D. None of the above

by -
0 433

My children are excellent musicians. OK, so I’m a little biased because I love music, I’m kind of fond of them, too, and I have worked with them on their developing skills.

What they’re even better at than playing music, however, is finding ways not to play it. Well, I mean, ways not to play their instruments. They’re perfectly content to play all kinds of music including, to my surprise, country music. Many of my daughter’s adolescent friends are also fond of this genre which, on the Eastern Seaboard, seems about as typical as a 65-degree, mid-December day. Is global warming moving country music north?

Anyway, my children have developed ways to put off practicing. There’s the hunger excuse: “No, no, seriously, Dad, if you could feel inside my stomach, you’d know I’m starving.”

When the food arrives, they are far too busy laughing out loud to notice.

“I am hungry, it’s just that I had to send this text message now. It’s urgent.”

When I take the phones away, they insist someone will be stranded in the metaphorical frozen bus station in Alaska, with polar bears closing in and their friend’s only defense is a text message that will send a tone that terrifies bears.

Back to music, or not. So, now that we’re five years into their music education, their procrastination playbook includes headaches, cold sores and tired eyes that can’t possibly read such small notes. Crying “wolf” too many times, when I’ve seen them bouncing around the house after their headaches rendered them unable to practice, has made me less inclined to believe them.

But, then, last week, my son picked up his instrument and, within seconds, had developed a serious case of the hiccups. One of the many genetic gifts from my father are these hiccups that cause fish to change directions in nearby tanks, birds to fly from their trees and heads to swivel in the direction of that sudden violent, two-toned sound. Even when they were in my wife’s uterus, our children caused her stomach to jump, as if they were miniature maracas.

Before he could play a note, my son increased the tempo of his hiccups, generating a violent and explosive noise. While I was annoyed that he wasn’t playing when he promised to practice, I admit that I was impressed that I was outmaneuvered by an adolescent, hiccuping diaphragm.

A friend has this technique where she drinks from the opposite side of a glass while holding her nose. I’ve seen it work before, but I’m not sure I’d want to try it with my son without an EMT present. I had him try my method, which involves holding his breath for as long as he can, taking a small breath and then repeating the process. I figure it’s a way of starving the diaphragm of air until it goes back to its usual job. He gamely tried, but it didn’t work. I even scared him by telling him about all the standardized tests coming in the next several years. That was similarly ineffective.

When I gave up, I saw a small Mona Lisa-type grin on the corners of his mouth which formed as he pulled his unused instrument apart and put it back in its case. I wondered how, if he had so much control over his diaphragm, he might use that power constructively? Then I remembered the American military blasts unpalatable music to force drug dealers and foreign leaders out of their homes. Maybe instead of pop music making these dictators wilt, the military could blast the sound of violent hiccups. “OK, guys nothing’s working, let’s bring in the diaphragm.”

by -
0 416

Is there divine  in all of us, or only in the people who share our religion? If your God, my God, anyone’s God, created the Earth and all the people, animals and planets on it, then does She want those who are true believers to annihilate and destroy the other people She created because they don’t believe in Her?

What? You don’t think God could be female? That’s a topic for another column. Recently, I read about a charitable act. At the end of the article, I saw that people were commenting about how that charity could only come from someone of their religion — I’m not going to indicate what religion it was.

The commentors were convinced that it couldn’t have come from someone who followed a different religious discipline. Why? If there are elements to ourselves that are a combination of destroyers and builders, lovers and haters, sinners and saints, why should something extraordinary or even inspirational be limited to one religion?

Couldn’t everyone’s God speak through or act through one person, regardless of his background or religion, to inspire others to greater heights, to do something incredibly beneficial to his or her fellow human beings without selecting only those people who go to the right building, speak the right language and follow the right religious practices? Maybe we need to close our eyes to see the divine  in everyone.

