9/11 at Ten
Incredibly enough, it is now ten years since the bombing of
the World Trade Center. (And let us not forget, the Pentagon).
Once again, it seems as if time has taken flight. And as would
be expected, there will be many tributes and memorials regarding
that tragedy. cityArts (a cultural
newspaper based in Manhattan) lists eleven such events. (www.cityartsnyc.com)
We think one of the more interesting and unusual being Heart
of a Soldier, which is premiering on September 10th as
part of the San Francisco Opera's 2011-2012 season. As reported
by the newspaper:
the story of Rick Rescoria, one of the most inspiring—and
harrowing — tales to come out of 9/11. As head of
security for a brokerage firm based in the World Trade
Center, he led all 2,700 people under his care to safety
before going back in, never to come out again."
story is both dramatic and larger-than-life, particularly
in one respect that lends itself well to opera: Rescoria
actually sang his colleagues down the stairs and out of
the burning building."
And of course we all will have our own stories
of where we were and what we were doing on that day. And for
some, the story will be all too painfully personal, as they
will be remembering the loved ones that they lost.
In the aftermath, upon seeing what remained
of the buildings, and noting how we all seemed united again
for the first time in a long time, our reaction was to write
this poem. We reprise it here from our first book of poetry,
Shots from a Passing Car.
The Third World War
In the beginning
there was the end:
The Colossus of Rhodes
had once again been toppled
Though this time not while
protecting a harbor.
We still had the Lady up to that task.
This time the stumps of
those muscular legs remained
from the fire fueled by contempt in the form
of crashing planes
where no flowers in the fields of mythology
too far off the main road
of concrete, iron, glass and steel;
blood and mangled human form.
Then ensuing goodbyes
via cellular phones.
And death came dressed in foreign clothes.
He looked like the man at the falafel stand
near 666 at 5th
he did not bother
with the good form of knocking
and other such gestures in dignity.
And so that this time
the whole planet Earth itself was shaken.
It said as much in its cluster of candles
that encircled its girth
in flickering flame.
Again, all seen live
through the eyes of technology.
And in the end
there was the beginning:
the prodigal sons and daughters returning
from their bell-bottomed days
to their Mother Country
to the Founding Fathers
to Flag and family dog
now dry-nosed and dying
in the corner.
A Wave of Flags Reprise
In a further tribute to 9/11,
we offer a reprise of a three minute video we put together
of what we experienced in Malibu on September 11, 2009. Imagine
3,000 large flags, in perfect array across across the broad
expanse of the Pepperdine campus, each in honor of a victim—who
while mostly American of course— included some 300 people
from 90 countries. Domenica
Press on Vimeo.
What are The McCartneys Doing in a
Place Like This?
A ballet entitled Ocean's Kingdom will have a world
premiere this month (the 22nd) at the New York City Ballet,
and will run for only an additional four performances in September.
We came upon this bit of news, via a 2011-2012 season program
we received in the mail.
How we came to be on this mailing list is
a mystery. The only ballet we can attest to having attended
with certainty, was the de rigueur Nutcracker Suite,
in the ghostly memory of a Christmas past. (It comes along
with being a parent). Although we do have images of Odette
transforming into a swan in that lake, which we either saw
live, or on the Ed Sullivan Show following Señor Wences
talking to his hand. We can't quite recall. Yet ironically,
we are planning to see The Merry Widow ballet, which
is an adaptation of Franz Lehar's romantic operetta, this
month at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. (Yes, they do stuff
like this in Tulsa…and no, we never expected to be there
A thumbnail for the libretto
of Ocean's Kingdom, reads: "a romance between
lovers from conflicting kingdoms." Boy, there's a unique
angle. (Romeo and Juliet? West Side Story? Disney's
Pocahontas? The marriage of Schwarzenegger and Shriver?
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.). Ah, but Sir Paul McCartney
was commissioned to compose the score. And his daughter Stella,
was tabbed to design the costumes. Now that's a story
Paul ("the cute Beatle"), is actually
no stranger to high brow artistic endeavors. While we had
been familiar with an album of classical music he had done
many years ago, Working Classical (in 1999 with the
London Symphony Orchestra), we were surprised to learn that
that was only one of four. His first effort was Paul McCartney's
Liverpool Oratorio as early as 1991, followed by Standing
Stone (1997) and his most recent coming in 2006, Ecce
Cor Meum (Behold My Heart). Who knew? And while this
will the first time Paul has composed for dance, we now get
it. But Stella?
From what we would gather here and there,
Stella McCartney's modus operandi is creating fashions that
are trendy, cutting edge, and appealing to decidedly "Gen
Y" women. Though her boutique on Beverly Boulevard in
LA, always reminded us of something out of a fairy tale. One
expected Snow White to arrive at the door any moment.
Though every time we'd pass by, in addition
to Snow White's knock, we'd hear the voice of Brando crying
out in our head: Hey, Stell - Laaahhhhh!
She is after all the daughter of Paul. So
the presumption initially, was that she was probably riding
on the coattails (pun intended) of the family name. We were
not alone in this. We have come to read that the critics were
initially skeptical as well. But in time, the naysayers came
around. And Stella McCartney, as her own brand name, has been
in the process of building a small empire. She now operates
fifteen free standing stores around the world. As an aside,
we understand the Meat Packing District in New York, but a
store in Beirut?
Beyond commercial success, she
has won fashion awards too numerous to mention. Though the
one in particular that stands out for her, and was quite emotional,
was the VH1/Vogue Designer of the Year award in 2000.
It was presented by her father who had flown out from New
York especially for the ceremony.
And now father and daughter stand poised to
take on ballet.
It is a recurring theme for us: the reinvention
of oneself; the leaving of that "comfort zone" for
new challenges and opportunities. And that is what the McCartneys
are doing in this place. And that is why we will be there.
