Ideas,Inducing Labor,George Mason,Villanova Coach,Ukraine Vote,Art Buchwald, Code for A Club, Driver Paul Dana died

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas

James Yang
March 26, 2006
Under New Management

Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas


LIKE many top executives, James R. Lavoie and Joseph M. Marino keep a close eye on the stock market. But the two men, co-founders of Rite-Solutions, a software company that builds advanced — and highly classified — command-and-control systems for the Navy, don’t worry much about Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange.

Instead, they focus on an internal market where any employee can propose that the company acquire a new technology, enter a new business or make an efficiency improvement. These proposals become stocks, complete with ticker symbols, discussion lists and e-mail alerts. Employees buy or sell the stocks, and prices change to reflect the sentiments of the company’s engineers, computer scientists and project managers — as well as its marketers, accountants and even the receptionist.

"We’re the founders, but we’re far from the smartest people here," Mr. Lavoie, the chief executive, said during an interview at Rite-Solutions’ headquarters outside Newport, R.I. "At most companies, especially technology companies, the most brilliant insights tend to come from people other than senior management. So we created a marketplace to harvest collective genius."

That’s a refreshing dose of humility from a successful C.E.O. with decades of experience in his field. (Mr. Lavoie, 59, is a Vietnam War veteran and an accomplished engineer who has devoted his career to military-oriented technologies.)

Most companies operate under the assumption that big ideas come from a few big brains: the inspired founder, the eccentric inventor, the visionary boss. But there’s a fine line between individual genius and know-it-all arrogance. What happens when rivals become so numerous, when technologies move so quickly, that no corporate honcho can think of everything? Then it’s time to invent a less top-down approach to innovation, to make it everybody’s business to come up with great ideas.

That’s a key lesson behind the rise of open source technology, most notably Linux. A ragtag army of programmers organized into groups, wrote computer code, made the code available for anyone to revise and, by competing and cooperating in a global community, reshaped the market for software. The brilliance of Linux as a model of innovation is that it is powered by the grass-roots brilliance of the thousands of programmers who created it.

According to Tim O’Reilly, the founder and chief executive of O’Reilly Media, the computer book publisher, and an evangelist for open source technologies, creativity is no longer about which companies have the most visionary executives, but who has the most compelling "architecture of participation." That is, which companies make it easy, interesting and rewarding for a wide range of contributors to offer ideas, solve problems and improve products?

At Rite-Solutions, the architecture of participation is both businesslike and playful. Fifty-five stocks are listed on the company’s internal market, which is called Mutual Fun. Each stock comes with a detailed description — called an expect-us, as opposed to a prospectus — and begins trading at a price of $10. Every employee gets $10,000 in "opinion money" to allocate among the offerings, and employees signal their enthusiasm by investing in a stock and, better yet, volunteering to work on the project. Volunteers share in the proceeds, in the form of real money, if the stock becomes a product or delivers savings.

Mr. Marino, 57, president of Rite-Solutions, says the market, which began in January 2005, has already paid big dividends. One of the earliest stocks (ticker symbol: VIEW) was a proposal to apply three-dimensional visualization technology, akin to video games, to help sailors and domestic-security personnel practice making decisions in emergency situations. Initially, Mr. Marino was unenthusiastic about the idea — "I’m not a joystick jockey" — but support among employees was overwhelming. Today, that product line, called Rite-View, accounts for 30 percent of total sales.

"Would this have happened if it were just up to the guys at the top?" Mr. Marino asked. "Absolutely not. But we could not ignore the fact that so many people were rallying around the idea. This system removes the terrible burden of us always having to be right."

Another virtue of the stock market, Mr. Lavoie added, is that it finds good ideas from unlikely sources. Among Rite-Solutions’ core technologies are pattern-recognition algorithms used in military applications, as well as for electronic gambling systems at casinos, a big market for the company. A member of the administrative staff, with no technical expertise, thought that this technology might also be used in educational settings, to create an entertaining way for students to learn history or math.

She started a stock called Win/Play/Learn (symbol: WPL), which attracted a rush of investment from engineers eager to turn her idea into a product. Their enthusiasm led to meetings with Hasbro, up the road in Pawtucket, and Rite-Solutions won a contract to help it build its VuGo multimedia system, introduced last Christmas.

Mr. Lavoie called this innovation an example of the "quiet genius" that goes untapped inside most organizations. "We would have never connected those dots," he said. "But one employee floated an idea, lots of employees got passionate about it and that led to a new line of business."

The next frontier is to tap the quiet genius that exists outside organizations — to attract innovations from people who are prepared to work with a company, even if they don’t work for it. An intriguing case in point is InnoCentive, a virtual research and development lab through which major corporations invite scientists and engineers worldwide to contribute ideas and solve problems they haven’t been able to crack themselves.

InnoCentive, based in Andover, Mass., is literally a marketplace of ideas. It has signed up more than 30 blue-chip companies, including Procter & Gamble, Boeing and DuPont, whose research labs are groaning under the weight of unsolved problems and unfinished projects. It has also signed up more than 90,000 biologists, chemists and other professionals from more than 175 countries. These "solvers" compete to meet thorny technical challenges posted by "seeker" companies. Each challenge has a detailed scientific description, a deadline and an award, which can run as high as $100,000.

