Monday, October 16, 2017

"Rhyming Jew - A Hip-Hop'Hamilton' Review"

It’s probably been already tried
But still, I’m really terrified.
What if I can’t do it?
Make a start but can’t get through it?
Take a shot
With what I got
And readers say, “Oh man, you blew it.”

Daughter Anna says, “Dad, show ‘em.
Writing rap is just a poem.”
But every poem style has its rules
And I’m afraid that I don’t know ‘em.

I lack diversity
Went to a Canadian university.
I’m just a fan
Who has a plan.
But who the heck do I think I am?

Earl Raymond Pomerantz
My name is Earl Raymond Pomerantz
And I decided that I’ll take the chance
Though unfamiliar with the circumstance
Don’t know the steps but gonna try to dance
If I mess up I’ll move away to France
Adieu to Earl Raymond Pomerantz.

Okay, okay, okay,
Let’s go –
Rhyming talk about the show.
Time to see just what I got
Now on the spot
Hope it’s a lot
But if it’s not
Like “Mr. H” up on the stage,
Hey, I am not giving up my shot.

Puh puh puh puh-puh puh-puh puh…
Puh puh puh puh-puh puh-puh puh…

Me and Momma Rachel,
Sittin’ Fourth Row in the middle
So close to the orchestra
They coulda handed me a fiddle.
Wonderin’ if “Hamilton” will be a memorable event
Worthy of the hype
And all the money that we spent.

Dr. M’s already seen it
But she can’t comprehend the clamoring
The production has its charms, for sure,
But it’s no Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Still, the audience is excited, psyched and champing at the bit
There is nothing like the rush
Of a crowd with tickets to a hit.

And then it starts
To pumping hearts
And great anticipating cheers
Five minutes in,
We start to grin
The show’s allaying all our fears.

A history lesson, so complete –
England’s defeat
The Constitution
A “Who’da thunk it?” revolution.
Then brutal fights
About states’ rights.
All from the man who gave us
In The Heights.

Legislative acts galore,
Debt assumption from the war,
Where to put the capital, and more.
Slavery’s ignored, a catastrophic defeat
This crazy tale
Right wins and fails
Set to a propulsive hip-hop beat.

Race, per se, is not a factor
The show’s a pigmentary blur
George Washington’s played by a black actor
And in that motif, so’s Aaron Burr.

It’s all pulled off with peak precision
Like some designer cuckoo clock
Three full hours, with intermission
Mostly singing, rarely talk.

The crowd is in it
Every minute
The man beside me’s jiggling his knee
I wouldn’t mind
I’m acting kind
But his jiggling knee keeps jostling mine.

A show of pageantry and history
Music, dance, intrigue and fun.
But the line that brings down the house
It’s so reliable.
It’s undeniable. 
It’s “Immigrants – we get the job done.”

And yet, if honestly recorded
Although theatrically rewarded
The show was great
But I must state
To being not emotionally transported

If there’s something missing in the drama
We have Hamilton to thank.
What did he do,
For me and you?
The man wasn't Davy Crockett
He created
 a bank.

Cut away the brilliant stagecraft
In its dazzling amount and
What you’re left with is a story
About our first, real smart accountant.

He got shot in a duel
And so, sadly, did his son,
Sending Burr on the run
Sapping the celebratory fun.
But we ate it all up
We had way more than our fill
And now our hero’s looking back at us
From a crisp ten-dollar bill.

(Though that may not last
 As protesting opponents make clear
 They want Hamilton out,
 Replaced by Sacajawea.)

I have written this as best as I could
My apologies if it wasn’t good
Lesson learned:
You can get burned
Wearing another fellow’s clothes
Hope to see you here tomorrow
When I go back to writing prose.

I’ve done my best
To face the hip-hop-writing test
And now I’m tired
From getting inspired
Coming down from being wired
So I’m going to take a rest.

Earl Raymond Pomerantz
That’s right, it’s Earl Raymond Pomerantz,
And I am happy that I took the chance.
But I’d like to shake the hand ‘a
The great Lin Manuel Miranda.
Success, acclaim, everybody knows his name.
And after that, they say, “You wanna?’
The man sits down
He goes to town
And writes the hit song from Moana.

He’s one-of-a-kind
And if you deny it
Sit down, pick up a pen,
My friend
And try it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Can I (Please) Writer Shorter?"

My first paying writing job – a two-year stint, starting, age 24 – I wrote a weekly column in a major Toronto newspaper, The Toronto Telegram.  The assignment was somewhat less impressive than it sounds.  Assuming it seemed impressive to you in the first place.  Which, if you are from a larger metropolis – or the United States – you probably didn’t.  (“What was it written on, birch bark?”  Ignoramical “chortle, chortle.”) 

