Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'obituaries'

Saturday Stew: Technology, Cannibal Rats, &c

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 25, 2014 @ 11:31 am PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and you know what that means: time to clear out the links list of articles that never quite formed into themes of three or more articles:

  • The iPod of Prison. An interesting article from the New Yorker on the Sony SRF-39FB, a clear plastic AM/FM radio that is the most popular radio … in prisons. The clear plastic is one factor, the sound quality and reception is another, as well as the price. It is only now starting to be replaced by MP3 players, where the prison controls what can be downloaded.
  • Risks of BYOD. The catchword today in business is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. Businesses have become more accomodating of employee’s using their personal smartphones and other devices on corporate networks. But there’s a big downside — when you leave the company, typically they have the right to remotely wipe your device. You should read any connection agreements you need to click through carefully, and make an offline archive of any personal information before you leave.
  • Multilingual. Here’s a neat article and video: “Let It Go” (from Frozen) in 25 languages, and how Disney planned the movie for 41 languages. I love how seamless the video is — great job from the sound engineers to get the timing exactly right. I love listening to songs I know in other language, be it “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish, “Hair” in Hebrew, “Les Miserables” in French, the Beatles in German. I blame my high school Spanish teacher, who constantly played “yo no encuentro satisfacción”.
  • Cannibal Rats. There evidently is a ship floating around the northern Atlantic that is filled with cannibal rats. Whether or not you think the story is real, the concept is right up there with “Snakes on a Plane”. Can’t you just see the horror movie now. Our teens on a pleasure cruise come upon an abandoned ship and decide to explore.. and they find…
  • No Ren Faires in Your Long-Term Future. Good news for history, English, and other liberal arts majors: it’s not the career death you’ve been told. Liberal arts majors may start off slower than others when it comes to the postgraduate career path, but they close much of the salary and unemployment gap over time, a new report shows. By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates…. with one exception. Salaries still lag behind engineering and math and sciences graduates, who in their late 50s make about $98,000 and $87,000, respectively.
  • A Loss for the Jewish Community. The LA Times and the Jewish Journal are reporting that Harvey Fields has died. Rabbi Fields was just taking over from Rabbi Wolf as senior Rabbi at Wilshire Blvd Temple when we got married; Rabbi Wolf had been senior rabbi for a year after the death of Rabbi Magnin. We were only at Wilshire as Fields was coming in, but he did remarkable things for the congregation during the time — he basically brought the congregation back into modern progressive Judaism, stemmed the membership decline, and completely revitalized the place. I was more involved with the camps, and during much of his time, there weren’t significant changes there (those came near the end of Fields’ tenure as Rabbi Leder was coming in). But Fields still deserves a lot of credit for what he did for Wilshire Blvd Temple and the Jewish community in Los Angeles.

 

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What a Loss

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jan 02, 2014 @ 12:47 pm PDT

userpic=tombstonesFor the first news chum of the year, here is a late lunch posting of a few articles highlighting things we have lost, or are losing, as the year turns. I’m not going to mention the big ones — such as plastic grocery bags in the City of Los Angeles or new 40 or 60 watt incandescent light bulbs. However, these are important to some folks:

  • An Acting Loss. In the last couple of days, we’ve lost a significant actor. I’m not referring to James Avery of Fresh Prince, but rather Michael Levine. Michael was a regular actor in the Santa Clarita area, at both Canyon Theatre Guild and at Repertory East Playhouse, where I met him. I will always remember his portrayal of the grandfather in Jewtopia, his direction of A Few Good Men, and his performances in dramas such as Proof, On Golden Pond, and To Kill a Mockingbird. As I’m an audience, not an actor or creative, I never had the pleasure of working with him, but I always enjoyed him on stage and when I talked to him before a show.
  • A Dining Loss. Tonight, the penultimate Hamburger Hamlet closes as the Pasadena location is replaced by a – dare I say it – Dupars. I used to always love eating at the Hamlets in Palms, Brentwood, and Westwood — all long gone, and occasionally at the Pasadena and Sherman Oaks locations. I recall having the Rex Harrison, which was a fancy Bacon Cheeseburger, “Those Potatoes” (hashbrowns and sour cream), and wonderful French Onion soup. Lots of fond memories, but a dining style and menu that doesn’t resonate with many today. I’ll have to get down to Sherman Oaks while it still exists, and I won’t forget those sides. The closing has provoked a number of remembrance articles: LA Observed, LAist)
    [*: There may still be an East Coast location in Crystal City VA; the one in Bethesda MD (if it is still open – Yelp is ambiguous) is essentially a Dupars. The website also lists a Larchmont (Los Angeles) location, but that closed in December. There may also be a “Hamburger Hamlet XP (Express)” location in NoHo.]
  • A Television Loss. On 12/31/13, SoapNet ceased programming. Now, I never really watched the channel, but I do remember the heyday of both the daytime and the primetime soap operas. My grandmother loved to watch the soaps on NBC (I would watch them, as a kid, when she babysat). I remember the evening soaps — Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, and others — and I still watch the new Dallas. The death of SoapNet is a harbinger of the death of the genre as originally constituted, although I guess one can find the equivalent on Lifetime Network.

