Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pre-empted by Imus

Don Imus is now the go-to morning guy of Fox Business Network, so it looks like my star turn as an early morning TV retail analyst has been short-circuited.

Earlier this month “Imus in the Morning” started simulcasting its syndicated radio program on the small but growing Fox Business Network. Imus replaced the “Money for Breakfast” show anchored by Alexis Glick.

Two months ago, on August 19, I made my FBN debut, talking about BJ’s Wholesale Club and its main competitors, Costco and Sam’s. Here’s a link, for those inclined to view it:

Appearing on one of the morning talk shows, if my FBN experience can be considered instructional, is more anticipatory than actually rewarding. In exchange for a few, very brief moments of on-camera fame, you spend about 18 hours fraught with tension that you’ll screw up. When they call to secure your availability (I turned them down twice before because of schedule conflicts), it’s always at the last moment, usually the afternoon before the actual broadcast.

Since I no longer worked in Manhattan, they sent a limo to shuttle me back and forth. The driver showed up at 6:30 am. We arrived at the News Corp. building at 47th Street and 6th Avenue by 7:10, sufficiently early to get some powder on my shiny face and to visit the powder room before air time, scheduled for 7:45. I'd be in the New York studio with the anchor and her associate, while the other segment guest would be in Minneapolis.

As anyone who has seen morning talk shows knows, keeping a fast pace is paramount to retaining viewer interest, even if it means abandoning a subject before anything meaningful is said. Segments usually are limited to under five minutes. There's little need to worry you'll be pitched a question out of left field. The show's booking producer had reviewed potential questions with me the day before.

What you do have to worry about is getting sufficient camera time, since there's no tactful way to cut off "Minneapolis Mike" (his name was actually Dan), and that is indeed what happened. He talked. And talked. And talked. At least that's what I felt during the four and a half minute segment. For my part, I tried to keep my answers short and to the point.

If you've ever wondered how they achieve different looks on the set, here's how they did it on Fox Business Network: the anchor sat at a central desk positioned on a rotating core. She'd be swiveled around to change the background for each segment. Off to one side was a platform where they literally tossed together pieces of an orange sectional couch. I sat on one of the sections, the sub-anchor interviewer on the other. The couch was rather deep. To avoid slouching, I had to prop a pillow behind my back.

There's no warm-up chatter. You wait in the wings listening to the prior interview. During the commercial break the couch is set up, they ask how your name is pronounced, you wince privately when they mangle it live on camera, and before you're able to sweat the interview is complete and ready to be downloaded for friends and family to see, because most of your friends and family don't get Fox Business Network from their cable providers.

FBN's limited exposure may change now that Imus is the morning man. I doubt it would have changed for the better had I been brought back for an encore.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Technically Speaking

Being technically challenged, I have yet to figure out how to alert my loyal readers (and believe it or not there are some of you out there who could be classified as loyal readers) about new blog postings.

But there is a way for me to alert you to any new postings. If you send me your email address I will send you an alert each time a new entry is posted. It may be presumptuous of me to assume anyone would want to be so alerted, but if you are so inclined, let me know. My email address is

Not all of my technical sleuthing has been for naught. I have been able to make it easier for you to log on, assuming you have not already bookmarked my page. Now you can reach my musings simply by typing No longer must you include “.blogspot” before the .com. You can if you want to, but through the wizardry of technology I don’t pretend to understand, you no longer have to.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Living and Dying the NRA Way

Watching today's CBS Sunday Morning special edition broadcast dedicated to one subject, how our overweight society is endangering lives while affecting our culture and economic vitality, I couldn't help but notice that in a segment centered on food prepared outside the home, the defender of large portions, portions often laced with too much salt, sugar and fat, was the chairman of the NRA.

"If we're not responding to our customers, we won't be in business very long," said Michael Gibbons.

In other words, it's not guns that are evil. It's the people who use them irresponsibly.

Oops, wrong lobbying group. Gibbons is from the National Restaurant Association, not the National Rifle Association.

But how ironic that the group that has supersized America through humongous fast food and sit-down restaurant portions shares the same initials with the lobbying organization that sees nothing wrong EVER when guns are used to assault and kill innocents.

We are our own worst enemies. Either we kill ourselves quickly and explosively the NRA way, or we slow cook our way to death, the NRA way.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who's in Control

As the days trickle by with no word from Cleveland, I’m not sure how I feel.

No, that’s not true. I feel disappointed. It’s not that I desperately wanted this job. No, it’s that I wanted to be in control.

