How History is Made (ii)

Monday, about 1:00 pm, awaiting a doctor’s appointment, I picked up a two-hour old e-mail from a friend who said two Israeli newspapers were reporting an explosion in an Iranian nuclear facility, but no one else was. I checked on line and, by now, USA Today and The Daily Mail had the story but no one else.

When I got home, I checked Fox and CNN, but the former was featuring Joe Biden’s apology and the latter was focused on Ferguson, MO. The Washington Post now had something on line, but it seemed more like a blog than news. At 4 pm, my mideast-focused brother-in-law called from Massachusetts. He had already watched the evening news and the story was new to him.

Tuesday, the NY Times had the story on p. 8. It took the Iranians word for it that it had been an ordinary explosion of munitions. An earlier report had said windows had been shattered nine miles around but the Times said this had occurred in only two villages. The Times said it had happened the day before; my friend had said Yom Kippur; and another report had it Sept. 27.
The following morning the SF Chronicle had nothing — but it did report on a bear cub that had been killed in New York.

Things were quiet for a couple days. Some reports were even “removed.” But today they have picked up and now six buildings have been reported damaged or destroyed.

But I’ve been thinking that, once the reports appeared, they became “facts.” Once they did not appear everywhere, they became suppressed. Once they were removed a cover-up became more apparent.

Now I await hearing what has been proved. Israel did it. America did it. Only a rogue element in America (or Israel) did it in order to establiszh the Iranian nuclear program to justify a further bombing. The Iranians did it so they could blame Israel or America and justify or encourage attacks on them.

I mentioned all this to my most conspiracy-inclined friends. They have ignored me.

Which means i must be onto something.

Advanced Political Theory

There is a name for what you do, the Doctor of English and American Literature said. Autocritography, in which the critic accepts that his analysis depends upon his individual and social conditions.

And did not Heissenberg postulate that what one observes is effected by the act of one’s observing?

There Goes Another Relationship

I asked the senior political analyst (e-mail division) if there had been a war within the past century of which he approved.
He replied, Have you ever served in a military?
Though I was quite sure he knew the answer, I replied. No.
He replied, Quite.
I replied, How long would I have needed to have served in a miltary to have received and answe to my question?
He did not reply.
I replied, How long have the authors of the articles which you forward to me served in the military?
He did not reply again.
You know how I can be.

The Author Writes a Story By Lydia Davis

It is a simple and obvious thing, she said, that I refused to recognize. In fact, it is so simple and obvious that a 12-year-old could recognize it. In fact, she named the 12-year-old, who happened to be her daughter by her third husband. The Emperor’s New Clothes, she said, about this recognition by this daughter of this simple and obvious truth, requiring only one explanation by her to her daughter, and not recognized by me, despite her many explanations.
In fact, it is so simple and obvious that she will not discuss this with me further. To discuss this further would imply that it is not simple and obvious and any support this implication would offer such thinking would to make one into a tool of the perpetrators of the deed which her discovered simple and obvious truth has revealed.


I forgot to mention that the most interesting thing I learned at my visit to Dr. Fleur (See Blog of Sept. 24) was that one of my medications, Digoxin, had been invented 600 years ago by a witch.

It seems that people with edema (swelling) would go to witches for relief, and one witch had discovered that fox glove made you pee, so she would brew up pots of tea from the leaves and some of her patients would die from drinking it, but some got better. We came to understand that fox glove contained digitalis, which is, among other things, is a diuretic, so you just have to make sure you get the dosage right.

What makes this fact particularly fascinating to me is that for several weeks I have been engrossed in the works of Graham (“Ghastly”) Ingels (See Blog Aug. 30), who is best known for being the artist behind The Old Witch.

Witches? The Old Witch? Coincidence? I don’t think so.

More strings are being pulled than we are aware of (See Blog of Sept. 25).

Internet Commerce

When I began this site, the idea was to sell some books. Preferably mine. Well that hasn’t happened but my announcement of my launch led two cartoonists I had met along my way to tell me of their latest work. I bought a copy from one and received a freebie from another. Then I wrote this:

Notes on Camp

To return to adolescence, here’s a piece I wroten apparently in July 2013. It doesn’t seem to have been published anywhere. Maybe I didn’t send it to “Broad Street” because “Stanley Kessler” wasn’t really named “Stanley Kessler,” and I knew it’s editor would disapprove, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else it would fit. It’s pretty good though, and here it is.

