Category Archives: New York

Jacob Riis 5.3.13 Thought of the Day

“Bad boys and bad girls are not born, but made…They are made bad by environment and training. The children must have room to play.” –-Jacob Riis

English: Jacob Riis, American journalist.

English: Jacob Riis, American journalist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jacob August Riis was born on this day in Ribe, Denmark, on 3rd May, 1849. Today is the 164th anniversary of his birth.

Jacob was the third of fifteen children born to Niels and Carolina Riis.  His father was a schoolteacher who occasionally wrote for a local newspaper. Jacob read as much as he could. He tried to sharpen his English skills by reading James Fenimore Cooper and Charles Dickens.

Although Niels had hopes of his eldest son becoming a writer, Jacob wanted to be a carpenter. After completing his apprenticeship in Copenhagen Riis returned to Ribe but found it difficult to find a job. So, in 1870, with help from some friends he decided to emigrate to America.

The job market in America was no better than it was in Copenhagen. Riis lived hand to mouth (at best) spending his nights at police station lodging houses, in a graveyard, and when he could afford it in one of New York’s overcrowded, dark, airless, tenements.  He took on any  odd job he could find from day laborer, to farmhand, to bricklayer, and, occasionally as carpenter or writer.  When his money ran out he begged, scavenged, ate handouts from restaurants and stole fallen apples from orchards.

France had declared war on Germany in 1870 (the Franco–Prussian War) and he wanted to volunteer for the French side to avenge earlier Prussian aggression  in Denmark. But he was never able to hook up with a group traveling back to Europe to fight.

“After three years of doing odd jobs, Riis landed a job as a police reporter with the New York Evening Sun. He worked in the poorest, most crime – ridden areas of the city. These were generally neighborhoods where immigrants lived in deplorable tenement houses” [Gateway NPS.Gov]

He developed a writing style that was expressive, dramatic and to the point.

“Aware of what it was like to live in poverty, Riis was determined to use this opportunity to employ his journalistic skills to communicate this to the public. He constantly argued that the “poor were the victims rather than the makers of their fate”.” [Spartacus Educational]

although his writing was raising awareness of the plight of the poor,  he didn’t think it went far enough in illustrating  the dire conditions of the slums of New York. He needed to SHOW the upper and middle class what was going on in the tenements. His first attempt was through sketching, but he quickly realized he didn’t have the artistic skills  for that, so he switched to photography.

English: "Bandit's Roost, 1890, New York ...

English: “Bandit’s Roost, 1890, New York City.” Photograph by Jacob Riis, featured in his book How the Other Half Lives (1890) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He embraced the use of flash powder photography and brought his camera into the dark tenement buildings and the alleys at night.

“He began to bring a camera with him to document what he found in these neighborhoods, and the conditions in which these people lived. For this, Riis is considered to be one of the fathers of modern photojournalism. “ [Gateway NPS.Gov]

He partnered with W.L. Craig and went on a Magic Lantern tour with the photographs. During his lectures he pointed out that in Dicken’s London there were 175,00 plus people per square mile, while in the Lower East Side there were 290,000 plus people per square mile.”making it perhaps the worst slum in the history of the Western world.” [Spartacus Educational]

The lecture tours lead to a an article in the 1889 Christmas edition of Scribner’s Magazine. The 18 page article, titled “How the Other Half Lives” turned into a book by the same name, published in 1890.

“His book How the Other Half Lives inspired then police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to close the police lodging houses. It also brought about many needed reforms in housing laws. So important was Riis’s work, that Roosevelt called him “New York’s most useful citizen.” [Gateway NPS.Gov]

Riis spent the rest of his life advocating for the poor. He went on to write over a dozen books, noteably:

  • Children of the Poor (1892)
  • Out of Mulberry Street (1898)
  • The Making of An American (1901)
  • The Battle With the Slum (1902)
  • Children of the Tenement (1903).

Riis died on May 26, 1914. Seaside Park in Rockaway, New York  was renamed “Jacob Riis Park” in his honor.

"Minding Baby" [Image Courtesy: The Old Photo Album]

“Minding Baby” [Image Courtesy: The Old Photo Album]


A nod of thanks to my fabulous hubby who pointed out Riis as a possible Thought of the Day candidate. Good pick, hon.


Secondary Character Saturday: Anita (West Side Story)

So… Tomorrow night I’m going to go see Romeo and Juliet at the  Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and that got me thinking about West Side  Story. And THAT got me thinking about one of my favorite Secondary Characters… Anita.


