Halloween in New York

By Aileen Marshall

Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography

It’s that time of year again, goblins and ghouls abound, the real and the fictional. If you are too old to go trick or treating, what is there to do? Luckily, you live in New York, where there are always options for something to do.

The most iconic New York Halloween celebration is the Village Halloween parade. It was started in 1974 by puppeteer Ralph Lee. In that very first year, people on the street got caught up in the mood, and jumped into the parade. It has grown over the years from 1500 revelers marching from West Street to Washington Square, to the present day parade of sixty thousand marching along Sixth Avenue from Spring Street up to 16th Street. This parade is known for its elaborate and outlandish costumes.

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Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography

Besides the costume contingents, there are floats and bands and large puppets. People tend to compete to have the most noticeable and impressive costumes. Sometimes they will coordinate and march as a group of a certain character. (How many Elvises can you fit on a block?) Since the parade is at night, people often incorporate some sort of lighting in their costumes. Anyone wearing a costume can enter the parade by waiting at the staging area on Spring Street. Each year the parade has a theme. The theme this year is “Shine a Light”.

The Village Voice gave it an award the first year to encourage it to continue. Now the parade committee works with the city, Community Board 2 and the NYPD. In 2001 the theme was a phoenix rising from ashes as a tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center attack. The only year it didn’t run was during Hurricane Sandy since lower Manhattan had no power. The parade this year starts at 7pm.


Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography


Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography

There are a number of haunted houses in the city. There is the reputed kind, considering the city is over 300 years old, and there is the entertainment kind, for your Halloween fun. The best known is Blood Manor. Located at 163 Varrick Street, it is a 5,000 square foot maze of gore and freights. Blood Manor is reported to go through 37 gallons of fake blood each night, hence the name. Tickets are $30 online or $35 in person. Be warned that this attraction is known for its long lines. For more information, go to bloodmanor.com. Another entertaining haunted house is Times Scare, located at 669 Eighth Avenue, the only haunted house open all year long. Tickets are $27 but the associated Kill Bar is free. There are also various theatrical performances such as magic and burlesque shows. Go to timesscarenyc.com for more details. The Jekyll and Hyde Haunted House is located at 91 Seventh Avenue South. The famous story is performed while you wander through the house. There is also a restaurant attached. Their website is jekyllandhydeclub.com.

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US Open Tennis Women’s Surprises

By Susan Russo

US OPEN NanThe women’s final of the US Open Tennis tournament on Saturday, September 12th was almost anti-climactic. The exciting confrontation took place in the Arthur Ashe stadium in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens. Many of the spectators in packed stands had not followed the careers of the two Italian singles opponents. Flavia Pennetta (ranked at 26 in the US Open Women’s Singles program) and Roberta Vinci (ranked 43). Together, they had won many women’s doubles matches world-wide, but neither was known for her singles play. The crowd of the rafters-filled stadium applauded with equal enthusiasm for each of the women. Both women were fierce in play, but graceful, and clearly enjoying the match, since seemingly neither expected to be in the final of one of the major tennis tournaments. One of the commentators remarked that she had never seen such joy shown by both players in their ultimate meeting. After the battle, the two warmly congratulated each other and thanked their “teams” and the crowd for their support. Three more surprises were to come. One was the presence of Fabio Fognini in the stands. Fognini (Italy) (ranked 32) had lost in a very tight match in the 4th Round to Feliciano Lopez (Spain) (ranked 18), and returned to Italy. But he flew back to New York to see Flavia Pennetta, his fiancée, in the final. Also watching the match from the President’s Box were the Prime Minister of Italy and a delegation of cheering dignitaries who had flown in just for that match. And then, after Ms. Pennetta had exuberantly accepted the winner’s trophy, she announced that she had decided before the tournament that this would be her last professional tournament.

This was the year that Serena Williams (USA) was predicted to complete the “Grand Slam” of world tennis in singles. If you don’t follow tennis, the Grand Slam denotes winning at the “Big Four” tournaments in Melbourne, Australia, in Paris, in London, and in New York. The fact that Serena Williams (ranked number 1 in women’s singles play) was bested by an Italian player, Roberta Vinci, was a shock to herself and to the tennis world. Ms. Vinci, at 5 feet 4 inches and 132 pounds, would seem to have been slightly at a disadvantage to Ms. Williams’s height of 5 feet 9 inches, and the serving power of her weight of 155 pounds. However, Ms. Vinci used her doubles skills of quick movement and unexpected play against the harder-serving but slower-moving Ms. Williams. Ms. Williams seemed to be undermined by Ms. Vinci’s apparent calm during play, while Ms. Williams’s frustration was evident, and seemed to diminish her usual confident play.

Ms. Williams’s “draw” (the arbitrary matching of two players for each round of the tournament) were, in order, two unseeded players; 19th-ranked Madison Keys (USA); and her sister, Venus Williams (USA), ranked 23. Ms. Vinci’s opponents were two unseeded players; and Kristina Mladenovic (France), who had beaten the 13th seed, Ekaterina Makarova (RUS); however, Ms. Vinci had an unexpected “breather” during the tournament, when the unfortunate Eugenie Bouchard (Canada, ranked 25) was sidelined by a concussion before the Third Round of play. I leave it to the experts to evaluate what factors led to the unexpected conclusion of the women’s singles match.

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Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part XII: Stanford Moore and William Stein, 1972 Prize in Chemistry

By Joseph Luna

Original rotating fraction collector used by Moore and Stein for analysis of RNAse. RU historic instrument collection, accession number 105.

Original rotating fraction collector used by Moore and Stein for analysis of RNAse. RU historic instrument collection, accession number 105.

