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Old 04-01-2018, 01:59 PM
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Colonel Smoothie Colonel Smoothie is online now
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Redemption of a Lost Prodigy

As the sun set and the tide started to rise around City Island, the seaside village off the eastern tip of the Bronx, Saul Chandler took his seat at a bar called the Snug. Mr. Chandler, 70, a small man who smokes cheap cigars and refuses Budweiser not in glass bottles, is one of the island’s waterfront eccentrics. He is a bar-stool fixture at the pub, known for telling bawdy jokes and paying the tabs of strangers before slipping into the night.

He likes rambling about his boat, a two-masted schooner docked nearby. The shipyard was lonesome throughout winter, but he was usually in the hull of the schooner drinking beer and sawing wood by lamplight, classical music echoing from a radio in his cabin. He mostly tells stories: how he glued himself to a boat he was repairing and had to rip himself free and wander off in his underpants, how he nearly sank in the Bermuda Triangle, how he has named vessels after the Herman Melville novels “Typee” and “Omoo.”

After a few beers, however, Mr. Chandler might tell a story that is not of the cheerful maritime sort:

“I played Carnegie Hall twice before I was 13.”

“I was known for my Bach.”

“They turned me into a trained monkey.”

“If I could forget about music I would.”

When asked to say more, he shrugs, and the stories fade into the barroom haze. But this mysterious specter follows him to his boat. When music is playing on the radio, if a certain violin concerto comes on, he may get up and switch the station off. “The violin upsets me,” he said. “It reminds me of terror.”

Specifically, it reminds him of his gift. A gift he has spent his life trying to forget.

In the 1960s, Mr. Chandler was one of the most promising classical violin prodigies in New York. He started attending the Juilliard School of Music’s prestigious preparatory division when he was 9, he played at Town Hall and Carnegie Hall before he was 11, and he performed Mozart live on WNYC when he was 13. His pedigree was of the highest order: he was a student of Ivan Galamian, the legendary Armenian violin teacher who taught future superstars of classical music like Michael Rabin and Itzhak Perlman. Mr. Chandler’s greatest triumph, he claims, was once getting a better grade than a teenage Itzhak Perlman at Juilliard. “No one could beat him,” he said, dragging on his cigar. “Not until me.”

But when Mr. Chandler turned 16, the pressures of producing excellence consumed him, and he had a nervous breakdown that derailed his career. He estranged himself from classical music and in an act of reinvention legally changed his name. He would lead a circuitous life that has since involved running a seedy hotel in Times Square, a successful career in mathematics and dramatic voyages at sea. Thirty years ago he started building boats on City Island, where he found peace on its waters. “I don’t want to be remembered for who I was,” he said. “Because I ended up doing a lot of other great things in my life, too. People here know me for who I am now.”

Mr. Chandler’s story is also part of a certain New York myth: that of the fallen wonder child. For every Itzhak Perlman or Midori who rises to stardom from the hothouse environments of the city’s performing arts schools, there are surely hundreds of talents that flare out. Ann Hulbert, the author of “Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies,” offered a reason for our enduring interest in this tragic narrative. “We are fascinated by the dark turns because we get satisfaction,” she said. “There becomes a grim moral: If you are exceptional, you’re bound for trouble.”

On his boat recently, Mr. Chandler discussed his brush with classical music greatness, finishing half a pack of smokes over three hours. He was a reluctant subject who initially saw little reason to revisit his past and repeatedly declined to be interviewed until, after I paid him several visits on City Island over the winter, he ran out of objections. “Most of the people involved are dead.”

“My biggest regret in life is that I let lots of people down,” he said. “They worked hard. But they worked hard to turn me into a trained monkey. Anyone can become a monkey. Even a chimpanzee can become a concert violinist.”

Saul Robert Lipshutz, as his parents named him, was born in Brooklyn in 1947, and grew up in Paterson, N.J. His mother was an Austrian war bride and his father was a noted mathematician. His musical life started when he was 6 after his grandfather suggested he learn the violin. Mr. Chandler discovered a natural connection to the instrument, and Juilliard accepted him in 1957 when he was 9. “I was already good,” he said. “Then I got better. Really fast.” At the school, then on West 122nd Street, he became a student of Margaret Pardee, who was one of three assistants to the legendary string pedagogue and the head of Juilliard’s violin department, Ivan Galamian. After this point, the violin ceased to be a mere hobby for Mr. Chandler.

Mr. Galamian, who died in 1981, had a towering reputation, and is frequently described as the greatest violin teacher of the 20th century. Laconic, with a low voice and a thick Russian accent, he might end lessons by saying: “That was better. But it was not good.”

