Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Road


By Alexei Rudnitsky

Life Magazine: The Strange Case of the Nimer Murders

A two-page article in the September 22 1958 issue of LIFE magazine relates the chilling tale of the Nimer murder case. The double homicide of Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Nimer was sensational at the time because the chief suspect in the crime was their eight year old son, Melvin Dean Nimer.

82499739 Sometime before two in the morning of September 2, 1958, Melvin Nimer and his wife, Lou Jean Nimer were attacked by an assailant in their Staten Island home. According to their son's initial account,as a masked man attempted to choke him, his parents, rushing to his aid, were stabbed in the struggle. Based on the boy's description, police issued a manhunt for a white male, wearing blue dungarees and a blue print-striped shirt.

From the early hours of the investigation, officers felt that something didn't add up. Given the fact that he had witnessed the violent death of both his parents hour before, his calm behavior seemed unusual.

Suspicion of the boy's guilt was also based on the fact that no easy means of entry was found. According the Frank Donnelly of the Staten Island Advance, "retired police officer Vincent Meli, who, along with his late partner, Officer Harry Tyson, were the first cops on the scene, said the locked exterior screen door at the Nimer home and little Melvin's unnaturally calm demeanor convinced him the boy had killed his parents - despite statements by the youngster and his dying parents to the contrary.'Back then, I knew he did it,' the 77-year-old Dongan Hills resident recently told the Advance. "The door was locked. Melvin NimerThe bad guy didn't lock the door on the way out.'"

Yet, was it really possible for a child to murder both his parents in such a cold-blooded way? He certainly didn't seem like a killer.

Aside from the Dean's account of events, there was physical evidence, which seemed to back up the boy's story. Strips of cloth, matching nothing else found in the house were discovered on the boy's bed and were conceivably to be used as a gags and restraints. Police initially thought the strips of cloth might have come from an old hospital mattress. It was never traced or identified.

Additionally, detectives found a set of footprints at the rear side of the Nimer's home and plaster casts were taken at that time. The following day, patrolmen found a knife in a hedge about 1000 feet from the site. A laboratory analysis revealed traces of blood on the weapon. It was impossible to determine whether the blood residue was animal or human. Despite evidence seeming to corroborate the child's version of events, the detectives remained suspicious.

With Dean's uncle's consent, District Attorney John M. Braisted Jr. sent the boy to the Staten Island Mental Health Center on Friday, September 5, just three days after the deaths of his parents. Under the direction of Dr. Richard Silberstein, doctors examined Dean on Friday and Saturday. After these examinations it was disclosed that Dean had changed his original story and was now confessing to the murders of his parents.

On the day after of his parent's September 9 funereal, New York Journal-American broke the story that the Melvin Dean Nimer was the chief suspect in the murder of his parents. Braisted, instead of refusing to comment, confirmed that the boy was under suspicion. In fact, he stated that preliminary psychiatric examinations had shown the boy to be suffering "from a paranoid type of schizophrenia and the boy's illness and basic personality were compatible to the commission of a violent crime."

With seeming confirmation by the local authorities, press agencies picked up the story and spread it across the nation. Despite the obvious implausibility of an eight year old boy murdering both his parents, despite the lack of blood on the boy's pajamas or a lack of any motive whatsoever, Braisted continued to focus his investigation on Melvin Dean Nimer- effectively trying the child in the court of public opinion.

Into the case swarmed more than 60 New York detectives, who questioned 1,000 people, including patients at the nearby U.S. Public Health Service Hospital, where promising Resident Surgeon Nimer began work two months before. But nothing clicked. No motive appeared; the house was not robbed, and how the prowler entered was unclear. Questioned repeatedly, little Dean told conflicting versions of the sequence of events. Some cops were struck by the boy's unusual intelligence, others by his consistent lack of emotion. ("My mother and father's dead," he told one cop after the tragedy, and rode off on his bike.)

Medicine: The Suspect Time magazine article ( Sep. 22, 1958 ),9171,863900,00.html

Even at this early stage, some reporters began to question the disturbing direction of the investigation and the motives of the authorities. "Minds seemed more preoccupied with the question of the reflected image than they were with the baffling details of the horrible crime."

In a press conference on September 12th, Braisted was asked by Vincent E. Sorge, a reporter for the New York World-Telegram about an rumored exchange between the dying Mrs. Nimer and a detective. In the exchange, Nimer supported details in her son's description of events and the suspect. At first, Braisted admitted that the dying mother had vindicated the testimony of her son.

