Thursday, March 28, 2013

Story Ideas Turn Up Every Day

I’m asked occasionally from where I choose the topics to write about in the blog. The short answer is, from everywhere, but mostly from people, places and things that have touched my life. Today’s three-part entry is a case in point.

Like many who live in Westchester, I found the Verizon Super Pages on my driveway this morning. Before replacing last year’s copy I tore off the small glued-on advertisement from the front cover. I was about to discard it when I read the name of the personal injury law firm that has “recovered millions” for its clients from such tragedies as auto and truck accidents, construction accidents, slip, trip and fall, wrongful death and traumatic brain injuries. 

One of the names of the principals of the firm looked familiar, so I googled it. Sure enough, he turned out to be a former member of our temple softball team, a good player, a real competitor. We need more of his type on the ball field. So it was not not surprising to see his biography describe him as “hard-nosed and aggressive.” But I was taken aback by the following: “(Name withheld because I don’t want to be sued) is notorious for being ruthless ...” 

Now, should I ever need a lawyer to beat up on an insurance company or anyone who doesn’t deal right by me, I’d want my attorney to be ruthless in pursuit of my claim. But seeing that description in black and white smacks more of brawling than reasoned discourse. I’d have preferred to see him described as tenacious. Or, determined. Or, resolute. 

Am I being too prudish in my assessment? Could be. He is, after all, successful, so maybe the clients he attracts prefer more of a roll-up-your-sleeves-put-up-your-dukes approach. Interestingly, his co-principal’s biography was not as in-your-face in describing how he “zealously represented and fought for the rights of accident victims and consumers.” Again, I guess the good cop-bad cop approach works. 

You never know if your advertising works (a standard joke has an executive complaining that he knows 50% of his advertising works and 50% doesn’t. Only trouble is, he doesn’t know which is the half that works). If one measure of advertising success is having the reader look up your Web site, I’d say my former teammate has spent his dollars with ruthless efficiency.

The Long and Short of It: If you follow theater in New York, you’re probably aware of a controversy surrounding The Flick, a new play by Annie Baker currently at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan. Awarded the 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, given to a woman who has written a work of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre, The Flick has drawn rave notices but also damnation from theatergoers because of its length—three hours. The play about three workers in a 35mm movie house in central Massachusetts has little physical action, save the sweeping up and cleaning of detritus left by patrons. In other words, they’re picking up popcorn. Or worse. The dialogue is funny and poignant. But there are interminable pauses that, depending on your point of view, drag out the play or give it a piercing view of lives on the fringe. 

Almost six weeks ago Gilda and I, along with Ken and Jane, saw a preview of The Flick. We liked everything about the play, except its length. But we didn’t leave at intermission, as the couple sitting in front of us did. Nor did we complain to management, as apparently others have, so much so that the theater’s artistic director felt compelled to send a email to the 3,000 people who have seen The Flick, in whole or in part, explaining Playwright Horizons’ decision to present the 180-minute work (

We’ve been members of Playwrights Horizons for about a decade. It’s one of our best entertainment expenditures. I recommend your signing up. For a fraction of the cost of a Broadway play, you’ll see provocative, new, theater in an intimate playhouse.

Third Match: Right above the NY Times article on Playwrights Horizons there was a story on the Barnes Foundation ( Just 12 days ago Gilda, Ken, Jane and I traveled to Philadelphia to view the artwork collected by Albert C. Barnes. 

The galleries Barnes assembled include more Renoirs than any museum. It was almost too many Modiglianis, Cézannes, Matisses, Picassos, Rousseaus, Soutines and de Chiricos to absorb at one time, but well worth the trip to Philadelphia.

There you have it. Two items from today’s newspaper and a third from the Verizon Super Pages. 

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