May 2006


Christ On Ice?

Regardless of one’s religious persuasions, or lack thereof, Jesus Christ is a figure of endless fascination and speculation. With surely more to come this month pending the release of The Da Vinci Code in movie theaters across the country on the nineteenth.

And with last month being the Eastertide, it was of no particular surprise to us to find that two new stories concerning Christ, had made the mainstream media. One of them you no doubt saw; the other— being essentially of a one-day nature— you might have missed.

The story you saw (unless you were in a coma), concerns the so called Gospel of Judas. According to this 1700 year old document, which was in a thousand fragments and took five years to reassemble and translate, Judas emerges as hero, rather than betrayer.

In handing Christ over to the authorities, he is merely doing his bidding. In a dramatic passage from the text, Jesus tells Judas:

  You will be cursed by the other generations— and you will come to rule over them.

This is akin to finding a document stating that Lee Harvey Oswald (and/or whomever?) carried out the assassination, at JFK’s specific request.

  Lee, beware of Jack Ruby packing heat.

As scholars will no doubt be debating this newly uncovered “Gospel” for decades, we’ll be back here in 2036 to address their conclusions. But for now, let’s move on to the story you might have missed.

This one particularly tickled our fancy owing to its comedic implications and the visuals conjured up in the mind’s eye. It concerns the biblical story of Christ’s walking on water.

A Professor Nof from Florida State University, writing in the April edition of the Journal of Paleolimnology (which for the uninitiated is… “a publication for the rapid dissemination of original scientific work dealing with the reconstruction of lake histories”…we swear; we’re not kidding on this), believes that in actuality, Jesus might have been walking on ice!

This professor— who takes geekiness to a whole other level—used records of the Mediterranean Sea’s surface temperatures and statistical models to examine the dynamics of the Sea of Galilee. He concludes that a drop in temperature below freezing could have caused pieces of ice to form on the surface of the water, that were thick enough to support an adult person. Therefore, distant observers unable to see “Christ on ice”, might have concluded that they were seeing him walk on water.

Our response to this— to use a common email acronym— is ROTFL!!! (which of course translates to “Rolling on the floor laughing”).

Look, believing in miracles is a matter of, well, belief. You either believe in the divinity of Christ and therefore his ability to walk on water or you don’t. Either way, of course, is fine. But to suggest on the basis of scientific extrapolation, which deals in possibility, that Christ with any degree of feasibility, could have perpetuated such an ill-conceived hoax, is truly laughable. Not even David Blaine ( would try this stunt. Think about it.

Imagine the scene: a secret boat (the “second boat theory?”), with a co-conspirator(s)…(Judas?), sneaks Jesus out there on a freezing night, and deposits him— in his sandals— upright on a floating chunk of ice. Then he/they row through the other ice floes to get out of sight and wait until the boat containing Peter and other apostles arrives on the scene. Of course, if they are out of sight, how will they know when the coast is clear (so to speak) so that they can come back undetected to retrieve him? A-a-a-a-neeeway….

So here’s Christ. Standing out there. Shivering. (If you’re trying to convince someone of your divinity, you can’t be out there all bundled up, can you?). And he’s trying to keep his balance on this moving piece of ice. Wondering, for how long. An hour maybe? Praying that what with all this frigid weather, Peter doesn’t decide to call off the planned fishing expedition for that night?

Really, how smart is this “Iceman Cometh” idea? Putting ourselves in his sandals, we’d wonder if there wasn’t an easier illusion to perform, that’s just as convincing, yet not as cold. Not to mention, one so as easy to go awry.

Suppose for example, Peter and the guys insist on taking the boat all the way out to where Jesus is standing? They see the ice under his feet. Then he’s got some ‘splainin’ to do, no?

Or worse, suppose Christ slips?

One slip… and there goes the whole religion!

We believe in science as much as the next guy. If not more so. After all, we graduated from Brooklyn Tech. And we have always been big fans of NASA and this whole water on Mars business. But this “scientific” explanation cuts no ice with us. What’s next? How about:

  “A prominent oenologist writing in this month’sWine Spectatorconcluded, that water will tend to taste like wine, to those already drunk.


*                                 *                                 *


Once there were phone booths

  with accordion doors.

And a seat and a shelf
and the Yellow Pages—
                     some listings missing
                     the ones of course most needed.

Ripped from the spine with intent and malice?
Or someone in search of the Chop Suey Palace?

A call outside from a phone-booth phone
           was a savored piece
of social exchange.
And you brought to the premises
a pocketful of change.

And you smoked while in there
the hard core kind:

Camels, Luckies,
           Chesterfields, Pall Malls
                                               “Outstanding— and…
                                               they are mild.

           And all the while
the first hand smoke.
Then second hand smoke.
Third and fourth and tenth hand smoke.
Smoke, smoke, smoke
till you looked like Jacob
         Marley’s ghost

enshrouded in translucent robes
punctuated by exhalations
of chains of perfect rings:

whooo   whooo   whooo   whooo   whooo…

You sat there smoking

           another five cents please

making time with another princess
you met last week in Queens.