 

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9/11 Post | Post 9/11

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 11, 2013 @ 8:22 am PDT

9-10 Pictureuserpic=tombstonesAbove my desk at home I have a drawing of a 6 year old girl and her daddy, with a caption along the lines of “My dad and I moved my bed today.” It shows a new daybed, and everyone happy. It is dated September 10, 2001.

Today is September 11, 2013. Twelve years since the planes flew into the towers. I remember the morning well: I had turned on the news before leaving for work, and saw the reports of the planes flying into the towers. I remember listening to the news as we drove the van to El Segundo, not knowing what we would find. I seem to recall an emergency shutdown that day, as everything was locked down (we work co-located with an Air Force Base).

At the time, we were working with Margie Templeton (formerly of SDC) on her database project. Her company lost of most of its marketing people that day.

Usually, I opine. Today, I pine.

I pine for the horrific loss of life we had that day — the loss of the innocents who had no part in the underlying disputes. I feel for their loved ones, who had parts of their lives ripped away for no reason.

I pine for all those we have lost since in the name of revenge, retribution, and fighting the terrorist threat. I agree the threat needed to be fought, but did we approach the fight the best way?

I pine for what our society has lost — civil liberties, privacy, and trust in government. All can be directly attributed to the loss of 9/11. America has been changed for the worse by the terrorist act.

I pine for the loss of the rules of war. War — although horrific — used to have rules that were followed. These included minimization of attacks on civilians. Let the uniformed soldiers fight. Today’s terrorists don’t follow those rules. 9/11 didn’t start this decline, but it has certainly accelerated it.

So on this day, let us pine. Let us remember. In Judaism, the expression is “May their memory be for a blessing.”. On this day, let the memory of who and what we have lost be for a blessing. Let us, shall we say, pray, for the day when the “what” we have lost is restored, as well as “pray”ing that the memory of the “who” lives on in our memories of the good that they have done.

Music: L’il Abner (Original Cast Album): “Jubilation T. Cornpone”

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More Deaths in the News

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Apr 09, 2013 @ 9:19 pm PDT

userpic=depressionA number of deaths have been in the news of late. Roger Ebert. Annette Funicello. But I’d like to highlight two things related to probably the most high-profile death of late: Margaret Thatcher. Specifically, the mixed reaction thereto.

Item the First: In response to the death of Lady Maggie, guess what is climbing to number one on the charts in the UK: “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

Item the Second: In the musical Billy Elliot, there is a song called “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher”. In the song, the striking Northern miners sing, “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher/ May God’s love be with you/ We all sing together in one breath/ Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher/ We all celebrate today /’Cause it’s one day closer to your death.” The day Thatcher died, the production in London’s West End held a vote on whether to do that song. All but three people in the audience voted to sing the song.

Annette was loved. Roger was loved. Maggie, well, she was no Churchill.

Music: Debbie Does Dallas (2002 Original Off-Broadway Cast): “Jock Rock”

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My Father: A Remembrance

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Mar 20, 2013 @ 10:06 pm PDT

userpic=father-and-sonThis has been a crazy and a stressful last-7-day — more on that potentially in a future post. It has been so crazy and stressful, in fact, that I didn’t get the chance to post my annual remembrance of my dad on his birthday yesterday. As I get older, I see more and more of my father in me — and I like what I see, and I’m grateful he gave so much to me that makes me who I am.

I wrote the following the day after he died in 2004. He would have been 91 yesterday.

My father was born in Flushing NY in 1922. He was the eldest of four brothers; the son of a tailor who lived over his shop. I can’t give you too many details of the early days; Uncle Herbert can (and perhaps he will reply to this post and do so). His mother died young, when he was in his twenties, and sometime thereafter, his family moved to Los Angeles (how’s that for glossing over details). My dad went to Southwestern School of Accounting, and was a Public Accountant. He married his first wife in the late 1940s, and my brother was born in 1952. He loved my brother very, very much. He divorced that wife in 1955, and retained custody of my brother. He married my mother in 1956, and I was born in 1960. My mother was a CPA, so they formed an accounting company of their own, Faigin and Faigin. My brother died, reported due to an accident (I never knew the true details) in 1970. It devistated both my parents. My mother died in 1990 on my wedding anniversary. My father remarried a year or so later to Rae, who had lost her husband. This brought me some new wonderful family members. This should bring you up to date on the familial backstory.