“Everyone treated him like he was a God,” said Mr. Chandler. “But he was an idiot. I never heard him play anything. Who was he? I hated him more than anybody.” He had fonder memories of Ms. Pardee, who was from Valdosta, Ga., and called students “Honey.” “She died not long ago,” he said. “I saw it on the internet.” I asked if he ever thought about her. “I try not to think about Margaret Pardee,” he said. “Because I think I might have broken her heart.”

His training became militaristic under their supervision. “It was terror,” he said. “A master class in terror. There was nothing worse. Many of us were not sane.” Nonetheless, Mr. Chandler was soon following in the footsteps of prodigies like Mozart and Paganini. He performed at Town Hall and took the stage at Carnegie Hall; he traveled around Europe playing a Haydn concerto. “They loved me in Yugoslavia,” he said.

Reached by phone, former Juilliard classmates still vividly recalled Mr. Chandler’s talent 50 years later. “Saul had a real gift,” said Fred Sherry, 69, a cellist. “I don’t think he knew how gifted he really was.” Richard Sortomme, a composer, said: “Saul was very mystical in the way he interpreted music. He went somewhere else when he played. He was a poet.” Daniel Reed, who became a violinist for the New York Philharmonic, even recalled a specific performance: “I still remember him practicing the first movement of Lalo’s ‘Symphonie Espagnole.’ It wasn’t so much what he played but how he played it.”

Although Mr. Chandler does not recall the past as fondly, there is one incident he will boast about readily. At the peak of his talents, he claims, he earned better marks than Itzhak Perlman at a jury evaluation at Juilliard in the early 1960s. “Perlman was a freak,” he said. “His hands were twice as big as mine. No one could beat him.” Then Mr. Chandler grinned. “Well, except for once.”

As Mr. Chandler tells it, Ms. Pardee took him to a recital hall where Mr. Galamian and a host of classical music figures were seated. His voice boomed through the hall.

“What will he play?” asked Mr. Galamian.

“He will play the Chausson,” said Ms. Pardee.

“No. I’ve already heard him play that.”

“Then he will play the E major Partita, by Bach.”

Mr. Chandler was left alone with the jury. The partita is a hypnotic piece filled with dramatic cascading passages. He raised the violin to his chin and released his bow. When he broke from his trance 15 minutes later, he said, everyone was staring at him.

“It was perfect,” Mr. Chandler said. “It was beautiful. It was slow. Galamian didn’t look like he knew what was going on. He started talking to me in that Russian accent. I couldn’t understand a thing he said.” Mr. Chandler was awarded the top grade of an “E” (Exceptional), he said, while Mr. Perlman received the lesser grade of an “S” (Superior) for the same recital. “I don’t even know if Perlman is still alive,” he added.

Mr. Perlman, who is alive, said through a representative: “I don’t remember Mr. Lipshutz and I also don’t recall my jury grades from 50 years ago. I want to wish him well.”

By 1964, a promising future seemingly awaited Mr. Chandler at a world-class orchestra. He was 16, newspapers had chronicled his talents and he accepted an invitation that awaited only Mr. Galamian’s most gifted students: to study with him at the renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. But within months, Mr. Chandler would be living with his parents in New Jersey, seeing a psychologist and vowing never to touch the violin again.

Mr. Chandler still dislikes discussing how he abandoned the violin, and the degree to which he opens up about it depends on his mood. “That’s when I found out what I was,” he said one night on his boat. “It was a nervous breakdown. I unraveled.” His most direct explanation of the crisis is that he felt robbed of time. “I didn’t see myself,” he said. “Childhood was lost. Time was lost. Then one day I finally saw myself and I thought: ‘That’s it. There has to be more.’ But I lost everything realizing that.”

“So many of us had talent, then we just disappeared,” he continued. “They never see who they are. They don’t know what they are. It’s the same reason child actors never grow up. We never see ourselves.”

Ms. Hulbert, the author of “Off the Charts,” called Mr. Chandler’s turning point a “kind of midlife crisis.” “A gift that once nurtured them suddenly becomes a big struggle,” she said. “Their crisis comes down to autonomy: What am I?”

Mr. Sortomme, his former Juilliard classmate, was not entirely surprised to hear of the turmoil. “I remember feeling there was not a lot of joy in Saul’s life,” he said. But he dismissed notions of Mr. Chandler as some fallen child wonder. “Saul is better off having stopped playing the violin to save his life instead of just keep going to give the world one more great violinist,” he said.

When Mr. Chandler was recuperating back at home, Ms. Pardee and Mr. Galamian pleaded with his parents: What can we do? What can we tell the school? Does Saul want to play something else? Mr. Chandler passed along his reply: “Tell them I never want to be on a stage again.” He put away his instrument and commenced his reinvention. First he became a truck driver, and then he went to New Orleans. “I lost my virginity there,” he said. “I think.”

