February 2005


Tsunami: A Poem

One month after a tsunami has claimed the lives of an estimated 200,000+ people (as of this writing), one is still left to ponder the presence— or lack thereof— of God in all of this. Given the sheer magnitude of the tragedy, it is not an unfair question. And it is one that has been raised by believers and non-believers alike.

We who are believers and poets, were moved to address the question in verse— not surprisingly— inspired by the first Reuters reports that came in over the wire.

It contained a piece of information regarding animals, that was so astounding, it took The Question to a whole other place for us (and it appears as an epigraph in our poem). And while we don’t believe in a punitive God that… well… we’ll let the poem speak for itself:


COLOMBO (Reuters) “…the worst tsunami in
memory has killed around 22,000 people along
the Indian Ocean island's coast, but they can't
find any dead animals.”

Not one animal carcass had washed up on shore.
They knew and retreated to a higher ground.
And one is left to consider once more
This God, His plan, our assumptive bond.
    To apply the “nth” power to that ancient cliché…
    “God works in the very strangest of ways.”

For all the software downloaded at our birth
To process this world of fate and fact
To enable us to transcend the Earth
Atop a rocket to the moon and back
    We’re denied lofty access to an inner space
    Where sensors that warn us might have been in place:

Beware of Nature’s right to repeal!
But only the beasts, so instilled, know the drill.
And as if to level the playing field
He leads them to the top of the hill.
     Leaving us, the wise men, to decode the signs:
     Which star to follow; which to leave behind.


Carson: Personal “Sightings”… Universal Reference Points

The first time we saw Johnny Carson in person was 1960, as members of the audience of the daytime “quiz” show he hosted— Who Do You Trust? (Yes, with Ed McMahan as his sidekick even back then).

We were the young roughnecks from the Lower East Side, who would go uptown to catch the free entertainment of live national TV broadcasts. They were still being done predominantly in New York back then. Soon the business would begin to shift to LA and ‘live” would give way to tape. (And we would calm down.) So that was the first.

The last “sighting” we had of Johnny, was on September 10, 1993 at Granita in Malibu; about 16 months after his retirement. We were celebrating a 10th wedding anniversary; he presumably was just out for bite at his neighborhood restaurant. Here are a few lines extracted from our notes recorded in our journal for that evening:

Wolfgang Puck’s new place. With a décor of roughhewn “Little Mermaid”, and fabulous food, it was terrific….I got a glimpse of the silver-haired Carson as he was leaving with his wife and Doc Severinson….Cute. While the restaurant patrons all the while have pretended not to notice, now with this their last chance, they drop the ruse and en masse get in that Final Glimpse. What is it about “Celebrityhood”? A theme for future exploration.

Well, we never did get around to that exploration. But to put Carson’s reign on The Tonight Show in a more universal and historical context—on the very day of his first show, October 1, 1962, the following monumental events were taking place:

James Meredith registered at the University of Mississippi despite the efforts of Governor Ross Barnett to block his admission. This following a night in which, to quote one account:

A mob of more than two thousand converged upon the campus. Federal troops arrived and the mob retreated. In the end, two were dead, 28 marshals had been shot, and 160 were injured.

Secretary of State Robert McNamara was directing military leaders to

be prepared to institute a blockade against Cuba

Three weeks later on October 22, 1962 President Kennedy would inform the American people about what had fully become: The Cuban Missile Crisis.

Fast forward again to some thirty years later, when Carson would appear on his show for the last time —May 22, 1992.

The Cold War had finally ended, and civil rights had long become the law of the land. With sophisticated “browsers” being made available to the public for the first time, The Internet, now easy to navigate, was about to become an integral part in our everyday lives.

And now the once young and perpetually boyish-looking Johnny Carson, is dead at 79.

Rest in peace, O Late Night Prince.


Somewhere Beyond Beyond The Sea

Bobby Darin gave an acting performance you will not believe, in a small riveting film that you never heard of: Pressure Point …released in 1962.

In Beyond The Sea — a biopic about Darin, produced by, directed by and starring Kevin Spacey—Pressure Point is never mentioned. Understandable.

For one thing, it was never recognized by Hollywood to ever have existed. After all, it had the misfortune to be released in a year when Oscar nominated films included the likes of Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Longest Day, Mutiny on the Bounty and The Music Man.

And while Bobby Darin even outperforms the great Sidney Pottier, with whom he co-stars in the film (though Sidney of course is given top billing), there were five (count ‘em) film legends vying for Oscars that year as well: Gregory Peck, Peter O’ Toole, Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon and Marcello Mastroianni.

As we say, neither Bobby nor the film, ever had a chance.

But we can now avow in 2005— having seen it recently, some 40+ years after a first viewing at the tender age of 16— that the movie and Bobby’s performance still hold up!

In fact, better than “hold up”. The film was so far ahead it’s time in so many ways. How shall we count them?

  1. It deals with the issue of racism, minus the filter of a heroic “white male savior figure” (think Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in “Mockingbird”).

2. Then there’s the approach to story telling… the unveiling of a character’s psychological makeup through the use of theatrical “flash-back” scenes played adjacent to those in the present tense.

3. The use of special effects and camera angles not seen before.

4. The stark black & white cinematography with a mood all its own.

5. The intriguing editing.

6. Unsettling original scenes. (The Tic Tac Toe “game” for example).

Bobby Darin’s performance as an American Nazi, arrested for his subversive activities and assigned to a black therapist (Sidney of course) while in prison, is without apology; it holds nothing back. Which is the way Darin always performed, as we recall.

The movie is available on DVD. Or we’ll lend you our copy.



February has always seemed a quirky month to us. One filled with second tier holidays and other such silliness— Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day (a downgrade from originally separate celebrations of Lincoln and Washington’s birthday, and in the process, implicitly putting Millard Filmore on equal footing) — all stuffed in the shortest month of the year. And then there’s that business of the odd extra day every four years; the so-called “Leap Year”. So diverse. So disassociated. Or is it?

Imagine this magnetic poem on your refrigerator door:


Super Bowl & Oscar

And speaking of February, it has even more “event” days now, what with the Super Bowl sneaking in from its customary January slot, and the Oscars having been permanently pushed up by four weeks from its traditional late March position.

Besides both now happening in February, what else do these two events have in common?

Well, they are without doubt—statistically and emotionally—THE two biggest “must see” events of the year. And of course, along with such designation, goes all the attendant mega hype and hoopla.

The result: Big Ratings! Big Parties! Big Bowls of Dip!

Events forever imprinted on the American psyche; our collective memory!— “See ya! Drive home safely.”

Ok then please answer the following (with 50% being a passing score):

•      Who played in last year’s Super Bowl?
•      Who won?
•      What score?
•      What was the Best Picture of the Year for 2003?
•       Best Actor?
•      Actress?

We thought so. We didn’t do so hot ourselves.


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