April 2005


A Sure Sign of Spring?


Who cannot thrill to the smell of freshly mowed grass?

Or the sound of the crack of the bat when white ash wood connects with that tightly spun sphere of cowhide— brilliant white with its firecracker red stitching?

Or how about the umpire’s primeval roar of “Play ball”?

Or… the meekly murmured response by Mark McGwire to an unequivocal question— asked at Congressional hearing late last month— as to whether he ever took steroids? To wit:

“I am not here to talk about the past.”

Ah yes, Baseball is back!

This time however, with the STEROIDS MONKEY on its back.

We now know in our hearts (the deepest place you can know something), that all the great baseball achievements of the last decade— the shattering of home run records; the Ruthian clouts by suddenly gargantuan men— were accomplished with the aid of an artificial means, that have been banned in every other major sport. We’ll leave it at that.

We suppose each individual will have to make their own judgments, assessments, reflections etc on this state of affairs and where it might fit in the bigger context of our society.

But being poets, we began to fantasize about the possible impact of steroids on our own craft. We envisioned ourselves with the muscle to produce Mammoth Metaphors, Robust Rhymes, Invincible Iambic Pentameters, “A-lectrifying” Alliteration, the generation of a Perpetual Poetic License, and forever, Titanic Truths, endlessly sprouting from steel trap minds.

We went on to see ourselves breaking all the “records” of Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman; smashing the sonnets of Shakespeare; “out-homering” the great epics of Homer himself (speaking of baseball). Then we woke up. And we wrote this down.

Alone and without the enhancement of steroids or even so much as an aspirin, all too aware of our metaphorical hemorrhoids, as we shifted uneasily in our chair.

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The Shroud of Turin: It Boggles The Greatest Of Minds

Think of some of the more “popular” unsolved mysteries of the last century of which we have come to know or heard tell: UFO’s, the Rosewell Incident, Loch Ness Monster, the disappearance of Amelia Earhardt, the Bermuda Triangle. And then of course, the endless speculations by Conspiracy Theorists regarding the assassination of JFK. Well these are like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, compared to the Shroud of Turin.

We recently attended a presentation on the shroud by a former NASA employee, Jack Sacca— he the personification of a rocket scientist if ever there was one. It was nothing short of astounding. Or at least certainly to those of us, who had no more than a passing awareness of this phenomena, despite a lifelong association with Catholicism. It’s just something upon which we have never focused. But since this presentation, “the shroud” has gotten our undivided attention. For a number of reasons.

Regardless of one’s religious persuasion, we’re talking about a potential EXHIBIT A in a 2000 year-old case concerning the crucifixion of one of the world’s best known victims: a Jewish male (Sephardic); long hair; about 5’ 10”; 175 pounds; approximate age: 33 years; who went by the name of Jesus.

It is a story replete with plunders and fires (one such suspicious one as late as 1997) centering around the coveting, retaining and protecting of this historic “relic/exhibit”, that could be the missing link between the mystery of a known death and alleged resurrection.

It is a story long since subjected to all the speculations that the best of modern medicine and forensics, science and chemistry, technology and art, have had to offer. And yet, results remain at the very least…highly intriguing.

The shroud is arguably one of the most intensely studied artifacts in the history of mankind. And therefore, not surprisingly, it is also one of the most controversial, debated and baffling discoveries of all time. Even some atheists have thrown up their hands for want of a satisfying explanation.

First, the briefest rundown of key points in time regarding the shroud:

• It made its first recorded appearance in 14th century France.

• It was first photographed in 1898.

• It was highly studied in 1978… with inconclusive though gripping results suggesting its authenticity.

• In 1988, it was thought to have been proved a fraud through carbon-14 dating.

• That allegation of fraud has since been systematically challenged by other scientists claiming a series of faulty methodologies in that carbon-14 testing.

