January 2012


Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

We hear the melody pretty much once a year. And at the exact same time. Often while transfixed in front of the TV. After all, "You'd have to be crazy to be there on that night."

Times Square

A clustering spirit
from in and out of town
stopping mid stream
for the sheer joy
of looking up

A metaphor made flesh
each New Year’s Eve



              fall.             — Ron Vazzano


And on "Happy New Year!" the music begins and we can hear the lyrics in our head:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

We know they come from a poem by Robert Burns, with all those odd sounding Scottish words like, auld, lang, syne. They essentially mean "for the sake of old times."


And then there are extended stanzas that we never knew existed, such as this pastoral sentiment:


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne


But the words usually play second fiddle to the melody. We rarely hear them sung. It is the instrumental versions that are more common to the ear. But unheard of before, nor since, is a rendition played at midnight December 31, 1969, during the second show at the Fillmore East.


We had been to the Fillmore just three weeks prior, unaware that Jimi Hendrix was to perform there on New Year's Eve. So we missed his interpretation of the song, as well as the main event— the live recording of his Band of Gypsys LP. It was to be the only official completely live LP released in his lifetime. He would be dead nine months later. Who knew.



In a similar vein to what he had done earlier in the year at Woodstock—when he transformed the Star Spangled Banner into something from Mars— his Auld Lang Syne could stop a clock.


Following a year-end countdown and a traditional arrangement of the song that night, Hendrix entered the proceedings 59 seconds later, with his mind blowing alternative. And as a new year invariably seems to be a clarion call for seeing old things in a new way, this audio YouTube moment recorded 42 years ago epitomizes the very thing.
(Hendrix rendition 59 seconds into the audio)


Nuff said.






Last Call



On a night of a blizzard beyond the pale
       amidst a cheer of twinkle lights
he will come here to sit beside you
       as he has on other nights.
Some so sultry that the streets took to melting.


What will become of these nights and seasons
        of innuendo and you? Having sworn off
love and seasons he wonders:
       when the clock has had the last laugh
when the crowd has disappeared.


if by deduction as Holmes would have it
       whatever remains must be true.
Yet a line is drawn in such a way
       the longest distance is he to you.
The ground you might cover


is more one of mind than of destination,
       for nothing is more forlorn,
than a start in a mad rush to infinity.
       A safari of dragons and unicorns—
"let's raise a toast to pink elephants."


Better a spiral as if a labyrinth
       which unlike a maze route
is not designed to puzzle.
       The way in is the way out.
And oh the ecstasy while at the center.



                                                              —Ron Vazzano







2012: At Random



Taking a peek to see what will be going on this year, here are a half dozen on the half shell—events, oddities, movies and trivia, that got our attention as we went 'agoogling. They are offered in no particular order.



1) December 21, 2012


This is the date the world will end. What again?


Wasn't that supposed to have happened this past May 21st? Oh but that was an "end times" prediction, driven from an extremist Christian perspective. This one comes from a smorgasbord of beliefs. A little New Age here, a little pseudo-science there and the Mayan calendar everywhere.


The "scientific" belief is particularly intriguing as it mirrors the plot of the current movie Melancholia wherein—spoiler alert—another planet is supposed to come crashing into Earth. And in so doing, wiping out all those nest eggs we were building for a future never to come. Damn. Don't you hate when that happens? And yes of course there was the apocalyptic movie released in 2009, entitled 2012. We didn't see it. Not our cup of tedium.


In lieu of the planet Melancholia…meet Planet X or its "nom de guere," Nibiru (which is also the name for a computer game released in 2005, and sounds far sexier than the ubiquitous "X.")


According to NASA, this is not going to happen. Phew! Though come to think of it, hasn't NASA been off base a few times before?


Which brings us to the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar, or the "Mayan Calendar" for short. What is interesting about this approach to marking the passage of time, is that it is a non-repeating calendar. (Meaning we suppose, that you need to buy birthday gifts only once?)


It started, at least as calculated by our Gregorian Calendar, on August 11, 3114 BCE, and will end December 21, 2012 AD.


What we find especially puzzling, is why the Mayan Calendar holds so much sway in the matter? At least to a rather sizable fringe? What is so special about it, compared to say the Gregorian, Hebrew, Buddist, Hindu, Coptic, or any of the other 22 calendars we found listed on line?