Not being desperate for a job changes the dynamics of a job application. Control would seem to shift to the candidate who can just as easily walk away from an offer as take one for a position that is less than optimal. When you’re unemployed or desperate to leave a current spot, anything may look tempting. When you can be discerning, you have the power.

So it has been with my consideration of a three-month assignment in Cleveland. More than wanting the job, I’ve wanted the power of being in command, the aphrodisiac of knowing they wanted me, that the decision would be mine, not theirs.

The more I reflect on the experience the more I have come to understand that getting the temporary job offer would be affirmation that I am still important, that I beat out the competition (and I am an extremely competitive person).

I wasn’t desperate going into the interview. But I do admit, I want the satisfaction of knowing I’m still wanted.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yankees Time

I’ve been watching Yankees post-season exploits since the middle 1950s. I can safely say that it’s a lot easier watching the Yankees pursue another championship in retirement, with no school or job to rush home from, or to wake up early for. Games can be watched guilt-free, without a care as to when they start or finish.

The only drawback, aside from when they lose a game or heaven forbid, a series, is that there’s no one around to talk with the next day about the game. Gilda tries to display interest while the game is on, but often she’s asleep before it is over. Yes, I could reach out and call friends to bond over superlative performances or strategies gone astray, or blown calls by umpires, and sometimes I do, but it’s not the same as a face-to-face rehash of the highlights and lowlights of a game.

That’s the thing with retirement, forced or chosen. You miss the physical social interaction with others. For someone who follows sports, or new movies or plays, or anything that is public, like a presidential press conference or a captivating news story, being alone all day is challenging. When I worked, I rarely spent more than 30 or 40 minutes at a given task before requiring a break, a walkabout to gossip with staff or other associates.

This is not about home-alone loneliness. You can be working in a company and lonely just as easily as when you’re home alone. Yes, there are days that run longer than others. But they are thankfully few and far between. As long as the Yankees keep winning, excitement runs high. And when the season is finally over, the championship is won (eternal optimist that I am), there's always the rest of the football and hockey seasons to keep me occupied until next spring's baseball begins anew.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Book Is Better

Just got back from seeing “Where the Wild Things Are.” It is most definitely not like the children’s book, at least not for the same age children for which Maurice Sendak’s classic has been a mainstay.

It’s a dark and foreboding movie. It would be difficult for almost any child under 10 to come away without an almost overwhelming feeling of despair. Sure, Max does return home to his mother at the end of the movie, but that alone is not enough to blot out the depressing themes of loneliness and anxiety that permeate the movie.

Don’t misunderstand. Though it did drag on at times, it is a good movie. Good, not great. Just not for young children.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

For All to See

Apparently, Dan Aykroyd’s Saturday Night Live working man butt crack of 1978 lives on, as far as NBC News is concerned.

On its Sunday evening national newscast, NBC aired footage of cameramen pursuing the Colorado “Balloon Boy” Heene family as they entered their home. It was a flashing moment, but NBC clearly showed a photographer with his pants down low enough to reveal several inches of butt crack.

See for yourself. The revelatory moment comes exactly three minutes into this 3:24 video.

(PS: If for some reason this URL doesn't automatically link, just copy it and paste it to your finder.)

Books for the Ages

The movie “Where the Wild Things Are” opened Friday to mostly glowing reviews. I read them through misty, nostalgia-filled eyes.

Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things was among the favorite books our children adored. Gilda and I loved reading it to them, with all the drama and inflections our voices could muster.

Reading books to Dan and Ellie was perhaps the most enjoyable part of parenting. We’d read many of them over and over, so many times that they’d memorize the text. If I deviated from the script by even one word they’d quickly correct me.

It didn’t matter that they knew the story. Each reading, usually performed while snuggled closely in our bed or theirs, became a cushion of comfort, an affirmation that life and love were pure, innocent and unconditionally given.

For friends and family who are blessed with newborn children and grandchildren, be alerted that the Forseter gift will be books for the ages, some for newborns, some for when they are toddlers or older. And they’ll come with the following note:

Children outgrow clothing,
They tire of toys,
But the memory of reading
Books with your parents
Lasts forever.

I hope to see the Wild Things movie this week. But no matter how good it is, it won’t be as good as reading the book to Danny and Ellie.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Still not wearing socks but have gone to DEFCON 2 in response to the chill in the air.

This morning I changed our bed linen from cool cotton to more soft and cuddly jersey cotton. When it gets even colder we’ll raise the response level by switching to polartec sheets (much warmer than flannel).

