Saturday, May 31, 2008

Andrea Peyser in today's NY post

reply to: NY sure to shun lost 'City'
To: Andrea Peyser
Wow. You need to lighten up. I also saw the big-screen version of "Sex and the City." It's pure fluff, and what's not to enjoy? You describe the main characters as "four aging broads," and you criticize their looks. I am surprised that you would define any woman in such narrow and superficial terms as a "croaking Norma Desmond." So, the acting is "depressed to hysterical" and the dialogue is "recycled"... big deal.
When I got to the Clearview Chelsea, the midnight showing was sold out... but some young guy with contagious euphoric excitement offered me a ticket. And he refused to take money from me for it. The film was introduced by "Hedda Lettuce" and the energy, screams, laughter, applause, and excitement of the audience during the film made it a true NY experience. I loved it. So did the other New Yorkers.
And, by the way... I recently turned 61 and I was just dumped (really.) I see no reason to "hang" myself. I might just book a little trip to Turnberry. There's always the possibility of another over 65 year old gent waiting around the corner... If I considered my life a "horror show," I would stop passing open windows.
"Sex" does not suck. Your article does.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Midnight at the Chelsea Cinemas

The midnight screening of "Sex and the City" was an event. The film was introduced by "Hedda Lettuce" and it is sensational. The theater was packed and the energy level was extreme, with the audience cheering and clapping and screaming and crying and hooting and hollering. It was 2:30 AM when I finally arrived back to my apartment. I quickly signed on to check this out: SATC
Oh... thanks to the guy who saw my expression of disappointment when I arrived at the theater only to see the midnight show was sold out. He gave me a ticket he claimed was an extra... and refused to take money for it. It's these small things in this great city that make me love living here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Closest Thing to Heaven

the terrace on the 44th floor at the pool club slightly after sunset just as the lights are beginning to go on, listening to.....

Puccini: Vissi d'arte Tosco

Bow-Wow Redux

Verbatim conversation while waiting for an elevator to take me up to the pool:
Me to dog owner: When the elevator comes, you can take it. I will wait.
Dog owner to me: He is very friendly. He doesn't bite. He has never bitten anybody.
Me to dog owner: I am sure he is a very friendly dog. The friendliest. Thank-you, I will wait for the next elevator.
Dog owner to me: You should see a psychiatrist to get over this.
Me to dog owner: Thank-you, it is something for which I choose not to receive any help to change. You can take the elevator when it comes, I will wait for the next one.
Elevator comes.
Dog owner to me as he refuses to take the elevator and walks away: You should have asked if he was friendly.
Me to dog owner: We have established he is very friendly and I told you I don't care. I don't care. I choose to wait for the next elevator. The elevator is yours.
Me to dog owner: If I had a snake wrapped around my neck as I was waiting for the elevator and I told you the snake was friendly and de-venomized, would you share an elevator with me?
Dog owner walked away in an angry huff.
Another Manhattanite who will have a story to tell about "the crazy lady."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Backdoor Gifts

I always wanted an apartment that faced the Hudson River. I did not have to be a rocket scientist or psychic to realize It was so never going to happen. But, I always longed for that glorious river view where I could watch the sailing boats and occasionally catch a glimpse of a cruise ship as it pulled into a pier.
I joined a health club with a pool. It is on the 44th floor of a westside building and the outdoor terrace has a spectacular view of Manhattan and the river. You can even see over into New Jersey and up to the George Washington Bridge. Inside by the pool area I can pull a chair over to a floor-to-ceiling window and have a phenomenal view of technicolor sunsets. I spent a good deal of today over there and I realized life has a way of delivering small gifts right through the back door. Now, if I could only find a partner there for a few good games of Rummy-Q... I will have reached Nirvana.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Blew It

I blew it big time. I had an audition for a major motion picture: lead role. It's such a long story, I am not in the mood right now to detail it... suffice it to say, I blew it. Not the audition. The writer/director liked me. But, at the end of the audition, I recommended another actress who I thought would be great for the part. I realized I didn't get the part when somebody told me they had started filming. Today, I bumped into the director and I asked him who eventually he went with. He told me the actress I had recommended!!! What the fuck.... He never called me to tell me and she never called me to thank me for recommending her. Well, I am not mad. I expect nothing from anybody. Shit happens. In my case, shit happens way too often and makes me believe every occurence and event in my day renders my whole existence to be a huge practical joke. (She better thank me when she wins her Oscar)
(People have asked me if I really wanted the part... Yes, I did. But I have issues. I have issues. It's complicated.)
Yes, John Irving. I will remember to keep passing open windows.

comment brought to the main screen:
Why on earth would you recommend someone else for a job you were going for, then be surprised that you didn't get it?
my reply:
I wasn't surprised I did not get the part. I sort of had a feeling he would go with another actress. I do not have experience. I recommended an actress who I thought would be perfect because I wanted his work to be cast with the best since I did have the feeling he would not go with me anyway... and honestly, I do believe she was the best for that role. I shared her name. She is phenomenal. I think it speaks volumes for ME that I had the best interests of the project in mind.
I was just disappointed when not one person called to thank me for recommending the actress who did get the part. And I was hurt that I was never called to be even an "extra" in even one small scene.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Classifieds

