NYT’s John F. Burns Writes Into the Sunset

From our Late to the Going-Away Party desk

Yesterday’s New York Times featured the swan song of the storied John F. Burns, appropriately on Page One.

On Second Try, A Kingly Burial For Richard III

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LEICESTER, England — For an English monarchy that has lasted more than 1,000 years, there can have been few more improbable occasions than the ceremony of remembrance here on Thursday for the reburial of one of the most bloodstained medieval sovereigns, King Richard III, who was slain in battle seven years before Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World.

After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — “Richard III, 1452-1485” — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times.

Burns knows from tumultuous times; in a Times piece celebrating the legendary foreign correspondent’s career, Susan Chira writes:

Who can forget his portrait of the Sarajevo cellist who unfolded his plastic chair and played Albinoni’s Adagio in the rubble of the decimated capital? The Afghan couple awaiting their stoning death at the hands of the Taliban, and the woman’s weeping son checking to see if she was still alive after the first hail of stones? It was John’s eye and heart that would not allow his readers to forget the suffering of people so far away, so seemingly unconnected to them.

At the end of yesterday’s piece, the Times posted this about Burns:

 

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Burns went out on a wholly appropriate note, writing about what he knew so well: war, celebrity, and British society. It’s good that he’s not going far.

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The Redoubtable Joseph Epstein Likes Xavier University!

As the splendid readers of our Two-Daily Town kissin’ cousin know, the hardworking staff is a proud alum of Xavier University, whose basketball team took a Brody  in the NCAA West Regional semifinal. But all is not lost! The Musketeers were winner in Joseph Epstein’s Wall Street Journal March Sadness piece chronicling his growing disillusion with “scholar-athletes . . . rented, like bridge chairs for a large dinner party” by various and sundry institutions of (less than) higher learning.

Epstein:

Such dark thoughts have been spinning through my head as I have attempted to watch, without much success, this year’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, March Madness, or the Big Dance, as it is also sometimes called. Because of these thoughts, I can’t get into it. I can’t find a team I want to win; only a few I hope will lose—Kentucky, Louisville, Oklahoma—because the reputation of their coaches is so shabby.

And yet . . .

Coaches, like women in T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” come and go, speaking not of Michelangelo but instead eagerly seeking more dough. Good small-school teams arise—in recent years, they have included Xavier and Butler—and one’s natural tendency is to cheer them on as the genuine underdogs they are. Soon, though, their coaches, the true reason behind their success, depart: Xavier’s to the sports factory that is the University of Arizona, Butler’s to the NBA. In the end, the weak get weaker and the strong stronger.

As Marv Albert would say . . . Yes!

P.S.: Xavier lost to – yes – the University of Arizona Thursday night.

Two-Daily Town sidebar here.

P.P.S. Joseph Epstein is the author, most recently, of Masters of the Games: Essays and Stories on Sport (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).

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Dead Blogging ‘Picasso to Warhol’ at Lowell Textile Museum

Well the Missus and I trundled up to Lowell over the weekend to catch Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol at the American Textile History Museum and, say, it was swell.

From their website:

The American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts is proud to present Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol, a groundbreaking exhibition with rare pieces, many never before seen on public display, from the masters of 20th century modern art.

Picasso to Warhol traces the history of 20th century art in textiles. Highlights include work by Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Sonia Delaunay, Raoul Dufy, Barbara Hepworth, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Ben Nicholson and Andy Warhol.

Our friend Jared Bowen featured this interview on WGBH’s Open Studio.

 

 

Representative samples (Salvador Dali and Henri Matisse):

 

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The Missus’ favorite was the Fish Dress collaboration between the great Claire McCardell and Pablo Picasso:

 

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The exhibition ends next weekend. Lowell’s not all that far, yeah?

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Leigh Montville Has 20/20 Heinz Sight in WSJ Review

UnknownThe hardworking staff is a longtime fan of the great W.C. Heinz, and we’re hoping everyone else will catch up with us thanks to the Library of America’s new publication, The Top of His Game: The Best Sportswriting of W.C. Heinz.

The Wall Street Journal has already published one review of the collection. Now comes former Boston Globe scribe Leigh Montville with this one.

Nut graf:

Heinz is probably the best sportswriter you never have read very much. As a war correspondent, then a sports columnist for the New York Sun, he was matched against Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon, A.J. Liebling, Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, the Broadway saints of the business. He was as good as any of them. His eye for detail matched his ear for conversation. His subject choices were wonderful.

He followed Babe Ruth to a final appearance at a Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day. (“The Babe took a step and started slowly up the steps. He walked out into the flashing of flashbulbs, into the cauldron of sound he must know better than any other man.”) He took us onto the Harlem River with the Columbia crew as it rowed past the coal yard and the decaying docks and a tug hauling a barge. (“Hey!” a man in a blue shirt called from the wheelhouse of the tug. “Why don’t you guys buy your own lake?”) He brought us to the barns at Jamaica Race Track in a celebrated column, “Death of a Race Horse” as Air Lift, the promising son of Bold Venture, was put to death after breaking a leg in his first race. (“There was a short, sharp sound and the colt toppled onto his left side, his eyes staring, his legs straight out, the free legs quivering.”)

