Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Father's 100th Birthday

If he were still alive, we would be celebrating his 100th birthday in July. Josephine Baker was born in the same year (1906) as well as Dimitri Shostakovitch, Oscar Levant, Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger and Samuel Becket. It was a good year for writers, dramatists and musicians.

My father, was an interesting and somewhat enigmatic character. Jovial and sardonic, sentimental but never demonstrative. I brought him home from the hospital after a month's stay and the death of my stepmother. He was barely able to climb the stairs to his bedroom but after he sat down on his bed, in the room he'd shared with his wife of forty years, he caught his breath and then said "If I let myself, I would be feeling really miserable right now"
He had been driving to my house for dinner when he had a head-on collision with someone who was driving the wrong way on a free-way exit. My stepmother was thrown through the windshield and suffered severe head injuries. She never regained consciousness, and died in a coma a month later.

I'm still not able to understand how or what I felt. Even though she had been the instrument of my parent's separation and divorce when I was a boy, I had become very fond of Claire and in some ways her death affected me more than my father's. That was partly because I was indirectly responsible for her death.

Three months before her death, Claire told me that she had decided to leave my father. She could no longer put up with his abusive behavior and the heavy drinking that caused it. During most of their marriage, my father had been "on the wagon" and as far as any of us knew he didn't drink for more than twenty years but after his sixtieth birthday, he retired and his children were out of the nest, he lost his focus- golf and household chores wasn't enough of an outlet for his creative energies. He began drinking again. At first it was almost moderate but soon it became heavy. I told Claire that she couldn't leave him now because he really needed her and that she had to pay her dues for all the good years they'd had together. Maybe if I hadn't convinced her not to leave her husband she'd still be alive.

When he was drinking, the cruel and bitter side of his nature became exposed. He would attack anyone available at the least excuse. Once, when I came home from Italy for my mother's funeral, I stayed with my father and Claire. The night after I arrived, we went to a dinner party at a neighbor's. When we got back to our house, my father started taunting me because he said I was "sulking". He knew the difference between sulking and grieving but he chose not to understand so he kept on bugging me until finally I said "Hey lay off. I'm upset about my mother's death it was a complete shock. She was only 53. I didn't know she'd been sick"
Then he did his tough guy thing, something he learned from Bogart movies and he said " I say she's dead and the hell with it" I got up and punched him in the mouth.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My Great Granfather's AKA

Who Was Christopher Columbus Smith?

When my Aunt Polly gave me The Lincoln Cane , she told me how she had sent private detectives back to the Ohio town where my great grandfather, C.C. Smith, had lived and operated his feed and seed store. After searching the records in Town hall and other local sources of information, the detectives could not find any information about where and when my grandfather was born or even where he had come from before he settled in western Ohio around the middle of the nineteenth century. For the last fifty years I have been intrigued by the “Mystery of the Old Gent”. Who was he? Where did he come from? What was his real name? (It was unlikely that he was christened with the name “Christopher Columbus Smith”)

I tried various genealogy sites on the Web and never found a trace anywhere but finally, I submitted my DNA sample to FamilyTreeDNA and received their report .The main part consists of a section devoted to:


“The results…show the ancestral origin of those you match or nearly match in the RAO.

The ancestral origin is provided by each testee and is only as accurate as the testee’s knowledge…

Exact matches show people who are the closest to you genetically. The Ancestral Origin shows where they have reported to have lived…”


(i.e., people with identical 12 Marker DENA Configurations to mine)

RUTLEDGE, Edward de Wolfe

Ellis Quitman

Michael Edward

Kenneth Jack

George W.

Ethan Taylor

John David

Ronald Gary

John Duane

Noah R.

Larry D.

SMITH (None)

Other Surnames 12


England 8

Great Britain 3

Ireland 4

Netherlands 1

Scotland 2

United Kingdom 2

In light of these preliminary findings I think it might be reasonable to assume that:

  • My great-grandfather’s real name was not “Christopher Columbus Smith”
  • His real name might easily have been Rutledge
  • His origins were probably pure “Celtic”

After the results of my DNA analysis was published on the FamilyTree DNA website,

I received an e-mail from John D. Rutledge who is one of the “Exact Matches” I have mentioned previously. Mr. Rutledge offered to exchange the Rutledge family information, his “GEDCOM” file, with information I could provide about our family

In examining the Rutledge history, I discovered one “Edward Augustus Rutledge” who was born in 1827 and has no history other than the date of his birth and the names of his parents. I have assumed that “C.C. Smith” was born sometime around 1830, which would have made him about 36 when he knew Mr. Lincoln and about fifty when my grandfather, Ned C. Smith was born (I ‘guesstimate’ that to be around 1880).

It is possible that “Edward Augustus Rutledge” might have been my great-grandfather’s

“real” or original name before he changed it.

I have ordered additional tests (25 markers) from FamilTreeDNA in the hope that these will further clarify things but I’m realistic about what to expect. It could remain a mystery forever. But it is an interesting story.

One last bit of trivia: Abe Lincoln’s first and some say “true” love was:

Anne Rutledge. She died before she and Abe could marry.