Hunt Is on for Museum Heads
"The next director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is likely to be young, to have already run a museum —  though not a major one —  and to have a history of good relationships with curators. The next museum director sought by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is likely to have an international background and a track record as a fund-raiser and cost-cutter. Not for a long time have two such powerful positions at New York museums been open at once..."
On my second sabbatical, I studied Art History. I applied. A second career is looking very appealing.
Oops, "likely to be young?" Let me pull that application. "International background?" Two down. Back to the nap.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Forgotten NYC"

Sniffen Court:

Milligan Place:

Patchin Place:

MacDougal Alley and Washington Mews:

Jumel Mansion and Sylvan Terrace:

Shearith Israel Cemetary, West 21st Street:
(great blog: this the Cherry Lane Theater)

NYC Diners:

The Munson Diner closed and moved upstate. The Moondance closed and moved, I think to Wyoming. The Cheyenne closed last April. The River Diner is invisible; I passed yesterday and not a trace remains. (RIVER DINER, 11th Avenue and 37th Street.) The most fascinating of all is the RIB. It's there, all covered in dust and surrounded by debris. There was also one at 28th Street and 9th Avenue, but they tore it down to build a post office.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Leaky Pipe

So, there I was last night at The Comic Strip Live doing Gladys's show. I had just gone up and "killed." "Knocked it out of the park." "Brought my 'A' game." (How obnoxious is that? I copied the way other comics describe their sets). I just usually say: "I did good" or "I did bad."
Anyway, Gladys likes the comics to arrive early and remain till the very end of the show, regardless of the spot when we go up. I was sitting there after my set, and I feel this drip drip drip on my head and water dripping on my jeans or more specifically, my lap. I look up and see water is dripping from either the ceiling or an exposed pipe directly over my head. OCD freak-out time. My mind is racing. What the fuck is leaking what? My thoughts tell me it's an exit toilet pipe and feces or urine has leaked onto my hair.
I raced to the bar and found Tom-E, the bartender who actually for a time last year dated Lisa Lampanelli. He is the nicest guy. I told him a pipe or something just leaked some unknown liquid onto me. He tells me to tell the manager, JR, who is another great guy. JR usually sits by the bar and he tells me to show him the pipe in the comedy room that's leaking. (Now realize, the club has all the pipes under the ceiling exposed). So, we go back and I take a napkin and mop up some of the liquid which by this time, in my absence, had dripped onto my chair. The liquid is clear... a totally good sign. JR tells me it's water leaking from the roof. (It had been raining hard all day). I was still in OCD feak-out mode, so I told Gladys I was getting the hell out of there to go home and shower, wash my hair, and do a laundry. She thinks I am nuts anyway so she gets on stage and in her best Marjorie imitation says: "Marjorie is leaving. She is freaking out cause water dripped on her head." That gets a big laugh. I run out of there and cross the street to hail a cab. I look up at the building.
Now riddle me this: How in the hell can rain water be leaking from the roof onto me when on top of the club is a multi-floored apartment house? And I am so waiting for the signs of Legionnaire's Disease.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Crystal Skulls

from wikipedia: "Today F.A. Mitchell-Hedges is best known for his connection to a famous crystal skull which was in the possession of his adopted daughter (Anna) until her death in April 2007. He claimed to have discovered what he termed "The Skull of Doom" at the Maya ruin of Lubaantun (which he also claimed to have discovered) in British Honduras in the 1920s. However Mitchell-Hedges published no mention of the skull until the late 1940s, not long after a crystal skull was auctioned off at Sotheby's in 1943. Some think that Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull is actually the one from Sotheby's.

"Thirteen crystal skulls of apparently ancient origin have been found in parts of Mexico, Central America and South America, comprising one of the most fascinating subjects of 20th Century archaeology."
"The skulls’ legend has spawned a new breed of followers. New-agers have associated the skulls with the belief that the Mayan “long count” calendar runs out on Dec 21, 2012, when it reaches the end of a 5,126-year cycle. According to this theory, all 13 skulls must be reunited and lined up together to prevent the world from falling off its axis."

I better stock up on dramamine.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"My Kid Could Paint That"

A documentary by Amir Bar-Lev. My conclusion: hoax. I predict in years to come the explanation: "It was the essence of Marla in the paintings." Oh. I guess it is similar to automatic writing. The spirit of Marla was painting. Marla was the inspiration. "We have the best interests of Marla in mind," they explain and it serves as an excuse for the fraud. So that when the hoax is exposed, it is somewhat acceptable in a convoluted way.
I just don't buy it. Why? Because the camera never catches her painting anything. It is indeed a mystery. And who was her "ghost painter?" I would bet it's the dad. The kid will spill the beans eventually. They place a concealed camera and she pushes the paint around. Her dad is present during the sessions and her dad "coaches" her and sometimes sternly. The giveaway: ""Hey daddy its your turn. I'm done painting." "You have to tell me what to do now."

Good grief. I have a bridge I want to sell you if you believe Marla Olmstead is a child prodigy. There will one day be an investigation. It just started out as a cute shtik and it snowballed and got way out of hand. That kid would have trouble coloring wth crayolas and staying in the lines. I think "60 Minutes" knew the deal.... but what the heck. Go with the story. It's human interest. Dad reminds me of Clifford Irving. He won't budge an inch. They will be busted, eventually. And by the way, who titled: "Ode to Pollack?" I prefer Tillamook Cheddar.


under construction
coming soon...

