Annual Rerun: Remembering My Father on Deer Lodge Day

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deer_lodge

72 years ago today, my father Nat Engel was a U.S. Merchant Marine radio officer on the S.S. Deer Lodge, at sea on the Indian Ocean. The ship was bombed to smithereens by a German u-boat. Several were killed and he was injured before making it to shore in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. From there, he was hospitalized and sidelined for several months. made lifelong friends, served out his time on other ships, came home, met my mother, raised my sisters and I, and lived a full, interesting and sometimes eccentric 84 years until 2007.

That’s why February 17, 1943 is always special in our family as Deer Lodge Day. I don’t have many examples of my father’s writings of that time except a diary he kept on the following ship, the S.S. Edward Burleson. Here are two passages:

“During the early portion of this outward lap, I came to know the second mate pretty well. I share with him the unhappy distinction of being the only other man on board who’s been sunk by the Germans. He’d been on the Morremac Rey when she was divebombed and sunk off Murmansk, and had the gray hair to prove it. He spoke freely and often of his experience, and knowing what it must have been, I felt for him. But despite his 15 years at sea, he spoke of little else. On the basis of that one trip, he tried to tell Lt. (JG) Ralph Boches how the gun crew should be run, the signalmen how to hoist their flags and me how to take a time tick.” Dad then goes on to say how bored he got with the fellow.

OF HIS LONG WAIT FOR A SHIP IN NEWPORT NEWS: “I won’t plunge into the well-worn theme of servicemen in southern towns. I’ll simply say that despite a three-week stay, my most pungent memory is of a loverly ballad that was beginning to sweep the country, and second best is my short stint as second fiddle to a discharged WAC who was waiting for a paratrooper from Topeka who’d promised to marry her. The song haunted us everywhere, from the jukeboxes in the beerless taverns to the groups of soldiers trying to drown their boredom in a sea of noise. I’ll think of the Hampton roads Port of Embarkation and its canteens and environs (visits to Norfolk included) whenever I hear “Pistol Packin’ Mama”…..

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My Last Jim Dolan Rant, I Promise

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If Jim Dolan can't micromanage responding to a fan email, what does that mean for Phil Jackson?

Jim Dolan micromanages responses to angry fan emails. What does that mean for Phil Jackson?

I’m not a huge basketball fan and I live in Brooklyn. I haven’t even been to a Nets game yet.  That doesn’t make me an ideal demo for being a Knicks fan. And considering their record, who is except for Spike Lee?

Still, I’d like to see NYC be a competitive basketball town again. And who are any of us to argue with Phil Jackson’s grand plans? His record in Chicago and Los Angeles is unimpeachable.

Better yet, this time the Knicks owner, Cablevision chairman James Dolan, promised to turn over a new leaf and stay away from his new general manager’s day-to-day operations. Hey, when the late George Steinbrenner hired Joe Torre and finally stopped interfering, look what happened.

As a long-suffering Mets fan, I understand that fixing a major league franchise doesn’t happen overnight. Apparently the elderly Irving Bierman isn’t as patient — or detached — as I am. He sent this missive [http://deadspin.com/dolan-start-rooting-for-the-nets-because-the-knicks-d-1684489469] directly to James Dolan:

– At one stage I thought that you did a wonderful thing when you acquired EVERYTHING from your dad. However, since then it has been ALL DOWN HILL. Your working with Isaiah Thomas & everything else regarding the Knicks. Bringing on Phil Jackson was a positive beginning, but lowballing Steve Kerr was a DISGRACE to the knicks. The bottom line is that you merely continued to interfere with the franchise.

– As a knicks fan for in excess of 60 years, I am utterly embarrassed by your dealings with the Knicks. Sell them so their fans can at least look forward to growing them in a positive direction Obviously, money IS NOT THE ONLY THING. You have done a lot of utterly STUPID business things with the franchise. Please NO MORE.

And here is Dolan’s response:

– You are a sad person. Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while start rooting.for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you.

SB Nation summed this up as, “a dick email and even dicker response from Dolan.”

Fair enough, but this bothers me. A guy like Jim Dolan has an army of public relations people, administrative assistants, community managers and, when necessary, lawyers around him to handle pests like Bierman.

But he chose to micromanage this and handle it on his own.

I guess when you’re worth $1.5 billion, aren’t very smart and don’t feel you have to listen to anyone, you can choose not to tolerate being called stupid, destructive, disgraceful and lousy in business without striking back directly. When your board of directors and sports league presidents don’t question your judgement, there is no need to understand public relations, diplomacy or customer service. In short, a guy like Jim Dolan can easily be founder/president — and thus dumbest member — of the Lucky Sperm Club.

So my congratulations to you Jim Dolan. Once again you’ve managed to show you’re in charge of all you inherited. This time you did it by insulting a crotchety 73-year-old man who is simply frustrated by your executive decisions.

Judging by this, I wonder if Phil Jackson is still confident the Boss won’t interfere.

When Lying Becomes “Conflation of the Facts”

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Not Exactly An Apology

Brian Williams, the anchor of the NBC Evening News, is an affable guy. He likes to go on the late night shows to prove that he can loosen up and be “funny.” He has also proven to be a fraud. 

Since 2003 — when he was a hot-shot rising star in broadcasting covering the Iraq War — Brian Williams has claimed several times that he was in a U.S. military helicopter shot down by enemy fire.  The military publication Stars & Stripes has learned that Brian Williams wasn’t telling the truth.

On Wednesday night, Williams said on his nightly broadcast that he actually had been in a different helicopter and and “conflated” the two events. Those sound like words a worried lawyer wrote, not of an experienced journalist who is managing editor and anchor of the NBC Nightly News

Veterans and other journalists are calling for Williams to resign or be fired.  Like when Bill Clinton wagged his finger and denied having sexual relations with the intern, Williams’ problems seem to be deepening rather than going away — http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/06/business/brian-williamss-apology-over-iraq-account-is-challenged.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0. There’s a Twitter hashtag  called #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.

Worse than that, Williams’ predecessor in the anchor chair Tom Brokaw is denying reports that demanded for Williams to be fired. But Brokaw isn’t doing anything to defend his one-time protege either.

I respect anyone who heads into combat, whether soldier or civilian. Throughout the world, journalists every day risk life and limb to bring people the truth. And I’m enough of a realist to understand that some make choices to make the story compelling. But no one — no one — should ever lie about being under fire. It’s the worst kind of self-aggrandizement.  It’s the greatest form of disrespect to those who were injured, disfigured or killed at war.

What the hapless execs at NBC News will do next? Who knows. Will it take agency media buyers pulling their boner ads from the Nightly News to force Williams out? Probably. But whatever happens, this is shameful and punishable.