August 2012


Marilyn: Fifty Summers Gone



On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in the bedroom of her Brentwood home, due to an apparent overdose of barbiturates. Whether they were taken with intent or accidentally, was said to be uncertain. But certainly on that morning as I awakened from the couch of a Staten Island bungalow to the first words of the day, “Marilyn Monroe is dead,” no one was calling it murder.



Photo taken at an art gallery window 6/2012; by Ron Vazzano©


Since then, many have come to believe that she was in fact murdered. It’s a belief that has arisen periodically over the past half century, whenever something newly alleged regarding the circumstances surrounding her death, comes to the forefront. That we still care, is a further testament to the place she holds in that pantheon of tragic figures that have passed through our collective memory.

As a sixteen year old boy at the time, and especially one coming of age on the streets of the Lower East Side, I should not have mourned her passing. It certainly wasn’t a macho heterosexual male thing to do. Besides, Sophia Loren was the preferred sex symbol in that Italian-American neighborhood of my youth. And when Ursula Andress would later appear that year in the first James Bond film Dr. No, and then later in a Playboy spread, (Ursula “Undress” we punned) well, now we were really talking sex.

But Marilyn was not just about sex, beauty, and stardom. She was also about a sense of innocence and vulnerability. Though I was hardly sitting there that morning contemplating that mix, and how no other person I could think of had ever wrapped all that into one persona. I was upset. And trying not to show it. And of course, persona is the operative word here. The public never really gets to know the real person.

Marilyn was also a talented actress having honed her craft at the legendary Lee Strasburg Studio over the years. A favorite performance of mine, was her role in the “Seven Year Itch.” A piece from a Muse-Letter written several years ago on the 50th anniversary of that film, is reprised here as it originally appeared.


If Marilyn were alive today she would be eighty-six; an image impossible to fathom. And one might wonder what she would have made of all the MM wannabes that have passed through our midst these last five decades in movies, music and the pop culture in general.

Where they all fall short, is that they work so hard at it. All trying to be so bombastic. All screaming out: “Look at me! Aren’t I gorgeous! Aren’t I outrageous! Aren’t I something!” And that is ultimately what might be the real secret to the long lasting appeal of Marilyn Monroe. Norma Jean Baker never seemed to be working hard at being Marilyn Monroe. She just was. And as is the case with any great work of art, it all seems so inevitable. You look and you think, “Yes. Of course.” I sensed that at sixteen. I know it now.







Quote of the Month











Random Colliding Thoughts on the Hadron Collider and the Boson It Has Wrought



The Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator, stretching 17 miles, 540 feet beneath the surface near Geneva, Switzerland. Why it was built in Switzerland, I don’t know. But you get the feeling that that country leads a charmed life. Never at war…almost genetically neutral…birthplace of the Red Cross…mandatory national health plan…watches that run like clockwork…a nifty pocket knife…and of course, yodeling! And now it is the home to the possible discovery of the Higgs boson (so named after Peter Higgs who first theorized its existence in 1964). This discovery was announced on July 4th, our nation’s birthday.


In case you were at the beach by day and a fireworks display by night (can they do better fireworks in Switzerland than us? Ha.) and missed it, in essence here’s the skinny:

“Signaling a likely end to one of the longest, most expensive searches in the history of science, physicists said Wednesday that they had discovered a new subatomic particle that looks for all the world like the Higgs boson a key to understanding why there is diversity and life in the universe.” (New York Times, July 4, 2012)



I, who can hardly operate a TV, can’t even begin to get my head around particle physics. They lost me at CERN. Which inexplicably is some sort of acronym derived from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which is behind this whole project. And what exactly is their logo getting at?

Yet, knowing nothing about something has never prevented a collision of random thoughts in my Head-on Collider on any matter. Or anti-matter for that matter. Such as this case with the boson, which we’re told is a particle with no mass of its own, just energy which pulls all other particles of mass together.


Great as this discovery has been deemed to be, it is the bold statement by Lawrence Krauss, a rather pompous theoretical physicist well known in theoretical physicists circles (rather infinitely small circles one would imagine) who in espousing, “With enough data, physics would make God obsolete,” that grabs one by the lapels.


Especially as the boson has been nicknamed the “God particle.” Especially given that for many, theology and science run on parallel tracks and never the twain shall meet. Yet, given that God was once declared dead by Nietzsche, “obsolete” seems like an upgrade. (Woody Allen once said: “Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on the weekends.”)


Certainly, this discovery does not prove or disprove the existence of God or a Higher Power. As Philip Clayton the Dean of Claremont School of Theology and a researcher of science and religion (no parallel tracks for this man) said: “The fans and foes of religion…are overreaching on both sides.”