So, who was my dad, and what do I remember. This is a jagged collection of memories.

I remember being in Indian Guides with him, painting rocks and bark to invite people to meetings. I remember going on Indian Guide campouts with him. It is because of this that I did Indian Princesses with my daughter, continuing the tradition. I recommend this program to anyone who is a dad.

I remember going on trips with him to East Los Angeles, to visit his clients. We would hit small mom and pop grocery stores, mexican candy companies. I’d always get sweets… and get to sort the paid bills afterwards.

I remember him taking the time to be with me.

I remember him telling bad jokes, and being enamored with old-time radio stars, such as Al Jolsen (his favorite), Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, and so on.

I remember his teeth. Specifically, I remember how he would remove his dentures just to gross out us kids.

I remember him taking me to the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion to see musicals, starting in 1972 when my mother was too sick to attend The Rothschilds. From this came my love of musicals.

I remember him reading Robert W. Service to me, especially Bessies Boil.

I remember him, at the Passover Seder, reading the Four Sons. He loved to act, mug, and play with his voice to make a point during the story.

I remember him being active in the Masons and the Shriners, especially with his good friend, Raymond Schwartz. I remember him going to the Masonic Picnics.

I remember him playing bridge with my mom and their friends, the Cohens, the Schwartzes, and the Strausses. Perhaps this is where I got my love of gaming.

I remember him telling stories of his time in the Navy, when he was a pharmacists mate, 2nd class, at Camp Elliott, which is now part of Mirimar NAS in San Diego. He found it ironic that he was in the Navy, as he could never swim.

I remember his disorganized toolbench, where eventually you could find what you need. I still have his 30 year old power drill, which I still use today.

I remember him taking care of my mother as she died of cancer, and fiercly defending her when we would fight.

In his later years, I remember him fighting with the computer, and eventually learning to use it and to use Email. However, he could never quite get the printer figured out. I would get calls from him that stuff wasn’t printing, and it was because he had been playing with the printer queue again.

I remember him cooking. He loved to cook peppers and onions in olive oil. He made a mean spaghetti sauce, and a great pot roast in tomatoe sauce. Rae says that I got my cooking skills from him, with which I must agree, as I don’t think my mom could cook.

I remember him collecting autographs and first day covers. For many, he would frame them and put them all over the walls.

I remember his love of baseball, which never rubbed off.

I remember him taking pictures. And more pictures. And more pictures. And still more pictures. I’ll probably find about 50 cameras at the house, together with probably 200 photo albums. In particular, I remember a few specific cameras: His Konica T-3 SLR, which I have. His Fuji POS, which he received at a special party my mother threw for him at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.

I remember him loving fountain pens, just like me. He had boxes of pens, and even more ink. He’s the only man I know that has a quart bottle of Schaeffer Black Quink Ink in his supply closet. There are about 6 bottles of ink on his desk (I only have 3).

I remember him being a luddite when it comes to computerizing financies. I’m going to have loads of two-peg journal books to go through to figure out stocks and bank accounts.

I remember him being a packrat. He collected office supplies. He collected biographical books. He collected CDs. You name it, he collected it.

I remember him being a good friend and caring about other people. After my mother died and he remarried, his new wife’s children were treated the same as his natural children, with the same love. He was a second grandfather to my sister-in-law’s children. He was there when people needed him. Until his last year, he volunteered to help seniors with their taxes.

For many years, I remember him being a staunch Republican, going counter to my mother, the strong liberal. I remember him backing Nixon and Reagan. This year [nb: this was written in 2004], however, had he been strong enough, he was going to vote for John Kerry.

I remember him being a people person. He would just light up when he was around people, especially those that hadn’t heard his stories before.

I remember him being there for me and my family. We spoke weekly on the phone, something I will miss, talking about everything. He had good advice, which I grew to respect as I got older. To the youngsters reading this: listen to your parents. They’ve been their and made the same mistakes. They do know what they are talking about.

I remember his love for his granddaughter, [info]nsshere. He had pictures of her everywhere, and she loved him. I remember him taking her to Disneyland when she was three, and being there in the hospital when she had her open heart surgery at the age of four.

I remember his love for his family. He enjoyed spending time with his brothers, Herbert, Ronald, and Tom, and researching family history. When my daughter was little, we picked up a copy of Grandfather Remembers and gave it to him. He filled it out, and now it is a lasting memory for her of her grandfather. To those of you who are grandparents: take the time now to write out your memories for your grandchildren. Record an oral history. Annotate your photo albums. It is worth the time. You will create that memory that will outlive you.

I remember how he loved Yiddish and Yiddish stories. I remember him reading the Freiheit.