Religion has this way of bringing out the best in us and, at times, the worst. We sometimes feel that we’ve received some message from a divine being who tells us that we must right the wrongs of people who are outside our religous group. Centuries after the Crusades, humans still resort to weapons to make our point with those who have other religious beliefs.

I understand the fear, especially in an era when every politician with national aspirations describes a boogeyman (or woman). I also understand the reality that there are people bent on destroying us and that we can’t go naively into that good night, imagining we live in a utopian world where we can ignore threats. It’s real and it dominates the headlines every day.

This isn’t about the extreme cases, where we have to be vigilant against killers who, for whatever reason, feel they are doing something important in their lives by killing others before dying. That doesn’t seem like much of a way to honor anyone’s God.

This is about the way we relate to each other and the way we think of religious groups outside our own. Why should something spectacular or incredible have to originate from the mind or heart of someone from our religion?

Turning this around, do you like everyone in your church, temple or mosque? Do you routinely sit during services and feel a universal kindred spirit with everyone in that room that you don’t feel with the people in your child’s classroom at school, at your daughter’s ballet recital or at a concert where the music seems to echo around the room long after our kids have stopped strumming?

Would you randomly pick a name out of the hat at your house of worship and be equally thrilled to host any of those people in your home for a week, a night or even a long dinner?

Religion can offer us a chance to see and imagine that the best is yet to come in anyone around us. We don’t have to give up our own religion and it doesn’t lessen our religion to believe that something spectacular lies just beneath the surface of another person passing by us, even if that person doesn’t share our religion.

If we are all God’s children, wouldn’t She (or He) want us to put more effort into getting along with our siblings?

by -
0 456

During the holidays we donate coats to the homeless, buy presents for strangers and send cards to the brave soldiers representing our country far from home. In addition to those charitable efforts during this time of year, how about if we come up with ways to give to our planet?

Huh? In light, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the current United Nations climate-change meeting of world leaders in Paris, perhaps we can add a few small items to our lists. And, no, most of them don’t require spending any money. In fact, they will help save money.

For starters, and this is something my Depression-era grandparents ingrained in me from an early age, turn off the lights in rooms we don’t use. I know that’s tough, especially during this darker time of year, but it cuts our electric bill. That’s an extra few bucks in your pocket at a time when our kids absolutely, positively, have to get the latest, greatest, fastest, most-fashionable present to pass the holiday parent test.

When we drive somewhere and wait for someone, turn off those engines. Seriously, idling is something we should never do. It wastes gas and pollutes the environment. I appreciate all the effort parents make to sit outside schools, piano lessons, practices and games, waiting to pick up their children. But leaving the engine on is not only unnecessary, it fills the air with pollutants just before our children step in the car. Having sat in cars in temperatures below freezing for close to a half-hour, I assure you that the car stays warm if you don’t open your window or door. Seriously, try it. It also gives us those cherished moments of silence.

Then, there’s the thermostat. Yeah, I know we like it warm, but for the month of December, how about turning it down just 2 degrees? If that becomes unbearable, lower it just 1 degree. It might not seem like much individually, but that can and will make a huge difference collectively.

During the night we can turn off our computers and printers. These machines are much faster at booting up than the same electronics were just a decade ago. While we’re waiting for our computers to come back online, we can check our emails, send important messages about what we just realized we need to get from the store, and send instant messages to people around the world.

OK, so, we’ve got that shopping list and we know you’ll forget something because the overstimulating holiday environment of most stores has an ability to soften our brains. The bright and clever displays and constant caroling music on the radio encourage us to buy something that wasn’t on the list, turning us into consumer marionettes.

But if we were more efficient about our holiday shopping, we could buy that extra thing and still cross everything else off the list. What does that buy us? It gives us more time to write that rhyming couplet expressing our enduring love for our spouse and it reduces the amount of time we’re running back and forth to stores.

How about walking? I know it seems hard to imagine carrying everything from store to store but, let’s face it, it’s hard to find parking spots anyway. Instead of using gas to get from one place to another, by walking we could burn off that extra piece of pumpkin pie that called to us from the refrigerator.

