Monday, May 30, 2022

Civil War Movies for Memorial Day

The origin of Memorial Day is often linked to Civil War servicemen deaths, though historians have found ties to earlier commemorations of the fallen in both the North and South. Known as Decoration Day from 1868 to 1970, observed every May 30 by the practice of placing flowers at gravesites of active military personnel killed during wartime, in 1971 the last Monday of May became the official federal Memorial Day (

It’s a solemn coincidence that this year May 30 is the last Monday of the month. 

In line with the linkage to the Civil War, here’s my list of top movies with the Civil War as backdrop:

Gone with the Wind

The Horse Soldiers



The General

Cold Mountain

Friendly Persuasion

Red Badge of Courage



Friday, May 27, 2022

Losing One's Faith That God Is Out There

 It’s after horrors like Uvalde and Buffalo that I lose any faith I might have possessed that there is a God. Oh, I know, clerics say God instilled in us free will, a choice between good and evil. 

But really, are we to believe God is indifferent to a child’s suffering or the pain inflicted on loved ones? Are we to believe this Memorial Day weekend that the 1.3 million servicemen who died in our wars made the ultimate sacrifice so anyone could use military-style firearms to kill indiscriminately innocents going about life’s everyday chores at school, at the grocery store, at the spa, at a concert, a movie theater, at a house of worship? 

How repulsive is it that the National Rifle Association is holding its annual conference in Houston this weekend even as victims of the Uvalde massacre have yet to be buried? Sure, NRA speakers will offer prayers and condolences but they will cling to rights they believe are imprinted in the Second Amendment that cannot be infringed, including the ability to own assault rifles and large capacity ammunition magazines. 

President Joe Biden wondered why an 18-year-old would have the need for such a weapon. Age has nothing to do with need or ability. The Second Amendment cites the necessity of a “well regulated militia” for the “security of a free state.” Back when the Amendment was enacted, “every free able-bodied white male citizen” 18 to 45 were required to register for his state’s militia. Constitutional originalists would have a field day defending the Uvalde shooter’s right to bear arms.

Congress-should-do-something is a refrain in many commentaries and letters to the editor. Correct, and incorrect. Congress as a whole is not the stumbling block. Republican representatives and senators are at the national level, along with Republican state governors and Republican legislatures. 

If there were more Democrats in office, and more Republicans who have not sold their souls to the NRA, appropriate laws would be passed.

Perhaps during his speech Friday at the NRA Donald Trump will repeat what he once told the group: “If we’re going to outlaw guns, we’re gonna have to outlaw vans and trucks,” since cars can kill too.

“OK,” retorts Occupy Democrats on Facebook, “then let’s just treat guns like cars: Title and tag at each point of sale, gun training, written test, practical test, health requirements, liability insurance and renewals and inspections each year.” 

Perhaps I lack the emotional and mental strength to fathom God, given catastrophes throughout our present world, much less what survivors of the Holocaust and their families must have experienced. I’ll still attend synagogue services, recite Sabbath blessings Friday nights, fast on Yom Kippur and enjoy a Passover seder. They’re part of my being Jewish. Part of being included in a special sect, not necessarily of believers, but of survivors of a heritage that has defied extinction. 

I’m no Job. Most people aren’t. I can accept that there are deranged people out there who would wantonly kill. I cannot accept that supposedly rational public servants would not do everything in their power to prevent unspeakable tragedies. I cannot believe a God would allow such a travesty. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Finding One's Voice After Another Shooting

 Have you ever talked back to the television? Or grumbled when you read a newspaper?

I have.

Particularly during newscasts or when reading a news article.


Take, for example, recent reports that Viktor Mihály Orbán, prime minister of Hungary, was blocking the swift absorption of Ukraine into the European Union favored by President Joe Biden. And that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was stymying Sweden and Finland’s rapid entry into NATO, another Biden priority.

When I heard of those dual objectors I commented to Gilda that Orbán and Erdoğan are the Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of U.S. foreign relations, a reference to the two Democratic senators who repeatedly fail to support key parts of Biden’s domestic programs.

Tuesday, my response to the horrific massacre of innocent young children and their protectors at an elementary school is Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday was shocked silence, a miasmic feeling of “Oh God, this can’t be happening again.”  

Anguish, pain, grief, were palpable as President Joe Biden spoke to the nation Tuesday night.

If you didn’t equally feel his despair, and anger at our nation’s inability to behave rationally toward gun control, you are running on automaton mode. Or you simply lack any emotional content within your heart and mind. And soul.

