February 2010

The World Is Too Much With Us... A Rebuttal

In William Wordsworth’s famous poem The World Is Too Much With Us—which some of us may have remembered being spoon fed in school—he argued that we have lost our touch with nature.

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

That’s true. The earthquake in Haiti that we saw was not ours.

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon

Was this little titillating exhibition before or after the tsunami in the Indian Ocean? You know, the one that swallowed up almost a quarter of a million people in 2004, in one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history?

The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers

You too would be tired, if like Katrina you had just finished blowing away a whole city—clear off the map.

We have often said, half in whimsy, that we are probably the only poet we know who thinks that nature is overrated. At such times as these, we are reminded that whimsy can be serious business.

And so we make our small contributions in dollars and prayers, to do what we can to relieve the world’s suffering, then move on to discuss things like Leno and Conan. For what more can we do?

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

We might perhaps be more in tune if nature would clue us in once in a while, as to exactly what key it is playing in.


Mine's Bigger Than Yours

We wonder at the form the world’s architecture might take, and in which direction structural engineers might go, if these professions were spearheaded by women. But of course they’re not. Nor have they ever been. And until that day arrives, the movers and shakers of the building trades, will no doubt continue thrusting skyward.

Associated Press / January 4, 2010

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Dubai is set to open the world’s tallest building amid tight security today, celebrating the tower as a bold feat on the world stage despite the city-state’s shaky financial footing.

The height of the Burj Dubai…at a reported 2,684 feet, long ago vanquished its nearest rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan. The building boasts the most stories and…ranks as the world’s tallest structure, beating out a television mast in North Dakota.

“We weren’t sure how high we could go,’’ said Bill Baker, the building’s structural engineer.

We suppose it all started with the Great Pyramid of Giza. At 480 feet high upon completion in 2,550 BC, it remained the world’s tallest man-made structure for over 3,800 years.

It was the supposed inspiration for Frédéric Bartholdi, who decided that if you were going to be in the statue making business, why not make the biggest mother of them all. And so the Statue of Liberty at 150 feet, with a boost from a pedestal of similar size, stands 300 feet over the harbor. Which made it the highest structure in New York at the time (though technically it stands in New Jersey’s waters. But that’s another story APRIL, 2006 MUSE-LETTER).

It moved Emma Lazarus to write her famous poem The New Colossus, inspired in part by the “old colossus,” —The Colossus of Rhodes. That one stood at a mere 107 feet, and was erected in 280 BC. in homage to the Greek god Helios. Up for only 54 years, it was snapped at the knees by an earthquake.

Meanwhile back at Liberty Enlightening the World (as it was originally called), Bartholdi had to call in Gustav Eiffel to engineer the project. Yes, he of Eiffel Tower fame, which would be built a few years later as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair.

Rising over a thousand feet, that structure would be the tallest in the world until… 1930. When it was eclipsed by the Chrysler Building. And that building would only earn its distinction after, literally, winning a race to the top against the Bank of Manhattan. And at that, only after its spire, which was being constructed in secret inside the tower, was added at the 11th hour. Is there no shame in these phallic wars?

Though this building has always struck us as having a sexy feminine side as well; sort of the Marilyn Monroe of skyscrapers. But alas, “Marilyn” was only on top for a very short time. The Empire State Building would take the crown as the biggest thing around, only a year later. And it would remain as such until the arrival of the World Trade Center— 40 years later in ’72.

Ah, but in 1973, the Sears Tower, a chock-a-block of 108-stories, would inch past the WTC by about 100 feet. And while it remains the biggest building in the U.S. until this day, it is only the fifth-tallest structure in the world. “Nyanah-nyanah-nyaaaa-nah!”

We can’t help but conclude that the “over-the-top” testosterone levels in this 4,560 year old contest, is so self evident, as to almost be ludicrous. One need only look up to get the point.


Circus Maximus

I don’t remember running off to join—
nor it coming to town—
The Circus. Yet here I am.



And then there are these white-faced
clowns, clowns, clowns, clowns,
clowns, clowns, clowns, clowns,

spilling out each morning from a karma too small
that stops off at the front stoop.