Like so many other efforts at this time of year, giving to our planet will bring returns for us, our children and grandchildren down the road.

by -
0 449

Is the McDonald’s commercial bothering anyone else? I get it. The Golden Arches is serving breakfast all day long. Something about that radio advertisement is irritating, especially after I’ve heard it for the 20th time in a day.

In honor of that commercial, I thought I’d share a list of the trivial things I’m thankful for. Yes, I know there are many real things to appreciate, but, for now, I choose to focus on the mundane.

I’m thankful I’m not sitting next to someone telling me why he’s so angry at his ex-wife. Divorce is tough and coordinating activities for kids is challenging — even for parents who are happily married — but, dude, I don’t need to hear every twist and turn in your agonizing morning. I know, that sounds terrible and unsympathetic, but we don’t have to share everything with everyone.

I’m thankful that some games get canceled because of rain or snow. I know it’s our fault that we put our kids in all these sports and that some time down the road, I’ll have to get back on the road for a makeup game. But, in the moment, I can’t help enjoying the unexpected freedom to leave the keys and my chauffeur hat where they are.

I’m trivially thankful I’m not much taller. If I were much taller, I might have to duck when I entered a room or struggle to find a place to hide when someone who is about to tell me all the things about his ex-wife that bother him. Who am I kidding, right? It’d be cool to be taller and be able to dunk a basketball or even have a better view of people coming down a crowded hallway.

I’m thankful I’m not waiting behind a car that’s in the left lane and doesn’t have a blinker on. I’m not sitting at a turn when, just as the light turns green, the guy puts on his blinker, forcing me to wait while the cars in the right gleefully pass me without giving an inch to allow me to sneak into the other line. Hooray! Let’s hear it for those last minute blinker people, who give me a chance to appreciate the same traffic light another time through the green-yellow- red cycle. You never know: maybe the light will go from yellow to green this time and I will be the first one to witness it. And, maybe the traffic light will send me a Morse code signal with the winning lottery number.

I’m thankful I’m not in middle school. If you really need me to explain this one, you were probably sickeningly popular during those awful transition years and you need another rite of passage time in your life, just so you can understand the rest of us.

I’m thankful someone isn’t trying to tell me, right now, what should outrage me. I recognize that people get outraged about real and important things, like how politicians focus too much on one thing and not the thing that matters most to them in the moment. But, hey, just because I remain calm while other people are loudly outraged doesn’t mean I deserve that disgustedly frustrated look I get when I shrug in the face of your fury.

I’m thankful some of the dialogue in movies out right now is so bad that it’s added an unintended comic dimension while giving me the chance to appreciate the difference between quality entertainment and words to connect computer animated excitement. The Mockingjay Part 2 film offers several such gems. In one scene, Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutchinson, and Gale Hawthorne, played by Liam Hemsworth, discuss their competing interest for Katniss Everdeen, acted with considerable seriousness by Jennifer Lawrence. They conclude that they’re not sure who Katniss will choose, but it probably doesn’t matter much because all three of them are unlikely to survive anyway. Oh yes, the sweet agony of the love triangle in the middle of a life or death struggle.

by -
0 406

Pssst! Hey, do you want to know a secret? I’ve got a great one. It’s called … Flodgy Dodgy. Shhh! Don’t say it too loudly yet. I’m not supposed to tell anyone, but you’re a good friend. Well, no, I don’t technically know you yet, but you look like you could be a good friend. All friends start out as strangers, right?

Anyway, what is Flodgy Dodgy? It’s a made-for-TV product. Through viral marketing, we plan to put this product front and center, sharing it with the people who watch football every Sunday and with those addicted to highbrow features.

Flodgy Dodgy makes you feel good. It’s this incredible combination of things from column A, things from column B and things from column C. Each of these columns was based on years of scientific research. Well, it wasn’t actually conducted by scientists. We used these focus groups but, hey, what’s the difference? We don’t need initials. We pulled some of them directly off the Internet, so it has to be true.

