Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Decade that "Was": John Fetterman's Vision for Braddock, Pennsylvania

Andrew Carnegie Library in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Braddock, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, once boasted a population 0f 20,000 people in the 1920's; it was the site of Andrew Carnegie's first steel mill and the first public library he built. But now the city lost 90% of its population, is crime ridden and its residents fled to other communities to find job security.

Enter John Fetterman the new mayor since 2005 who stands 6 feet 11 inches, weighs over 300 pounds and sports a tatoo on his left arm with the number 15104, Braddock's zip code ,and on the right arm five dates of murders that occurred there. He graduated with a degree from Harvard in Public Policy and initially worked with Americorps to help young adults earn their GED degrees. Recently, he has set about buying up homes (the average price is $6000 and there are some 300 vacant ones ) refurbishing them and then luring artists from around the county to settle there; he is often allowing them to stay rent-free.

This man has raw ambition, vision and drive and inspiring many other US communities to invite artists to help create a cultural infrastructure to stimulate capital development for rejuvenation and growth. Good luck, John!
Image source (1)
Image source (2)

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Decade That 'Was": My 9/11/2001:

At about 8:30AM, I left Fort Lee, New Jersey with my Horizon food truck bound for the company office up in Rockland County in New York State. I was driving on the Palisades Interstate Parkway on this clear day with my AM radio tuned to 1010 Wins New York. Suddenly, the all- news broadcast was interrupted by a message that the World Trade Towers had been hit by a Jet passenger plane. I immediately pulled off the Interstate to one of the scenic rest stops along the Hudson River and cast a long glance down to the city to witness a tall column of smoke covering lower Manhattan. When I arrived at work, all the salesmen were watching a 12 inch color TV covering the story. We all decided not to call on clients that day.

The next day brought me and my truck to Tenafly, New Jersey, an affluent bedroom community for New York City. It was mid-afternoon and I called on two homes. In the first home, a high school student answered and told me her father had not come home the night before. I made up some type of apology and then called on her neighbor. A woman came to the door and told me her husband was missing and she could not deal with me now. Again my apology to her.

I slinked back to the truck buried my head in my hands and cried and cried and cried, which must have lasted 10 minutes. I did not go back to work that day or the next.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Decade that "Was" is now the decade that Matters: Sulzberger and 17 Million Cyberfans Lead the Way to Better Content

In my blog of January 12th of this new decade, I paid my accolades to the New York Times (NYT) and its publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. for the courage to beef up his staff of online blog moderators in the face of the failing economy that has been so brutal to newsprint revenue.

Now, last Thursday, January 21st, the NYT announced a blockbuster stratagem that has been pioneered and engineered by the Financial Times and endorsed wholeheartedly by Rupert Murdoch in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal: Prized Content comes with a Price

Beginning in January 2011, the Times will allow a certain number of free articles each month on its website. To view more, the reader will be asked to pay a fee for unlimited access. Occasional online readers are shielded from costs, while the more loyal, voracious online readers will pay some freight.

This is a welcome event: The New York Times' excellent local, national and worldwide coverage is matched by the fact this New Olde Grey Lady-in her new garb of - attracts more monthly visitors than any other newspaper in the country: 17 Million monthly readers.

17M of us cannot be wrong!

Here's to the next decade, Mr. Sulzberger! Print will continue to thrive thanks to your courage and burning desire to thrive!

The Decade that "Was": A Great Auto Leasing Experience

One of the upbeat moments of the last 10 years was leasing a 2010 Toyota in the summer of '09: I was in and out of the dealer with my new machine, fully prepped, in less than 4 hours. My lease payment on the same model was $65 less than the one I signed 3 years earlier. Though the model was the same, I now had a 6 cylinder, 280 HP engine, about twice the HP of the earlier model. Stabilitrac, giving the car much more stability on turns, wet pavement etc, is now a part of the base cost as is the new transmission; with smooth manual downshifting, it is a breeze to drive and definite plus.

The vehicle is low key and 'world class' and happens to be my fourth Camry--and my fifth Toyota. It's the best value out there. Best of all, the lease payment is under $300 , with no acquisition fee, no down payment... and Michelins to boot.

The key to negotiating a great deal is to pick a reliable dealer, who has been in business for decades (in my case since 1969), establish an ongoing relationship with them, establish a strong credit rating in high 700's+, bring in newspaper deals offered by the manufacturer and be prepared to 'walk' if you are being given the run around.