The hairflip: Yesterday, Schoenfeld told The Post: "John Simon's credentials and reputation in the industry are well-known. His remarks serve to confirm that reputation."
Simon replied: "As Martin Luther famously said, 'Was von mir der Esel spricht/Das acht ich nicht.' Which translates as, 'What the donkey says about me, I do not heed.' "

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Selective reading, anyone?

In another corner of the internet, at the "Soapbox," the comics are still whining that "the inmates are running the asylum." So, their knee-jerk reaction is to leave the "Soapbox" and blog at their own sites.
They empower others far too much. It's the typical forum activity: fight, ridicule, and "get goat." A simple solution would have been to not read other comics' blogs. That would have been easy. But, they could not help peeking. Then, they typed absurd fights. They never saw how they instigated and provoked; how they denigrated so much worse than their font opponent. And finding no relief for their anger, they decided to all jump ship, leaving the big cheese who owns the site to maybe one day stand alone. They are all running out of there now like good little lemmings.
Oh, and the "Soapbox" was so proud of how the blogs were "uncensored." That appears to blatantly contradict throwing people out for the content of their own personal blogs. Another internet mess! The comics stopped writing in their own blogs because they did not like what other comics wrote in theirs. Makes sense? "The Stepford Blogs," next on Bill O'Reilly.
They cannot blame me... I was out of there months ago. Who cared what other comics put in their blogs. Such a mob mentality. Nobody is willing to step up and away from the group. Some use the excuse: "I pick my battles." Or: "I don't want to get involved." Or: "I remained quiet." They have a real need to be a "member of the club." Maybe they think they will get more comedy spots that way. They can scaffold off each other. Pass the bucket.
(And don't you just love how the worst insult they can deliver is to call somebody "crazy?" Love it! Such cyber analysts, they are. Real online Thematic Appercetion test adminstrators.)
Truth: I was thrown off for what Steve called: "rubbing people the wrong way." In font, no less! All they had to do was not read my blogs. And he prides himself on his "uncensored" site! A bit of a contradiction, no? Well, apparently months later after I was gone and long forgotten they all were really rubbed the wrong way MORE by some other comic "inmate" and they quit Steve's precious "Soapbox." I knew he was not handling it correctly. That's when you let "majority rule." The majority makes rules that are not consistent and which suit their own agenda. You cannot give power to a clique. It removes a barometer of fairness. And the structure of the site backfired, because in the end they as a group seem to have quit anyway. They tried to control what other comics wrote, instead of empowering themselves and how they reacted to it.
Morale of the story: there's always a "scapegoat." And when there is no "scapegoat," we get bored and invent problems so we can become Don Quixotes and behave like predictible Pavlog dogs and have something to do. And power always wants more power. It morphs into more manipulation and desire for control such as: "Do what we want, what is best for us, what enhances our opinions and point of view, or we leave." And they did. I am glad, I must admit.
I am reminded of the Martin Niemoller quote. However, in this case... its not exactly applicable. They imploded, and fell like a house of cards.... in a snarky way hoisted by their own petards, through the back door.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ah, such a scam!

Steve H. of the infamous "Soapbox" blogs:
"Beware - Comedy Scam
Beware the following email:
Hi greetings to you, hope all is well, will like to engage your service as a stand up comedian . hope you will be chance on the 21st of june 2008, just for the birthday party of my daughter, will like to know your cost and your terms of payment. kindly get back to me asap.. my email ads is ********
It was sent to hundreds of us - they will then ask for your info a la the Nigerian scam. Don't let your ego get in the way of this - there is no gig."

Soapbox members have begun to reply:
A.S.: "Unbelievable. Preying on comedians is even lower than preying on the elderly, as we are far more pathetic and helpless. On the other hand, I'm pissed that I didn't get the email."

I am pissed they did not think I sent it! They accused me of everything else. Well, the grammar and spelling is a giveaway, I suppose. I almost detached a retina reading it in it's original form.

My 15 minutes reduced to 7.5

Cliff Notes version:
1. I write a letter to Bravo about TWoP and over weeks kick it up all the way to NBC's Jeff Zucker. I post my letter at a thread in a website and the huge commentary that it generates is amazing. "NBCUStaff" weighs in and tells me "Jeff Zucker doesn't give two shits!" I am chagrined!
2. No polite letter is ever forthcoming from NBC in response to the issue.
3. My letter-writing activity and the blog comments are picked up by two internet sites. They copy and paste the material and roast me and ridicule the activity. They cannot get over it.
I respond to the shock with self-effacing humor and a list of "most shocking moments":
a. The Godfather: film director wakes up in bed with a dead horse’s head
b. The Shining: Jack Torrance growls, “Heeeere’s Johnny”
c. Psycho: Marion Crane gets stabbed to death in the shower
d. The Exorcist: Regan turns her head 360 degrees
e. Marjorie sends a letter to Jeff Zucker about bannings.
4. I become an internet celeb du jour. My own "personal brand of crazy" develops a cult following and my internet comments are tracked and ridiculed; they even found a link to my old "Soapbox" blog which I long thought was flushed down some NJ toilet... My own blog has entries copied and pasted. I cry DMCA. They laugh louder. They copy harder.
5. I respond with tongue-in-cheek updates:
"A last laugh: O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Lizzie Borden, Marjorie. Guess who lost her case?"
6. The denouement is my BEST.JOKE.EVER:
To my fans: I wrote this strongly worded one-lined letter to Jeffrey Immelt when I received an invitation to rejoin TWoP:
“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

(Look, how could I not get pissed when TWoP banned a guy for poor spelling. And he told them he was learning disabled! Man, that got me nuts!) And I was banned for not beginning a sentence with a capital letter, for cross-posting the same comment to two threads, and for not reading the 10 pages that came before (and had answered) my query. Wow, what egregious font felonies!
So, two sites couldn't get over my letter to NBC? I would read that letter wearing my birthday suit in Macy's window if it got Bravo to hear the voices. Topic? That TWoP can kiss my big fat ass!

