culture

Communication between human beings is a delicate business. It depends on words – slippery things that can change meaning almost from day to day and person to person.

That’s why some of us old-fashioned communicators, who grew up with manual typewriters and postage stamps, are suspicious of the so-called communications revolution. There’s no doubt that more communications are taking place, billions of them. So many thoughts, feeling and opinions are being exchanged that we should be entering a golden age of mutual understanding. But it doesn’t seem to be working out like that.

Presidents’ Day gives us an excuse, if we needed one, to look back into history, to try to understand why we voluntarily choose to give so much power to ordinary human beings. The two great leaders we honor today really were rather special: George Washington, the first president of the United States, and Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president, who really made the mythical journey from log cabin to White House, rather than penthouse to White House, and was elected president at just about the worst moment in the history of the United States. These two men were far from perfect but with hindsight, we can certainly see them as men of heroic stature and historic importance. They cast a long shadow.

You must be familiar with those mail order catalogs that promote devices and gadgets, designed to make your life safer and easier. In fact they make your life harder, because they create guilt and anxiety, which of course is the whole point of the sales pitch.

A good barbershop is hard to find. When a man needs a haircut he needs just that, a haircut, nothing complicated. An authentic barbershop will display a symbolic candy-striped pole outside, and will be starkly utilitarian inside. Until the last century, barbers also acted as rough-and-ready surgeons, at prices far below the current AMA rates. This history should be reflected in the plainness of the decor: it should look like an operating theater.

Book Review: The Huntress

Jan 25, 2017

Despite its odd title, The Huntress is not about hunting, though Alicia Patterson was an excellent shot and a superb horsewoman. What it is, is a biography of the debutante who was the founder and editor of Newsday. The co-authors are Alicia Patterson’s niece, Alice Arlen, who died this past February, and her husband Michael Arlen, a staff writer for years at The New Yorker.

Alicia Patterson was quite a mover and shaker. The subtitle of The Huntress gives the chronology: “The Adventures, Escapades and Triumphs of Alicia Patterson: Aviatrix, Sportswoman, Journalist, Publisher.” She was the middle daughter of the renegade Chicago Tribune heir, Joe Patterson, who wanted only boys. Alicia all her life craved his attention and love. No doubt that’s why she married much older men, the first two, friends of her father. And it’s probably why she eventually went into the newspaper business. “Poppa” could be daring. He left Chicago to found The New York Daily News, but once Alicia tasted the life, she outdid him in forging an independent press. She couldn’t have children. Newsday became her baby, and what a baby it was.  

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