Who: Anita

From: West Side Story

West Side Story

West Side Story (Photo credit: thejcgerm)

By: Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim,  and Leonard Bernstein

Produced: 1957 Broadway Premier / 1961 Film

Pros: feisty, spicy, self confident, beautiful, great dancer, great singer, realistic, loyal, great friend, gutsy,

Cons: A bit abrasive, assertive,  and hardly a saint.

Best Shining Moment: Singing AMERICA on the roof top. AND going into Jet territory to tell Tony to wait for Maria.

Least Shining Moment: When the Jets verbally, physically (and very nearly sexually) abuse her she lies to them (and thru them Tony) and tells them Maria is dead, setting up the tragic closing scenario. But that’s really on the Jets.

Babe Ruth 2.6.13 Thought of the Day

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” — Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth (Photo credit: carloscappaticci)

George Herman Ruth was born on this day in Baltimore, Maryland, USA in 1895. Today is the 118th anniversary of his birth.

He was one of eight children born to George and Kate Ruth. Only he and his sister Mamie survived.  His parents ran a saloon  at 426 West Camden Street, a job that took much of their time. So George, Jr and Mamie were left to their own devices. As an adult Ruth reflected that he ran the streets as a kid, skipped school, chewed tobacco and drank beer while his father wasn’t looking. He was “incorrigible,” and that’s what his parents recorded on his entry documentation to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys when he was sent he was just 7 years old.

St. Mary’s was part reformatory, part orphanage, part school and part work house. It was run by the Xavier Brothers and it served boys from ages 5 to 21. Ruth learned to make shirts as well as carpentry skills at the school. He lived there for 12 years. His parents seldom had the time to visit the school.

Ruth (top row, far left) at St Mary's Industri...
Ruth (top row, far left) at St Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, Baltimore, Maryland, c. 1912 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fortunately for Ruth, the prefect of discipline at St. Mary’s, Brother Matthias Boutlier, took him under his wing.

Ruth particularly looked up to a monk named Brother Mathias, who became a father figure to the young boy… Matthias, along with several other monks of the order, introduced Ruth to baseball, a game at which the boy excelled. []

Brother Matthias worked with Ruth to hone his hitting, pitching and fielding abilities. Ruth showed such promise that …

the Brothers invited Jack Dunn, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, to come watch (him)  play. Dunn was obviously impressed, as he offered a contract to (Ruth) in February 1914 after watching him for less than an hour…. Upon seeing (Ruth) for the first time, the Orioles players referred to him as “Jack’s newest babe”…[]

The nickname stuck and he was known as Babe Ruth from then on.

Babe Ruth pitching with Boston Red Sox, Comins...
Babe Ruth pitching with Boston Red Sox, Cominsky Park, 1914 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He started as a pitcher. First for Baltimore and then for the Boston Red Sox. By 1915 he was a “permanent fixture in the Red Sox rotation, …accumulating an 18-8 record with an ERA of 2.44.” [Ibid] Both his pitching and hitting game improved over the next few years and “In 1918, Babe Ruth pitched his 29th scoreless inning in a World Series. That record stood for 43 years!” []

English: American baseball player Babe Ruth in...
English: American baseball player Babe Ruth in 1921 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following year he shifted his focus to his hitting game and earned a new record. This time for a whopping 29 home runs in a single season. Ruth was traded to the Yankees in 1920 and topped his home run tally (coming in at 54 for the year.) In 1921 he broke the record again with 59 home runs.  In 1927 Ruth, as part of the Yankees famous “Murderer’s Row” hit an amazing 60 home runs for the season — a record that stood for 34 years.


Over the course of his career, Ruth went on to break baseball’s most important slugging records, including:

  • most years leading a league in home runs (12);
  • most total bases in a season (457)
  • and highest slugging percentage for a season (.847).

In all he hit 714 home runs, a mark that stood until 1974, when Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves surpassed him. []


Baseball player Babe Ruth
Baseball player Babe Ruth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ruth helped the Yankees win seven pennants and four World Series. He wore pinstripes until 1934. He was ready to retire from the active roster and wanted to manage, but his off-field hijinks — he was almost as famous for his love of alcohol, women and food as he was for his ability to swing a bat — made owners think twice about placing him in a supervisory position. He was traded to the Boston Braves for his final season where he hoped to have both playing and assistant-management duties, but he soon realized the “management” part of his job was mostly P.R., public appearances and giving autographs.