“RNAse-free.” To most any molecular biologist working with RNA, these two seemingly unrelated words are as sweet sounding together as “passion-fruit.” This is because ribonucleases, those small hardy enzymes that chew up RNA, can be found everywhere, are more invasive than the tiniest bacteria, and can utterly ruin an experiment. Seeing an “RNAse-free” label on one’s reagents is often a mark of trust that experimental results are on firm footing. But the story of RNase is a fascinating one, particularly at Rockefeller, for it is a story intricately wrapped in two names as tightly bound and harmonious together as “RNAse-free”: those of Stanford Moore and William Stein, or “Moore-n’-Stein”.

What can be considered one of the greatest life-long collaborations in biochemistry began simply, when Moore and Stein met as post-docs in the laboratory of Max Bergmann in 1939. Bergmann had fled Nazi Germany five years prior and took up a position at the Rockefeller Institute to continue his research on protein chemistry. A once long-time collaborator of Emil Fischer (who coined the term “peptide”), Bergmann and his lab were focused on finding ways to isolate and analyze proteins. By the mid 1930s, all twenty of the primary amino acid building blocks had been discovered, but it was unclear how they were put together to make a functional protein. What’s more, each protein that could be isolated appeared to have a different and unique composition of amino acids. Before one could get a grasp on protein structure, what was needed was a reliable way to determine how much of each amino acid a particular protein contained. This was the problem Moore and Stein first tackled.

They started by mixing together eighteen amino acids at known concentrations and asking if they could invent a method that could both separate and individually measure the concentration of each amino acid in the mixture. It was a daunting task, a bit like trying to uncook an egg. An early form of chromatography using starch columns eventually solved the first problem. Moore and Stein discovered that each of the eighteen amino acids passed through these columns at unique speeds, and so by adding the mixture at one end of the column and collecting fractions at the other, the mixture could be separated in a defined way: phenylalanine came out first, then leucine, then isoleucine and so on. And because standing around collecting fractions drop by drop was simultaneously laborious and boring, they invented a mechanical lab technician to precisely do the work: the automated fraction collector. The second problem, to measure the concentration of amino acids in the fractions, was solved by turning to a well-known chemical reaction known as the ninhydrin reaction. Chemists had discovered that in the presence of ninhydrin, amino acid solutions turned a bluish-purple with each amino acid giving off a unique, if unstable, hue. Moore and Stein figured out ways to stabilize the reaction such that the amount of blue could help determine both the identity of the amino acid, and its concentration.

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Culture Corner

J. M. W. Turner on film and Jan van Eyck in The Smithsonian Institution

By Bernie Langs


“Mr. Turner poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Lord Kenneth Clark, the eminent late art historian who often graces the pages of “Culture Corner”, felt that life’s meaning can best be found through the study of paintings, which later bled into his world historical view of “civilization” that encompassed architecture, sculpture and even the theories of how economics shape cultures and move the masses. In the past, I have read as much of Clark’s works as I could and I now recall his discussion of how certain artists cannot be easily categorized, so unique are their works. He boiled it down to cases of an almost divinely-touched sense of an individual physical vision. Joseph Mallord William (J.M.W.) Turner was one such painter discussed by Clark. Turner’s ability to “see” and then paint with accuracy or imagination (or both) the sea, its foam and waves, the detailed bubbling of turbulent waters hitting hard wooden ships, the shapes and phantoms rising from terrific storms, remains unequaled to this day.

In the film “Mr. Turner”, written and directed by Mike Leigh, the life of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) is presented with all the harshness of his times along with a contrasting and almost Dutch-like pristineness. Details, for example, of particular drawing rooms with their cinematographically well-lit furniture, basins or candlesticks, and striking or muted colors make “Mr. Turner” a wonder of a movie. Timothy Spall plays Turner in a marvelously strange and complex manner, often difficult to watch, as he grunts and barks with a near-Cockney biting, graveled voice. By contrast, Spall played a conniving Rosencrantz to Kenneth Branagh’s vengeful Hamlet smoothly, and his take on Turner seems to combine his roles as the rat-like villain Peter Pettigrew (“Wormtail”) in the Harry Potter films with his amusing characterization of Winston Churchill in “The King’s Speech.”

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“The Annunciation” (and detail) by Jan van Eyck (National Gallery of Art; photos by B.L.)

The roughshod Mr. Turner makes his sketches as often as he can, but it only seems obsessive at the end of the film, when he is compelled to leap from his deathbed to run outside in his bedclothes to draw “from life” a woman’s dead body washed up on the shore near his seaside home. I kept trying to reconcile the idea of Clark’s notion of a visionary with the hard-as-nails reality that Mr. Leigh bludgeons us with throughout this movie. But don’t misunderstand me, the movie is fantastic and the genius of Turner’s inner world is there for the taking if you look for it. The key scene, where Lord Clark’s Turner is on display, is when during a stormy sea voyage, Turner insists on being tied high on the ship’s mast, like a latter day Ulysses, in order to see the raging waters about him to gain a first-hand knowledge and vision of nature’s mighty torrent. The nitty-gritty Turner meets the soulful artist in that moment and Spall plays it masterfully.

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RU Ready for Halloween?

Dedicated to the memory of Moses Malone

By George Barany

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977) currently on the faculty at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. At a 1974 Halloween party at Rockefeller, he dressed up as Moses Malone, who was born in the same year, and who also “skipped college for the big time.” For more about this specific puzzle, including links to the answer and a “midrash,” visit http://tinyurl.com/halloweenpuz. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at http://tinyurl.com/gbpuzzle.