Comments, questions and complaints should be addressed to me at

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Karma and Me

Karma; destiny, fate, cause & effect, predestined. Call it what you like, we are virtually powerless in the forces that drive our lives. Free will? Bullshit - "you can check out but you can never leave".
My grandfather's mother probably died when he was born, my father's mother as well, my mother put me and my three brothers out to surrogates when we were born and never even tried to reclaim my youngest brother until she sent me to Philadelphia to fetch him when he was three and I was ten.
Later, I got married and my wife went back to work when our first-born was two weeks old and I was making over $100K a year in London in 1975.
Her mother put her out to live with her grandmother for the first three years.

Can you see some kind of a pattern here?

The relationship between mother and child is "primordial" it over rides virtually every thing- genetics, environment - all of it.
You can not ignore it and you can't overcome it.
I am the sum of everything I have experienced, learned and inherited but most of all the sum product of my first two years. If my mother rejected me then- I am (most likely) crippled for life.
Mothers; do you realize the terrible responsibility that is yours? My great-grandmother never had a choice about pregnancy, but my mother did and my wife was totally in control of her situation. She chose to pursue a rather nebulous "career" rather than spend time with her new-born child. Which ring of hell is reserved for women like that?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sick Shlickers and the Shlock That Makes Them Shlick

When I was growing up, just north of New York City, my brothers and I invented and frequently used the word "Shlicker" to describe someone who outwitted and usually cheated his adversary (i.e. sibling or other contemporary) through the use of nefarious and often offensive tricks and schemes.
After reading this Sunday's edition of the NYT , I have come to the conclusion that the Age of Shlicking has arrived. "Shlicking" is no longer unusual or remarkable, now it is the norm for business and social intercourse.

The "honor"of being the pioneer of the Age of Shlicking must go to Ex-Pres. Bill Clinton (AKA. "Shlick Willie") who set the ball rolling with his famous or rather infamous statement "I did not have sex with that woman" Thus helping horny adolescents and others avoid pre-marital sex by turning the whole concept of sex upside down.
However, the 42nd President preceded the greatest "Shlicker" of our age, George W. Bush. If Clinton took "one small step" on the path to shlickerdom, his successor has already run a marathon. As the chief executive and official role model of his country, "W" has gone where no man has gone before. He has made shlicking an established method of communication and negotiation. He shows us the way. It's ironic that he's appointed Mr. Snow as his Press Secretary. Now the Press Conferences will all be "Snow Jobs"

In the "Sunday Styles" section of this weekend's Beth Landman writes about the new phenomenon of "emotional support dogs" Ms. Blandon writes that notwithstanding Health Dept. Rules that prohibit pets in NYC restaurants "At "French Roast", on upper Broadway,... Two women sat down to brunch with dogs in tow: a golden retriever and a Yorkie toted in a bag"
The restaurant manager, Gil Ohana, explained "They both said that their animals were emotional service dogs...One of them (the women not the dogs) actually carried a doctor's letter"

Ms. Behan explains "The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants- as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health saps goes back to a 2003 Dept. Of Transport ruling . It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like... Anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness. Later in her article "Wagging the Dog and the Finger", Ms.Landman
describes how a tenant lawyer's client "is a recovering alcoholic and apart from her pet , all her other friends are drinkers" So she needs to have her dog in an apartment in a building that does not allow animals.

For further reading on this subject consult: "On Bullshit" by Harry G. Frankfurt, (Princeton University Press-January 10, 2005) Available from Amazon for $9.95)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Outback with an Ipod

David is a friend of my son’s. They went to High School together, did the “Great European Tour” right after graduation and have remained friends ever since, even though my son is married with three kids and David has remained single, they still enjoy each other’s company whenever they can get together.
Last summer, David took a trip to Australia. He did some surfing near Sidney at Bondi and Bronte and after a week of beer, sun and “The Nude Surfing Festival”, he headed
For the Blue and Snowy Mountains and the Outback.

Eventually he had a chance to spend some time with an Aborigine tribe and learn a little about their lives and customs and listen to their stories. Storytelling is as old as the Aborigine culture itself dating back more than forty thousand years. David had the privlege of listening to Aboriginal storytellers, who, by their words and actions bring the
Listener into the story, that is, they listen and visualize the story and become a part of the
Process of storytelling. These gifted people have a charisma that captivates their audience
With their words and actions and their facial expressions. This has been the true essence of storytelling in every culture.

David made friends with one of the Storytellers he met in the Outback, his name was Jimmie Taylor and he was a “Keeper of the Stories” and very proficient at his vocation. After participating in a few of Jimmie’s sessions, David told Jimmie how much he had enjoyed the stories and asked if Jimmie would be willing to record a few into David’s iPod. Jimmie was reluctant at first but gradually he understood how much this meant to David so he eventually agreed. David took the iPod from around his neck and gave it Jimmie after explaining how to operate it.
Jimmie took it and went back to his hut.