“Many things in the world have not been named…,” Susan Sontag began the famous essay whose title I have clipped; and, until I was fourteen, I was one. Or, rather, before my parents sent me to over-night camp in the Poconos, I was “Robert”; and ever since I have been “Bob.”
Camps, at least those in the Poconos, were a Jewish thing. (None of my Friends’ Central classmates attended one. They summered in Ocean City or Stone Harbor or Maine.) These camps were for the children of doctors and lawyers, car dealership owners and Food Fair executives. Campers came from Lower Merion and Cheltenham and Mt. Airy, with an occasional rare bird blown off course from Wilmington or South Philly. The camps taught how to paddle a canoe and survive a night in the woods, skills which seemed as useful at the time as mastering cuneiform. (If the camps were coed and had private corners to their canteens, they allowed practice of other activities in which we saw more of a future.)
The camps offered children the chance to test themselves outside the shade of their families’ umbrellas. And they freed parents from responding to cranky complaints of “I don’t have anything to do.” Fourteen was late to start camp, and I think my parents’ fear of releasing me from their oversight was finally overcome by concluding that my development required healthier influences than I might incline to behind my bedroom door or roaming West Philadelphia’s streets.
Camp Tacoma, their instrument of choice, was in its inaugural year – and would not survive its second. It enrolled thirty or forty boys, aged ten to fourteen, in a tiny town whose name my memory can not reclaim from any map. It had a softball diamond and basketball and volleyball courts but no archery or riflery or arts and crafts. Our cabins were of Architectural Digest (Stroudsburg Edition) quality, but our tub-shaped “lake” was a hollowed-out hill into which water had been pumped or piped or otherwise diverted and always seemed in danger of having its plug pulled.
I suspect Tacoma’s primary appeal was its owner, Menchy Goldblatt, a basketball All-American, at Penn, in the mid-1920s, when my father had matriculated there. Menchy had coached Bartram to two city titles and owned camps for years, but an acrimonious split with his last partner had led him to launch this ill-fated solo flight. (Many Philadelphia-area Jewish basketball players of similar vintage owned Pocono camps, and games between them were fierce. Red Sherr, who played several seasons in the American Basketball League, had one, Sam Cozen, Drexel’s coach, a second, and Harry Litwak, Temple’s, a third.) Menchy seemed a nice man of seasoned learning, but the only bit of his acumen to affect me directly was his telling my father to buy weights so I might build up my chest.

I learned much that summer.
How to clean a toilet. How to make a bed with hospital corners – and how to short-sheet one. I had never before felt sufficiently grown up to shave with a safety razor or shake hands with someone when we met. But most of my learning had to do with athletics.
At Friends’ Central, the prestige sports were football and baseball, with basketball barely nosing out wrestling for third. I was a decent defensive end, and good-hit, no-field first baseman; but as a tallest-guy-in-the-class center… It seemed every school had a skinny, four-eyed geek, whose lay-ups clanged off rims and dribbles trickled off his feet, and I was mine.
But the camps did not play football, and Tacoma could not field a competitive nine against opponents two or three times our size. (The volleyball team was fine, as long as we could hoodwink others into not rotating players’ positions, so our spike-capable six-footers could plant at the net and not be replaced by our more numerous five-sixers.) The major sport among the Pocono camps, as befitting their founders’ roots, was basketball. And there, if you had one star, you could play anyone.
Stanley Kessler was Tacoma’s NML Cygni. He was Menchy’s nephew and four months of age, one grade of school, and light years of worldliness ahead of me. A freshman forward on Central High School’s JV, he was the only camper to be picked into the counselors’s games. I was in awe of his feathery touch – and almost as wowed by his accounts of his not-quite-consumated goings-on with his neighboring Wynnefield girls. From Stanley I learned the un-Quakerly skills of shifting my hips when I set picks, using my rear to clear rebounding position, and leveraging elbows to gain general respect. He also taught me to pass him the ball if I grabbed it.
I suspect Menchy had asked Stanley to befriend me, so I would not pull out mid-summer and cost him half my fee. But we became honest friends. My batting average helped, plus we both had been knocked out by the cinematic adaptation of Kiss Me Deadly and admired the recorded artistry of “Flying Saucers.” My major appeal though was attendance at a school which enrolled debutantes, who glittered to Stanley like the green light on Daisy’s dock had to Gatsby.
Then there was our shared study of our elders.

