Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Location Hunting in New York City

King Kong Hugs the Empire State Building
I posted something on a hunt I engaged in with Alice and a friend of ours in Paris last year. We were looking for the locations of scenes in "Midnight in Paris". The post has had quite few visits.  But right here in New York City there are so many possibilities for location hunting. I found out that tours are conducted with that theme.

Here are some of the locations that tour groups look for:
- Tiffany's, where Audrey Hepburn decided "nothing bad can happen here".
- The building where Superman rescues Lois Lane
- The Empire State Building, from which King Kong fights off airplanes
- The building from "Friends"
- Central Park where Robert Redford went barefoot
- The place where Spider Man fights the Green Goblin
- The spot where Marilyn Monroe's skirt blew up
- The place where the ghost scare starts in Ghost Busters
- The numerous court buildings around Chambers Street where "Law and Order" is filmed
- Or the Chelsea streets near the "Law and Order" studios where the crimes are tracked down

What's your favorite New York City location?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

IRELAND | War of Independence

Finbarr (Fin) McCabe at the Javits Center
At the BookExpo in New York last week, I met Finbarr (Fin) McCabe. Elsewhere, in my CityEconomist blog, I discuss his views on the future of the publishing industry. My photo of him is at left.

We talked a bit about Irish history in the 20th century. He is an expert on Liam Mellows, a Socialist Irish Republican.  Mellows led hundreds of poorly supplied Republican volunteers in Galway. He was executed by the Free State Army in 1922, after the Irish War of Independence. It was the same year that Michael Collins was killed.

(The Dublin Easter Rising by Irish Republicans in 1916, and the British reaction, turned Irish public opinion towards independence. It resulted in the election of many Irish nationalists, who formed the first Dail Eireann in 1919. British refusal to accept the Dail precipitated the War of Independence, which ended in 1922 with reprisals.)

On the Second World War–what the Irish Republicans call "the Emergency", since Ireland was neutral during the war– Fin recommended F. S. L. Lyons' book, Ireland since the Famine, and Antony Beevor's new 800-page popularized history on the Second World War, focusing on grand strategy in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, and stories of individual soldiers. The Independent's reviewer notes Beevor's extraordinary story of a Korean soldier who is taken by the Japanese, then the Soviets, then the Germans and finally by the Americans in the Normandy invasion. Beevor's story underscores both the chaos of war and how individual soldiers were caught in the vortex. The reviewer thinks that the broad sweep of the new book's canvas diminishes Beevor's scope for bringing home the fascinating details of his earlier books about aspects of the Second World War.

Although Ireland was neutral, Fin makes the point that during Wold War 2 the Republic sent the second-largest volunteer force to join the British Army, after South Africa.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

HARVARD | College Admissions Policy 1958-2012

June 9, 2012 –Attending my 50th Reunion at Harvard last month, and especially watching in the alumni parade the changing composition of the classes before and after ours, was instructive.

It helped me put into perspective Harvard admissions policies. In the 1950s there was a modest push for more Catholics, in the 1960s a stronger campaign for more minorities and in the 1970s an unstoppable opening of the gates for women.

Of these three decades, the biggest impact was the third because it totally changed the ratio of women to men.


When I applied to Harvard in early 1958, the recruiter who came to Portsmouth Priory (now Abbey) School seemed to want to admit as many seniors there as possible. One reason is that some seniors had good scores on the SAT and Advanced Placement exams. But something else was going on. It was before the words "affirmative action" gained currency, but Catholics were sought out in the 1950s.

I was working on hometown news in the Harvard News Office in 1959-62 and one of my stories was about a second-generation Italian-American in the Cambridge high school system who was employed in the cafeteria in Dunster House, where he was discovered by an admissions officer and became a student at  Harvard in 1957.

Portsmouth is a fine Benedictine monastic school that was and is the school of choice for many Catholic parents in the United States, Canada and several Latin American countries. Naturally it was an early target for raising the number of Catholics entering Harvard. Besides me, Harvard admitted six other Portsmouth graduates to the Class of 1962, five of us from the Portsmouth Class of 1958 and two additional classmates via Advanced Placement from the Portsmouth Class of 1959. I speculate that the reason for the new attention to Catholics was the up-and-coming status of a Harvard graduate in Massachusetts, Senator John F. Kennedy, who was being talked about as a possible Presidential successor to Dwight Eisenhower.


But here's the kicker. While Harvard's Class of 1962 includes seven graduates of Portsmouth (which has a graduating class of 35), it admitted - according to a classmate, though I wasn't able to confirm this with data on the distribution of the Harvard '62 class via Google - just eleven African-American students from throughout the United States of America. The Reunion audiences in Sanders Theater were 100 percent white, as far as I could tell. One of the eleven, W. Haywood Burns, was indeed elected 1962 Class Marshal and went on to become Dean of the CUNY Law School at Queens College. However, he died at 55 years of age in a 1996 Capetown car crash.