The next evening, Jimmie went to the place where David was staying and when he saw David he took the iPod from his neck and handed it to David and said “I’m sorry David but I couldn’t tell your machine any stories. I know how it works; I sang a song into it and it played back the words of my song but it didn’t understand the song and it wasn’t my voice that I heard. It could record things but it couldn’t see me and the way I moved my hands when I told about the flying birds or the kangaroo jumping on the anthill. It didn’t understand what I meant and it couldn’t tell me with its eyes that it understood or even liked my story. It couldn’t tell me when to slow down or explain something. It couldn’t laugh or sing or cry at my stories. I can’t tell stories to this iPod."

Live-est Music Capital of the World

I'm not kidding here. I'm really serious. There is nowhere, anywhere to match the vibrant, dynamic, innovative atmosphere of the Austin music scene. Catch it at the airport when you get off the plane. Experience it in the clubs on 6th Street and on Red River, Guadalupe and South Congress. In the theaters, the bars, the shoe stores and the super markets. I rehearsed in the Brill Building in New York, worked in the clubs in Brooklyn and the Village but there was never anything like the atmosphere of Austin and it seems to get better every day.
Tonight I watched a telecast from "Austin City Limits". Two musicians I've never heard of before and both of them -
First, Ben Folds and his group did some cool stuff with a couple of low key "Welcome to My Famly" numbers and then at the end of the set, Ben Folds started conducting the audience in a choral sing-a-long that raised the energy levels to the roof and left the audience applauding and screaming for "MORE!"
The audience were the star performers and they couldn't let it stop.

Then, Ray La Montagne came on and did a couple of songs solo, that were more than a little derivative- of Dylan but when he teamed up with a local string quartet - "Tosca" it was like sounds I'd never heard in my life.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tomorrow's Best Sellers Today

Books of Tomorrow editor Adam Eden, interviewed noted author, Fosco Guidizio, about his soon to be published "Sounds of Music and Language". An excerpt of the interview follows:
A.E. : So your saying in your book that all music has a "national accent" give me an example

Fosco: Ok let's take the German composers- Beethoven and Wagner as examples. Listen to their music, like "Eroica" and "Parsifal" and compare it with the Russians. Tchaikovsky and Borodin. The Germans evoke visions of beer and sausages with the Russians it's vodka and blinis. Even a little familiarity with the two languages will allow you to hear the rhythms of speech in the music and vice versa. When I listened to recordings of Hitler's speeches as a child I always heard Wagner.

A.E. :What about American music, how does it reflect our language or does it?

Fosco: Certo! Of course. The truly American composers like Copeland, Bernstein, Gershwin , Ellington are as American as apple pie and the slurred, rapid speech of the American city street
and country furrow is deep in all their music. Like you say in this country, "You can get the boy out of the country but you can't take out the country boy" Or something like that.

A.E.:How about the Asian countries?

Fosco: That's even more closely connected, especially in China and the other countries who have tonal languages.

A.E.: Can you explain to our readers what a "tonal" language is for those who are not familiar with the term?

Fosco: Certo! In Chinese, the tone, whether rising, falling etc. will determine the meaning of the word. "Ma" for instance, can mean "horse", "mother" or a curse, depending on the tone you give it. So the language is inherently musical - much more than Italian even though westerners might not recognize it easily.
Man learned to make music before there was language. They've found musical instruments that date back 50,000 years. So it's true that music came first. Maybe we could have evolved like birds, with music- songs & whistles being our main means of communication. Just imagine that.

A.E. That's really fascinating Professor, I'm definitely looking forward to reading your book and I know our readers will be to.

Fosco: Certo! I hope so. I need to sell at least 10,000 copies just to cover the advance.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My Backyard

We've just had a lot of rain Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The New "Self-Service" Economy

Alvin Toffler's new book "Revolutionary Wealth: How it Will Be Created and How it Will Change Our Lives" prompted me to see how much I am contributing to the new economy by "Prosuming" i.e. producing goods and services for myself and my family that in other times I would have purchased.
  • Making my own travel arrangements and bypassing the travel agents
  • Photo processing (No film or film processing)
  • Mail Delivery (e-mail - no stamps or envelopes- no postman)
  • Health services (Diagnosing and prescribing for my own illnesses)
  • Greeting Cards ( no cards to buy, no stamps or envelopes)
  • Overseas Phone Calls at one-tenth of the price I was paying just a few years ago
The above have become possible recently thanks to the internet,with faster large capacity computers and highly intuitive, user friendly, software. In addition to these high-tech activities, my extended leisure (i.e. retirement) has allowed me to develop new skills that make it possible for me to cut my own hair, make my own bread and create pre-prepared meals that I allow me to eat what I want, when I want it at half the cost of Swanson's or Stouffers.
There's more but it's enough evidence to show that Toffler's thesis is valid.

We are moving into a new era and for once in a long time I feel a little more optimistic about the future. Knowledge is power and each of us has the power to create a new kind of wealth for ourselves and our families.

Will this put more money in our pockets? Not directly, but it will allow us to create a better life style than we now can in a traditional cash economy and at the same time it could offer more in the way of "self-esteem" than most of us get out of the "nine-to-five" we're holding down to pay the mortgage.

Make a list of the things you are doing and what you could do to live better independently.
Share it with others here on the web and with your friends.

It won't help with the problem of Bush's deficit spending but it could make you feel a little better