The Approximate Blog

Comments, observations and

miscellaneous slings and arrows

!  @  *  #  & $  %  !  ^  ?  !  >  *  @  #  /  +  @ 
(Editor’s note: this is the last of the clunky “Letters to” pages as we go kicking and screaming through the gates of The Blogosphere)



Hi Paul,

What a pleasant surprise to see issue 14 so close on the heels of issue 13. You must have had some vacation time.

A couple of comments on the various articles.

– wasn’t ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ a big break through and a step in the right direction when Clinton got it passed? We seemed to have forgotten that we thought it was a good idea at the time.

– tax breaks and other compromises: the one thing that bothers me is that both sides are congratulating themselves for compromising. In the meantime they seem to have forgotten that we borrow 40 cents of each dollar the government spends. Sooner or later that’s going to come back to haunt us. Both sides seem to have forgotten that as they give bennies to their constituencies. I do think that extending unemployment benefits is better for the economy than tax breaks for the rich. But maybe we’d have been better off if the tax breaks all expired and no compromise was reached. That way we could start paying back the debt. In the long run that would be better for the value of the dollar. Of course, we have to get China to float their currency as well.

– bromeliads: was that your father-in-law you interviewed? I get a kick out of impressing friends by saying ‘that’s a bromeliad’. They think I know something about plants when I say that. I can thank Terry’s father for that bit of knowledge.

– movies: I saw ‘Young at Heart’ recently. I think that movie is about me in 20 years. Check it out.

Thanks for the new issue.

Andy 12/31/10

Editor’s response: DADT was enacted to try and recognize the rights of gays in the military (thus many thought it a good idea at the time) but without upsetting the apple cart of ingrained prejudice. Like most half-assed solutions it backfired by calling more attention to the issue and actually led to more discharges of gay soldiers. In the time since it was passed we’ve progressed so that many more people (including those in the military) are tolerant and respectful of gay rights including the right to honor and serve their country.

Re: tax cuts…I agree that tax cuts will not be the economic panacea they are touted to be and they just postpone the inevitable day of reckoning when we will have no choice in dealing with the deficit. The problem is that the Tea Party Republicans have sold folks on the notion that government = bad, therefore less government = good, and that the government has no right to collect money to provide the basic services people expect the government to perform. Recipe for disaster.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes, Herb Plever is my father in law.


Dear Opinion8ed, This is a wonderful presentation of the rosy view of bromeliads. But like roses, bromeliads have their perils.

If you try to grow them (or end up caring for Herb’s jungle as I have done), wear long sleeves, or better yet, body armor to protect from the spines on the sides of the leaves. Some of those beautiful deep reds in the flowers have been nourished with human blood! Those plants also eat weekends – just ask Sylvia.

Steve P. 1/2/11

Editor’s Note: In the interest of continued full disclosure, Steve is the editor’s brother-in-law. It’s a family affair…


Dear Editor,

I enjoyed reading your latest Issue 13. Good luck on trying to meet the design standards of form oriented “young” people. The concentration on looks often causes a total lack of concern for content. AND the form concepts are always shifting according to the latest “innovations”. However, their views are indeed moving society as witness the great success of Facebook and Twitter. So the vast majority of people are strongly affected by hype and sound bites to the exclusion of underlying content in the important arena of national and international politics.

All the talk in the media is about the fact that “classified” documents were leaked by Wikileaks; there is very little discussion about the content of the documents or even about why most of them were classified in the first place. Obviously, it is very embarrassing to the State Dept. when documents that reveal unlawful or improper activities against foreign governments are made public. For example the document that called for “marginalizing” Bolivia because it refused to yield to U.S. pressure to agree to the meaningless accords on climate change by the big powers – and then two weeks later there was an attempted military coup that Evo Morales flat out said was related to the document.

Herb P. 12/15/10

Editor’s Response: Agreed… and in this case, the vast majority of people are also strongly affected by web bytes. On a serious note though, as you recall the Pentagon Papers were also considered treasonous and attempts at assassinating Ellsberg’s character were similarly made.


Dear Editor,

I always enjoy your political commentary, particularly in defense of Obama when everyone is piling on. But amidst the understandable grousing about the tax cuts for billionaires, I continue to wonder why no one is really taking on the discussion of the estate tax cuts. What in the Sam Hill is up with that?? I have heard not so much as an attempt by the most cynical of the Republican defenders to explain why this is a good thing for anyone except for the exceptionally lucky people who are due for an inheritance. Although I disagree [with them], I understand the view of those on the right who argue that money they earned, in whatever dubious fashion, should not be subject to confiscation for the greater good. But money they inherited and did nothing to earn?? What is the rationale for letting them keep more of what is essentially a windfall when the country is in such economic peril?

