Sunday, December 31, 2006

Zorro Dream Sequence

From the movie. The alcalde's speech at the finale: "Good people of Los Angeles. Owing to my ceaseless efforts to improve conditions in the district my health is endangered. I have therefore decided to give up my office and go to Spain."

From a dream: ""Good people of New York. Owing to my ceaseless efforts to improve conditions in the DOE my health is endangered. I have therefore decided to give up my office and go to live with Jack Welch."

Was Zorro Jewish?
from Zorro producer John Gertz in 1998:
Was he a swashbuckler in Spanish California by day and a reader of Zohar by night?
While much of the lore about the masked swordsman is swathed in mystery, Zorro has an indisputable local Jewish connection. Just ask John Gertz, president of Berkeley's Zorro Productions, which co-produced "The Mask of Zorro," starring Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins. "It's quite obvious Zorro is very Jewish," said Gertz, who is also the president of the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center. "His family has escaped to the far reaches of the Spanish empire in California. He is interested in matters of justice. He has a hidden identity. He is clearly a Marrano. He is definitely Jewish and ready to come out of the closet at our premiere." At Sunday's premiere of the film at Oakland's Jack London Cinema, Zorro will become an honorary member of the East Bay Jewish community. Proceeds from the benefit screening and salsa party, hosted by Zorro Productions, will benefit four East Bay Jewish community teen programs.
The black-garbed swordsman has been intriguing filmgoers for several generations. He made his debut in a silent film in 1920. In 1957, Disney revived the character in a popular TV series that spawned Zorro accessories and a song by the Chordettes. Zorro Productions, which owns all copyrights to Zorro, was launched in the late '60s. Before "The Mask of Zorro," the character most recently reappeared in movies in the 1982 spoof, "Zorro, the Gay Blade."
Gertz got involved in the business to support himself while in graduate school. He decided to leave his studies in biology to expand the company into further TV and film opportunities.
Gertz developed the concept for the new Zorro movie in the Berkeley office. "My twin sister wrote the first script. We then came up with a list of the 19 most important Hollywood executives. We set up an auction for the script and 18 scripts were picked up," Gertz said.
It turns out the one person who did not pick up the script then was Steven Spielberg. But once he found out about the movie, he was very interested and ended up choosing to fund the movie.
"When he grew up, he loved Zorro," Gertz remarked. "He said as a 12-year-old kid, `Zorro' played around the corner. Those old Zorro movies taught him how to film cliffhangers, and some of the Indiana Jones stunts are from those Zorro movies."
The production of the movie began in 1991 and originally had cast the late Raoul Julia and Andy Garcia in the lead roles. Gertz's team continued to work on the "high-end creative side," making changes on plot and story structure, and coordinating merchandising around the movie.
In addition to his work as a self-described "minor movie mogul," on July 1, Gertz took over as president of the BRJCC. He looks forward to broadening the financial contributions to the agency and expanding adult education and programming, including work with teens.
Sandy Curtis, creative director at Zorro Productions and Gertz's wife, orchestrated the benefit to raise funds for teen programs at BRJCC as well as the Volunteer Action Center of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, Jewish Family and Children's Services of the East Bay and Looking Behind the Mask, a youth drama project.
The post-film party will include salsa dancing, fencing demonstrations, tapas and sangria. Zorro Productions will be selling Zorro T-shirts signed by Banderas and Hopkins to benefit the four organizations.
Curtis' recent book, "Zorro Unmasked: The Official History" published by Hyperion, which describes the life of the Zorro character up to the present, will also be on sale.
"We want to create a fiesta feeling to celebrate," Curtis said. "If people want to come in period fiesta costume attire, that is great."

Sopranos Tour

I-95 was featuring billboards of the Soprano syndication upcoming on January 10th on A&E. Here's a Soprano sight tour from images from a Soprano location sight combined with the theme song. Not as edifying as the Gershwin sighting, but a few interesting surprises with some wannabee Sopranos.


I picked up the audio version of Allende's Zorro for the drive back from Providence. Great stuff. I was looking around for info on the book and found that Newport, R.I. is making it the city wide read in 2007.
"Zorro!" by Isabel Allende has been chosen by the Newport Library Foundation as the book for the 2007 NEWPORT READS! campaign.

This new novel, which tells the story of Zorro from his birth through young adulthood, is full of adventure, history, and folklore. Several events are planned for the community to learn about and discuss the novel:

€ March 1 - kick-off party at the Newport Performing Arts Center, with short readings from the novel.

€ March 19 - panel discussion for book clubs and anyone else who has read the novel, location to be announced.

€ March 21 - Showing of the Douglas Fairbanks movie "Zorro" with organ at Atonement Lutheran Church.

More information about these events will be published in the upcoming months. Mark your calendar now and watch for more details. Last year's NEWPORT READS! was a huge success, and this year promises to be just as exciting.

The concept of an entire community reading the same book has grown in popularity across America over the past few years. The idea is to promote reading and at the same time provide activities for the community to come together and share thoughts and ideas through discussions and book clubs.

The Newport Public Library is amassing a collection of Zorro related materials, which will be available to the public soon.

"Zorro!" would make a great gift for friends and family. NEWPORT READS! encourages everyone to read Zorro!, and to participate in as many activities as possible.

Why can't the DOE sponsor a NYC reads. I would nominate A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.
Who am I kidding