When I woke in the middle of the night, as I often do, I could not escape thinking of the tragedy. I couldn’t help thinking of my grandchildren and wondering, wishing, if their schools had sufficient protocols to thwart a madman.

Biden seemed to wonder how parents of the slain children would be able to find any peaceful slumber. His own experience of sudden loss of a child and spouse embedded in him an understanding few if any presidents ever had. 

Bill Clinton was mocked for saying, “I feel your pain.” Biden’s emotional distress is not playacting. He knows all too well the sudden, tragic, loss of a spouse and young daughter, along with coping with the extensive recuperatory period two young sons underwent after the crash that cratered their family. His older son’s death from cancer, his younger son’s drug addiction have given him ample first hand knowledge of the trials and tribulations adult life can present.

Daily reports of the senseless, unprovoked carnage by Russia in Ukraine have not inured us to the senseless acts of troubled minds in America. Victims shopping in supermarkets, in schools and houses of worship, attending concerts, or packed in a subway car in no way offended random shooters. 

Each brazen attack on innocents underscores the need for voices to shout out, “Enough is enough. Remember those who refuse to enact moral gun control laws and vote them out of office.” 

First, however, we must get over the shock-induced silence from yet another mass murder shooting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Musings: My Old Phone, Walking, Jackie O., Mistakes

 My pride in successfully fixing my iPhone 4S is diminishing at the unfortunately same rate the replacement battery I installed is draining power. Maybe it wasn’t the battery that was the problem. Maybe it’s just iPhone old age.

At least I can be proud I didn’t destroy the phone. I was able to install a new battery. A small, but significant, victory.

I hate slow walking. I like a brisk walk. I bristle when anyone walks passed me.

Walking up Park Avenue for 32 years from Grand Central Terminal to my office at 55th street, and back at the close of business, I would challenge myself to outpace every pedestrian. Even after peripheral neuropathy in my feet slowed me down about 25 years ago I was still able to maintain a competitive pace.

Anyone not a New Yorker might not understand that obsession. True New Yorkers are competitive in everything they do.

But walking with Gilda Monday afternoon around the 1.58 mile track circling the reservoir in Central Park I was humbled by how many left me in their dust, literally because the track is not paved but rather some mixture of crushed pebbles. A pickleball-inflamed achilles tendon kept me from being able to accelerate. Vexing, truly vexing.

The reservoir is named for Jackie Kennedy Onassis who used to jog around it. During my professional career as a newspaper reporter and business magazine editor I’ve had many encounters with famous people. If our meeting was not planned, I quietly greeted them with a “thank you for your work” acknowledgement. Furthest from my mind was any visible or audible display that might expose them to more intrusive members of the public.

One of the perks of being a field editor on Nation’s Restaurant News back in 1977, was being able to dine at some of the classier eating spots in Manhattan. One day, I found myself with co-workers Liz and Peggy having lunch in an expensive, over the top restaurant off Park Avenue in the mid-East 60s. The décor was gaudy—lots of mirrors and gold accents. 

As it had recently made its debut, the restaurant (long since closed) had yet to be discovered by the lunchtime crowd of power elites. It was, to be honest, rather thinly patronized that day. Aside from we three, only one other table was occupied. As I looked around I saw two people sitting at the table, a professorial-type man with unruly grey hair and a strikingly composed, thin, raven-haired woman with big glasses, eating a salad.

As Peggy’s back was to the other table, I whispered to her to glance in the mirror to see the reflection of what I thought was Jackie O. Instead, she twisted her body for a full frontal look and then, in no semblance of a stage whisper, blurted out, “It’s Jackie Kennedy!” 

I shrank in my seat, but Jackie didn’t bat an eyelash. A perfect example of being cool, calm and collected to what must have been a common occurrence in her lifetime.

As she worked as a book editor at Viking Press a few blocks from my office, I saw Jackie O. several times enter or emerge from a taxi. We never said hello.

Uh-Oh: Perhaps it’s because I spent decades trying to publish “clean” copy I am attuned to miscues that make their way into print, or bytes for today’s technical craft. So I was amused by the following that appeared on my iPhone at the end of an article from The New York Times last week on Maryland governor Larry Hogan’s efforts to combat Trumpism within the Republican Party and the possibility he would seek the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2024: 

“He added: ‘There’s still a long way off before ’24. I wouldn’t make any decision about that until next year sometime. I haven’t really decided what the future holds, but I don’t want to give up and I’m not just going to walk away.’