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1. They can brighten up a room
6. War horse
11. One way to swing
14. W.W. II menace
15. Rwanda resident
16. NYC Ave.
17. Griffin’s man-cave hangings?
19. Darth Vader’s boyhood nickname
20. Processes of elimination?
21. Alleviated
23. Z to Field or Chait
26. Mantle, once
27. de Duve’s last-minute costume?
31. Love of Paris?
32. Habituate
33. Short change?
36. Green, in Grenoble
37. Catch or catcher
38. Salmon sort
39. Suffix added to “Mercedes-Benz” in a joke told by Agosta or Merrifield?
40. “
41. Jesse who set a record for most consecutive wins in relief to start a career (homonym of common construction equipment)
42. Palade’s glow-in-the-dark decoration?
44. Gerrymander
47. Pitifully small
48. Madison Square Garden, e.g.
49. Sister of Moses and Aaron
52. Bad beginning?
53. Mauro’s special hot sauce?
58. Peptide bond dihedral angle
59. Mosaic materials
60. Aria addressing a portrait
61. Part of a line: Abbr.
62. What matzoh is missing
63. Council of churches

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Life on a Roll

A Taste of Zagreb


Zagreb Central Station

Zagreb Central Station

I cut through Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, a rather low-key European capital city. I did not know what to expect prior to arrival. I only got to spend a couple hours near the city’s central railway station. Across from it stood a palace-like building with an open plaza filled with pigeons. It was drizzling, windy and cloudy, not much color to see, except for the butter-like color used on many historic buildings. Somehow, this miserable gloomy weather casted perfectly an aura of solemnity, glory and hardships upon the surroundings, leaving a tone of melancholy floating in the damp air. There, I could savor a sense of age, power and past brilliance even without much knowledge of what it really was, probably an influence of the former Russian empire. I would really like to freeze everything I saw just the way it was at that moment, I thought to myself as I left.

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Only Seven Days Left! Two Must-See Exhibitions in NYC!

By Natalia Ketaren

Evening gown by Guo Pei. (Photo: Natalia Ketaren)

Evening gown by Guo Pei. (Photo: Natalia Ketaren)

September 7 sees the end of two wonderful exhibitions in NYC. The first exhibition I saw and will speak of, was the highly publicized China: Through the Looking Glass housed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met). The second, equally enchanting and moving, was that of Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971 presented at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). An exhibition curating the artist’s work during her early years (1960-1971), years that defines her as the artist and figure we see today.

China: Through the Looking Glass (May 7 – September 7)

I had known about the exhibition first from social media sites and fashion magazines. Many designers were previewing Chinese style influences in their Spring/Summer 2015 collections. Needless to say, I was excited to view the exhibition after seeing all the beautiful dresses and accessories from this year’s Met Gala.

The exhibition is focused on China’s influence on Western art, fashion and design over the decades. As I entered the exhibit, I was welcomed into a dimly-lit space and, in the background, the soft sound of music. Imposing mannequins stood singularly or in small groups, each dressed in an elaborate gown, rich in detailing, ranging from delicate hand embroidery and cascading figure-hugging silk, to boldly woven silk brocade, structured into ornate shapes that sculpted the body into a work of art. One particular Yves Saint Laurent gown, with images of a dragon against a backdrop of bright red sequins, had me stop in admiration, not only at its beauty, but, in appreciation of the time, effort, and patience it must have taken to create such a beautiful object. Each gown, coat, trouser, and suit I saw, aside from the historical communist uniforms, were brightly colored in the colors I most associate with China: red, emerald, canary yellow, and, of course, iconic blue and white. Even black garments shimmered with fine beading or sequins, or were bordered with the brightest shades of contrasting color.

Alongside the gowns are accessories so finely crafted you can’t help but pause. I couldn’t step away easily from the delicate craftsmanship of the shawls, embroidered with scenes of lavish gardens and busy towns, strewn with peonies and colorful animals. Each shawl must have taken months if not longer to perfect, the product so meticulously constructed, so luxuriously designed, would leave Persian artisans in awe.

As I traveled through each room, every painting, every object, every film reel was captivating. It is a truly mammoth exhibition, spanning numerous rooms within the Met, over three floors. It wasn’t surprising that the run was extended past its August end date. There is so much more here than just beautiful objects, there is a true appreciation of a culture so enchanting, that it inspired so many people to create such amazing works. I highly suggest, before September 7, you take a walk around the beautifully curated exhibition, which is China: Through the Looking Glass.

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Who was Lila Magie?

By Aileen Marshall

Who was Lila Magie?

During the summer months, I try to use the campus walkways to go between buildings, rather than the tunnels. Recently I was walking along the East Walkway, behind the Student’s Residence, near Bronk. I stopped when I noticed a sign I hadn’t seen before: “The Lila J. Magie Garden, In recognition of Lila’s outstanding service to The Rockefeller University from 1950 to 1991.” I wondered, who was Lila J. Magie and why did the University name a garden after her?

Photo: Lila Magie with David Rockefeller, by Leif Carlsson

Photo: Lila Magie with David Rockefeller, by Leif Carlsson

It turns out that she was a well-liked, long-term employee who left her estate to the University when she died on December 23, 2012. She was a native New Yorker, born in 1927, who went to Washington Irving High School. Magie received a degree from the Purdue University’s School of General Engineering in Liberal Sciences and started at Rockefeller in 1950. Her first position was as a stenographer in the business office. She then moved up to secretary in that office, then moved to personnel. She became responsible for staffing from 1954 until 1987, when she was promoted to the Director of Faculty Administration and Secretary to the Board of Trustees. Magie retired in 1991 and moved from Bronxville, NY to Rockland, ME, where she continued her gardening hobby.

While most of her career was in Human Resources (HR), her positions allowed her to interact with many different people on campus, from academic personnel to board members. She was known as the “go to” person around campus if someone needed to know something; the common phrase was “Go ask Lila.” Magie once took care of a school of pike for Dr. Herbert Gasser while he was away. HR was a good fit, since she had a reputation of being well liked by everyone. As Isiah Curry remembers her admiringly, “She was Human Resources.”

