If You Build It They Will
Come: Apple, The Store
What hath Steve Jobs wrought? Answer: a business model that
has evolved into a religion. One now sporting over 300 “churches”
throughout the world, disguised as stores. The first of which
having only opened its doors ten years ago this coming May
15th, in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. These have become
places where those might come to pray at the Altar of All
Initially of course, it was about the product
itself. And one might trace that birth, for all intents and
purposes, to January 22, 1984 when the “1984”
commercial aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII.
It is now considered to be a defining moment, not only for
Apple, but for the advertising industry as well.
By general consensus, it is one of the most successful and
memorable TV commercials of all time.
But who knew? Who knew that one day, we’d
get from there to here: a place open 24/7/365, at which we
would find our self one night at 2 AM? And our prayer? That
one of the geeks behind the “Genius Bar,” could
get our outdated MacBook up to speed. The poor “machine”
had become so old in the eon of the three years that we have
owned it, that it could no longer operate on its own steam
without the help of some precious new software. An upgrade
that would enable it (hopefully) to interface with a whole
new generation of wireless printers. A generation born, apparently,
while we were sleeping.
But tonight we are awake. And we have arrived via a tubular
elevator —so much of an illusion itself, that we bumped
our head on its door which at first appeared to be open, but
alas, wasn’t. (And no we had not been drinking). Slightly
shaken, we stepped off onto the floor beneath that magnificent
32-foot cube, a beacon in the night, beckoning other lost
souls such as we.
One automaton who works at this place, told
us that it was the third most visited tourist attraction behind
the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. That
seemed a little far fetched. But would an automaton lie? And
according to Flickr (the image and video
hosting website) it is indeed the fifth-most photographed
place in the city.
And then, MacDailyNews (a house organ), toots its
own horn in proclaiming its lofty place within the rankings
of the top New York City landmarks:
1) Empire State Building
2) Times Square
3) Rockefeller Center
4) Grand Central Station
5) Apple Store – Fifth Avenue
6) Columbus Circle
7) Liberty Island
Hype? Maybe. But totally believable if one
is there during daytime hours to witness the endless stream
of those descending the floating spiral staircase. They are
like ants in a frenzy at an abandoned picnic.
But we are now here in the wee hours, attempting to avoid
that very insanity. And still there are about 100 people in
the store. And as we wait our turn (even with an appointment)
we note that one man has fallen asleep at the “Genius
Bar.” (Drunk on too many applications?). And after about
two hours—in which we will spare all of the agonizing
details as to why it would take so long to fix the problem—we
emerged from down below at 2:15 AM. Though weary, now starving.
And there at street level was a vendor selling food! We wondered
at his business model, as chomping on a humongous pretzel,
we made our way happily home.
Bach to the Future
Speaking of churches, on Palm Sunday in St.
Patrick’s Cathedral, we began singing a hymn that we
knew well from our youth entitled, “O Sacred Head Surrounded".
According to Wikipedia:
“Johann Sebastian Bach arranged its
melody and used five stanzas of the hymn in his St.
Bach was putting music to a poem that has
been attributed to a couple of poets who proceeded him by
500-600 years. Gotta’ be the longest interval in a creative
collaboration in history. But instead
of singing that first stanza which goes something like this—depending
on which version is sung—Christian or specifically Catholic…
O sacred head, surrounded
by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!
…rather gruesome lyrics we realize,
(but whoever said Catholicism was fun?) instead we found our
We come on the ship they call
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
Great lyrics; wrong venue. For those lines
are from Paul Simon’s song, An American Tune.
And it has bugged us for a few decades now whenever we have
chanced to hear that song (which first appeared on the 1973
released album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon) that
it seemed like out and out pilferage! Can one be said to plagiarize
a tune? Or is there another word for this sort of thing? Well
according to Wikipedia there is, and it’s called
“Cryptomnesia.” Although, we couldn’t find
it in our Webster’s Universal Encyclopedic Dictionary,
which is about the size of a coffee table.
In essence, crytomnesia, means “subconsciously
copying,” and not deliberate theft. It is rather like
experiencing a memory as if it were a new inspiration. (Are
people who do this compulsively, therefore called cryptonesiacs?
And is there any medication for it?)
This all came to the forefront in the George
Harrison/My Sweet Lord case (1971), in which he was
found to have subconsciously copied the earlier Chiffons hit,
He’s So Fine. In losing the case, George had
to give up the majority of the royalties from "My Sweet
Lord" and partial royalties from All Things Must
Pass, the album in which the song appeared. This setback
no doubt reduced him to being just a mere billionaire. But
back to Bach.
Is Paul Simon, now age 70 (if can you believe
that) ever going to fess up to this? He never acknowledged
Bach in his album. In fact, to the contrary. In the liner
notes within, it somewhat disingenuously states: “All
songs composed by Paul Simon.”