Around the house during the daytime I wear a sweater all the time. Gilda says I should raise the heat to 67 degrees, but I am reluctant to burn the extra oil, though she counters that it might actually save oil to keep a constant temperature in the house.

During the summer I was able to resist running the air conditioner just for myself. But the chill and cold of autumn and winter may well erode my resolve. It’s hard to type when your fingers are shaking.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lincoln and New York

One of the benefits of retirement is the ability to enjoy cultural pleasures at one’s leisure, without the crowds normally associated with weekend or holiday visits. Last week, as part of our membership in the New-York Historical Society, I took advantage of a preview of the society’s current exhibition, “Lincoln and New York.”

First a word about the N-YHS. You might have observed a hyphen between New and York. It’s there because that’s the way the society spells its name. I don’t know why it adopted that affectation. I’ve come across no explanation. Perhaps that’s the way New York was spelled back in 1804 when the society was founded. But that’s fodder for another blog entry.

I consider myself fairly well educated about the history of our country and New York, but I must say that “Lincoln and New York” was a continuing panel of revelations as I meandered through the exhibition. Some examples:

* New York City failed to support Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 and 1864 elections, though he did carry New York State both times;
* Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was a defender of slavery and part of the anti-Lincoln group known as the Copperheads;
* The Draft Riots of 1863 (which some of you may recall from the movie, “Gangs of New York”) were the bloodiest civil insurrections in our nation’s history (with the obvious exception of the Civil War itself);
* Lincoln could be considered the first “media” candidate. It seems that upon his initial visit to New York to deliver his now famous Cooper Union speech in February 1860, Lincoln visited the studio of Mathew Brady. The celebrated photographer, observing Lincoln’s long neck, reset the lanky politician’s shirt collar to hide most of it. He further posed him standing, with his left hand touching a book. This portrait dignifying a politician many thought to be a country bumpkin helped catapult Lincoln to national prominence;
* As now, New York was the center of media for the country. The city had 174 daily and weekly publications. Almost all had a point of view. Many were anti-Lincoln;
* During the Civil War he suspended the right to the writ of habeas corpus. That’s pretty commonly known, especially since it was used by George Bush and Co. to justify their actions after 9/11. But did you know that during his presidential campaign Lincoln’s followers banded together into a paramilitary organization called the Wide Awakes, complete with uniforms, songs and torchlight parades? As you gaze upon pictures of their marches, it is eerily reminiscent of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Enough factoids. The exhibition will be open through March 25. The N-YHS is at 170 Central Park West, corner 77th St.

PS—I didn’t know this when I went, but it turns out one of my daughter Ellie’s friends, Jason Steinhauer, is a curator and archivist for the society. As research historian, Jason worked on this exhibition for 17 months. Kudos to him and all involved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Medical and Sartorial Update

Despite constant ointment applications, I’m still afflicted with housewife’s eczema. It’s getting better, but stubbornly persistent.

On the sartorial front, I’m still sockless except for synagogue and the occasional business meeting. It’s 44 degrees outside this morning, Gilda turned on the heat last week, but I still resist putting on hose.

Thought you’d want to know.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

IMing—Inanimate Messaging

Do inanimate objects send you messages?

Example 1—The day I was to part with my 1973 Chevy Vega, the muffler fell off as I approached the New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. By the time I reached the Manhattan corner where I was to give the Vega to my brother-in-law, the car could barely travel more than half a block without stalling.

One of two possible messages was being sent: either the Vega was clearly upset our time together was over after 13 years of loyal service, or it was providing me definitive closure as to why our relationship should end.

Example 2—On the last day of my employment, after 32 years of walking up Park Avenue from Grand Central Terminal, it rained. Hard. It wasn’t a surprise, so I had planned accordingly. Instead of taking a collapsible small umbrella, I toted a large umbrella given to me as a gift by the Dolphin and Swan Hotels for bringing the SPECS conference to the Disney World properties for two years earlier this decade. It was a beautiful umbrella, automatic and vented to withstand wind gusts, with a carved wooden handle on which the logos of the two hotels were etched.

As I stepped out onto the street and opened the umbrella, a wind gust blew the canopy inside out. This was not supposed to happen. As I struggled to right the umbrella, the metal shaft broke in two, leaving me the handle and about three inches of shaft.

No doubt about this message: It was time to take this job and, as the lyric says, shove it. The decapitated handle hangs above my desk at home, a constant reminder that even if people sometimes don’t know when to say goodbye, inanimate objects do.

