Category Archives: Obituaries

Victor Rabinowitz, 1911-2007

lawyer600.jpgOn Friday night, November 16th my father, Victor Rabinowitz, passed away quietly at home. He was 96 and to say he had lived a full life would be a vast understatement. He was a truly great man of integrity who taught me appreciation for many things including politics, baseball, gardening, photography, chess, Shakespeare and classical music, among others. It was also because of him and my mother that I was able to travel at an early age and develop a love for other countries and cultures.

Despite my early (and continued) support for the dominant New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, I was taught that in most situations, the underdog was to be supported and that those less fortunate deserved respect and wherever possible, a leg up. Among those items in the above list, “politics” is probably his lasting legacy to me, because it was through leftist politics that I learned an appreciation for all those things in which any good progressive believes.

Social programs designed to help the poor and infirm; the need for universal healthcare; the right of citizens in a so-called free society to speak out against the government when necessary (and even when not…it’s one of those rights that works both ways); that people should be paid a fair living wage for a day’s work and anything less than this is exploitation, regardless of the country in which it occurs; that the US is not the boss of the world and it is not our business to poke our nose in where it’s not wanted simply to make a few rich, white Americans even richer (they can’t get any whiter, trust me).

We spent endless hours discussing the miracle that is baseball. We both had an unending curiosity and appreciation for the sport and could watch it and talk about it for hours. His was such a long life that he once saw Ty Cobb steal home at Fenway Park and went to the 1928 World Series. I can only imagine what it must have been like. He also drove a Model-T Ford at summer camp (it was actually an old car at the time) and rode a trolley past dairy farms in Brooklyn to visit his grandfather in the early 1900’s. I can’t really imagine any of that, either. When he was born there were no commercial airplane flights and a short 58 years later (and 3 days after my birth) a man walked on the Moon. He saw both the rise and fall of the Soviet Union but missed the last Cubs World Series win by only 3 years. During his life there have been 17 presidents, from Taft to “W” and I dare say dad made some trouble for a few of them and they deserved it, too.

During the past few years of his life, his eyesight and hearing were in pretty bad shape, so much so that he could follow almost nothing on TV. As a result he was limited to C-Span, CNN and baseball games. Victor was such a principled and caring man and it’s a real shame that aside from the midterm elections of 2006, recent years held little succor for a man of his politics and temperament. Despite huge gains in said election, the senate continues to be soft and tame under the flaccid “leadership” of Harry Reid and the lunatic, often racist ramblings of Lou Dobbs on CNN drove him batty. Even the Mets failed him this year, performing the worst collapse in baseball history.

He was ready to go, I think. None of us were ready for him to leave, of course, but you never are, really. I never got to show my dad my “chops,” professionally, at least not in full. He was many things, but a man of the Information Age was not one of them. 11 years ago he published his memoirs and wrote them out longhand, on a yellow legal pad. This was not a man to whom it was easy to explain blogs or even indieWIRE, really. He was concerned about my ability to take care of myself financially, of course but I think he was most concerned and eventually pleased and proud, that I, along with my brother and sister, had grown up as a “good person.” I like to think I have a good moral compass, positive personal values and goals and a healthy and appropriately concerned outlook on the world. It’s to his and my mother’s credit that they really never gave me anything to rebel against and as a result, the apple couldn’t have fallen closer to the tree.

He was and remains, my hero. I miss him, greatly.

Here are a few obituaries that have been running over the past few days:
New York Times
International Herald Tribune
East Hampton Star
Time Magazine
Marjorie Cohn: The Huffington Post
Photo, L to R: Victor Rabinowitz, Dr. Benjamin Spock and Leonard Boudin © The Associated Press

R.I.P. Tom Snyder-Have a Colortini On Me

The film blogosphere is abuzz today with the news that legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman has passed away at the age of 89 and rightly so. I have to admit that I don’t have much to add. I am hardly an expert on the man and his work, though I do tend to use him as proof that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a much cooler show than some people give it credit, to wit: In an episode where Buffy was going up against a monster that might possibly be Death itself, her friend Xander remarks: “And if he asks you to play chess, don’t. The guy’s, like, a whiz.” Get it?
Tom Snyder.jpgNo, I’d rather post a little bit about Tom Snyder who passed away on Sunday at the age of 71, due to complications from Leukemia. A newsman and raconteur, Snyder loved the broadcast business and was a news anchor, correspondent and most famously, a talk show host on both NBC and later, CBS. From 1972-1983 he was the host of Tomorrow, which aired after The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This was a legendary show in which the unapologetically un-hip Snyder interviewed everyone from Muhammad Ali to Howard Cosell to Charles Manson to, in one excruciating interview, a petulant John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten). U2’s first appearance on American TV was on Tomorrow, as was John Lennon’s last TV interview. Constantly surrounded by cigarette smoke and reveling in his deep-throated laugh, Tom was unlike anyone else on the tube.
Here’s a great tribute segment with clips from Elton John, Cosell, Ali and others.

Continue reading R.I.P. Tom Snyder-Have a Colortini On Me

Christopher Hitchens On Jerry Falwell’s Death

A brief bit of history regarding my feelings for Christopher Hitchens:
Brilliant drunk—>Crackpot drunken hawk—>Partially redeemed brilliant drunk
There you have it. Why the redemption? How about this clip, for starters:

(BTW, I do not use the word “drunk” pejoratively. I adore some drunks and have myself been one, on occasion.)
You might have varied negative opinions about Hitchens, including his extremely pig-headed and wholly incorrect position on the war in Iraq (he’s for it…still) and his arrogant posturing indicating that he is certain that he is the smartest person in any room.
That all said, he is very smart and, some might say to a fault, honest.
Another video after the jump, this time from the Fox “News” show Hannity & Colmes:

Continue reading Christopher Hitchens On Jerry Falwell’s Death

RIP Kurt Vonnegut

We lost a great soul on Wednesday, as Kurt Vonnegut passed away in Manhattan. In its obituary, the New York Times refers to him as “a dark comic talent and urgent moral vision,” and likens him to Mark Twain. I feel slightly ashamed that I had not realized how apt a comparison that was, until now. I could waste time, mine and yours, waxing poetic about how brilliant and thoughtful and funny he was as both writer and man, but I think I’ll simply say, Kurt Vonnegut is who inspired me to be a writer and for that I will forever praise, and as many a writer will do their inspiration, occasionally damn him.
I know our country and world are still in the deepest of holes, dear scribe, but I hope that you and your dear friend Joe Heller are up (or down!) there, having a drink and living it up.
So it goes.

Robert Altman Tribute

Altman.jpg
As I am sure many of you know, this past Tuesday was Fat Tuesday, the last blow out before Lent and the end of Carnivale. February 20th also marked another special day, the anniversary of the birth of Robert Altman. Thus, a memorial service was held in New York City’s Majestic Theater for the great filmmaker who lost a long battle with cancer late last year.
I was lucky enough to have attended and it was truly an inspiring event. As an auteur and as a human being, Robert Altman was a force to be reckoned with, something the speakers and guests at his memorial made sure to point out. A true iconoclast, Altman “never met a status quo he didn’t hate,” according to speaker Bob Balaban, Altman’s producer and story collaborator on Gosford Park.

Continue reading Robert Altman Tribute