This is not to suggest that he is not a giant
in his own right (though all of 5’ 3”). And in
all fairness, the bridge of his own construction in this song,
And I dreamed I was dying
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
And I dreamed I was flying.
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying.
If you haven’t heard it in a while,
it is worth another listen. Some feel it now has a particular
poignancy since 9/11, and the current mood of the day. It
truly is a beautiful piece of poetry put to a classical piece
of music. Uplifting and “lifted,” so to speak,
at the same time. Here is Paul singing it in 1975. Forgive
the bad haircut.
Calling an Audible on a Poem
We were about to go with a poem this month
entitled Too Much of Poetry. But as we approached
the line of scrimmage and we learned that Phoebe Snow had
died, we “called an audible.” (And to those who
are not football fans, forgive the metaphors. Google
it and get over it).
Her signature hit, Poetry Man, appeared
in ’74 on her eponymous first album, Phoebe Snow.
And we would use the refrain from that song as an inspiration
and an epigraph, for a poem we would come to write some three
decades later. And we, an erstwhile poetry man, would make
things all rhyme in an A-B-C/A-B-C scheme.
Though the poem itself is a tribute to poets
and what they dedicate their lives to trying to do, and not
about Phoebe Snow per se, we’d still like to dedicate
it to her on her passing (1950-2011).
The Poetry Man
You’re the poetry
You make things all rhyme.
The face no longer angular
nearly so clearly defined—
jaw once jutted now fading
in a world shaped more triangular—
no longer sign on the dotted line.
as Johnny Appleseed.
in lieu of apples—planting poems
a forest of hands:
from the elite to the common breed
upon leaving their homes
come by chance
to meet me at locations far from prime.
Call me a man with a mission,
aging, continuing at a pace
bent on a legacy of reason and rhyme;
to restore what is lost through attrition
wisdom and a sense of grace.
Fidel’s New Duds
In a parenthetical remark in last month’s Muse-Letter,
we noted that Fidel Castro’s battle fatigues, at his
age, were starting to look like pajamas. Perhaps it was a
cheap shot. But hardly as cheap as his shot that allowed the
Russians to aim their missiles at the U.S. from a base in
Cuba—a mere 90 miles away from Florida. A breach better
known as, The Cuban Missile Crisis.
And as we watched JFK addressing the nation
that night, we wondered what was to become of us all. But
more importantly, would there be school the next day? Unbelievable
as it is, next year will mark the 50th anniversary of that
moment. It is one forever frozen, in the minds of those of
us of a certain age.
But we were discussing Castro’s new
fashion statement, not his old reckless youth. And in so doing,
we wonder if he read last month’s Muse-Letter.
Because, gone is the signature “combat green”
replaced by a blue, Fila, “lifestyle”
jacket. And the irony here is that Fila is one of
the world’s largest sportswear companies, with offices
in 11 countries worldwide. Capitalism, si…Communism,
no. And that they are headquartered in Seoul, South
Korea, a country which has evolved into a very successful
But all political and ideological ironies
aside, he still looks…well…like an old man in
bad clothes. For one thing Fidel, lose the plaid shirt underneath!
For another, is this the way you come dressed to a Communist
Party Congress last month? One in which you hand over the
reins to your brother Raul? Like you just wandered in from
a morning walk? In some semi state of delirium no less?
Can you imagine Nixon dressed this way on
the day he resigned, and turned the reins over to Gerald Ford?
Yet there he sits; pushing 85, and pushing it hard, and having
been around through 11 U.S. presidencies since he first took
power. So very long in fact, that it is hard to remember now,
that he wasn’t always the bad guy in the black hat.
That he once was the darling new kid on the block.
In his excellent book published a couple of years ago, 1959:
The Year Everything Changed, Fred Kaplan notes
that the United States became “the second country, after
Venezuela, to recognize the revolutionary regime.” He
then offers some further interesting and engaging passages,
regarding America’s initial embracement of Castro:
Christian Herter, who was acting secretary
of state while John Foster Dulles lay in a hospital dying
of cancer… hosted a champagne-and–steak lunch
for Castro and his entourage—most of them security
guards decked out, like their boss, in green fatigues
and long beards.
In New York, he (Castro) lunched
with Wall Street bankers, fed a Bengal tiger at the Bronx
Zoo, and spoke before 30,000 people at a nighttime rally
in Central Park.
If there is a moral here, it might be along
the lines of that old saw derived from Matthew 7:15:
beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Especially
those who speak… in the Sheep Meadow.
She’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact,
she’s really a spoon.
* Not to be confused with the film director
of the newly released, Water for Elephants, who goes by the