Wednesday, January 31, 2024

"The Sopranos"

"The Sopranos," considered by many to be one of the best television shows ever made is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The (surviving) cast and crew met in an Italian restaurant in Little Italy recently for drinks and dinner. The restaurant served "Carmela's Baked Ziti."

When the show was first broadcast, I watched every episode. I later bought a boxed set of DVDs and we're working our way through it again. The show holds up.

This is a hill I will die on -- Tony Soprano was the most fascinating character in TV history. Superbly portrayed by James Gandolfini, Tony contained the full range of human emotions and had real gravitas. Or, as the kids say today, rizz. Incredible writing filled Tony with unexpected dimension and Gandolfini's consummate skill conveys it through his face and body. Never has an actor been so perfect for a role.

I've mentioned this before but it's so significant I'll repeat it: one of the highlights of my life was seeing James Gandolfini, after the show ended, perform live on Broadway. I got second row seats and we were only ten feet away from this acting giant. He loved the role (and had a big hand in producing the play, an import from England). Seeing him happy was deeply joyful, especially in light of his later premature end.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Cyd Charisse, Dancer

We all know celebrities famous during our lifetime but most of us don't know artists, musicians and actors of earlier generations. Sometimes it's worth looking at their work for sparkling brilliance. 

I've been savoring the talents of dancer/actress Cyd Charisse lately. I first heard of her in my twenties watching classic musicals. Cyd danced in dozens of them during that genre's heyday (1945-1959). She was one of only a few women who danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. She later compared the two titans in her memoir. 

Born in Texas in 1922, Cyd contracted polio when she was six. She took dance lessons to strengthen her body and recovered from the disease. Cyd's dancing progressed quickly and she turned pro in her teens. She was discovered by the same choreographer who found Gene Kelly. Cyd appeared in many films, some classics, and later acted on television. She lived to age 86, dying in 2008. (Most dancers live long lives from their good physical shape.)

You know instantly watching Cyd dance that she was exceptional. Her fluidity, range and poise are super-human. Fred Astaire believed she was the best female dance-partner he ever had and said "when you dance with Cyd, you stayed danced with." :)

Cyd had only a small role in "Singing In The Rain" (1952) but for the dance-finale Gene Kelly chose her instead of co-star Debbie Reynolds. Kelly explained it was because Cyd was a trained dancer and Debbie was not. 

Interesting Cyd trivia: (1) Hollywood famously insured Cyd's legs for $5 Million in the 1950s, a huge amount back then. (2) Cyd's real name was Tula Ellice Finklea. Ouch!

As obvious as her dancing talent was Cyd's beauty. Being a movie star was easy for her. She carried screen romances convincingly. In "Silk Stockings" (1957) she plays a rigid Communist Party member from Russia who visits Paris on political assignment. She becomes entranced by the city and falls in love with Fred Astaire's American character. I laugh at this dialogue from their early encounter:

[Fred] Ninotchka, don't you like me at all?

[Cyd] The arrangement of your features is not entirely repulsive to me.

[Fred] Oh, thank you. Don't you think in time you might go a little further than that?

[Cyd] I have not seen the rest of you.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Ways To Make Money

It's definitely weird how you can work hard for money (as I was taught and did for four decades) or make the same amount doing nothing. 

My biggest stock holding is Netflix. I've mentioned the company many times here since buying a chunk a decade ago. I identified it then as potentially a leader in streaming which I also foresaw as disrupting broadcast and cable. Netflix became that leader and streaming now eclipses other means of distributing entertainment.

When Netflix releases its quarterly reports, the stock jumps. Usually up, sometimes down, always a lot. Tuesday's positive 4th quarter report caused my stock to surge over 10% which is a lot for non-crypto stock. And it did that in a day. 

So... I earned as much yesterday as I used to earn in a year toiling at my job. That's fortunate but it just feels weird. My parents would never understand this.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Campaign News

I regret to announce I have suspended my campaign for President. Simply put, I can't see a path to the nomination.

Wait, is that it over there? Um... no, that's my neighbor's driveway. Never mind...