There was a dedication ceremony for the garden this past June, led by Marnie Imhoff, Senior Vice President of Development. During the ceremony, she talked about how when Magie retired, the University community put together a scrapbook of messages to her. There are entries of numerous people who knew and worked with her, including David Rockefeller, Brooke Astor, Christian de Duve, and Joshua Lederberg. The entry from Dr. Lederberg reads “Dear Lila – The stories we could swap… but don’t dare put to paper…”

When The Rockefeller University learned that Magie had left her entire estate to it, it was decided to dedicate a garden to her, since she was known as an ardent gardener. Rockefeller’s horticultural consultant, Lulu Leibel, chose from a list of flowering plants with Magie in mind, which also do well in the shade. There is a pink flowering dogwood tree in the garden. There are several flowering shrubs, including two different kinds of hydrangea, a holly bush and a lilac bush. Other flowers were planted there too, pink Astilbe, a pink coneflower, a heritage rose, and some Salvia. There are also several ferns and ornamental grasses in Magie’s garden.

This garden is evidence of what a great community culture we have here at Rockefeller. There are many long-term employees, for whom the University is like a second home, this author included. Also, check out Amelia Kahaney’s article about Magie in the next issue of Benchmarks to learn more about this venerable member of our campus.

Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part XI: Gerald M. Edelman, 1972 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

By Joseph Luna

To be immune is to be exempt. In the late 19th century, a physician named Paul Ehrlich gave a death-defying example of such an exemption by giving mice sub-lethal quantities of the deadly toxin ricin. Over time, these mice developed a specific resistance to ricin such that they survived when exposed to amounts that would kill a normal mouse. And yet, this ricin immunity was specific, as the super mice remained susceptible to other toxins. What made immunity so specific and how did it come about? With this experiment, Ehrlich joined a chorus of scientists that included Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur before him to address immunity. It was upon these questions that the science of immunology was founded.

To explain how this might work in his ricin-proof mice, Ehrlich and others reasoned that the exposed mice begin to produce something that could counter the effects of the toxin—an anti-toxin. When it was shown that serum from an animal exposed to toxins or infectious diseases could be transferred to confer immunity in a recipient, this finding blossomed into the concept of a curative anti-serum. It was here that Ehrlich went further. Attempting to summarize the common thread that ran across exquisitely specific immunities against toxins, bacteria, parasites, or anything threatening, Ehrlich coined the term “antibody.” It was a specific antibody directed against a specific usually foreign substance, he formulated, that was the root cause of immunity.

Over the next five decades, the study of antibodies lay at the heart of immunology as researchers worked on how specific antibody reactions could be, how antibodies came about, how they could be inherited and passed along, and what exactly they were made of. Answering this last point briefly became a focus at Rockefeller in the 1930s, where chemical methods were first used to determine that antibodies were made of protein. But beyond this, key questions remained unsettled: what accounted for antibody diversity? Were specific antibodies structurally distinct by adopting different conformations or by having different sequences? In short: what does an antibody look like?

Sometime in 1955, a young captain in the U.S. Army named Gerald Edelman asked himself this question. Edelman was a medical doctor stationed in Paris, and when not attending to fellow soldiers at the hospital, Edelman would read medical and science textbooks for fun. Picking up an immunology textbook one day, he read page upon page of the foreign targets of antibodies—antigens—but almost nothing on antibodies themselves. After an extensive literature search on antibodies, Edelman reached an unsatisfying end. He decided to do something unusual: he applied to graduate school with the goal of studying antibody structure. Even more unusual, he chose not to go to a Harvard or a Johns Hopkins level institution, but instead entered a newly created graduate program at The Rockefeller Institute for Medial Research in 1957.

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Kykuit, The Rockefeller Family Estate – For a Very Special Day Trip

By Susan Russo

810867_seThe 3,000-acre estate of four generations of the Rockefeller family is nestled in the lovely area of Pocantico Hills, New York. The name of the estate, Kykuit, means “lookout” in Dutch, an apt name, since the vistas over the Hudson River are magnificent. John D. Rockefeller had the six-story mansion built in 1913. The architects were Delano (cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and Aldrich.

The house’s interiors are beautiful, but not overly ornate, as were many grand mansions of the time. The designer was Ogden Codman, Jr., who rejected the cluttered decors of the turn-of–the-century, and created a more modest yet graceful style. Codman, who designed novelist Edith Wharton’s home in Newport, collaborated with her on a book published in 1897, called “The Decoration of Houses,” which introduced this more livable style.

You will notice on your tour of the house that there is no ballroom, a main showplace of many U.S. and European mansions. John D. Rockefeller, a Baptist, did not allow dancing or alcohol in the mansion. Mr. Rockefeller, did, however, have a small pipe organ, later removed, in a family room. In this room now reside portraits by the American painter, John Singer Sargent. A Sargent landscape painting also depicts the huge Fountain of Oceana in front of the mansion, a replica of a fountain in Florence, Italy.

810869_seNelson Rockefeller’s collection of mostly modern artwork is exhibited in the subterranean art gallery, where the ceilings are covered with ingeniously-designed Italian tiles made by the Guastavino family, originally from Spain. These elegant ceramic tiles can also be seen outside the Grand Central Terminal Oyster Bar, in the New York City Municipal Building, in Grant’s Tomb, and in the City Hall subway station. In the Kykuit gallery are amazing tapestries designed by Pablo Picasso, commissioned at Nelson’s request, and woven in France. Throughout the house and estate you will see artwork by, among others, Constantin Brancusi, Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore, Joan Miró, Andy Warhol, Jacques Lipschitz, Alberto Giacometti, and Alexander Calder. Cynthia B. Altman has been curator of the art collection for the Rockefeller family, the Kykuit estate, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and our own Rockefeller University campus for over twenty years, and she also serves as an advisor to the National Trust for Historical Preservation, the International Center for Photography, and the Empire State Plaza Art Commission.