However, he then back-tracked."I will make no comment on any published statement attributed to victims of this crime. I am declining comment because I sincerely believe that comment would impede our investigation." Reporters continued to press the district attorney in the following days and finally he admitted that Mr. Nimer had also used to word "prowler" and "mask" prior to dying of his injuries.

On Sept 19th, 1958, the Daily Record writes that reporters pieced together an altogether more probable scenario. Police stated that on June 19th of that year, the owner of the house that the Nimers rented had left a full set of keys at the switchboard of the US Public Health Service (where Nimer and the owner both worked.) The set included the front and rear doors of the house and the overhead and side doors of the garage. The keys were in an envelope with the Dr. Nimer's name written on the front. Police theorized that that copies were made by somebody who may have worked or may have been a patient at the hospital.

50579233 A few weeks later, only after the entire nation had been stunned by the confession of an eight year old "murderer" did Detective James Cox begin to take a more logical view of the case. He discovered that two formal medical reports written by Dr. William Smith, an associate of Dr. Nimer, and another independent physician. These reports which had been written shortly after the murders, established that strangulation marks on the neck of Dean supported the original testimony. The marks could not have been self-inflicted due to their size and position.

Even upon this revelation, officials refused to admit their series of mistakes in the case and publicly maintained that Melvin Dean Nimer remains a possible suspect in an unsolved case.

If you are interested in learning more about this case, you may find more information at the links below. I have also included interviews with the adult Melvin Dean Nimer who discussed his case at length.

Video Links:

Staten Island Advance Reporter Frank Donnelly talks about his experience reporting on the Nimer case.

Special Thanks to: A view of the Nation: an anthology, 1955-1959 By Henry M. Christman (contains an excellent article about the Nimer murders)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

LIFE archives: The Oswald Russian Diary

oswald2 Google Book's decision to publish the archives of LIFE magazines continues to provide treasures to all those interested in modern history. Case in point, the July 10, 1964 issue (linked in cover photo) contains a fascinating article of the Russian diary of Lee Harvey Oswald. The handwritten  dyslexic journal was provided to LIFE by his widow, Marina, and allows an interesting insight into the mind of one of the world's most notorious assassins.

For example, Oswald gives a second-by-second recreation of his decision to reject his American citizenship on October 3, 1959 at the US embassy. Richard Snyder, the head consul in Moscow at the time met with Oswald personally and told him he was "a fool" for dissolving his American citizenship and, in an effort to delay any action, informed Oswald that the process would take some time. Oswald was adamant however, and insisted that Snyder take him seriously. Finally, Snyder tells him, "unless you wish to expound on your Marxist beliefs, you can go." 

It is interesting to cross-reference the diary with testimony from the Warren Commission hearings, Snyder himself was called to testify about that meeting. Here is are two excerpts:

SNYDER: As to his general appearance, I do recall that he was neatly and very presentably dressed. I couldn't say offhand whether he was dressed in a suit and shirt, though I think probably he was. At any rate, he presented a nice physical appearance.
I presume that he was well shaven. Otherwise, I would not have had this feeling about him--that he, in general, was competent looking.

He was extremely sure of himself. He seemed to know what his mission was. He took charge, in a sense, of the conversation right from the beginning. He told me in effect that he was there to give up his American citizenship. I believe he put his passport on my desk, but I am not sure. I may have asked for it. In general, his attitude was quite arrogant….

SNYDER: He told me, among other things, that he had come to the Soviet Union to live, that he did not intend to go back to the United States, that this was a well thought out idea on his part. He said, again in effect, "Don't bother wasting my time asking me questions or trying to talk me out of my position."
He said, "I am well aware" either he said, "I am well aware" or "I have been told exactly the kind of thing you will ask me, and I am not interested, so let's get down to business"--words to that effect.
Well, he was a very cocksure young man at that time.  I am not sure that he sat at all throughout the interview, but certainly in the early part of it he did not.  I asked him--I recall asking him to take a seat, and he said, no, he wanted to stand. He may have relented later on.

The Soviets themselves seem perplexed by Oswald and treat him with some degree of suspicion, posting him in Minsk with very limited movement inside the country.

According to the journal, it wasn't long before Oswald realizes Oswaldthat Soviet Union was not what he had expected it to be. Disillusioned with his new life, the drab surroundings and compulsory Communist lectures, Oswald has already had enough by the first of 1961 and petitions to return to the USA with his new wife.

