The Thermal Theory of Midwestern Good Will


…a person (even a New Yorker) could be both dissatisfied and happy at once, and that the act of complaining was not in fact evidence of unhappiness, but something that could in its own way lead to greater happiness.

via Companions in Misery –

Not long ago, I was in a large city in the Upper Midwest in the common room of an eccentric bed and breakfast. It was morning, and I was quietly eating breakfast when a fellow guest learned that I lived in New York City.

He gasped. Oh, he asked, how can you bear to live there?

Without waiting for my answer, he began to tell me that New York was a cold and unfeeling place, populated by faceless strangers. Everyone in a hurry, he said, everyone obsessed with money. No happiness or kindness at all.

I oughta know, he said, I’ve traveled there for business.

He continued his monologue with an anecdote about a long, disagreeable cab ride. When at last it was over, he said, the cabbie was unable to open the trunk. And this was the last straw. With the help of the passenger of another cab, and while heaping oral abuse on the driver, he hacked open the trunk with a golf club, freed his luggage, and then won a brief footrace into the airport terminal without paying his fare.

By the end of this performance, we were both horrified.

He could not believe that a seemingly reasonable person would subject himself to the nightmare that is New York City.

I was surprised that this was what passed for an ambassador of Midwestern Living.


A Timeout, and a Look Back

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

First, the bees, then the bats and the frogs and the…


The high death toll from the resurgence of the virus, which killed 700 dolphins in an outbreak 25 years ago, has alarmed marine scientists, who say it remains unclear why the dolphins have succumbed to the disease. The deaths, along with a spate of other unrelated dolphin die-offs along Florida’s east and west coasts, raise new questions about the health of the ocean in this part of the country and what role environmental factors may be playing, scientists said.

via Focus on Ocean’s Health as Dolphin Deaths Soar –


On secrets


…and it would be hidden in the nondescript brownstone.

via They Know Much More Than You Think by James Bamford | The New York Review of Books.

How soon we grow used to the most depressing possibilities about our government — and how soon, too, we commercialize on them.

via Three Days of the Condor Movie Review 1975 | Roger Ebert.


What opinions are worth.


“Those consultations confirm our view that the underlying economy remains sound.”

via STOCKS PLUNGE 508 POINTS, A DROP OF 22.6%; 604 MILLION VOLUME NEARLY DOUBLES RECORD – New York Times, Published: October 20, 1987 .


Lessons 1 and 2 on how to keep things in perspective.


“It’s been terrible,” Jeter said. “It’s been a nightmare.”

via A Reminder of the Yankees’ Failed Plan Deals Them Another Defeat –

“I will be cross-examined by the man who shot me.”

via Victims to Again Face Gunman in Fort Hood Trial –

“A child. Fourteen years old. Fourteen years old. Gone. Shot in the head. By police.”

via Teenager Is Shot and Killed by Officer on Foot Patrol in the Bronx –


Showing Up Really Is Half the Battle

04-02416 Francois Coli and French Air Service ...

Francois Coli, with Charles Nungesser (Photo credit: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

“Nungesser and Coli have succeeded,” declared La Presse, going so far as to detail their sea landing in New York Harbor and the “cheers that rose up from the ships that surrounded them.” Those heady first reports proved false. Charles Nungesser, a daredevil aristocrat and top French flying ace, and François Coli, a one-eyed mariner and former infantryman, had not arrived in New York. Their hulking single-engine biplane, L’Oiseau Blanc, or The White Bird, was never recovered.

via Resuming the Search for a Pioneering Plane Off a Remote Island –

The Times had a thing today about how some beret-wearing cheese sucker is sure he’s figured out what happened to the famous French aviators Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli.

Wuh… Who?

Excuse me, but I had never heard of them. (Which isn’t saying much, I know.)

The Times article seems to agree with me in spirit. No matter how famous Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli were, it seems they’re well forgotten now. I mean, check out the list of best guesses as to what happened to them: “The Frenchmen were thought to have gone down in the English Channel, or perhaps over the Atlantic, or somewhere between Newfoundland and Maine.” Some nuts think the United States Coast Guard shot the plane down.

In other words, no one has made any headway in solving what Times referred to as “one of aviation’s great mysteries.” No one, it seems, has even been trying very hard.

I don’t know how many people near the Channel said they heard an airplane, but supposedly nine witnesses in Newfoundland and four on the ought-to-be-part-of-Canada French island of St. Pierre said they did on the night the men disappeared. That’s 13 people (13!) who said they heard an airplane. If that many people said they had heard Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli strangle their cleaning lady, the two guys would have died in Sing Sing.

This was in 1927, mind you. There weren’t exactly airplanes flying all over the place.

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in...

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Mr. Nungesser, whom The Times calls “a daredevil aristocrat,” and Mr. Coli, “a one-eyed mariner,” were vying for the Orteig Prize, which promised $25,000 to anyone who could complete a nonstop flight between Paris to New York.