I remember (or have discovered) how he loved his wives. I remember how he loved my mother, Nancy, even through the depths of her depression, her anger, her rages, her illnesses. I remember how he rarely lost his temper (and when he did, you needed to worry). I remember when he first told me he had met Rae, and how they quickly grew to love each other. Even though there was an age difference there, I saw the deep affection that existed between them. He chose well.

I remember how he touched people. A few months ago, I went to a funeral that was packed to the gills of people who loved the deceased. My father had friends all over the world, and helped many people.

In short, I remember a deeply caring man, who I really think was responsible for making me the way I am today (both for good and for bad). He does live on in me, and I think he lives on in my daughter as well. As long as we remember someone, they never die.

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The Art Of Saying Nice Doggie

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 03, 2013 @ 4:58 pm PDT

userpic=boardgamegeekWill Rogers supposedly once said, “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.” Although you think I’m saying this as a commentary on our political situation, that’s a different post. I’m saying it because of the reference to “Diplomacy” — which in my eyes, is the famous game, “Diplomacy“. I’m talking about Diplomacy because today brings news of the death of Allan Calhamer, creator of “Diplomacy”.

My start in the world of board gaming was from the traditional 1970s gateway-game, Risk. I could never get into those SPI hex-grid games or the detailed simulations of Avalon-Hill. But I did enjoy playing Risk. When I was in high school, someone introduced me to Diplomacy, and from there it was a downward spiral into gaming.

For those who aren’t familiar with the game, Diplomacy is a game of World War I battles, played entirely without dice. Each player represents a country, and through negotiation and alliances attempts to get a majority of Europe. Games take anywhere from 5 to 8 hours. Yes, hours.

In high school, a group formed around those who played Diplomacy. We had a number of people from the computer and science fiction clubs involved. We would typically meet at someones house and go at it until the wee hours of the morn. This continued into college, where we even had a wall-map version of Diplomacy that we played in the UCLA Computer Club.  It was also in college that I got introduced to the Diplomacy variant, Machiavelli, which became one of my main games (along with Cosmic Encounter, Junta, and Ace of Aces) during the early 1980s.

Times have changed. I haven’t played Diplomacy or Machiavelli in years, simply because today’s generation is rarely up for a 5-6 hour face to face game. But who knows, perhaps one day. [Maybe I can teach it to the Van Nuys Acadec folks next year; I recall the theme is World War I]

Music: I Sing! (2002 York Concert Cast): “Charlie And Pepper”

 

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The Dead, The Living, and The Zombies

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Feb 21, 2013 @ 11:38 am PDT

userpic=zombieToday’s lunch-time news chum collection brings together stories about life and death:

ETA: Last week I wrote about the piano on the beach, slowly disintegrating. Today’s news brings word that it has been cremated.

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Tales of My City and My State

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jan 07, 2013 @ 5:56 pm PDT

Huell-HowserRalph-StoryJack-Smithuserpic=californiaToday, my city and my state lost one of its greatest boosters, and his passing reminds me of other great journalistic boosters for my city and state. In their memory this post is dedicated.

Today’s news brings the sad report of the death of California icon Huell Howser. Howser, a transplant from Tennessee, grew to be one of the greatest booster of Los Angeles, Southern California, and all the quirks and oddities of California. Starting in the mid-1980s with Videolog, he rapidly developed a folksy style over a series of travelogue programs covering our great state. I know he was out to Orange Empire Railway Museum numerous times (which increased attendance every time), and even did a video report on the subway tunnels of the Pacific Electric. He was evidently as nice in person as he was on TV, and just enjoyed telling people about this wonderful state. I’m glad to see KCET will continue to air his shows.

Thinking of Huell made me remember another lost icon of Los Angeles, Ralph Story. Story died in 2006, and I wrote up some recollections then.  Story worked for KCBS (then KNXT) and KABC. I remember Story from his award winning series “Ralph Story’s LA”, which explored the history of Los Angeles. I particularly remember the segment he did on the Pacific Electric Railway tunnels near Echo Park.

I tend to like to do things in 3s, so I wanted a third person who boosted LA and has passed away. My wife came up with the answer: Jack Smith of the Los Angeles Times. Smith was a columnist who did regular columns on Los Angeles and Southern California; many of these were collected into books such as “The Big Orange” (for you Bay Area folks, substitute Herb Caen). Smith died in 1996, and I’m not sure the Times has had a columnist like him since. About the closest is Steve Lopez.

While writing this remembrance up, one other booster came to mind, but it is neither dead or off-the-air… however, it hasn’t had the same impact. KABC’s program, Eye on L.A., is a long running travelogue series hosted by whomever KABC had on staff (I remember Chuck Henry hosting it, but there have been others). However, it hasn’t exclusively focused on Los Angeles, or even California.

So, Huell, we thank your for your love of Los Angeles and California, and for continuing in the tradition of Ralph Story and Jack Smith, bringing the stories of the people to the people. You will be missed.

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