We have an app, too. You can put it on your iPhone or your Samsung or whatever you’re supposed to silence before watching a movie.

So, before I get to the product, I want to let you know that the packaging of Flodgy Dodgy is not only recyclable, it’s wearable. You can take the packaging, peel off the simple sticker and, voilà, you have stickers you can put all over your notebooks and your office door. You can even put them over some of the holes in your fashionably torn jeans.

Can’t you see it? Popular kids in middle school sit down at their desks, put down their binders and there, in neon colors so bright people will practically need sunglasses to look at them, will be the name Flodgy Dodgy. When the teacher comes over and asks what it is, the kids can explain that it’s saving the environment because it doesn’t produce any waste. Well, technically, it does produce some waste, because the part you peel comes off in your hands and then you have to throw it out somewhere, but that’s not nearly as bad as the side effects from all those drugs advertised on TV.

But, wait, I haven’t gotten to the best part and, for this, we have Donald Trump to thank. He’s such an inspiration. You see, this guy doesn’t seem willing to get along with anyone in either party and he’s so far from the common man that he might as well be living on Mount Olympus, but, hey, that doesn’t matter. He’s on TV and he plays well on the small screen. He could be the first made-for-TV president who has the ability to say what we’re thinking. If we have no thoughts, he would convince us what we should be thinking because he’s The Man.

I digress. Our idea — and you’ll love this — is that we’re starting a Flodgy Dodgy network. We’re going to go out with cameras and find the people with the most Flodgy Dodgy stickers all over them and we’re going to give them 10 seconds to do a Flodgy Dodgy dance.

That’s right, TV. Ahhh! Can’t you picture it? And we’re going to let people link through the TV to all their social networks, so their friends and their jealous enemies will be able to watch them do their thing in full Flodgy Dodgy outfits.

Oh, sorry, my time’s up. I didn’t get to the product itself, but who cares? It’s not about the stuff inside, it’s about everything else and, when it comes to everything else, Flodgy Dodgy is No. 1. Now, remember, we don’t want you to tell anyone but your 20 or 50 best friends. OK?

by -
0 520

Now that the pumpkins are disappearing, I can get ready for the best holiday ever. It’s only about 14 weeks before everyone comes for Thanksgiving. Confused? I’m the dog and you have to multiply any time unit by seven.

Keep that in mind when it looks like I need to relieve myself. That “one more minute and I’ll take you out” line becomes especially painful when your 10 minutes is more than an hour of leaning against the wall, desperately trying not to be a “bad doggie” by relieving on the carpet.

What do I love about Thanksgiving? Let’s start with the food. There’s always someone — a vegetarian, a vegan or a messy kid — who wants to remove turkey from their plate without offending the host.

With the guests coming into an unfamiliar kitchen, I get plenty of scraps that don’t make it into the garbage. When these people turn their heads quickly to look at a touchdown, they miss the garbage can with the food they’re shoveling off their plate. Once in a while, I push the garbage can an inch or two to the left or right when no one is looking.

The weather is perfect for me. I walk around all summer wearing this heavy coat with my tongue hanging down by the floor, and waiting for the leaves to change. I can’t wait to get outside and roll around on the ground, scratching my back and breathing in the cool air.

Besides the food, my favorite times are when there’s a big fight. I know these people don’t come together to argue, but they can’t help it. They’ve got old wounds, they don’t get along all the time and their kids have huge differences. People go from barking at each other, to walking away, to barking and stomping, to whimpering. I can relate to all of that.

It doesn’t happen every year, especially now that everyone holds their electronics and ignores people in the room. Still, there’s the potential for howling. Now, while I wouldn’t suggest arguing, it can and does have its benefits for me. Every time someone gets upset enough, he or she grabs the leash and takes me for an incredibly long walk. That’s when they talk to me while I’m out there doing my usual sniffing for signs of other dogs on my pathway.