Ruth with the Boston Braves in 1935, his last ...
Ruth with the Boston Braves in 1935, his last year as a player (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On May 25, 1935, an overweight and greatly diminished Babe Ruth reminded fans of his greatness one last time when hit three home runs in a single game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The following week, Ruth officially retired. []

The Sultan of Swat, The Bambino, Number “3” (Babe’s number in the Yankee batting line up and eventually the number on the back of his pinstripes) was inaugurated into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A decade later doctors discovered a tumor on his neck. Ruth had cancer. He died on August 16, 1948.

Babe still remains the greatest figure in major league baseball, and one of the true icons in American history. The Babe helped save baseball from the ugly Black Sox scandal, and gave hope to millions during The Great Depression. …He continues to be the benchmark by which all other players are measured. Despite last playing nearly 75 years ago, Babe is still widely considered the greatest player in Major League Baseball history. []


#4 Gehrig and #3 Ruth were the heart of Murderer’s Row and the Yankees.


Sigh, it kills this Baltimore Orioles girl to write “Y – A – N – K – E – E -S”  so often in a post. Please know I could only do it for the Babe (and for Lou Gehrig when it is his turn). When is Brooks Robinson’s birthday?

Laura Linney 2.5.13 Thought of the Day

Just because you’re not famous, doesn’t mean you’re not good. — Laura Linney

[Image courtesy:]

[Image courtesy:]

Laura Leggett Linney was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA in 1964. She is 49 years old.

Linney is the daughter of Romulus Linney, a playwright, and Miriam Perse, a nurse. Her parents divorced when she was an infant and she grew up in a modest 1 bedroom apartment with her mother. “Linney grew up working in the theater, both behind the scenes and, in her late teens, on the stage.” [] After graduating from  Northfield Mount Hermon School, a New England prep school, she went to Northwestern University and Brown University for undergraduate work. (She received her BA in Fine Arts from Brown in 1986). She did post-graduate work with Group 19 at the Juillard School.

She took the stage in such Broadway productions as The Seagull, Six Degrees of Separation and Hedda Gabler before making the leap to film.

Linney’s screen debut was a minor role in Lorenzo’s Oil. She played Kevin Kline’s mistress in Dave, and landed the role of Mary Ann Singleton in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (a role she would reprise two more times.) She played in a trio of thrillers, Congo, Primal Fear and Absolute Power, before getting her big break as Meryl Burbank in The Truman Show.

Linney played the "perfect wife" in Truman.

Linney played the “perfect wife” in Truman.

2000’s You Can Count On Me earned Linney her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. (Her second nomination was for her work in 2004’s Kinsey opposite Liam Neeson.) Also in 2000 she did the lush, delightful The House of Mirth (based on the Edith Wharton novel, with Gillian Anderson, Eric Stoltz and Elizabeth McGovern).

Linney won an Emmy Award for her work on Wild Iris opposite Gena Rowlands. She won another Emmy, this time for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her story arc as Charlotte on the TV show Frasier.

She played Zelda Fitzgerald in American Master’s F.Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams. She worked on ensemble films  including Love Actually and The Laramie Project. She’s equally stunning as the intellectual mom struggling as her family crumbles around her in the Squid and the Whale as she is in the supernatural thriller The Mothman Prophecies  as small town police officer.

On screen, Linney has mastered quite a line in striving. Her most memorable characters have had a combination of astute wit, career focus and either a leavening daffiness or a chilly sort of overbrightness. This tends to hinge on whether they’re good apples (as in You Can Count On Me or The Savages) or bad (The Truman Show, The House of Mirth). [The Telegraph 2.1.13]

She brought Abigail Adams to life with her beautiful, strong portrayal of our second First Lady in HBO’s mini-series John Adams. Linney won  her most recent  Emmy Award for her efforts.

She can currently be seen on Showtime’s The Big C — for which she won a Golden Globe — and as the host of Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. Her latest film role is as Margaret “Daisy” Suckley  in Hyde Park on Hudson opposite Bill Murray’s FDR.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus 1.13.13 Thought of the Day


“I like playing somebody who has to apologize to their kid, all the time, for screwing up. That seems really real.” —Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Elaine Benes

Elaine Benes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Julia Scarlett Elizabeth Louis-Dreyfus was born on this day in New York, New York, USA in 1961. She is 52 years old.


Louis-Dreyfus was born into a wealthy family. Her father, Gerard Louis-Dreyfus, is a billionaire and the chairman of Louis Dreyfus Energy Services. Her mother is a writer. They divorced with Louis-Dreyfus was a baby and she went with her mother to live in Washington DC.  She studied acting at Northwestern University.

English: "The Golden 50th Anniversary Jub...

