John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: August, 2014

Epitaph for Film and Print



They give us those nice bright colors

They give us the greens of summers

Make you think all the world’s a sunny day

I got a Nikon camera

I love to take a photograph

So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away.


Kodachrome lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Songwriter: Paul Simon


Kodachrome, Eastman Kodak’s non-substantive color reversal film. Born 1935 – Died 2009. It produced the sharpest, brightest, clearest slides, films and photographs and in the hands of a skilled photographer or film maker, brilliant shots and scenes that forced us stop and take notice. Gone, a casualty first of digital photography and finally of cell phone cameras. Now the name is remembered by most as the title of this song replaced in talk about photography with a new and crass expression, “the selfie.”


Paul Simon’s Nikon camera and paper photographs are also on the list of endangered species extinguished by smart phones, tablets, text messages, etc. and sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblir, Flickr and other social media destinations. The SLR is being relegated to the small ranks of serious photographers and professionals. The camera of record is the cell phone where an endless stream of junk photographs and out of focus videos fill whatever the space is where the internet exists covering such riveting, moving and important subjects as, what I ate for supper, how I am dressed, look at my fabulous vacation, my children doing disgusting things and cute pet tricks.


And that’s just some of the benign uses. Humans behaving badly take pains to utilize their devices to record their transgressions. They don’t do this secretly or covertly; no, no they share it enthusiastically. Any thing of note that happens, a fist fight, accidents, crimes, natural disasters; people are seemingly poised to shoot the scene usually poorly. But this doesn’t prevent the media from running with it. These scenes will viewed on countless outlets where talking heads guide us through what is otherwise unrecognizable. Beyond television, many watch on the internet, podcasts and other social media locations which will take hits in the millions.


This junk photography and free electronic distribution has also wrecked and continues to wreck print media. Once upon a time, the various entities within Time – Life preened about the quality of their photography particularly Life Magazine and Sports Illustrated. In the 1970s, Sports Illustrated’s advertising slogan was, “We Are Sports in Print” and this slogan would appear under dramatic action photos on billboards and posters mounted on buses and train stations. I remember one in particular photo taken at the 1976 World’s Series. Taken from behind first base, it shows Mickey Rivers in the air as he is starting his attempt to slide into second. The baseball is passing to the left of his head on its way to Joe Morgan who strattles the bag, glove extended waiting to make the tag. Definitely Kodachrome; now that was a photograph. We Are Sports in Print indeed.


Now Life is long gone except for special editions, Time is a shadow of itself as is Sports Illustrated. The entire organization is in doubt. As David Carr wrote in his piece, “Print Is Down, and Now Out” in the August 10 edition of the NY Times, “The people at the magazine business Time Inc. were not so lucky, burdened with $1.3 billion in debt when Time Warner threw them from the boat. Swim for your life, executives at the company seemed to be saying, and by the way, here’s an anchor to help you on your way.”


Regional newspapers are on life support and successful media giants are casting out their print divisions. Time is not alone. Rupert Murdock set the Wall Street Journal adrift. Granted, he did it with a generous infusion of almost $2 billion but it begs the question, how long will it take to burn through that?


Gannet has cast aside USA Today. Good grief, does this mean that McPaper’s days are numbered?


Dark days ahead according to Mr. Carr:


“Newspapers will be working without a net as undiversified pure-play print companies. Most are being cut loose after all the low-hanging fruit like valuable digital properties have been plucked. Many newspapers have sold their real estate, where much of the value was stored.


“More ominous, most print and magazine assets have already been cut to the bone in terms of staffing. Reducing costs has been the only reliable source of profits as overall revenue has declined. Not much left to trim.”


It seems a brave new world is before us, one without photographs to view in albums nestled in our laps, or newspapers to fold and caress or even magazines for in depth coverage of news we already know.


As I read David Carr’s piece I wondered if he stopped to consider: “Damn, I’m writing my own obituary!”


To the average sports fan, the New York Times is the most infuriating vehicle of any existing newspaper that prides itself on sports section staffed by a dedicated stable of professional sports writers. When we try to obtain information about our favorite sport or team, the Times is woeful. Give me the New York Post, the Daily News or Newsday, please.


