Thursday, December 4, 2008


Doris Dungey, 47, Financial Blogger Known as Tanta,

The blogger Tanta, an influential voice on the mortgage collapse, died Sunday morning in Columbus, Ohio.

Tanta, who wrote for Calculated Risk, a finance and economics blog, was a pseudonym for Doris Dungey, 47, who until recently had lived in Upper Marlboro, Md. The cause of death was ovarian cancer, her sister, Cathy Stickelmaier, said.

Thanks in large part to Tanta's contributions, Calculated Risk became a crucial source of prescient analysis as the housing market at first faltered, then collapsed and finally spawned a full-blown credit crisis.

Tanta used her extensive knowledge of the loan industry to comment, castigate and above all instruct. Her fans ranged from the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times who cited her in his blog, to analysts at the Federal Reserve, who cited her in a paper on "Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit."

She wrote under a pseudonym because she hoped some day to go back to work in the mortgage industry, and the increasing renown of Tanta in that world might have precluded that. Tanta was Ms. Dungey's longtime family nickname, Ms. Stickelmaier said.

Calculated Risk, which gets about 75,000 visitors a day, was started in early 2005 by a retired technology executive named Bill McBride. The housing market was soaring, but Mr. McBride sensed that the industry was about to peak, and he posted articles and data that made his case.

The blog quickly drew a lively and informed group of commentators, few livelier and none more informed than someone who called herself Tanta. She began by correcting some of Mr. McBride's posts. "She would tell me either I was wrong or the article I was quoting was wrong," he said Sunday. "It was clear she really knew her stuff. And she was funny about it."

Tanta soon graduated from merely commenting to being a full-scale partner. Her first post, in December 2006, took issue with an optimistic Citigroup report that maintained that the mortgage industry would "rationalize" in 2007, to the benefit of larger players like, well, Citigroup.

"Bear with me while I ask some stupid questions," Tanta wrote, and proceeded to assert that the industry was less likely to "rationalize" than fall apart, which it did. Citigroup was bailed out by the government last month.

She loved the intricacies of mortgage financing and would joke about being not just a nerd on the subject but a nerd's nerd. She eventually wrote, for the Calculated Risk site, "The Compleat ÜberNerd," 13 lengthy articles on mortgage origination channels, mortgage-backed securities and foreclosures that constituted a definitive word on the subject.

The rest of the time, Tanta liked to chew on the follies of regulators, the idiocies of lenders and - a particular favorite - clueless reporters, which according to her was just about all of them. She did not approve, she once wrote, of "parading one's ignorance about mortgages in an article full of high-minded tut-tutting over ignorance about mortgages."

In March 2006, Ms. Dungey was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer.

Ms. Dungey was raised in Bloomington-Normal, Ill., had a graduate degree in English, and worked as a writer and trainer for a variety of lenders, including Champion Federal and AmerUs Mortgage. One of Tanta's last posts was written as the $700 billion bailout was first being debated in mid-September, and it seemed that the Treasury Department might buy bad assets directly from troubled banks.

Tanta argued that for every asset that banks unloaded on the government, the chief executives should be required to explain "why they acquired or originated this asset to begin with, what's really wrong with it in detail, what they have learned from this experience, and what steps they are taking to make sure it never happens again."

Joza Karas, Musician and Author Devoted to Recovering Music of Terezin Nazi Concentration Camp, Dies at 82

Joza Karas, a musician and teacher who became a sleuth in his quarter-century-long search for the music and stories of composers who managed to do masterly work in a Nazi concentration camp, died on Friday in Bloomfield, Conn. He was 82. His family announced the death.

In 1985, Mr. Karas (whose first name is pronounced YO-zha), published "Music in Terezin, 1941-1945." The book chronicled the thriving musical life in the disease-ridden and notoriously lethal concentration camp at Terezin, in what is now the Czech Republic. The camp was also known by its German name, Theresienstadt.

Mr. Karas collected more than 50 pieces of the music written there and produced editions that have been widely performed. In films and by other means, the Nazis made propaganda use of the four concert orchestras and as many chamber groups that flourished at Terezin. An opera company mounted several full-scale productions. A jazz band was called the Ghetto Swingers.

In a legendary deception, when the International Red Cross went to inspect the camp in 1944, the Nazis sent the old and sick to gas chambers, painted buildings, planted flowers and even opened a well-stocked chocolate shop. A film of this fake environment received global notice, becoming known by its informal title, "The Führer Gives a Village to the Jews."