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Education Hero

I would hate to end the year on a sour note. Here's a lady that fights the good fight, Susan Ohanian. Here's a link to her site.
Here's a link to one of her books on Amazon.
Here's an article by Diane Ravitch (not exactly your Emma Goldman type, but she'll do) from a recent AFT issue that I found on Susan's site:
Why Teacher Unions Are Good for Teachers and the Public, They Protect Teachers' Rights, Support Teacher Professionalism, and Check Administrative Power
By Diane Ravitch
We live in an era when leaders in business and the media demand that schools function like businesses in a free market economy, competing for students and staff. Many such voices say that such corporate-style school reform is stymied by the teacher unions, which stand in the way of leaders who want unchecked power to assign, reward, punish, or remove their employees. Some academics blame the unions when student achievement remains stagnant. If scores are low, the critics say it must be because of the teachers’ contract, not because the district has a weak curriculum or lacks resources or has mediocre leadership. If some teachers are incompetent, it must be because of the contract, not because the district has a flawed, bureaucratic hiring process or has failed to evaluate new teachers before awarding them tenure. These critics want to scrap the contract, throw away teachers’ legal protections, and bring teacher unions to their collective knees.
It is worth recalling why teachers joined unions and why unions remain important today. Take tenure, for example. The teacher unions didn’t invent tenure, despite widespread beliefs to the contrary. Tenure evolved in the 19th century as one of the few perks available to people who were paid low wages, had classes of 70 or 80 or more, and endured terrible working conditions. In late 19th century New York City, for example, there were no teacher unions, but there was already ironclad, de facto teacher tenure. Local school boards controlled the hiring of teachers, and the only way to get a job was to know someone on the local school board, preferably a relative. Once a teacher was hired, she had lifetime tenure in that school, but only in that school. In fact, she could teach in the same school until she retired—without a pension or health benefits—or died.
One problem with this kind of tenure was that it was not portable. If a teacher changed schools, even in the same district, she would lose her tenure in the school where she was first hired, and she would have to go to the end of the line at her new school.
Pay for teaching was meager, but it was one of the few professional jobs open to women, and most teachers were women. Pay scales were blatantly discriminatory. Teachers in the high schools were paid more than those in the elementary schools. Male teachers (regardless of where they taught, though almost all were in high schools) were paid more than female teachers, on the assumption that they had a family to support and women did not.
I would like to remember some of the forgotten heroes of the movement to establish fair and equitable treatment of teachers in New York City.
First, there was Mary Murphy. She started teaching in the Brooklyn schools in 1891. Ten years later, in 1901, she got married. That was a mistake. When she got married, the Board of Education charged her with gross misconduct and fired her. Teachers were not allowed to marry. She sued the Board. She lost in the lower court, but then won in the state court of appeals, which ruled that marriage “was not misconduct” and ordered the Board of Education to reinstate her.
Second, there was the Interborough Association of Women Teachers. They started a campaign in 1906 to wipe out the salary differentials between male and female teachers. Their slogan was “equal pay for equal work.” When the state legislature passed the Association’s bill for equal pay, it was vetoed by the governor. These stalwart female teachers finally won pay equity in 1912.
Then there was Bridget Pexitto, a veteran teacher of 18 years in the Bronx. She took advantage of the new right to get married without losing her job. But then she got pregnant. That was a mistake. The Board of Education fired her on charges of “gross negligence by being absent to have a baby.” Not only that, the Board ordered the superintendent of schools to discover whether there were any other pregnant teachers in the city’s schools. He somehow did a visual inspection of the city’s teachers and found 14 of them, and they were promptly suspended from teaching. Bridget Pexitto fought the decision in state court and was eventually reinstated with back pay by the state commissioner of education.
The forerunner to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) was the New York City Teachers’ Union, which was founded in 1916. It was known as Local 2 of the American Federation of Teachers. Its purposes were to fight for improved salaries, to fight against “oppressive supervision,” and to defend the rights of teachers like Mary Murphy and Bridget Pexitto.
Today, the UFT and other teacher unions around the country continue to play important roles in protecting the rights of teachers, especially in the current climate of school reform. There’s a common view among corporate-style reformers today that the way to fix low-performing schools is to install an autocratic principal who rules with an iron fist. Many new principals have been trained in quickie programs of a year or less, which try to teach them to think like corporate leaders. Many of the graduates of these new principal programs have little classroom experience, and some have none at all. Many of them lack the judgment and knowledge to make wise decisions about curriculum and instruction or to evaluate seasoned teachers.
When experienced teachers must work under the control of an inexperienced principal, they need the protection of their union against arbitrary and unwise decisions.
Furthermore, to the extent that New York City, where I live, is the wave of the future, then teachers will need their unions more than ever. In New York City, under mayoral control, the mayor—a businessman—and his chancellor—a lawyer—selected a new curriculum in reading and math. They also insisted that all teachers across this system of 
1.1 million children adopt exactly the same pedagogical style (the “workshop model”), and they micromanaged teachers’ compliance with tight, sometimes daily supervision.
Teachers found that they were in trouble if they did not teach exactly as the mayor and chancellor dictated, if they did not follow the scripted cookie-cutter format of mini-lessons, if their bulletin boards did not meet detailed specifications, or if their classroom furniture was not precisely as prescribed by regulation. In these past few years, I have often been confronted by teachers who asked what they could do when their supervisors and coaches insisted that they teach in ways they (the teachers) believed were wrong. I could only answer that they should be glad they belonged to a union with the power to protect them from “oppressive supervision,” to use the term that was familiar to the founders of Local 2 of the AFT.
As it happened, in the contract negotiations of 2005, the UFT successfully added language to the contract that specifically protected teachers from being punished because of: “a) the format of bulletin boards; b) the arrangement of classroom furniture; and c) the exact duration of lesson units.”
The union is thus necessary as a protection for teachers against the arbitrary exercise of power by heavy-handed administrators. In our school systems, as in our city, state, and federal governments, we need checks and balances. Just as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government all act as checks on each other, we need checks and balances in our school systems. It is unwise to centralize all power in one person: the mayor. We need independent lay school boards to hire the superintendent and to hold open public discussions of administrative decisions, and we need independent teacher unions to assure that teachers’ rights are protected, to sound the alarm against unwise policies, and to advocate on behalf of sound education policies, especially when administrators are non-educators.
In the current climate, when it is in vogue to select non-educators to administer school systems, it is vital that teachers have a voice. School reform cannot possibly succeed when teachers—who are on the frontlines of implementation—are left out of the decision-making process. If there is no “buy-in,” if teachers do not willingly concur with the orders handed down from on high, then reform cannot succeed. If administrators operate by stealth and confrontation, then their plans for reform will founder. They cannot improve what happens in the classroom by humiliating and bossing around the teachers who are in daily contact with the children. Only in an atmosphere of mutual respect can administrators and teachers produce the kind of partnership that will benefit students. And administrators cannot achieve this collaborative atmosphere unless they are willing to talk with and listen to the leaders chosen by teachers to represent them.
The essentials of good education are the same everywhere: a rigorous curriculum, effective instruction, adequate resources, willing students, and a social and cultural climate in which education is encouraged and respected. Teacher unions today, as in the past, must work to make these essentials available in every district for every school and every student. They cannot do it alone. They must work with administrators and elected officials to advance these goals. The unions will continue to be important, vital, and needed so long as they speak on behalf of the rights and dignity of teachers and the essentials of good education.  

From My Mouth To God's Ears (Figuratively)

Brian Lehrer's show on Tuesday on WNYC had Susan Sclafani, Marc Tucker and Randi Weingarten. The theme: "A group of education and business leaders wants to reinvent American education…again! We’ll look at what the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce has concluded, and hear the reaction of United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten." Randi got her butt kicked by the two privatizers. A couple of callers rallied to the good fight. In keeping with a previous post on the wave, Sclafani and Tucker deserve to be figuratively Tsunamied. The future for teachers look grim.
A link to the Brian Lehrer show episode

Friday, December 29, 2006

Joel 3:10 "Beat Your Plowshares Into Swords"