Harvard no doubt has continued to seek out Catholics in high schools throughout the country that weren't committed to being feeders for the Catholic universities, but once the civil rights era of the 1960s took hold under President Kennedy, activists like Haywood Burns pressed for affirmative action in consideration of African-American students. Never again would Harvard admit so few minorities.


But the civil rights movement for America's people of color was rapidly overtaken in the 1970s by the search for gender equality.  The 50th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving U.S. women the right to vote, was in 1970 and was celebrated that year with a huge parade in  New York City that featured both Gloria Steinem and the late Betty Friedan. It had taken 50 years from the enfranchisement of black males in 1870 with the 15th Amendment to the 19th Amendment. Young women in 1970 were not going to wait that long again to press for equal opportunity in college admissions.

The story of the struggle at Harvard over Radcliffe admissions during the years before and after 1970 was told in April 2012 by Dean Helen Lefkowich Horowitz, who received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1969. Students and the National Organization of Women campaigned for an equal male-female ratio at Harvard. (Until 1962, the women students at Radcliffe took the same classes as Harvard students but were given a Radcliffe degree. Starting in 1963, women attending Harvard classes and fulfilling Harvard requirements started getting a Harvard degree.) The ratio of men to women at Harvard was fixed at four to one.

To understand what the women were up against, here is what the Dean of Freshmen, F. Skiddy von Stade, had to say about the idea of admitting equal numbers of men and women:

When I see bright, well-educated, but relatively dull housewives who attended the Seven Sisters, I honestly shudder at the thought of changing the balance of males versus females at Harvard. ... Quite simply, I do not see highly educated women making startling strides in contributing to our society in the foreseeable future. They are not, in my opinion, going to stop getting married and/or having children. They will fail in their present role as women if they do.
Dean Horowitz comments: "I'm sure his niece, the great mezzo Frederica von Stade would have shaken her head at this, if her schedule permitted."

Harvard's Dean of Admissions Chase Peterson in 1970 issued a report that opposed changing the four-to-one ratio. But five years later the Strauch Committee recommended gender-blind admissions and this seems to be, formally, the rule now. 

The Unabomber,Ted Kaczynski, 
Harvard '62
Thoughtful admissions policies are not just good for the country and good for Harvard–they can also be good for the students themselves. Would Theodore J. Kaczynski have become a serial murderer if he hadn't gone to Harvard at 16? 

He was too young–so was I, and so were probably the other entering Harvard freshmen who were 16, of whom I know a few–and he should have been admitted with a recommendation that he take a "gap year" off to travel or study before entering college. Probably today that is what would have happened.

Kaczynski lists his occupation in the 1962 50th Reunion Class Report (the "Red Book") as "prisoner". Under "awards" he lists are "eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998." 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

19th Amendment Passed Congress in 1919

Garrison Keillor's excellent daily email announces today (June 4) that "On this date in 1919, the 19th Amendment passed the Senate and gave American women the right to vote." Actually, the right to vote wasn't obtained for another year and three months, when Tennessee was the last required state to ratify the 19th Amendment, in August 1920. Keillor's summary is well-drafted:
Susan B. Anthony drafted the original amendment, with the help of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and it was first formally introduced in 1878. It sat in committee for nine years before it went before the Senate in 1887 and was voted down. Over the next decades, several individual states approved women's voting rights, but a Constitutional amendment wasn't considered again until 1914. It was repeatedly defeated, and an anti-suffrage movement campaigned against it, claiming that it was unfeminine for women to venture outside their natural domestic sphere. But in 1918, Woodrow Wilson threw his support behind the suffrage movement. Women had entered the workforce in large numbers during World War I, and in a speech that President Wilson gave in September 1918, he said: "We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of right?" The amendment passed both Houses of Congress the following May.
The question that Keillor does not address is: Why did Wilson endorse the suffrage amendment in 1918? He opposed it in the election of 1916. The suffragists said that year: "He kept out og war, and he kept us out of suffrage." Wilson reversed himself in 1917 on the war, and in 1918 on suffrage. The reason for Wilson's reversal was ostensibly the partnership of women in the war effort. But a more plausible reason is that public opinion had become solidly pro-suffragist because of the brutal treatment of women in the prisons to which they were taken and force-fed after they took up a silent vigil in front of the White House. This vigil in turn was started immediately after Wilson insulted a delegation of women in January 1917 when they came with 250 memorials from women's groups around the country using Inez Milholland Boissevain's death to argue that the President should revisit his opposition to suffrage. More on Inez Milholland at