December 2011


I Was Talking to Gloria Steinem Yesterday About Nestle's
Hot Cocoa

We were chided last month, as we are every so often, about our use of the first person plural in these essays. We had addressed why we do this, in an essay a couple of years ago (Why We Are Not I : Grammatical and Other Considerations APRIL, 2009 MUSE-LETTER).


In explaining the use of the "editorial we," we then went on to say...


"There are exceptions to this… in the writing of our poetry. And of course in our journal, we do use I, lest we wonder at our sanity."

We came across a recent New York magazine article on the upcoming 40th anniversary this January, of the founding of Ms. magazine. It spoke to how Ms. was born as an outgrowth of the feminist movement, with a particular emphasis on the critical role Gloria Steinem played in both; the magazine and the movement.




And then we remembered something relating to her that would enable us to use the first person "I" with abandon. It comes from an entry we had made in our journal eons ago. And though we were in our early thirties at the time, we were reduced it seems, to acting like a school boy in this encounter.


                                                                  May 5, 1979
                                                                             1:30 AM (Saturday)


I was talking to Gloria Steinem yesterday about Nestle's Hot Cocoa. How's that for a cocktail party stopper. She was shilling for Ms. magazine at Ayer. Trying to drum up advertising revenue as it were.


After her address, I approached her, and discussed if in fact Ms. was a good media vehicle for such standard "women's products"—food and Avon's. In retrospect, the situation is ironic. What happened to the great social issues?


Here was Gloria Steinem, radical feminist, one of the architects of the women's movement, outspoken against the war, social injustice and so on, talking about cookie mix and hot cocoa. And what about me? Whatever happened to the artist, the newly discovered free thinker and all that? The 60's and its effect…and I'm back in a jacket and tie. And I love it.


I was actually nervous talking to her. I don't know what made me approach her…and with such a stupid question. I felt tight. Why? I mean I should be able to stand there and talk to Gloria Steinem without my heart beating faster. Maybe it's because I have a "crush" on her.




I think Gloria Steinem, now 77, is still beautiful. And I still have a crush on her.





HBO ran a documentary on her this past August as a precursor to this upcoming 40th anniversary. In promoting that program, she had appeared on CBS' The Early Show, among others. That five and a half minute segment can be viewed in its entirety on:










I walk the dog down the godforsaken block;
She walks the man towards the dogforsaken bark.
And with the nearing of our respective parties—
Chihuahua and poet; comforter and patient—


The sick man lifts his cane as if of stone.
Then from a slack-jawed mouth, a grunt and groan.
The reflex to greet the living is alive though pale.
A hello? A goodbye? Maybe a last ditch appeal.


He'll return to the earth before end of fall.
His nurse from El Salvador negotiates his crawl—
Inch by inch, is the long journey to heaven.
I temper the short dog who is hell-bent on leaving.


Though at the old man he stops—ears half mast
To pick up a scent from the scriptures on dust and ash.
We all cluster for a moment, an eclectic herd,
For reasons that none of us can put into words.



                                                              —Ron Vazzano







Melancholia: In Praise of Depression



Has there ever been a movie in praise of depression? If there never has, there is one now. It comes with the release last month of Melancholia.


At least that's our take on it, supported by what the film seems to say in the final analysis. And "final" is the operative word here in this apocalyptic (not to be confused with "apocalypstick," an inside nepotistical joke: film. It is also one that seems to straddle two genres, drama and sci fi. And in so doing, offers a unique spin on both.


There is little about this movie, directed by Lars von Trier, that isn't compelling, if not downright disturbing. It begins with an opening sequence, that is at once ominous yet beautiful. Shot in super slow motion, and with stunning cinematography in every frame, it only heightens a sense of foreboding. We had to go back to the prologue of 2001: A Space Odyssey to recall anything vaguely resembling this. But then again, we are hardly versed in the canon of recent film history.


Of the reviews that we did read after seeing the movie, we think the bottom line assessment by A.O. Scott, critic for The New York Times, most closely resembles our own.


The world, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) declares in her darkest moment of clarity, deserves its awful fate. The perverse achievement of “Melancholia” is how difficult it is to argue with her conclusion.


We wonder if "perverse" is the right word, given how prevalent depression is in modern society. The numbers we have seen from various sources indicate that approximately 21 million Americans suffer from depression each year. Gather around any large family holiday table, and a couple of people asking for white meat only, might be about to go off the deep end…albeit quietly.


As most of us have come to know, depression is not about going through a period of sadness or having a bout with the blues. One can't just "get over it." It is something far more severe, as indicated in this definition by Freud, that mirrors that of the World Health Organization (WHO).


a profoundly painful dejection,
cessation of interest in the outside world,

loss of the capacity to love,

inhibition of all activity,

and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree

that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings,

and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment.


