Who’s Killing Manhattan Eye and Ear?

For more than a century, the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital has been providing New Yorkers with world-class care and has been home to outstanding ophthalmologists, cosmetic surgeons and other medical professionals. Indeed, the hospital set the standard by which other facilities offering special care were measured. But now the venerable East Side institution may be on the verge of oblivion. The hospital’s board of directors wants to sell the facility to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, thus putting an ignominious end to a proud institution.

It shouldn’t be that easy. The State Attorney General’s office ought to take a long, hard look to determine whether or not the hospital’s board and its top management properly exercised their fiduciary responsibilities. Preliminary evidence indicates that the hospital was the victim of neglect and poor oversight. Administrators were deaf to the staff’s complaints. The hospital fell behind as other institutions adapted to the changes wrought by managed care. It didn’t seize on revenue-generating services like modern CAT scanners and M.R.I. machines. Not surprisingly, top doctors began to flee, the hospital was filled to a mere 55 percent of capacity, and the hospital’s balance sheet became a horror show. Amazingly, the board stood aloof from the private fund raising that almost every hospital does.

Now the hospital’s board is choosing the easy way out: sell the place and walk away. That would abrogate the hospital’s charter and mission–to deliver specialty care to patients with particular needs. A great New York institution would cease to exist, apparently not by forces out of anybody’s control, but, if some of the hospital’s dedicated staff are right, from poor, incompetent management.

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer should step in to stop the sale. And he should start asking how a legendary hospital was mismanaged to the brink of collapse.

Said Who?

It’s likely no one will ever accuse Columbia University professor Edward Said of being possessed of an abundance of grace. As one of the world’s foremost apologists for the Palestinian cause, Mr. Said, a Christian Arab, has vocally supported any and all Palestinians, even though many of their key leaders have been terrorists. From his well-financed perch in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights, an American education (Princeton undergrad, Harvard doctorate) under his belt, Mr. Said has made himself a star of academia by attacking Israel and Zionism, shooting from the rhetorical hip at the expense of rationality and truth. Most recently, he has vilified his former pal, Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, for signing the Oslo agreements with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. While much of the Middle East and America hopes for peace in that grievously troubled region, Mr. Said bangs his tired old drum.

The good professor has about as much affection for his adopted country as he does for Israel. Mr. Said’s snide distaste for America is clear in his past statements and in his latest book, a memoir titled Out of Place . He can barely hide his opinion of America as a colonizing bully which has never done any good for anybody. And yet it is America, of course, which has provided Mr. Said, the son of a wealthy Palestinian businessman, with his cushy platform at Columbia, his easy access to highbrow television talk shows and a world-class publishing environment.

Like many intellectuals, Mr. Said has found his voice on these shores. Rather than knock his lifelong provider, one would hope he might demonstrate a little gratitude or, if that’s asking too much, perhaps some quiet dignity. Indeed, if the terrorists he has so blindly defended were granted their own state, one wonders just how quickly Mr. Said would pack up his New York digs.

Dr. Putz Pipes Up

For the majority of New York’s cultural elite–who, if asked, would probably say that back in school they “didn’t do so well in math”–it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn that the composers whose works they will so eagerly consume this fall and winter at Lincoln Center may have had math on their minds when they touched quill to score. But isn’t music composed in a fiery rush of imagination? What’s math got to do with it?

A lot, according to Dr. John Putz. Dr. Putz, a mathematician at Alma College in Michigan, has detected mathematical underpinnings to the music of Mozart. Dr. Putz, according to The New York Times ‘ Malcolm Browne, approached Mozart’s Sonata No. 1 in C major using the “golden ratio,” an ancient mathematical proportion which can be found in nature and which architects, for example, have long used in designing buildings because they know it creates an esthetically pleasing result. Said Dr. Putz: “Mozart may have known of the golden ratio and used it.” What’s Dr. Putz up to? It’s hard to imagine a Mozart or a Beethoven using math the way an architect might to design a shopping mall.

Dr. Putz is not alone. Indeed, Dr. Putz is joined in his interest by Dr. Brian Greene, a Columbia University physics professor who has been trying to find resonances between the outer reaches of physics and the inner reaches of Bach. And Dr. Putz can take heart from examples like that of Russian composer-scientist Aleksandr Borodin, who, as The Times reported, wrote the opera Prince Igor and pioneered the chemical experiments which gave us non-stick cookware.

It will be interesting to see where the work of Dr. Putz and others will lead. Is there a link between the golden age of radio and the golden ratio? Ask Dr. Putz. Will students perform better on the math portion of the SATs if Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” is played over the intercom? Dr. Putz may be on to something big.