I don’t believe the Times’ editors are trying to murder their Sports Section although the Paper of Record does favor its Arts Section over Sports. Despite cutbacks, arts continues to stand alone seven days a week whereas sports has been subsumed into the Business Section four of those days and only stands alone on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. But the Times does understand the value of sports to its readers. Witness their E-edition. The index to its sections is as follows: First: Top Stories, second: Opinion, third: Sports, fourth: Arts and five: Fashion.


It is bad enough that the editors constantly try to minimize mainstream sports. For a while they actually eliminated baseball box scores until a howl of protests forced its return. Still they over-report obscure and junk sports consistently loading the pages with in-depth articles on trivial and trendy happenings (in their eyes) at the expense of decent coverage of out-of-town NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL games. And don’t get me started on that artificially hyped quarto-annual phenomenon, The World Cup. Again we went through it this spring from Brazil; soccer is the next great thing. The Times fell over themselves with their coverage. Every four years, here we go: THIS TIME IT’S FOR REAL, THIS TIME AMERICA IS READY FOR FUTBALL, FUTBALL IS AMERICA’S FUTURE; balderdash!


The latest manifestation of their editorial policy came on August 15, 2014 in a piece by Sarah Lyall: “Mini Golf as Career? She Gets Past the Obstacles.”  Ms Lyall profiled Olivia Prokopova, a 19 year-old girl from the Czech Republic who… “last year swept the sport’s three top competitions – the United States Open, the Masters and the world championships-for an unprecedented triple crown in miniature golf.”


Miniature golf! Surely, this was a put-on, a ruse, a tongue in cheek attempt at humor? I’m afraid not. Ms Lyall navigated the subject and gamely authored paragraphs like, “Olivia? There’s no fear in her,’ said Rick Alessi, 57, a municipal heavy-equipment operator from Erie, PA, who is to compete against her in the 2014 United States Open Miniature Golf Tournament…”


Or this: “Prokopova proved an elusive interviewee. She speaks only basic English, and a Russian interpreter had been provided so that Vlk, (who dat?) who speaks Czech and Russian could relay questions to her. But she tended to refer queries to her father, Jan Prokop. That added another layer of complexity because the burly, chain-smoking Prokop, who spent much of the interview talking excitedly and banging messages into his two cellphones, speaks no English at all.”


Que pasa, why is the old man’s name different and isn’t this right out of Monty Python?


Worse yet, putting it in perspective, the Times ran this article alongside  three legitimate sports articles; the first about the election of the new Commissioner of Baseball, the second, a piece about an “All-Black Team” from Chicago competing in the Little League World Series and, the third, about Tony Stewart’s accident prompting changes in Nascar rules. Results of the Mets game that night were tucked inside.


So why today, mini golf? Let’s delve deeper into what the paper that proclaims it presents, “All The News That’s Fit To Print,” didn’t see fit to print.


The organization behind this nonsense is the US ProMiniGolfAssociation, or the USPMGA. They run two of the three championships that Ms Prokopava won in 2013, the US Open and Masters. The 2014 Open took place last weekend, August 15-16, played at the Bluegrass Miniature Golf Course at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ. (If you know the history of Monmouth, you know Sonny Werblin and Leon Hess are spinning in their graves.)


Participants played nine to ten rounds in quest of a $3,500 purse for first place. In all $12,000 was awarded to the top 30 scorers. In October, the Masters will be played on two courses in South Carolina, one called the Hawaiian Rumble and the other, Pineapple Beach. Total prize money is also $12,000.


The USPMGA is serious, organized and has an extensive web site should you choose to indulge. They note in their “The World of Mini Golf” white paper that there are several thousand different balls approved for mini golf to account for all conditions and that scoring differs dependent on the different approved surfaces: Eternite, Betong and Felt.


I kid you not!


Here’s the best part; the USPMGA is a member of the World MiniGolf Sports Federation, (WMFS) and the newsletter notes, “Since October 28, 2000 the WMSF has become a Provisional member in the General Association of the International Sports Federation (GAISF) which is a big step towards becoming an Olympic Sport.”


With that the circle is complete. Mini golf may soon compete with futball and every four years the NY Times will tell us why one or the other will soon become our new national sport.


(For those keeping score, Ms Prokopova failed to repeat succumbing to Matt McCaslin.)