“Advertisement will go here, if sold. A horizontal rule will appear above the ad by default. Please place at a break in the content, where a horizontal rule exists below.”

Clearly the second paragraph was meant for internal communication only. You’re only as good as your proofreader or copy editor. It reminded me of a more egregious slip-up at The New Haven Register some 50 years ago.

After covering a night meeting of the Little Elephants, a group of Republicans in Shelton, Conn., the reporter included a quote from its leader in a story transmitted by Scan-a-Tron machine from our Ansonia bureau to the copy desk in New Haven. The quote did not make any sense to the reporter, but it was colorful and conveyed the political sophistication, or lack thereof, of the speaker. 

To be on the safe side, the reporter chose to alert the night editor to the wackiness of the remark by adding the following in parenthesis after the quote: “I don’t know what the f*** it means, but that’s what he said.” (For the record, he did not use f***, preferring the common spelling of the expletive.) 

No doubt you’ve guessed what happened. The night editor never saw the parenthetical note, until it was in print. Like I said, you’re only as good as your editor. 

P.S. This being a one-person operation, I edit my own writing. Not the best arrangement for error-free copy, but considering what you’re all paying for these missives, you’re getting a real bargain. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Voices of Dissent to Alito's Draft Dogma

If there is a lesson to be learned from trigger laws in 13 states that would immediately ban abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as seems likely with the publication Monday night by Politico of a leaked preliminary majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, it is that elections—on municipal, county, state and school board levels—matter. Those 13 states are among 23 that have placed restrictions on access to abortions. 

For too long Democrats have ceded these fertile election fields to Republicans, resulting in conservative victories in drawing up election maps, in setting education standards, in implementing fiscal policy, in providing healthy care and in taking advantage of, or rejecting, federal government programs. 

In other words, complacency can kill. By not turning out to vote in elections they deemed less important than presidential contests, Democrats and left-leaning voters have consigned too many states to regressive government and enabled too many conservatives to be elected to the U.S. Senate. 

The whirlwind of dissent to Alito’s manuscript is not unexpected but sadly too little, too late. From my social media feeds, here are some of the more cogent commentaries you might not have seen:

 From Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun: “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. Andy why would you think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.” (Posted by Occupy Democrats)

From Sam Cohen, actor: “Pro-Life would be 20 Sandy Hook Students starting high school.”

From Leila Cohan, Co-EP at Netflix: “If it was about babies, we’d have excellent and free universal maternal care. You wouldn’t be charged a cent to give birth, no matter how complicated your delivery was. If it was about babies, we’d have months and months of parental leave, for everyone.

“If it was about babies, we’d have free lactation consultants, free diapers, free formula. If it was about babies, we’d have free and excellent childcare from newborns on. If it was about babies, we’d have universal preschool and pre-k and guaranteed after school placements.”

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America: “The draft majority Supreme Court opinion disclosed yesterday is an attack on women’s autonomy, freedom and health. When a woman’s right to choose is limited, we also limit her right to safe, informed medical decisions and procedures. If enacted, this decision will have disproportionate impacts for the empowerment, economic equity and security of women in underserved communities.  

“Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America reaffirms its unwavering support for full and complete access to reproductive health services and a woman’s right to make health decisions according to her own religious, moral and ethical values.”

From Occupy Democrats: “New Rule” If you ban abortion before you ban military-style assault rifles that massacre children in schools, you’ve lost your right to call yourself “pro-life.”

From Talia Lavin: “This being the culmination of a holy ar that’s been going on since the ‘70s, you should be aware they are coming for absolutely everything that isn’t straight white christian fertile marriage with a submissive, economically dependent and fiscally constrained wife.”

From Dan Rather: “It is no coincidence that the same people who overturn Roe-v-Wade also prevent voting rights and encourage partisan gerrymandering. They fear the will of the majority. In other words, democracy.”

From Motherwell Magazine citing Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

For those who might have missed Stephen Colbert’s outrage Tuesday night, spend a few minutes watching the video of his monologue from Tuesday night, May 3.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

iPhone Repair Is Risky Business

Have you ever opened the back of your iPhone, out of curiosity or to replace a worn out battery?

I hadn’t either till necessity and the desire to save $50 motivated me.

Let me set the stage: I have an old iPhone 4S used solely when sequestered in the master, I mean, primary throne room. The phone cannot send or receive calls. It is not connected to the Internet. I use it for one purpose only, to play solitaire, the three card draw format (for variety I play the single card draw version on my iPhone SE).