This one time I was sure I smelled a mixture of a Great Dane and a greyhound. That must have been one huge dog. I’ve had dreams about meeting that dog and challenging him to a race. I know I’m just a mutt, but I get big ideas and maybe the holidays will bring more than another bone and a pat on the head this year.

Anyway, people sometimes get on their knees and pet me while they look deep into my eyes. I look back at them and see why humans and dogs first became friends. Their eyes look so doglike sometimes, it’s incredible. And the cool thing is, if the light is right, I can see a small dog in the black part of their eyes. I keep wondering when I’ll meet that dog or if, maybe, deep down inside those eyes there’s a dog waiting to come out.

Bottom line? Don’t ask too much of me now. I’m saving my appetite for the big weekend and for all the exercise and heart-to-heart talks.


by -
0 463

November movies are a reminder of what the medium of film can be. My wife and I recently saw “The Martian” and “Bridge of Spies.”

These two new films offer viewers a chance to think, instead of just reacting to exploding robots or people with sudden super powers.

“The Martian,” starring Matt Damon, is about how astronaut Mark Watney, who is stuck on Mars, tries to communicate with people worlds away and to survive until a rescue mission can return for him. Oh, come on, people if you’ve seen even one preview, you know that much. Anyway, Damon doesn’t spend the entire movie flexing his muscles, shooting guns and running away from would-be assassins — he reserves those actions for the series of Bourne films. He figures out how to use the limited resources on Mars to survive. While it’s difficult to blend the possibilities of real science with an explanation of what he’s doing to an audience that might not follow everything, the film does an excellent job keeping up the suspense while giving us a Martian MacGyver.

Damon’s portrayal, and the reaction of his body to an extended stay alone on Mars, is compelling. At one point, he describes how he has to ration his food, going from eating three meals a day to eating one meal every three days. By flipping back and forth from Earth to an Ares capsule to Mars, the movie keeps the action, suspense and drama going without turning the movie into a one-man show. The scenes with the staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were especially satisfying, offering a look at some of the ways the hardworking analysts, engineers and scientists on Earth make it possible for humans — and satellites — to perform extraordinary tasks.

The scene shifts from the work Watney is doing on Mars to the tireless efforts of the JPL staff make it clear how much science like this is a team effort. As an aside, several scientists on Long Island have worked at a range of NASA facilities, developing technology for use on Mars rovers or working to understand the effects of extended exposure to radiation on the human body.

Meanwhile back in the late 1950s in “Bridge of Spies,” Brooklyn lawyer Jim Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, is assigned the unenviable task of defending Russian spy Rudolf Abel. The film captures the clash of duty to our country that surged through the ranks of attorneys, police officers and judges, with a duty to our Constitution which had — and often still has — a much more challenging set of rules to follow.

Donovan takes risks by defending Abel. The movie doesn’t address what secrets Abel might have been revealing, and it doesn’t need to. What it does offer, however, is a compassionate look at a soldier in a war for information during a period of heightened tension between two countries capable of destroying the world.

Portraying Abel, Mark Rylance, a stage actor who was won three Tony Awards, steals the movie. His subtle and nuanced portrayal of Abel as a prisoner of war is captivating. The audience can see how Donovan might have made the transition from doing his duty and ensuring a legal defense for this spy to feeling a greater responsibility for a man who was a devoted soldier, albeit in a war against his own country.

The characters, performances and situations in “The Martian” and “Bridge of Spies” stay with the viewers well after walking out of the theaters. Too bad Oscar voting season doesn’t come more often in a year.

by -
0 613

The first few moments
after we open our eyes, our minds process everything around us. Wait, what day is it? Hmm, did we dry clean the right suit for today? Do we really have to do that presentation? Could it possibly have snowed and might we have a day when we can relax at home?