Keep em coming, Paul. Love those theater reviews too.

KayC 12/14/10


Dear Editor,

I look forward to each issue and was not disapointed in #13. But I agree with your son (not his word), I would say it [the site layout] is confusing. It would help me, the reader, if the current list is different than the old ones, perhaps in color, and your combining articles by category works for me. However, the writing and content is superb. Keep that up please……

Shirley E. 12/13/10

Editor’s response: Thanks for your comments – It seems there has been a groundswell of feedback about the site’s layout. I can assure you that in addition to the recent body work and bargain basement paint job, graphical engineers are hard at work behind the scenes designing the concept web site of the future. These things are always kept TOP SECRET but sources tell me that the new design may even incorporate such state-of-the-art features as a featherweight nanoparticle composite frame that is lighter than air, a turbo charged photovoltaic search engine, a high end real-time communications blog system (being developed by Blaupunkt) and Bluetooth thought sensitive keys that respond without touching the keyboard. As typical with “concept” web sites, the release date has not been announced.


To the Editor:

We’re now leaving Afghanistan in 2014 instead of 2011. That’s even more lives lost and damaged and more money spent! Why? When do we say enough?

Matt G 12/13/10


Dear Editor,

I still can’t post a comment?! You raised perceptive children.

Last week, I had a long phone call with a friend and when we talked politics, I came to realize that Obama was really Bill Clinton. And then the next day, there was Clinton himself with Obama selling the tax sell-out. They proved me wrong physically by appearing together, but I think politically speaking, I was proven correct. The fact that Obama doesn’t sleep with Hillary is further proof that he is really Bill Clinton.

As for the can opener, I think your cappuccino maker probably can open cans, knit sweaters and make coffee all at the same time but you haven’t yet mastered the voice commands. Probably it is opening cans, feeding your cats and eating your leftovers out of the fridge while you sleep. I’ve just learned that new cars have sensors that tell you when your tire pressure is wrong. My boss’ car’s sensors won’t reset, so until she can bring the car in, she has to listen to the sensor, even though she has new and newly inflated tires. I wonder if her car can open cans. Almost every new technology opens cans…of worms.

Steve P. 12/12/10

Editor’s Response: Not only can’t my superautomatic espresso machine open cans but it is now refusing to make coffee. I think the problem is related to a sensor very much like the problem with your boss’ tires. But I haven’t tried making coffee with the can opener (yet).


Hi Paul: Finally had a chance this past weekend to browse through the latest issue [No. 10]. It really is great stuff. Even topics I’d normally say I have no interest in I find I am reading about.

Keep it up. Great reading!


Editor’s Response: Thanks much, I appreciate the feedback and it’s nice to know there’s another person actually reading this stuff…


Dear Opinion8ed, I loved the BNL intro to High Energy Music Collides at BNL and actually, the review is brilliant! You’ve found your next career, Paul! I enjoy the style of your writing and having been at the concert your descriptions of events helped me relive the evening – thanks!


Editor’s response: Do people get paid for this sort of thing? Hmmm.


Dear Opinion8ed, You’ll never go hungry writing like that! Great job summarizing a great weekend of music! Sorry I missed Friday’s portion [The Crooked Road], though your review gives a taste of what I missed. Having been there on Saturday [Frank Vignola] I must say you’ve captured it all in words, and then some.

Makes me think I need to go back and read ALL of your Opinion8ed articles!

Joe C

Editor’s Response: The chef never goes hungry as long as he’s got some customers to cook for.


Hi Paul:

I always love to receive this–look forward to reading!!!


Editor’s response: Doesn’t anyone have any complaints (except about my spelling)? Waiter, there’s a fly in my theater review!


Dear Opinion8ed, I think it’s fair to say last weekend at BNL was the greatest musical weekend ever held here. Crooked Road and Frank Vignola’s Hot Club w/ Bucky Pizzarelli.

Of course one night here with Duke Ellington or Count Basie may eclipse any two nights.

What remarkable music….

Peace and tunes, Joe V.

Editor’s response: Agreed… but I’d add a night of Django Reinhardt to the wish list


Dear Opinion8ed,

Yay! I was wondering if the By the Time We ALMOST Got to Woodstock story killed off Opinion8ed :^)

Eileen M.

Note: the writer was the winner of the “Where Were You?” contest and her piece was published in Issue #8.

Opinion8ed: No, you’ll have to try harder next time.


Dear Opinion8ed,

‘Under the Boardwalk’ is beautifully done and brings back tons of memories. Paul, do you recall the story involving my summer job as an operator of rides at the Kiddie park just off the Boardwalk? The cantankerous owner, a cheap and unsmiling S.O.B., asked you how you liked his park. You must have been 5 or 6 yeas old. Your response was “I like it a lot because my brother let’s me ride for free”. My tenure there proved to be short- lived.