For the last half year or more the 4S has not held a charge despite just minutes of use each day. My patience worn thin I inquired how much a replacement would set me back—$60, for battery and installation, the repair shop steward replied.

I enjoy playing solitaire but not $60 worth of enjoyment. So I did what hordes of people do every day. I googled how to replace a 4S battery.

Videos with ads for batteries and repair kits filled my laptop screen. I settled on a $13 remedy with two day free delivery.

Sunday afternoon I settled down at the kitchen counter to fix or, knowing full well my limited technical skills, destroy my 4S.

I arrayed the tool kit in front of me. I watched the video several times, wondering why my tool kit contained utensils not used in the video. Kinda like the extra nut, bolts and doohickeys Ikea throws into its furniture kits to play with your “I-can-do-it-myself” mindset. 

With determination and an equal if not greater amount of trepidation I unscrewed the phone’s back panel, lifted it off and, using a second magnetic screwdriver, unscrewed two teeny-tiny screws to release the grounding plate and, with a miniature plastic crowbar, lifted the depleted battery.

After putting the new battery into place it was time to reconnect the grounding plate. Looked easy on the video. Not easy in real life.

There’s a reason iPhones are assembled by lithe young people with small, dextrous fingers in foreign lands. What the repair shop techie said was a simple 10-15 minute total operation turned into a near 30 minute frustration trying to align the minuscule grounding plate back into position so the teeny-tiny screws could be securely fitted into their holes. 

I finally nailed it, though not without some fear that the grounding plate might not have been properly placed. Would I be burning down the house when I charged the battery?

Well, it’s been three days since the repair. Charging the battery didn’t start a fire. The phone is working like new. And so far, minus the cost of the repair kit, I’m $47 in the black.  

Monday, May 2, 2022

Traveling With Murray Can Be Risky

Perhaps you heard about the recent mayhem at Ben Gurion airport in Israel prompted by an American Jewish family innocently trying to bring onto their flight home an unexploded artillery shell they found in the Golan Heights (

I can totally empathize with them. Back in May 1990 our family participated in a UJA family tour of Israel. It included a visit to the Golan where the military treated our group of 900 to a demonstration of Israeli firepower.

After the shooting stopped 11-year-old Dan and I walked the battlefield and picked up some bullet shells. A few days later as our group waited in the terminal to board planes back to New York we were startled to hear a request for the Forseter family to approach the gate check-in area. We were startled even more when they ominously asked us why we had bullets in our checked luggage.

Our—that is, my—indiscretion resolved itself rather quickly. Few fellow passengers became aware of our—my—faux pas. No pandemonium like what just happened at Ben Gurion. Security even let us keep the bullets which to this day stand upright on our living room shelving.

A few weeks later there was more security fallout from our trip to Israel. Gilda flew to Sweden to attend a medical conference on Lyme disease. When she arrived in Stockholm security noted her recent trip to Israel.

As Forseter is not an immediate giveaway as to religion, security wondered if she was a Palestinian sympathizer. They sequestered her in a room, asked her whom she had met with in Israel and sorted through all of her luggage, even taking apart her travel hair dryer. Keep in mind, this was just a few years after “The Little Drummer Girl” movie starring Diane Keaton about a woman caught up in Palestinian-Israeli  bombing intrigue.

Of course the Swedes found her safe for entry. But it was a lesson that reinforced the need to be vigilant. And as inconspicuous as possible. 

At the end of another family trip to Israel, in 2004, I believe, our line through security was long compared to a second, shorter queue. I wondered out loud why we didn’t shuffle over to that line. I was about to move over when I was informed the shorter line was mostly for Palestinians and non Jews who underwent more comprehensive inspections. 

Our daughter-in-law Allison had yet to join the tribe and marry into our family. Though traveling with four Forseters she didn’t fit our profile. Security singled her out, took her into a separate room and went through her luggage. 

For me, getting through security without a hitch has not been confined to Israel. Traveling home with Gilda from Paris some 20 years ago I carried an elaborately wrapped bar-mitzvah present for a friend’s son. It was a glass hannukiah, commonly called a menorah. 

Naturally, the security agent asked what I was carrying. Instead of saying a glass candelabra, I said it was a hannukiah. Ding, Ding, ding. Security was all over me. I had to unwrap the delicate gift, all the while being teased by Gilda for my indelicate response. It has become one of her favorite “traveling with Murray” stories.