One aspect of this disorder is specifically known as anhedonia or…the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. hobbies, exercise, social interaction or sexual activity. (Wikipedia; referenced). It makes us recall the story we had heard, that Anhedonia was what Woody Allen was going to title his new 1977 movie, before he changed it to Annie Hall.


Kirsten Dunst, in an Oscar nomination-worthy performance, captures every aspect and nuance of depression, underplaying it in a way that is so counter to the perception of what often passes for "madness." Compare this...


 say, Joan Crawford (in the person of Faye Dunaway): "No more wire coat hangers. Ever!"





People who suffer from depression rarely pronounce their despair from a mountain top, or at a holiday table, or become unglued by coat hangers—wire or otherwise. And in that quietness, WHO estimates that it results in 850,000 suicides each year throughout the world.


Melancholia, in illustrating the depths to which depression can go, also seems to suggest that there is a nobility (warranting "praise?") in it. A chilling thought. Which is why it stuck with us long after leaving the theater. Which is why it wound up on these pages.







Quotes of the Month


Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.


                                                        —Albert Einstein


A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies.


                                                        —Woody Allen

                                                                                        from Annie Hall







Are The Rockettes Still Relevant?




This is the existential question that we ponder as we place our bets at the box office for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Equally spectacular, are the ticket prices which can run as high as $347 for the best seats in the house. That badly, we do not want to find out the answer to our question. But exactly where to sit takes some time to consider, as Radio City Music Hall has almost as many levels as Dante's Paradiso (which interestingly, has the word "radio" camouflaged within it).





In a reverse, our Beatrice—taking the form of a friend in from out of town—will be the one guided, and not the one guiding. For she has never entered this realm before. We both will end up in the equivalent of Paradiso's Seventh Sphere ("Saturn: The Contemplatives"), from which we will be sitting close to heaven indeed.


We might have at one time claimed, that it would take a court order to get us to see this show again. But we have become more sentimental (or is it senile?) over the years, and now can't wait to see that almost "camp" sight of 72 gams kicking eye-high in perfect unison. Or will we?


In a New York Times article last month, "Rockettes, Rebooted for a New Era" (appearing after we had bought the tickets), it noted that Linda Haberman, the director and choreographer of the show, was going in a new direction: “I wanted to show the women’s strength and their athleticism because that’s a side of them that never gets seen by the general public,” she said.


Here's how that goes. The dancers are placed inside of a video game entitled the "Rockettes to the Rescue," in which "they help a mother and daughter battle their way through four levels (here we go again with levels) of obstacles, leading to the arch villain, the Humbug King." Not exactly the narrative we would have selected, ah, but there's 3-D technology included. And animation. The kind that will be interspersed with live dancers. Everything old is new again, as Ms. Haberman does own up to the fact that the dance Gene Kelly did with Jerry the mouse in "Anchors Aweigh" (1945), was in the back of her mind.


When we were young, the Rockettes, the Christmas show, the venue itself, were all magic. Magic is so easy to come by when you're a kid, because kids are so willing and able to suspend disbelief. And everything is so new and so wow! As adults, we become jaded. We've seen it all; we've done it all. And what we haven't, gets put on a "bucket list," which in itself is a somewhat dispiriting concept.


But what promises to be new here for us, is an appreciation of the Rockettes, not as a novelty, but as professional dancers. As we are now beginning to take an interest in ballet, this quote from the assistant choreographer in particular, caught our eye:


"…it’s starting to get out that being a Rockette is a serious dance job. The perception is that we're changing and amazingly talented technical dancers are now starting to audition. Some of the new dancers have extensive backgrounds in serious, professional ballet schools."


While perhaps moving far away from a formula that has been successful for so long—though we are assured there are still plenty of kick lines in the show—the Rockettes are trying to make certain to keep in step with the changing tastes in entertainment.





We look forward to seeing if these changes can recapture "the wow." And while they're at it, maybe it's time that Santa Claus got a new suit?







A Poem in Creative Spelling




We happened across this poem by Dylan Vazzano, written at the age of five or six (he is now 23), that seems apt for the season. We love how the limitations in spelling ability at that age, are no hindrance to expressing oneself on the page. What obstacle can't be overcome with a little imagination? And after all, do we really need that "w" in snowman? It is shown exactly as it was typed out by him back then.


A sad sad snoman

               by Dylan

A boy biot a snoman
and then it was summr
and the snoman meldid
the boy starthit to crie
the boy was sad
the boy codo not
wat in tiw neckst wintro

the end





Web Maintenance by HK Creative Design
Copyright © 2004-2010