Another equally temperate physicist, Robert Cousin at UCLA, offered: “It is a beginning, not an end.” Going on to say that every scientific discovery leads to new questions, new discoveries.


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet, Act I scene V).


But what if the cycle in search of those things was infinite, Horatio? Questions. Discoveries. Questions. Discoveries. What if what we dream of, ultimately is beyond the scope of human understanding? Then what? What would scientists say? Theologians? Atheists? Believers?

Just a few particles passing through just one man’s collider. Here’s a few others:


• If as scientists claim, that the boson can explain how matter can be formed from nothing, where did the boson come from? From the bosom of even more nothingness? From a particle playing possum?

• Once you start talking about energy fields and anti-matter isn’t anything possible? Even a soul? Good and bad vibes? Even some form of an afterlife? I’m just saying.

• I have never met a human being who didn’t feel that they were more than just flesh and bone; the sum of their physical parts… just matter.

In effect, everyone believes that they have a soul. As Seinfeld might have said, “what’s up with that?”

• What if science could “prove” that we didn’t have a soul? Who would believe it?

• Where does the impulse come from to shout for joy when something goes right?


Scientists in Geneva applauding the discovery of a subatomic particle that looks like the Higgs boson.

So ironic to see the most left-brained of minds who deal in equations and provable theories, whooping it up like they had just won the Super Bowl! “Now that you’ve discovered the boson, what’s next?" "We’re going to Disneyland!"

• Speaking of emotions, is there an equation for love? A particle for grief?

• The metaphorically poetic beauty of the opening of Genesis is so in synch with science. That from nothing came something. And that that something took time to reach fruition. And that it was good.

• Why does Switzerland continue to piss me off?






Unnatural Selection



As if the very existence of the horse itself
         in all its majesty
         and fortuitous utility


whose foal can stand in the hour of its birth
         then gallop in clover
         by sunrise tomorrow—

as if that were not enough
         we put wings on one
         and a horn on the forehead of another


in need of our own creation.



                                                      —Ron Vazzano






Conventional Wisdom


The Republican National Convention will take place at the end of this month in Tampa Bay. Conventions are to politics what the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), or “extreme fighting,” is to sports.


Expect that Obama will be pummeled with everything the opposition can muster — Trump may even show up demanding a birth certificate. Similarly, when the Democrats have their convention shortly thereafter in the first week of September, do not be surprised by a reference or two to the dog-on-the-roof-of-the-car thing. And in rebuttal, Trump may be called upon to account for his hair. It’s the nature of the beast.


Whereas conventions used to be characterized by a lot of in fighting, “out fighting” is now exclusively the order of day. If the opposition says tomato, you say to-mah-to. They say potato… you say po-tah-to. And never call the whole thing off.


The last convention of either party where the nomination battle might have been in doubt, where some in fighting occurred, was in 1976 when Regan nearly wrestled the nomination away from the incumbent (and unelected) president, Gerald Ford.


Though how mild was that tussle in comparison to what transpired on the Democrat side at the 1968 convention. Tear gas and billy-clubbing in the streets of Chicago? (Though it beats watching a Cubs’ game). The defiant chant of “The whole world’s watching”? Dan Rather being arrested on the convention floor? And in the end…Hubert H. Humphrey anyway? (Sorry but you can’t be president with a nursery rhyme like sounding name. Not to mention selling your soul for the nomination).


The transformation over the years of political conventions into a four day infomercial, is hardly an insight. It is something that has long been lamented by the pundits, and the declining TV ratings over the years, substantiate that the public has long since caught on to the fact that what they have been watching is not news. One is not apt to see anything newsworthy at these gigs, unless a loose cannon— say a Bu-chanan, as in Pat at the ’92 convention — takes to the podium. Which could be why another “killer B,” as in Bachmann, will not be at the convention.


Even fellow Republican and former Presidential nominee, John McCain recently took her to task for allegations that the family of Huma Abedin— an aide to Hillary Clinton— has ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Condemning, as he put it, "specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans."


On the Democratic side, Joe Biden is always shooting from the lip, so who knows what might happen this year at O.K. Coral.


As has been illustrated previously (JANUARY, 2012 Muse-letter), hard-ball politics is nothing new. But conventional wisdom about the continuing growth of the internet as a communications force— with its YouTube moments of infamy waiting to happen— suggests that this year’s conventions might have something new to offer after all. Especially in light of the heat thrown off by the debate on “Obamacare.” Hmmm. I’ve been wrong before. Maybe I’ll watch.






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