But, Montville notes, “[t]he selections in ‘The Top of His Game’ are heavy with boxing stories, his favorite sport for its characters and personalities.”

And also for this, which Heinz told us in a 2006 interview: “[A]lthough I’m a great admirer of football and what it brings, I’m a great admirer of team sports, there’s always somebody else you can lay it off on and you can’t lay it off in a fight.”

Heinz’s ability to capture that sense of isolation, the loneliness of the weight was both vivid and touching. From Gare Joyce’s ESPN obituary in 2008:

Heinz was at his best with brave men, whether it was in the ring or on the front lines. If he had never covered a fight or a game or a race, he would have left a tidy archive of great reporting about war and civil rights. Even without his newspaper and magazine work, he left a couple of pretty big marks in the book world. He was one of the co-writers of “M*A*S*H*,” not the movie or the TV series, but the book that started the ball rolling. He also wrote a novel, “The Professional,” that Hemingway praised as “the only good novel about a fighter.”

(Our WGBH radio obituary here.)

Above all, W.C. Heinz was a modest man of tremendous talent and accomplishments – a trifecta that very few people can hit. With this new Library of America collection, Bill Heinz is finally getting the attention he always deserved.

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Correction o’ the Day (NYT Killer Cellphones Edition)

First came this Nick Bilton Disruptions column in Thursday’s New York Times.

New Gadgets, New Health Worries

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In 1946, a new advertising campaign appeared in magazines with a picture of a doctor in a lab coat holding a cigarette and the slogan, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” No, this wasn’t a spoof. Back then, doctors were not aware that smoking could cause cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

In a similar vein, some researchers and consumers are now asking whether wearable computers will be considered harmful in several decades’ time.

We have long suspected that cellphones, which give off low levels of radiation, could lead to brain tumors, cancer, disturbed blood rhythms and other health problems if held too close to the body for extended periods.

Then came this Editors’ Note in Saturday’s Times.

STYLES

The Disruptions column in the Styles section on Thursday, discussing possible health concerns related to wearable technology, gave an inadequate account of the status of research about cellphone radiation and cancer risk.

Neither epidemiological nor laboratory studies have found reliable evidence of such risks, and there is no widely accepted theory as to how they might arise. According to the World Health Organization, “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all said there is no convincing evidence for a causal relationship. While researchers are continuing to study possible risks, the column should have included more of this background for balance.

In addition, one source quoted in the article, Dr. Joseph Mercola, has been widely criticized by experts for his claims about disease risks and treatments. More of that background should have been included, or he should not have been cited as a source.

An early version of the headline for the article online — “Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?” — also went too far in suggesting any such comparison.

Ya think? Call our cellphone if you disagree.

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Hey! NYC’s MTA Sucks Just Like Boston’s T!

The hardworking staff has long held that the MBTA – Boston’s public (not to be confused with rapid) transit system – is like someone’s hobby.

But it’s not just our system that’s the modern-day equivalent of a swayback mare.

From Emma G. Fitzsimmon’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times:

Delays and Costs Agitate Riders in a System ‘Bursting at the Seams’

Big Repairs Needed For City’s Subways

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Fares are about to go up. Delays are driving riders to distraction. And on a recent evening, Ian Nolan’s train was out of service.

Widespread problems across the subway system in recent weeks have left weary commuters waiting on crowded platforms, stranded inside stalled cars and scrambling to find alternate routes. With a fare increase set to go into effect on Sunday, riders across New York City are complaining of having to pay more when service is worse.

But transit experts and advocates say conditions will not improve unless the Metropolitan Transportation Authority invests heavily in upgrading and expanding the system’s infrastructure — the tracks, the trains and the tunnels that power the city’s daily transit miracle, except when they don’t.

Sound familiar?

Big Town straphangers driven nuts graf:

In the past month, Lisamarie Green, 26, a skin care specialist who lives in Astoria, Queens, said she had to take taxis home from her job in Midtown at least three times because of train problems on the E, M and R trains — the lines she usually takes.

Also sound familiar?

Misery may love company, but it makes for a funky ride home, yo.

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Don’t Free the Pete Rose One!

Full disclosure: In another life, the hardworking staff did seven years in Ohio.

Specifically, we were in Cincinnati from 1967 to 1974, and the one thing that kept us sane was this miniature Brooklyn Bridge across the Ohio River to Kentucky.

 

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It’s known as the Singing Bridge because of the hum you hear as you drive across its metal grid roadbed. More important, it was John Roebling’s starter bridge before he (and his son and – especially – his daughter-in-law) built its lookalike in Brooklyn in the waning years of the 19th century. The Brooklyn Bridge was, at its opening in 1883, the tallest structure in the Western hemisphere and the longest span in the world: 1,600 feet from tower to tower.