What a yawn! On to the next cyber adventure.
I peeked into Radar, hmmmmmmmmm...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fountain of Youth

Forget Botox, Restylane, Juvederm, and laser peels. I found the best product to make you look years younger. I use: Dior Capture R-Flash Instant Ultra-Smoothing Fluid.
"This ultra concentrated gel-fluid provides instant wrinkle correction and spectacular radiance. It's the ideal makeup base, indispensable in the morning, and "magic" before a night out."
In the 70s, I had a real Kim Kardashian look: heavy eye-make-up, false eyelashes, and I attached a "fall" to my shoulder length hair to make it appear longer. I showed up one night for parent-teacher conferences wearing no make-up because I was exhausted and had gone home after school that day and washed my face to take a nap.
A student, Michael, arrived with his mother and they looked all around the room for the teacher. I was in the back arranging the library books according to genre. I turned around and Michael said, "Right now, this is an excellent disguise."

"Mishkin's Paradise"

In September and October of 2002, I appeared as Rose/Sadie in the third production of Fred Feldman's heartbreaking and bittersweet play: "Mishkin's Paradise." Here is a summary of the play from "Mishkin's Paradise, Fred Feldman's play in two acts, is a striking drama of miscarried hope and the extremes of the American dream. It is a universal tale of family conflict and recovery.
There is a little of the fallen hero, Leon Mishkin, in each and every one of us. Mishkin goes through life making hard choices that affect his business, family, and emotional well-being. He is recalled by his only son, Arnie, now a grown man, and the head of the business Leon so painstaking worked to build. Arnie returns to his birth place on the Lower East Side of New York to reconnect with his roots. What he finds is the reality of his difficult childhood experiences with a tough, hard-driving father and deceased mother, Esther. The lengths to which Leon goes to fulfill his career goals is evidenced by his cousin and building superintendent, Morris Lewis. Morris is the dark side of Leon's moon. He unlocks the secret of Leon Mishkin's questionable deals that doomed his family."

I was honored to appear in the play, and it was an experience that will stay with me.

Invented Spelling

It's the new shtik in the schools. You can "Google" the topic for more information.
" Invented spelling allows children to communicate in writing long before they are ready to spell each word correctly. Another benefit is that children can express their ideas quickly and smoothly in a first draft, without being bogged down by trying to spell each word correctly. Invented spelling also helps children progress toward standard spelling. Sounding out words and predicting how they will be spelled reinforces students' understanding of the connection between letters and sounds, and lets them experiment with the spelling patterns they are learning. As they edit their writing and make a final draft, students get additional practice with the correct forms of words."
an example from the site:
Your first-grader proudly shows you the story she wrote in class and it looks something like this:
"Ther ouns was two flawrs. Oun was pink and the othr was prpul. Thae did not like ech athr becuse thae whr difrint culrs. Oun day thae had a fite."

Oh my! What are we doing? We are raising a future group of forum posters destined to be banned at TWoP! Or a swarm of chatroom participants who type "your" for "you're" and incorrectly reply "I could care less" for "I couldn't care less."

oh, dear

I read about this in Sunday's NY Daily News, and here is the original story as it appeared in the April 13, 1953 issue of "Time" magazine:,9171,818199,00.html

The story about this young man who went to VS Central High begins:
"Everyone who knew Fred Eugene McManus thought he was just about the nicest boy in the suburban village of Valley Stream, N.Y. ...."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My UFT New York Teacher "Speakout"

The DOE’s ‘accountability’ is absurd
by Marjorie Levine
published: Feb 28, 2008
I sigh with exasperation when I read editorial pieces in newspapers which promote the concept of evaluating teachers based on the test scores of their students. The writers have no understanding of what is happening in the classrooms.

It is ludicrous to speak about “accountability” when there is what the New York City Department of Education believes to be an excellently designed model in place that teachers are mandated to follow. Teachers are now required to follow a very rigid and almost scripted daily plan. Teachers attend workshops during which they receive instruction on how to effectively implement the model. One would think that since the teachers receive a “roadmap” regarding exactly what to say during their lessons that all the students would perform well on tests. It’s a “Stepford teacher” approach and test scores should be consistent.

It is absurd that teachers should be held “accountable” for the test results from a method they never even chose in the first place. We can only discuss the subject of accountability if teachers are allowed to craft what they might consider more effective and creative lessons. Without that flexibility, we are evaluating teachers who have been reduced to robots. “Accountability” becomes too absurd in the present scenario to even continue a dialogue. I can only prove my worth if you allow me to teach you with my own techniques. If you give me a recipe, please do not evaluate my ability to bake a great cake.

I failed science in the 9th grade. It was not because my teacher did not know how to craft excellent and effective lessons. The student sitting next to me in that science class received very high grades. My test scores had nothing to do with the principal or which politician was in control of the schools. My sister, who had the same set of parents, did very well in school and was an honor student.

