I want to be Ben Bradlee


Ben Bradlee flanked by Bernstein and Woodward.

I watched an excellent documentary on Ben Bradlee on HBO the other night called “The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee.” You can stream it here.

Bradlee was the executive editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991 and he is responsible for the Watergate take down of President Richard Nixon, along with reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

The documenary shows how The Washington Post was the only newspapers covering the story and how he and his reporters were accused of false news back then. But the main gist that I took away was how glamorous his life was. He lived a long and charmed life, he passed away at age 93 in 2014.

He was born in Boston and lived that elegant New England lifestyle, later transported to his life in Long Island. He owned Grey Gardens for god’s sake. He lived a charmed life.

He was best friends with JFK and was a fixture at the White House back then.

The documentary shows his whole life in about an hour and a half and throughout the whole thing, you want to be Ben Bradlee.


Visiting the NY Daily News

As you know, I love newspapers – printed newspapers, a dying breed.

Here is the New York Daily News building in midtown Manhattan. The newspaper was founded in 1919 and this building has been here since 1930, on 42nd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. The building is historic and still houses Channel 11, WPIX, but the Daily News is in an office building downtown now, next to the Staten Island Ferry. It has offices in the building shared by many other offices.

The 42nd Street building is a beautiful art deco structure, you may recognize it from the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, where it “played” the Daily Planet. It still says Daily News out front and has an historical plaque. It also has the famous big round globe in the lobby.

Receive Tomversation via email each time we publish Click here.

I’m in Boston this weekend

I’m in Boston for the next few days and then I’ll take the train down to New York for Thanksgiving week. Nothing better than a long train ride through New England in the fall, only there aren’t many leaves that turned yet, in this area anyway.

The weather was perfect today, 45 degrees and not windy, just right.

I love the history. I found myself on the Freedom Trail. That basically is red bricks on the sidewalks that leads you through the old parts of Boston to historic sites like the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house among so many other places.

I always find myself in the cemetery up the hill from the church. It’s amazing to think some of those headstones (and bodies) are there untouched from the 1600s.

Tomorrow I will take the subway (they call it the T here) to Cambridge and check out Harvard Square. That always looks like the set of an old Jimmy Stewart to me. Perfect New England setting.

Loving Vincent

A new movie just opened called “Loving Vincent,” about my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gogh (I sleep with Starry Night over my bed). I have not seen it yet but it looks amazing. It’s the first fully oil painted feature film; the images are all copies of Vincent’s own hand, using 120 of his paintings and the characters in them, including landscapes that move from the iconic paintings.

Every single frame is hand painted and come to life on screen. Actual actors morf into the paintings. One second of film can take weeks to produce. Each of the film’s 60,000 frames is a painting!

The story looks to be compelling too, as they are trying to figure out the mystery of his death from a gun shot wound.

Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York


Catherine Elizabeth and her father Rensselaer Havens in a daguerreotype taken in 1849.

I read this book called Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York.  I read it on Kindle so I’m not sure how big the book is, but I read it in about an hour or so.

The 10-year-old girl’s name is Catherine Havens and she wrote her diary from August 1849 through June 1850 and there is some of 1851, too, and eventually, it was published in 1919 when her older sister told her it might be a good idea to see if they could get it published all those years later. It’s interesting because it describes so much of old New York, where most diaries are only about the person writing it; this includes so much of what life was like in the mid 19th Century.

I noticed that the whole diary can be read online here. So you don’t have to buy the book.

Catherine comes from a wealthy family and the people she is surrounded by including family and relatives are all in good spirits it seems. For some reason, I always think of people in the olden days as being dour and humorless, but this is not the case. Even her old grandfather has a good sense of humor. Her father was old, he was born before the Revolutionary War.  She writes that people would mistake him as being her grandfather.

Catherine writes about her old aunts who lived in a house built in 1733 and of her own mother’s school days back in the 1810s.

Her world seems mostly to have revolved around 9th Street in New York City and most of the stores they visited and the schools were on 9th or near 9th Street.  She names names of people who lived then and where they lived up and down 9th Street.  She did travel though, to far off places, via boat/ships of the time.

She writes about school and how they did math back then and also how they learned words, starting with the Latin word and working into American English. She tells of how her math teacher rattled off numbers in sequences and the kids had to know the answer.

She mentions her grandfathers’s slaves, by name: “My father’s father lived on Shelter Island, and had twenty slaves, and their names were: Africa, Pomp, Titus, Tony, Lum, Cesar, Cuff, Odet, Dido, Ziller, Hagar, Judith, and Comas, but my grandfather thought it was wicked to keep slaves, so he told them they could be free, but Tony and Comas stayed on with him.”

I love when she writes about her mother’s youth: “My mother says Stuart’s candy store down on Greenwich and Chambers Streets used to be the store in her day. When she was a little girl in 1810, old Kinloch Stuart and his wife Agnes made the candy in a little bit of a back room and sold it in the front room, and sometimes they used to let my mother go in and stir it.”

Here grandfather is one of the first people to have water pipped into their kitchen down on Maiden Lane in New York City.

They even debated about either or eyether and neither and nyther back then!

If you like history, this book is really great, Catherine seems wiser than her 10 years, but maybe that is how the children were back then. It’s interesting see back 1849-50 from a child’s eyes. She wrote that she hoped to live to see the 20th century, but learned in Bible study that in the year 2000 the world would end, so she hoped she would not make it to that age. She did make it to 1939, so she lived to be 99 years old, almost 100. In the diary she mentions that she hoped her mother would live to be 100, and she almost did, she passed away at the age of 96.

Wednesday is “Read A Book Day,” so this might be a good one to read on Wednesday.

I’m reading the old Brooklyn Eagle newspaper; daily!


I tried reading 1917, but it was boring without the comics and tv listings.

Ok, so I’m trying this experiment. I am reading the Brooklyn Daily Eagle daily, on the exact date from the past. I chose 1917 so it would be exactly 100 years ago, but it was a bit boring, there were no comics or tv listings, so I randomly chose 1949. That seems like a good year, there are comics and my parents were around then, in Brooklyn and it was a good time for the country. We were out of World War II and it was just before the Koren War and it was just on the verge of the coming fabulous ’50s.


This is the top of the front page on Aug. 22, 1949.

I wanted to find a newspaper that carried Krazy Kat and more famous strips, but The Eagle is so easy to see and navigate on this platform so I’ll do that.

I got the idea from my Krazy Kat and The Gumps books that I purchased awhile back. I blogged about them here. They are one year in the life, you are supposed to read them o the same date each day, for instance Krazy Kat runs from January 1, 1934 to December 31, 1934 and The Gumps runs from May 1, 1928 to May 3, 1929. I read them all in a few sittings, as they are hard to not read daily. But I am going to do this with The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and for that period that I’m reading it, I’ll pretend that I am living in 1949, reading the daily newspaper.

Here’s a link to the site if you would like to check out the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper archive.


Part of the comics page on Aug. 22, 1949.