It's a buyer's market in these tough economic times, so do your homework. Be patient, negotiate your deal and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Happy and Safe Motoring on the roads and in life! Happy New Decade to all!.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jimmy Cobb's birthday

Today is the birthday of Jimmy Cobb, the drummer in the legendary Kind of Blue recording with the Miles Davis group in March 1959. Jimmy makes his appearance 30 seconds into the So What recording that is included on my blog Miles Davis Kind of Blue Turns 50. He is the last surviving member of that memorable group composed of Miles, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly both on piano, Johnny Coltrane on tenor sax, Julian Adderly on alto sax and Paul Chambers on bass.

He is leader of the Jimmy Cobb "So What" band that plays the music of Miles Davis epitomized by the Kind of Blue recordings of 1959.
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Defining Moments of the Decade: January 20, 2009, The Inauguration

It was exactly one year ago today that our new President was sworn in and followed with a 22 minute speech with some resounding rhetoric which I want to share with my readers.

He said, "44 Americans have now taken the presidential oath...That we are in the midst of crisis is well understood. Our nation is at war against a far reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some...Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered, our healthcare is too costly, our schools fail too many and each day brings further evidence that the way we use energy strengthens our adversaries and threatens our planet...Know this America they (the challenges we face) will be met!" (applause)

"On this day we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas that have far too long strangled our scripture says, the time has come to lay aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history, to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation that god-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America."

Our country is in a sad state of affairs one year later. We have 'replaced' the war in Iraq with a never-ending war in Afghanistan with no clear motive. The country has been termed the "graveyard of empires" because a fierce group of independent war lords has controlled vast mountainous regimes for thousands of years and no empire from Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E. to the Soviet Union in the 1980's has been able to subdue them and unify the country.

Our economy is in a shambles. Credit is virtually non-existent for the small businessman and many a homeowner; banks are taking in depositors money at 1% and loaning out at 15-25%. Large investment banks are deemed too large to fail, are bailed out with taxpayer money so they can continue to leverage funds and speculate--with our money--and then record blockbuster earnings; finally, they reward themselves royally with mammoth bonuses with moneys that we have advanced them.

Mr. and/or Mrs. Main Street is unemployed, living off of food stamps and unemployment benefits. One-third of America's mortgages are under water and families are simply walking away to seek less expensive shelter. Some communities such as Las Vegas run weekly tours of foreclosed homes with the slogan: Prices Won't Last. In Cape, Coral Florida, real estate agents run buses with slogans as: Foreclosure Tours R Us... with possibly misleading guarantees such as Prices Won't Last (indeed, that is unless you believe prices will continue to plummet)

Finally, our Health Care system is in dire need of repair. But with trillions of dollars at stake, thousand of insurance companies are fighting for a piece of the pie and for their life, doctors are threatening to refuse Medicare patients because of proposed reduction in fees paid by the program and the cost of hospitalization and tort cases keeps mushrooming. The veto-proof majority that the dems own in congress is now lost with the election of a republican to the senate from Massachusetts.

The single-payer insurance system is the obvious answer which would save the taxpayer about $75 Billion a year in administrative/paper work costs currently borne by the industry. Some form of Public Option is a definite plus to control costs.

Congress appears to be like an albatross frozen dead in their self-generated inertia and petty squabbles.

There is a definite bright side to the broad dismal picture. a move to bipartisanship activity is a definite first step. One side of the aisle has and can make amends and friends with the other side. Joe Scarborough, "Morning Joe" outlines in his book The Last Best Hope how it is possible to reach over to the other side to get legislation done. I strongly recommend the read! People, beginning with our elected leaders can reach into their hearts and pockets and sincerely care enough to help their suffering constituents they represent. Empathy, sympathy and true grit is needed to change the old boy's way of doing business in the halls of Congress, Wall Street and, yes at home, too. We must begin caring for each other.

A second earthquake has rattled our neighbor Haiti. It's time to wake up America; it's time to take an active role in helping these unfortunate people recover. But, at the same time let us not forget those who need our hope at home, in our families, friendship circles, churches, mosques and synagogues; it's time to care for others; it's time to leave the greedy appetite for more money and power behind us and reach out to those who truly need us. Yes, charity begins at home with small acts of loving-kindness! Go for it, America.

Change is possible--helping one person at a time.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Royal Tomb Sculpture: Mycerinus and His Queen Turn 100!???!

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the 4600 year- old statute of Pharaoh Menkaure (Mycerinus) and his Queen by a team of archaeologists from Harvard and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Standing only 4 feet 8 inches tall, the treasure was unearthed below a room in the Valley Temple of the pyramid of Minkaure at Giza, Egypt. The expedition was led by the archaeologist George Reisner.

