Thursday, October 07, 2004

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (10/07/04)


Westchester and Putnam have been the birthplace or home of many celebrities. Here's a small sample of the women who have made it in Hollywood or on Broadway: Nina Arvesen (White Plains), Justine Bateman (Rye), Kathleen Beller (Croton-on-Hudson), Joan Bennett (Scarsdale), Elizabeth Berridge (Mamaroneck), Ann Blyth (Mt. Kisco), Martha Boswell (Peekskill), Elizabeth Berridge (Mamaroneck), Jennifer Bransford (Mamaroneck), Irene Castle (New Rochelle), Colleen Dewhurst (South Salem), Anne Francis (Ossining), Morgana King (Pleasantville), Ricki Lake (Hastings-on-Hudson), Dorian Lopinto (New Rochelle), Susan Lucci (Scarsdale), Moms Mabley (White Plains), Ali MacGraw (Pound Ridge), Jill Novick (Mamaroneck), Penny Peyser (Irvington), Tina Sloan (Bronxville), Kimberley Williams (Rye), Vanessa Williams (Millwood).

More name dropping. Among the men: Lou Albano (Carmel), Ed Binns (Brewster), Art Carney (Mt. Vernon), Lex Barker (Rye), Bud Cort (New Rochelle), Howard da Silva (Ossining), Bob Denver (New Rochelle), Matt Dillon (Mamaroneck), Dan Duryea (White Plains), Michael Eisner (Mt. Kisco), Peter Falk (Ossining), Parker Fennelly (Peekskill), James Montgomery Flagg (Pelham Manor), Eddie Foy, Jr. (New Rochelle), Mel Gibson (Peekskill), Fred Gwynne (Bedford), Lee Hays (Croton-on-Hudson), Barnard Hughes (Bedford Hills), Bruce Jenner (Mt. Kisco), Gene Krupa (Yonkers), Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Bedford), Robert Montgomery (Beacon), Alex Nicol (Ossining), William Prince (Tarrytown), Christopher Reeve (Bedford), Peter Strauss (Croton-on-Hudson), Stanley Tucci (Peekskill), Jon Voight (Yonkers), Denzel Washington (Mt. Vernon), James Whitmore (White Plains).

According to the Académie Française, there are at least 2,796 separate languages being spoken on our planet.

The Scots-Irish side of my family arrived in this country in the 1840s, having first fled abysmal conditions in Scotland for northern Ireland--only to find them even worse there. A member of my family has fought in every war since then, always as volunteers. I cite this record, not out of immodesty, but to squelch any suggestion that what I am about to say springs from a lack of patriotism.

As of this writing, the government has identified the number of deaths in Iraq as well over 1,064 and the number of wounded as more than 7,730. The latter statistic, however, does not include those members of the military evacuated from Iraq for noncombat injuries and illness. Since March 2003, that number has now reached 17,000 with more than 5,000 troops removed because of mental illness, including 800 diagnosed as psychotic.

In military parlance, a casualty is "a service person lost to a command through death, wounds, injury, sickness, internment, capture, or through being missing in action." In the 18 months of the war, more than 25,000 members of our armed forces have become casualties. Given the budgeted cut in Veterans Administration funds and the shifting justifications for this pre-emptive war in Iraq (Pearl Harbor was also the start of a Japanese pre-emptive war), I say that these statistics are unacceptable.

What kind of war is this? If this is truly a war by and for this country, where are the homefront sacrifices? Where is the gas rationing, the food stamps, the war bond rallies? We at home go merrily on our blissful way, wasting and spending. Meanwhile, the troops in the deserts of Iraq yearn to be back in "The World"--to echo an expression from our foolish undeclared war in the jungles of Vietnam. When the history of the Iraq adventure is written who will be blamed for the failure to plan for urban guerrilla warfare, the lack of adequate body armor, unprotected Humvees, and the disbanding of the Iraqi Army, which was allowed to melt away with its weapons?

In addition to the languages spoken worldwide today, there may be as many as 8,000 dialects. Dialects frequently became languages. Modern French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian all began as regional dialects of Latin within the Roman Empire.

Peekskill, which once liked to call itself "The Friendly Town," might have been called the "City of Parks." Over the years, Chester A. Smith was the prime mover in setting up Peekskill's Friendly Town Association. Using its name, he assembled seven pieces of local real estate that he turned into privately owned parks open to the public. At the time Peekskill only had six parks. In 1954, the Drew Seminary for Young Women, a private secondary school in Carmel, N.Y., declared bankruptcy. Smith, a trustee of the school, was appalled that it was unable to pay half of its debts--$43,000.

Legally, the school was free of any obligation to pay. But Chester Smith felt that the debt should be paid in full. For 47 years he had been a court stenographer in the Ninth Judicial District of the State Supreme Court. To help pay off the school's debt, he decided to become a lawyer. At the age of 75, he graduated from the New York Law School in 1959 but never practiced law. When Peekskill decided that the Association's parks would have to remain on the tax rolls, he unsuccessfully offered to give them to the city. Smith decided to sell the parks and use the proceeds to pay off part of the Drew Seminary's debt.

"I got a good price for them," he crowed. "But I could have done better. I insisted in putting in the deeds that the property never be used for the manufacture or sale of spirits. A lot of prospective buyers balked at that." He added, "I couldn't help it, though. I'm a good Methodist. Been fighting the liquor people all my life." The reaction of the donors of the park lands is nowhere recorded.

Generally speaking, almost all the polysyllabic words in English are of French-Latin origin and the one-syllable words come from the Anglo-Saxon.

Funny Coincidence Department. Thursday, August 7th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 163.48 points, although there was no particularly discouraging economic news that day. Release of job growth information for July by the Labor Department was scheduled for the next morning at 8:30. Experts were predicting a July growth of number as large as 247,000 new jobs. A disappointing figure of only 32,000 new jobs were created in July, and the Dow Jones Industrials dropped another 147.70.

Now consider what happened the day before the August job growth information was released. On Thursday, Sept. 2nd, the DJIA leaped 121.82 points. At 8:30 the next morning, the Labor Department released figures showing that 144,000 jobs had been created in August. The Dow went up another 30.08 that day. In a poll of 61 economists in advance of the Labor Department report due Friday, Oct. 8th, the median September job growth number is that 150,000 new jobs will have been added in September. It will be interesting to see what the market does on October 7th.

If David Letterman had a "top 14" list of the most important languages of the world in the number of speakers, it would go like this: (1) Chinese, (2) English, (3) Hindustani (the spoken form of Hindi and Urdu), (4) Russian, (5) Spanish, (6) Japanese, (7) German, (8) Indonesian, (9) Portuguese, (10) French, (11) Arabic, (12) Bengali, (13) Malay and (14) Italian.

Language gap? The 9/11 commission report revealed a startling statistic. In 2002, only six--count 'em--undergraduates in the U.S. earned degrees in the Arabic language. Even though the FBI received an additional $48 million over the past three years for translation services, the agency recently admitted that 120,000 hours of pre-9/11 "terrorism-related" recordings remain to be translated. That equals 13 years, eight months and five days of listening and translating. How many of the post-9/11 recordings that were not transcribed have yet to be revealed.

The Bible has been translated into and published in 275 languages.


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