Eek! E-Books Have Reached The Tipping Point
In Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling book The
Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
(pub. 2000), he defined “tipping point” as essentially,
“the level at which the momentum for change becomes
unstoppable.” It appears that the e-book (or is it eBook?
or EBook? spellings seem to abound) has now reached such a
It really came home to us a few weeks ago returning from
a trip out of town, whereupon entering the local Barnes
& Noble, we were confronted by a new humongous display
hawking their Nook, if you will.
This in obvious response to Amazon’s Kindle,
in this new cold war of e-book platforms.
This preemptive booth, positioned just inside the front door,
was “personed” by a young woman whose face was
positively bursting with glee, over all the wondrous things
this handy little gizmo could do. And then she seemed to go
almost orgasmic, upon revealing just how well it had been
selling. Then almost on cue that very Sunday, The New
York Times Magazine did an article on how with the introduction
of the iPad’s “iBook,”
the whole industry for electronic books is about to explode.
It’s not nice to challenge Steve Jobs!
So here are our options. We can: a) embrace this change,
b) ignore this change c) lament this change.
Being the semi-Luddites that we are, not to mention a proclivity
towards seeing the glass, not only as half-empty, but having
a crack in it as well— we opted for the last choice.
And in so doing, bemoan the fact that the book as we have
known it, will one day become a curious antiquated notion—
all but extinct. We say this with a definitiveness, born of
the scientific knowledge that the sun will not burn out for
another 4.5 billion years. That is to say, unimaginable things
We suspect that somewhere along that continuum, not only
will books have gone the way of the telephone booth, but in
a world far less tactile, so too conceivably, will anatomical
features such as fingers, or say, a nose. So let us now spend
a quiet moment in praise of the world of books that we have
known…touched…smelt. In no particular order, but
with equalized regret, we will miss…
the aroma of a brand new book, suggesting at times that
of wet clay…at other times, fresh paint…or
some other intoxicating chemical… the musky smell
of a used bookstore… so singular as to defy any
other earthly comparisons… browsing through any
book store…old…new…college… the
feel of a book in the hand… its heft… the
canvassed texture of a matte finish… the waxed-floor
surface of high gloss … the richness of gold leaf…
the animalism of a leather binding… the “dog-eared”
reminder of where we left off…or slipping in a cool
book mark… that ribbon to mark a special place measuring
our progress through a riveting work… not only by
section, but by sight and feel; how much remains until
the end… holding a book that has aged along with
us through life’s journey (Selected Poems of Robert
Frost; Rhinehart Edition 1963; $1.45)…the yellowing
of a page…making marginal notes with a pen forever
etching a point of view for future sets of unknown eyes
… the original Barnes & Noble store on 18th
and 5th in New York City… a recent return to that
bricks and mortar decades later…
to book signings… stacks and shelves of books in
the home to proudly remind us of where we have been …
indeed, books as furniture …stealing glances at
that “furniture” of others, to see where tastes
might intercept…scanning the spines for authors
and titles… the noise a spine makes in a new book
cracked open, for the very first time… the feel
of a turning page on the thumb… that breeze we create
when we fan through many pages … the sound of one
page turning in a library filled with silence …
a quick scan of back cover blurbs for clues…the
ever so slight indentation the ink makes on the page…the
feeling of reaching that last page in conquering a classic
… finding a book just lying around… books
at a garage sale… giving books to Goodwill and other
charities…lending out a book… not getting
it back… and never stop talking about it (“The
Portable Nietzsche”; The Viking Press 1969) …getting
a book as a gift and never getting over it (“The
Saint Andrew Daily Missal” 1960)…the crispness
of a perfect binding, that holds it all together.
If a Tree Falls in Forest Hills
for John Aldore
If four men reconvene after thirty years
And tell tales in a pub of a fifth one missing—
Despite all the Googling and sending up of flares—
Is he like that tree falling when no one is listening?
Soundless and assumed to still be standing?
Still working the seasons despite the mounting rings?
Yet no older than they who are now here glad-handing,
Wondering at his whereabouts and dry high jinks.
A Nam vet whose way with dogs was uncanny;
A handsome guy with an “aw shucks” grin
Even when the ponies were eating up his money.
I don't think keeping in contact with him
Would’ve made a difference. And I can’t feel
Should have stopped the search —one email said,
Hearing twenty-five year news of a fallen tree.
How he’d hung himself to “Loser,” by The
Sossi and Schreiber: 80 Years on a
One has been plying his art and trade on the Westside of Los
Angeles for the past 40 years. The other, has been doing likewise
in the heart of New York City for that same span of time.
If you do the math, that’s 80 years combined in the
art of professional theater, and in the trade of training
Meet the Artistic Directors of Odyssey Theater in
LA, and the T.Schreiber Studio in New York.
