Bear Mystery

Florence Slatkin walking her dog, Paco, on Tuesday next to the spot where she and a friend discovered a dead bear in Central Park. Ms. Slatkin said the bear’s head was resting on a fallen bike. Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press

Alert reader Tia in Manhattan writes:

Very excited for your new podcast.  Are you following the Central Park Bear Mystery?

Tia, thanks for writing.  Of course I am.

So, a dead bear was found in Central Park.  Here are the facts we know, all from the NY Times:

  • The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the results of a necropsy showed that the cause of death was “blunt force injuries consistent with a motor vehicle collision.”
  • After revealing the results of the necropsy, Lori Severino, a spokeswoman for the state conservation department, said that the agency still did not know where the bear had come from, only that it was “likely not the park.”
  • The Central Park Conservancy, which runs Central Park and provided preliminary information on Monday, had nothing to add on Tuesday. And a spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo, said it was no longer involved and did not wish to comment.
  • The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which has been dealing with a surging black bear population, had nothing to say.
  • Calls were made to a retired Bronx homicide commander, Vernon Gerberth. “It wouldn’t be a police matter,” he said, “unless the bear was killed by a person, or if somebody was keeping it as a pet and brought it to the park. People are crazy.”
  • Dr. Lana Ciarniello, a bear expert in Canada, said that most bear experts in the United States were attending a conference in Greece and would be hard to reach for comment. She could not make the trip, so she was able to offer her thoughts on the mystery.
  • She also said that the bear’s gender might have some relevance: “From a biological standpoint, it’s highly unusual for a female bear cub to be so far from her mother. Mother bears make male bear cubs disperse far from her home range to prevent inbreeding, so it would be less unusual if this were a male bear cub.”
  • While there was a bear foot found on a lawn in Queens in 2011, bears have not regularly been seen in New York City for decades.
  • An entry in the 1916 edition of Valentine’s Manual of Old New York contains an account of bear hunting on Pearl Street from 1678.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys The Great Debates!  Available here:




a touching farewell

from this Vulture article about the passing of actress Sarah Goldberg:

Barry Watson, who played her boyfriend on 7th Heaven, tweeted his condolences Tuesday, writing: “#RIP Sarah. I will miss you always. Love Ya! B.”

The Great Debates

To HelyTimes readers, the “admirable thousands,”

Let me direct you to something I think you’ll enjoy.

My friend Dave King *, noted Parks & Recreation and Workaholics writer, and I have started a podcast called The Great Debates.

I know what you’re thinking: more podcasts?!  But I think we’ve got something worth hearing.

We pick a topic – one of the great issues of the day – and without any preparation we debate it.  The debates are moderated by the sonorously voiced Dan Medina.

This podcast is short, each episode is about twelve minutes.

Listeners can then vote – and suggest new debate topics – by emailing

The podcast is available for download on iTunes or at

I’d love it if you reviewed it and rated it highly on iTunes and spread the word.

We have nine episodes in the can and I’d argue they are enjoyable.

Hope you enjoy!


* not to be confused with jazzist Dave King


utterly nonsensical

The chorus of the song is wordless, consisting of a repeated chant of “lie-la-lie”. Simon stated that this was originally intended only as a placeholder, but became part of the finished song.

“I didn’t have any words! Then people said it was ‘lie’ but I didn’t really mean that. That it was a lie. But, it’s not a failure of songwriting, because people like that and they put enough meaning into it, and the rest of the song has enough power and emotion, I guess, to make it go, so it’s all right. But for me, every time I sing that part… [softly], I’m a little embarrassed.”

It has sometimes been suggested that the words represent a “sustained attack on Bob Dylan”. Under this interpretation, Dylan is identified by his experience as an amateur boxer, and the “lie-la-lie” chorus represents allegations of Dylan lying about his musical intentions.  Biographer Marc Eliot wrote in Paul Simon: A Life, “In hindsight, this seems utterly nonsensical.”

Bob Dylan in turn covered the song on his Self Portrait album, replacing the word “glove” with “blow.” Paul Simon himself has suggested that the lyrics are largely autobiographical, written during a time when he felt he was being unfairly criticized:

“I think I was reading the Bible around that time. That’s where I think phrases such as ‘workman’s wages’ came from, and ‘seeking out the poorer quarters’. That was biblical. I think the song was about me: everybody’s beating me up, and I’m telling you now I’m going to go away if you don’t stop.”[5]

During a New York City concert in October 2010, Paul Simon stopped singing midway through “The Boxer” to tell the story of a woman who stopped him on the street to tell him that she edits the song when singing it to her young child. Simon told the audience that she removed the words “the whores” and altered the song to say, “I get no offers, just a come-on from toy stores on Seventh Avenue.” Simon laughingly commented that he felt that it was “a better line.”[6]

His big white belly was moving up and down


page one of:

photo 2

I’ll get right on that!

