Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The virus

I last wrote about COVID, in this space, on July 29th.  On that date, more than 150,000 Americans had died due to the virus.

Today--fifty-five days later--there have been an additional 50,000 deaths.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The death of Justice Ginsburg  is a profound loss for the country.  She was brilliant, humane, courageous, remarkable. 

The photograph, below, was taken in 1972, the year she joined the faculty at Columbia Law School, with tenure.  At the time, she was 38 years old, and was the first woman to be hired by the school as a full professor. 







(Photo: Librado Romero/The New York Times)

Friday, September 18, 2020

The New Year

Rosh Hashanah--which begins the ten-day period, in Judaism, known as the Days of Awe--starts this evening, at sundown.

A good and happy New Year, to those who are observing the holiday. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11th

I posted the above photograph last year, on the anniversary of September 11th.  I thought I would post it again.

It is, I think, a haunting image--that of the second airliner, a moment before it crashed into the South Tower of the Trade Center.

The picture was not published until 2002.  As I wrote last year: The picture, taken by Will Nuñez, appeared in the September 2002 issue of Vanity Fair, with other previously unseen images of the September 11th catastrophe, in an article titled "Two Towers: One Year Later." Mr. Nuñez's photograph also appeared in a book released the same month, Here is New York: A Democracy of Photographs (Scalo Verlag Publishers).

The caption in Vanity Fair noted, in part: "After the first plane hit Tower One, bond analyst Will Nuñez went to his corner newsstand and bought a $14.99 disposable camera, hoping to record the scene for history's sake.  Minutes later, from his downtown office window, he captured United Flight 175 as it sped toward Tower Two."

(Photograph ©Will Nuñez, and Scalo Verlag Publishers, 2002)

Friday, August 14, 2020

Tony Charmoli (1921-2020)

(Tony Charmoli, at Your Hit Parade rehearsal. Photo via Paul Manchester, from the Tony Charmoli archive)

I've written previously, in this space, about the well-known, critically-admired, and Emmy-honored television choreographer and director Tony Charmoli.

Paul Manchester, who edited and designed Mr. Charmoli's 2016 memoir, Stars in My Eyes, and who was friends with Mr. Charmoli for many years, announced earlier this week that Mr. Charmoli died on August 7th, at age 99.

On his Facebook page, Mr. Manchester shared the above photograph of Mr. Charmoli, from the period, in the early-to-mid-1950s, during which he staged and choreographed the NBC-TV program Your Hit Parade. (The photograph also appears in Stars in My Eyes.)

Here are two of the posts I'd previously written about Mr. Charmoli:



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The virus

At the time of my July 13th post, which concerned COVID-19, the U.S. had reached 135,000 deaths from the virus.

Today, sixteen days later, the number of deaths in America passed 150,000.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

John Lewis

This is a 2007 portrait of Congressman Lewis--a brave, heroic man--who died on Friday, at age 80.

The photograph, by Eric Etheridge, is from Etheridge's 2008 book, Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders (New York: Atlas & Co. Publishers).


Monday, July 13, 2020

The President, and COVID-19

For some time, it is clear, President Trump has been pretty much done with COVID.

On June 17th, he said that the coronavirus was "dying out."

Nine days before, on June 8th, he said: "We may have some embers or some ashes, or we may have some flames coming, but we'll put them out.  We'll stomp them out.  We understand this now. We'll stomp them out and we'll stomp them out very, very powerfully."

On July 2nd--his impersonal locution, I think, was interesting; it was suggestive, perhaps, of his own remove from the issue--he said: "The crisis is being handled." 
Two days later, during a July 4th address, he sought to minimize the virus's severity.  He said that "we have tested over 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless."

My previous post was written June 22nd. At that time, more than 120,000 Americans had died as a result of the virus. 

As of today--three weeks later--there have been approximately 15,000 additional American deaths.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Our era

This has been a staggering, harrowing time.  

First, the cataclysm that is the pandemic.  Near the end of May, 100,000 Americans had died due to the virus.  Less than a month later, there have been more than 20,000 additional deaths.  By October, it is now estimated, more than 200,000 Americans will have died.

And then, on May 25th, there was the world-shifting death--hideous, chilling, and heartbreaking--of George Floyd. 

It is a time of enormous consequence--as regards the health catastrophe, and the issues of race, bigotry, inequity. Yet the President--a remarkably hollow man--has shown, routinely, that he is fully incapable of helping to heal the country.

Friday, June 19, 2020


Offering good wishes to everyone who is observing, and honoring, the Juneteenth holiday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Barry Blitt illustration, The New Yorker


Barry Blitt is an outstanding artist/satirist/humorist. His work is featured regularly in The New Yorker; it appears often, notably, on the magazine's cover. This month, Mr. Blitt was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

His cover for the magazine's latest issue, published on Monday, is titled "Natural Ability."

The title (as noted in a New Yorker story, below) comes from remarks President Trump made in early March, during his coronavirus-related visit to the CDC, in Atlanta.

Mr. Trump said to reporters, at the time: "People are really surprised I understand this stuff.  Every one of these doctors said, 'How do you know so much about this?'  Maybe I have a natural ability."

The new issue of The New Yorker was published, as it happens, the same day Mr. Trump announced that he has, for more than a week, been taking hydroxychloroquine, the drug he has promoted for some time.