We never hear about the Mayans otherwise. Nor does anyone seem to pay them much heed on a daily basis. Then all of a sudden, their calendar signals that the end of the world is upon us, and it spawns a whole cottage industry of apocalyptic fear. And that fear, then trumps all other calendars that make no such catastrophic claims.


We're going to go out on a limb here and predict it won't happen. So yes, do not put off your Christmas shopping until December 22nd when the malls will be packed, and make you wish it really was the end of the world.



2) The Olympic Games


They will be held in London. Which is noteworthy, in that it will mark the first time in the history of the modern games (dating back to 1896), that a city will have been the host three times. It will also be noteworthy, because it will have the ugliest Olympic logo of all time. At least that is our opinion. And we have now come to learn, one that has been shared in many quarters. Apparently, there was a great deal of controversy when this "thing" was first unveiled almost five years ago.





Those large zig-zaggy shapes, are suppose to read "2012." To us this contraption looks like something with a bad back trying to walk. And dressed in bad colors no less. But as the stated goal is aimed at reaching young people, they will no doubt get it immediately and think it cool. (Sidebar: Why are marketers always trying to reach young people, when it is "old" people who have the money to spend?)


And then there is this even more horrific version, for the Paralympics. These are the games in which the world's disabled athletes compete. It is the first time that these two events will have similar logos. We suggest that the Paralympics committee reject any tie ins of this sort in the future.




And…these logos cost £400,000 according to a report by the BBC!


For the record, reflecting more provincial times and in a more black and white world, here is the logo for the games last played in London.





You make the call.


In any case, let the games begin! As we hold our breath to see who takes home the gold for synchronized swimming.



3) The Titanic and the Movies


April 14, 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The last survivor of that disaster, Millvina Dean, died at age 97 on May 31, 2009. It might have been particularly poignant if she had lived but three more years. Although, given this "age of hype," she might have been carted around like a museum piece. Rest in peace Ms. Dean.


It is unclear as to how this event will be marked, other than for certain, there will be a re-release of the 1997 James Cameron film. In 3D! Disaster! This time in your face!


This should send hordes of throngs back into the theaters, to add to the astonishing $1.8 billion gross it amassed worldwide the first time around.





Other movies due for release this year that caught our attention, mostly for their audaciousness, and again in no particular order…


The Great Gatsby — A remake starring a much more grown up version of DiCaprio, than the lad we see in the poster above.

Two Lincoln films — Lincoln by Disney starring Daniel-Day Lewis and Sally Field and… Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Swear! A word for word synopsis from the net, in fine print follows:


Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, secretly battles with the undead as an ax-throwing, highly trained vampire assassin. Vampires are presented as the real conflict behind the Civil War.

Butter — A premise even more outrageous than Lincoln battling vampires:

A young orphan discovers her uncanny talent for butter sculpture in an Iowa town where her adoptive family lives. The talent pits her against the ambitious wife of the reigning champion, in the annual butter sculpture competition.

Bullet To The Head — Another subtle and nuanced film written by, and starring, Sylvester Stallone. Yo! No synopsis necessary.


Ouija — Yes, based on the board game.


The Three Stooges — another Farelly brothers offering, for the Dumb and Dumber set. In watching the trailer, we note that nuns are once again being spoofed. How irreverent! Like that hasn't been done ad nauseum in movies and pop culture in general, over these past fifty years.


Though Larry David is in it, he does not appear in the trailer. One might wonder what he brings to this slap-schtick, if one were inclined to wonder about Larry David at all. We will curb our enthusiasm for this one, so to speak.


Les Miserables — Regarding the play: it opened in London in 1985…it is the longest-running musical in the world… the second-longest in the West End...third-longest running show in Broadway history. (Wikipedia). And in celebration of its 25th year in 2010, it was sent on a worldwide tour.


This then is a movie for the twelve people who didn't see the play. Or for those curious to see if a star-studded cast, including Russell Crowe, can sing?

Mirror, Mirror — No! No! And with Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen? No! No!


The Big Wedding — A heavyweight cast— DeNiro, Keaton, Sarandon, Williams—trying to pull off a lightweight premise: "A long-divorced couple fakes being married as their family unites for a wedding."


Because divorce of course, is such an aberration in that only 50% of marriages end up that way. (79% for cops, we were told recently by a divorced cop.)


4) The 100-Watt Bulb Goes Dark?