The absurdly overwhelming nature of the world is a fun thing to contemplate.  One of my favorite demonstrations is when public intellectuals (I guess we’d call them?) on the Internet assign homework.  This is from Andrew Sullivan:

Praising Mahoney’s book, Carl Scott advises those unfamiliar with Solzhenitsyn’s work where to start:

Had I to start over again, I’m not sure the order I’d go in, but certainly theGULAG Archipelago first, in the abridged edition, perhaps some of the key essays and speeches next, available in the Solzhenitysn Reader, edited by Ericson and Mahoney, and then onto either In the First Circle, or the first two first “knots” of the super-novel The Red Wheel, namely, the just reissued–in the superior/complete Willetts translations–August 1914 and November 1916. The third of these is one of my very favorite novels, despite the criticism it gets for providing too much history and political commentary alongside its main sections. For In the First Circle and August 1914, make sure you get the newer versions. And somewhere in there, you need to delve into a number of the short stories and poems.

The “abridged edition” is 528 pages long.  I MIGHT not make it to the second of the two knots of the super-novel after I read 14.9 ounces about gulags?

Polio and Songwriting

Joni Mitchell and Neil Young

both got polio in the same 1951 epidemic.

More on that here, with specific reference to Ian Dury.  Dury was played by Andy Serkis in the film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll:

I learned that Mitchell/Young polio fact, and many other interesting things, from this David Samuels article:

His second discovery was that he could encourage the writing of hits by urging songwriters to follow his nine rules of hit songwriting. While Caren’s rules are not comprehensive or exclusive, it is easy to measure their value by a glance at the dozens of gold and platinum records hanging in his office. He is happy to run down his rules for me. “First, it starts with an expression of ‘Hey,’ ‘Oops,’ ‘Excuse me,’” he begins. “Second is a personal statement: ‘I’m a hustler, baby,’ ‘I wanna love you,’ ‘I need you tonight.’ Third is telling you what to do: ‘Put your hands up,’ ‘Give me all your love,’ ‘Jump.’ Fourth is asking a question: ‘Will you love me tomorrow,’ ‘Where have you been all my life,’ ‘Will the real Slim Shady please stand up.’”

He takes a deep breath, and rattles off another four rules. “Five is logic,” he says, “which could be counting, or could be spelling or phonetics: ‘1-2-3-4, let the bodies hit the floor,’ or ‘Ca-li-fornia is comp-li-cated,’ those kind of things. Six would be catchphrases that roll off the tip of your tongue because you know them: ‘Never say never,’ ‘Rain on my parade.’ Seven would be what we call stutter, like, ‘D-d-don’t stop the beat,’ but it could also be repetition: ‘Will the real Slim Shady please stand up, please stand up, please stand up.’ Eight is going back to logic again, like hot or cold, heaven or hell, head to toe, all those kind of things.”

The ninth rule of hit songwriting is silence. Why? Because most people who are listening to music are actually doing something else, he explains. They are driving a car, or working out, or dancing, or flirting. Silence gives you time to catch up with the lyrics if you are drunk or stoned. If you are singing along, silence gives you time to breathe. “Michael Jackson, his quote was ‘Silence is the greatest thing an entertainer has,’” Caren continues. “‘I got a feeling,’ space-space-space, ‘Do you believe in life after love,’ space-space-space-space-space.”


In addition to writing all the music and lyrics for Nirvana, Kurt Cobain designed the band’s T-shirts and album covers and created shot-by-shot scripts for the band’s videos on MTV, as well as edited the bios and other publicity materials that helped shape the band’s narrative in the rock press. It was all part of his art, or inseparable from his art; it’s what he got paid for. “Rock and roll is a commercial art form, it’s not just about the music, it’s about what you look like, it’s about how you connect with an audience, it’s about the photos that appear in the British trades.” Nirvana’s longtime manager, Danny Goldberg, told me this when I met with him in New York, before I left for the Grammys. Even when Cobain was nodding off on rock-star doses of heroin in the MTV editing suite, Goldberg remembers, he could still identify exactly where the camera should come in and when to cut away. “He had a dark side, but he was so nice to me, you know, it was so out of proportion to anything that I did for him,” he remembered. “He was tremendously intellectually curious, incredibly creative, and had a great sense of humor; he was like a leprechaun or an elf. You’d go to wherever he was living, and he lived in a lot of places, and there’d be like reams of drawings and paintings and poems. He was also a great fan of other artists. He’d always be saying, ‘You’ve got to hear Captain America, you’ve got to hear the Jesus Lizard,’ or whatever those bands were.”