Here is a brief interview with Barry Blitt, conducted by Françoise Mouly, the art editor of The New Yorker; the interview appeared yesterday, on the magazine's website:

Friday, May 8, 2020

A 1954 picture

This has always been one of my favorite photographs. It is from a Boston newspaper article, early 1954, and is of my mother holding my brother, Jed (the first of my parents' two children). At the time, he was seven months old. 

My mother died in 2001 (nineteen years ago today), at age 73.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

April, 1995

In the midst of the terrible pandemic, one remembers, with great sadness, the devastation of April 19, 1995 (twenty-five years ago today): the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Albert Camus

(From The Plague, by Albert Camus, Modern Library edition, ©  1948; original French edition published in 1947)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

John King, and CNN's election-night maps

One of the recurring pleasures of election nights has, for some time, been John King's reports and analyses in front of CNN's touch screen electoral maps. The maps are referred to, during CNN's election broadcasts, as the "Magic Wall."

King is the network's Chief National Correspondent. His knowledge of electoral maps--of the histories, patterns, and intricacies of states, counties, Congressional districts, and other electoral corridors and regions within the states--is substantial, and his presentations are routinely impressive, and illuminating.

I'm looking forward to watching his reporting tonight, as returns come in from primaries in Michigan, Mississippi, and elsewhere.

(Above image: CNN reporter John King discussing early returns in the Arkansas Democratic primary, on Super Tuesday, March 3rd)

Friday, February 28, 2020

The S.S. United States, Philadelphia

This is a photograph taken in Philadelphia, at my request, by photographer/artist Jenny Lynn, a longtime friend. The picture was taken on Thursday, early evening, from inside the IKEA store, located on Philadelphia's Columbus Boulevard.

In the distance is the S.S. United States, the legendary passenger liner, which has been out of service since 1969, and has been docked on the Philadelphia waterfront since 1996.  The ship is, in person, a startling and remarkable sight.  At 990+ feet in length, it is more than 100 feet longer than the Titanic.

In 2011, the ship was purchased by the S.S. United States Conservancy, a group devoted to the ocean liner's preservation, and history. The Conservancy bought the ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, which had acquired it in 2003; the company had had plans--ultimately not realized--to make the ship seaworthy again.

The purchase of the ship, by the Conservancy, was made possible by a substantial donation to the group, from the noted Philadelphia philanthropist Gerry Lenfest.  Mr. Lenfest died in 2018, at age 88.

Here is the link to the Conservancy's website:  http://www.ssusc.org/

As noted previously in this space, the S.S. United States is written about in my book about early television.  The last telecast of NBC's Your Hit Parade, for the 1951-1952 season--which was, it turned out, my mother's last appearance on the program--took place on the ship.  Five days later, on July 3rd of 1952, the ship began its maiden voyage.  

(Photograph © Jenny Lynn)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Martin Grams, Jr., and "Truth or Consequences"

Martin Grams, Jr.'s latest book--in preparation for some time--was released on January 21st. 

The book is Truth or Consequences: The Quiz Program that Became a National Phenomenon (published by BearManor Media). 

The program was created by Ralph Edwards; Edwards was its host on radio, and was the original host of the TV version of the show (when it was seen in prime time).  Bob Barker, who was host of the TV show for a number of years (for its daytime version, and then in syndication), wrote the foreword to the new book.

I've written about Martin Grams periodically, in this space; he has written (or co-written) a great many books about Old-Time Radio, and vintage television programs. The books include The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (2008); The Radio Adventures of Sam Spade (2007); The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television (2010; written with Terry Salomonson); Duffy's Tavern: A History of Ed Gardner's Radio Program (2018); Car 54, Where Are You? (2016); and The Time Tunnel: A History of the Television Program (2012). 

Martin is a prominent figure in the Old-Time Radio and nostalgia-oriented communities. His articles about Old-Time Radio programs appear regularly in various OTR publications--and he writes about radio, television, film, and other popular culture matters on his blog (http://martingrams.blogspot.com).  He's the editor of Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old Time Radio Club; the publication appears six times each year. In addition, he and Michelle Grams, his wife, have for years run the annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, based in Maryland. 

Yet he is undoubtedly best known for his book projects--and in particular, for the considerable research skills he brings to them. Indeed, the books routinely include vast amounts of archival and historical materials he has located, and mined. As such, his books often have an encyclopedic feel, in their scope, and length.  His Twilight Zone book, one notes, is 800 pages long.  His book about Duffy's Tavern is just under 800 pages.  His newest title, about Truth or Consequences, continues the tradition: it comes in at just over 700 pages. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Kirk Douglas (1916-2020)

Kirk Douglas, who died on Wednesday at age 103, was a wonderful actor.

He was also a noted film producer, and wrote many books--including The Ragman's Son, a 1988 memoir; a 2002 memoir, written after his severe 1996 stroke, My Stroke of Luck; and 1997's Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning. He also wrote fiction.

Here is a quote from Mr. Douglas's New York Times obituary.  It is from an essay he wrote about aging, in 2008, for Newsweek magazine.

“Years ago I was at the bedside of my dying mother, an illiterate Russian peasant. Terrified, I held her hand. She opened her eyes and looked at me. The last thing she said to me was, ‘Don’t be afraid, son, it happens to everyone.’ As I got older, I became comforted by those words.”