All in all, the Oswald Russian diary is an interesting footnote to the history of the mid 20th century. If you are interested in reading the article it can be found at:

Once again, I would like to thank Google Books and Life Magazine  for allowing all of us to read once again the record of our past.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's a Happening World…

Here's a happy song by Paula Wayne to put a Nomadic smile on your face. Special thanks to Scopitone for this happening clip.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Can Kulduk- A Dedication

Can4 I had a dream last night. I was standing on a terrace of an ancient house. I knew that I had found a new place to live and I would have to move from this place. It looked out into a thick forest., gray and full of smells of a Northern autumn. The scent of something dying or dead but unseen. As I walked to the edge of the terrace I saw Can, looking up and saying goodbye. I stood there watching as he ran off into the woods and I woke up, The dream made me curious to know what had happened to Can.

I hadn't seen Can in years. The last time was a mixture of sadness and acceptance. He had returned to Izmir from America for the summer and he hadn't called to let me know. I happened to see him walking on a crowded street with his friends one summer evening. At that moment, I had understood that the link that had connected us had withered. I hated the thought of it, that I wasn't to be a part of his life any longer. That I wouldn't be there to watch how it would all unfold.

But it was time to accept this fact that I had become, whether I liked it or not, a memento of his past. I knew that this is the way it has to be, Can would go off and make new friends and eventually marry and have children. The moment to call his name escaped me and he was gone.

His father had come to the private course with a mission. To find a private English teacher for his son. In order for him to go to university in the United States. We sat speaking in the corridor between my classes. Mr. Kulduk, his serious determined face, reminded me of Humphrey Bogart. "Have you heard of my son?" he asked. I shook my head. "He is a famous swimmer in Turkey." Indeed, despite my own ignorance, Can Kulduk was practically a legend in world of swimming in Turkey.

Immediately I was intrigued. His father and I settled on a fee and arranged for classes three times a week, two hours a day. The next day- and I recall this with exceptional clarity- when I arrived for the first lesson, his mother showed me in and Can came forward to shake my hand, his tall lanky body and an overbite smile that completely disarmed me. Whatever serious, professorial presentation I might have prepared about how I much I would be expecting from him had suddenly vanished from my head. It was a smile from one old friend to another. Can1

Years later when I told him later, about that moment, "It was like I had already known you for years." Can agreed, "I felt the same way when I met you too."

I suppose I had been anticipating a rich family and a spoiled only child with an attitude. The kind of teaching that focuses you on grammar and homework and passing through the lesson as quickly as possible. Nothing could have been further from the reality. Despite his being an only child, Can could not have been more respectful. Respectful and yet warm and casual.

His atmosphere in his home was, in a word, elderly. Furniture from another generation, a sepia feeling of brown paneling and well-worn cushions. Monstrous and heavy bookshelves and faded curtains on windows overlooking a park. Undoubtedly Can was the youngest thing in the room.

I wondered many times if Can had ever felt that he might have missed something because of all his time spent in the pool. Would he might have been a different person- a more complete person- had he not dedicated all of his time to his sport, had not spent so much of his time in the silence and loneliness underwater? But most of all, I couldn't help wondering if it had been worth all his personal sacrifice.

One time, in the middle of our lesson, he took me into his parents room. His over-sized portrait painting taken from a photograph dominated the wall. Medals with red and white ribbons hung in bunches like grapes. Some were in glass cabinets, an early attempt at organization perhaps, and the rest dangled from hooks.
"Impressive," I said.
"Really?" He replied as if it was the first time he had thought about them.
He reached up and pulled one down and handed it to me."Here,"
"But this is yours. It belongs to you." I told him.
"I want you to have it." He said with a smile."I have a lot of them." He mentioned this without any conceit but as a statement of fact. (I still have that medal; it is in my pocket as I write this, as a matter of fact.)

One afternoon, he asked me if I would like to come to watch him in a meet. Up until that time, I had never actually been to any of Can's swimming competitions. He was my English student and a friend who swam professionally. (I have never considered what it actually meant.)
That day, when I arrived, Can spotted me in the crowd of fans, friends, and family and ushered me around them all. We spoke a little before the swim meet. He seemed happy to see me. I asked him if he expected to win. And he smiled. "It isn't about winning. This is about my time." I was confused. He slowly carefully explained. "In Turkey, I am one of the best. And I always win. Now I have to compete against myself. For my best time." I had never heard anybody talk like this before. It would have sounded a bit arrogant coming from anybody else.
And yet, from the moment he leaped into the water, extending his long body into a arch, the arrowhead of his hands splitting the water, the audience held their breaths. The silence ran on as under the water, he continued. The other swimmers emerged but Can passed on meter after meter, still under the water, more than halfway across the pool before he finally broke the surface. Even the parents of the competitors felt silent. I caught his father's face as he turned back to look at me in pride. Can remained in the lead from the beginning, reaching the other end of the pool, he turned underwater and pushed off the wall without disturbing the surface and back he went, halfway across the pool without coming up for air. To the other end, and back again, his lead increasing. To the opposite end and back. It was practically superhuman.
For Can, I imagine, it was just another competition, for me, unfamiliar with it all, it was nothing short of a miracle of athletics. Afterwards, I congratulated him and asked him about his performance. "I should have been faster. It wasn't good."