Camps were traditionally staffed by a series of egg-to-butterfly like progressions. Campers matured to waiters, then C.I.T.s, and counselors, with a winnowing-out ensuring only the fittest survived. Believing that ascent held value, one sought to identify keys to the climb. Tacoma, emerging wholly-formed, had filled positions unnaturally, but still attention could be paid and conclusions drawn.
Our waiters, for instance, who seemingly had been swept up in one scoop from the playing fields of Overbrook High School were a colorful, outside-my-accustomed-range-of-experience bunch. Atlas-muscled Marty P. was destined for the Marines, and five o’clock-shadowed Ronny S.’s aspirations stopped at minor league baseball, and devilish Dicky W. cemented his notoriety by inducing a girl he had just met at the town roller rink to allow his hand into her panties.
One counselor had coached Wilt Chamberlain before joining the family baking business because it paid better. A second played ball for Haverford and a third Trinity. Another had been Senior Class President somewhere, and a fourth, who lacked any such resume-building credentials, held our bunk rapt one evening recounting his pick-up successes. “Jewish girls are the hardest to get to go down,” Uncle Burt instructed, “but once they go down, they stay down.” Sturdy, focused, these men marched unswervingly, without complaint toward dentistry or stock brokerhood.
Stanley and I collected and pondered our data like curiosities within cabinets of wonder. We could not always know what would gleam significant beyond that summer’s light, but we sensed what we were struck by measured who we were and hoped to become. The future seemed to require no more than a set shot or a line to coax a girl into the back seat of a car.
Then rang one discordant note. We sat on a courtside bench while counselors went three-on-three. Dusk closed; air chilled; bats hunted, helter-skelter, insects of the night. “You know how ‘good’ you have to be to be ‘good’?” Stanley said. He had given it much thought and did not need my answer. “Al Schwait was All-Public. And he can’t start for Penn.”
I returned from Tacoma insistent upon my new name. I stuck with razor blades until this day. I boxed out for forty years. I never forgot Stanley’s wisdom either.

Conspiratoratorially Thinking

The NYT Sunday Mag had an article by Matt Bai, taken from his forthcoming book, about Gary Hart. It describes the series of converging, unlikely events that led to the destruction of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, Bai concludes that, without these events, there would have been no President Bush (whom Hart led by double digits in the polls), no second President Bush, no invasion of Iraq, no where-we-are-now. There is, of course, no knowing where-else-we-might-be, but still…

I have been engaged in a recently revived, on-again, off-again debate for years, maybe decades, with friends, the most ardent of whom believe that the murders of both Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Malcolm X, as well as the events of 9/11, were carried out and covered up by a vast governemental/military/industrial/national security conspiracy. I have been faulted by these friends for saying that I do not believe in this conspiracy, in part, because it would make me uncomfortable to believe I lived in such a world and that i prefer to believe in a world of randomness, chaos, chance, and odd, crazed madmen with rifles. But when I tell my friends that I believe they hold to their view, in part, because they are uncomfortable iin a world of chance, chaos and madmen and prefer the order brought by vast conspiracies, as some prefer to live in a world ordered by religion, they think this further evidence of my being naive and, well, off my rocker.

The destruction of Gary Hart could, of course, have been the work of a vast governmental/military/industrial/ national security conspiracy. But if it was, how much easier it would have been to, in similar fashion, destroy the careers of, if not Malcolm, King and both the Kennedys than to have killed and then covered-up their killings.

Then again, even if Hart was undone by chance, it doesn’t mean that the Kennedys and King and Malcolm were not assasinated and their assasins covered up. or that some were and some were not.

Uncertainty rules. At least in my world when I wake up each morning.


For those who have followed my adventures in cardio-vascular land, here are the results of my 6-month checkup with my sainted cardiologist. (When I wrote about her in my series at The Broad Street Review, I referred to her as “Dr. M.,” but in the manuscript Adele and I have in progress, we call her “Dr. Fleur.” So “Dr. Fleur” she shall be.
Anyway, my heart is doing wonderfully. This is exceedingly good news because Dr. Fleur had just returned from the highly regarded heart surgery center in Cleveland, where a recent study showed that 40% of valve repairs, which is what I had, fail within two years; and I’ve been three with mine. (It wasn’t such good news to hear they failed at all. But I expect to forget about that soon.)
At the end of the appointment when, in answer to her question about how I was feeling, and I replied that I felt terrific; life couldn’t be better, she reflected that she often felt that “things happened
for a reason.”
I jumped in to say that I often tell people that, while I don’t recommend it, I felt this had been a valuable experience. “It made me,” I said, “a better person.”
“No,” she said, “you always had the capacity within you to be this person. But this gave you the opportunity. The blow cracked the concrete.”


My most recent contributions to the Berkeley E-Plaque Project, founded and chairmanned by the estimable Robert Kehlmann, have gone up: Robert Duncan; B.N.Duncan (no relation). You may read them, perhaps with some sleuthing required, at