From the humble but powerful Rockaway Wave of 12/28. Watch out bald fellow, the truth shall be heard. How ironic the biblical quote above comes from Joel. Norm Scott goes into my local heroes' hall of fame
Counter Attack!
by Norman Scott
Last time I wrote (“The Empire Strikes Back”) about the very favorable NY Times article on Region 5 Superintendent Kathleen Cashin that pointed to the very high results in Region 5 compared to the rest of the city while Cashin did things counter to the Tweedles. Our take was that the article was a sign that the old BOE people are lining up behind Cashin for a possible coup d’etat when BloomKlein are out of office. You knew the gang at Tweed could not have been happy. Hidden behind the faint words of praise given her by Kleinites in the article were clearly words of damnation and unhappiness. Eschewing Leadership Academy principals, empowerment zone schools, Teacher College “progressive’ curriculum, having good relations with the UFT hierarchy (giving them space for 2 charter schools) and other transgressions of Tweed orthodoxy, Cashin emerged as a sort of counter hero, though many teachers in Region 5 read the article with a “humph,” thinking about Cashin’s top-down management and even questioning whether the “growth” in Region 5 scores was legitimate.
Would the Evildoers at Tweed strike back? Emails came in asking if it was true that Cashin and almost all the R5 Lis’s would be out by Feb. 1, the only question being whether Cashin was going to be moved up or be let out to pasture. Or none of the above. You know the old saying. There is the right way. There is the wrong way. And there is the DOE way.
Cashin would seem to be protected. Part of former Chancellor (1978-1983) Frank Macchiarola’s political sphere of influence, the former principal of PS 193 in Brooklyn’s District 22 had strong backing from Macchiarola when she became Superintendent of Brownsville’s District 23. Despite being out of office for over 2 decades, Macchiarola still has some influence and may have played a role in Cashin’s appointment as Region 5 Superintendent when BloomKlein executed its bloody coop.
BloomKlein had a major goal of dismantling the local political/educational machines in the former districts while undermining UFT influence, which had been so tied into those machines. And they seemed to do just that — with a vengeance. But politicians who had been so involved and had benefited to such an extent, mostly from patronage from the old system, didn’t easily disappear and many of the machines are still intact just lurking until BloomKlein disappear into the vapor from which they appeared. They are joined by the UFT leadership, which plots right along with them.
Even with the onslaught, many from the old guard with political influence managed to land on their feet in the BloomKlein administration after they came out of shock, though thee was some district reshuffling in their version of musical chairs where those with the least influence were left standing after each round.
After I posted the column on my blog ( a retired teacher began a correspondence. “You wrote an excellent article referring to the Times article. I don't understand why there aren't more folks talking about what crap the teacher's college reading and writing workshop approach is and how much it is costing.” He goes on: “More on the Cashin fall out: Whitney Tilson, a big macha with Teach For America shills for Klein on his blog at”
It is interesting to read the criticisms of Cashin from a Klein shill, who gives any credit for Region 5 improvements to Klein, not to Cashin. Note my cryptic comments in brackets.
"I've done some due diligence [HACK JOB] on Kathleen Cashin and she has indeed made improvements -- but the real story is much more nuanced than this article makes it out to be. The performance of her district, while better than before, hardly calls for hosannas. It outperformed other districts, but not dramatically in most cases, and the high school graduation rate is below most others (which the NYT story didn't mention). This district is not doing well by any objective standard — it's just gone from being truly awful to merely lousy.
“I don't buy the argument put forth in the article that her district's improvements are entirely due to her — and especially due to her bucking of the new system. Klein has implemented big changes over many years that are beginning to move the needle in the right direction across the city — if I recall correctly [NOT], in both NY state and national data, NYC showed more improvement [PHONY GRAD RATES, ETC.] than all other large cities in the state and nearly all nationwide — so why wouldn't Cashin's district be benefiting as well?
“More importantly, it's critical to understand how Cashin has achieved the gains we've seen in her district. Generally speaking, there are two approaches to reforming big, broken systems, whether we're talking about General Motors, the old Soviet Union or the NYC public school system: you can either keep the existing system in place, but wring incremental improvements out of it by exercising extreme command-and-control, or do the opposite and try to reform the broken system by changing incentives, setting up accountability systems and pushing power and control down to the local level. [PUT DOWN THE COOL-AID, WHITNEY. THE OLD SOVIET SYSTEM HAD MORE LOCAL CONTROL.]
“Cashin is a classic example of the former, whereas Klein has adopted the latter. [MORE COOL-AID] Turning to Cashin, according to a friend who's in the know, she is ‘a total control freak’ and runs her district with an iron fist. If a principal tries to buck her in any way, she fires and blackballs him/her. Cashin's educational pedagogy has merit, however, so imposing it on a district that had no sound educational approach at all yielded some incremental improvements, as noted in the NYT article.
“There are severe limits to Cashin's approach. Fundamentally, the system and the biggest problems within it — lack of human talent [SURE, THERE WERE NO GOOD TEACHERS BEFORE KLIEN] and motivation [THREATS, INTIMIDATION] — haven't changed at all. So, my prediction is that Cashin's district will not show much if any incremental improvement and will remain merely lousy — unless Klein's reforms kick in. [WORDS OF DOOM FOR CASHIN?]
“Klein's approach is, at its core, the exact opposite -- and is, obviously, the one I think has the most long-term promise. But it also has real risks -- trying to reform a deeply entrenched broken system in the face of massive resistance (not to mention mostly hostile media coverage [HOSTILE? HE MUST ONLY BE READING THE WAVE]) is really hard and messy [THEY’LL FIND OUT THE REAL MESS KLEIN LEFT ONE DAY], as noted above. If too much autonomy is pushed down the school level before the accountability and motivational systems and human talent [REPLACE TEACHERS EVERY 3 YEARS] are in place, the results would be disastrous. That's why I like Klein's incremental approach with Empowerment Schools… [BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!]
Tilson goes on to tell stories coming out of Teach for America teachers about how horrible the system is with kids roaming the halls all over the place. The Tilson Klein vs. Cashin debate is a straw man, there being no choice, both being top-down centrally managed, though from a different location.
My retired teacher friend defended Cashin on Tilson’s blog: “Maybe part of the reason is a curriculum that is mostly smoke, mirrors and jargon that makes absolutely no connection to kids, especially middle schoolers. If Cashin is "a total control freak" and runs her district with an “iron fist," what do you think Neutron Jack Welch taught all the newbie principals at the Leadership Academy? There is plenty of talent in the NYC school system and it is not restricted to charter schools — (who by the way play with a rigged deck because they can skim quality students).
“To say that Cashin's way is inferior to Klein's just doesn't wash. Klein has NO WAY. There is no thought with going from the regional plan to empowerment. The only thought is that the old way is not working. (For this I give him credit). The sad part is that great damage is being done with a literacy program that makes very little connection to the majority of kids in the system. It is heavy on structure with no content. Without engaging content you lose the interest of the kids-especially the middle schoolers who are failing at ever increasing rates. These are the kids who are roaming the halls of your Teach For America folks' halls. I get the impression from the Times' article that Cashin relies on content and methodology that has proven effective, especially in her districts
For a guy who is a financial whiz has it ever occurred to you how much the city is getting ripped off by Columbia Teacher's College and how much teaching time is being lost to send people there for training?”
Get those daisy petals out. Cashin-Klein-Cashin-Klein-Cashin-Klein. Having had some “issues” with Cashin in the past, here I find myself in the position of almost defending her system of education, which I worked under in District 14 and grew to despise, an indication of how BloomKlein have alienated just about anyone who was ever been truly involved with teaching. I’ve always been for maximum teacher power and input in making educational decisions.
I’m trying not to gag over the fact that Cashin vs. Klein might be our choices of how schools should be run. That my union, the UFT, plays in this “no power for teachers” game sends me searching for a giant bottle of Pepto

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Seen Exclusively Here!

The house that George Gershwin lived in, 1310 8th Avenue, Brooklyn, 1900. Below a portion of the census listing:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We Didn't Start The Fire 2

Making slide shows like these (this isn't mine) should be part of a school system competition (middle school and up). Start the kids out with a content and historically rich song and let them try to match images to it. Then give them the assignment to find out why those images were contextually relevant. It's easier and less memory killing than making imovies with video and it involves a great deal of mathematical skills. Such a project works well as a collaboration since multiple intelligence skills are involved. But then again, who am I kidding?

"We Didn't Start The Fire" by Billy Joel 
Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray 
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio  
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television 
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe 
Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom 
Brando, "The King and I", and "The Catcher in the Rye" 
Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen  
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it
Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev 
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, dacron 
Dien Bien Phu and "Rock Around the Clock"  
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team 
Davy Crockett, "Peter Pan", Elvis Presley, Disneyland 
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev 
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez  
Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac 
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, "Bridge on the River Kwai" 
Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball 
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide 
Buddy Holly, "Ben-Hur", space monkey, Mafia 
hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no go
U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy 
Chubby Checker, "Psycho", Belgians in the Congo  
Hemingway, Eichmann, "Stranger in a Strange Land"  
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs Invasion  
"Lawrence of Arabia", British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson 
Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex  
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon, back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock  
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline 
Ayatollolah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan 
 "Wheel of Fortune" , Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz  
Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law 
Rock and Roller Cola Wars, I can't take it anymore
We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on...

We Didn't Start The Fire

More from the out of print "As You Pass By." I combined elements of a few pages to create the graphic that displays the LES area served by the "Live Oak" fire company (#44). This company was made up of ship calkers, painters, carpenters and mechanics. They were housed in a house on Columbia Street, near Houston, right on the spot of the current PS 188. The shoreline was nearby (again before landfill) and there was a small island, named Manhattan Island, right off the coast. Here's a pdf with the pages that refer to this company and the surrounding ship building area.

Stuyvesant's Ghost

This map comes from a recent radio project about Stuyvesant's Ghost:"Brooklyn's own experimental radio art station Free103.9 presents Peter Stuyvesant's Ghost, a multi-event project that is inspired by the cultural and physical changes in the landscape that is now New York City. Events bring together artists and researchers from NYC and the Netherlands to explore the link between art, performance, and environmental history around the footprint of Peter Stuyvesant's 17th-Century farm, which once occupied a significant part of the East Village and surrounding neighborhoods. Projects include the PSG Telephone Tour in which the audience utilizes cell and pay phones to access pieces of original sound art, and the Pre-Urban World Walking Tour and Talk which focuses on the environment of the pre-urban East Village and the changes that took place since. Free103point9 will broadcast daily transmissions on their website. Every day from 4PM to 5PM during the festival, the web site will feature sound art, discussion, environmental recordings and other relevant sound bytes. Wednesday, November 15 through Sunday, November 19 $10 per event Multiple locations around Manhattan, see the website for schedule and locations. City in a Soundwalk. Here's a pdf file of a chapter from a book, "NYC Ghost Stories," that is about Stuyvesant's Ghost 4MB, be patient the pdf's come in slower than the mov's.

George Gershwin And PS 20

In Williamsburgh for dinner tonight and I scored a reviewer's copy ($3!) of this new Gershwin biography at a local bookstore. It provided just about all of the family's and George's addresses. Also some information about George's time at PS 20. With the addresses and information about the different spellings of the name I was able to locate the census records. More to come on that along with photos of some of still standing buildings that Gershwin lived in. Here's a pdf of a few pages on George's early life. Also, from July of 2005 a repost of some slide shows with pictures from the display cases that used to be in the lobby of PS 20. These cases were a treasure of school and LES history. They were removed last year when the veteran principal of 26 years, Dr. Golubchick, retired. Supposedly they were deemed unsafe by the new administration. What a loss!
Here are those slide shows:this one that contained old news clippings and another that had historical photos.