"We are talking about the democratization of science," said Alpheus Bingham, who spent 28 years as a scientist and senior research executive at Eli Lilly & Company before becoming the president and chief executive of InnoCentive. "What happens when you open your company to thousands and thousands of minds, each of them with a totally different set of life experiences?"

InnoCentive, founded as an independent start-up by Lilly in 2001, has an impressive record. It can point to a long list of valuable scientific ideas that have arrived, with surprising speed, from faraway places. In addition to the United States, the top countries for solvers are China, India and Russia.

Last month, InnoCentive attracted a $9 million infusion of venture capital to accelerate its growth. "There is a ‘collective mind’ out there," Dr. Bingham said. "The question for companies is, what fraction of it can you access?"

That remains an unanswered question at many companies, whose leaders continue to rely on their own brainpower as the key source of ideas. But there’s evidence that more and more top executives are recognizing the limits of their individual genius.

Back at Rite-Solutions, for example, one of the most valuable stocks on Mutual Fun is the stock market itself (symbol: STK). So many executives from other companies have asked to study the system that a team championed the idea of licensing it as a product — another unexpected opportunity.

"There’s nothing wrong with experience," said Mr. Marino, the company’s president. "The problem is when experience gets in the way of innovation. As founders, the one thing we know is that we don’t know all the answers."

William C. Taylor is a co-founder and founding editor of Fast Company magazine. He lives in Wellesley, Mass.


American obstetricians are inducing labor more and more often

Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

March 26, 2006
Birth, Controlled

Earlier this year, a pregnant Pittsburgh Steelers fan told local reporters that she had asked her doctor to induce labor early so she could watch the Super Bowl. Once her obstetrician determined that the procedure would be safe, and that the Steelers were in fact headed to the big game, he consented. (Ultimately, the woman went into spontaneous labor and gave birth naturally.)

While her request may be unusual for its frivolity, American obstetricians are inducing labor more and more often, sometimes for no other reason than that the mother wants it. As of last count, in 2003, one out of every five American births was induced — double the figure for 1990. It is a surprisingly high rate given induction’s increased risk of fetal distress or a ruptured uterus. Inductions also make more likely a Caesarean birth — major abdominal surgery, with a long recovery period.

Of course, many induced labors are entirely appropriate. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ guidelines recommend induced labor if, for example, there is maternal high blood pressure, a placenta problem or early rupture of the amniotic sac that protects the fetus. Another legitimate reason is if a mother’s pregnancy has lasted beyond her 40-week "due date." Due dates are notoriously fungible; the official medical term for them is an E.D.D., or estimated due date. Still, being "postdate" — regardless of whether that date is accurate — is far and away the most common reason for induction in the United States. "Elective" inductions, at the mother’s request, appear to be the second most common.

It is difficult to criticize a woman who walks into her doctor’s office and ask to be induced early. Her last few weeks of pregnancy are often the worst: her toes are like sausages, her stomach and squished bladder may fail to be operational and sleep is elusive.

Yet for thousands of years, pregnant women faced the final weeks before birth with little more than patience. Induction — by ingesting a fungus called ergot or other substances — was usually to save the life of the mother or child. But the practice became more common after World War II, when doctors first learned to drip a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin, known as Pitocin, through an intravenous line to stimulate the uterus. The drug’s use skyrocketed as obstetricians tried to avoid working the overnight shift. Now many women as well wish to schedule their deliveries. "Elective" inductions represent 30 percent or more of all inductions at certain hospitals, doctors estimate. We like to exercise control over every aspect of our lives; why not a child’s birthday?

And yet resistance may be developing. Doctors and mothers may find induced births handy, but hospitals do not. An induced labor, which requires regular monitoring of the patient in bed, can take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours, using up a hospital’s precious staff time and money. Meanwhile, the national Caesarean rate has also hit a record: 29 percent in 2004. Though only 3 percent of those Caesareans were elective, that portion is rising quickly. The National Institutes of Health is sponsoring a conference this week to discuss the issue. The N.I.H. may well follow Britain’s lead and conclude that if a mother wants the operation, she should have it. The planned Caesarean is usually a smooth, 30-minute procedure.

But trouble is nonetheless brewing on maternity floors. Women recovering from a Caesarean typically spend four days in the hospital. Add to the mix women undergoing inductions, and it is clear that hospitals are using more resources on fewer patients. New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center has begun tracking inductions — they accounted for 34.4 percent of all births in 2005 — in order to find a way to reduce them. Massachusetts General Hospital is already cracking down on elective inductions, claims Dr. Laura Riley, the director of labor and delivery.

"It is fair to say that many hospitals are evaluating how best to control elective inductions, and some are requiring that specific guidelines be met before starting elective inductions," says Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick, head of the OB/GYN department at the University of Illinois and vice chairwoman of the OB practice committee at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Kilpatrick says that the college is not, at this moment, trying to limit elective induction. The organization may not need to. In today’s medical world, it is increasingly accountants, not doctors, who call the shots. And the accountants, it seems, are not pleased.