My regular column – entitled Where It’s Near because I would not dare to suggest I knew “Where It’s At” – appeared in what was branded the “After Four” section of the newspaper, “After Four” referring to the period after school, when, provided a weekly “Insert” tailored specifically to their interests, school children would be encouraged to read the paper when they got home.  (The Toronto “Tely” being a now vistigial afternoon publication.)

My column had nothing to do with school.  Or school children.  As I do here, I just wrote what came to my mind.  The reason it appeared in “After Four” is that a friend of mine knew “After Four’s” editor, who, having enjoyed my sample submissions, included my column in the only section of the paper over which she had editorial control.  (Although the “Tely’s” overseeing “Managing Editor” did write her an approving memo (I was later shown), on which the words “He writes well” had been hastily scrawled.  I felt relievedly flattered.  The man could just as easily have scrawled, “No!”)    

We are talking about the late sixties here, when people of all ages were finding their voices and feeling their oats.  After a year-and-a-half-or-so’s tenure, I was summoned to attend an arranged meeting down at the Head Office.  Which I rarely visited.  I wrote at home, and I mailed my work in.  That’s right.  Envelopes and a stamp.  Delivered by the Pony Express.  (Just kidding.  But that, I am defensively thinking, is how it sounds.)

It turned out the arranged meeting was about me.  More specifically, about firing me.  (My only job at the time, and the only reflection that I was a writer.)

The newly empowered students had come to angrily protest, not about civil rights or the Viet Nam war – not “our issues”, but still.  How ‘bout a sense of proportion?  Their fulminating concern involved an interloping adult, writing a column that had nothing to do with them in the “After School” section of the newspaper. 

The irate adolescents demanded I be immediately dismissed.  (Although not horsewhipped.  For which I was demonstrably appreciative.  Though I was unable to stop sweating.) 

Well, as President Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) purportedly said,

“When there are ten problems headed your way, it’s a cinch seven of them will fall in a ditch before they get to you.”

Fortunately, bloodthirsty children calling for my head turned out to be thankfully one of the “seven.”  The “After Four” editor listened patiently to the fiery high schoolers’ complaints, thanked to committee/slash/lynch mob for its valuable input, and then proceeded to do nothing.

Shortly thereafter, however, the Toronto Telegram went bankrupt and I lost my job anyway.  (That’s the practical loophole in Coolidge’s instructive “Words of Wisdom.”  When there are ten problems headed your way, it is difficult to distinguish the innocuous “Seven” from the demolishing “Three.”  You can only “not worry” in retrospect.) 

Understandably traumatized by being summarily placed “on the dock”, charged with egregious “Malfeasance of Content”, the specifics of this bloodthirsty “Kiddie Inquisition” have been expunged from my then quivering consciousness.  It seems reasonable, however, that during those perilous proceedings I was asked if I could alter my approach, writing more appropriately for “After Four’s” intended readership. 

To which I likely whisperingly – fear of immediate dismissal having drained me of vocal energy – replied in response, 

“I can try.  The thing is, what comes out is what comes out.”

(By the way, a “commenter” asked about “word count” in my columns.  I literally counted them, with a meticulously moving finger.)

So, why this and why today?

In response to a recent post, occasional reader “Anonymous”, deciding to check me out that day, commented, “I thought, ‘I like his stuff but they tend to be kind of long.’  And that’s when your page popped up and you were talking about your overlong blogs.  Ha.” 

Though I could have done happily without the pejorative “overlong”, “Anonymous’s” concluding, “Personally, don’t change a thing” more than made up for the momentary umbrage. 

Thanks for the encouragement, “Anonymous.  I suppose I could try to write shorter.  Although how would anyone who stopped reading because I wrote longer find out about it?  Ask MSNBC.  It’s crazy hard to persuade people who are not watching. 

When you get down to it, however – making this an unprecedented “Three ‘however’ post” – it’s like I told those menacing schoolchildren back in 1969:

What comes out?

That’s what comes out.

And there is not much I can do about it.


I like how it comes out.

(827 words.  A concessionary improvement.  Spread the word.)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Why My Blog Posts Are So Long - Part Two (And If My Blog Posts Weren't So Long, I'd Have Finished In Part One)"


I have to apologize for yesterday.  It’s like the top of a popcorn machine blew off and blizzards of “verbal popcorn” went flying all over the place.  I knew it would happen.  That’s why I was hesitant to write about it.  “Why My Blog Posts Are So Long” – and my subsequent blog post is prohibitively lengthy.  That was so predictable.  And – humbly expressed – truly regrettable.


Yesterday, I only got to elaborate one point explaining why my blog posts are so long:  My desire to simulate “talk”, with its surprise detours, dazzling inspirations, and spontaneous side trips. 

That is simply what happens when trying to simulate “talk.”  You put down something, it reminds you of something else, and you include that part as well.  Not always, of course; you are a disciplined writer, after all.  Still, every inserted addition expands your post’s length beyond what was originally intended.  (Reminder Example From YesterdayFirst Draft – 972 words; Final Version – 1138 words.)