English: “The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee” cast photo: Brad Hall, Gary Kroeger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Paul Barrosse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She worked with Chicago’s Second City comedy group before moving to New York and joining the cast of Saturday Night Live for a three-year stint from 1982 to 1985. She left the show to do movies — landing supporting roles in Hannah and Her Sisters, Soul Man, and North  among others, and  to do prime time TV. She co-starred in Day by Day for that show’s two season run, and did a number of guest spots.

The Seinfeld gang. (Image courtesy NBC.)

The Seinfeld gang. (Image courtesy NBC.)


But Louis-Dreyfus really broke through with her role as Elaine Benes on the Seinfeld show.  She


proved that she could hold her own as the sole female member of Seinfeld’s do-nothing quartet of neurotic New Yorkers. With her “big wall of hair,” signature shoes and penchant for over-enthusiastic exclamations, Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine was no mere foil, but rather a full participant in the show’s increasingly popular, irony-laden comic shenanigans. [Star]

She won her first Emmy award for the role in 1996. The show ran for nine seasons.


After Seinfeld she starred in the short-lived comedy Watching Ellie with fellow Second City alum Steve Carell. She had recurring rolls on high profiles shows like Arrested Development, The Simpsons and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The New Adventures of Old Christine

The New Adventures of Old Christine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She won her second Emmy for her next sit-com, The New Adventures of Old Christine which ran for 5 seasons.


2012 saw her starring in a new series, HBO’s Veep. Louis-Dreyfus won her third Emmy for her role as Selina Meyer. She is a co-producer for the series.

English: Julia Louis-Dreyfus attending a cerem...

English: Julia Louis-Dreyfus attending a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alexander Hamilton 1.11.13 Thought of the Day

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”
Alexander Hamilton

Oil on canvas portrait of Alexander Hamilton b...

Oil on canvas portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alexander Hamilton was born on this day in Charlestown, Nevis, British  West Indies in 1755 (or 1757). It is the 258th (255th) anniversary of his birth.

Hamilton was born to humble beginnings. He was conceived during an extramarital affair between Rachel Fawcett Lavine and James Hamilton. When Lavine’s husband threw mother and son out of the house she moved in with James Hamilton. But he abandoned the little family  to return to Scotland for financial reasons. Lavine relied on the kindness of family members and friends to help raise the boy.

English: Source: http://alexanderhamiltonexhib...

English: Source:, original source stated as Library of congress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because he was illegitimate he was not allowed to enroll at the Church of England school, however he was given some tutoring and private lessons, and had the family library at his disposal  to read both Greek and Latin.

Around the age of ten the family moved to the nearby island of St. Croix where his mother died soon after. Friends and relatives took an interest in the future of the young Hamilton by encouraging him to work as a mercantile clerk and to read and write, activities at which he excelled despite his lack of proper schooling. [Brandywide Battlefield Historic Site — Alexander Hamilton]

He wrote an essay about a hurricane that had hit the island in the summer 1772 for the local paper. Influential readers of the paper were so impressed with the essay that the started a fund to send Hamilton to America for formal education. By late 1773 he was enrolled in King’s College (now Columbia) in New York City. While at King’s College he wrote his first political essays.

With war pending, Hamilton immersed himself in the study of artillery tactics and military maneuvers. In March of 1776, he joined the New York Artillery, and was recommended for an officer’s commission by General Alexander McDougall. He was thereby given the title “Captain of the Provincial Company of Artillery.” [Ibid]

He proved “a conscientious and business-like leader.” After distinguishing himself at the Battle of Trenton Hamilton was appointed as an aide to George Washington. He was a close advisor to the general for the rest of the war.

He wrote Washington’s critical letters, and composed numerous reports on the strategic reform and restructuring of the Continental Army….While serving as an adviser for George Washington, Hamilton had come to realize Congress’ weaknesses, including jealousy and resentment between states, which, Hamilton believed, stemmed from the Articles of Confederation. … Hamilton left his adviser post in 1782, convinced that establishing a strong central government was the key to achieving America’s independence… []

English: US Postage stamp: Alexander Hamilton,...

English: US Postage stamp: Alexander Hamilton, issue of 1956, $5, black (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hamilton worked as part of the New York delegation to fix the Articles of Confederation. Among other things, he was a strong advocate for a central source of revenue. Although he didn’t help write the Constitution he did help get it ratified. He wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist Paper.

He was appointed Secretary of the Treasury  when George Washington was elected President. Hamilton served in that post from 1789-1795.

Hamilton was fatally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr  on July 11, 1804. He died the next day in New York City.

An artistic rendering of the July 11, 1804 due...

An artistic rendering of the July 11, 1804 duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton by J. Mund. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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