• It is now in the possession of Pope John Paul II and last on put on public display in 2000 at Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist

• One of the most recent positions in the scientific community, might best be summed up as follows:

“The Shroud of Turin images may not the direct result of a miracle, at least not in a traditional sense of the word. But they are not manmade either. These seem to be the contradictory conclusions from an article in the completely secular, peer-reviewed, scientific Journal of Optics (April 14, 2004) of the Institute of Physics in London.”

And now, to give us a sense of what we’re talking about, here is the face of the man on the shroud (taken from a full body imprint…”front and back”) as it actually appears to the naked eye at a distance of six feet or more:



Here is how it appears as a photographic negative.

“Real”? Or a forgery? (And done in the 15th century as has been alleged by some?).

If real— and believed to be so by many men of great scientific minds for reasons too detailed and far-reaching to incorporate into this type of correspondence— the implications are “unreal”, so to speak.

But what so fascinates about this story, is that either way, real or fake, it is STILL incredible. Of how many unsolved mysteries, of how many stories, of how many “phenomena”, could this be said?

For example, if proven that the Rosewell Incident never happened…no little gray men? End of story! Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone? End of story!

But consider this: even if the shroud was done by a 15th century forger, to quote one compelling summary we ran across on the implications of this achievement:

This forger was such an expert in 20th century biochemistry, medicine, forensic pathology and anatomy, botany, photography and 3-D computer analysis that he has foiled all the efforts of modern science.

His unknown and historically unduplicated artistic technique surpasses all great historical artists, making the pale efforts of DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli appear as infantile scribblings. 

Or to put it in another perspective, let’s say we have decided to create a forgery of some kind here in April of 2005. How about…We have found the bones of Amelia Earhardt! News at 11.

Not only would we have to fool the current experts with all their 21st century technology and data into believing that these are indeed her remains, but we would also have to invent some techniques and processes to use in our hoax, that will be able to withstand the scrutiny of technologies, that will not have been developed until 2505!
Wish us luck. We’ll drop you a line and let you know how it’s going.


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Bobby Short and The Plaza: The Passing of a Certain Style


On March 21, 2005, that bon vivant and impeccably tailored Bobby Short, the quintessential cabaret singer-pianist who presided at the Café Carlyle these last 37 years, passed away at age 80.

On April 30, 2005, The Plaza Hotel, a landmark Beux-Arts building, that has stood at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South since 1900, will cease to exist in its current form. It will be transformed into a combination hotel, deluxe apartment building and shopping center.

We could not help but note a connectedness in these two news items, that goes beyond their chronological proximity— that is to say, “the passing of a certain style.”

For example, rarely do people go to venues where the entertainment consists merely of “man with piano”… and a repertoire of Cole Porter tunes. Nor do they “dress up” much any more either (especially men, with the long ago passing of formal hats and now ties).

Also, rarely does the prospect of a snifter of brandy, or “High Tea” at places such as the Oakwood Bar or Palm Court at The Plaza, do much for a “24/7” mentality; a people too much on the go, to stop and take the time such subtle pleasures take. “Old World” elegance and sophistication often seem affected and anachronistic, in a culture becoming decidedly more and more “low brow”— and proud of it!

But, this is not about nostalgia; it’s about anthropology. It’s about the inevitable evolution of tastes and styles in music, costume and romance.

It’s also about small regrets for not having experienced in “real time”, for better or worse, pieces of an age in which one has lived.

We never got to see Bobby Short, though we made many promises to ourselves to do so one day. And now he’s gone.

We also had never gotten around to staying at The Plaza. That is until now; less than a month before it too will have been gone. We are glad to have done so. Life is “short”. No pun intended.

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April: National Poetry Month


A half dozen or so years ago, April was so designated as you see above. Which is ironic given the line from T.S. Eliot’s classic poem The Waste Land:

“April is the cruelest month …”

T.S. aside and in celebration of poetry which this month honors, we offer a small poem we wrote many years ago which was published in a lit mag, whose name we can’t offhand recall.


The Equestrian

Nor any courses like a Page
Of prancing Poetry—

Emily Dickinson

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