March 2005


Valentine’s Day: A Perspective in Proportion

Family circumstances kept us apart from our betrothed this past Valentine’s Day. And just as we were about to lament the missing of this “special day”, with its price-gouging menus at over-booked restaurants, a simple ratio— one perhaps inspired by the SAT’s our son is about to take— popped into our heads:


  Valentine’s Day               is to              Love


   New Year’s Eve            is to            Happiness



We were fine.

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The Gates: Up Close And Personal

In our December Muse-Letter, we mentioned that we would be making a pilgrimage to New York to check out The Gates for ourselves, before rendering an opinion as to whether this indeed, is or is not art. No doubt you have been holding your breath in anticipation of our findings.

Having now returned from this once in a lifetime experience, we more or less have been rendered mute. Our conclusion is that The Gates must speak for itself.

But before offering you a sampling of snapshots we took from a disposable camera (and how apropos given the disposable nature of this exhibit….it was only up for 16 days!) we offer a couple of interesting yet disparate observations. Taken from the current issue of The New Yorker, they seem on the mark:

“It feels vaguely religious.”

“Those who deplore ‘The Gates’ as ugly aren’t wrong, just poor sports.”

And now, without further adieu, we bring you but a few of the many shots we took of The Gates!

Well? Whaddaya think?


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Death of a “Tales” Man

With the passing of Arthur Miller last month, arguably, the last of America’s three greatest playwrights is gone. (Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill being the other two).

Yet unlike the other two, he lived a very long life—free of alcoholism and other addictions— and was active to the very end. His last play at age 89, Finishing the Picture, was produced last fall at the Goodman Theater in Chicago (see Muse-Letter October 2004).

While being a conveyor of “the big message”, Miller was fundamentally a populist playwright from Brooklyn, telling tales to which the literati and the man-on-the-street could equally relate. Essentially his main theme was one of “Everyman”, whose life had somehow—despite best of intentions— gone awry; whose dream had fallen apart at the seams. Most notable of course, was Death of a Salesman, with its iconic figure of Willy Loman, forever etched in our collective psyche.

Though at times, it seems as if that play has come from out of some Stone Age; an age when a “Serious Broadway Play” was not an oxymoron. A “once upon a time”, when the economics of Broadway was such that a story could be told minus music and dancing; the absence of glitz, special effects and Andrew Lloyd Weber.

For example, in post-war America during that five year period of 1946-50, the Broadway stage was ablaze with the likes of such classic drama as…:

All My Sons (Arthur Miller)
The Iceman Cometh (Eugene O’Neill)
Another Part of the Forest (Lillian Hellman)
A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams)
Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller)
Anne of the Thousand Days (Maxwell Anderson)
The Cocktail Party (T.S. Eliot…yes he wrote plays too)
The Member of the Wedding (Carson McCullers)
Come Back Little Sheba (William Inge)

… to name a few.

In fact one might suggest, that despite his passing, Arthur Miller is not the one who is dead. It is Broadway. Or at least the Broadway to which he gave so much life.

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Beware of the Nones of March!

Say what?

Well, we are all aware of the significance of the Ides of March. Ya know, the 15th of this month, when Julius Caesar got whacked. Although, as to what exactly “Ides” are anyway, has always been something that has escaped us. This year we decided to get to the bottom of this, once and for all! We’ll spare you the research and try to simplify our findings.

Seems “Ides” is a term that comes from the Roman calendar which was devised by someone(s) who had a love for complexity. According to a piece by Borgna Brunner (editor of Time Almanac books):

 “ The Roman calendar organized its months around three days, each of which served as a reference point for counting the other days:

      Kalends (1st day of the month)
      Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July and October; the 5th in the other months)
      Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July and October; the 13th in the other months)

The remaining, unnamed days of the month were identified by counting backwards from the Kalends, Nones, or Ides. For example March 3 would be V Nones— 5 days before Nones (the Roman method of counting days was inclusive; in other words, the Nones would be counted as one of the days).”


Cockamamie as it all sounds, we couldn’t resist re-figuring? re-naming? re-terming? our birthday of August 20th. In Roman times, that would have been said to have been XIII Kalends (i.e. the 1st of September minus 13 days, with September 1st inclusive).

This convoluted method of date keeping, also suggests still one more reason, for the fall of the Roman Empire.


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Finally Catching Up With “The Code”

And speaking of convoluted, we finally read The Da Vinci Code last month. We caved in and figured that any book that has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 100 weeks, deserved our attention. In fact to continue to ignore it, might have seemed downright snooty of us. Having now read it, our first thought was to imagine ourselves pitching it to a movie studio for their consideration.

Gentlemen. Think… Indiana Jones Meets The New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle.

And in fact, it will of course be a movie (to be released in 2006). And in fact, of course, it will star Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, the hero.

As a piece of literature, it leaves much to be desired. Like, well, literature… for example. And as a whodunit, it is totally lacking in even a smidgeon of subtlety. But what it does have, is an intriguing premise that deals with the question of: just how close were Jesus and Mary Magdalen (upon whom we had formerly expressed some thoughts; Muse-Letter October 2004) when all is said and done? Which could conceivably become an explosive issue when the movie is released depending upon how closely it keeps to the book.

It’s one thing to see something written on a page. It’s another to hear Tom Hanks saying it aloud. Never underestimate the power of a movie in today’s culture, to hit a nerve within the body politic. (Fahrenheit 9/11 or The Passion of the Christ anyone?). Conversely, ALWAYS underestimate the power of a book to do so. Even one on a best seller list for 100 weeks.

So to encapsulate our “book review”: As a book, it will make an interesting movie.


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Questions and comments always welcomed. We’ll see you next Kalends!


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