Tina Cassidy is the author of "Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born," to be published by Atlantic Monthly Press in the fall.

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company


George Mason.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Lamar Butler, who scored 19, after George Mason completed its improbable run to the Final Four.

March 26, 2006
N.C.A.A. Men’s Tournament
Magical Ride Continues for George Mason

WASHINGTON (AP) — George Mason’s players stood on the press table, waving their jerseys to the crowd. Coach Jim Larranaga walked around with the nylon net around his neck.

It won’t be the same old schools from the same old conferences at this year’s Final Four — certainly not top-seeded Connecticut.

Buoyed by a partisan crowd and playing some 20 miles from their campus, 11th-seeded George Mason overcame huge disadvantages in size, athleticism and history Sunday to stun the Huskies 86-84 in overtime, ending a stranglehold that big-time programs have enjoyed for 27 years in college basketball’s biggest showcase.

Improbable as it may seem, the powers-that-be are going to have to make room for a suburban commuter school from Fairfax, Va., that was a dicey choice to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.

"I was kidding with one of my assistants," Larranaga said, "We’re not just an at-large team, we’re an at-extra-large. And if we win today, we’re going to be an at-extra-double-large. I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having."

The Patriots overcame their deficiencies with heart and tenacity. They were never rattled, even when they trailed by 12 late in the first half and nine early in the second. They hit six straight 3-pointers in the second half, shot 5-for-6 in overtime and outrebounded UConn 37-34 even though the Huskies have three starters taller than any of the Patriots’ frontcourt players.

There was also motivation from Larranaga, who fired up his team during timeouts by telling them that UConn’s players didn’t even know which conference George Mason is in.

"That’s a little bit of disrespect," guard Tony Skinn said. "Coach told us the CAA stands for ‘Connecticut Assassin Association."’

Of course, as more people are learning, CAA stands for Colonial Athletic Association, a league that has never had a team get this far before. The Patriots (27-7) are only the second double-digit seed to make the Final Four, matching LSU’s run, also as an 11th seed, in 1986. They are the first true outsider to crash the quartet since Penn and Indiana State both got there in 1979.

George Mason next plays No. 3 seed Florida in Saturday’s semifinals in Indianapolis. This marks the first time since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that no top-seeded team advanced to the Final Four, and the second time in tournament history.

The Patriots’ at-large selection was roundly criticized by many, including CBS commentator Billy Packer. George Mason’s fans chanted Packer’s name in the postgame celebration.

"I think it’s been working for us, calling us Cinderella," Skinn said. "We were not supposed to get into the tournament, we got into it. We were not supposed to beat Michigan State and we beat them. Weren’t supposed to beat North Carolina and we beat them. We definitely weren’t supposed to be UConn. I think we’ll stick to the script going into whoever we play. We don’t mind being the Cinderella."

All five Mason starters finished in double figures. Jai Lewis had 20, and Lamar Butler and Will Thomas each scored 19. Larranaga’s team kept the same five players in the game from the 10:37 mark of regulation to the very end of overtime. Butler was chosen as the most outstanding player of the regional, and he and his father were in tears as they hugged at length on the court after the game.

"I feel so good, through my own sadness, for Jim Larranaga," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "Playing at that level is not easy. I can only imagine the feeling they must have on that campus, in that locker room. … It’s something they probably never imagined. We’ve imagined it, and we’ve done it. They could never have imagined it."

George Mason, having by far the best season in school history, had never won an NCAA tournament game until it beat half of last year’s Final Four — Michigan State and No. 3 seed North Carolina — back-to-back in the first two rounds. Now it can say it has beaten the last two national champions — Connecticut and North Carolina.

Rudy Gay scored 20, and Jeff Adrien had a career-high 17 points for Connecticut (30-4), which never could put together a complete game in the tournament. The Huskies had to rally from double-digit second-half deficits to beat Albany and Washington and barely held off Kentucky.

"They played tough and have a lot of heart," Gay said. "That’s all that really matters when you play a game like this."

Folarin Campbell’s tough baseline fadeaway gave the Patriots an 84-80 lead in overtime, and UConn suddenly looked like a rattled underdog from a mid-major. Rashad Anderson tossed up an airball 3-point attempt that could have cut the lead to one, and Adrien missed one of two free throws in the final 30 seconds.

But Mason gave UConn a chance to win with poor free-throw shooting. Lewis missed three attempts in the final 15 seconds — the last two with 6.1 seconds to go — giving the Huskies a final possession to tie or win. Denham Brown, who made the reverse layup at the regulation buzzer to send the game to overtime, was off the mark from the left wing with a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Throughout the game, chants of "G-M-U" and "Let’s Go Mason!" reverberated off the ceiling of the Verizon Center. Green and gold, as expected, were the dominant colors, and the building reached a new-level din of enthusiasm when Skinn made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 21 in the first half.