Here's a review of this new bio by Howard Pollack
"Gershwin buffs, run, don't walk to get this book. Pollack has written the definitive study of both "The Life" and "The Work," as per his two fat sections. Pollack's book is, for one, the first Gershwin bio that takes advantage of the discovery of mountains of original orchestra parts for Golden Age musical theatre scores in a Secaucus warehouse in the early eighties. As such, Pollack analyzes Gershwin's theatre scores closely just as classical music scholars can attend to Mozart or Haydn's works.
In addition, some Gershwin bios have been written by people focused on pulling him down, devoted to revealing him as an undereducated, boorish parvenu (i.e. the ones by Charles Schwartz and Joan Peyser). Pollack's sleuthing and interviews conclusively demonstrate that these evaluations were incorrect: Gershwin pursued serious musical training throughout his life, it shows in his work, and socially, he was a beloved, charming person who was deeply mourned at his death."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Stuyvesant's Farm

The out of print book "As You Pass By" by Kenneth Dunshee has a lot of wonderful graphic views of early NYC history, mostly seen through the "lens" of the city's volunteeer fire department. With the recent discussion of the ship-building area of the LES I thought the above map (from the book) would be useful. I highlighted some of the areas too show that the land in question was mostly part of Peter Stuyvesant's farm and that it was land that was very marshy. Actually the dock areas were created by landfill obtained by leveling off the interior hills of lower Manhattan.

Heave Aweigh 6

The archeaology slide show (made from the display at the 9th Precinct on Avenue C) mentions several families who lived at 365 E. 9th Street. They are the Roths, Eagins, Mckeons, and Sonneks. I looked them up in the federal census' of 1860-1900. The above comes from a section of the 1880 census for that portion of 9th Street. A great project that could involve primary document research, math and technology would be to take the reports from the neighboring blocks and survey the ages, country origins and jobs of those residents. Excel and Graphing could be employed. Who am I kidding? Not in this tech unfriendly climate.

PS 15 History

In my "archives" I have a digitized copy of a special edition of the 1896 NYTribune which focused on New York Schools. The image above is part of a story on PS15. This links to a pdf file with the remainder of that article (seems like principal Beers was quite a guy) and some additional information on local school history from a 1963 local news article by George Freedman. At one time I thought YIP Harburg went to PS15, but I later found he went to the old PS64 on 9th Street instead. However, according to Freedman, PS15 alumni include Rabbi Stephen Wise, merchant Joseph Bloomingdale and Panama Canal architect, George Goethals! Here's the slide show on local school history including some archival images of PS 15 I think I should pass this on to the Principal of PS 15

Heave Aweigh 5

LES shipyards at work. This is from an 1833 painting by James Fulton Pringle showing construction taking place at the Smith and Dimon's Yard (spelled Dymen's on the Dripps Map). This is within two blocks of PS 15, on E. 5th Street.Here's a link to a complete image of the painting

Monday, December 25, 2006

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights 2

Here is an example of the animated light show mentioned in the Times' article on the last post. And to think, we can do this, but there's no cure for cancer.

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

We were over at Dyker Heights to see the incredible display of lights last night. Disneyland has nothing over on these folks. There are several youtube versions of this, but I doubt anyone has used Steve and Eydie. About half of the pics were taken by Stephanie and Emma, the rest borrowed from a really good Brooklyn site,
from the NYTimes 12/7/06
Lights, Music, Action: Try to Keep Up, Please
AT dusk on Nov. 25, the lights started to dance to the music at the twin row houses of Robert DeLauro and Frank Cianflone in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. They blinked and shimmered, their colors fading in and out, as the homes -- linked with a Christmas tree made of lights hovering over a common driveway -- were outlined first in red lights, then green. Candy canes and a ''Happy Holidays'' banner of lights blinked in time to Frank Sinatra crooning ''Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,'' and a nativity scene on the Cianflones' lawn glowed and then dimmed, alternating with spotlights on Santa's sleigh and a snowman at the DeLauros'. Passersby could also hear Jiminy Cricket singing ''Very Merry Christmas'' from an outdoor speaker, or double-park and listen by tuning in with their car radios, drive-in-theater style, to 88.7 FM.
Mr. DeLauro, who decorates both his home and that of the Cianflones, his in-laws, next door, is one of a growing number of Christmas enthusiasts who are using computerized displays of synchronized lighting and sound to produce a kind of musical extravaganza, pushing the ever-mounting stakes in the competitive sport of decking the halls.
Until 1999, there were fewer than 100 such lighting animation hobbyists, according to Chuck Smith, the founder of, a Web site where Christmas display buffs have gathered for the past 10 years. But in 2000, with the advent of early-generation software and hardware that allowed people to create elaborately choreographed Christmas decorations, ''the genie was let out of the bottle,'' he said. (Mr. Smith, an electrical engineer from Franklin, Tenn., who calls himself a ''super-nerd,'' claims to have created the first computerized Christmas display, in 1984.)
Computerized displays enjoyed a huge increase in visibility last year, when an Ohio man's painstakingly choreographed light show became an Internet sensation, and was picked up for a Miller Lite commercial. In just the last year, Mr. Smith said, the Planet Christmas community has more than doubled, from 1,700 members to 4,000.
Until three years ago, Mr. DeLauro's lights merely twinkled in a static display of Christmas cheer. At the urging of his two teenage daughters, he searched the Internet for technology that would allow him to pipe in music to accompany the display. He found Light-O-Rama software and a microprocessor-based Light-O-Rama controller box with 16 programmable channels, which he wired to a computer in his basement. Then he connected his 10,000 lights to the controller using 32 extension cords.
''I spend all summer planning it out on my computer,'' said Mr. DeLauro, 46, a funeral supply business manager who holds a Christmas-in-August barbecue every year to test his lights. He listens to Christmas songs all year long, programming the lights to flicker to the beats. He found an empty frequency that lets him broadcast the show over the radio for about 25 feet on each side of his house using a small FM transmitter.
Mr. DeLauro posted his home on Planet Christmas, where the chat boards buzz 365 days a year about the latest decorating trends, from larger-than-life inflatables to light-emitting diodes, or L.E.D.s, that don't have filaments that burn out and that consume very little electricity. There is much discussion, too, of the fact that attention-grabbing computerized displays -- usually thought of as power-hogging -- actually save energy. ''Your consumption goes down by 90 percent or more, mainly because the lights aren't all on at the same time,'' said Mr. Smith, who has closely monitored his holiday electricity use for 20 years.
Even so, the number of lights on at any one time can be staggering. Marty Slack, 43, a firefighter and musician in Murray, Utah, near Salt Lake City, decorates his 1,800-square-foot town house and adjoining 1 1/4-acre property with some 100,000 lights in more than 400 separately controlled groups. ''Bruno'' and ''Winston,'' two talking heads constructed out of lights, emcee his show, telling jokes in the recorded voices of two of Mr. Slack's friends and singing along with seven animated six-foot-tall musicians playing French horns, drums and a saxophone, all mounted on the front of the house.
Mr. Slack's 15-minute show, which won an international lights competition run by Planet Christmas last year, has been ramped up this year to include 28 wire-frame reindeer, whose lights can be manipulated to create the impression of one or more animals running across a one-acre pasture, jumping a fence and running off into the bushes. There are also more than 50 miniature trees that appear to be chasing each other, all set against a large lighted cityscape backdrop. Videos of Santa waving are screened in an upstairs window.
Mr. Slack takes a two-month vacation before the holidays -- nearly all his yearly vacation time -- to get his light show running. Every minute of music takes more than 20 hours to synchronize, he said, and building the over-the-top display costs him about $5,000 in new equipment each year. But ''people have usually been out fighting the crowds and feeling the pressure to buy gifts and attend Christmas events,'' he said, and ''as they approach my show they seem to forget about all the pressures. Smiles and laughter seem to take the place of worries.'' They may, however, have to sit in 45-minute traffic jams that inevitably back up through the neighborhood to see the show.
Dan Baldwin, a software executive who started his career as a computer programmer and electrical engineer, saw opportunity in all the attention that his own computerized light display attracted. In 1999, he designed and built the first one at his home in Garfield, N.J., with trees on the roof, candy-cane shutters and a nativity scene. Visitors raved, and what started as a hobby soon became a full-time business, when Mr. Baldwin started Light-O-Rama in 2002.
Since then, he said, his business has grown 300 percent a year. ''Many thousands'' of residential do-it-yourselfers get started for $200, he said, and work up to systems costing $10,000 or more, often installed by professional Christmas decorators.
''It used to be that if there was any animation, it would be a Santa waving or a deer's leg moving, where it looked like he was running, but all those things were uncoordinated,'' said Mr. Baldwin, 52. Even store-bought decorations have become more animated, he said, but with a computerized system, people can coordinate the animation and produce a show.
Which is what the Nintendo generation, in particular, craves, said Paul Smith, president of Animated Lighting, a four-year-old Missouri company that manufactures animation software and plug-and-play starter kits, serving some 3,000 homeowners as well as commercial users and municipalities.
''People want a show,'' he said. ''We sell 'wow.' ''
Ken Good, 45, a lawyer in Tyler, Tex., switched from a static to a computerized display last year. He said he uses 300 extension cords to run more than 30,000 synchronized lights in his Christmas display, which includes a 12-foot inflatable snowman on the roof and a multimedia show with a voiceover. As the lights dim, a machine fills his yard with fog and a moving spotlight appears. A drum roll sounds, and red lights flash in one tree, then another, then a third, in an accelerating but seemingly random sequence, to the strains of ''Reflections of Earth,'' a k a the fireworks theme from Epcot. At the crescendo, white strobes shine on a different tree, creating a sparkling effect, and the original trees resume their dance in blue, green and red. Finally the entire yard is illuminated in green.
''It's dramatic,'' he said.
The music portion of Mr. Good's 25- to 30-minute show, which repeats for several hours each night, can be heard on car radios in his cul-de-sac. It includes ''Believe'' from ''The Polar Express'' and ''Silent Night'' and ends with ''Amazing Grace.''
Predictably, computerized light shows are becoming part of the annual display competitions sent up in the recent movie ''Deck the Halls,'' but they also lend themselves to cooperation among neighbors.
Year after year, Rob LaRe of Pickerington, Ohio, tried to outdo his neighbor Rick Griffith with his Christmas lights. Then, three years ago, Mr. LaRe decided that instead of adding more lights, he would make them dance.
''He fired his up and I fired mine up, and he said, 'I've got more,' '' recalled Mr. LaRe, 38, whose home is triple-strung with 40,000 lights. ''I said, 'Yes, but watch this.' ''
Mr. Griffith was duly impressed. Instead of competing, the neighbors ended up synchronizing their homes to the same blinking beats using wireless technology. Soon other neighbors were hankering to get in on the act. This year, Mr. LaRe, a graphic and Web designer, connected 13 houses in the neighborhood, hardwiring connections between the houses along each side of the street and using wireless technology to link the houses facing each other. (The display includes one Jewish couple's house with an inflatable menorah and blue-and-white lights.) An FM transmitter broadcasts ''Picktown Lights,'' a loop of 13 Christmas songs, on a frequency advertised by signs on the lawns, with lights on all the houses blinking and pulsing in accompaniment.
As passersby cruise down the street oohing and aahing, Mr. LaRe, dressed in a Santa costume, and his neighbors, dressed as elves, hand out candy canes and collect items for a local food pantry.
When people ask how the lights were synchronized, Mr. LaRe sticks to a simple explanation. ''It's Christmas magic,'' he says.

