By LIONEL ROLFE
Back before the Golden State (5) Freeway was finished in the early 1950s, I had a mentor who owned a lab on Riverside Drive in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. He was a short, dark man, a Turkish Jew born in Harlem in 1916 of parents from Istanbul and Haifa. Like his ill-educated parents, futurist Jacque Fresco had no verifiable college degree. But he had nonetheless become famous as an industrial designer, specifically for the flying wing aircraft that he helped create with Los Angeles aviation pioneer Jack Northrop. He was Aircraft Designer for the Northrop Division of Douglas Aircraft, Los Angeles, California, in1939. Fresco and Northrop had disagreements but they nonetheless worked together closely.
This March, Fresco, who has worked as both designer and inventor in several fields, turned 100 years old and the UN presented him with an award for his work in city planning. It was on this occasion that I talked with him.
I had first walked in Fresco’s lab when I was about 10 years of age—probably in 1952. Our discussion immediately took me back to meeting the flying wing guy. Read more
By MARY REINHOLZ
The September morning sunlight was so bright that all seemed well with the world.
It was 9/ll. My computer had just crashed and I needed to get out of my apartment to email resumes to prospective employers. There had been a recent downsizing and elimination of my writing job at a trade magazine conglomerate in lower Manhattan. My socialist lawyer, who worked nearby, had gotten me a decent severance and I was in a good mood.
And so I walked jauntily past Union Square en route to a trendy East Village Internet cafe on University Place called The News Bar. Approaching an intersection, I wondered vaguely why the hell there was a ring of fire around one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center.
The towers, each 110 stories high, were still intact and I could see them clearly around 8:50 in the morning. I had no fear, telling myself that the blaze on the upper floors of the North Tower had to be the result of some kind of accident or electrical malfunction within that famous New York City skyscraper. I knew a terrorist truck bomb had exploded in a basement garage of the building in 1993, killing six, but that incident was now a distant memory. Read more
By BOB VICKREY
When my 18-year-old niece Olivia told me in April she would be enrolling this fall at Pepperdine University in Malibu, I was excited that I’d finally have some family living near me on the West Coast.
Nashville born-and-raised Olivia has always exhibited a spirit of adventure and had told her parents that she preferred attending Pepperdine or the University of Hawaii to one of the southern schools where most of her friends were headed.
Remembering my own college experience at Baylor and recalling the excitement of living on my own for the first time, I realized that if I’d had an “Uncle Bob” living in Waco back then, he probably would not have been at the top of my speed-dial list—even if we’d had such features back in the day of the archaic rotary phone. Read more
In the interest of serving mankind and reporting on our monthly lunch club adventures by touring Southern California’s most legendary restaurants, we have occasionally sacrificed food quality for a stroll down memory lane.
We decided it was time to replace some of those palate-numbing experiences by eating at a place that has become synonymous with elegant dining—Chinois on Main in Santa Monica—which became an L.A. institution shortly after opening its doors in 1983. Wolfgang Puck’s sequel to his landmark Spago restaurant provided his introduction to “Asian-fusion” and was praised by critics as innovative and imaginative.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those Westside food snobs. My dining habits range from chowing down on local take-out as I sit behind my T.V. tray to eating while standing over the kitchen sink. My lack of sophistication regarding food runs so deep that I discovered recently that Arugula was not an African country bordering Namibia. Read more
By Doug Weiskopf
Recently I was watching a 2015 award winning documentary movie, “Hitchcock/Truffaut”, made about Francios Truffaut, French film director, screen writer, actor, and critic about his famous interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, which was based on his classic book on the same subject in 1966. The film included commentary by several noted movie directors, including Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and Paul Schrader.
In both the documentary movie and the book Hitchcock and his long illustrious career in film making was lionized and his influence on several generations of directors was made clear. It was during the long segment on what was perhaps Hitchcock’s finest film, “Vertigo”, that I realized what a master manipulator of audiences the wiley old Alfred truly was, as he has utterly fooled, right up to the present, all of the smart sounding directors and film critics who narrated the Hitchcock documentary. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
When I picked up the morning paper recently and read about the death of Thomas Steinbeck, I was taken aback after having received a message from him only a couple of months earlier.
Even though I had never met the eldest son of Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck, I remember flinching involuntarily when a message from Thom popped up on my computer screen. In today’s world of social media where we all seem to be somehow connected, he had seen the tribute I had written about my old friend and writer Pat Conroy after his sudden death earlier in the year, and was simply letting me know that I had successfully captured Conroy’s spirit and courage as a writer.