I did not pay attention in class, did not carefully do my homework and did not study for exams. As a matter of fact, I did very poorly in high school and had nobody to blame but myself! It was not until college that I realized the value of education and the true importance of study. I was then able to develop a seriousness of purpose and succeed in classes and I finally performed well on tests. I would feel bad for my science teacher if he was held accountable for my failure.

I was a 5th- and 6th-grade teacher in the New York City public schools from 1968 to 2002 and I am now retired. During the last few years of my career, the learning model in the schools completely changed. I was no longer allowed to keep my students seated in rows during “teacher-directed” lessons at the chalkboard. I was not permitted to teach “math applications” and my role was reduced to that of “facilitator.” Children were placed in groups to discuss strategies for solving math word problems.

Students no longer learned to read with a basal reader and a comprehension workbook. Phonics, which is the basic building block for reading instruction because it teaches the sounds the symbols make, had been reduced to a watered-down approach called “phonemic awareness.” Students were choosing “just-right books” from classroom leveled libraries with books grouped by genre. In many schools today, students do not even have textbooks in the basic subject areas.

At the end of my career, a principal came into my room and told me she wanted more “productive noise.” I knew it would soon be time to exit the system when I went from group to group and heard the students not discussing literature or the books they selected, but their plans for Saturday!

Here’s a “tip” from me: Get the schools back to strong and solid basics and stop the nonsense already. Quiet classrooms, textbooks and structure is what it’s all about. The rest is a total sham. I am glad I am retired.

Walking Sideways on a Spiral Staircase

After I retired, I wrote pieces on education that were published as "Letters" in THE NEW YORK SUN. I was looking through the clippings the other day, and although the collection is too extensive to repost here, I am going to cull a few blurbs from selected articles I wrote and retype them for this blog. Whew! So much for a run-on sentence.

from: "When Students Run the Show," 1/2-4/04 I can recall a beginning teacher who crafted creative, fine lessons. But classroom management was difficult for her and she could have used some administrative guidance and support in the handling of her class. One day, a second grader in her class slammed a closet door into her back and then ran away and laughed. She brought him to the principal and later it was she who received a disciplinary letter! In the principal's office, the child had been interviewed about the teacher's performance and his misbehavior was blamed on the teacher's weak behavior modification program.

from: "The Stepford Teachers," 7/20/04 ... a discussion of the problems in the New York City schools has "jumped the shark." The 2 1/2 hour (reading) block is so micromanaged that it includes prepared dialogue for the instruction of the children. When teachers help students choose a "just right" nonfiction book, they are told what to say in order to model thinking.... But, experienced traditional teachers would consider this learning model to be a major farce, where education has moved into the surreal world of "The Stepford Wives." As more time passes, the articles on education seem to have deteriorated into redundant pieces "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

from: "Going Back to Basics," 8/11/04 (re: phonics replaced by phonemic awareness) I am not surprised that classrooms filled with fascinating leveled libraries (with books grouped by genre) are not motivating students. If you never learned to play chess and some benefactor filled your home with the most expensive and beautiful sets, would you not first have to learn, step by step, how to to play the game?

from: "The Turning Tide," 8/24/04 During my 34 years as a NYC teacher, I have seen some pretty ludicrous letters written by principals for teachers' files. One teacher was written up for "teaching with two handbags on (her) arm." She also was reprimanded for replying "I'll try" when directed to handle a class. The principal stated that her response did not meet the accountability for a New York City scool (sic) teacher!" And the latest tactic is to accuse teachers who "yell" of corporal punishment.

from: "The Spin Doctors," 10/06 At almost the end of my 34 year long teaching career, I was directed to change the seating arrangement in my classroom from rows to groups and (to) develop an atmosphere of "productive noise" and (to) construct mini-lessons. The new "balanced literacy" model was filled with layered components and the classroom was mandated to have visual and heady appeal. A student shortly pleaded to "go back to the old way of learning" which was a more no-frills and basic textbook approach. I discussed this with my supervisor and I was told it was my fault the students didn't like the new style. I had not properly motivated the students or successfully implemented the model.

And I was a teacher whose classes during instruction and learning were so quiet, visitors to the room "could hear a pin drop!" Parents requested placement with me because I was known as one of the teachers who could handle a sixth grade class, and the work I gave was very much admired. I stopped writing on education one bleak day when I finally thought: "Stick a fork in me, I am done!"

The Stepford Teachers

published: July 20, 2004 in The New York Sun

The Stepford Teachers
After I read "Education By Smoke and Mirrors," I sadly concluded that a discussion of the problems in the New York City schools has "jumped the shark" [Andrew Wolf, Opinion, July 9, 2004]. In Region 9's "Third Grade Summer Success Academy," the teachers were given a manual that has been adapted from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project 2004.
The Balanced Literacy Program consists of a 95-minute Reading Workshop and a 55-minute Writing Workshop. The components of the program include a read-aloud, independent reading, conferences, shared reading, guided reading, writing minilessons, independent writing, and word work. The 2 1/2-hour block is so micromanaged that it includes prepared dialogue for the instruction of the children. When teachers help students choose a "just-right" nonfiction book, they are told what to say in order to model thinking: "Hmm. Here's a book titled 'My Farm.' I've already read a lot about farms, and I don't want to learn more about farms right now. This is not a just-right book for me. It's not interesting." Then, "Hmm. Here's a book called spiders. I've always been interested in spiders. Let me try reading a page. (Teacher reads page 10 fluently.) I'm used to reading a book with more words on a page and even some harder words. I think I won't learn enough. This is not a just-right book for me. It's too easy."
The teacher goes through a scripted process and then randomly distributes one nonfiction book to each student. She says, "Take a look at the book I just gave you. Decide if it is a just-right book for you by deciding if it's interesting, and checking a page to see that it's not too easy or too hard - a book you can make sense of while you're reading. Then turn and tell your partner what you were thinking. At first glance, the lessons in the summer curriculum may be impressive and seem effectively crafted for successful results. But, experienced traditional teachers would consider this learning model to be a major farce, where education has moved into the surreal world of "The Stepford Wives."
As more time passes, the articles on education seem to have deteriorated into redundant pieces "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." I shake my head in disbelief and I am glad I am retired.

