March 2010

Salinger: A Found Poem

Salinger is dead. Let the games begin!

The “pop” psychoanalysis. The speculation on whether there exists a hidden treasure trove of other writings. The handicapping on his legacy, if other discovered works don't quite measure up. And as is certain to happen, let Entertainment Weekly offer its top ten picks on who might play Holden Caufield in the movie. (Alas, Leonardo DiCaprio is now too old).

At this moment, we would rather reflect on the passing of a man who simply chose to retire from The Grand Arena. Which of course, is so foreign a concept in a world where lives have become an open book. A Facebook , if you will.

J.D. Salinger may have been difficult to find, but a “found poem” based on what his neighbors had to say about him in a piece last month… was not. But not to confound those unfamiliar with the concept of “found poetry,” a definition might first be in order.

Found poetry is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases and sometimes whole passages from other sources, and reframing them as a poem. This is done by making changes in spacing and/or lines and consequently meaning, or by altering the text by additions and/or deletions.
(Source: Wikipedia )

And so we found this poem. Not of J.D., but of Jerry.


Salinger: A Found Poem

A Recluse? Not To His Neighbors.


—The New York Times



Pines, oaks and miles of rolling hills
the curious constantly descended on Cornish
asking for directions on a wild goose chase.
“Everyone knows there's a bat cave,” said Sherry

but no one will tell you “the code of the hills.”
He was separated by a covered bridge.
Here he was just Jerry at the Plainfield general store.
He was early to church suppers. He would vote in elections.

He attended town meetings in corduroys and sweater.
A quiet man, he sat near where the pies were placed.
He would socialize with students at Nap's —a soda fountain.
Kids were not suspect; they could sled down his hill.

He always obliged. He nodded hello.
The fire department extinguished a blaze
and helped save his papers and writings.
He wrote a thank you note after his death.


—Ron Vazzano


What's In A Logo?

A new chairman for National Endowment for the Arts ( NEA ) was appointed by Obama last May and confirmed by the senate in August. His name is Rocco Landesman. He brings to the post a reputation as a “charismatic outsider,” with a penchant for risk-taking. But importantly, with much success to show for it. Especially as a producer in the theater.


Known also for his candor, he immediately got himself in — if not exactly hot water — warm water with the following remark: “I don't know if there's a theater in Peoria, but I would bet that it's not as good as Steppenwolf or the Goodman” (two acclaimed Chicago theater companies). Poor Peoria—the reference point for all things “common denominator” — took offense.


Controversy however, is something the NEA can least afford. As it is, it has taken many years to smooth over the ruffled feathers caused by past funding of artists, who have tended to color too far outside the lines, in the weighty opinion of congress. Robert Mapplethorpe's “The Perfect Moment” of the late ‘80's comes readily to mind. But there have been many others in its colorful history, which began during the Johnson administration in ‘65.


But then, true to his maverick ways, Landesman launched a national “Art Works” tour with a first fence-mending stop in Peoria itself. This, at the request of prominent local artistic directors, who invited him to see the error in his presumptions.


“Art Works” is a new mission statement coined by Landesman that informs his belief regarding art and how it works. That:


1. Art works is a noun. They are the books, crafts, films, paintings, plays etc., that are the creations of the artists.


2. Art works is a verb. It works on and within people to change and inspire them.


3. Art works is a declarative sentence. Art jobs are real jobs that contribute greatly to economic growth, neighborhood revitalization and the livability of American cities and towns.


And now he has put out a call to develop a new logo for the NEA , that embodies these three principles, while using that phrase.


This has not been without its own controversy. Landesman has not only opened the competition to professional logo design firms, but has had the audacity to also invite the general public to participate as well, in the form of an online contest. The winner to receive a $25,000 grant to complete their design. The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) was quick to respond in a statement loaded with bull… er, business-speak that reads:

“The approach you are pursuing is one that seriously compromises the quality of work you are entitled to and also violates a tacit ethical standard that has long standing in the communications design professions worldwide.”

Phew! There ought to be a contest to translate that sentence into plain English, and tell us what they are really saying. In any case, here is the NEA logo as it currently stands, in the blue and black formats in which it usually appears.



Being unable to resist such a clarion call to the proletariat, and never one to shun a contest —whether we be qualified or not —here is what “we the people” submitted for this new “Art Works” logo. In four color…




…and in Black & White.



Snow Globe

From the front page of The New York Times, Sunday, February 7, 2010, we offer a look at a picture worth a thousand words. Plus another forty-two we saw fit to add.







What's In A Name? Brooklyn Decker!

Young…beautiful…and a fashion model at the top of her game—she graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue last month. But you will have to go there if you would like to see in the flesh. For this small musing is not about beautiful or beguiling women, but about beautiful or beguiling woman's names. Not to mention, whimsical or poetic woman's names.


It's puzzling that a girl born in Middletown, Ohio in 1987 and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina comes by the given name of “Brooklyn,” but we love it. Though it is the “Decker” part of it that brings it all home. Somehow, “Brooklyn Lipshitz” wouldn't make it—with apologies to those bearing that surname, and to one individual we know—a frequent reader of these Muse -Letters— whose ex-wife was thusly burdened. But we digress. Which might one day be the title of our memoir… But We Digress: A Life Lived in the Parentheses.


Anyway, (“Segue 101”) Brooklyn got us to thinking about those other woman's names that in some way, have captured our fancy over the years; names that have not been made up by some strip club impresario or Hollywood studio—ala Frances Gumm being turned into Judy Garland.


In no particular order here are another eleven to make an even dozen, that readily come to mind



Remembering Zelda

We first got to know Zelda Rubenstein through a mutual friend, who was making a promo for a cable TV cooking show, Zelda was to host. As a guest, we brought along our favorite recipe, Salmon Grand Marnier, which we were to prepare together while chatting. We might have had a nip or two of that delicious sauce when the shoot was over. But we can't quite recall.





We described her in our journal as “…the diminutive ‘scene stealer' from ‘Poltergeist' who is such a lovely person.” In time, she would help us to make contact with a key person at Emerson College, in behalf of our daughter who would attend that school in freshman year.


The more we got to know Zelda, the more fascinated we became with this charismatic woman. Tiny as she was, she could command the room. Young people adored her and would gravitate to her at the center of a party.


She had decided to give up a job as a technician in her late forties, to go off and do something more with her life. She didn't know what that something might be, but one road led to her becoming an actress. Of course. How obvious. As everyone knows, there is such a demand in the movie business for 4-foot-3 women in their late forties, with pixie voices, who have never acted before. But that was Zelda.


Her height, or lack thereof, was never an obstacle as she attacked life with vigor and a strong sense of commitment. In addition to her wonderful career as a character actress, she was an outspoken activist for her self professed “little people,” as well as an early participant in the fight against AIDS.


She had so much charm about her.


We remember blushing a bit as she spoke of the wonderful men in her life and the romance that at age 69, she was still enjoying. And she could show a naughty side, as she did in performing a bawdy song on stage at her 70th birthday party, which was attended by about three hundred people in Griffith Park. The woman was loved.


She died at age 76 on January 27, 2010 of complications from a heart attack suffered two months previously.


Though her string of TV and film acting credits is quite extensive, she will be best remembered for her role in Poltergeist and its two sequels, in which she played to perfection, the ghost-purging psychic, Tangina. Have a brief look.







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