August 2013


Of Ice and Men




For all intents and purposes, this ad might just as well have been written and art directed in the Ice Age itself, given its incriminating anthropological implications.


The copy is proud to point out that this “is one sure way of making life easier for the woman who runs the house,” (for after all that is her job alone, is it not?). And note that the father is the only one dressed, and in a suit and tie no less, on early Christmas morning.


On we go to something of a more expansive and contemporary icy note, that even those on opposite poles on the global warming issue should be made aware. According to the latest findings from the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC)…


“While the rate of Arctic sea ice loss is normally fastest during July, the warmest month of the year, ice loss was even faster than usual over the first two weeks of July 2013.”


Uh oh.


But don’t sweat it. Just fly over to Colombia and enjoy a Coca-Cola out of a new bottle made entirely out of frozen water. Yes, ice. And yes only available in Colombia. (For now.) And yes, it is shaped like the traditional glass Coke bottle. And yes, they’re going like hot cakes.


And in case you were wondering about ease of handling, each bottle comes equipped with a red rubber band for better grip, which can then double as a bracelet when done. A keepsake of sorts. “Yankee go home!”? Not on your life.

And please, we will have no jokes on the redundancy of a new “coke” experience coming out of Colombia.


In the absence of any attempt at a segue… ever wonder what happened to Torvill and Dean? Those darling skaters from the U.K. who took home the gold at the ‘84 Olympics in Sarajevo, with their stunning routine to Ravel’s Bolero? Unbeknownst to we here “across the pond” (a vomitatious idiom if ever there was), they have been serving as coaches, choreographers and performers on a TV program since 2007, called Dancing On Ice. How nice.




How did we miss this? Imagine the gold to be mined from an obvious extension of our own “brand” here at home: Dancing With the Stars… On Ice! What would we not give to watch Cloris Leachman at age 87 or Bristol Palin skating on mother’s coattails, cutting a few “Figure Eights” at mid rink.


And now, Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean have announced that the 2014 season will be their last. And as one “pond source” said regarding their departure, “…the world is not awash with shows that rate like Dancing On Ice does.” That big? Who knew? (And to think I have been wasting time following updates on the fragile state of Nelson Mandela’s health).


Yet there is hope, as that venerable British tabloid The Sun is now reporting, that the show may avoid “the chop” with new pros being brought in to fill the rather large skates that T&D will leave behind. Phew. Thank God.


And then comes this pièce de résistance, via a PR release picked up by the New York Post.

Midtown's new 23-degree 'ice bar' offers frozen escape in the summer heat


The city's first ice bar is now open at the Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue. Admission includes gloves and a parka for the privilege of drinking cocktails in the freezing Minus5 Ice Bar.


The tables, chairs, walls and sculptures are all carved from what promoters say is "100 percent Canadian ice." The temperature? A chilly 23 degrees Fahrenheit (note: i.e minus 5 degrees Celsius and therefore the name of the place).

Apparently, this is old hat since there are many ice bars around the world including two in our very own Las Vegas. But it’s a new hat for this old head —apparently I never got the tweets. But, “If you build it they will come.” And so the ice man cometh.


Now several dollars the lesser, and having experienced that classic existential sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Kierkegaard in a cover charge.










Afternoon at the White Horse Tavern



Come listen to the voices from the boilermaker days
A cold one set to chase the glass of Jameson at hand
Echoing longshoremen on a soap box from their graves
Sitting at the bar you will gather where they stand.
So gather ye cold Buds while ye may
Be there no obsession with the burden of the plight
Claim an empty stool to keep the rubbernecks at bay
Drink yourself as Dylan did to death here one fine night—
Imploring us to rage against and burn and not go gentle
Yogi in concurrence said ain’t over till it’s over
Adding, that ninety, percent uhduh game’s half mental.
The smoke long gone; the syntax still in clover.
       Another round gets covered from the cash pile on the bar
       The credit cards you carry only carry you so far.