The Spin Doctors

published on 10/10/06:

Andrew Wolf states [Op-ed, "The Spin Doctors," September 29-October 1, 2006], "This prevalent teaching methodology is the common thread that directs our national march to mediocrity."

At almost the end of my thirty-four year long teaching career, I was directed to change the seating arrangement in my classroom from rows to groups, develop an atmosphere of "productive noise," and construct mini-lessons. The new "balanced literacy" model was filled with layered components and the classroom was mandated to be have visual and heady appeal.

A student shortly pleaded to "go back to the old way of learning," which was a more no-frills and basic textbook approach. I discussed this with my supervisor, and I was told it was my fault my students didn't like the new style. I had not properly motivated the students or successfully implemented the model. The whole system has become like scenes in "Alice Through the Looking Glass."

Dale Messick, RIP

from The New York Sun:

Dale Messick, R.I.P.
published: April 12, 2005
I was sad to read that Dale Messick, the creator of "Brenda Starr, Reporter" passed away ["Dale Messick, 98, Cartoonist, Creator of Brenda Starr," Stephen Miller, Obituaries, April 8, 2005]. I was an avid fan of that comic strip and I followed Brenda Starr's adventures all through the late 1950s, '60s, and early '70s. I can recall characters such as Merrie Rider, Widow Creeper, No-No Night, Hank O'Hair, and Aunt Abretha.
In the early 1990s, I developed a nostalgic interest in the comic strip and I wanted to pinpoint the date of a specific story. I can not recall through which publication I was able to track down Dale Messick. But, I learned she was living in Santa Rosa, Calif., and I was given her telephone number. I called and it was Messick who answered the phone. We spoke for quite some time about many of her colorful story lines, and she also told me that she most enjoyed creating Brenda Starr's glamorous fashions.
At the time we spoke, Ms. Messick was writing for a local senior newsletter and seemed to be enjoying what she called "the delightful weather of Santa Rosa." When I read today that she passed away, I remembered her open and friendly personality. In his obituary, Mr. Miller brought back the memory of Brenda Starr, one exciting heroine. And it seems Dale Merrick had a life filled with great adventures of her own.

Reading Wars

from "New York: magazine, published May 8, 2006:

It’s no surprise that Michael Bloomberg is smitten with the designer pedagogy called Balanced Literacy. It’s quite seductive and certainly appears very impressive. Teachers provide instruction in the format of a mini-lesson using the workshop model. All the many components make it one heady elixir. But could the young Joel Klein ever have read his favorite book on baseball and decoded the words if he had not received strong phonics instruction? The old-fashioned “drill and kill” hardly put some of the best adult thinkers off learning for life. It might have provided the necessary discipline to succeed in their academic pursuits.
—Marjorie J. Levine, Manhattan

from New York Teacher

Letters to the Editor
A proud, traditional teacher
published: Jan 19, 2006

To the Editor:
I was a 5th- and 6th-grade teacher (in Manhattan) for almost 34 years. I retired in 2002. There were many years when I had classes of 32 students. They sat in rows, and I taught with only a piece of chalk.
It was definitely a “no-frills” approach. The students had sets of textbooks in all the subject areas. They had a basal reader as well as comprehension and phonics workbooks. My classes were quiet places where children were given instruction in a very traditional style. My bulletin boards were decorated with store-bought materials.
I taught math applications! Today, from what I understand, that is not allowed. I am told that children sit in groups to discuss strategies to solve word problems.
Well, my students could do examples such as these:
3 4/5 + 7 1/4 =
8 1/3 - 4 1/2 =
13.3 x 4.9 =
257.9 x .31 =
2 3/4 x 7 1/7 =
My goodness! All this discussion and quibbling over the minutes in the school day seems preposterous! I agree smaller classes are certainly a step in the right direction; there can never be a downside to that! But, it also seems to me that even a limited return to a back-to-basics approach (especially in math) is necessary.
Education should be about “quality,” not “quantity.” Students and teachers are tired after a long day.
Marjorie Levine, retired

Randi, hitting the nail on the head

"Halt assault on teacher tenure"
"First, let's debunk a myth about tenure. All it means is that, after completing a three-year probationary period, a teacher may not be fired or disciplined without due process. The irony of the chancellor's ire in this regard is that to date, there is no accurate and fair way to use standardized student test scores in evaluating individual teachers. After all, standardized student tests were never designed for this purpose - they are meant to measure student achievement in reading and math."