The gorgeous landscaping, designed by William Welles Bosworth, includes peaceful settings such as the rose garden, the Japanese garden and teahouse, a replica of the Greek Temple of Aphrodite and grotto, more elegant fountains, an Italianate loggia, and the swimming pool garden. On the “Classic Tour,” you will be taken by bus to the Coach Barn, which features a charming collection of the Rockefellers’ horse-drawn carriages, saddles, and classic “touring” and other luxurious cars.

Some of the private parts of the estate are “The Playhouse,” still a family retreat, and the nine-hole reverse golf course, where only the family and their guests are permitted to play.

If you have a car or can manage a fairly long walk, you can visit the family-built church, the community’s Union Church of Pocantico Hills, which is free to all. On Sundays, services are held at 9:00 and 11:00am year round. This charming stone building was enriched by the Rockefeller family with thirteen amazing windows designed by Marc Chagall, and a rose window designed by Henri Matisse. I was told by a guide that M. Matisse came out of retirement in his 80s at the request of the Rockefellers to design that window. Since the church is near the surrounding towns, one special event is a Harvest Church Fair, this year on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16-17, from 9:00am to 4:00pm, and on Sunday, October 18, from 12 noon to 4:00pm.

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For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 2 Edition

By Jim Keller

I usually wait until after the Telluride and Toronto International Film festivals to discuss the second of the three-part Ones to Watch series, but I’ll be in Hawaii honeymooning for half of September, so I moved it up. I admit I’m at a bit of a disadvantage without the critics’ feedback from the summer’s end festivals to consider, but it could be fun to navigate this without a flashlight for a change. By my count the Best Actor race currently has about 40 men in contention for the five slots. Who will be the true contenders? We can only speculate at this juncture. But there’s no greater way to seek out the ghost of Oscar future than by looking at the past. Here’s how the men of last year’s Best Actor race stacked up against Oscar.

Four out of nine leading men discussed in last year’s column (including our winner) went on to earn Best Actor nominations: Michael Keaton (Birdman), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game). Eddie Redmayne won the Best Actor Oscar for The Theory of Everything. By year’s end those names were foregone conclusions and only Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner) was snubbed, as he was eclipsed by Bradley Cooper (American Sniper). Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Brad Pitt (Fury), Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up), and Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) didn’t make the cut.

THE ARTIST: Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl (director: Tom Hooper):

FYC: This biopic, based on David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name, depicts the true story of Danish artists Lili Elbe (Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) whose marriage is tested after Lili becomes one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery. The road to Redmayne’s Oscar was paved with Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) wins, a Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) nomination, and a slew of critics’ groups nominations, all for his portrayal of famous physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Given that the transgender topic is everywhere in the media, it could be just the timely role to land him a second nod, or even a win.

THE MOGUL: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs (director: Danny Boyle):

FYC: The biopic of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs (Fassbender) was adapted from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the same name. It explores the modern day genius’s triumphs and tribulations and how they affected his family life and possibly his health. Fassbender has had a bit of a rickety relationship with the Academy as evidenced by his Best Actor snub for 2011’s Shame, a film that netted him Golden Globe, BAFTA, and BFCA nominations. It wasn’t until 2014 that Fassbender earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for 12 Years a Slave after requisite nominations from those bodies as well as SAG. One might say that he’s overdue for a win, but Fassbender’s three other films due out this year give him four Oscar opportunities: Macbeth (see below), The Light Between Oceans, and Trespass Against Us. Any of these could lift him into the upper echelon. With 12 Years, the actor sidestepped the Academy’s tendency to not nominate unlikable characters and he did so without campaigning. But it could be his refusal to campaign that ultimately keeps him out of the winner’s circle.

THE MURDERER: Michael Fassbender – Macbeth (director: Justin Kurzel):

FYC: Fassbender plays the titular character in this drama, based on Shakespeare’s play about the ill-fated duke of Scotland who receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become King. At once consumed by ambition and goaded by his wife, Macbeth later commits regicide and takes the throne. See Steve Jobs, with four shots on goal, it seems the Oscar is Fassbender’s to lose this season.

THE WILDMAN: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant (director: Alejandro González Iñárritu):

FYC: This drama, based in part on Michael Punke’s 2003 novel of the same name, follows 1820s fur trapper Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) as he sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling. I’ve written at length in this column about DiCaprio’s previous nominations (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond and last year’s The Wolf of Wall Street), as well as his six Academy snubs (The Titanic, Gangs of New York, The Departed, Revolutionary Road, J. Edgar, and Django Unchained) so I won’t repeat myself. Pretty much the whole of the Oscar-watching world concedes that the actor will someday win an Oscar, it’s just a matter of time, and the right timing. This looks like a meaty role to get ‘er done.

 THE MOBSTER: Johnny Depp – Black Mass (director: Scott Cooper):

FYC: This crime drama depicts the true story of Whitey Bulger—the brother of a state senator and the most infamous, violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a turf-invading Mafia family. It’s based on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. It’s been a while since Depp’s name has come up in the Oscar conversation. He earned back-to-back Best Actor Oscar, SAG, and BAFTA nominations for 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and 2004’s Finding Neverland, and his third and final nomination three years later for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Depp earned BFCA nominations for all three films. The trailer for Black Mass features a decidedly more down-to-earth Depp, who appears to have disappeared into his character. Can the actor come back from playing fanciful characters and prove himself to the Academy? Time will tell.