                                                                      —Ron Vazzano







In Homage to Hopper



He is a painter of moment; of time standing still. Of absence. Of distance while in proximity. He is Edward Hopper, and the thrust of the current Hopper Drawing exhibit at the Whitney Museum, is to let us in on the creative process behind some of his more iconic paintings. Of particular note are Early Sunday Morning, Office at Night and Nighthawks.


The first of these is a personal favorite, as might be gathered by its repeated "logoed" appearance throughout my website. And so maybe it was through that filter, when a few years ago one morning in Syracuse, I happened upon a street that struck me as so suggestive of that very painting. I tried to capture it with an iPhone camera, and then ran it through Photoshop to create a faux Hopper in homage.


It doesn’t seem like there are many painters who would elicit that sort of instant familiarity in the course of a casual stroll. But the sense of absence in this urban setting, one so out of time, was almost palpable and so “Hopperesque.”


When you do encounter people in a Hopper work, they are never in motion. They are sitting or standing and forever frozen in contemplation. And you cannot help but wonder, just what are they thinking? And just what is Hopper suggesting? Such as in the case of Office at Night, where two people are so close and yet so far apart. And now given access to the changes and tweaks he made in the transition from the original sketch to the final canvas, it further fuels the question as to just what is going on here?


An affair that once was and can no longer be? And yet no escaping the reminder of it?


His paintings cry out for a narrative. And every observer has had a go at it, including many poets, if the anthology published almost twenty years ago, The Poetry of Solitude: A Tribute To Edward Hopper, is any indication. And that dichotomy of nearness yet distance, is once again personified in his most famous painting, Nighthawks, as the first stanza in this poem seems ready to tackle.



            The place is at the corner of Empty and Bleak,
The time is night’s most desolate hour,
           The scene is Al’s Coffee Cup or the Hamburger Tower,
   The persons in this drama do not speak.

                                                   —Samuel Yellen


                                                                         After the painting by Edward Hopper


Hopper Drawing, with over 200 such on display—many of which have never been viewed before—will close on October 6th and comes highly recommended. Some critics contend that it is one of the best Hopper shows ever held at the Whitney. Which is saying something, since it houses more “Hoppers” than any museum in the world and has exhibited so much of his oeuvre in the past.

Perhaps what makes a show like this so compelling, is that one gets to peak behind the curtain to get a sense of how the “trick” is done. And what we invariably rediscover when made privy to that type of insider information, is a reminder of that classic quote by Thomas Edison: Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.


As I’ve always thought of Hopper in that kind of way, a no nonsense blue collar painter who didn’t like to color outside the lines too much, this show seems to support that notion.







Quote of the Month



One never knows, do one?

                                         —Thomas “Fats” Waller









The Speech



This month will mark the 50th year since Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, and delivered what most historians have called one of the greatest speeches ever given. It had style, substance and impact. And yes, poetry.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.


With those resounding words in mind, bell-ringing events are planned in the U.S. and around the world, to peel at 3pm in each city’s respective time zone on that day. And as might have been expected, there will also be a massive gathering in Washington—with Lincoln once again looking on from his chair— to commemorate what has since been considered to be the defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. There were 250,000 present back then… it will be interesting to see how large a crowd now.


There will be a deluge of media reportage and analysis on the specifics of that day and its historical significance.


There will be speeches as politicians will take to podiums attempting to align themselves in some way with King’s legacy. And of course there will be discussions among talking heads and various people of note, in which that inevitable question will arise: “Where were you on that day?” (Though not of any note, I regret to note, I nevertheless note, that having just turned 18 while on a three week stay in Puerto Rico, I might have been drinking Cuba Libres while hard at work on coming of age. And you fellow AARPers?).


Given the white heat atmosphere of ‘63 on matters of civil rights— especially in the midst of a four month period leading into The Speech— of demonstrations, hosings, cross burnings, police attack dogs, guardsmen bearing bayonets, the assassination of Medger Evers, explosions (killing four black girls just three weeks after King’s eloquence)— to stand there and espouse with such passion, “I have a dream!” makes the man even greater than The Speech.



The man is not always greater than the speech. This has been demonstrated time and again. But this one was. And a federal holiday bears his name.





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