1879 Map And LES Shipyards

Another map, from 1879. This one gives a more graphical, but less exact view of the same area

1866 Dripps Map And LES Shipyards

The archaeology post from yesterday sent me to my archives to see what the area looked like in 1866 on the incredibly detailed Dripps Map (found on Library of Congress site). This portion, which will enlarge when you click on the image above, clearly shows the following businesses: William H. Bowne Shipbuilders, Morgan Iron Works, Westerveldt and Mackey Shipbuilders, William Webb Shipbuilders, Smith and Dymen's Shipbuilders, H. Taff's Shipbuilders. In the lower left hand corner of the map you can see where PS15 was (and still is) on E. 4-5th between Avenues C and D.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Heave Aweigh, Santy Ano 4

Here's my first karaoke slide show from over 4 years ago-now youtubed
I dropped the youtube version. It just doesn't synch the words and music properly. Here's the slideshow version

Heave Aweigh, Santy Ano 3

All this ship talk reminded me of this slide show that I did 4 years ago as part of CSD1's Teaching American History Grant.
The youtubed version won't make the text very visible, but I'm too tired to link it as a slide show-apologies to the 12 people and the spy who reads this. At least you'll hear the Weavers' version

Heave Aweigh, Santy Ano 2

This was my favorite song from my lone camping experience at University Settlement Camp in Beacon, NY (1960?)
From Boston Town we're bound away,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
Around Cape Horn to Frisco Bay,
We're bound for Californi-o.
So Heave her up and away we'll go,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
Heave her up and away we'll go,
We're bound for Californi-o.

She's a fast clipper ship and a bully crew,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
A down-east Yankee for her captain, too.
We're bound for Californi-o.
So Heave her up and away we'll go,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
Heave her up and away we'll go,
We're bound for Californi-o.

Back in the days of Forty-nine,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
Those were the days of the good old times,
Way out in Californi-o.
So Heave her up and away we'll go,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
Heave her up and away we'll go,
We're bound for Californi-o.

When I leave ship I'll settle down
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano
I'll marry a girl named Sally Brown
Way out in Californi-o
So Heave her up and away we'll go,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
Heave her up and away we'll go,
We're bound for Californi-o.

There's plenty of gold, so I've been told,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
Plenty of gold so I've been told
Way out in Californi-o
So Heave her up and away we'll go,
Heave aweigh (Heave aweigh!) Santy Ano.
Heave her up and away we'll go,
We're bound for Californi-o.

Here's the slide show I put together with images of some of the boats built at lower east side shipyards

Heave Aweigh, Santy Ano

The image above comes from the incredible site. After viewing the archaeological display from the 9th Precinct I did some follow up research on the Etna Foundry which was located on the LES. Here's part of what I found:
Jacob A. Westervelt: The block bounded by Third, Goerck and Houston Streets and the East River held Jacob A. Westervelt's shipyard. He constructed more vessels of medium tonnage than any builder of his time. He was born in Bergen County, New Jersey, in 1800, and went to sea as a lad of 14, and he made several voyages before settling down to learn shipbuilding. He was apprenticed to Christian Bergh, remaining four years. Without graduating, he undertook the construction of two schooners at Charleston, S. C., with his employer's consent, using negro slaves owned by planters in and about Charleston.
Returning to New York with the completion of the schooners, Westervelt became a partner with Mr. Bergh, continuing the association until Bergh retired in 1835, after having built in 15 years 71 vessels from 450 to 600 tons. Westervelt designed and built in connection with Edward Mills, the steamships Washington and Herman, pioneer American ocean liners. Franklin and Havre were the first steam vessels for the Havre Line, followed by Arago and Rhode Island for the Government. Eagle and Morro Castle were built for Spofford Tileston & Company, and Westervelt had great pride in having built the clippers N. B. Palmer and Sweepstakes. For American and foreign governments Westervelt built many vessels, amongst these the frigate Hope, 2,000 tons, in 1825, for the Greek Government; Guadalquiver for Spain; Eusiyama for Japan, and Ottawa, Atsego, Kankakee and the sloop-of-war Brooklyn for the United States Navy. Admiral Farragut declared Brooklyn to be the most efficient man-of-war in the American Navy and it had a splendid record in the Civil War. Jacob A. Westervelt received high political honors and was Mayor of New York in 1852. With his son, Daniel D. Westervelt, he built 50 steamships, 93 ships, 5 barks, 14 schooners, one sloop, two lightships, 11 pilot boats, a total of 181 vessels of 150,624 tons.

A Match Made In Heaven

This comes from a top NYCDOE whistle blowing blog,, (the picture is my handiwork) I'm adding the site to my link favorites. Coincidentally, I've met the blog's writer and our paths have crossed on numerous occasions.
"In an attempt to forge an alliance that would result in a fast track towards a new teachers’ contract, UFT President Randi Weingarten and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced their engagement. Shocked members of the press bombarded the happy couple with questions. “I know he’s short,” said Weingarten. “But I’m shorter.” “Michael and Randi have had a wonderful relationship for a long time,” said a UFT spokesperson. “She was even his date at a dinner a few years ago. And the sweater gift---that was the clincher.” As part of the engagement agreement, the Mayor’s 22 year old daughter Emma will become the new Chancellor. It was also announced that the UFT & Bloomberg, LP will merge into a new firm to be called BLUFT.
The couple will live in the fancy penthouse digs atop the new UFT headquarters near Ground Zero, enabling both to walk to work. “Michael won’t have to take the subway anymore,” said Randi. The expected savings on the train pass have graciously been donated by Bloomberg towards the new contract.
Education Notes reprint, Feb. 2002."

Lower East Side Archaeology

Hidden away in the clouded window displays of the 9th Precinct on Ave D on East 8th Street is an informative exhibit (done by the Seaport Museum) on the archaeological results that stemmed from the precinct's recent construction. I did my best to record it digitally. It's a shame this isn't available for the public and as time goes on the sunlight will fade it into obscurity. Here's the slide show I put together from those photos.