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Harvey Littleton, Glass Artist

I started collecting art a few years ago when I realized art marries two of my central interests. Of course art has aesthetic qualities (e.g., beauty, innovation) but it also possesses something else: history. Works of art are like modern archaeological artifacts: objects that tell stories. Stories about the artists who created the pieces, stories about the culture in which they were conceived, and stories about the passage of time and perspective. 

Focusing on art of the last century, as I do, means these works address recent life and consider people either alive or shortly-departed. This is much different, much more accessible and more interesting (to me) than art from ancient or medieval times. Artists like Lino Tagliapietra (1934-) who are still alive -- and willing to dine with me -- and artists like Stanislav Libenský (1921-2002) and Jaroslava Brychtová (1924-2020), whose many students and followers were influenced and are carrying forward themes and techniques of their work, are fascinating. Stories to learn and tell.

I just acquired a new work that similarly sates my hunger for history: glass art made in 1983 by famous artist Harvey Littleton (1922-2013). Harvey is an important, intriguing character. He was born in Corning (where the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass [CMOG] is located) and was the son of the scientist who headed R&D at Corning Glass Works (a huge company that did groundbreaking research on industrial and commercial applications for glass. The company also founded and continues to support CMOG.) Harvey was encouraged by his father to go into science but like many children wanted to explore a different path; Harvey chose art. 

At first Harvey was an educator, teaching about glass in several universities. He promoted glass art and taught many later-famous artists like Dale Chiluly. Harvey retired from teaching in 1976 to devote his full attention to making work in glass. He worked steadily from then until his death in 2013 at age 91. Four of Harvey's adult children work in the field of glass art.

Harvey is often referred to as the "Father of the Studio Glass Movement," a title worth respecting. During his lifetime Harvey saw glass art change from one type of practice to another and he had a big hand in influencing that shift. Chronicling Harvey's whole role is far beyond this short summary; you can find details of it elsewhere (e.g., Wikipedia).

It was during Harvey's immersion in art-making that he produced the work I purchased. He was then in his sixties. A private collector acquired the work from an art gallery and enjoyed it for four decades. Now, that sole collector is parting with the object to a new caretaker: me. I'm inheriting a piece of history to enjoy for as long as I walk the planet. Then it will pass to the next caretaker. 

We care for art in our hands; we don't "own" it. Not having participated in the work's creation we have no right to claim ownership, just a privilege to hold it for a while. I don't subscribe to the popular but fallacious notion that artwork is merely chattel, property we can buy and sell like widgets. Artwork is special -- a gift to humanity, as Harvard scholar Lewis Hyde wrote -- and occupies a different place in our mental and social worlds. Coincidentally Hyde wrote his book ("The Gift") the same year that my new artwork was created (1983).

When this and my other works are ready for display I'll invite you over. The price of admission will be having to listen to me tell the stories the artworks possess.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Snow Reveals Character

We got our first snow-storm in two years. About 3 inches where I live (Long Island, NY). Here's what happened...

[Putting on sweats]
"You're not going outside to shovel snow, are you?!
"Why yes. Yes, I am."

Twenty years of living with me and Robin still doesn't know the person she married.

Update: Successfully shoveled our walkways and driveway. Also accidentally shoveled part of our neighbor's property. Lost my bearings at one point.

Monday, January 15, 2024


Our one-level-up-from-apes brain barely sees, let alone understands the complexity of reality. Even the most brilliant among us (e.g., Albert Einstein) are baffled by the subject. I've long pondered this area as an amateur philosopher/physicist and am intrigued by both its depth and potential for future use.

Verschränkung. That's the concept separating modern physics (quantum mechanics) from classical theory. Erwin Schrödinger coined and translated the word as "entanglement." In 1935 Einstein and others disputed the existence of quantum entanglement for violating  the local realism view of causality: i.e., the universe's speed limit (how fast light can travel and transmit information). Einstein famously mocked the idea as "spooky action at a distance." (That's my favorite phrase in all of science).