He changed his name in 1969 from Lipshutz to Chandler. “I had to disappear,” he said. “I had to begin my metamorphosis.” He got a job around this time running a dodgy hotel in Times Square. “I knew all the hookers, and they knew me,” he said. He also started studying mathematics at New York University, where he found he was gifted with numbers. He would become a successful actuary, calculating risk for organizations like the American Cancer Society.

As he chased lost time, his passion for the sea was growing. His father had read him books about sailing as a child, and on days off from violin practice they built boats together. Actuarial mathematics didn’t necessarily thrill him, but the work let him finance his hobby, and he was sailing and building boats seriously by his 30s. “It was my therapy,” he said.
He got married in 1983, moved to Washington Heights and had two children. He started keeping boats on City Island in the mid-1980s, and he said he has since crossed the Atlantic and sailed from the Bronx to Trinidad a dozen times. After retiring in 2002, he began commuting from his apartment to City Island practically daily. “The only thing that has ever truly been constant for me in my life is boats,” he said. “When I build a boat, at least I can make it better. I can fix it.”

I visited Mr. Chandler one winter night on his schooner, which is named Seraph and is dry-docked at Barron’s Marine. The boatyard was cold and ghostly. In his cabin, as the space heater rattled, he handed me a Budweiser. While he told me about recent repairs, I noticed a dusty CD case beside his radio. Classical discs were inside. I asked if we could put something on.

“Put on the Puccini,” he said.

The dramatic opening of the opera “Tosca” was soon booming through the boatyard from his little lamplit boat. “You fall in love with the voice when you get older,” he said. “Because you realize the human voice is all that matters.” I flipped through more CDs and noticed some violin recordings. Hesitantly, I asked to play one.

“Do I have the Brahms sonatas?” he said. “You can put that on.”

An elegant melody swelled from the speakers. He stood upright. “These are the most beautiful sonatas ever written,” he said. “He’s not playing the violin. The violin is playing him.” Mr. Chandler closed his eyes and drank more.

“Nobody wrote music,” he said. “They heard something. Except Mozart. He wrote the same thing over and over.”

Bach was next. A dramatic crescendo played. “Stop,” he said. “This is amazing. Can you turn this up?” He swigged his beer. “Can you imagine being on this boat?” he said feverishly. “Out in the middle of the ocean? Millions of miles from anything? Listening to this?”

A few weeks later, he agreed to show me his violin, and we met at his apartment in Washington Heights, where he lives with his wife, Sula. The library was filled with books about sailing and Herman Melville novels.

The Chandlers raised their family in the neighborhood, and while music was around, his children grew up without having to practice an instrument for six hours a day. Mr. Chandler’s adult son, Fred, said his father’s musical past was never discussed when he was a boy. “Only thing I really remember is we had to play an instrument in grade school and I got the violin,” he said. “Right away, I got the sense he was uncomfortable with me playing it. He never tried to teach me. He went away while I was practicing. Except once in a blue moon, if he had been drinking, he might play a few minutes, and it was evident he was a real master.”

Mr. Chandler went and fetched a bag of old newspaper clippings. “My mother kept these,” he said. Then he retrieved a dusty case. “I haven’t opened this in 50 years,” he said. “I’m scared to see what’s inside.”

Mr. Chandler opened the case and a musky odor emerged. Inside was a dark red violin. Blue cursive ink on its interior indicated it was built by a Parisian luthier named Joseph Bassot in 1802. He dragged on a cigar as he considered the instrument in his hands. “Seeing this makes me think I made the right choice with my life,” he said. “I lived my life. Not the life of this violin.” Then he started putting it away. “I hate this thing,” he said. “I don’t want to see it anymore.”

He opened a beer and seemed happy to talk about anything other than music. But the violin’s quiet presence would not be denied. Eventually, he put down his beer and approached the case. “Doubt I can even play this thing anymore,” he grumbled, slowly tuning the instrument. Then he placed it to his chin and released his bow. A warm, glorious tone rose through the apartment. Then he bowed again, violently sliding his hand up the violin’s neck, and a graceful, thunderous sound filled the room. Then the note faded away.
guy is still in the directory
Recommended Readings for the EL Actuary || Recommended Readings for the EB Actuary

Originally Posted by Wigmeister General View Post
Don't you even think about sending me your resume. I'll turn it into an origami boulder and return it to you.
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Old 04-01-2018, 04:10 PM
jas66Kent jas66Kent is offline
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CS beat me to the punch.

Read the article this weekend. Interesting life he had.
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Old 05-09-2018, 12:20 PM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is online now
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So why don’t people like being asked what they do?