UConn started 7-for-10 from the field yet couldn’t pull away from the tenacious Patriots, who somehow managed to pull down and chase rebounds despite their height disadvantage. When the Huskies went cold, missing seven straight field goals, George Mason pulled even. The second of back-to-back steals by Skinn led to two free throws by Thomas that put the Patriots ahead 29-28, their only lead of the first half.

But the Huskies responded with a 15-2 run. Their lead was 12 when George Mason got a boost just before halftime — Campbell’s three-point play with less than one second remaining cut the deficit to single digits, 43-34, at the break.

The Patriots pulled within one early in the second half with an 8-0 run. Campbell hit a 3-pointer after a gritty offensive rebound by Thomas, and Skinn made a driving layup despite losing control of the ball and changing hands in mid-air. Then, with 12:31 to play, Campbell hit another 3-pointer that tied the game at 49. The next milestone came with 11:09 remaining, when Butler sank another 3 to give Mason a 52-51 lead.

For the next six minutes, the teams punched and counterpunched, with neither leading by more than two until Skinn’s 3-pointer with five minutes to go put Mason ahead 67-63. Marcus Williams’ steal and three-point play cut Mason’s lead to 71-70 with 47 seconds remaining, and the Patriots went 2-of-5 from the foul line in the final minute to give UConn the chance to send the game to overtime on Brown’s buzzer-beating layup.

But Mason didn’t wilt in the overtime, making Butler’s Final Four prediction come true, a prediction he brashly made when he was recruited to George Mason.

"I think I was joking when I said that," Butler said. "I started dreaming when I got to college. It shows you anything can happen."

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company


Villanova Coach

March 26, 2006

Blog: Hard Not to Like Villanova Coach


Filed at 9:54 p.m. ET

Now that March Madness is in full swing, AP sportswriters will be filing periodic, behind-the-scenes reports from the NCAA


SUNDAY, March 26:

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s hard not to be a fan of Villanova coach Jay Wright.

All weekend long, as his Wildcats made a run at their first Final Four in 21 years, Wright conducted himself with class and patience.

He welcomed former players and coaches from the 1985 team that shocked Georgetown for the national title, embracing the tradition rather than treating it as a burden that these new kids had to live up to.

Everywhere he went, people talked about 1985. And with Rollie Massimino in the stands and Ed Pinckney on the bench as an assistant coach, the newest edition of the cardiac Cats easily could have been overlooked.

But Wright made sure that didn’t happen. While welcoming chatter about the past, he also used the platform to introduce the rest of the country to his seniors — particularly Randy Foye and Allan Ray.

After the Wildcats lost to Florida on Sunday, Wright was blunt in his feelings.

”This hurts,” he said. ”It’s supposed to hurt.”

But he also went out of his way to say how proud he was of his team’s breakthrough season — a school record 30 wins and their first No. 1 seed.

And he answered every question, from those about the disappointment to what happens next when Foye, Ray and Co. leave school.

”It’s not even about not going to the Final Four,” Wright said. ”We just wanted to advance and keep playing together, keep being together.”

A lot of coaches say things like that, but Wright says it with a purpose and a genuineness that some of his colleagues lack.

”I want them to feel great about themselves, great about Villanova,” Wright said.

After spending four years with a coach like him, how could they not?

–AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski.


Ukraine Vote

March 27, 2006

Reform Leader Suffers Setback in Ukraine Vote

KIEV, Ukraine, Monday, March 27 — President Viktor A. Yushchenko, who led a wave of popular protest to office promising a freer Ukraine aligned with Europe and the United States, suffered a stunning political defeat in parliamentary elections on Sunday, leaving him weakened and his reformist policies in doubt.

Mr. Yushchenko called the vote for a new and newly empowered Parliament "the first fair, democratic elections in Ukraine," and his party appeared to have been routed.

Nearly a year and a half after the protests and international pressure swept Mr. Yushchenko to the presidency, his party fell far behind not only the party of the man he beat for the top job, Viktor F. Yanukovich, but also the party of his former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, according to an independent survey of voters leaving the polls, announced by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, after voting ended at 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Mr. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, which the survey showed with 33 percent of the vote, was poised to win the largest bloc of seats in the 450-seat Parliament, but not enough to win control outright. Ms. Tymoshenko’s bloc received 22 percent, while Mr. Yushchenko’s party, Our Ukraine, trailed in a distant third place, with only 13 percent, according to the survey.

Mr. Yanukovich, the former prime minister whose supporters were accused of having rigged the presidential race against Mr. Yushchenko in November 2004, declared "a decisive victory," using the sort of language that rallied those against him and his patron, the former president, Leonid D. Kuchma. "Ukraine made its choice," he said. "Its choice is freedom, democracy, stability and confidence in the future."

Mr. Yanukovich’s strength is less a reflection of his political successes than it is of the failings of Mr. Yushchenko, whose reputation at home has suffered from one problem after another despite his image abroad as a reform-minded democrat.

His inability to help improve the weak economy and lessen the country’s reliance on Russian gas, which caused painful shortages this winter in a price dispute, deeply hurt him.

The election results set the stage for a period of political jockeying that could last for days or even weeks before a new government is formed. Much will depend on the success of an array of smaller parties that needed to win at least 3 percent of the vote to secure seats.