The funny thing is, though, Einstein was wrong. Empirical tests later proved over and over that quantum entanglement exists. Entangled particles separated by great distances (farther than communication could be carried at light-speed) act together, united in some "spooky" way. As recently as 2015 an experiment verified the truth of quantum entanglement and disproved theoretical objections to it. And just two years ago the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three scientists "for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science."

Where am I going with this? Well, how far are you willing to travel? The road leads to famous Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner (a contemporary of Einstein who lobbied FDR to create the atomic Manhattan Project and later received a Nobel Prize in Physics [1964]), then slides into mathematics and its efficacy, heads on to Wigner's later philosophical musings about reality and the ultimate limitations of math and human observation, and finally confronts "the hard problem of philosophy" (i.e., consciousness) where, likely, the final answer resides to the fundamental question: why are we here? 

I'm drafting a paper on this subject which is too lengthy to discuss uninvited. If anyone's interested and has hot tea, hit me up. :) 

Sunday, January 14, 2024



People who know me wonder why I follow hockey. I often wonder the same thing. I never played the sport and have only basic understanding of its strategy. Last night's Devils game taught me why I appreciate the sport: for gutsy life-lessons.

This time in the season many teams suffer from injuries. The Devils are no exception: 5-6 of their best players are out, recovering from hits and rough play. This means the guys who are left on the ice are non-stars, mostly very young players striving for a foothold in the NHL.

The Devils faced the hottest team in hockey, not just because they play in Florida. The Panthers were on a 9-game "heater" (win-streak). They possess lethal offensive power. The Devils' weakness this year has been defense and especially goaltending. So everyone expected the Devils to lose; the only way they could win is if untested players cohered into a unified group and played well-above expectations.

They did. And achieved a decisive 4-1 win. In the goal was a new kid fresh out of the minor leagues who was astonishing with over 30 terrific saves (Nico Dawes). 

Lessons? Ignore past history and expectations. Fight every battle as hard as you can, even if they seem insignificant. Look for opportunities. Take chances. Support your friends and hope they support you. Work as a team. Revel in victory!

Saturday, January 13, 2024


One surprising, counter-intuitive fact I've learned in life is about contrast. Contrast teaches us. We normally recoil from it but shouldn't.

We don't know what something is until we experience its opposite. Hot teaches us about cold. Anxiety teaches us about calm. Pain shows us the value of its absence.

My work-life was full of anxiety. I prayed for boredom to relieve me of it. If I had felt boredom without the contrast of stress, I wouldn't have realized its virtue. 

Since last Summer I now have physical pain almost every day somewhere in my body. Often it's excruciating. At first that disturbed me -- but now I'm grateful when I don't have pain. Without the pain I wouldn't appreciate its (temporary) relief.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Big News For Bitcoin

It's showtime!

Months ago I predicted something was going to happen. It just did. After a decade of denials the SEC just approved spot-ETFs. Not just one of them, but eleven. Large financial institutions sense a gold-rush with these products and want in on the action. Leading the way is the world's biggest private finance company, BlackRock.

A "spot-ETF" is a financial product offered by companies to investors. It's a means for investors to benefit from Bitcoin without actually owning Bitcoin. Investors buy shares in a fund set up by the financial institutions which hold the crypto (usually with the help of sophisticated crypto exchanges, like Coinbase). When the price of Bitcoin goes up, the value of ETF shares go up. The two mirror value allowing investors to participate in crypto market gains without having to create a digital wallet, maintain its securely, sell coins, etc. People can just call their normal stock broker and say "buy Bitcoin!" The broker's company handles the hard stuff.

A flood of new investment money is expected to flow into the crypto market. Under the economic principle of supply and demand this pushes price up. So hang on, here we go!

New York Times article link

Saturday, January 6, 2024


Robin and I went to a movie theater last night with two close friends, both of whom are car-guys. We saw "Ferrari," an unconventional take on race-car owner Enzo Ferrari. The entire movie takes place within one year, 1957, when Enzo's life pivoted personally and professionally.

