Dunga Brook Diary: Catch Me If You Can

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August 2, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

May 2011, Albany to LA, SW Flight #4938

Vicki Whicker

The morning sky is orange and pink and purple, the ground is a lush patchwork of greens and blues.

I’m on my way back to the relentless sun and baked neutrals of Southern California.

I already miss central New York.

I pick up my pen and open my journal…but how to describe the first taste of my future?

This Mother’s Day weekend trip, from Los Angeles to central New York, was my first visit to my new-old house.

Back in April, I bought the house, sight unseen, from a post on Facebook. My soon to be New York neighbor (a former LA acquaintance), Jim, is responsible for this purchase. He posted a photo of a forlorn little house for sale and asked, “Who wants to be my neighbor?” And, there it was, my little house, in a field of mud and snow… Read more

Dershowitz dishes on not impeaching Trump

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August 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Alan Dershowitz in his Twitter photo.


Another version of this article first appeared in The Villager, a downtown Manhattan weekly.

Alan Dershowitz, famed criminal defense lawyer and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, has been taking heat from fellow liberals for criticizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and defending the civil liberties of right-wing Republican President Donald Trump, the subject of Dershowitz’s latest book, “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.”

But last Wednesday evening, the lifelong Democrat and contrarian who is nearly 80 and best known for representing notorious clients like O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow over five decades of courtroom combats, received a warm welcome on the fourth floor of Barnes & Noble at Union Square in downtown Manhattan. There he was interviewed by Josh Barro, a senior editor of Business Insider. Read more


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August 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


By Bob Vickrey 

Many years ago, and far away from the bright lights of packed football stadiums filled with cheering fans, there was another annual ritual playing out more quietly on sandlots in just about every Texas town across the state.

Thousands of boys like me, who had never played varsity football, gathered for our own version of the game on deserted and dusty schoolyard fields.

Houston’s scorching, humid summer months were hardly a deterrent for the boys of our town to assemble in the late afternoons and engage in competitive games of touch football. By early August there was already a sense of anticipation in the air about the upcoming fall football season, and many of us gathered as if we were training for the first game—even though few of us were actually members of any organized team. Read more

Law helps freelancers collect from deadbeats

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August 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Another version of this article first appeared in The Villager, a downtown Manhattan weekly.

The Freelance Isn’t Free Act was implemented last year in New York City to benefit an estimated 500,000 vulnerable temporary or part-time employees in a variety of occupations from creatives to construction workers. Here’s hoping similar bills show up in other major cities where so-called “gig workers” congregate.

This transplanted California scribe remembers the way it was for independent contractors in downtown Manhattan when I frantically hustled assignments to stay afloat during the dark days right after 9/11, acting as a stringer for The New York Times and a couple of other daily newspapers.

My full-time writing / editing job at Graphic Arts Monthly had been abruptly eliminated during a company-wide downsizing by its corporate parent, Reed Business Information. During sparse work periods as a freelancer, I subsisted on a lot of cheap noodle dishes and paced the aisles of Jack’s 99¢ Stores for bargains. Con Edison once turned off my electricity because of late payment from an upscale magazine. Read more

Better Days: Journalist Lionel Rolfe Learns Old Age Isn’t for Sissies

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July 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Lionel Rolfe

Mary Reinholz

Pasadena Weekly, May 24, 2018

[Veteran journalist, author, and founder of Boryanabooks Lionel Rolfe was hospitalized in April with a spinal injury that had become infected that would not allow him to stand or walk. He has spent most of the time since in a nursing home, where he remains as of July 1.]

* * *

One-time roving Los Angeles journalist, raconteur, author, news service reporter and occasional Pasadena Weekly contributor Lionel Rolfe is confined to a bed at a nursing center in Glendale, unable to stand and go to the bathroom without assistance.

The 75-year-old Rolfe was first transported by ambulance to Glendale Memorial Hospital last month and given morphine to relieve excruciating pain involving two fractured vertebrae that resulted from a 2017 fall in the kitchen of his Atwater Village apartment. This is the second time within a year that Rolfe has been forced to leave his home for emergency medical care after his back “stopped working,” he said.

“Basically, I’m strapped to the bed, and being given antibiotics,” Rolfe continued in a telephone conversation with this reporter whom he met while freelancing during the late 1960s at the Los Angeles Free Press and the Los Angeles Times. “They got me to stand up today, but it was very hard.” Read more


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July 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Now let me get this straight; the corporate giant that virtually transformed modern bookselling into an online industry and drove hundreds of independent bookstores out of business—including our own Village Books—is now opening its own bookstore in the new Pacific Palisades Village?

The irony of this recent announcement is hardly laced with any subtlety. Amazon owner and founder Jeff Bezos once suggested that brick-and-mortar bookstores were practically passé now that customers could find any book they wanted online with a simple click of a button. And as we know, he turned out to be absolutely correct. His company essentially now owns a substantial segment of the retail book business. Read more

Dunga Brook Diary: Water Water Everywhere

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July 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Vicki Whicker

My new neighbor, Jim, seems to be a polarizing figure.

His house doesn’t have water because my house doesn’t have water, because the farmer who owns all the land surrounding our houses cut off my water…because he doesn’t like Jim.

No water.

There once was water…from a sweet, cold spring.

It flowed through a series of pipes across a field (now owned by Jim-hating farmer), across Dunga Brook (bubbling water), and into a holding tank in the basement of my (new, old) house. From there, it was piped through a few acres and into Jim’s house and the barn.

It is a mighty spring, with enough volume to quench the thirst of what was a 1,200-acre dairy farm. The water was shared like this because both of our houses used to be the homesteads of that dairy farm. Read more

LA City and County Celebrate First Successes in Reducing Homelessness

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July 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Leslie Evans

About 100 people attended a May 31 invitation-only event outside the PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) offices at 340 N. Madison Avenue where the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of its 2018 Los Angeles homeless count. Some 8,500 volunteers over three days in January covered every census tract in the county. The results, along with thousands of interviews with homeless people, have been under analysis by statisticians at USC.

For the first time in four years the numbers went down instead of up. The gains were modest – 3% fewer homeless in the county, 5% fewer in the city – but at least the motion was in the right direction.

By now everyone has seen the gross numbers. For the county, the homeless are down from 55,048 in January 2017 to 53,195 in January 2018; for the city, it was a little better, dropping from 38,138 to 31,516. We will dig into the details further on. Read more


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July 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Authors John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.



Upon entering the Presidential Suite of the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was immediately struck by the imposing figure of famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith engaged in conversation with renowned historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Galbraith’s towering presence at six-feet-nine made me momentarily forget that this man of 90 plus-years was still making the rounds at publishing events. It was almost twenty years ago when he was the guest speaker at Houghton Mifflin’s national sales conference meeting.

During his long, illustrious career, many of his books had been published by our company and that evening’s cocktail party held in his honor afforded us an opportunity to meet the former Ambassador to India and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Read more


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June 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

By Bob Vickrey

For many of us of a certain age, the year 1968 was a year like no other.

The Vietnam War had quickly escalated after the January “Tet Offensive” by the North Vietnamese army, and at one point that year, more than 500 American soldiers were losing their lives each week in a war that had already been deemed by many Pentagon officials as “unwinnable.”

Back home, college students were staging protests against the war on campuses all across the country. Civil unrest in our cities had often turned confrontational and violent.

Civil Rights demonstrations were being met with police resistance, as they resorted to fire hoses and batons in their attempt to quell protesters. Read more

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