On October 1, congress will enforce the new standards requiring that light bulbs use at least 25% less energy. (This in delay as to what was supposed to happen on January 1st). In effect, what is happening, is that traditional incandescent light bulbs—which essentially use the same technology as Thomas Edison's original one—will begin to be phased out. Alas Horatio, I knew him well.



They will be superseded by those squiggly compact florescent lights (CFL's), which are highly energy efficient and now account for 25% of sales. Edison's bulb, while still dominant at 60% share of market, is said to waste energy "generating more heat than light." (Always thought that was just a cliche…a figure of speech).


The 100-Watt bulb, being particularly wasteful, will be targeted for extinction first. Which, according to a recent article in the Business section of The New York Times, is beginning to result in a hoarding and a run on these bulbs.


Imagine this scenario one day, dealing with light bulbs in some dark alley: "Pssst! Hey, you wanna score some 100-Watters? I got frosty or clear."



5) Numbers That Numb


IBM will complete a super computer some time this year, for the National Nuclear Security Administration. They will name it Sequoia and it will reach a peak performance of 20 Petaflops. Wow! Er…what's a Petaflop?


A "flop," in this context, is a floating-point operations per second which is measure of a computer's performance (Wikipedia). A Petaflop then, is the ability of a computer to do one quadrillion floating-point operations per second.


Some numbers transcend a brain's ability to wrap its lobes around them. One quadrillion? In one second? We can't help but wonder how many "flops" would there be in a nano second, which is one billionth of a second.



Warning: Do not try this calculation at home.



6) An Election Year and… Grover Cleveland?


The presidential campaign this year promises to be an ugly one. What else can you expect following a year in which Donald Trump (bad hair and all) issued a challenge to the president to prove his legitimacy via a birth certificate. Not to mention the fact that a sizable percentage of Americans still think Obama is a Muslim, along with all the inferences drawn from that, still existing in the minds of many voters. Certainly enough voters to decide an election.


The truth is, all presidential elections throughout American history, at some point turn ugly. All wind up slinging mud.


One in particular of which we have heard tell, was: "Marred by exceptional political acrimony and personal invective" (Wikipedia.)… Grover Cleveland vs. James Blaine in 1884. Corruption in politics was the central issue that year, as we came to learn upon further reading.


What makes this one "so today," is the sexual meanderings of a man in high places—in this case, Grover Cleveland. It was brought to light that he had fathered a child out of wedlock, and this sweet refrain from Blaine's supporters ensued: "Ma, Ma, where's My Pa?"


Campaign poster attacking Cleveland's morals


Cleveland immediately owned up to it, and revealed that he had been paying child support to the mother. In being so forthright, he managed to defuse the issue. (Hear that John Edwards?).


For their part, Cleveland's supporters dredged up old allegations that Blaine had corruptly influenced legislation in favor of the railroads. Which resulted in his own political cartoon and refrain: "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine…"


An anti-Blaine cartoon presents him as the "tattooed man," with many indelible scandals.


What we found far more compelling regarding Cleveland though, was not his scandal, nor how he dealt with it. Rather, some other factors regarding his election and a subsequent event to come.


For starters, he was a bachelor. In our times of "family values," can anyone imagine a bachelor being elected President of the United States? (Cleveland's sister acted as official hostess for the first couple of years during his administration.)


While in office—literally in the White House— he married a twenty one year old named Frances Folsom. At that age, she remains the youngest first lady in our history.


He was 49 at the time! Can you imagine a 49 year old president with a 21 year old wife in 2012?


"This marriage was unusual because Cleveland was the executor of his friend Oscar Folsom's estate, and had supervised Frances' upbringing after her father's death. But the public did not take exception to the match." (from Allan Nevins' 1932 Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Grover Cleveland). Shades of Woody Allen? Today's tabloids would have a field day with this.


In our supposed age of enlightenment and tolerance, and regardless of one's political affiliations, it is inconceivable that any of this would be acceptable today. The word "ugly" would be taken to a whole other level, given our 24/7 news cycle and YouTube environment.


Election day on Tuesday November 6, 2012, will no doubt have followed an ugly campaign. Much mud will have been slung by that time. But that will be nothing new. What would be new, is to have a future man or woman with an "unorthodox" personal life, running for the presidency. The obsession over Obama's birthplace or religious affiliation, would seem like child's play in comparison.







Quote of the Month


Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors,
and let each new year find you a better man


                                                   ~Benjamin Franklin






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