Flower pots obscured the feet of musicians who had no shoes. In truth, Terezin was a place where 140,000 people, mainly Jews, were held in a labor camp or transferred to death camps like Auschwitz. Many died at Terezin through execution, disease and starvation. About 60,000 people were crammed into an area meant for 7,000.

But the music was real, developing spontaneously after a pianist found and repaired a piano abandoned in the town. Soon there were several choruses. Inmates smuggled in instruments in pieces. Eventually, more than 10 composer-inmates created original works, many of which were performed in the camp. One such composer was Viktor Ullmann, who had studied with Arnold Schoenberg. He formed the Studio for New Music at Terezin. Others were Hans Krasa, Gideon Klein and Pavel Haas.

Despite propagandizing the music, the Nazis had no interest in preserving it, and the composers and musicians could not: many of them were killed. Tracking it down became Mr. Karas's obsession.

"Why should I, a Christian, get involved in a research project virtually untouched for 25 years, since the last puff of smoke had darkened the skies of Auschwitz?" he wrote in his book. "Putting aside these questions, I felt attracted to the project because I am a Czech musician, and this was a subject dealing with the music of Czechoslovak Jews."

Josef M. Karas was born in Warsaw on May 3, 1926, and learned to play the violin when he was very young. His father, Frantisek, was a government official, a professor of Polish and an author who wrote about Czech customs; he also helped Jews as part of the World War II underground.

As a boy, Joza noticed that his Jewish classmates had stopped coming to school with no explanation. He saw signs warning people away from Jewish-owned stores. Jews began to wear the yellow Star of David. In 1948 Mr. Karas escaped the country, which by then was under Communist rule, and made his way to the United States by way of Colombia and Canada. In 1955 he began more than a half-century of teaching the violin at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford and of playing the instrument in the Hartford Symphony.

In 1970 Mr. Karas read three small articles in a Czech music magazine reporting that eight short compositions and fragments of music from Terezin had been deposited in the Jewish State Museum in Prague. Investigating this seemed a perfect project for summer break.

On his first trip to Prague, he made several major finds. One was the piano reduction and orchestral version (for 13 instruments) of Hans Krasa's children's opera "Brundibar." It had been the most popular musical production in the camp, presented 55 times from September 1943 to October 1944. Mr. Karas made a performing edition of the opera, which is about a brother and sister whose efforts to buy milk for their sick mother are thwarted by an evil organ grinder. (The Nazi guards apparently never grasped the metaphor.)

He conducted the North American premiere of the opera in Czech in 1975 and the English language premiere in 1977, using a translation by him and his wife, the former Milada Javora, who had died in 1974. In 1993 Channel Classics recorded his version as part of its "Composers From Theresienstadt" series. Mr. Karas conducted.

Mr. Karas is survived by his second wife, the former Anne Killackey; his sons, Francis, Henry, Michael, Joseph and Alexander; his daughter, Joan K. Carrasquillo; his brothers, Zdenek and Frantisek; his sister, Jana Spacek; and seven grandchildren.

"When I started my research, I used to have nightmares," Mr. Karas told The Hartford Courant. "And guilt. I'd pick up a piece of chocolate and I couldn't eat it."

He recovered. "They say Czechs get used to anything," he said. "Even the gallows."

Bill Drake, 71, Dies; Created a Winning Radio Style

Bill Drake, who transformed radio programming with a syndicated format that delivered more music, fewer commercials and high-energy "Boss Jocks" - D.J.'s big on personality but economical with words - died Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 71. The cause was lung cancer, said Carole Scott, his companion.

In the 1960s, Mr. Drake, an up-and-coming disc jockey and programmer from south Georgia, revolutionized radio when he and his partner, Lester Eugene Chenault (pronounced Sha-NAULT), decided that radio stations could make a lot more money and reach more listeners if they cut back on D.J. chatter, accelerated the pace of their programs and gave audiences more of what they presumably tuned in to hear: hit songs.

He and Mr. Chenault introduced a formula, eventually sold as a syndicated package with prerecorded music, that would revamp - and homogenize - radio stations across the United States.

Under the slogan "Much More Music," KHJ in Los Angeles, an early client, began playing 14 records each hour, far more than the competition. Commercials were limited to 13 minutes and 40 seconds each hour, a third less than the competition had. Station-identification jingles (usually performed a cappella by the Johnny Mann Singers) were cut to one and a half seconds. A new breed of disc jockeys, billed as Boss Jocks, were drilled to keep their patter to a minimum, and to standardize it.

