November 2004

The Curse

Even the most uninitiated about the so called “game” of baseball, must know by now, that the Red Sox have finally overcome “The Curse”, by virtue of winning their first World Series since 1918. What exactly is the curse? And who gives a base on balls?

Well, see, the Boston Red Sox won four World Series in the eight years Babe Ruth played on the team (1912-1919). Then they sold him to the New York Yankees for $125,000 and a $300,000 loan because as legend has it, Boston's owner Harry Frazee needed the cash to invest in a new play on Broadway (“No, No Nanette.”). Since that transaction, Boston's inability to win a single World Series Title has been attributed to "The Curse of the Bambino."

And since that time, conversely, the New York Yankees— who had been a bad team up to that point having never won any title of any kind— proceeded over the course of the next 86 years, to win 26 World Series Titles.

Finally in 2004, to make an 86 year story short, Boston vaulted over their much despised rivals last month— in an almost miracle turn of events— and went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals, to win the grand prize, and end this so called curse.

How did we, being the die-hardest of Yankee fans take this? Think in terms of the death scene from Pagliacci and you may come close. Oh, do we care. But even in our greatest moment of despair, we did manage to scribble out this poem:

The Graveyard Shift

I thought I’d be gone before this curse—
     this curse, this curse
this Ruthian Curse
would ever run its course.

The rattling bones in Red Sox caps
now dance on the grave of the pre-ordained.
Soon women will become Catholic priests.

The exorcisms when they come are worse
than pea soup projectile—
     regroup, regroup
we need to regroup.
Go back to the Old Testament in search of clues;
there must be a way this ties back to the Jews.

Our closer, no Christ, couldn’t save our souls
our theology ruined by the Designated Hitter
and the tendency to swing for the fences.
Then flailing and failing at that—
     no plan, no plan
our defenses down as if in Iraq.

These rattling bones in Red Sox caps
do their dance in a ghoulish glee
in a graveyard under a sky of slate
bespotted by leafless lifeless trees.

The day is gone—
     the night has come;
they celebrate right in our faces
the death of immortality.

                    —  Ron Vazzano

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Biggest Breakthrough Since “The Talkies”?

If you have had young children, or have had the opportunity to spend any time around them in the past 20 years (you lucky devil), you are probably familiar with The Polar Express. It has become a classic in the genre of “Christmas-tales-to-warm-the-heart.” But it is the spectacular, fully-dimensioned illustrations of its author Chris Van Allsburg, which truly transport this rather simple story. (Was there ever a Christmas story that was complex?).

There has been The Polar Express book…tape… interactive CD…and now on November 10th (“coming to a theater near you”)— the movie!

Kids or no kids, and sight unseen, (we write this piece on Halloween), we believe that this is a “must-see” event of cinematography. Here’s why.

To quote a few fascinating lines from a recent piece in The New York Times:


“…a film that brings a true human presence into a virtual world by digitizing flesh-and-blood actors as well as the environments they inhabit. In the process it does away with many of the most basic elements of filmmaking: there are no expensive sets to be built, no elaborate lighting to be rigged, no bulky camera to be painstakingly hauled into place. In fact there is no film.”

Tom Hanks plays five roles ranging from a 7-year old boy to Santa Claus. Not all these characters look like Mr. Hanks, but they all contain the spark of his individuality.”

“…several dozen infrared sensors, which could pick up and digitally record the light bounced back by dozens of small reflectors on Mr. Hanks’s black bodysuit, as well as by the 150 smaller reflectors attached to his facial muscles.”

With no set and no costumes and no camera really, this will call for future actors to be exceptionally skilled. To quote Tom Hanks:


“I have to remember to touch the brim of a hat that isn’t there.”

It is taking a world of “make believable” to another place even more unbelievable.


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MoMA Mia!

On November 20th, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, reopens after undergoing a renovation of three years duration. During this time, it has taken up temporary residency in Queens, one of the four stepchild boroughs to the favorite son, Manhattan.

Founded in 1929, it moved into its current quarters on 11 West 53rd St. in 1939. We were there on January 25, 1967 for the first time on a first date, and had the awe-inspiring experience to witness Picasso’s Guernica (“I behaved like a schoolboy in church.”). It has long since moved back to its home in Spain. And only God knows where that date is today.

MoMA underwent a major renovation at this site in 1984, and reopened on May 17th of that year. And once again we were there. We had at the time, a few observations including:


“Usually, the proper face to wear to a museum is ‘pensive’. Today the multitudes were all smiles. It was literally fun to rediscover old friends, hanging perhaps in different spots, but nevertheless there. Not unlike arriving home to find the furniture moved, with surprisingly tasteful results, transcending the comfort of the old configuration.”

“…a Pollack fascinates, despite the fact that in theory, anyone can drip paint across a canvas. But not anyone can be so ‘lucky’ so that all these drippings land in the right place.”

In its new iteration of 630,000 square feet, the museum has nearly twice the capacity of the former facility. We will be personally checking it out this coming December.

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The Games People Play

In the year end current issue of Games magazine (yes, there is such a thing), they re-list the Games Hall of Fame which was created in 1984 “to honor games that have met or exceeded the highest standards of quality and play value and have been continuously in production for at least 10 years; i.e., classics.”

Here they are in alphabetical order…23 in all:

Axis and Allies
Dungeons & Dragons

Magic: The Gathering
Mille Bornes
Trivial Pursuit


It raised three questions for us, which we pass on to you:

1) How many of these have you played?
2) When was the last time?
3) Why have you since stopped playing?


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“Here she was…Miss America”

With the announcement of ABC Network TV dropping Miss America from its schedule, this piece of Americana has been left without a network for the first time since its first televised pageant 50 years ago. The reason given was that all too familiar death sentence: bad ratings.

And we couldn’t help recall that we had in fact, just recently, witnessed Miss America of 1959, Mary Ann Mobley leaving a restaurant here in LA with her husband, actor Gary Collins. That we would remember her name, the year she was crowned and still more or less have a sense of what she looked like, speaks to what a seminal event this was once upon a time in America; the impact it had on its culture.

Miss America was pronounced as being “your ideal”— a euphemism if ever there was one— for white, young, pretty and above all, virginal.

But perhaps more interestingly about this event from a broadcasting standpoint, is that in retrospect, it was the first “reality TV” program— a good 50 years ahead of it’s time! (Ok maybe “Queen For A Day” was first, by why quibble?).

If you think about it, 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 of those passing judgment on you on such important matters as say, how you look in a swimsuit.
  • and having many losers (in this case 49! Wow! Count ‘em!) going back to their home states 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). In might again become the mega hit it once was. Hmmmm.


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