Merry Christmas From Staten Island

Someone, in Staten Island, probably earning questionable per session monies for it, has been carefully examing this blog-most likely searching for something incriminating. I don't believe that person is sending me any seasonal wishes. Nevertheless, here's mine.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Spending Hannukah In Santa Monica

A shout out to Barbara Ringel for sending me this song. It inspired me to make it into a karaoke version. If you have never heard of the genius of Tom Lehrer look him up.

Bobblehead Bobblespeak

A clip from our wonderful US Education Dept. Tax dollars at work producing this

Diaz Y DeStefano

It's somewhat amazing how the Diaz Y Flores post should flow into this. I don't recall what surfing of the net landed me news of another Diaz. It's also somewhat confusing to figure out what's happening in the Las Cruces Public Schools in Florida. A lot of good and honest educational reporting from shows that another member of the good old boys-girls "syndicate" has resurfaced in Las Crucas, Florida after leaving Miami, before being bounced from Bridgeport and before that the Lower East Side. Guess who she hired as part of her staff, Frank DeStefano. The hairdo is the same, the face ?
SUSAN SILVERS BRIDGEPORT — Barely six months after she was hired as a deputy superintendent in Miami, former Bridgeport Supt. of Schools Sonia Diaz Salcedo is packing it in. Salcedo said in a telephone interview last week she will resign from the Miami-Dade public school district effective June 30.
"I really want to go back to the superintendency," said Salcedo, an unsuccessful finalist for the superintendent's job in the Hillsborough school district near Tampa, Fla., last month.
But, she said, her job search for public school posts in Florida would be hindered because all applicants' names are disclosed.
Salcedo was hired Dec. 14 in Miami, two days after she reached a buyout agreement with Bridgeport's Board of Education. "I just need to take some time off," she added.
Salcedo, who was paid $125,000 for the remainder of her Bridgeport contract through June 30, was also paid an annual Miami salary of $185,000 — $13,000 more than her full Bridgeport salary. She said the Miami job working under Rudy Crew, the former New York school chancellor, was not what she expected.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Diaz Y Flores Community Garden

This is the garden where Victor and his crew will be celebrating the seasonal holidays. I suggested that if any pagan ceremonies occur that two LES witches' and two baggers (Levine and Kushner) could be symbolically burned at the stake. Here's info about the garden: From our mission statement...
It is the purpose of the Dias y Flores Garden to provide a green, beautiful, restful, safe and congenial space for gardeners to garden and for the community to enjoy. The garden will be open to the community as often as possible and will also serve as a public space for community meetings and other community functions. In Addition .... We are also committed to maintaining and growing our associations with neighbourhood organizations, from local schools to health clinics and encourage their use of the garden. We also offer many series of free classes through the summer from tai chi and yoga to horticulture, drawing, ecology and herbal sciences. a very brief history...
Dias y Flores, like most of the gardens on the Lower East Side, exists because of the dauntless efforts of a handful of people. When faced with ruin, they saw an opportunity for restoration and acted on it. In 1978, the 13th Street Block Association envisioned a community lot, with a garden and a playground, and began the labor-intensive work of clearing out the brick, rubble, and trash -- from broken hypodermic needles to refrigerators and car parts -- all by hand. Dias y Flores from its earliest days was graced with experienced gardeners and horticulturalists as members, and along with the help of Operation Greenthumb, most of the trees and shrubs that are here today were planted by 1981.

A Victor Weiss Spotting On The Lower East Side

You meet the most interesting people on the Lower East Side. The other day on a photo shoot for Melissa's kids mapping project I spot the Jerry Garcia look-a-like and Croton Park Colony Legend, Victor Weiss on Avenue B and East 2nd Street. I combined my brief interview with him with the pics I took.

Alright, Listen Up! Front And Center: Doberman, Paparelli, Ridzik, Henshaw, Fender

The Chancellor announced the hiring of his former Clinton Admin Pal and failed public education killer (Edison) head, Christopher Cerf. I smell a conspiracy here that's consistent with the new push coming for vocational ed
Panel: Revamp U.S. high schools Experts call for 10th-grade test By Lori Olszewski and Diane Rado
Tribune staff reporter Published December 15, 2006
Most high school students could leave after their sophomore year and go to community college or vocational training under a proposal endorsed by a prestigious panel on Thursday.
The report from the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce touches on all aspects of education, but some of its most unusual proposals would end America's four-year high school and replace it with a more European-style model.
The plan is one of the most expansive educational proposals to surface at a time when federal officials are encouraging experimentation in the nation's school districts to help boost high school graduation rates and help Americans better compete with foreign workers. Unlike many education reports, this one is supported by several respected education leaders, including former U.S. Secretaries of Education Richard W. Riley and Roderick Paige. Riley served a Democrat; Paige served a Republican.
Rather than requiring students to remain in high school for four years, the report proposes a rigorous 10th-grade test that would allow those who pass to leave school two years early, which proponents say could help reduce the dropout rate, among other positive effects. They could then go on to technical or vocational training or academic work in preparation for a four-year institution.
The juniors and seniors left in high school would either be teens in remedial classes working to pass the exam or youngsters who chose to stay and pursue challenging academic work so they could attend elite institutions.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

There's Egg On Your Face

Some synchronicity going on with a recent posting about Stewie Weiner and an article about some failures in the much heralded leadership institute. From the NYTimes:
"The Department of Education said yesterday that it would close five failing high schools, including Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, where teachers and students have sparred bitterly with the principal for months.
Four of the schools, including Lafayette, are being run by principals who graduated from the New York City Leadership Academy, a privately financed training program created by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Department officials said that despite those principals’ best efforts, their schools had proved unsalvageable
........In a last-ditch effort to turn things around, Jolanta Rohloff was named the principal at Lafayette in time for the 2005-6 school year. She quickly angered many of her teachers, who complained that they felt belittled after she offered them extra money to decorate hallway bulletin boards, pushed recent immigrants into English-only classes and overruled grades that some teachers gave students. Efforts to reach Ms. Rohloff at her school and through e-mail messages yesterday afternoon were unsuccessful. Mr. Cantor said yesterday that Ms. Rohloff had “performed extremely well in highly difficult circumstances.” He said the principals of all five schools would remain as principals, although they could be reassigned to other schools. The preponderance of Leadership Academy graduates among the five, he said, was a factor of the “extremely tough” assignments that the academy’s graduates are often given."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bugsy In Bialystoker

That's right! Maybe Meyer put the plaque up for him or Shelly Silver?
AKA Benjamin Hymen Siegelbaum
Born: 28-Feb-1906
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY
Died: 20-Jun-1947
Location of death: Beverly Hills, CA
Cause of death: Murder
Remains: Buried, Beth Olam Mausoleum, Hollywood Forever, Hollywood, CA
Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Criminal
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Brought the mob to Las Vegas
Father: Max Siegel
Mother: Jennie Riechenthal
Wife: Esther Krakower (m. 28-Jan-1929, div. 8-Aug-1946, two children)
Mistress: Ketti Gallian
Mistress: Wendy Barrie
Mistress: Marie MacDonald
Mistress: Dorothy Dendice Taylor DiFrasso
Girlfriend: Virginia Hill (until his death at her mansion)
Assassination Attempt bombing (1932)
Disorderly Conduct
Rape 1926
Unlawful Gambling 1932
Murder Harry Greenberg (22-Nov-1939), acquitted
Shot Beverly Hills, CA (20-Jun-1947)

Zeva In Paris...

Chestnuts in blossom Holiday tables under the trees April in Paris, this is a feeling That no one can ever reprise
I never knew the charm of spring I never met it face to face I never new my heart could sing I never missed a warm embrace...
lyrics by LES immortal, YIP Harburg (he had never even been in Paris) . That's my 32 year old daughter, living in Paris. Coincidentally, she and her half sister Emma and cousin Melissa all take pride in their Greek background (even though they're only 25 percenters :} Here's what one of Zeva's friendster pals says about her: "Zeva is the best Greek-American girl ever made! She's got this amazing laugh and is always there when you need help...Zeva's just lovely!"