Over the months, our English lessons continued although the goals gradually changed. He had decided that he would take TOEFL courses in the USA as soon as he arrived. I had become obsolete, it seemed. He asked sheepishly if it would be okay if we just practiced English and if I would correct him. Although he never admitted it, Can rarely took much interest in my homework and, after all, it seemed selfish for me to steal whatever free time he could find for himself to fill in my tiresome forms. Instead, by mutual agreement, we spent the afternoons talking about his life, his romance and his prospects for the future in the USA.

It was a critical year in his life. I watched him visibly change from a lanky teenager to a man. As the time for his departure approached, he seemed ready to make the change and set out on his own. The American adventure was going to be the beginning of his real life.

On the day before he left for the USA, he suddenly appeared at my home to say goodbye. It was unexpected. By then, I had realized he had many other friends to say farewell to and, despite all his warmth, I was after all only his English teacher.
We sat in under the tangerine tree in the garden in front of my home. It was clear that he was nervous, maybe a little sad, about leaving everything behind and I tried to reassure him. "Oh, you will love it there. Florida's beautiful."
"I know."
"And you will make a lot of friends there, you know."
"Yes, I have Turkish friends there."
"I think you'll forget me.."
He laughed. "Never." And then he paused for a moment."Let's make a deal. We won't get out hair cut until I come back. How's that?"
"Next summer."
"Swear? Next summer is a long time away. You mean it?"
He pretended to be offended. "Of course."
I kept that promise, never quite sure whether I was being made a fool of. It was the longest I ever went without a haircut and I grew to hate it. No matter how I stood, I always seemed be on the wrong side of the breeze.

During the months that followed, as he struggled with his TOEFL classes and exams, every letter he sent me showed his progress, his English improving with each post. A postcard from Niagara Falls reads:
I just want you to know I remember you and love you. My forever friend. See you soon, Can
This was before he began thinking in English, a language which usually shames men from speaking about love for one another. Later, as his English improved he would find more traditional and more hollow ways to express himself.

One summer evening, as I was preparing to leave work, I was told that somebody was waiting for me. It was Can. To my shock, there he stood with his hair down to his shoulders.
He told me about his life in the USA and how his dream of being in the Olympics had faded. "In Turkey, I was important. But the level of competition there is so much more difficult. I always have to work so hard and I still cannot succeed."
"But you are still in training, right?"
Can2 "Yes, but I don't dream about the Olympics anymore." There was a touch of sadness in his voice but it was also something he had resigned himself to. And that, for somebody who had dedicated so much of his life to that dream, every day pushing himself harder, and never surrendering, for somebody made of that kind of stuff, it could not have been an easy thing to accept. He was, however, ready, I think, to live a normal life- apart from swimming and competing- and he was not looking back. He was ready to start a new life without the legends.
June 17, 2009
ROCHESTER, Mich. - Former Oakland University swimmer Can Kulduk passed away on Wednesday, June 3, losing his battle with stomach cancer at the young age of 32. Kulduk, a member of the swimming and diving team from 2000-02, was a tremendous competitor both here and in his native country of Turkey.
"This is very unfortunate news and the entire Oakland University Athletics family is deeply saddened by Can's passing," said Director of Athletics Tracy Huth. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
A native of Izmir, Turkey, Can competed in the backstroke events for the Golden Grizzlies and held a top time for the Golden Grizzlies in the 100-yard backstroke. He graduated from OU in 2003 with his bachelor's degree and earned a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 2005.
"The OU swimming family is mourning the loss of one of their own, in the passing of Can Kulduk," said OU coach Pete Hovland. "Can was a man of few words yet attracted those around him by his dedication and conviction to the sport he loved. He was the perfect teammate and a great friend to all those he touched. His quiet demeanor and reassuring presence will surely be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends here in the U.S. and in his home country of Turkey."

The Friends of Can Kulduk have established a Facebook site where you can pay your respects.
I have written an additional post on this subject in case you would like to read this follow-up.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Google Books Revives Life

Recently Google  announced that Google Books would publish the archives of Life Magazine, around 1900 issues,  from 1936 to 1970. For anyone interested in the learning about the events of the 20th century, it is like discovering your own gold mine.