Duchamp Meets Magritte
Across a Coffee Table… or Not?
In the perpetuity of proverbial "age
old questions," we have always found one of the more
compelling ones to be: What is art? (And conversely…what
We touched on this question
a bit upon seeing the fabulous play Red on Broadway
last year, based on the murals Mark Rothko was commissioned
to paint for the Seagram Building in 1958. (Seeing
2010 MUSE-LETTER). Another Broadway play that we saw in
'98 entitled Art, starring Alan
Alda, went directly to this point with some comedic yet telling
"… Serge, indulging his penchant for modern
art, buys a large, expensive, completely white painting.
Marc, his close friend, is horrified, and their relationship
suffers considerable strain as a result of their differing
opinions about what constitutes 'art'." (source:
That's how maddening at times this question
can be. Which leads us to Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). Duchamp
by design, crossed the line—no actually erased the line—whereby
everything is art if you perceive it to be. To quote from
the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
striking, iconoclastic gesture, the 'readymade', is arguably
the century's most influential development on artists'
"With Bicycle Wheel (1913), the first readymade…
he wanted to distance himself from traditional modes of
painting in an effort to emphasize the conceptual value
of a work of art…"
"Bicycle Wheel consisted of using mundane, mass-produced,
everyday objects. Which is precisely why Duchamp chose
At least this took some construction in the
bolting of a bicycle wheel to a simple stool. Later works
would consist in presenting "readymades" exactly
as he had found them. These included a snow shovel, a bottle
rack and the infamous urinal which he christened Fountain,
as shown below in this photograph taken by the legendary photographer
Alfred Stieglitz in 1917.
All together now: "Ain't that a pisser!"
While Duchamp is associated with the surrealist
movement, a real surrealist, so to speak, was Rene Magritte
(1898-1967). His paintings are known for their thought provoking
images, while at the same time showing a great sense of wit
and whimsy. ("LA County Museum of Art Rolls
Out the Carpet for Magritte" FEBRUARY,
Like Duchamp, his work "frequently displays
a juxtaposition of ordinary objects in an unusual context"
(Wikipedia). But unlike Duchamp, he will use objects
in a representational way as other than what they appear to
be. Never is this more in evidence than in his The Treachery
of Images, in which beneath his painting of a pipe, he
declares: "Ceci n'est pas use pipe." ("This
is not a pipe").
The point being, that while this seems like
a contradiction, it is in fact true. This is not a pipe...but
a painting of a pipe; a representation of a pipe.
With a "marriage" of Duchamp and
Magritte in mind, it inspired us to solve the problem of what
to do when the delivery date for a coffee table we ordered,
was pushed back a few weeks. Meaning, horrors, that it would
not arrive in time for a big party we were to throw this past
June. Buying three cheap serving tables ($9.95 apiece at BED,
BATH & BEYOND), we produced the following (the spacing
Absent the Duchamp/Magritte inspired whimsy,
our guests might have thought that we were either too cheap
to buy a real coffee table, or were making some sort of statement
in decor—and a bad one at that. And of course, God forbid
one's tastes should ever be questioned.
The intent was to discard
them after the party when the real coffee table was finally
delivered. But our daughter requested the tops of these tables,
as she sees them as panels—a triptych of sorts—
to be hung on a wall in her house. (God bless her). Which
is a long roundabout way of coming back to the question...
what is art?
While we make no claims that our "coffee
table" epitomizes this definition, it seems for us to
be something along the lines of… a good concept
Quote of the Month
Know something about something. Don't
just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly
amass knowledge and offer it around.
We like to think that this maxim, for want
of a better word, is at the core as to "the why"
of these Muse-Letters.
Yes Virginia, There is a "Stanza
Starting as far back as 1937, in appointing
a "Poet Laureate of the United States," a clause
was written that more or less states, that said Poet Laureate:
be charged with working to raise the nation's appreciation
of poetry during his or her term. Currently, that term has
been of only one year duration beginning in October.
In case you missed it last
month, on the day the Dow was in a free fall (speaking of
metaphors) dropping 520 points, the appointment of Philip
Levine as Poet Laureate was announced. Mr. Levine, now the
47th poet to be named to the post, is said to be the "voice
of the working man." As The New York Times piece noted:
"He built transmissions
for Cadillac, worked in the Chevrolet gear and the axles
factory, drove a truck for Railway Express. His early poems
were gritty, hard-nosed evocations of the lives of working
people and their neighborhoods."
As the article went on to
provide a sampling of his lines from a poem entitled “He
Would Never Use One Word Where None Would Do,” we could
not help but note a similarity in a sentiment we had expressed
in a poem we had recently written, "Touching." Not
to suggest that we are on a par with a Poet Laureate, but
here are the specific stanzas that refer to that which is
better left unsaid:
is, silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass
fighting through the concrete for even air
dirtied by our endless stream of words
Poet Laureate of the United States
In the speaking
before the mind has had the chance
to assess the worth of a thought,
words can spill out like pennies.
“I love you” comes to all of
The tongue that is held
can go to a deeper place.
Un-laureled of the Avenue of the Americas
We wish Philip Levine—a 1995 Pulitzer
Prize winner—good luck as he goes about his stated goals
of a) bringing poetry to people who have no idea of its relevancy
in their lives, and b) bringing some lesser known poets into
the limelight. They are what we would call "soft goals."
For one thing, Levine has no pretensions about himself. He
was shocked to learn he had been appointed to the post in
the first place. But also, as we have noted before on these
pages, poetry only seems to come to the forefront when some
inexplicable disaster has occurred. So expect no sea of change
in the way poetry is viewed. In the world of poets, but a
trickle would suffice.