December 2004





After our first two monthly newsletters, following the inauguration of our website, one comment we received particularly caught our eye and tickled our fancy:


I’m not sure it’s just a “newsletter”. You’ve created something that seems to deserve a description with more élan.


Latching on to this positive input like barnacle to a hull, we thought what the hell (“heck” for those of you in the “Red States”): from now on let’s call it a …“Muse-letter”.

In so doing we coined a word unfound in Webster’s Dictionary (or any other self respecting dictionary, for that matter). So perhaps a cobbled definition is in order:

            muse-letter \’myüz-‘le-tər  noun

1: a direct or personal written or printed message addressed to a person or organization, in the course of which, the sender becomes absorbed in thought; especially turning something over in the mind meditatively and often inconclusively

2: a letter from a poet, or one who envisions oneself as such, in which he or she “muses” on the news, or that which is perceived to be news


Yup, that’s us: inconclusive would-be poets commenting about nothing of overriding importance. Welcome to our first Muse-letter.


Christo Construction Commences


A week or so ago, construction began on Christo’s latest project. Who’s Christo? What project?


Let’s try this hyper-hyphenated descriptive for starters:


Christo is an artist who specializes in long-planned/shortly-exhibited-one-time-only-mega-sized-environmental-art projects, most of which having to do with the use of fabric in unusual ways.


For example, this current project calls for 7,500 steel “gates” adorned overhead with decorative orange fabric panels, meandering over some 23 miles of selected footpaths throughout New York’s Central Park. (See the following for full description: 


Despite the fact that the idea for this extravaganza was born in 1979, and that it has taken therefore almost 26 years to bring off (e.g. he could not get permission to do this until Mayor Bloomberg of New York came on the scene… Giuliani and previous mayors had always been dead set against it), it will only stay up for 16 days: from February 12-27, 2005.


The incongruity of such a long planning time offset by such an exceedingly short running time, is part of the whole “artistic” concept and process for Christo (now 69 years of age) and his wife Jeanne-Claude (not getting any younger herself). In other words, for them, “the hassle” is an integral component in what makes the “art”, art.


Other projects completed over the years, and taking 5-10 years in planning, have included:


  • the 25 mile “Running Fence” of  white nylon in Sonoma and Marin Counties in Northern California (1979);
  • the surrounding of islands with pink fabric, in Biscayne Bay, Miami (1983)
  • the wrapping of The Pont Neuf in Paris (1985);
  • closer to home for those of us in Southern California, the Yellow Umbrellas on the hillsides off the 101 Freeway (1991).
    • the simultaneous Blue Umbrellas in Japan
  • the wrapping of The Reichstag in Berlin (1995)


These projects—which become transformed into “events”— invariably raise the question that so often arises when one is confronted with an assault on the senses: “IS THIS ART?”


The answer, as always, lies in the eye of the beholder. And while definitions are always tough to pin down, there is the old famous judicial quote regarding what constitutes pornography, that might apply here to “art” as well:


            I’ll know it when I see it.


And we are endeavoring to do just that: see it for ourselves; to “walk the walk”, so to speak, this coming February (snowstorms permitting).



Rudolph Eligible For “Full Retirement” Benefits


Having now reached the age of 65, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is eligible for full retirement benefits. Hard to believe that time has gone by so fast since his first employment— that much heralded ride on that foggy night in 1939.


His birth was the creation of a copywriter for the Montgomery Ward Department stores named Robert L. May. In fact, Mr. May (ironically named), was assigned the specific task of writing a Christmas story around which the stores could do a promotion. (Also with some irony, Rudolph has outlived the stores).


The hit song recorded by Gene Autry wouldn’t come until 1949— selling two million copies that year! And the rest, as they say, is mythology.


It really is the ultimate archetype underdog story as we have come to know it, though it differs from the originally written version in many ways.


Let the Greeks and Romans have their gods of transport: Hermes and Mercury. We’re Americans. Give us Rudolph any day of the week to outrace their sorry butts! Or at least, when he was in his prime. Though the nose shines as brightly as ever, it seems.



“Gen Xer” Sings Gershwin, Porter…among others

Since the advent of Rock ‘n Roll (about 50 years ago), nothing has so split the generations, as their respective tastes and preferences in music.

Once upon a time, when we were in short pants, say 1951 for example, everyone had the same music: parents and their kids alike. Back then, we were singing Frankie Lane, Johnnie Ray, Tony Bennett songs, at the tender age of 6, for the amusement of family and friends. (And without the benefit of a Karaoke machine. Heck, TV was in short pants as well in ‘51).


Today, one would not expect to find a “Gen Xer” singing the likes of Gershwin, Porter, Arlen, Carmichael, nor songs made popular by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, etc. But then again, one would not expect to find Jane Monheit.


A stunning newcomer who first came on the scene four years ago at age 23 with her first CD, “Never Neverland”, this “jazzy” song stylist has now released her fourth CD, “Taking a Chance on Love”.


She will be appearing at Royce Hall at UCLA on December 3rd. We will be there to check her out in person.  That’s Jane Monheit…remember the name.



“Red States/Blue States” Poetics


By now, the post mortems on the election, are old hat. In fact even the expression “old hat” is old hat, given that nobody wears a hat any more. Perhaps to use a more ubiquitous article of clothing of our day… the election is “old running shoes” by now. But we digress.


Note these lines we recently ran across, that could have come from the Republican platform:

I say that the real and permanent grandeur of these States
      must be religion
Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur;
(Nor character nor life worthy the name without religion,
Nor land nor man or woman without religion.)


Or perhaps these sentiments that might have been expressed by John Kerry?

Land of eastern Chesapeake! Land of the Delaware!
Land of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan!
Land of the Old Thirteen! Massachusetts land! Land of
      Vermont and Connecticut!

Crossing the prairies, dwelling again in Chicago,
      dwelling in every town,
Observing shows, births, improvements, structures, arts,
Listening to orators and oratresses in public halls,
Of and through the States as during life, each man and
      woman my neighbor,

The Mississippian and Arkansian yet with me, and I yet
      with any of them


As you might have guessed, such grandiose poetry did not come from the political rhetoric just concluded a month or so ago. But the author of all of the above, is none other than Walt Whitman; Hall of Fame Poet extraordinaire. And the source of these lines is, indeed, ”Leaves of Grass” which he self-published on July 4, 1855. (And a copy of which, former President William Jefferson Clinton would one day come to give to Monica Lewinsky …but again, we digress).


As always, any comments and/or input are welcomed. Have Happy Holidays!



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