She had to leave with her friend
before you could make

           Your Move.

They always travel in pairs:
one loose; one plain.
           Your call tonight caught
the former in curlers
doing her toenails
quite unawares.

Oh, to stay here on this line forever.

Lost in seduction
           blowing smoke
before unfolding
that door to adulthood
with its cancers and commitments;
it’s clothes at the cleaners—
                                         who IS

this tyrannosaurus ass
banging his claw on the tempered glass?

Go away you dinosaur! The day will soon be here
when we all will roam the earth in search
           of signals
for cellular phones

sipping spring water
from recycled plastic
           bottles as we go.

—Ron Vazzano


*                                 *                                 *


The “Reality” of Miss America

We called it.

In writing about the Miss America pageant in our Muse-Letter of November 2004 ( one of our observations went something like this:


“…more interestingly about this event from a broadcast standpoint, is that in retrospect,
it was the first “reality TV” program— a good 50 years ahead of its time!

… all the elements are there for what is making this genre so white hot today:

• Amateurs vying for their 15 minutes of fame and fortune, despite questionable
or no talent

• A moment of glory offset by all the pain and humiliation…

• And having many losers (in this case 49! Wow! Count ‘em!)… with their biggest dream in life left unfulfilled.

In fact looked at in that context, and with the right host— say The Donald or Simon Cowell— this show might still have some “legs”. (Pun…definitely intended). It might again become the mega hit it once was. Hmmmm.”

Sure enough, as reported by the Associated Press at the beginning of last month:


“The 85-year-old Miss America pageant will broadcast a reality series next year to draw viewers and let the audience choose some of the finalists.

Country Music Television will show the seven-episode ‘Finding Miss America” in the days leading up to the January 2007 pageant.”

But we lay claim to no great genius in seeing this coming. In fact, given where the culture is going, can an actual Presidential election in this manner be far behind?

 American President! A show in which literally anyone can become president as they do  their song and dance before our Electoral College, with its Dean and host— John  Stewart!”


*                                 *                                 *



Giving Poetry, Language and Thought a Bad Name

Martin Heidegger, who died 30 years ago this month, is widely regarded as one of the central figures of the existentialist movement. A darling of the intelligentsia (and Woody Allen), we remember him as being required reading, in a philosophy course we took in college over 40 years ago.

So when we ran across a book by him entitled Poetry, Thought, Language, it seemed like something that, would not only be intellectually stimulating, but perhaps of some practical use in our writing as well.


It turned out to be one of the more classical cases of hyperbole and intellectual masturbation that you will ever run across in your existential life. So why spend any time sharing this? Because it is so convoluted, that trying to figure out exactly what he is saying, makes for an interesting brain-twister type of a puzzle.

For example, here are a couple of concepts espoused by Marty, taken verbatim from the book. We invite you to try to unravel their meaning. (Note: Take all the time you need.)


Concept 1)

“What in the thing is thingly? What is the thing in itself? We shall not reach the thing in itself until our thinking has reached the thing as thing.”

Concept 2)

“Even though the work’s createdness has a relation to creation, nevertheless both createdness and creation must be defined in terms of the work-being of the work.”


ROTFL!!!! Is he kidding? Or maybe it’s us?

But we’re inclined to think that this is the sort of createdness of thinglyness, that gives human intelligence a bad name.


*                                 *                                 *


The History Boys

Giving human intelligence a good name, is The History Boys, a new play that opened on Broadway, about ten days ago.

Traveling across the Atlantic from the West End in London—where it had won the Olivier Award (the British equivalent of a Tony)— this play by Alan Bennett has received glowing reviews here in New York. One was so glowing*, as to send us to our cell phones after just a few paragraphs to order tickets.

And we were glad we did. We absolutely loved this play which is now virtually sold out for the next few months, from what we could gather on a testy “Box Office line”, when we went to pick up our tickets the next day. And in addition to financial and critical success, we expect it will garner a few Tony Awards as well.

The play deals with a theme that has been explored before, though never quite so uniquely. In essence:


Should the approach to education, be of a short term nature designed to pay off in immediate, tangible ways —such as better SAT scores and GPA’s that presumably lead to better financial rewards and a secure place within the system?


Should it be designed for long term gain in less measurable ways, that inspire individuals to seek knowledge for the love of knowledge, and in the process becoming more well-rounded human beings and out-of-the-box thinkers?

Discuss among yourselves.

The power of the play derives from :


• its being able to address this old theme in a refreshing way (one gay student sings a hypnotic rendition of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered during a scene change…though this is not a musical!)…

• with a generous supply of “edgy” humor (another student defines history as “Just one f------ thing after another”) …

• and enacted by an ensemble whose performance we found flawless





*                                 *                                 *



Web Design by Computaid
Copyright © 2004-2007