of all, they have the texture and "mouth-feel" of fried chicken. Quite an achievement.

They come with a choice of five different dipping sauces: "KFC Sauce" (a sweet, mild mustard flavor); Classic Ranch; Honey BBQ; Hot sauce; and Honey Mustard.

A single-person serving of six pieces is $7.99. They're called "Beyond Fried Chicken" (BFC) because they use Beyond Meat patties. You'll soon be able to get the patties in supermarkets for cooking at home.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

A New Project

I look forward to the future when I'll have more time and opportunity to pursue projects that matter to me. I'm developing an idea for one now and could use your help.

One benefit of being old is you've seen society act in different ways than it does now. For example, when I was growing up, driving drunk wasn't punished or even considered wrong; it was simply a joke since most adults drank and all of them drove afterward. Nobody got arrested for it. My father was a cop and he said his job was to escort drunks home, not criticize them.

We live in a strange age. One change over the past half-century that bothers me is a shift in the concept of "celebrity." In the past, to become famous you had to have done something valuable, like cure polio. Now fame is bestowed on third-rate television actors or, worse, Internet players who deploy low-rent gimmicks to gain attention. Granting acclaim to such people seems wrong, especially since others striving for and achieving more important goals go unlauded.

So one project I want to do in the future is to find ways to celebrate ordinary people for wonderful things they do. Elevate them from obscurity instead of rewarding jerks who act foolishly simply for attention.

As a beginning of this project, I'm curious about people's uncelebrated talents, efforts and goals. What do you do that makes you proud? What do you do that you wish others applauded or at least acknowledged? I'm asking about anything, not just things society views as worthy. 

For example, are you a good mother? Or do you try to be a good friend to others? Or do you experiment with fashion and create stylish outfits? Can you cook a nice meal? Do you craft up a storm? Anything you believe has value has, in my opinion, reason to celebrate. What is it?

Don't be shy or humble; share with us so I can figure out ways to promote the good people like you do.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Good Health

What a day!

Three years ago I had painful surgery for a condition that scared the crap outta me. I seriously feared for my life.

The surgery was a success but my doctor wanted return-visits every three months to check my progress. (You may have seen odd reports of my visiting NYC during the worst of the pandemic; that's why.) Today the doc announced "You're good!" and said I don't need any more check-ups.

Whew! Good health rocks. 2022 is lookin' fine so far. :)

Here's a picture of the newly-renovated portion of Penn Station. Cool, huh?

Monday, January 3, 2022


Can you keep a secret?

I've decided to buy a new motorcycle. But I don't like to talk publicly about stuff before it happens so please don't tell anyone.  :-)   I'm waiting until my new garage is completed later this month before bringing it home.

The bike has a vintage, retro-style that transports me back to the 1950s. I figured, since I'll be riding in that era, I should dress the part so I just bought a new leather jacket. It's the classic 1950s badass look for bikers. It's the same style Marlon Brando wore in "The Wild One" which created a fashion trend.

This jacket was hugely popular back then and became so notorious that many schools forbid students from wearing them. The jackets were believed to create "bad boys" and girls who'd cause trouble. It's funny how clothing can have such power. 

What do you think of the style?