And there it is right there; Randi Weingarten nailed it. Test scores are no real measure of what a teacher has taught. Too many factors and variables weigh into the picture. I might have taught an excellently crafted subject rich lesson, but if a student does not step up to the plate and do the required work, his scores might be low. Students have to pay attention and study and do homework. If a teacher's effectiveness is measured by test scores, all students in her class would perform identically on tests. It just doesn't happen. And the opposite is also true. A teacher can design poor lessons, and a student who has home access to other learning resources in the subject might ace a test.
Too much goes into the mix to evaluate teachers by a single barometer. As Randi says, stop playing games regarding student standardized test scores.

This is going around, and I love it!

To the kids who survived growing up in the 50's:
"First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads.
As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags.
Riding in the back of a pick up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.
We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight. Why? Because we were always outside, playing...that's why!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms. We had friends and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth... and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
These generations of the 30s, 40s, and 50s have produced some of the best risk-takers problem solvers and inventors problem solvers and inventors ever.
The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. If you are one of them: Congratulations!
Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?"

-- author unknown
If an valid author's name is provided in a comment at this entry, I will add the byline.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"The Long Island I Miss"

by Andy Edelstein:,0,573227.story
This is a beautifully nostalgic piece about growing up on Long Island in the 60s. It brought back wonderful memories of times from long ago.

"New York Magazine" Competitions

For many years, "New York Magazine" ran a series of writing competitions which always appeared on the last page. Readers were given a premise, and the entrants had to develop a one to three line piece or short paragraph to satisfy the description. I entered often and always hoped to win. I look back now, and although many of my "Honorable Mentions" now seem corny and dated, they still make me smile. Here are a few of my entries that won and were published in the magazine. I am going to retype as many as my lazy fingers this afternoon will allow.

" Results of Competiton 746, in which you were asked for Epitaphs."


Perpetual Care by I.M. Pei

"Results of Competition 749, in which you were asked for the opening sentence of a tell-all book."

Last night I dreamt I went to Brooklyn again, where the Brobdingnagian man who today holds court from a corner table at Spago was known simply as "little putz."

"Results of Competiton 816, in which you were asked for the opening lines of a badly written best-seller."

Desiree sat in Judge Paul Tyler's courtroom wearing Armani and a smirk. "So he denied me bail," she thought. "It wasn't so long ago that I was denied nothing." She caught a familiar whiff of Dolce and Gabbana and remembered the hazy evening on Royal Street in the Quarter. "The evidence will show..." droned the prosecutor.

"Results of Competition 862, in which you were asked to win the Eastern Division of the American league, or failing that, to provide a few aromatic lines from a Book About Hollywood."

"And the Oscar goes to... Marlene Bartlett for "Raining in New York." Dr. Lucas Braxton watched as Marlene, radiant, stepped up to the podium. Who would accept, he wondered... Darlene? Charlene? ... or Jim?

"Results of Competition 890, in which you were asked to invent a three-line, two person conversation."

A. I've been told I have no empathy.

B. Well, today my therapist diagnosed me with serious borderline personality disorder.

A. Who cares?

"Results of Competiton 905, in which you were asked for three versions of a random sentence."

The apparition danced before her eyes, then vanished into the dark mirror.

She glanced into the mirror and saw a man looking over her shoulder.


"Results of Competition 852, in which you were asked to describe creative playthings."

THE COMPETITION EDITOR DOLL-- when it winds up, it says, "Hoping you the same."

That last entry paid homage to the editor of the competitions, Mary Ann Madden. She always ended her Competition report with that sign-off. Some readers complained that the same group of writers won every week, but new names popped up frequently and joined the club.

OK, my fingers need to be bathed in epsom salts.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Soft Focus

In 1968, the year I began my career, "teacher directed" lessons were de rigueur. Students had textbooks in all the subject areas. When I retired in 2002, the teacher was reduced to "the facilitator" and buzz phrases such as "word walls," "print rich," "turn and talk," "stop and jot," "literature circles," "mini-lessons" and "productive noise" peppered staff conferences. A basal reader (rich in phonemic awareness) was replaced with a leveled library with books grouped by genre. Teachers were no longer allowed to teach math applications! Instead, students sat in groups to develop strategies to solve word problems. My ability to teach math, always my strong suit, was greatly diminished. No longer could I teach 14 - 2 3/5. Oh, how I longed to explain that 14 could be changed to 13 5/5 and the answer of 11 2/5 easily rendered. I wanted to teach 17 1/6 - 3 4/6. Why could I not show my students that 17 1/6 is changed to 16 7/6 and the answer to that example is 13 3/6 or 13 1/2. I was defeated. Students were confused. In my last year, one student pleaded to go back to "the old way of learning." The new learning model, based on the theories of John Nemes, in my opinion was a bust. I am a believer in an education that is today referred to as "back to basics." How many classrooms today have students sitting in rows? They sit in groups. Teachers are no longer permitted to teach at the board with chalk. The model is one of student-constructed discovery.
I still live in the same building where I lived when I began teaching. I taught in the neighborhood school for a few years, and from time to time I will bump into some former students who are now in their late 40s. Nothing is more rewarding than to hear them say they only wish their own children could have had teachers as effective and as excellent as I. What greater place is there to receive a standing ovation?
I meet with the other retired teachers of that school each year for lunch. We remember all of our former students. The point of this stream of consciousness is that..... all change is not good and sometimes 2 + 2 in every notebook all over this universe has to always equal 4.