The film isn't what you expect. It's not about racing; in fact, it's barely about cars at all. The movie focuses on a man trapped in his masculinity, unable to process grief over the death of a son and stunted in his communication with the women in his life: an unsatisfied wife, a loving mistress, and a troublesome mother. In this respect the story reminds me a lot of Tony Soprano and his family plight. 

Enzo focuses all his energy on saving a failing automobile company. It's a sublimated way of righting his sinking ship and making his life matter. Prospects for both the company and his personal life are uncertain; you can't predict what'll happen to either as events unfold. There are some scenes that will shock you viscerally.

The drama of the story is presented with skill. Dialogue is sparse and searing. Scenes are intense and actors' faces burn hot in frequent close-ups. Shot on location the film also creates a convincing mise en scène, so much so you feel like you time-travelled back to Italy in 1957. Black-and-white and color film are mixed to sharp effect.

This film will receive numerous awards after which it'll be re-released and introduced to a wider audience. Don't wait for that; go now on my recommendation.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Back To The Past

They're back!

The Seventies are back! Coming into fashion are big flowers, denim, bell bottoms and fringe. The clothes of my youth. If I dig deep enough into the basement I'm sure I'll find outfits that are newly-fashionable.

Is it a coincidence that Jimmy Carter is still alive? We're back, baby!

Article link: Fashion trends 2024: Metallics, wide legs, denim galore, giant flowers and more - Newsday

Wednesday, January 3, 2024


It's ironic but before my vision-loss my eyesight was good. I never needed glasses, not even for reading. Which means I wasn't ready for the many foibles glasses create that the rest of you are long familiar with.

For instance, I learned that if you carry glasses in your pants pocket, they break in half. And that I have to lift my hand to my face several times a day to check if I'm wearing glasses 'cause I can't tell otherwise. 

The biggest discovery is how glasses change your appearance. The first glasses given me (not chosen) were large ugly rectangles that made me look like an elderly nursing home patient. Ugh! I returned to my optometrist and requested glasses that better reflect my personality. She asked, "Well, who are you?" 

I paused and explained, "I'm an artistic sort who used to ride motorcycles and take photographs. I crave real-life adventure and intellectual stimulation. I dabble in archaeology, philosophy, quantum physics and cinematic art -- but purely for fun as an amateur." 

She said, "I have just the right thing." And she did. 

My new glasses are perfect. Wait'll you see 'em!

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Our Past

Few of us grasp what came before us in its depth and complexity. It wasn't until I started studying archaeology a decade ago that I realized this. My interest in ancient history has grown into a passion as I learn about dramatic recent developments in the field. Technology is opening doors not only in newly-discovered sites but in better understanding of past discoveries where former guesses are being replaced by true understanding.

New tools, like LIDAR (a type of radar), reveal the existence of many large past civilizations. Now covered by physically-impenetrable jungle, such sites were once bustling cities of life and commerce. Previously nobody thought there was or could be anything there but technology has stripped away that ignorance.

Similarly more accurate machinery for dating past artifacts corrects prior misunderstanding of when, why and by whom objects were made. For example, most historians believed the first book was made a few hundred years ago. Wrong! It's now known that 2,500 years ago a book recording trade and taxation was handwritten and hand-bound. 

The biggest surprise of last year was the discovery of a wooden structure -- skillfully carved, notched and built with axes and wood tools -- long before anyone believed possible. Accurate dating of the structure shows it to have been made 476,000 years ago. Really! That's so far in the past it was before "humans" (homo sapiens) existed. The builders were an earlier evolution of humanoids whom no scientist had thought capable of such work. 

Archaeology, aided by technology, is now delivering stunning news and insights at a rapid pace. An excellent place to keep up with these developments is "Archaeology" magazine, written in simple language for non-professionals. It covers all important events around the world and presents them with entertaining prose and beautiful photographs. You'll find the magazine at your local library. (I subscribe to it.)

Learning what humanity did in the past opens our eyes to who we are as a species. It has enhanced my knowledge of our fundamental nature. The illumination is sometimes surprising so it stimulates our curiosity while deepening our understanding. Turn on the light and look around!