The voting was the first electoral test of the sweeping changes Mr. Yushchenko promised during the huge street protests that came to be known as the "Orange Revolution."

If the results of the voter survey hold, the election will underscore the disastrous turnaround in Mr. Yushchenko’s political fate, leaving him forced to compromise.

At stake are Mr. Yushchenko’s stated policy goals, including integrating Ukraine into the European Union and NATO. Mr. Yanukovich’s party has promised to restore economic stability and forge closer ties with Russia.

The election has added significance for Ukraine, a country of 47 million on the edge of a newly expanded European Union, because of a political compromise that cleared the way for Mr. Yushchenko’s presidency. Under constitutional changes adopted then, the new Parliament will have the power to choose the prime minister and most of the cabinet, though Mr. Yushchenko will retain control over foreign affairs and security ministries.

Mr. Yushchenko’s party now faces a choice of whether to repair the fractured coalition with Ms. Tymoshenko, who served as his first prime minister until a falling out amid infighting over policy and accusations of corruption, or possibly to face a hostile government. Together, their parties still drew more votes than Mr. Yanukovich’s, according to the voter survey, but her showing increased her leverage in the talks.

Without Ms. Tymoshenko’s support, Mr. Yushchenko’s only other choice would be an improbable alliance with Mr. Yanukovich. The president remained noncommittal on Sunday, saying in televised remarks that he was considering "all kinds of various combinations."

Later, though, as the gravity of his party’s poor showing became clear, Mr. Yushchenko’s aides said they were prepared to revive the "orange" coalition. The mood at the party’s headquarters was funereal, despite rock bands that performed on the central square of Kiev, the capital, and videos that evoked the 2004 protests there.

A scheduled appearance by the current prime minister and leader of the party, Yury I. Yekhanurov, was abruptly canceled without explanation early Monday morning.

Ms. Tymoshenko, by contrast, clearly relished a result that provided a measure of vengeance after her dismissal last September. She said those who supported the Orange Revolution were still a majority — now led by her, her remarks suggested, though she stopped short of declaring her insistence on becoming prime minister again.

"I would not like us to let the people down again," she said.

Although Mr. Yanukovich’s party complained of widespread irregularities ahead of Sunday’s vote, including names missing from voter lists or Russian ones mistranslated into Ukrainian, there were few immediate reports of fraud or significant disruptions. But long lines formed as voters slogged through a ballot with 45 parties, and a homemade firebomb damaged one polling place in the Kiev region.

For many of those who voted, the significance was not in the results, but in the process. They described a Ukraine that was freer and more democratic, if also unruly and still divided along the same ethnic, social and political lines of 2004.

"It is already a big victory," Mr. Yushchenko said, putting the best face on his party’s performance.

The survey of voters was carried out for the Democratic Initiatives Foundation by the Razumkov Center and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, which is part of the Kiev-Mohyla Academy. Final results are not expected at least until late Monday, and perhaps later.

Critics of Mr. Yushchenko’s performance as president welcomed the freedom of choice.

Maria I. Kompaneyets, 63, said that she voted for Mr. Yanukovich in 2004, but that she had hopes that Mr. Yushchenko would use his popular mandate to improve life in Ukraine, especially the economy and pensions, recurrent complaints among those less well off.

"Nothing changed, at least nothing changed for better, neither in the country nor in our own life," she said, as she voted with her husband, Pyotr. "Of course we had hopes. So much had been said in those days. Who could expect that it would turn out so bad?"

Nikolai Khalip contributed reporting for this article.


Art Buchwald

Douglas Kirkland/Corbis
Art Buchwald in Paris in the 1980’s.
Nancy Ellison/Polaris
Mr. Buchwald at his home on Martha’s Vineyard in 2001

March 26, 2006

Washington’s Hottest Salon Is a Deathbed

THE other day when I called Art Buchwald, he couldn’t come to the phone. John Glenn, the former senator, was at his bedside in the Washington hospice where, for 10 weeks now, Mr. Buchwald has been waiting to die.

Art — I can’t easily call him Mr. Buchwald because we are acquaintances — has lived a storied life, cutting a swath through postwar Paris, where he wined with Taylor (Elizabeth) and dined with Bergman (Ingrid), then returned to the United States to write a column that won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1982. He’s also written some 30 books.

So he’s not complaining now, despite losing a leg to amputation this winter and an apparently imminent death sentence. He has decided he would prefer to die rather than undergo hours of dialysis to cleanse his kidneys every few days.

But he also hasn’t died yet, despite predictions that he would only last three or four weeks without the dialysis. That may be because he’s having too much fun. His hospice room, where he intends to stay until the end, has become an informal salon, filled with various members of the Kennedy clan, Marine brass, Senator Glenn, Benjamin C. Bradlee, Representative Nancy Pelosi. On Tuesday the French ambassador showed up to make him a commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and give him a medal.

And he’s been writing words of wisdom about the end of life.

