Archive for the 'History' Category


‘Today I introduced Terry Gross to (the real) Klaus Nomi’

The album cover of Klaus Nomi’s 1981 self-titled debut album.

Last week, a colleague posted the following to Facebook:

Today I introduced Terry Gross to (the real) Klaus Nomi by sharing this video.

She says “(the real) Klaus Nomi” because her cat is named Klaus Nomi. (Not, I quickly regretted asking, “Claws Nomi”?)

But that Facebook post is amazing for two reasons. First, Terry Gross has interviewed so many people, it seems impossible that, in all that studio time, not even a passing reference to Klaus Nomi came up. Not only that, but she’s from New York City, and she was like 30 years old when Klaus Nomi was at his peak.

Second — Klaus Nomi. I mean look at him. This is the video my colleague Christine shared:

Continue reading ‘‘Today I introduced Terry Gross to (the real) Klaus Nomi’’


This sentence is worth 38 points.

In a city as big and old and famous as New York, there’s a landmark on nearly every corner. Someone was born here. Someone died here. Some drag queens started a social movement here. Someone recorded a watershed album here in the ’60s. Here’s a cafe from Sex in the City. Everyone’s got a story about some point of pride in their neighborhood.

Just recently, I learned that the birthplace of Scrabble is the Community Methodist Church in my neighborhood. To commemorate the fact, the street sign on the corner of 35th Avenue and 81st Street, where the church is located, has been made to look like it’s composed of Scrabble tiles. It’s a bit esoteric, like nerd humor, but I think a subtle nod to a great invention is more clever than a boring old plaque.



Happy Birthday, Minnesota!

    Map of Minnesota, c. 1910
I think I can see my house from here. (Map of Minnesota, c. 1910)
[U.S. Digital Map Library]

From today’s Writer’s Almanac:

On this day, in 1858 the state of Minnesota was admitted into the Union. It was from Minnesota that we got the stapler, water skis and roller blades, Scotch tape, Bisquick, Bob Dylan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Spam.

Mmm… Spam. I do so like Spam.

Minnesota also gave us Garrison Keillor, the creator of The Writer’s Almanac and much more. Can’t forget Loni Anderson, also a Minnesotan. Or Jesse “The Mind” (née Jesse “The Body”) Ventura. Judy Garland. Winona Ryder. Prince.

Apart from Scotch tape, Scotchguard, Post-it Notes and various and sundry other 3M products are all from Minnesota. Kitty litter was invented in Minnesota in 1947 by a guy named Edward Lowe. And where else but in the Land of 10,000 Lakes could teenager Ralph Samuelson have invented water skiing in 1922.


Year Five

My sympathies to news reporters, producers and editors who are working today, living and reliving the disaster. Thank you for what you do.

My sympathies to the families and friends of lost loved ones who are forced to remember our way as well as their way. Our public remembrance is an invasion of your private grief. Thank you for your strength.

My sympathies to the idealistic Washington interns who have to put up with our pompous leaders, many of whom are too mindful of re-election to grieve without politics. Here’s hoping you learn and improve on the model.

Year Six has begun.


Hell and High Water

I was on my way to work this morning after listening to gruesome and horrifying NPR reports from Louisiana and Mississippi, and I couldn’t help but recall the terrible 1997 Red River Valley flood of Grand Forks, North Dakota. I recalled the copy editor’s dream headline “Come hell and high water” that leapt off the front page of the April 20, 1997, Grand Forks Herald. (There’s an interesting back story here about the perseverance of journalists, despite the flooding and burning down of the newspaper’s headquarters, for those who care to read it. This small-town paper won a Pulitzer for their remarkable coverage.)

“Well,” I thought, “as much as New Orleans is dealing with — and it’s a lot — at least they don’t have fires on top of it all.” That’s something, right?

When I got to work and opened the New York Times online, I saw that a chemical plant near the French Quarter had exploded. So much for the luxury of no fires.

the untallied hours