While stumbling through the back issues of the popular American magazine, I found an interesting pictorial article about the problems in Cyprus in 1964.

Halloween Is Nearly Upon Us….

In case you have had some trouble coming up with ideas for this year's Halloween, here are a few.  

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halo Over Moscow

In what could have been a scene from the film Independence Day, a luminous ring-shaped cloud could be seen hovering over the city of Moscow last week.

The pale gold 'halo' could be seen above the Russian capital city's Western District on Wednesday, and was captured on film by stunned Muscovites.

Meteorologists rejected any theories of the supernatural however, calling it an optical effect.

Read more:

And One of Them Just Winked….

I thought you might enjoy a bit of beach blanket madness. By the way, I still dance like the guy in blue Speedos- even to slow songs.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Podcasts and ExPats

Things were unbelievably different only a short time ago in Turkey. When I first came here, there were no private radio or television stations at all, only the government ones. It wouldn't have mattered much because I didn't have a television . My only link to my culture was short wave. Impossible to imagine, isn't it? kidSunday evenings listening to the BBC or that corny Voice of America. Still I was pretty thankful to have even that. Look how things have changed.

The internet has brought a revolution- something I would never have thought possible. For all you expats out there, feeling a bit removed and isolated, I wanted to pass on something you may not be aware of. If you are familiar with podcasts- how they work and their benefits, then skip this post. If not, I want to show you how to- in effect- put together a personal radio station for your listening pleasure. 

What is a podcast? This is like a broadcast you can subscribe to from the internet. The content can be just about any audio thing you like. Music, news, lectures, short stories. Before I launch into the step by step, relax- take a deep breath- it isn't hard. Ok then.


First you will need a podcatcher and player. I use Winamp but there are others, like iTunes, Zune and Juice. I will explain using Winamp because I am not familiar with the other ones.


Now, after you have installed Winamp. Open it and go to the top of the main Winamp window. You will see some drop down menu choices. Choose View and click on Media Library. On the left side you will a selection. About halfway down, there is Podcast Directory.


In Podcast Directory selection, you can start finding the podcast you might want to listen to. Personally, I don't use the Winamp podcast directory. I found it pretty limited and a lot of the links were old. However, with Google you can find- quite literally- millions of choices.


For the moment we will use the podcast directory in Winamp just to get you started. Open up the directory and you will see some tags- which are very basic descriptions of the podcast subject. Let's experiment. For example, click on Cooking and immediately a list will appear to the side of thee screen giving you a list of podcasts about cooking. Clicking on the name of the podcast will also give you more information but it is really hit or miss. (Don't panic, if you don't enjoy the podcast, you can alway remove your subscription later.)


Next to the name you will see a button that says Subscribe. By clicking that button, you will receive regularly updated MP3 broadcasts from that producer. Some of them are very professional and some are pretty basic or amateur.


Now let's say you cannot find anything appealing. By going to Google and running a search for podcast directories, you can find other sites that display links to podcasters by subject.


Many of your favorite sites offer podcast already but you will have to add your subscription yourself. It isn't difficult and if you make a mistake, nothing will explode or anything. Here's how to add them yourself. Go back up to Step 2. You look to the left of your Media Library Window and you saw Podcast Directory. Nestled in this you will find Subscriptions. Right click on this and a new window appears.


Channels on the left and items etc on the right. It should be blank at this point if you haven't added any subscriptions so far. At the bottom of the left side you will see Add. A little window will open and ask you to fill in an address (actually a podcast id information)


Here is a pic of an NPR Culturetopia Podcast page. Note the  address, highlight and copy. paste this in the Winamp RSS window and you now have a subscription. Every time there is a new show (every week, I think for this show) Winamp will let you know.pod


Add as many subscriptions as you want. You will probably add too many and then reduce the number as time goes on. Here are a few of my personal favorites. The Moth Podcast- which is a show where people tell their life stories without a script and on stage. Acoustic Long Island- an interesting live performance type show. NPR Story Corp- a weekly show collecting personal stories. This American Life- of course. Finally, The Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour Podcast- cool folk music presented live on stage.

Additionally, you can download any of these podcast as Mp3s, move them to your Mp3 player and listen to them anywhere. One more thing to add, for direct streaming is always better to have a strong and stable connection. So if the podcast keeps breaking up, ( very frustrating!) you might switch to a direct LAN connection, rather than a wireless connection.

Good Luck!

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blowin' in the Wind

"Blowin' in the Wind" has been covered by hundreds of artists. The most commercially successful version is by folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary, who released the song in June 1963, three weeks after The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was issued.


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