Michael Strahan’s Autograph

The buses left the hotel in Cleveland just past 2:30 on Sunday afternoon carrying about a hundred fans who had all made this journey to Ohio to witness Michael Strahan’s induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. The drivers were taking us south on Interstate 77 to Canton for the second day of the festivities. Yesterday, we visited the Hall, had a dinner and reception in a BBQ joint and watched the seemingly endless induction ceremonies that dragged on for five and one-half hours.


Today, our destination was a meaningless exhibition game between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills to be played that night in Fawcett Stadium, a rinky-dink semi-ancient high school field. But that’s not the reason we went. Prior to delivering us to the field, the twin travel services, Big Blue and Road Crew had planned a reception and buffet diner at a Courtyard by Marriott in Canton where every fan attending would have a photo op with Mr. Strahan.


We had nine in our group, my son Michael, his two boys, Drew (14) and Matty (12), my cousin, Uncle Bob, his friends, Vinnie and Joe, my tailgate buddies, Dave and Tim and me. I had ordered white GMEN brand tee shirts for each of us before the trip. Strahan has an interest in this company and I thought he’d take notice. I had the back of each shirt customized by a local printer in the same black ink that proclaimed, GMEN, on the front:







We decided that all of us who wore these shirts would have our photo taken with our former defensive end. Three hours passed between our arrival and Strahan’s during which we ate, smoozed and took advantage of the open bar. My second grandson, Matty, a natural born salesman and politician, worked his magic with Jim Fassel, the former Giants head coach who was our guest celebrity. He told Fassel how nice his 2000 NFC Championship Ring looked and the coach asked, “How’d you like to wear it for a while?”


Next we knew, Matty was sporting the ring showing it to anyone willing to look at him. It was big on his ring finger and he followed his dad’s advice to keep that finger curled up.


Meanwhile, Drew made his way to the lobby where he staked out a perch near the entrance. He carried a white-panel football made for autographs and a permanent-ink Sharpie pen. And there he waited and waited forgoing lunch or any other activities. As the time for Number 92’s arrival grew near, Matty decided to join his brother, but Drew had little use for this Johnny-come-lately and shooed Matty away. When he persisted, both his father and I shooed him away too.


But Drew’s plans were foiled as Strahan came in with four or five other people and walked straight by him without taking notice. Disappointed for the moment Drew joined us to wait for our photo while scheming how to pull off a post-photo signing.


We were lined up in numerical order based on numbered wrist bands previously issued to us. We were all in the forties and when we reached Mike, the fellow in charge, we explained that we’d all like to go together. He agreed as this also made his life easier and told us to spend a little time talking to Strahan. Our session went off well and he was enthusiastic about our shirts and amazed that my son was taller than him. We had photos taken of us facing the camera and with the back of our shirts to it.


As we left the room, both Drew and Matty lingered by the exit door. As Strahan left, Drew offered his football and open pen, but distractedly, 92 ignored it and grabbed an old visor with a Giants logo from Matty and signed the bill. YES: You read that correctly; HE IGNORED DREW AND SIGNED FOR MATTY!


Undaunted, Drew turned and joined the other fans chasing him and managed to get close. At just this point, Strahan was passing our buddy, Vinnie, who called out as he held up his hat, “Hey, Mike, would you sign this for a Vietnam vet.” (Vinnie had fought there earning three Purple Hearts.)


Drew had reached the Hall of Famer as he turned after hearing Vinnie. Instead of offering his ball for signing, Drew grabbed the hat from Vinnie, hustled back to 92 and gave it to him. Strahan took the hat from Drew, signed the bill and returned it while continuing toward the exit. Drew had had two choices, offer his ball or grab the hat from Vinnie. He chose to grab the hat but, in the process, lost his own opportunity. With that, Strahan was out the door. Drew stopped and before he could react, we all mobbed him praising him for his selfless act. All of us that is, except Michael who told his son, “Give me the ball and wait here.”


With that Michael went out to the car and chased the group down. That same fellow, Mike (in charge of the photos), told Michael, “Sorry, no more autographs.” But Michael went right by him and told Strahan, “My son gave this up so you could sign for a vet. Please sign his ball, he deserves it.”


