THE EYES HAVE IT
The historian Steve Fraser discussed his book "Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life" (HarperCollins) at the CUNY Graduate Center on Wednesday evening. The event was sponsored by Gotham Center for New York City History.
His main thesis was that the story of Wall Street has been a deeply ambivalent one in American history.
He regaled the audience with literary passages such as one about a Dickens character, the young Martin Chuzzlewit, who falls prey to land speculation. Mr. Fraser said Chuzzlewit "nearly loses his life, in addition to his life savings," in a swamp in a remote corner of Illinois.
Among those in the audience were the blogger Tom Holaday and the tour guide and urban historian Judy Richheimer.
At the event, Mr. Fraser said he noticed how people seemed to have a fascination with financial titans' eyes. He referred to photographer Edward Steichen, who described J.P. Morgan this way: "Meeting his blazing dark eyes was like confronting the headlights of an express train."
One audience member asked about the origin of the bull and bear. The audience was amused when a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Mike Wallace, director of the Gotham Center, proceeded to offer one version of the origin. He pantomimed how bulls gore upward and bears tend to claw downward.
SIGNS OF HOPE
The editors of the New Criterion held a luncheon conversation at the Grolier Club with a British philosopher, Roger Scruton, who spoke on "Signs of hope on the cultural landscape."
Mr. Scruton, author of "The West and The Rest: Globalization and The Terrorist Threat"(ISI Books),pointed to the wisdom of Lord Salisbury, who, when asked what his philosophy was, said it was accepting that "delay is life." Calling conservatism the politics of delay, Mr. Scruton said its purpose was to maintain that which is positive in society as long as possible.
Toward the end of his wide-ranging remarks, Mr. Scruton said there remained the glow of the social, political, and cultural achievements of Western civilization, but "one must blow on it" to see if the flame might again rise and illuminate.
Next Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center on 34th Street, a panel is to discuss 800 Years of Influence of Maimonides.
Sponsored by Yeshiva University in cooperation with the American Sephardi Federation with Sephardic House, the program includes Rabbis Hayyim Agnel, Yamin Levy, and Eliae Abadie.
Maimonides (1135-1204), the towering intellectual figure born in Cordoba, Spain, continues to influence philosophical and religious thought spanning centuries and continents.
The Knickerbocker was reminded of how far knowledge can travel while at the ninth New York International Sephardic Jewish Film Festival. A director, Katia Mesel, showed "The Rock and the Star," her documentary about Jews who left Portugal in the 1600s and found a haven in Recife, Brazil, where they experienced 24 years of peace and relative religious freedom under the Dutch. At a lively Q&A following the film, an audience member asked how Jews there came to know so much about refining sugar. The intriguing answer was that some Jews who left Portugal went to the island of Madeira, about 350 miles off the coast of Morocco, where there are sugar-growing areas. They took their knowledge and expertise about sugarcane with them when they next went on to Amsterdam. When the Dutch invited Jews to go to Recife to supervise plantations there, they used that knowledge in helping organize the sugar plantations for the Dutch West India Company. Eventually they were driven out of the colony when the Portuguese returned.
A Cooper Union history professor, Fred Siegel, is scheduled to speak on "The Prince of the City: Giuliani's New York and the Genius of American Life" June 14 at the CUNY Graduate Center. Mr. Siegel, who is senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, will discuss what he regards as Mayor Giuliani's greatest success: the restoration of New York's neighborhoods.
Mr. Siegel keeps a busy schedule. He was spotted a while back at a reception for Naomi Schaefer Riley's book, "God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America" (St. Martin's Press). At that event, Ms. Riley made reference to Tom Wolfe's recent novel "I Am Charlotte Simmons" (Farrar Straus and Giroux), which satirizes contemporary college and fraternity life. The audience laughed when Ms. Riley, referring to the subject of her book, religious colleges, said, "I just want you all to know Charlotte had an alternative."
Famous bow maker Henry (ne Henryk) Kaston, a retired violinist from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, celebrated his 95th birthday with a small champagne reception with his daughter, Diane, on the Upper West Side.
Among those honoring Mr. Kaston for making it to the midway point of his 10th decade were a Metropolitan Museum of Art conservator, Stewart Pollens, who was co-author with Mr. Kaston of "Francois-Xavier Tourte: Bow Maker" (Dietmar Machold); the cellist Gerald Kagan, who was a contemporary of Mr. Kaston in the Metropolitan Orchestra, and Bea Francais, widow of a renowned dealer of classical string instruments, Jacques Francais.
The many highlights of Mr. Kaston's career include creating a bow for Jascha Heifetz and collaborating in the creation of jewelry with the Catalonian surrealist Salvador Dali.
A memorial tribute has been set for Jerry Orbach, whose many career highlights include portraying the New York police detective Lennie Briscoe on "Law & Order." It is scheduled for March 24 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 W. 46th St., at 1:30 p.m.