Maybe it’s because the rest of the question, which generally remains unspoken, is “for a living”. “What do you do for a living?” Already sounds a bit worse, doesn’t it? A bit too personal? Once you know what someone does to get by, it can immediately change your perception of that person. Maybe you were starting to fancy them, but now you know they’re an actuary? Too dull. Or a social worker? Too poor. Or a stay-at-home mum? Oh no. You’ll have to talk about nappies all night.
"Facebook is a toilet." -- LWTwJO
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Old 05-25-2018, 09:37 AM
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Ken_Williams Ken_Williams is offline
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I struggled where to put this, I guess it fits this category.

Leonard says she got her love of math from her father, Ken, who passed away in August 2016 from an undiagnosed heart condition. She wears a constant reminder of her father with a small tattoo on her arm.
Her father was Actuary Ken Leonard, he worked as a consultant for Towers Watson before he passed away suddenly at age 45. Our daughters have played softball against each other for years (or, more accurately, my daughter has been striking out against Mack for years).
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Old 05-29-2018, 01:53 PM
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Avi Avi is offline
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Originally Posted by r. mutt View Post
"skating away...on the thin ice of a new day..." might be the actuarial theme song.
I thought it was "Sad but True" by Metallica.
All scientists defer only to physicists
Physicists defer only to mathematicians
Mathematicians defer only to G-d!

--with apologies to Dr. Leon Lederman
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Old 05-29-2018, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Avi View Post
I thought it was "Sad but True" by Metallica.
Creeping Death...
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Old 05-29-2018, 09:48 PM
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penciltree penciltree is offline
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Patients may think their insurers are fighting on their behalf for the best prices. But saving patients money is often not their top priority. Just ask Michael Frank.
He couldn’t see how NYU Langone could justify these fees. And what was Aetna doing? As his insurer, wasn’t its duty to represent him, its “member”? So why had it agreed to pay a grossly inflated rate, one that stuck him with a $7,088 bill for his portion?
For three decades, Frank has worked for insurance companies like Aetna, helping to assess how much people should pay in monthly premiums. He is a former president of the Actuarial Society of Greater New York and has taught actuarial science at Columbia University. He teaches courses for insurance regulators and has even served as an expert witness for insurance companies.
The lawyers eventually agreed that Frank would pay $4,000 to settle the case.
"The millennials are waiting for those above them to either retire or die," (Babson College finance professor) Dr. John Edmunds said. "But the baby boomers are not going to give it up that easily."
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Old 06-06-2018, 04:38 PM
JoJo JoJo is offline
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Actuary & lawsuit about health care pricing. A good read:
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Old 06-11-2018, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by IroningBoard View Post
Watched the new Jurassic World today. No spoilers, but Chris Platt's character tries to guess what somebody's job is. One of his guesses is "insurance actuary".
Let me guess, the nerdy looking character?
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Old 06-13-2018, 05:56 PM
Actuary321 Actuary321 is offline
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — An Air Force officer with top security clearance who vanished 35 years ago and was arrested in California last week worked for years as a consultant for the University of California system, former colleagues said.

University system colleagues knew William Howard Hughes Jr. as a personable, brainy number cruncher for the system's vast health benefits program, the San Francisco

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations said Hughes was charged with desertion and is being held at Travis Air Force Base in California. They said he was living under the name Barry O'Beirne.

Official records show that O'Beirne used Timothy as a middle name.

"This just floors me," Judy Boyette said, a San Francisco attorney who signed O'Beirne's consulting contracts when she ran human resources and benefits at UC more than a decade ago. Looking at a photo of her former colleague in custody, Boyette was stunned. "My gosh, that's Tim! Oh, my word. That is unbelievable. But that's him! Wow."

Boyette and other University of California system colleagues said they knew him as a cheerful health benefits actuary and consultant for Deloitte in San Francisco who was contracted to work in the office of the system's president during the mid-2000s.

They described him as smart, articulate, kind and very likable.

"The thing I loved about him was that he could relate to everybody. Just a very nice personality," Boyette said.

Stephanie Rosh, a retired insurance manager at UC, worked with O'Beirne for years. She called him a leader and considered him a friend.

"He is very smart," she said. "Always had a wry sense of humor. Always joking." And when the staff was tired, "he might take the whole team out after work. A team player."

Neighbors in Daly City, California, also knew him as "Tim" and described him as a quiet man who kept to himself but was always pleasant and never left the house without wearing his San Francisco Giants cap.

Hughes was apprehended after a passport fraud investigation, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said.

He told authorities after his capture that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and decided to leave, saying he created a fake identity and lived in California since he vanished in 1983, according to the statement.

Hughes was involved in classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War. He specialized in radar surveillance.

A captain at Kirtland Air Force Base, Hughes was 33 and single when he vanished, according to news reports from the time of his disappearance.

It's unclear if he had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
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actuarial sighting

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