One cannot underestimate how extraordinary they have been
at what they do. For starters, the economics of running a
small theater is constrained by Actors Equity union rules
regarding audience size, and run of a play. A small theater
in effect, cannot exceed 99 seats, nor run more than 4 or
5 performances a week over a couple of months, lest it pay
union scale, which would then be unaffordable. And then, the
revenues that Terry and Ron derive from the acting classes
at their studios, are hardly enough to cover the cost of their
professional theatrical productions. In fact, Ron has stopped
teaching these last few years. It might be said, to quote
that famous line from A Streetcar Named Desire, Ron
and Terry “…have always depended on the kindness
Further, both men are driven by an artistic vision and sensibility,
that aspires to a higher theatrical ground. Translation: what
they do is not commercial. Ron sums it up best:
“…though it’s certainly a little
disheartening to be a non-populist art form in our American
culture, the upside in this INDEPENDENCE OF SMALLNESS,
is the ability to present work too controversial, too
“dangerous,” or too highly specialized for
the mass media.”
Terry too, often takes the road less traveled by. His last
production— a new translation of Chekhov’s The
Cherry Orchard, starring Julie Garfield (daughter of
the legendary actor John Garfield)— emphasized the comedic
aspects of the piece. Usually it is performed with a great
deal of sullenness, for is it not after all, a “serious
In this context, for them to have succeeded at the level
they have, for as long as they have— and essentially
on a shoestring— is nothing short of phenomenal. It
just doesn’t happen.
Their success, if under the radar for the masses, has not
been lost on the professional theater community. And therefore,
they have been able to attract many luminaries to the premises,
both for performances and special events.
Terry Schreiber in his “Conversations With…”
series, designed for the benefit of his students, has interviewed
the likes of Edward Norton (who studied under Terry and swears
by him), Cynthia Nixon, Mary-Louise Parker, Maggie Gyllenhaal,
Frank Langella, Edward Albee and most recently, Alfred Molina,
who discussed his role as Mark Rothko in Red, currently
running on Broadway. (MAY,
2010 MUSE-LETTER). Molina has also performed at
Sossi’s place, as have people like Ed Harris, Hal Linden,
Lynn Redgrave, Ed Asner, Orson Bean and Alley Mills, to name
a few that come readily to mind. And not surprisingly, both
men have been honored by the mayors of their respective cities
in recognition of their achievements.
We met Ron Sossi about seven years ago, when we joined his
Odyssey Theater Board of Directors. We have also been on the
Advisory Board at the T.Schreiber Studio during that period
of time. And so yes, we may be a bit biased having seen them
in action, so up close. Especially in the case of Terry Schreiber,
whom we have known for over thirty five years. We studied
with him for four years in the early seventies, and were also
fortunate to appear in many of his productions at his studio
and on the road. In fact here we are taking our turn at a
“serious Russian play,” Uncle Vanya,
in 1973. (Back row left).
World; Volume 30; 1973-1974;
Crown Publishers, Inc.
And neither man is resting on his laurels.
We caught their current productions last month, and both,
as usual, were first rate. If you have a chance, check them
out. This is a more intimate form of theater. It is something
you may never have experienced before. And there aren’t
many things about which that can be said.
Art Linkletter Dies… Odd Link
When someone dies—whether a personal relation or in
the public eye—our usual first instinct is to try to
remember the last time we saw them alive. (George Carlin used
to do a riff on this). So when Art Linkletter passed away
last month at 97, we remembered having last seen him at La
Scala in Beverly Hills, one night about five years ago.
In fact we even remember our comment to the waitress: “Are
you kidding me? Art Linkletter is still alive?” A little
crude? Un-Christian of us? For sure. But there it is.
We then tend to go on to make the most obvious associations.
In the case of Linkletter, for those of us of a certain age,
his People Are Funny and House Party shows,
are readily recalled They were such a staple of TV in the
50’s and early 60’s. Also, his quote, “kids
say the darnedest things,” would be the title of a couple
of books he would write, taken from the school children interviews
he did for so many years on House Party.
But then invariably—at least for us— some odd
associations tend to creep in. We would remember that he was
the host of the televised proceedings from opening day at
Disneyland in 1955. (He was “old” even then!)
And that his daughter had later committed suicide, allegedly
precipitated by drug abuse. This was particularly shocking,
because if Mr. Square American Conservative Celebrity could
not reign in his daughter, what hope was there for anyone
else in this helter-skelter time of the late 60’s? His
diatribe on drugs followed soon after, as did his indictment
of the hippie counter culture. But then later, he did soften
his stance and actually came out in favor of legalizing marijuana.
Yet far and away, the oddest association for us was: Art
and The Computer. Specifically, something called UNIVAC. At
age eleven (circa 1956), it was probably our first awareness
of a computer. And Art actually used this new mammoth machine
on People Are Funny, to try to match people up with
The name UNIVAC alone used to sound so “Space Age-y”
(in this a year or so before Sputnik) … so futuristic.
We have just read for the first time, that it was an acronym
for UNIVersal Automatic
Computer. And in doing a little research,
describing this machine as “mammoth,” is an understatement:
used 5,200 vacuum tubes weighed 29,000 pounds (13 metric
tons), consumed 125 kW, and could perform about 1,905
operations per second running on a 2.25 MHz clock. The
Central Complex alone (i.e. the processor and memory unit)
was 4.3 m by 2.4 m by 2.6 m high. The complete system
occupied more than 35.5 m of floor space.”
And if you can’t wrap your head around those numbers,
try this photo on for size:
And so there you have it. In retrospect, and in our revisionist
history in this June Letter… Art Linkeletter: Father
of Computer Dating and the Computer as Entertainment.
People indeed, are funny. Rest in peace.