There is a familial, homey feeling to the pair; Reminiscing about his childhood visit to the MFA, New York Times art critic Holland Cotter writes "with their neat figures and confident smiles" the couple "looked like friends of my parents arriving for cocktails, straight from a spaceship."
The faces are stylized, yet their bodies are more life-like. He is gripping some cylinders in both hands and she has her right arm draped around his waist. The two signs of royalty are the nemes or headdress he wears and his beard.

There is an ongoing debate among history scholars whether the queen's role was simply one of subservience to her husband .

Friday, January 15, 2010

1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic: Designed by Jean Bugatti

1936 Bugatti Type 57C Atlantic at 2003 Pebble Beach Concours
where it won best in show

Today is the birthday of Jean Bugatti, son of Ettore Bugatti the founder of the elegant line of motorcars. Jean personally designed the Atlantic shown above. Only 3 were built and the Atlantic is considered to be the first supercar ever built. They have been owned by such notables as Lord Phillipe de Rothschild of London, venture capitalist Tom Perkins and Ralph Lauren who currently owns two.
Image source (1)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some Defining People of the Decade: Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

In the November, 2009 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, the editors have named The New York Times Publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. one of the 27 Brave Thinkers who are flying in the face of established convention and wisdom to drive society forward.

In a age where newspaper readership is dramatically down and where news and information is more and more disseminated in twits, blogs and online editions of paper, he has beefed up his staff of online blog moderators to 11, twice the number that the Huffington Post lists on its masthead. Though the Times stock is down to mirror the dramatic fall of revenue, he courageously is resisting laying off staff and holding fast to the principle that the traditional readers of the venerable Old Grey Lady are loyal because of the incredible breath and depth of coverage.

And the younger readers love the interactivity of instant messaging to engage in discussion on issues of the day. I recently followed a Times blog on an opinion article written by William Cohan and how perhaps the three Magi, Bernanke, Paulson and Geithner should have let Bear Stearns fail in March 2008, instead of pumping in some $29 Billion and then directing its sale to JPMorgan. About 250 people joined the blog.

Hats off to the New York Times and Arthur Sulzberger. Happy New Decade to all!

Experiencing the New Atria at Lincoln Center, New York City

On December 17, 2009, the new atria at Lincoln Center opened as a result of a generous grant by David Rubenstein. It is a 'cool' space as this short video demonstrates and proudly joins a string of other city public arcades previously mentioned on my Churchill/Chartwell blog.
Enjoy this space as much as I did and look for additional public space videos on this blog later this year.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Oil is Discovered at Spindletop Field, Texas

We commemorate yesterday because on January 10, 1901, the Spindletop Field located at Beaumont, Texas struck oil. This was a major first for the nation because up to this point no other oil well became as productive: the new oil field began producing more than 100,000 barrels per day. Oil prices dropped to 3 cents a barrel. Gulf Oil and Texaco (now a part of Chevron) jointly developed the field.
The oil was found at a depth of 1139 feet and gushed up to over 150 feet. It took over 9 days to control the new gusher. Beaumont's population of 10,000 mushroomed to over 30,000 in 3 months.
Image source (1)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy Birthday to my daughter Maya: California's Child, New York's Asset

This is your special day, Maya. May you enjoy it to the fullest. Like Bob Dylan says in Forever Young:

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Alfred Stieglitz: the Father of Modern Photography

On January 1, we celebrated the birthday of Alfred Stieglitz (January 1, 1864 – July 13, 1946). Though born in Hoboken, New Jersey, he moved with his family to Berlin as a teenager in 1881; here Alfred studied mechanical engineering at the Berlin Technical Hochshule under the chemist Hermann William Vogel who taught him the fundamentals of the photographic process. With his first camera in tow, Stieglitz traveled throughout Europe taking lots of photos.

When he returned to the US he settled in New York, where he founded the New York Camera Club and established The 291 Gallery (located at 291 Fifth Avenue) where he introduced many European turn of the century, avant-garde artists- Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso , Henri Rousseau and Paul Cezanne--to the American public.
He was one of the first Americans to promote Photography as an accepted art form over his 50 year career.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome to Stamford January 1, 2010

Here are some downtown images of Stamford , CT on the start of a new decade. Notice Trump Tower, the Landmark Building, Bank of America Building and the Ferguson Library all enshrouded in fog and snow fell through the night

How appropriate! Can Stamford, nicknamed by former Mayor Dan Malloy, the City that Works, survive the fog?