I remember sitting at my computer and staring at the Steinbeck name with what could only be described as sheer boyhood wonder and excitement after having read his father’s landmark classics as a teenager. Where does one begin in listing favorite John Steinbeck titles? I remember having loved “The Red Pony” and “Travels with Charley” as a boy. Read more
By Mary Reinholz
First published in The Villager in New York City
In this season of searing electoral discontent with Donald Trump, the trash talking Republican nominee for president, and Hillary Clinton, his hawkish FBI scrutinized Democratic rival, it’s hardly surprising that increasingly fed up voters are considering Third Party challengers campaigning to occupy the Oval Office.
The most visible contenders are Green Party standard bearer Jill Stein of Massachusetts, a Harvard educated physician turned leftie revolutionary who, for starters, seeks to create millions of jobs by 2030 through clean renewable energy and advocates eliminating college student debt; and Gary Johnson, a former two-term pot smoking Republican governor of New Mexico who is at the top of the Libertarian Party’s ticket. Johnson, 63, is fiscally conservative but opposes the death penalty and supports same sex marriages and legalizing marijuana.
Excluded from the presidential debates and lacking significant exposure by the media, Stein and Johnson were overwhelmingly defeated in 2012 when they first ran, with Stein getting a minuscule 0.3 percent of the popular vote and Johnson barely 1 percent Both are now gaining more traction because of the high negatives of Clinton and Trump, especially Johnson, who has been polling at ten percent and higher in match ups with the two major party candidates. Read more
WRITER WALKER PERCY
By Bob Vickrey
As most former Baylor journalism students who studied under David McHam know, he was never your typical college professor. He was known for his unconventional teaching methods during his celebrated 54-year career at four Texas universities.
During a current events pop quiz in one of his journalism classes, he once asked the correct spelling of “Vickrey” (the name of the school newspaper’s sports editor) and then looked toward the back of the room in my direction and shouted: “Your answer doesn’t count.” Although his playful question likely qualified more as current trivia than current event, McHam liked to keep his students guessing and slightly off balance during his classes. Read more
Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter for Trump’s “Art of the Deal,” confesses his remorse for “putting lipstick on a pig”
By Mary Reinholz
First published in The Villager in New York City
Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Donald Trump’s famed 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” has appeared on such broadcasts as “Good Morning America” and “Real Time with Bill Maher” after issuing a much publicized mea culpa in The New Yorker last month, announcing that the best seller he penned in his younger days was basically a form of fiction.
“I put lipstick on a pig,” Schwartz explained to Jane Mayer for the magazine’s July 25 issue, referring to his nearly 30- year-old autobiography of Trump which the Manhattan mogul has touted on the campaign trail as a how-to business bible second only to Holy Writ, one that showcases his skills as a negotiator.
Trump’s impending role as the Republican Party’s nominee for president apparently alarmed the 62-year-old Schwartz so much that he was moved to confess that he had prettied up the candidate’s early career shortly before Trump got his official nod from the GOP at its Cleveland convention. Schwartz’s disclosures created considerable buzz in political circles on both sides of the aisle. Read more
Randy Reis wrote:
So tell me as a well to do property owner, Mr. Big Mouth, why is voting for Donald Trump against my self interest?
Doug Weiskopf responded:
First a qualification: Voting for Mr. Trump is not voting against your self-interest because your vote won’t mean a damn thing in a California, which isn’t a swing state. His election as President–and that alone, would, however, be against your self-interest because the economy would likely suffer and you and me along with it.
As for the Hillary Clinton’s bad character, it should be obvious by now that character is a highly overrated virtue when it comes to politics and is prized only where people are not being honest with themselves. For example: Bernie Sanders was probably told by his economic adviser(s) if not by someone around him with just a lick of common sense that a $15 per hour minimum wage throughout all of the U.S. was not only unwarranted but would have a devastating impact on the economy. Nevertheless, Bernie Sanders, being the principled nut bag that he is, championed it anyway. He was being “honest.” He was also probably told that much of the Dodd-Frank legislation from 2008-2009 was directed towards and succeeded at curtailing risky investments on the part of banks and that breaking up the banks into smaller units was unnecessary in view of what Dodd-Frank had accomplished and and would, moreover, be bad for the economy. (The big U.S., German, and British banks often lend to smaller countries. To the extent that the U.S. banks do this, it adds to the nation’s prestige and provides yet another reason why the dollar is the world’s currency. Splitting up our banks would put the British and German banks ahead of ours.) But Bernie Sanders is highly principled and, of course, doesn’t see it that way. Read more