Opinion8ed: Yes, but in my version of the story he asked me what I liked about my brother and I responded that he gave me free rides. In any case the statute of limitations has elapsed so he can’t press charges.


Dear Opinion8ed,

How’d you get the interview with Norbert Ehrenfreund?

Also, the YouTube links to Frank Vignola videos are a nice touch.

I enjoyed Issue #6.


Andy C,

Opinion8ed Response: I was introduced to Norbert by his niece who is a friend of ours – I called him at home in San Diego and he very graciously agreed to conduct a telephone interview, which was a bit of a challenge since I did not have any recording equipment. He proof read my draft though to make sure I didn’t misquote him.


Dear Opinion8ed, Just a quick note to say that I am enjoying the web site. We were away for a few weeks and will be pretty busy for a while, so we’re falling behind in our “cultural” activity. Enjoyed reading about the Seeger concert and we’re sorry we couldn’t be there. We are trying to see if we can make it up to Clearwater this year since Seeger is supposed to be there. We really agreed with your take on Rachel Getting Married. I felt it was a very moving and realistic picture of family tensions and struggles, albeit not of a “typical” family.

We saw a very interesting play from South Africa – “Groundswell” which was reviewed in The New York Times. It was partly a thriller but with a lot to say about what has been happening there since the fall of apartheid (and with plenty to argue about !)

Anyway, keep up the postings.


Jack M.



Dear Opinion8ed,

We went to see Next to Normal last night. I have to say, I found it exceedingly brilliant — harrowing in fact.  Honest, brutal, sharply funny, oddly exhilarating, heartbreaking, a ray of hope yet an air of hopelessness, jolting and painfully moving.  The lack of genuine resolution and assumptions of what may be yet to come was bold, mournful and quite uncompromising.  Unbelievably fine performances; have to presume Alice Ripley will win the Tony for best leading actress in a musical.  My only disagreement with Brantley is his comparison to Duncan Sheik and Spring Awakening — I actually think the far better comparison is to William Finn’s Falsettos, both in musical style, wit, and bitingly poignant tone.  High praise indeed, as that is a piece very near and dear to my heart.

Andrew Stern

Thanks for the Exit Cuckoo review.  Hopefully some of your readers  will go see it [before it closes on May 17].  How about doing a “where to eat in the Theater District” piece?
Peter Bernstein,
Mr. Bernstein is on the Board of Directors of Working Theater
Editor’s Response:
Hmmmm… If I take your advice, in order to write that piece I’d have to eat out a whole lot more often in lots of interesting restaurants and order way more food than I could possibly eat.  You’re a genius!



Dear Opinion8ed,


Dear Opinion8ed,

 I enjoyed “Volume II”.  And if this was true feedback, the best thing you could have done was figure out how to supply a taste of those fabulous looking macaroons.  Just to karp a little, I believe that Steve Herrell (of Steve’s ice cream, Somerville, Ma) was the originator of the mix-in (circa 1974).  Waiting on line at Steve’s was our Saturday night activity during the time we lived in Cambridge.  Since we had no money, it was good that obtaining ice cream could take an entire evening.

Speaking of an evening’s entertainment, the clip of N2N was so inspiring that I bought a ticket- lest it become impossible to obtain one- given the terrific reviews. 

Looking forward to the next installment,

Kay Pinitreal


Editor’s Note:

An earlier edition of Opinion8ed mistakenly attributed the invention of mix-ins to Ben and Jerry.  Thanks to Ms. Kay Pinitreal this inaccuracy has been duly noted and corrected.



Dear Opinion8ed,

If I hadn’t been so occupied watching Hell’s Kitchen, I would have baked up a batch of macaroons myself.  (My specialty is lemon coconut.)  But I am now one totally frustrated immediate gratification loving dessert fanatic.  Of course, I would love to take the short cut and just taste one from your freezer stash but I am not above taking a special trip to Manhattan and even waiting on line (supposed to be nice weather tomorrow).  But I cannot find a trace of Mandy or his Macateria on line.  Even usually trusty Google has failed me.  So now I don’t have any macaroons and not even a hint of where to obtain one myself.  Help?

Frustrated Dessert Fanatic


Editors Response:

Dear Frustrated,

Unfortunately in reading “Mandy’s Macaroons: They’re Not Just for Passover Anymore” you passed over the not so fine print disclaimer indicating the fictional nature of the piece.  Regrettably, while the FedEx package of macaroons were very real indeed (and figuratively other worldly), not one shred of the rest was literally of this world (except ironically the quotes from the NY Times which are real).  One can only hope. 


Published in: on January 1, 2009 at 2:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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