When the menus pile up

from 12/04/07 NY Post:

This is very sad. How could anybody not know this woman was missing? Didn't the utility companies see a red flag when bills went unpaid? Didn't neightbors wonder why the house was always dark (or lit?) Finally her nephew filed a missing-person report and the police forced open her door and came upon the body. Alarms are sounding in my head. This could happen to me! I could be found years from now dressed in my housecoat and slumped at my computer keyboard. My cup of hot cocoa on the table would long have evaporated. The sushi restaurant menus that were slipped under the door would be piled in a stack 4 feet high. My pension checks would continue with direct deposit. And Gladys would say: "I knew I should have called when she did not show up for her bringer." The only thing that would remain would be my pile of hair on the floor to my left from the trichotillomania. I just slapped myself across the face. I am such a pessimist.

Little Stays of Execution

As one ages, the declutter process begins. We throw out "stuff" so that the load is lighter. It serves to streamline life. As I was going through some papers, I found a photo taken (in about 1974) on a Sunday in broad daylight on 7th Avenue. There is not one person on the street. I found an issue of "Poet" magazine that had published one of my poems in the Winter of 1992. I was called a "New American Poet." Imagine that! The poem is quite long and too tedious to retype, but here is the final stanza:

As I hear the sound of the rain begin
to assault the old, tired, faded fire escape-
I start to pack.

In 1991, I won the contest to find "the funniest teacher" at Stand-up NY comedy club. A few years earlier, at The Eagle Tavern, Jon Stewart had spent 20 seconds of his act imitating me. And that year a parent visited me during the school conference night and told me that her daughter set up her room to resemble a classroom and spent part of the night being "Miss Levine" as she taught her imaginary class. I look at my many former students in old class photos. I have a class photo from 1969 where I am wearing a Mary Quant dress and Correge boots and my hair is in a bouffant artichoke.
We tend to go through life thinking we are immortal. I studied Buddhism with Robert Thurman, and many of the lectures were spent discussing mortality. We all have a death sentence. But wait! If we get the right tests and then the recommended procedures, we can get a little stay of execution. It's about those little stays of execution along the way.

Ten Shout-Outs plus one

1. Brian Koppelman, writer of "Ocean's Thirteen"- Hi! Remember that huge fight we had last year (on April 11th) at Stand-up NY comedy club? Wow, that was a doozy, huh? I yelled, "Write an act, buddy. I am not your act." I really went ballistic. In terms of reality "performance art," we could have won an Emmy! But, we did a kiss-and-makup. It's all good.
2. Alan Berliner, documentary filmmaker of "Wide Awake"- Thanks for inviting me to join (on Nov. 14th) the class from NYU about archiving old photos. I took your advice and put "The Family" on a blog. It's up, and I am happy.
3. Robert Siegel, founder of "The Onion" and writer of "The Wrestler"- Thanks for the audition. Did I get the part? lol
4. Georginna L., former 4th grade student from my class of 1969- It was nice seeing you in Duane Reade. You brought back wonderful memories of my long career.
5. Gabriel Byrne, actor- It was great having the opportunity to talk to you on a busy NYC street about "In Treatment." You are a phenomenal actor and the series is one of the best I have ever seen.
6. Joan, retired teacher- It was great bumping into you at Le Singe Vert. So, are we going to Pittsburgh to see Falling Water?
7. Fran, my wonderful Moravian friend, descendant of Patrick Henry- Go get 'em baby! Give 'em all hell!
8. Sue, my former colleague and old best friend- Time to let bygones be bygones.
9. Valley Stream, my hometown- It was a great place to grow up.
10. Nell, you know who you are- Goodnight my "Mrs. Calabash," wherever you are.

And last: a shout-out to all the other "night people" out there... from Long John Nebel to Joey Reynolds to Les Crane. At 3 AM on channel 117, you can catch old reruns of "What's My Line." Last night, the mystery guest was Sally Rand. Need I say more?

Found my list, from 1/1/08

My Own: Out, In for 2008:
Out: Chelsea In: West of the Highline
Out: Manolos In: Taryn Rose
Out: buying In: renting in Brooklyn
Out: day jobs In: retirement
Out: cellphones In: caring about your brain cells
Out: roaches In: bedbugs
Out: anti-perspirant In: sweating out the toxins
Out: blogs in Crayolas In: black font
Out: leaps onto a stage In: stepstools
Out: producing shows In: doing shows for "Meetup" groups
Out: Vermeer In: Jack Kerouac
Out: Jackie Mason In: Isaac Bashevis Singer
Out: compliments In: giving the finger
Out: Da Silvano In: The Cheesecake Factory
Out: carpal tunnel syndrome In: plantar fascitis
Out: lockjaw In: loudmouths
Out: oxycontin In: smelling salts
Out: misogynists In: chiropodists
Out: Bill Maher In: Art Bell
Out: 40 In: 60

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Yom Hashoah

This year, the Yom Hashoah is on May 1, 2008.

In memory of Estera Grinberg, who died in Sobibor on October 14, 1943:
"Tomorrow, we will no longer be in this world. The sun will rise and set again, the flowers will bloom and fade– and we won’t be here.” “We have nothing to lose, and what is there that we will miss in the world in which we are living?”

Eda Lichtman, who survived Sobibor: "Only in Israel did I find peace for myself."

added in an edit:
In 2012, on April 18th.