(Fun fact to know and tell: On May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum led 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge to prove that it was stable. For the whole fascinating story, read The Great Bridge by David McCullough, who was once described as “the Herodotus of Hydraulics.”)

Rudely transplanted to the Queen City from 89th and 3rd, we spent roughly two years sitting on the banks of the Ohio River and staring at the Singing Bridge.

But we digress.

The absolute worst thing about living in Cincy back then was The Big Red Machine, the insufferable Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s.

From the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

Baseball in the 1970s was dominated by Cincinnati teams known as the “Big Red Machine,” which had left behind Crosley Field, with its distinctive left field terrace, for a new home, Riverfront Stadium. Boasting a regular lineup that featured three future Hall of Famers (catcher Johnny Bench, second baseman Joe Morgan, and first baseman Tony Pérez) as well as all-time major league hits leader Pete Rose, the Big Red Machine175a_lg—under the guidance of manager Sparky Anderson—won five division titles in the first seven years of the decade. The Machine’s first two trips to the World Series ended in disappointment, however, as it lost to Robinson’s Orioles in 1970 and the Oakland Athletics in 1972, which was followed by a surprising loss to the underdog New York Mets in the 1973 NL Championship Series. The years of frustration ended in 1975, when the Reds won a remarkable 108 games and beat the Boston Red Sox for the franchise’s first World Series title in 35 years. While the 1976 Reds won six fewer games than their 1975 counterparts, they led major league baseball in all the major offensive statistical categories and swept both teams they faced in the postseason en route to a second consecutive championship, leading a number of baseball historians to claim that they were the second greatest team ever, after the famed 1927 Yankees.

Which, of course, is a bunch of baloney because the second greatest team ever, after the famed 1927 Yankees, is the famed 1961 Yankees.

Whatever.

The point is, the Cincinnati Reds player most hateful of all to this Made Yankee Fan was the reptilian Pete Rose, who was rightfully banned from the Baseball Hall of Fame for betting on baseball games.

Until, maybe, now.

From NBCSports Hardball Talk:

Pete Rose has applied for reinstatement; Rob Manfred is considering it

This is not the most surprising news in the world, but the Commissioner taking it seriously and commenting on it is at least somewhat notable compared to how Bud Selig handled it for 20 years (i.e. with almost complete silence):

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As I wrote recently, it’d be a pure act of charity for Major League Baseball to even listen to his case because, really, it doesn’t have to. Indeed, we’re to a point in time where “the merits” aren’t as likely as big an issue with Major League Baseball as the fact that, at some point, Rose is just too damn old to be a nuisance anymore and the league can afford to show some mercy if it wants to.

No.

It shouldn’t.

Period.

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The 13th – and Final – Tommy Ashton Basketball Tournament

My cousin Tommy Ashton was murdered in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

From the landmark New York Times Portraits of Grief:

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Saddest day ever.

Since then, Tommy’s sisters Colleen and Mary have shepherded the Thomas Ashton Foundation, which has an annual 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament and has donated over $285,000 to worthily charitable organizations and local projects (list of recipients here).

Remarkable.

Next month will see the final Tommy Ashton 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament at St. Sebastian Parish Center in Woodside, Queens, where the Ashtons have long resided.

It’s a great story. Here’s hoping one of the Big Town dailies picks it up.

(And yes – I’ll be contacting them to do just that.)

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Sorry, We Just Really Like This

From the Boston Sunday Globe Comics page:

 

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Thank you, Dan Piraro.

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Dead Blogging ‘Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott’ at the MFA

Well the Missus and I trundled down to the Museum of Fine Arts the other day to catch Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott and, say, it was . . . stirring.

From the MFA website:

Gordon Parks, one of the most celebrated African American artists of his time, is the subject of this exhibition of groundbreaking photographs of Fort Scott, Kansas—focusing on the realities of life under segregation during the 1940s, but also relating to Parks’s own fascinating life story . . .

In 1950, Parks returned to his hometown in Kansas to make a Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.10.53 AMseries of photographs meant to accompany an article that he planned to call “Back to Fort Scott.”

Fort Scott was the town that he had left more than 20 years earlier, when after his mother died, he found himself—a teenager and the youngest of 15 children—suddenly having to make his own way in the world. He used this assignment to revisit early memories of his birthplace, many involving serious racial discrimination, and to reconnect with childhood friends, all of whom had attended the same all-black grade school as Parks. One of the most visually rich and captivating of all his projects, Parks’s photographs, now owned by The Gordon Parks Foundation, were slated to appear in April 1951, but the photo essay was never published.

It’s available now, though. You should see these mesmerizing photos – and read all the labels – before they leave on September 13th.

Representative sample:

 

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P.S. The Missus and I also caught the Rothchild Family Treasures, Gustave Klimt’s Adam and Eve, and 100 Years of Ceramics while we were there. The hardlooking staff and others have had their issues with director Malcolm Rogers over his 20-year tenure, but there’s no denying he’s turned the MFA into something special.

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