Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Maybe it's my age or maybe it's something else, but watching Bogart and Bacall tonight in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, the film where they first met and fell in love on screen when she was only nineteen and not just in her first film role but starring opposite the already movie icon Bogart, who was forty-four and married for the third time...

...whatever it is, I laughed louder and more often during this umpteenth time watching it tonight than I ever have. The dialogue is so quick and smart and fun and witty and adult it made me mourn for the time when even a teenager could come across as a grown up (and why not, it was made during World War Two in which my two oldest teenage brothers were in the military)...

Bacall was a sensation in it and it's so easy to see why, she's gorgeous yet down-to-earth, witty yet unpretentious and instantly iconic herself. Just to see her do that little boogie boogie dance at the end of the film is worth watching it all the way through. Oh how I wish they made movies with this kind of dialogue these days (though the diner scene in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK came close)....

Whenever the world is too much for me, a Bogie and Bacall flick, especially the first two when they were still falling in love but not together in real life yet—TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and THE BIG SLEEP—will make me forget any troubles and laugh loud, and a lot, not just out of delight but gratitude...

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Wish I'd seen this on the big screen when it came out last year and was getting all kinds of Oscar buzz. The story still works well on a TV or computer screen, making me uncomfortable in ways only a powerfully told story can while I watched it on a cable channel on my TV. But the shots were so exquisitely framed and filmed I wanted to see the details even bigger and get lost in them. (And the acting is mostly excellent as well.)

There are some aspects of the story that manipulate the truth it's based on—and the audience as a result, just for narrative or explication reasons—but the basic truth is intact and the point of telling this story more relevant than ever after Ferguson and Trayvon Martin et. al. Because, as I'm sure you know—and the reason I was squirming from the first shot, because I knew the inevitable was inevitable—its about another young "black" man executed by another "white" policeman for behavior that a "white" college kid probably would have been merely reprimanded for.

My first thought after it ended and I wiped away some tears was that every police officer in the USA should have to watch this to see how not to overreact to fellow human beings no matter what they look or act like.

But then I read some of the commentary and stories about the shooting the movie's based on, and about the movie maker's few additions to that story that I must admit do come across as deliberately manipulative (like the main character's trying to rescue a loose pit bull hit by a car, an incident that occurred in real life but to the subject's younger brother, and meant as a metaphor for the way many "whites" react to and treat young "black" men, as always dangerous and ill intentioned etc. so the movie's lead character identifies with the dog etc.)...

...and I realized that even if every cop in the country was forced to watch this flick and discuss it, there'd still be plenty of rightwing Internet sites they could go to that would manipulate the facts in a way to misdirect the reality of young "black" men facing much greater odds in this society often because of policing tactics and attitudes toward incidental aspects of individual cases (a la Michael Brown's supposed "thug" behavior in Ferguson etc).

It isn't like all "white" cops are evil, or racist, or inherently murderous, I still have cops in my clan and grew up with them in my home, and they were and are all good people who truly do want to help and serve others. It's that the training both the cops get or don't get, and the training that many young "black" males get or don't get makes for an explosive mix when they clash...

But like I said, just as a creative endeavor, especially the filming itself, FRUITVALE STATION is worth watching.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I've been getting requests on Facebook to make a short list of things I'm grateful for.

As I've written here, and elsewhere, after my brain operation in the Fall of 2009 my compulsion to constantly make lists was not only gone, I couldn't even force myself to make a list beyond two items, at least not without help.

But that seems to have lately been changing a little. So over the past several days I have been pushing myself to find more than one or two general things to be grateful for. And now I have come up with three:

1—I'm grateful for all the things I thought of at the time as "good" that happened in my life so far, even those that I later changed my mind about and thought of as "bad"...

2—I'm grateful for all the things I thought of as "bad" that happened in my life so far, especially those that I later changed my mind about and thought of as "good"...

3—I'm grateful for the practice of gratitude, that I developed with much help over the years, that has led me to almost always find a way to be grateful for whatever happens in life and attempt to see it as neither "good" nor "bad" but just what is...

Thursday, September 11, 2014


"Aren't we all gonna die?
Are we obsessed with the denial of that reality?
As a kid did you, like I, feel
you owned death, like a furry little pet
sitting on your shoulder, and any time you wanted
you could turn your head and see it, or kiss it,
or pet it, or remind yourself how close it was,
but in truth, you thought of it rarely,
more frequently of everyone else's,
because theirs seemed more imminent
even though back then you felt it
breathing on your neck in reassurance?
Or is that just me because I've seen
a lot of people pass, or die, as you might say,
from one thing or another, including my mother,
in a way that seemed unfair and certainly
unnecessary and arbitrary and cruel?
But what death isn't?
Those I remember that were no surprise,
though devastating anyway in their
Is that why now it's life I'm obsessed with?
Or is that because when I watched
the second plane crash into the second tower on TV
a thin blue tube hung from my urethra,
attached to a clear plastic bag, the remnant of a
cancer operation the week before,
unaware an old friend was on that flight,
at that moment incinerated,
a woman who was kind to me when
she didn't need to be?
How many people have died
before you got the chance to tell them what you meant to?"
(from MARCH 18, 2003)
(Berry Berenson 1948-2001)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business...to keep the channel open..."   —Martha Graham (to Agnes deMille)