Somewhere in those moments when we put the pieces of our lives and minds together, we might take stock of how we feel about the coming day and its challenges. Are we going to puff out chests, knowing that we’re going to ace that test, that we’re going to give the perfect presentation or that we’re going to do so well in that job interview that the company will not only offer us a position but will give us a higher salary than they had intended.

Where do we find the zen, strength and confidence to succeed, while having something to offer? And why, like a reputation, does it so often seem so fragile?

Let’s take a look at children. They are smaller versions of us — up until high school — and some of the thoughts, emotions and reactions to experiences that they have are more visible. They haven’t learned how to cover so much of themselves up.

When they play their musical instruments, for example, we can tell that they’ve played the wrong note by the color of their faces and by the way they slump their shoulders when they stand with the group for a final applause. We can watch them pull their hats low over their eyes when they throw a ball into right field from shortstop or when they shake their heads and roll their eyes at their misfires.

Even surrounded by a large collection of friends and family, our children can so readily believe the worst about themselves. In a way, I suppose, believing that we can and should be better could be motivational. We’re not where we want to be, we’re not who we want to be, and we have to figure out how to get from the now of point A to the goal of point B.

It’s also important for us to find some humility. If we walked around town, the house or school acting as if we were the preordained future leader of the free world, we would be insufferable, irritating and ridiculous.

Still, when it comes to that balancing act, we seem so much more likely to look down on ourselves, our efforts and our achievements. No matter how much our parents or friends tell us we’re fantastic and that we contributed something extraordinary, we are still ready to home in on the imperfections and wonder whether we’ll ever live up to our own expectations.

We read inspirational books, follow the examples of people who have achieved what we’d like to do and surround ourselves, sometimes, with sayings like, “Today is the start of something incredible.” Along the way, however, someone nudges us off the tracks and we hope that tomorrow might be the real start of something spectacular.

Maybe there are people who have become so effective at becoming “nattering nabobs of negativity,” to borrow from former Vice President Spiro Agnew, that we are ready to believe them. It’s easier, after all, to knock someone off a mountain than it is to climb one yourself.

Maybe, in addition to all the diet plans to help us avoid giving in to our cravings for the sugar our country produces and uses to celebrate so many occasions, what we need is a new industry: Mojo Inc.

This could allow us to succeed in a humble way, perhaps, while refueling us with positive energy.

by -
0 500

Thanks for seeing me on such short notice, Doc. I’ve got a problem and it just can’t wait. Oh, yes, thanks for noticing. I am wearing my Yankees sweatshirt again. I was worried that it was bringing the Yankees bad luck all those games, but then I realized my sweatshirt was the least of their worries.

You see, I’m developing … do you mind if I whisper here …. Mets envy.

Yes, shush, don’t write it down. I don’t want that in my files. I am a proud Yankees fan and I can quote stats and bring out iconic baseball names. But the big problem is that the Mets are not only relevant, they’re great.

No, they’re not Tony the Tiger great. Geez, Doc. Do you even watch baseball? It’s America’s pastime, you know? It might help you to understand people like me if you followed sports.

Anyway, so the Mets have always been like the baseball younger brother in this area. They have a great song that I learned growing up; it’s got words, while the Yankee song doesn’t.

No, stop, don’t worry about the stupid song. Anyway, so, you have these Mets and they’re stacked with great pitchers. And, for the most part, they didn’t have to race out and buy them from somewhere else. They got this kid Noah Syndergaard, they call him Thor, who throws around 100 miles per hour. They traded for him from the Toronto Blue Jays, along with their catcher Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Man, that trade certainly turned out well for the Mets.

And then they have Daniel Murphy. He’s their second baseman and he’s in the last year of his contract and he’s making even some of the best pitchers in baseball look like they’re throwing batting practice. How does someone get to be so good at just the right moment? Don’t do that thing where you answer a question with a question. I hate that. OK, I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that he’s in the last year of his contract and he’s playing for a big payday.