Columbus Day, 1932

Columbus Day always had a special meaning to my father, it was the day his world came apart. Just like the character Sephardic Dave Karos, in "Dave At Night," by Newberry Award Honor Winner Gail Carson Levine (a Sephardim) he came home to find out his father had died in a fall. For Dave Karos, it was a fall from a scaffold. For my father it was an elevator collapse at 521 Broadway where he worked for United Kimono. I am thankful for Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, the Museum Director of Kehila Kedosha Janina, for supplying me with the photo of my grandfather's grave (at Cypress Hills) and a Brotherhood of Janina membership listing from 1928 which supplied the forgotten Broadway factory address. In return I sent her some old Allen Street photos of that era (in the collage above). This is the area where many of the Romaniotes from Janina used to hang. 521 Broadway is now the home of the Puma store. The making of kimonos was considered part of the "white goods" manufactured in many of the sweatshops of New York. The girl in the picture avbove is carrying a stack of them. Also included in the collage is something my father had saved from his mother, a statement from the insurance money she received ($10 a week) from my grandfather's death.
From the book, "Rosie's Mom," the story of Rose Schneiderman, by Carrie Brown:
After the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the New York state legislature passed several new laws regarding factory safety, including a law limiting the work week to fifty-four hours for women in many factories.
The new law, however, was rarely enforced. In 1913, girls in candy factories still spent thirteen hours a day packing chocolates; in an ostrich feather shop seventeen-year-olds worked from early morning until 9 pm three nights a week. In the canneries, where the new law did not apply, women worked as long as 119 hours a week during the harvest season. And in 1913, youngsters in the white goods trade were still working 60 hours a week, in spite of the 54-hour law.
The white goods workers had watched the shirtwaist strike and they were encouraged. They watched the Triangle fire and they knew that their own shops, in rundown wooden tenement buildings and basement sweatshops, were even more dangerous. Finally, they began to listen to Rose Schneiderman. She came back, again handing out circulars in front of factory doors and climbing up onto her little ladder to speak. She asked them to come to meetings after work; she urged them to join the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Her work was matched by Fannia Cohn, another Jewish immigrant–-a middle class woman who had chosen life as a garment worker because of her commitment to the cause of workers. In her childhood in Poland, Cohn had absorbed a revolutionary fervor, and she passed it along to the young white goods workers as she taught them English and the principles of trade unionism at the same time.

Lest We Forget: Stewie Weiner

Surely, I've written and created some things for this blog that I'll look back and regret. But it was the truth as I felt and perceived it at the time. This is something I created a year and a half ago that I will always be proud of. I rediscovered it recently and converted it to a youtube format to share more widely in this appropriate time of year. It's dedicated to a guy who should have been in charge of every principal leadership institute ever devised. There is so much he could taught another generation, but he had one quality that can't be taught, he was a mensch.

it's true! It's true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.

A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there's a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot.
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot, Camelot
That's how conditions are.
The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws.
The snow may never slush upon the hillside.
By nine p.m. the moonlight must appear.
In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Monday, December 18, 2006

In Your Face 2

A tip of the hat to Elayne for clueing me to this news segment
To the tune of Eleanor Rigby
Ah, look at all the ugly people
Ah, look at all the phoney people
Eleanor Rigney picks up the dice from the terc where a lesson has been
Lives in a dream
Lives to be mean
Waits in the shadows, wearing the verbissena face that she keeps in perpetual use
Who's next to abuse?
All the awful people
Where do they all come from ?
All the haughty people
Where do they all belong ?
Father McHeaney preaching the words of a curriculum guide that no one can head
It will never succeed
Look at him jerking, schtupping his boys in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?
All the spiteful people
Where do they all come from?
All the useless people
Where do they all belong?

What's In A Name 2 ?

Yesterday was the first time I was in synagogue since my father died almost four years ago. I never saw the memorial plaque that I had Uncle Hy put up for him. A nice touch that he included my father's nickname of Bud. I have to find out how he got that (bud for buddy I guess). Notice the naming ritual described in the previous post. It seems that even my grandmother Anna got stuck with her father's name of David as her middle name! Anna was one tough customer. Not only did she beat out my other grandmother, Dora, for the rights to naming me (my grandfather Louis had also expired before I was born) but she didn't allow me to have the middle name of Louis. The next born in the family, cousin Lois, was named for him. My father once told me that this whole Romaniote tradition of naming after father's caused great him great dismay. For a while his name was listed in school as Solomon Solomon.

True Confessions 4

I saw Eddie Badillo the legendary muy macho custodian of the LES and Dr. Paul Love's mentor. He told me that he has worked with the Halloween Principal (November 1st post). According to Eddie the guy is weird but he plays on the older established team. Being an A-Hole is not restricted to any team affiliation, nor is its fascination with them restricted. My boo

Sunday, December 17, 2006

What's In A Name?

According to Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, the Museum Director of Kehila Kedosha Janina: from a lecture presented on August 15, 2006 at the International Jewish Genealogical Conference (for an explanation of the Bellel name, look towards the end of this posting. Marcia feel the Bellels may have a connection to Corfu which is closer to Italy)
"While the terms “Ashkenazim” and “Sephardim” are geographical terms designating Jews whose ancestry originated in “German Lands” or Spain, the term “Romaniote” is an historical term, denoting Jews who date their ancestry back to the Roman Empire. When, in the early 4th century, Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to a city on the Bosphorus, named Byzantion, renaming it after himself [Constantinopolis, the City of Constantine], Jews were citizens of the Roman Empire and, in their dialect, denoted themselves as such: Romaniotes-citizens of Roman. The term has come to mean “Hellenized” Jews, Greek-speaking Jews, who like Jews throughout history, living in most circumstances as small minorities surrounded by non-Jewish majorities, have absorbed many of the attributes, customs, traditions and, certainly, language of the surrounding non-Jewish majority, in this case, the Greek world of their time, whether it be pagan or Christian.
Certainly, their form of naming reflected this influence. One of the oldest recorded Greek-Jewish names, Moskos, is found on a tombstone dating back to Hellenistic period. The adding of “os” at the end of the name [Mordos, Molhos, etc] would, in essence, Hellenize the name. While, as Jews have done throughout the millennia, a child would be named with a given first name, followed by “ben” or “bat” to denote the paternity of the child, with the passage of time and the acquisition of surnames, many of these names, both given and surnames, would become Hellenized. Sometimes the name would be the translation of the Hebrew into Greek, as in the case of “Eftihia” the literal translation of Mazaltov [good luck] or Sterina for Esther.
For years, I have been researching the naming practices of the Jews of Ioannina, a typical Romaniote Jewish community located in the northwest of Greece near the Albanian border, a community that, until recently, had lived in comparative isolation and had continued to preserve its age-old traditions. The destruction of the community during the Holocaust has changed this but, fortunately, a sister community had been established in New York in the early part of the 20th century and the synagogue, Kehila Kedosha Janina, still stands. The museum, of which I am the Director, is located inside the synagogue, and we have continued to preserve the traditions and culture of the Romaniote Jews of Ioannina and, recently, expanded our research to assure that information will be available for subsequent generations.
In many ways, the naming practices of the Jews of Ioannina offer valuable insights into this community and, by extension, valuable aids in genealogical research, not only for Romaniote Jews, but all Jews. As the oldest European Diasporic Jewish community [Romaniote Jews have lived on what is now Greek soil for over 2,300 years] we can safely say that these Jews set the precedent, in many ways, for subsequent Jewish naming. Surnames, like their Ashkenazi counterparts, would begin to be acquired in the 17th century and, as in the case with Ashkenazim, was due to requirements of municipalities within which they were residing, in the case of Romaniotes, the then Ottoman Turkish Empire.  Previous to the 17th century, without surnames for much of their existence, only their given names [and that of their father] were used. Even today, most Romaniote surnames are based on male Biblical first names: Solomon, Samuel, Avraam, Isaak, Barouch, etc. Needless to say, there would be much duplication. .......... In Ioannina, because of the repetition of names, “nicknames” paratsouklia, many of them descriptive [blue-eyed (Galanos), red-hair (Kokkinos), small nose (Koutsomitis), etc] became surnames. Other descriptive characteristics, also common in other non-Romaniote communities, were occupational names. In Ioannina, of course, these names would reflect local occupations and would appear in Greek: Battinos [one who stuffs-as in a quilt], Koffinas [little basket-the patriarch probably engaged in making baskets], Bakaras (from Greek word for “grocer”), Dragoumanos (from “dragoman”- translator) and Lagaris (“polisher of silver” in Greek), to name a few.
As among others, both Jews and non-Jews, locations often were transformed into surnames, usually denoting the origin of the original bearer of that name. In Ioannina, some examples of these surnames were: Volos [a city in eastern Greece], Kastorianos (from Kastoria, city in northern Greece), or Vrachoritis (someone who came from Agrinion, town in western Greece formerly known as Vrachora). Sometime the area was far away, such as “Kabylia”, a region in North Africa, which gave rise to the family name of Kabilis, or close by, as in a neighborhood in Ioannina called Kamaras, which was the source of the family name of Kamaras. Sometimes, the surname reflected one who did business in a certain city, and the Greek name of Politis, used by both Jews and Greek Christians, referred to someone who did business in “the City”, i poli, Constantinopolis. There were even instances where a mere visit to another location resulted in a nickname, which became a surname, such as in the instance of Katsanos, which became the family name of man who had visited the village of Katsanochoria. A not-uncommon surname among Greek [and other Sephardic Jews] was Askenazi denoting a Jew of German decent. This surname appears in many different forms in the Ioannina municipal archives.
Sometimes the nickname reflected a specific distinction, such as in the case of Platonas, a surname given to man who ran a store under the plane tree [platonas] in the center of the city. Sometimes it reflected the patriarch’s religious function in the community, as in the case of Samas, the shamas. Since in Greek there is no ‘h’ it was pronounced “samas”. Where descendents of the “samas” may no longer help in the synagogue, they would continue to carry a surname that reflected that background, much in the same way as Levis and Koens still do.
Sometimes the surname reflected a physical characteristic, not always complimentary, such as Fridis, given to a man with bushy eyebrows, or Golios, which in Greek was “a bird without wings” and was used to describe, in a comical way, a man without hair. In other instances, the surname would reflect an aspect of the person’s personality, again, often uncomplimentary. ...............An interesting change that took place in Greece was with the name “Bellelis” from the Italian “Bella” for beautiful. Sine the letter that looks like the Latin “B”, in Greek, the “beta” is actually pronounced like the letter “v”, the name became “Velleli” but those Jews who immigrated to Israel or the United States kept the Italian pronunciation of Belleli.