"People constantly ask me if there is an afterlife," he wrote in The Washington Post on March 14. "It’s a good chance for me to philosophize. I tell them, ‘If I knew I would tell you.’ " Last week he wrote a more sober column, about choosing someone to make life-and-death decisions for you.

"A good surrogate is hard to find," he wrote.

I can’t pretend to be nonpartisan when it comes to Art Buchwald.

I met him too late in life — his life. It was a balmy evening last summer. He was sitting between Carly Simon and a technology zillionaire who was the host of a charity event for human rights on his back lawn on Martha’s Vineyard. A small tented affair for about 200 that didn’t make a dent on the vast green expanse overlooking the harbor.

Art’s eyes twinkled, his lip sagged, he knew my byline. We hit it off right away.

"Are you married?" he asked, first thing. Then he asked for the latest gossip from the newsroom of The New York Times, Hollywood and Washington. I fetched him a plate of food from the buffet, since friends and fans were keeping him occupied. And I drove him home that night, grasping a scrap of paper on which he’d scrawled, ever so slowly and in trembling script, his address in Vineyard Haven with the words "yellow mailbox."

To me Art Buchwald was a monument. I’d read his syndicated column since I was a kid and felt the echoes of his footsteps in Paris, where he had lived and written for about 14 years, and where, much more recently, I had lived and written for 6. I had gone on to work for The Washington Post, where his column was based. And every year The International Herald Tribune would run his Thanksgiving column, an absurd bit of whimsy about the nonexistent "Jour de Merci Donnant." I laughed every time.

So it was pretty surprising to find that in the summer of 2005, Art — "Arty," as all his friends called him — was still around, still writing his column, still sharp as a stick. A stroke had slowed his speech, so the punch lines sometimes came at a snail’s pace. But it was always worth paying attention.

"Did I ever tell you about the time that Leonard Downie tried to cut my salary?" he asked about the executive editor of The Washington Post as we sat out on his back porch at dusk, with a view of his blooming hydrangeas.

Then he launched into a story of a certain Hollywood star who had a torrid extramarital affair one summer and — hmm, perhaps those details were not meant to be shared. Anyway, it ended in a joke involving bicoastal ashes.

One evening Mike Wallace came gliding through the screen door, shirtless and in a pair of shorts. His teeth gleamed white against a deep tan.

"Nice column," he offered, referring to Art’s latest piece in print, which had merited a mention on a popular journalism Web site. Then he asked some penetrating questions about my career, and in about two strokes I felt like a midget in the land of giants.

The feeling persisted. Once I glanced down at a wrinkled and stained list of typed phone numbers next to Art’s phone: Ethel Kennedy. William Styron. Carly Simon’s number was written at the top in Art’s painstaking hand. Perhaps she’d moved.

Art, Mike Wallace and William Styron are a legendary trio on the Vineyard. All of them have suffered from depression, and they have toured together to promote the merits of medication and other treatment. Their friends refer to them as the Blues Brothers. When the subject of depression came up, Art launched into a diatribe against Tom Cruise, the antipsychiatry movie star, about whom I’d recently written. He didn’t miss much.

The summer ended. In the fall the French Embassy in Washington gave a gala 80th birthday party for Art, with his famous and powerful pals as hosts. It was an event attended by le tout Washington. I was stuck on the West Coast and couldn’t make it.

We exchanged a few e-mail messages, I cursed him for being so old, and got busy with life.

Then a couple of weeks ago I heard that he was dying, and I called.

It had been nine weeks since his kidneys had started to fail and he was still alive. "No one can figure it out," he told me. In the meantime, he said, "I’m having the time of my life." Prominent visitors stop by, his kids bring him McDonald’s for dinner, the grandkids come. He called up Mr. Styron to boast about the French medal. "I’ve got that one also," Mr. Styron grumbled back.

Enough about him. Art wanted to know the latest from Hollywood, about the private investigator Anthony Pellicano and how the federal investigation against him was going. That reminded him of the case he’d brought against Paramount Pictures years ago, claiming the company stole his idea for a screenplay.

It was a landmark case. After eight years, amazingly, he won. And it led to one of his enduring legacies, the "Buchwald clause" in Hollywood contracts, protecting studios from having to compensate a writer for an original idea. It also led to revelations about Hollywood accounting.

What else was new? Mike Wallace had just announced that he was going to retire this spring, when he will turn 88.

"Retiring," Art mused. "Isn’t that terrible?" And he told me to call him next week.


Dark 2BR Loft? That’s Code for a Club

Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times

In Brooklyn a group of roommates opened the doors of their loft to create High Five, an underground club

March 26, 2006
Dark 2BR Loft? That’s Code for a Club

AT midnight one recent Friday, dozens of people lined up in one of Brooklyn’s bleakest warehouse districts, waiting to enter a rock show. Tickets had been sold at a Greenpoint record store, but the show’s address was only revealed to buyers at the last minute by e-mail.

A ticket taker stamped the hands of nearly 500 fans who eventually jammed into a room to drink beer and hear the Black Dice, local favorites. The band’s dressing room was a bit odd: there was a bed in it. The bathroom for the audience had somebody’s used toothbrush and a package of Q-tips. A big mural in the hall read, "Home Sweet Home."