Example 3—The other night Gilda was catching up on some old newspaper reading. She picked up the NY Times Travel section from Sunday, September 20, and found inside a feature, “36 Hours in Cleveland”!!!

I’m still not sure if the article was telling me to go after the three-month position in Cleveland, or was it saying that 36 hours was more than enough time to spend in the lakefront city. One thing is certain, however. Another inanimate object was sending a message.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Seed of Conflict, part II

A headhunter called about 10 days ago. Would I be interested in a three-month assignment as editorial director of some non-retail publications based in...Cleveland?

Let’s not disparage Cleveland. It can be lovely there. It wouldn’t be the heart of lake-effect winter, though some of the Browns football games I’ve seen on television made me shiver in my living room. Since I’ve traveled most of our marriage, Gilda was okay with just seeing me weekends. That the subject matter was not retailing didn’t really phase me. A good editor knows a good story, regardless of subject matter.

No, the real conflict was, do I really want to work full-time again, especially in a corporate environment, 9 to 5 or longer, even if it is for just three months? Suits. Or even if it’s dress down casual, it’s surely not jeans every day. It would be socks time again!

The headhunter called back a few days later to say they have two Clevelanders they want to vet first. Hold tight.

It reminded me of my experience 31 years ago. I had applied, after one year at Lebhar-Friedman, to be editor of a Washington, D.C.-based magazine for the automotive after market association. It came down to two people. They chose a locally-based guy. Six months later they called to say they made a mistake. Too late—by then I’d been promoted twice, the last one to lead editor of Chain Store Age. For the next 30-plus years, Chain Store Age and Murray Forseter were synonymous and inseparable.

PS—The seed is growing. They’ve had a change of heart. Cleveland wants to see me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Top Billing

This week the NY Times Magazine ran a special advertising section devoted to New York Super Lawyers. It listed the Top 100 attorneys in the New York metro region.

Like many of you, I suppose, I look over such lists to check out how many honorees I know. Since I hardly have any contact with the legal profession beyond my friends who are attorneys, I wasn’t too surprised or disappointed that I knew only two of the Top 100.

One of them was a name brand—Bernard W. Nussbaum has been a powerhouse for decades and served as President Clinton’s legal counsel. Bernie is a member of the temple I attend. We have a passing acquaintance.

The second lawyer I knew from the list is the basis for this entry. To protect his identity and avoid any possible embarrassment to him, let’s call him “Bob.”

Bob and I attended Brooklyn College at the same time. Bob served as president of the campus-wide fraternal organization we belonged to; I was chief editor of the organization’s newspaper. We never socialized. We both married our college girlfriends who also knew each other. After graduation 38 years ago we went our separate ways.

Seven years later, having returned to New York, I met Bob by chance on the subway. Turns out we both recently had moved to Westchester and by another coincidence worked on opposite sides of Park Avenue between 55th and 56th streets. We agreed to meet our wives for dinner in Westchester after work. I would meet Bob in his lobby at 5 pm so we could walk to Grand Central to catch the 5:20 to White Plains.

I waited and waited for Bob to show up. This was pre-cell phones, so I couldn’t call him. Besides, I didn’t have his number. Finally, he appeared at 5:17. He couldn’t understand why I was perturbed. It was 5:02, he said, so we had plenty of time to catch the train. Only when I pointed out the correct time on the lobby clock did he acknowledge his tardiness. And then he promptly whizzed off back to his office, saying over his shoulder that he had to review his time sheets to recompute his billings to account for the lost 15 minutes.

Most probably any young associate lawyer would have done the same. But it was at that moment I truly understood the intense pressure professionals who bill by the hour live under. It was especially true for young professionals trying to make junior and then full partner. Bob obviously mastered the pressure.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sukkot Memories

I did something this year I had not done since 1998 when our youngest child, Ellie, went off to college, making Gilda and me empty nesters. To celebrate the festival of Sukkot, I once again erected our Sukkah. (For those not familiar with the terminology, Sukkot is the Festival of Tabernacles; a Sukkah is a temporary structure in which one eats, and some sleep in, during the eight days of the holiday which, in part, commemorates the nomadic housing the Israelites lived in after their exodus from Egypt.)

Being home full-time gave me the luxury of leisurely building the Sukkah. One day the speed-rail frame went up, the next day the cotton sides, and the third day the lattice roof and decorations, mostly hanging plastic fruit.

It was a far cry from the frenzied but fun construction crunch of the early 1980s when more than half a dozen families with young children together put up wood-frame Sukkot on our respective yards and topped off the day with a big Sukkah party at one of our homes.

