In 1904 a Moroccan Berber brigand named Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli—along with a gang of bully boys—kidnapped an American businessman named Ion Hanford Perdicaris. Raisuli demanded $70,000 ransom—$1,842,105.26 in 2014 dollars. Theodore Roosevelt was president at the time, and, in the eyes of the world, he was carrying a "big stick."
In spring 1958, I was about to graduate from Columbia College and head off as a draftee for a two-year stint in the Army. We were in the thick of the Cold War. Eisenhower was president and in Russia, a bellicose, bald little tyrant named Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the Communist Party, was claiming missile superiority over the United States and constantly threatening us with nuclear annihilation.
The mainstay of American defense was a growing fleet of giant Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses that the Strategic Air Command (SAC), under super hawk Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, kept in the air 24/7, loaded with nuclear bombs and missiles, and ready to head into Russia on receipt of a coded order over the radio. America’s Cold War strategy was MAD—Mutually Assured Destruction—whereby if one of the big firecrackers on either side went off, each of us would blow the other to hell.
These were very tense times.
In April 1958, for a brief and glorious moment, all the angst and terror vanished amid a sudden lovefest between the people of Russia and America.
The idea that Microsoft, Intel, Google and IBM have banded together to figure out how to deal with the information overload they made—the glut of e-mail, instant messaging and cell phoning that we’re all drowning
In the autumn of 1954, my father went to Rome to research a biography of Clare Boothe Luce, playwright, wit, former congresswoman, and President Eisenhower’s Ambassador to Italy. That was the year her husband—Henry R. Luce, founder of Time, LIFE and Fortune—launched Sports Illustrated to the astonishment of everyone who knew him, because Luce was emphatically not a sports fan. The story running around Rome and New York was that someone inveigled Luce to go to a ball game at Yankee Stadium and he was stunned to see 50,000 screaming fans. “How long has this been going on?” Luce reportedly asked his companion. “A
In the late 1970s, I was hired to write a membership mailing for Comp-U-Card, a Stamford, Conn. organization that claimed to have built “a data base of price and product information on approximately 60,000 brand name products.” Consumers could tap into this wealth of information and presumably save many times the $25 membership fee. Goods were shipped directly from wholesalers to the customer. I met briefly with the president, Walter A. Forbes, who was good-looking, articulate and very intense. At one point in our meeting, he took a phone call and asked me to step outside, which I did. When I returned, Forbes told me that
Dadaism was a wacko cultural movement dreamed up by artists, writers and musicians. First announced in neutral Zurich on Bastille Day, July 14, 1916, in the middle of World War I, it was the “reaction to what many of these artists saw as nothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide.” Dadaism quickly spread across Europe and came to New York, its main proponents being avant-garde photographer Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, whose iconic “Nude Descending Staircase” is featured in every art history course that deals with the modern era. The basic tenet of the Dada art, music and literature was screaming, wrenching, fingernails-on-the-blackboard