Unfortunately, they “vanished ‘like midnight ghosts,’ wrote Charles Lindbergh,” according to The Times, probably not without a self-satisfied smirk. Thirteen days after the Frenchmen disappeared, Mr. Lindbergh would claim the Orteig for himself and set off an ill-fated and ungainly arc of celebrity.

Anyway, according to The Times, our present-day aviation sleuth is Bernard Decré, who explains his interest in the mystery by saying, “We just want to recognize that they accomplished a fantastic crossing.”

Yes. He really said that.

I wonder if Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli, who were planning a water landing in New York anyway, would have agreed.

Stop doing that!


In New York, it’s appallingly easy to go to an utterly mediocre restaurant and spend $50 or $60, once tax, tip and two drinks are included. I’ve done it dozens of times.

via Joe Satran: Why LAs Restaurants May Be Better Than Those In New York.


Medieval villagers had a sense of humor.


The worship of a dog was perhaps bad enough, more blasphemous was that the locals had given him the name of a saint, making a mockery of the Church’s institutions.

via A Faithful Hound by Colin Dickey – Roundtable | Lapham’s Quarterly.


Who’s Afraid of New York City?

The downside? Well, its an outdoor bowl game in New York City… in late December … in a baseball stadium, complete with bad sightlines for football in a really bad part of town.

via Big Ten Agrees to Play in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium – Corn Nation.

I spent a few minutes over the weekend with two very different sets of Nebraskans. One set had lived in the city for 18 years, they said, and the other were here visiting for the first time. Needless to say, there were different perspectives being shared. The newcomers were breathless, in some respects, about the size of the city and the accompanying bustle. The veterans were glad 1) to have found a parking place and 2) to have met a Nebraskan who was not breathless.

Being infected with the sickness of Huskeritis, I have in my RSS reader the feed from the blog Corn Nation. Which, if nothing else, is a reliable aggregator. This morning, however, as I read with tepid interest about the coming Pinstripe Bowl, I also recognized what appears to be a reliable Nebraska stereotype.

To be fair to the Husker blog writer, he’s right: The Pinstripe Bowl does not sound appealing. December is not a great time to be standing around outside anywhere in this latitude. And Yankee Stadium is scarcely suitable for baseball, let alone football. But the writer hit a nerve on one point: that Yankee Stadium is in a “really, really bad part of town.”

So I put fingertip to laptop keyboard and wrote:

From: Me.
To: That Guy
Subject: Your Post on the Pinstripe Bowl
Date: Today

I write today because I am a fan of your Web site and, often, of your writing in particular.

This morning, I read with interest your post on the Pinstripe Bowl, but — in my opinion — you have to go back and adjust your comment that Yankee Stadium is in a bad neighborhood. That makes you sound dumb. Or worse.

You linked, by way of citation, to a post by a writer who compared the nearby Bronx streetscape unfavorably with Chicago’s so-called Wrigleyville. But that writer wasn’t talking about crime or blight; in my opinion, your remarks made it sound like he was.

I am a former Nebraskan who lives in Brooklyn and goes regularly to New York’s baseball stadiums. The area around Yankee Stadium probably lacks the obvious amenities and development that baseball fans would recognize, but in many ways it is better. There are three large taverns that open early and stay open late; there are more than a dozen restaurants (Indian, Caribbean, you name it — including a McDonald’s) nearby for takeout (you can bring what you like into the ballpark); and on each side of the stadium there are broad public spaces, ringed with vendors, that are suitable for hanging out and meeting people.

Yankee Stadium might be a stark, depressing mausoleum. The Yankees themselves might be the epicenter of gluttonous team management, disgusting financial largesse and poor role models. But it is not 1979. The streets around the stadium are a safe and comfortable landing pad for responsible adults.

I refer you, for instance, to this.

Yours respectfully,
and Husker-ishly

Update, June 7: I have a good friend who always ignores about two-thirds of what I write him. I will shoot him an e-mail and say something like, “Did you see that thing on TV? Wow. Anyway. Weather’s great. Do you want to get a beer tomorrow?” And he will reply, “It is a nice day.” We always get the beer; he’s not avoiding me. He just has functional e-mail blindness or something.

Like when you correct someone who’s made a simple mistake and he or she stubbornly and repeatedly outlines how the mistake was made, as if that mitigates things.

Anyway. You learn after a while that some things are not worth fixing.

On an unrelated note, my correspondent replied not long after I published this post.

From: That Guy
To: Me

A fair perspective. Frankly, I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium…in fact, I’ve only been to New York City twice, and both times, it was just Manhattan. So I have to go by what others say. Perhaps I should have said “perceived” because I don’t have first hand experience there. Frank isn’t the first person who thought Yankee Stadium was in a bad neighborhood, though.

Thanks for the feedback.

For the record, High Bridge (where Yankee Stadium is) is not in a bad neighborhood, by gentrified New York standards, anyway.

The south Bronx was once synonymous with urban blight, yet many of the areas neighborhoods, such as High Bridge No. 39, Melrose & Morrisania No. 45 and Mott Haven No. 59, rank higher than gentrifying neighborhoods in Brooklyn with much better reputations.

via The Bronx – Crime and Safety Report.