Truth be told, it is functionally impossible to successfully “put ‘talk’ on the page.”  I once read a book called “The Essential Lenny Bruce”, in which all his classic comedy routines had been scrupulously taken down and dutifully compiled into a book. 

That book is virtually unreadable.

Fragmented sentences. 

When spoken out loud, they are augmented by timing, inflection and physical gesticulation, most prominently by the face and the arms, but sometimes the whole body chips in, clarifying and contextualizing the intended communication.

Reading the material alone?  It’s like studying comedic “testimony.”  It’s all there.

Except for the meaning.

Writing “talk” inevitably requires you to add words, so that reading it is comprehensibly coherent.  For example, onstage you might say, “Writing ‘talk’.  Can’t do it.  (CONFUSEDLY STARING AT OPEN PALM, REPRESENTING READING A BOOK OF STENOGRAPHIZED “TALK”)  “What?”  (YELLING DIRECTLY INTO HIS PALM)  “Speak English!” 

Summary Conclusion:

Simulating the “talk” experience inevitably makes posts longer. 

Delivering the “talk” experience comprehensibly on the page inevitably makes posts longer still.

And there’s more.

Okay, lemme just dive in here, so we don’t repeat the disastrous “Debacle of Yesterday.”

There’s a hot new phrase going around.  You came in late for “unpack”, “transformative”, "It is what it is" and starting sentences with “So…”?  Jump aboard this one.   You’ll  be “catching the wave” at precisely the…

Who am I kidding?  I don’t surf.  Although I do know there is an optimum moment for “catching the wave.”  And in this recently minted “catchphrase” situation, it is “Ride that baby right now!” And feel on the “Cutting Edge” of an eventual cliché.

(Note:  If this phrase is, in fact, already yawningly “Old hat”, humor me and pretend that it isn’t.  I haven’t “been in early” on anything since the “quite the…” craze of 1958.  (As in, “That is quite the plaid cardigan you’ve got there.”  Ask your grandparents.  It was really popular.)

I first came across this fashionable catchphrase in the program for the play The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time.  There, the play’s “mentally different” lead character is referred to as being – get ready, ‘cause here it comes –  

“On the spectrum.”

Which the cognoscenti – of which I am now a proud cogniscentus – Latin masculine singular know refers to the autistic spectrum.

Judging from his behavior, the lead character in The Curious Case…etc is at the “symptomatically significant” end of that particular spectrum.  The thing is, as I realized watching the play, although demonstrably not as severe,

I myself reside on that spectrum as well.

Supporting evidence, accrued from the play:

The lead character believes acting is lying.

I too believe acting is lying.  (How can Matt Damon simultaneously be Jason Bourne, “Mr. Ripley” and the abandoned astronaut planting vegetables on the moon?  He’s Matt Damon.  The rest of the time, he’s lying.)

Two:  The lead character in the play is unable to suppress the truth.  In that regard, I, who’d have been advisedly better off not to, said to Bill Cosby on the first week I was working on his show, “I really wish you would learn your lines.”  (Note:  I was unaware of the more serious behavior.  Although I must acknowledge, residing as I am unashamedly “on the spectrum”, that I am not sure I’d have been equally truthful about that.)

When writing in this venue, I feel compelled to fully articulate the truth, even when my doing so is transparently stupid.  For example, I will write – as I recently did – “For those who do not know Spanish – and also for those who do‘Abierto’ means ‘Open.’”

Why did I need “… and also for those who do”?  I didn’t.  I mean, it is hardly some “big joke” interjection, begging for blogatorial inclusion.  It is unnecessary and dumb.  It is also, however, and therefore screams to me as someone decidedly “on the spectrum” …

…. the fully articulated truth.

Whether you know Spanish or you don’t, “Abierto” still means “Open.”

I tried to keep that out, I really did.  But I could not help myself, so it went in.  This psychologically driven phenomenon – along with similar examples of its ilk – against my seemingly futile resistance, make my completed blog posts irresistibly longer.

In fact, of all the available reasons – I just went back and put in “available” – as there may “truthfully” be other reasons I am currently unaware of and I am unable to pretend that there aren’t – reasons including “extraneous adjectives” – does, as earlier written, the word “debacle” really need “disastrous” in front of it? – my posts become significantly extended during the rewrite process because, situated at some unspecified location, on the proverbial spectrum, I am compelled to cover all my hypothetical bases.

I put what appears to be extraneous stuff in because a voice inside me adamantly insists, “It’ll be missing something if it’s out.”  Though it objectively won’t.

I shall now end this exercise before I am compelled to reveal that, living a relatively isolated life – perhaps not compared to the Eskimos but close – I have an irrational impulse to retain this communicational connection for as long as I can.

Oops, too late.

Well, what do you expect from a recognized resident “on the spectrum”?


First Draft – 858 words.

Final Version – 1022 words.

Oh, no! 

It’s getting worse!