I’ve wondered whether a manager could create an entire team of talented players who are good, but not spectacularly expensive, who are playing for the next big contract. Yes, I know, that’s the American way. Doc, stop interrupting … it’s more like an American nightmare.

Anyway, so while Murphy is crushing balls over the fence and stealing bases even when the pitcher isn’t throwing the ball, his teammates are doing so many little things right, too. What do I mean? Well, after Murphy took third base that time, the next guy up was d’Arnaud. He came up with one out and a runner on third. Now, if it were the Yankees this year, that runner would have been stranded there, marooned like he was on Gilligan’s island. What does the Mets catcher do? Well, of course, he hits a sacrifice fly and drives in a huge run. He didn’t even look like he was trying to hit a home run. That’s just not in the Yankees playbook.

Why can’t my team do that? Stop nodding your head. I know it’s dark at Yankee Stadium at this time of year and I know Yankee fans are benefiting from all the extra time on our hands. But, you see Doc, the Mets aren’t just good now. They look like they could be good for years. And, well, the Yankees are old and stiff and breaking down.

Doc? What are you doing? Come on, seriously? You’re buying Mets tickets for next year while I’m sitting here? I thought you didn’t follow baseball. Wow, you got those seats? Hey, can you take me to a game or two? I promise not to whimper too much.

by -
0 503

San Francisco lures tourists from all over the country and world. It’s a magnificent city, with the crooked Lombard Street, sea lions barking and bathing at Pier 39, the trollies riding up and down the hills, the Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square and, for me, friends and family who have moved there.

And then there’s Alcatraz. There’s something about that famous prison where Al Capone, among many others, spent difficult years of their lives, that draws people to this famous prison. Like Liberty Island and Ellis Island, Alcatraz Island has a spectacular view of its nearby city.

It also offers numerous stories about the prisoner and their routines. I’ve been to the island three times, the last one with my wife and children. One of the details that stuck with me over the years was a testimonial by a prisoner who said the December holidays were always the most difficult time of the year, not only because the inmates missed their families, but also because they could hear the voices carried over the water of women and children singing Christmas carols.

The prison also recounts some of the noteworthy escape attempts. The Battle of Alcatraz, which occurred in 1946, was a bloody two-day siege in which prisoners and guards died.

The most famous escape, however, was the 1962 flight by brothers John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris, which was recreated in the 1979 movie, “Escape from Alcatraz,” starring Clint Eastwood. The trio, who were convicted of bank robberies, made fake heads, complete with their own hair, that they left in their beds, giving them time to head to a raft constructed out of raincoats.

The official version of the events of that night suggests that the three drowned in the bay. I’ve never been convinced of that perhaps because I was influenced by the Eastwood movie and also because it seemed like an unlikely ending for three men who had so meticulously planned their escape.

This past Monday, the History Channel shared a photo from relatives who said it showed the two brothers in Brazil in 1975. The show suggests that it could be these men, who would be in their 80s today. The investigation is reportedly considered open until the escapees reach 100 years old.

Is it them? Is this another step toward solving a mystery that’s 20 years older than the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa?

There’s a part of me that would like to think it’s them and that, after that incredible planning, they started their lives again in another country, hopefully without causing harm to anyone else while keeping a low profile for all these years.

This is not the same as murderers David Sweat and Richard Matt, whose recent escape from an upstate New York prison terrified the nearby areas because they might threaten or hurt people.

Armed robbers can and should be punished, even if they are clever enough to have managed to escape from one of the most famous prisons in the world.

Their escape, however, raises compelling questions about the routes people take in their lives. If these three men were that clever, that tolerant of high risk and that prepared to outmaneuver even the most escape-proof prison, imagine what they could have done with their lives if they had decided to contribute to society?

They didn’t discover a new technology, cure cancer or make the country safer from a possible terrorist attack. What they did, however, was remarkable and dramatic, with enormous high stakes. They may have defied the odds, survived and lived for decades in Brazil. It connects the dots on a story that had blank pages filled with mystery for all these years.