Michael Strahan signed Drew’s ball.


The Giants won the exhibition game that night. We didn’t care; our day had already been made.

It’s Good to be The King

It is good to be the king especially in New York City. Witness these gems that all appeared in the July 26 and 27 weekend edition of the New York Times. The following pieces appeared in the Real Estate Section:


Manhattan’s Secret Pools and Gardens: The authors point out that the asking price for a four-bedroom apartment in Franklin Place, a condo with a roof-top swimming pool is $7.5 million. Nice crib, if you can get it.


Another venue: “The Dream Downtown, a hotel in the Meatpacking District, charges $175 a day to use the pool, Monday through Thursday. A cabana on the weekend will set you back $2,500.”


(The e-copy of this article was accompanied by a slide show.) My favorite is a shot from a helicopter hovering over a condo on Broadway between East Eighty Eight Street and Waverly Place. The camera is trained on an elevated roof-top pool and a large patio area one level below the pool Young things male and female line the apron below the pool soaking in the rays, the boys in knee length or longer suits and the girls in miniscule Bikini triangles. A few peer up at the chopper. Meanwhile, way down on street level, pedestrians oblivious to the scene above shuffle along Broadway more in tune with a passing a subway entrance than the good life above them.


Park and River Vistas for $30 Million: Tyler Ellis, the daughter of fashion designer, Perry Ellis, held the record for the most expensive sale of the week at $30,003,000. Marcel Herrmann Telles, a Brazilian billionaire is the buyer of her former abode, Apartment 33A in the tower at 15 Central Park West. Mr. Telles is the controlling shareholder in Anheuser-Busch InBev.


On the Upper West Side, a House Divided by Income: A new development on the Upper West Side south of Seventy-Second Street has …”received approval from the city for separate entrances – one for wealthy residents and one for those earning far less who would occupy the projects affordable units in a separate wing.”


This “Let them eat cake” concept of providing affordable housing was introduced during Bloomberg’s administration as part of the incentive to spur developers to include such “affordable” units in “market-rate projects.” But this plan for Riverside South has raised a bit of a storm. Gina Bellafante noted in her piece that it is doubtful the De Blasio administration can do much about the decision even though…”the building’s configuration is anathema to his values…” as it is perfectly legal


This separate entrance, already deemed, “the poor door,” allows rich people to live, as they prefer with other rich people by effectively separating out the masses.


But, then again, so does first class travel.


Not to be outdone, the Sunday Business Section included this First Page gem:

Seeing a Supersize Yacht as a Job Engine, Not Self-Indulgence: (The last piece demonstrates that Big Money plays just as well in St. Louis as it does in Gotham.)

Dennis M. Jones who sold his niche drug company, Jones Pharma, for $3.4 billion in 2000 has taken delivery of his new 161 foot mega-yacht, D’Natalin IV, where he intends to spend winters sailing in the Caribbean and summers cruising Europe. Christensen Yachts won the bid to build and outfit his boat for $34 million.


Mr. Jones noted by coincidence, the price of his boat is the same amount that he has contributed to charities since the year he sold his company in 2000. Bully for you, Mr. Jones.


The 75-year old Jones also noted his purchase saved the boatyard located in Vancouver, Washington. Paul Sullivan reported that, “Joe F. Foggia, chief executive of Christensen Yachts, does not dispute Mr. Jones’s recollection. His yacht order was a catalyst for others. ‘We had finished some boats, but the last one delivered was in the later part of 2010.”


If that alone is not sufficient proof that Mr. Jones is an engine for jump starting the economy, the article points out that the D’Natalin IV will have a crew of 10. “An experienced captain on a ship like this earns $200,000 a year, an engineer about $150,000 and the rest of the crew from $40,000 to $50,000. (Room and board are free.)…This is not a bad gig, especially as the Jones and/or their friends are not on board a decent amount of the time.


Christian Bakewell, a yacht broker who oversaw construction explained it for us, the unwashed: “People see splashy images of Beyonc’e  stepping on a yacht. What they don’t see is how many people go into building that yacht and maintaining that yacht. Those things get missed and people fall back on the one percent arguments.”


As Mel Brooks said and at the risk of being redundant, “It’s good to be the king.”




It’s Good to be the King