This was no rock club. This was someone’s home.

The loft, shared by several art school graduates in a desolate part of Bushwick, is transformed every other month into an underground club, the High Five.

"I’ve always been pretty obsessed with underground music," said Peter Buxton, 24, one of the roommates. "In the back of my head I was thinking it would be cool to do shows. And as soon we spotted this loft, we thought it would be a crime not to do something."

Mr. Buxton and his roommates, who make enough money from their bimonthly shows to cover the $2,800 rent for their loft, have plenty of company around the city.

From former industrial lofts in Brooklyn and Queens to stylish pads in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, living quarters are being used as cash-producing spaces for under-the-radar parties.

Given the high costs and stringent laws governing licensed night spots from no-smoking ordinances to laws regulating closing hours, alcohol sales and dancing underground parties, where guests can smoke, boogie and drink as long as they like, seem to have an increasing appeal, in no small part because they are illicit.

"It feels super-sneaky," said Solana Larson, 26, a Brooklynite who went to a party in an apartment in the meatpacking district. "I brought some friends, and they were like, ‘Wow, this is so underground.’ You can’t help but feel like it’s kind of a select crowd."

Organizers employ various tactics to avoid attracting police attention, including checking guests’ identification to make sure they are 21 and asking them to sign a release form. Shadi Shahrokhi, a host of parties in his loft in the meatpacking district, puts his neighbors in the expensive Maritime hotel for the night to avoid having them file noise complaints with authorities.

Nonetheless most of the parties are in violation of the law, the police say. "With those parties comes noise, comes crowding," said Detective Brian Sessa, a New York Police Department spokesman. "It’s a building code violation. If you charge overhead or charge for drinks, you need a liquor license. Basically they are illegal on multiple levels."

To avoid leaving a paper trail, almost none of the loft-party organizers print fliers. Some declined to speak in detail for this article for fear of exposure. Secrecy, they said, is both their best defense and their biggest draw.

Advertised through online Listservs, Web sites like and word of mouth, the house parties are open to anyone who unearths the secret address and is willing to pay the $5 to $15 cover charges.

They include rock shows, performance art and D.J.-fueled discos.

Even though part of their appeal is the do-it-yourself vibe kitchens that serve as bars, bedrooms that double as V.I.P. areas some are increasingly mimicking professional spaces.

Organizers book acts that also play legitimate clubs like Avalon, and they hire promoters, bouncers, bartenders and coat-check girls. But they still say they’re in it as much for the fun and socializing as for the money.

"It’s really just a labor of love, plus pocket change," said Arvin Ajamian, an audio producer who, with the help of some partners, turned his unassuming four-bedroom Williamsburg house into a club called Brooklyn Tuning, complete with disco ball, lights and professional sound system. Mr. Ajamian, 27, charges a $10 cover and offers an open bar. Though as many as 300 people have come for his monthly parties, he says he only makes enough to recoup expenses and maybe pay for dinner and a few drinks.

Mr. Shahrokhi, 38, an architect, agrees. He regularly spends about $2,500 on Buyrum, a party that he and a few D.J.’s play host to every few months in his loft in the meatpacking district. "We do it as a cultural event," he said. "It’s not about me making 200 bucks, because obviously doing architecture is a lot less work and a lot more profit."

Gadi Mizrahi and Zev Eisenberg, a D.J. team that goes by the name Wolf & Lamb, spent over $20,000 to turn a two-bedroom apartment in a former machine shop in Brooklyn near the Williamsburg Bridge into a party space. Their events have already outgrown their 2,000-square-foot loft, but they say they’ve not made their money back. And they don’t seem to care.

Instead they want to build an audience for their brand of minimal techno and recently started a record label. "It’s all supporting each other now," Mr. Eisenberg, 24, said.

Still, someone makes money off these events. At the High Five in Bushwick the headlining band can make as much as $1,000 a performance. At other parties D.J.’s are flown in and paid several hundred dollars for a gig. Bartenders also rake in the money; they get bigger tips because the drinks are cheaper than at real clubs.

"This is a much more relaxed atmosphere," said Dave, a patron at the Black Dice show in Bushwick. He declined to give his full name because, he said, he works for the government. He described his age as "grown-up," which in that crowd meant older than 35. "Clubs are so restrictive," he said. "If you’ve been to the Bowery Ballroom, all the bouncers are scowling. Here it’s like being in someone’s living room, because you are."

That sense of being outside the club establishment is what seems to attract patrons like Emily Spurr, 23, who works in advertising. "Everyone likes to feel like a rebel in a little way," she said at the High Five.

Many organizers said their landlords turn a blind eye as long as the rent is paid on time and there is no trouble with authorities. "The building manager was on my case, but I think he just wanted me to invite him," said Karen Williams, 46, a theater artist who recently started giving parties in her Chinatown loft. (She did not invite him, she said.)

"The club scene can be a drag," said Ms. Williams, a veteran of the 80’s-era East Village. Conventional clubs are "expensive, and there can be an attitude," she said. "I just wanted to have fun."