 THE RETIREE: Michael Caine – Youth (director: Paolo Sorrentino):

FYC: The film sees two old friends on vacation in the Alps discussing their careers and the lives of those around them, when retired orchestra conductor Fred (Caine) receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip’s birthday. Caine’s history with the Academy is long and fruitful. Beginning in 1967 with Alfie he has earned four Best Actor nominations: 1972’s Sleuth, 1983’s Educating Rita, and 2002’s The Quiet American, and two Supporting Actor wins: 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters and 1999’s The Cider House Rules. At 82, Caine’s repertoire cannot be denied. Will the Academy want to give him that elusive Best Actor statuette? You can bet on it.

THE DRUGGY: Ben Foster – The Program (director: Stephen Frears):

FYC: This biopic of the famed athlete Lance Armstrong (Foster) is told through Irish sports journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd), who is convinced the bicyclist’s Tour de France victories were possible via the use of banned substances. With this conviction Walsh hunts for evidence to expose Armstrong. The film is based on Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins. Foster has been on an uphill climb since his work in 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma. He has yet to earn any nominations from major awards groups for his individual work, but that could change this year. It’s still too early to tell, but there’s a chance that O’Dowd may be the lead, in which case Foster would be supporting.

THE REPORTER: Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight (director: Thomas McCarthy):

 FYC: This thriller is based on the true story of how the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team uncovered the massive child molestation scandal and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. The Globe won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its investigation, and its coverage is among the most celebrated journalism projects of the 21st century. The team is the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative unit in the U.S. Ruffalo has two Best Supporting Actor nominations under his belt for 2010’s The Kids Are Alright and last year’s Foxcatcher. He earned BAFTA, BFCA, and SAG nominations for both (he also won the SAG for Best Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for The Normal Heart), and a Golden Globe nomination for Foxcatcher last year. It seems fair to say that the actor is a club member of those preordained to win an Oscar, but the film’s trailer suggests that the film is more of an ensemble piece, making it difficult for anyone to earn individual recognition.

 As I mentioned earlier, several men have irons in the Oscar fire this year. It’s too early to tell what will hit and what will hit hard. If Jodie Foster’s Money Monster lands, George Clooney could find himself in the mix. The same can be said for Warren Beatty and his as-yet-unnamed Howard Hughes project. Meanwhile, could Christian Bale shrug off last year’s Exodus: Gods and Kings pitfall and muscle in via Terrence Malick’s long-gestating Knight of Cups?

Each of these men is a past winner and none of them should be discounted. FYC returns in November. So until then, keep your ear to the street and your eyes on the screen.


Puzzle to Play With

By Arlene Romoff and George Barany

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977) currently on the faculty of the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. Arlene Romoff is an advocate and author in the area of hearing loss, based in New Jersey. For more about this specific puzzle, including links to the answer and a “midrash,” visit http://tinyurl.com/puzzletoplaywithpuz. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at http://tinyurl.com/gbpuzzle.


1. Boy toy
6. Understands
10. Certain herring
14. “It is ___ wind that blows…”
15. Peaceful, not-so-smart race in “The Time Machine”
16. Former Yankee first baseman Martinez
17. Scrappy but lovable companion
19. Baseball’s Mel and Ed
20. To paraphrase Mark Twain, a man who serves two masters
21. Adorable carnival giveaway
23. Has too much, briefly
24. Number two
26. Anti-narcotics branch of govt.
27. Mark for life
29. Kwik-E-Mart clerk on “The Simpsons”
31. Big bird of stories
34. Inscribed pillar
37. Star of “Hulk,” “Troy,” and “Munich”
39. Iconic creator of products coveted by collectors
42. Election day survey
43. Workout program you might do for kicks?
44. Humorist’s forte
45. Shakespearean snake
46. Sechs/zwei
48. Rowboat accessory
50. Crossword puzzler’s favorite cookie
52. Gathered dust
55. Curvaceous clotheshorse
58. Roadblock
61. Hodgepodge

62. Colloquial compliment … or a hint to 1-,17-, 21-, 39-, 55-, and 69-Across
64. Alchemy material
65. Indian royalty
66. Major pro-choice org.
67. Take-out order?
68. JFK guesses
69. Small cutie with a wardrobe trunk

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Life on a Roll

Roll 1psBy Elodie Pauwels

The pink granite coast is located in the North coast of Brittany, in the area of Perros-Guirec, France. This magnificent jewel stretches on only a few kilometers long, and is a bicolor beauty. The pink torn rocks contrast with the blue of the sky and the turquoise blue of the sea. And if you come early in the season, yellow Brooms add to the explosion of colors.

Roll 3ps

Roll 2ps

To Dubrovnik, with love

By Qiong Wang

Photos: Qiong Wang

IMG_3095 If you are not very familiar with the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, you must have heard of “Game of Thrones.” Yes, the HBO series was filmed there. Dubrovnik is located on the very southern tip of Croatia by the east coast of the Adriatic Sea. The entire city is built on sea cliffs, encircled by 3-to-5-meters-thick, 25-meters-high and 1950-meters-long brick walls, constructed mostly from the 13th to the 17th centuries. These city walls rise up and down along the cliff rocks, having protected the city for nearly 1000 years from both the sea and the land, are still standing strong and admirable. Five fortresses of different sizes, altitudes and styles are niched in between the walls. The sight of this marvelous city and its geographic setting reminded me immediately of the legendary city of Constantine during the Byzantine Empire, even though I have never been there.

The Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andric said that the city roofs alone could be a subject of an entire study. If you look at any city in the world from the air, Dubrovnik is probably one of the most easily identifiable cities. Climbing onto the top of the city wall, a sea of red slanted tile roofs of various sizes and orientation flashed in front of my eyes, making me fascinated with their texture and structure immediately. IMG_3181They snuggled so nicely together, without any clay in between it seemed. At some places on the city wall, they are within reach. Under the sun, the roof shadow brought out great contrast for different shades of red, crimson, and maple, random yet harmonious. The 50-shades-of-red on the roof tiles are vibrant but not flirty, because their high spirits are brought securely to the ground by the unanimously clay-colored solid stone houses, a great background color to address the roof tiles.