I do remember however
those who left early
perhaps a tad tired of my act.
They missed my


of balls while spinning

through the elephant dung along the way.

And the balancing act of


while jumping through h oo ps of
R & R:
Rules and Regulations.

Yet I would fear in turn
their turn at show-n-tell:

perhaps the one-trick pony of dying.

And how simple it is to learn quickly
and perform so well.


Us and NBC

NBC was our client for 15 years. As the head of their media planning and buying operation from 1988-2003, we were responsible for promoting their programs in places that went beyond their own network. Radio, Newspapers, Outdoor Billboards— that sort of thing. In this capacity, we of course participated in many strategy sessions. The focus of these confabs invariably having to do with the introduction of new programs, and/or the moving of old programs to new days or time slots. Which is why we are greatly surprised by this whole Leno-Conan mess.

Many people who watched Leno at 11:30, were not about to do so at 10:00. Some folks do have lives. Or at least other TV shows. And in this case, no one was fooled into thinking this was something new because Jay’s desk was taken away or that he was given a new set (which to us, resembled an office lobby with an open elevator door awaiting passengers).

NBC was of course not totally oblivious to this. Which is why they set the bar low on rating expectations. (Though it was suggested in some quarters, that this show “would revolutionize television”). But did no one ever consider that Leno might take it on the chin at 10? And that the pain would be felt all the way back to Des Moines?

Leno’s poor ratings translated into an audience loss of 20-25% to those local news programs that followed. That’s a lot of beans in this bean-counter business. And the local affiliates screamed like banshees.

In our day, as much time went into planning for failure as in planning for success. This was not unusual given the nature of the Network TV beast, that tends to chew up and spit out anything that's not a hit by week three. So where was Plan B?

Watching them scurry like blind mice in search of the cheese, made it obvious that there was no Plan B. A half hour show for Leno? Moving The Tonight Show to after midnight, whereby “tonight” would start “tomorrow?” These “Hail Mary passes”—if we might mix metaphors— hadn’t a prayer. And then they acted as if learning for the first time, that not all prayers are answered.

So NBC went to a “Plan C” —the details of which are now common knowledge, even in Guam.

In concluding this remembrance of corporate things past—with apologies to Proust— we turn our attention back to writing poems. With its small numbers and tiny audiences, the reward is often but a sigh in response to a well-turned phrase. And in these days, we would have it no other way.


Winds of Angkor

We did a piece three years ago on Sarah O’Brien, a talented musician and world class cellist, whom we had been fortunate enough to secure for our book launching party. She was even kind enough to compose some special arrangements to accompany a few of the poems we read that night.

To reprise some of her credits:

We mentioned at the time that she was involved in a unique and ambitious project. It has now been completed. She has written the words and music for Winds of Angkor —a musical commemorating the 30th anniversary of:

“Cambodia’s unique but tragically overlooked experience of genocide during the Khmer Rough regime.”

The story is guided by the spirits from that time, and is told through the eyes of a Western journalist who travels to Cambodia and falls in love with a survivor of the regime. The score is a composition of contemporary symphonic music, combined with traditional Cambodian elements.

It is a unique theatrical experience. To quote Sarah in a recent press release:

“The piece evolved musically from the initial concept of an intimate love duet to a full-scale theatrical production involving soloists, orchestra, Cambodian musicians and dancers, rhythm section and a state-of-the-art set that features spectacular 3D projections and video content.

“The challenge was to balance the tenderness of the original letters with the enormity of one of the worst human catastrophes of the 20th Century.”

“Although the story is inspired by tragedy, the musical celebrates the unique, exotic beauty of Cambodia and carries a message of hope to those affected by genocide today,”

PBS has expressed interest in it, and Sarah is working on showcase performances in Asia, Europe and the U.S. We invite you to click below to have a look at some uploaded excerpts, as we think you will find them as stunning as we did.

We suggest that you contact her directly at this email address or at 310-289-4409 if you would like to know more about the production, get involved, or make a tax-deductible donation in its support. Also, you can go directly to the website if you would like further information.


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