The results were startling. KGB in San Diego went from last to first in its market in 90 days. KHJ, with Boss Jocks like the Real Don Steele and Robert W. Morgan at the microphone, leapt from 12th place to first in 1965. In New York, critics howled when Mr. Drake and Mr. Chenault forced out the legendary D.J. Murray the K from WOR-FM, but the station doubled its audience.

In its heyday in the early 1970s, the two men's consulting firm, Drake-Chenault Enterprises, served about 350 client stations with makeover advice and totally automated packages in six different formats.

"He took Top 40 radio and turned it into a machine," said Marc Fisher, the author of "Something in the Air: Radio, Rock and the Revolution That Shaped a Generation" (Random House, 2007).

"He pared it down to the essentials and made it a vehicle for selling advertising rather than an entertainment form, something you tuned in to for music, the news, the time and the weather, all in a slickly designed format," Mr. Fisher said. "It is common to think of radio that way now, but in the 1960s it was revolutionary."

The standardized formats influenced other AM and eventually FM stations nationwide to lose not just their individualized D.J. stars but also to some degree their independent voices. The comedian George Carlin joked about Boss Radio as early as 1972 on the album "FM & AM":

"Hi gang. Scott Lame here. The Boss jock with the Boss sound from the Boss list of the Boss 30 that my Boss told me to play."

The Boss D.J.'s drew their own followings, however, and younger fans who grew up with them attend reunions to meet their favorites. Philip Taylor Yarbrough grew up in Donalsonville, GA, and began working at a local radio station as a teenager. While attending South Georgia Teachers College in Statesboro, he worked the 9 p.m.-to-midnight shift at WWNS, where his sign-off theme was Hugo Winterhalter's version of "Canadian Sunset."

"If you were a freshman girl and were off campus somewhere and heard that, you knew you were in deep trouble unless you could get back to the college before the song was over," said Ramona Palmer, whom he married in 1959 after taking a job at WAKE radio in Atlanta and changing his name to rhyme with the station's call letters. The couple divorced in 1966. Two later marriages also ended in divorce. He is survived by a daughter, Kristie Philbin of Delray Beach, Fla.

At WAKE, where he began as a D.J. and rose to become program director, Mr. Drake began tinkering with the programming so successfully that the station's parent company sent him to California to work some magic on its San Francisco station. In 1962 he was hired by Mr. Chenault, the owner of KYNO in Fresno, who also had innovative ideas about packaging radio. Together they created Drake-Chenault Enterprises, rescued KGB in San Diego, their first client, then struck gold with KHJ.

"We cleaned up AM radio," Mr. Drake told The Los Angeles Times in 1990. "We put everything in its place. It was radio that was designed for the listener. Before us, disc jockeys would just ramble on incessantly."

No longer did D.J.'s introduce songs, or spin yarns about teenage romance, or project a quirky personality, in the style of Wolfman Jack. "His insight was realizing that you could turn these D.J.'s into household names even if they didn't really do anything on the air," Mr. Fisher said.

Songs got the Drake-Chenault treatment, too. Regardless of the stature of the artist, two minutes was just about the limit, which meant that even Beatles hits were trimmed to fit. The Top 40 list was shrunk to the Top 30. Another Drake-Chenault innovation was to program the news at odd times, like 20 minutes after the hour, so that their stations would be playing music, and enticing listeners, when others were broadcasting the news.

By cutting down on commercials, the stations were able to sell advertising at higher rates. "Everybody else was choking the goose laying the golden egg, jamming in as many commercials as they could," he told last year. "When our slots were sold, that was it."

Mr. Drake gained a reputation as a ruthless, detail-minded operator. Special phone lines in his Bel Air home allowed him to monitor his client stations by punching in a code and listening. If he did not like what he heard, things could become unpleasant.

"When that phone rings, you know it's death time, man," a battle-scarred D.J. told Time magazine in 1968.

Mr. Drake sold his interest in Drake-Chenault Enterprises in 1983, and the company dissolved in the mid-1980s. In recent years, Mr. Drake developed "Top 40 Time Clock," a syndicated cavalcade of more than 1,800 hits aimed at the baby boom generation.

"It has a great hook," Mr. Drake wrote in a Web site promotion. "You can't wait to hear what comes up next. It's the History of Top 40 Radio without the narration."

In other words, no D.J. chatter. As Mr. Drake told Radio & Records, "I always said if you're going to say nothing anyway, say it in as few words as possible."


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