Amidst all the joy of this holiday, and it truly is one of the more joyous on the Jewish calendar, is the sad reminder that almost 20 years ago Sukkot marked our group’s passage from idyllic suburban life to the reality that tragedy cannot be locked outside our community. For it was then that one of our tightly-knit group passed away on the first day of Sukkot after a long illness. Michael was several years younger than me. Indeed, he once was a camper of mine in summer sleepaway camp.

He was universally liked and admired. And his friends still miss him.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Birthday?

Do you know anyone born on this day, October 5?

According to several sources, more Americans celebrate their births today than any other day of the year. Nearly one million of us, 968,000 according to, popped out of the womb this day, compared to 750,000 who came on board on an average day.

One of the suggested reasons we’re bubbling over with October 5 birthdays is that the conception date is presumed to have been New Year’s Eve.

For the record, to my knowledge, I know no one born this day. But not because I didn’t try. Our son, Dan, was born October 20, approximately two weeks late!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Seed of Conflict

I’m a little conflicted these days.

Aside from being your ardent blog correspondent, I also serve as an informal conduit of Internet information. I have assorted email lists. There’s my joke list, my poker list, my family list, etc. And then there’s my Jewish list.

I get many emails of articles, videos, jokes, political tracts and assorted material. I try to use an editor’s judgment as to which ones are worthy enough to forward to the appropriate list. It’s the Jewish content that causes the most angst, particularly when the topic is Israel and its relations with the Arab world. I’m generally left of center when it comes to this issue, but many of the people on my list are more hawkish than I.

The other day I forwarded a letter to the editor from the Israeli cousin of a friend. The letter appeared in the Jerusalem Post. The author noted that while non-Muslims may now visit the Temple Mount, they are forbidden, yes, forbidden to pray there. If you’re seen silently moving your lips as if in prayer, you can be expelled from the site. The author chastised the Israeli government for allowing such an absurdly anti-Jewish regulation to exist in land that is part of the State of Israel.

My initial instinct was to pass on passing along this diatribe (see, I’ve shown my bias by using an inflammatory word). But the job of an editor is to suppress personal beliefs in favor of advancing dialogue. So off the letter went to the Jewish list Tuesday afternoon.

It had the desired effect. It generated considerable comment, both in person, by phone and email ripostes through midnight and into the following morning. The debate raged over Israeli policy, American presidents and their “love” for Israel, and the manipulations of the “right wing religious zealots” who have placed their beliefs ahead of the safety of the whole country.

I was personally challenged as to why I would send out “that right wing, totally selfish, provocative letter.” My accuser would not accept my argument about the role of an editor.

And so I’m conflicted, eager to be a member of the free press but knowing that no matter what I do with provocative material, either my right wing or left wing friends and family will be disappointed in me.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I dream a lot. I mean, I really dream a lot. Vivid dreams. Dreams that continue in sequence even if I wake up and then go back to sleep. Sometimes they’re so dramatic and action-packed I wake up tired in the morning.

My father was a dreamer. Often he didn’t make big decisions until after he slept on it, until after he dreamed.

My wife rarely dreams.

This morning I dreamt I was escaping the Holocaust. I hadn’t read a book or watched a movie about the Holocaust the day or night before to subliminally suggest the topic. It just took over my subconscious.

Just as I was making my escape, the phone rang. It was a distant cousin, Laura, calling from outside Paris. I had lost touch with her about 10 years ago after she changed her email address. Now she was back in the hunt for our shared family heritage in Galicia, among the towns of Ottynia, Kolomea, Delatyn and Dora, an area that shifted allegiances depending on which neighboring country was victorious in the last conflict. Today, the area is part of Ukraine. When my father was born in Ottynia in 1911, it was part of Austria-Hungary. Poland controlled the area after World War I.

Laura’s family came from Dora, a shtetl even smaller than Ottynia. She was stymied to find out more information about her ancestors, almost all of whom, like mine, perished in the Holocaust.

How strange to be awakened from my dream of the Holocaust by Laura.

How strange to be asked about Dora, for you see, Dora was the name of my father’s girlfriend in Danzig where he lived prior to coming to America in 1939. He wanted to marry her, but she emigrated to Australia with her parents. Dora and my father re-connected 50 years later when my parents traveled to Australia to visit other friends who had fled the Holocaust. But that’s a story for another day.

I’m still lying in bed, my head spinning with dreams and memories.