Despite efforts to keep the parties secret and under the radar of authorities, it can be hard to disguise that hundreds of people are crowded into a living space, swilling beer and dancing to loud music.

At the last Buyrum party, the kitchen-cum-bar was doing a brisk business in Coronas and rum and Cokes. The dance floor was packed, videos played on a screen, and a dozen people were smoking on benches in the front of the apartment.

A sign on the bathroom door read: "When crowded this bathroom for women only. Guys use the roof." The D.J.’s tunes were accompanied by a guy playing bongos in the corner. The next act, a Brazilian band, had just finished setting up when, at 1:30 a.m., the police arrived in response to a neighbor’s complaint.

The lights went on and the crowd let out a collective groan. Mr. Shahrokhi, the host, looked livid, but people were forced to file out as the officers waited in the hallway. Mr. Shahrokhi wound up with hundreds of dollars worth of tickets and a court date.

The threat of legal action isn’t the only obstacle for party organizers. There are also the logistical and personal difficulties of regularly playing host to hundreds of strangers, especially when stragglers linger into the next morning. "A lot of the normal life stuff starts to bend around the will of the parties," Mr. Ajamian said. Furniture is pushed out. The stress level is high.

"There’s 200 people in your place, neighbors calling the police, the toilets ready to leak, 20 people hanging on the roof," Mr. Shahrokhi said. "All I’m doing is going back and forth: go to the roof, come back downstairs, go to the bar. It’s a production."

Still, these residential nightlife impresarios say it’s worth it.

For Mr. Buxton, the High Five party host, "nothing is more thrilling than standing in my bedroom, looking down, and watching my favorite band play in my living room."

Mr. Shahrokhi, the host of Buyrum, said: "Our job is to challenge certain conventions. The key is having some element of what New York was all about continue."

Which means, after the police left his party, the Brazilian band played on.

Michael Nagle for The New York Times
Dancing, without a permit, at a party in the meatpacking district.

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company


IndyCar’s Dana, 30, Dies After Crash

J. Pat Carter/Associated Press

Paul Dana’s car being towed into a garage after Sunday’s crash.

March 26, 2006
IndyCar’s Dana, 30, Dies After Crash
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Driver Paul Dana died after a two-car crash Sunday during the warmup for the season-opening I.R.L. IndyCar Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The other driver, Ed Carpenter, was awake and alert at a Miami hospital, I.R.L. officials said.

Dana, 30, a former motorsports journalist with a degree from Northwestern, was a rookie who competed in three I.R.L. races for Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing last year with a best finish of 10th in the race at Homestead.

The Toyota Indy 300 race was expected to be run as scheduled. Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing for which Dana was to race this season, said the team’s other two cars — driven by Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice — will be pulled out of the race.

Dana’s wife, Tonya, was in Indianapolis, where the couple lived, and was notified of her husband’s death while attending a church service.

"Obviously, this is a very black day for us," Rahal said. "This is a great tragedy."

Carpenter spun and hit the wall moments after the practice began at 10 a.m. EST. As Carpenter’s battered car slid to a stop, Dana slammed into it at almost full speed — about 200 mph.

Dana’s car nearly split in half. The chassis flew about 6 feet off the ground and pieces were strewn down the track. It nearly turned over, but landed on its wheels before sliding to a halt.

Buddy Lazier said Dana passed him and Scott Sharp after both slowed because of the accident.

"He carried way too much speed in and wasn’t aware of what was going on around him," Lazier said.

There was no immediate explanation for Dana’s failure to slow down several seconds after the yellow lights came on around the track because of Carpenter’s crash.

"That’s just the first time of the weekend that we got all 20 cars on the track at the same time," said I.R.L. president Brian Barnhart. "Ed had his problem in turn two initially. The yellow lights were called immediately and all systems functioned properly. It’s just a busy time out there, with a lot of cars and a lot of traffic."

Rahal said the team knew of no problem with communications.

"The spotter made clear the incident," Rahal said. "From what I could see, there was a car on the outside. Paul was just passing or had just passed, but I think it would be conjecture and probably very irresponsible for me to try to dissect as to why what happened, happened. But there was no problem with communication."

It took track safety workers about 15 minutes to get both drivers out of their cars. The practice session did not resume.

Rahal, who co-owns the team with television talk show host David Letterman, said the plan was to field cars for Patrick and Rice at next Sunday’s race in St. Petersburg, Fla. He said any future plans for the No. 17 entry, the car driven by Dana, "are unclear at this time."

Dana and Carpenter, the stepson of I.R.L. founder Tony George, both were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. I.R.L. officials said Dana died shortly before noon.

Vision Racing team general manager Larry Curry said he was told Carpenter "would be fine."

Dana is the first I.R.L. driver killed since Tony Renna died in a crash during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2003. The last Nascar driver killed was Dale Earnhardt in February 2001, and the last driver to die in Formula One was Ayrton Senna in May 1994.

It is the third racing death at the Homestead track — John Nemechek was killed in a Nascar truck race in February 1997 and Jeff Clinton died in a Grand Am sports car event at the track in March 2002.

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

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