As a beautiful medieval city on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik went through great prosperity during the golden era of Mediterranean trading, and became the business and trading center of the south Dalmatian region, rivaling against Venice at the time. IMG_3302Because of its geographic and business significance, Dubrovnik had always been under the protection of different cross-continental empire powers. Dubrovnik was pretty lucky in this way. Its geographic location is a gift from god, making it far from the most turbulent regions. However in 1667, on a morning just before Easter, a major earthquake hit Dubrovnik, killing about half the inhabitants. Many buildings were damaged, including my favorite construction in the city, the Onofrio’s Fountain. This 15th century rotunda-shaped monstrous structure was used to supply water to the city habitants in the past via 16 masked animal faces, when drinking water was scarce. This fountain is like no other fountain I have ever seen, cute, over-sized and down-to-earth, just like the Baymax of Dubrovnik.

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For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 1 Edition

By Jim Keller

This month we begin our four-part series that will take us all the way up to Oscar nominations in January 2016 by discussing the leading ladies of the Best Actress race. While it was slim pickings for last year’s crop, this year’s appears to feature some strong, bona fide leads out of the gate, but still pales in comparison to the Best Actor race. Last year’s narrative was a tale of three actresses overdue for a win (Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Jessica Chastain). The category was so underrepresented in Hollywood that a supporting actress (not a lead) took one of the top spots. What will this year’s story be? Will our top five be true leads? These are the questions we will be looking to answer in the next couple of months. So let’s first examine last year’s Best Actress nomination results and see who won over Oscar.

Although Reese Witherspoon and Rosamund Pike received Best Actress nominations for Wild and Gone Girl, the Best Actress Oscar went to a very deserving Julianne Moore for Still Alice. Meanwhile, Oscar queen, Meryl Streep, originally discussed in the lead category, earned a Supporting Actress nomination for Into the Woods. Among those performances snubbed by the Academy were Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year), Amy Adams (Big Eyes), and Hilary Swank (The Homesman). Rounding out the top five were Felicity Jones for a supporting role in The Theory of Everything and Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night). Both Streep and Cotillard are discussed again this year.

THE QUEEN BEE: Meryl Streep – Ricki and the Flash (director: Jonathan Demme):

FYC: This comedic drama focuses on a rock-and-roller who gave up everything to reach for stardom and who returns home to make things right with her family.

Streep has been discussed every year in this column. As of last January the actress has 16 Oscar nominations under her belt and three Oscar wins—two in lead (Sophie’s Choice in 1983 and The Iron Lady in 2011), and one in supporting (Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980). Whether the film ends up being nothing more than summer fun fodder, omitting Streep from consideration is a fool’s errand.

THE ACTIVIST: Carey Mulligan – Suffragette (director: Sarah Gavron):

FYC: The drama centers on early members of the British feminist movement of the late 19th and 20th centuries—a time when such women were forced underground to pursue a dangerous cat and mouse game with an increasingly brutal State. It is the first film in history to be shot at the Houses of Parliament in the UK and was done with full permission of members of parliament (MPs). Mulligan earned Best Actress nominations from the Academy, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) for 2009’s An Education. The same role won her the Best Actress award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), which also nominated her for its Rising Star award that year. 2011 yielded two supporting nominations from the BFCA (Shame) and BAFTA (Drive). The film’s trailer suggests a strong performance from Mulligan and showcases her range. This film is one of my most anticipated of the year.

THE DARK LADY: Marion Cotillard – Macbeth (director: Justin Kurzel):

FYC: The latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s play wowed audiences at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it competed for the Palme d’Or. For those living under a rock, the story unfolds when an ill-fated Scottish duke receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become King. Consumed by ambition and goaded by his wife, Macbeth murders the king and takes the throne. Cotillard (Lady Macbeth) continues her hunt for a second Oscar after a Best Actress win in 2008 for La Vie en Rose and her aforementioned nomination this year. It’s worth mentioning that in 2013 she narrowly missed her first opportunity for a second nomination with Rust and Bone—a role that netted her a slew of pre-cursor Best Actress nominations including SAG, BAFTA, BFCA, and France’s answer to the Academy Awards, César. Judging on her performance’s reception from Cannes, it would be surprising not to see Cotillard in the top five this year.

THE PERENNIAL: Jennifer Lawrence – Joy (director: David O. Russell):

FYC: This biopic chronicles the life of Joy Mangano (Lawrence) the struggling Long Island single mom who invented the Miracle Mop and became one of the most successful American entrepreneurs. In 2012, Lawrence won the Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook (also directed by O. Russell) after earning her first Best Actress nomination in 2011 for Winter’s Bone. Last year, she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for American Hustle.

With this kind of track record we can expect that Lawrence will feature prominently in this year’s race. Whether or not she’s due for a second win is another question.

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Where have all the bees gone?

By Aileen Marshall


Photo: Böhringer Friedrich

Perhaps you’ve heard in the news about the mystery of the disappearing bees. It seems no one knows exactly why, but we do know that it’s serious. While bees may be an annoyance that can mar your outdoor activities, they are very important for pollinating crops. Some estimates say the drop in the bee population has cost as much as $200 billion in increased costs of produce, according to a United Nations study in 2005. The USDA has found an average cost per year to farmers to have bees pollinate their crops around $15 billion. One blueberry farmer claimed that his pollination cost used to be about $250,000 a year, now it’s about $750,000. Almonds are particularly dependent on bee pollination, and many nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables are also reliant on pollination. This increased cost gets passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

There has been a growing business in beekeepers providing pollination services for farmers, since there has been a decrease in wild honey bees. These businesses are mostly migrant, moving with the seasons. Some have speculated that the constant moving has also put a stress on bees. This also makes it difficult to study this disorder.