1930 Census, 79-81 Orchard Street

I sent Max Negrin the 1930 census report I found on Ancestry for the building that he lived in. It was part of the material I had prepared for the 8th graders visit to the Tenement Museum (the stuff that went unused) Clicking on the image will enlarge it, but not as much as its original size due to the limits of my image host. It shows that Max's brother, Jacob, strangely, being born in Egypt.
Here's what Max had to say about that:
"Believe it or not, I still remember some of those names. As a matter of fact, if you go down the list you'll see an Abe and Esther Cohen, in the same building. They mistakenly list two daughters and a son, Julia, Molly and Stanley. That son, Stanley, is actually a daughter, Stema, who married your cousin Joe, of whom we spoke. Their three daughters were all slightly older than my parents' three sons, had the same initials (Julia Molly, and Stema... Jacob, Samuel, and Max.)

The census takers had their hands full getting information from immigrants, many of whom spoke little or no English. Fortunately, my father, was a citizen, having fought in WW1 for the U.S. and was an accomplished linguist. He spoke and wrote in 7 languages (even worked as an interpreter during the '39 World's Fair). ...and my oldest brother, Jake, is a citizen, by virtue of his having been born in an American Army hospital in Cairo. He came here when he was around two. In those days, it was different where bestowing citizenship was concerned. My mother was given citizenship through her marriage to pop. She was also a linguist, but spoke and wrote only five languages. They used to communicate to our Italian and Greek and Spanish Ladino) and Arabic neighbors' families in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt for them."

A Proud Tradition

Last Sunday at the cemetery I spoke to synagogue "elder" Max Negrin. Max asked me whether I knew that my father had a cousin named Belil. I didn't. I didn't know of any cousins that my father had through my grandfather other than "the relatives." The relatives (I think there were 3, a man and wife and the wife's brother) had survived the holcaust and went by the name Velelis. There was a son who was my age. I hadn't seen or heard of them since my bar mitzvah. Max emailed me the address of an Eli Beli. I couldn't locate a phone number to call him, although there was an online reference to him as a former Deputy Mayor of a New Jersey town and as a decorated Korean War flier. There was, however, an extensive genealogical site
created by his brother, a Colonel Harry (Ari) Belil. The picture above comes from that site. I tried calling Harry (he's in Nanuet) without success. I was able to contact his son and I am anxiously awaiting any news from him, transmitted via his father, about a family link. Go know that I could be related to some "tough Jew" types.

ABC, Not Quite So Easy As 123

In the film "Last Greeks On Broome Street," Ed Askinazi tries to decipher his father's Aleph. What is an aleph? "A Romaniote wall amulet marking the birth of a son. The aleph, in the Kabbalistic tradition, contained various names of God written in mystical codes to protect the child for its first 40 days of life; they were inscribed with the child's name, date of circumcision, and the names of three angels. Because the aleph contained family names and nicknames, it is particularly useful to the Jewish genealogist. Kehila Kedosha Janina's museum contains the largest collection of alephs in the world." I have my father's aleph (above) and brought it with me when I visited the museum today to get another copy of Ed's film. According to those that were there who were able to decipher it's calligraphied Hebrew, the most that could be deciphered was that his grandfather's name was Solomon. My father was named for his grandfather, I was named for my grandfather, David. That evidently is a Romaniote (sephardic?) custom and it doesn't require that the family member be deceased.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Season's Greetings

Lost In The Bronx: Talie V

After I picked up Talie I mapped out in my mind a travel itinerary. We would head over to the University Heights area to locate the house on Loring Place that my adopted Aunt Florence (my mother's best friend) lived in. I had just remembered that street name when inadvertently being lost by it two weeks ago in a detour I took to avoid Thanksgiving traffic upstate. Then we would go to Riverdale to a nice diner for lunch. The only thing was the usually reliable "map in my head" wasn't working. I'm not too familiar with the Bronx. The picture has my meanderings. The red has the first part of the trip. We never made it to Riverdale. The green has my dumb return trip by parkway instead of the streets. Talie played a gentler version of my father in his criticism of my driving. While lost I pulled over and had Talie call my Aunt Lilly. This is what happens when you get old. Here's a slide show of the whole experience.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The CSD1 225 Love Train Rides Again

Those were the days my friend

Truth In Advertising

For once, What You See Is What You Get. From, the UFT blog. A good point, even though there's more shilling for UFTTC. "Meanwhile, recent results on the NAEP Science tests are cause for concern about the achievement gap here in NY. In a recent article in The New York Sun, Diane Ravitch tells us, “The low scores of white students explain the relatively small performance gap, compared to other big cities, between different racial groups, about which the city’s Department of Education has boasted. The achievement gap is smaller not because minority students are doing well in the city, but because white students are doing so poorly.”
That the gap has narrowed because white scores have decreased is clearly not good news. Ravitch concludes (and I suspect that many educators would agree) that students “are not progressing because the department is committed solely to test scores and not to learning. … Students are spending endless hours practicing to take tests and taking tests, but are not gaining the knowledge, vocabulary, and understanding that come from the study of science and history and other neglected subjects.”
Ravitch’s has long been critical of the anti-content programs instituted by Klein, which emphasize skill development and test prep over a focus on content knowledge. Her conclusion that students in NY are “not gaining knowledge [and] vocabulary…” reflects that position.
If students are not getting the knowledge and vocabulary development they need, that’s bad news. What is heartening, however, is what happens next. Because another educator – Dr. Kathleen M Cashin – has apparently shared Ravitch’s concern. Cashin heads up the public schools in NY’s Region 5, and Region 5 has made significant educational gains in spite of Klein by focusing on knowledge deficit concerns and by implementing the content intensive programs that Klein has ignored, and that Ravitch and others have championed.
In fact, according to an article in today’s Times, Cashin’s schools have “consistently posted the best total gains on annual reading and math tests, outpacing other regions with similar legacies of low achievement.”
How has Cashin and her teachers done it? Mostly by bucking the Klein system. (She ignores the Leadership academy; she promotes educators, and — most importantly! – she uses UFT Teacher Center for professional development).
But more specifically Cashin has recognized, like Ravitch, that kids – and poor kids in particular – “need to expand the knowledge base, expand the vocabulary, expand the experience base, and that only comes with good and rich curriculum.”
Most likely, Cashin and Ravitch are both responding to the research Tough highlights in his Times article, the landmark research of Hart and Risley, who have documented the ways that language and knowledge deficits can plague children of poverty. Tough implies the deficits must be addressed in order for these kids to succeed, but he never quite tells us how the charters address them (he focuses instead on the behavioral modification aspects of the charters). But Chasin does address these concerns in her public schools. As she says, schools need to “expand the knowledge base, expand the vocabulary. In fact, the “good and rich curriculum” that Cashin has implemented was developed by E.D. Hirsch and the Core Knowledge foundation, with the findings of Hart and Risley in mind. Says the Times, “responding to research showing that impoverished children often lack vocabulary and basic facts, [Cashin] has adopted a curriculum called Core Knowledge, which teaches basics like the principles of constitutional government, events in world history and well-known literature.”