The current phenomenon of disappearing bees is called colony collapse disorder (CCD). It is characterized by a hive where there are no live adult bees except for the queen and larvae, and there is plenty of food. With few dead bees found, it is difficult to find a definitive cause. It seems the bees don’t come back to their hives. Normally when a hive is abandoned, nearby bees will loot their food, but in CCD, the food remains untouched.

While there have been episodes of bees disappearing in the past, this one is notable in that there has been a sharp decrease of an average of 33% per year since 2006, primarily in the Americas. While it is normal to have attrition in colonies over the winter, CCD has been notable in the sharp decrease that occurs in the summer.

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Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part X: H. Keffer Hartline, 1967 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

By Joseph Luna

While strolling along a beach one day in the summer of 1926, a young physiologist named Haldan Keffer Hartline came across a living fossil. Before him was a horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, with its domed carapace shell, spiked rudder tail and pedipalp legs. Barely changed after over 450 million years of evolution, this mysterious ancient mariner must’ve been a startling and alien sight. We don’t know what Hartline thought of the creature’s primitive book gills, its belly filled with shellfish or its eerie blue blood. But something did enthrall him: the crab’s large compound eyes.

Though he was a medical student, Hartline had no interest in practicing medicine, but was fascinated by research, particularly the physiology of vision. How does seeing work? This question first riveted Hartline while an undergraduate, where he worked on the light-sensing abilities of pill bugs. Moving on to medical school at Johns Hopkins, Hartline attempted to study vision in frogs by using neurophysiological instruments to record activity from their optic nerves, but it proved more difficult and complex than he imagined. What he needed was a simpler model organism, if there was one. He made his way to the Marine Biological Laboratory on the southern coast of Massachusetts, frustrated by past failures, but on a mission to find the right organism to study.


It was a conceptual leap to propose that studying vision in a weird creature like Limulus would yield insight on how animals, including humans, see generally, but the idea wasn’t out of place among biologists in the 1920s. By decade’s end, the Nobel Prize winning Danish physiologist August Krogh laid the case for studying diverse organisms for general biological insight, predicting for the field in 1929: “for such a large number of problems there will be some animal of choice or a few such animals on which it can be most conveniently studied.”

The year before, Hartline published a descriptive study of arthropod compound eyes, where he succeeded in recording nerve impulses after light stimulation in Limulus along with grasshoppers and two species of butterfly. This comparative work revealed that light stimulation could induce characteristic minute electrical spikes that could be measured among arthropods. And whereas the grasshopper and butterfly were difficult to handle and gave complex recordings, those of Limulus were simple waves and could be studied for extended periods of time when bathed in seawater. But what really set Limulus apart was the size of its compound eye as it opened the possibility of studying its single facets.

As the name suggests, a compound eye can be thought of as a closely spaced array of simpler eyes. Each “eye”, called an ommatidium, individually acts as a receptor for light directly above it and is composed of a cornea that directs light to a bundle of photoreceptor cells that are in turn connected to a single optic nerve. In small insect eyes, individual ommatidia number in the thousands and can really only be seen under a microscope; the same is true for analogous rods and cones in vertebrate retinas. The ommatidia of Limulus by comparison are fewer in number but comparatively gargantuan: each is about 1mm across, making them among the largest light receptors in the animal kingdom. Based on their large size, Hartline reasoned that it might be possible to take neurophysiological measurements from single optic nerve fibers in the horseshoe crab. Working with Clarence Graham in the summer of 1931, Hartline succeeded in doing just that. Graham and Hartline dissected single ommatidia, and devised methods to illuminate their photoreceptive cells while recording from the optic nerve. In went light they could control, out went neural signals to the brain that they could measure. These were some of the first measurements of the most fundamental unit of vision.

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New York State of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Lola Yu, Research Assistant from The Kapoor Lab.
Interview by Melvin White


How long have you been living in the New York area? 

Almost one full year.

Where do you currently live?  Which is your favorite neighborhood?

-I currently live on the Upper East Side but my favorite neighborhood has to be the East Village. You can get amazing Japanese food, hop from thrift shop to thrift shop, and then hang out at my favorite spot- Barcade!

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated? 

Probably black and white cookies. Aren’t they just sugar cookies with black and white frosting on top?

The most underrated thing in my opinion is the street performers. It’s easy to overlook them since they’re always there but when you actually stop to listen or watch, they’re incredibly talented musicians and dancers who you would normally have to pay money to see in any other venue or city.

What do you miss most when you are out of town? 

I miss how spontaneous the weekends can be. There’s always something to do and you never know where you’re going to end up. Sometimes someone will have an extra ticket to a concert or you’ll stumble upon a street festival or a friend will be stopping in town (because why wouldn’t they want to stop in NYC?)

Has anything(negative or positive) changed about you since you became one of us “New Yorkers”?

I feel like I’ve become a much stronger person living alone in the city. Everything from dealing with bed bugs to handing over a ridiculously large check every month for a teeny tiny apartment has taught me that life is always going to be tough. Whether or not these little things keep me down is up to me.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

The cleanliness of the streets. There’s always trash piled up sky-high on every street and there’s too much dog poop on the ground to comfortably walk without constantly keeping your head down to check what you’ll be stepping in next. Also, it really wouldn’t hurt to plant a few more trees, bushes, or flowers.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

My favorite weekend activity is probably hanging out at a bar or restaurant with really good live music. There’s no doubt that NYC attracts the best musicians!

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Quotable Quote

“If I have learned anything in my life, it is that bitterness consumes the vessel
that contains it.” – Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, former middleweight boxer
From Grothe, Dr. Mardy, Ifferisms: An Antholog y of Aphorisms….”

Collins Reference, 2009