Tuesday, August 26, 2014


So most of you know I had this weird alteration in the way my mind works after I had brain surgery coming up on five years ago in November. One of the main manifestations is that a compulsion (literally, like uncontrollable I now realize) to make lists—either in my mind or on paper or in conversation—disappeared instantly upon coming out of the operation.

Since then, instead of constantly making lists I can't make one if I try, unless I use outside sources and help. Which is what I did when asked for my ten top films by my old friend the great poet and actor Harry E.Northup and his blog TIMES TIMES 3 (see the list to the right).

Which contributed to my deciding to make a list for my blog consisting of one movie for each year of my life that impacted me the most in that year. I had to use google to determine the year the movie was released in some cases. So here goes:

(For the first three years of my life I doubt I was brought to the movies but then my older sisters were forced to drag me along with them until I was about seven and started going on my own.)

1942—CASABLANCA (though I obviously saw this later I always associate it with the year I was born)

1943—LASSIE COME HOME (this I saw probably when I was four, cause back then, before TV, they used to reshow kids movies on Saturday afternoons)

1944—GOING MY WAY (Bing Crosby's Oscar win for his portrayal of "Father "O'Malley" in this flick felt like a win for all the Irish I grew up around, he represented for us the best of our Irish-American culture, easy going, great voice but presented with no strain or showboating as though just a natural singer like so many of my aunts and uncles were, etc. and of course "O'Malley" is pretty close to "Lally" (which derives from "O'Mulally")...

1945—THE BELLS OF SAINT MARY'S (Bing as O'Malley again!)

1946—THE BLUE DAHLIA (my first movie star crush was on Veronica Lake from this movie)

1947—OUT OF THE PAST (my first "bad girl" crush was on Jane Greer in this flick, which I still feel is the best of all film noir)

1948—RED RIVER (the beginning of a run of wanting to be a cowboy)

1949—THE THIRD MAN (this movie disturbed my seven-year-old sensibility but also fascinated me, and as I'd been playing piano by then for three years one of the parlor tricks I was always asked to perform at clan parties was to play the ubiquitous (that year) theme song from THE THIRD MAN)

1950—THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY (he had already impacted my life, and this movie just confirmed his heroism in my mind and heart (see my poem "Sports Heroes, Cops & Lace" in my book CANT BE WRONG))

1951—QUO VADIS (can't remember a thing about it, but on my first real date I took Lois Mercadante to see this for a quarter admission for each of us, something my mother commented on in a letter to one of my brothers in the Army, that I would soon be nine but was big for my age as I went on my first official date)

1952—THE QUIET MAN (the scene in the graveyard in the rain is still one of the most romantic film scenes to my mind, and despite the obvious sexism inherent in the culture and time it represented there was something exhilaratingly matched about John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in this)

1953—SHANE (the kid played by Brian Dewilde was the focal point for the viewpoint in this flick and it was so easy to identify with that perspective, especially as the hero was Veronica Lake's old movie partner Alan Ladd)

1954—ON THE WATERFRONT (this movie changed my life forever in so many ways, starting with the impact of its being filmed in nearby Hoboken and using a non actor kid to play the gang member, like so many kids I knew, that realism altered my sense of what movies and all art could be, as well as Brando's character showing me a way to stand up to the bullying I was experiencing at the time, etc. (see my prose piece "Bada-Bing Bada-Brando" in my book IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE).)

1955—BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (more realism, including using rock'n'roll as part of a soundtrack for the first time (check out REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, the same year but I didn't buy Dean and the other actors as realistic teenagers from my experience at all and the music on his car radio was like tepid "swing" or something equally irrelevant to teens at the time), and again kids that seemed like some of the kids I knew, this had an impact on all the kids I knew who started calling grown men "daddy-o" from the day after the flick opened, or so it seemed at the time, and also the impact of Sidney Poitier playing a cool, dignified, powerful black teenager added to my anti-racist inclinations and behavior despite the times)

1956—MARTY (though it came out in '55 I remember seeing this with my then good friend Jimmy McKenna (who unfortunately many decades later became the rightwing troll on this blog I've had to block in recent times) just because it won Ernest Borgnine an Oscar and was supposed to be really adult material etc. and we discussed it later in a way I thought was really adult, making me feel like I was grown up for the first time, at least intellectually (PICNIC, another flick from '55 I didn't see until '56 also had an impact through it's theme song, which I immediately bought the 45 of, and still have, with "Moonglow" as part of it, and for the immediate crush I got on Kim Novak in it).)

1957—12 ANGRY MEN (more in my self education in tolerance and understanding, and other adult themes, and my feeling of being older than people were treating me as)

1958—KING CREOLE (although there were parts of the flick I found hokey, I identified with Elvis's character's need for money and after school jobs which I also had, and struggling with the pull of street life vs. school life etc. etc., a few years later a coed turned me on to the book this was based on telling me it reminded her of me!)

1959—BLACK ORPHEUS (not only fell in love with the main woman in this flick but with the entire cast in some ways, the first time I understood mythology, in this case Greek, as relevant to my times)

1960—SPARTACUS (another lesson in courage but also in organizing I never forgot and used later in my days of political protests etc.)

1961—WEST SIDE STORY (I already loved the music from the Broadway cast album where I thought they were actually using the "f" word, though they weren't, and so many of my jazz icons reinterpreted that music, I was playing some jazz myself by then in clubs in NYC and elsewhere, but I hadn't seen the play so the movie really got to me as I was engaged to a "black" girl and we were both too young to marry without parental permission which wasn't forthcoming from either of our fathers and there were only thirteen states in the USA where we could legally marry because of our supposedly different "races" so the whole Romeo and Juliet theme struck home for me as did the romanticism and the hopefulness in songs like "Something's Coming" etc.)

1962—DAVID AND LISA (another example of seemingly documentary realism, though fiction, on a subject I hadn't thought a lot about but now was forced to from this expose)

1963—8 1/2  (I was in the military by then and had made friends with civilians around my age who were in college and artistic and intellectual in ways I hadn't been exposed to before, who took me to see this flick with me expecting not to get it cause I didn't have a college education, but instead I felt like Fellinni was talking directly to me and my creative spirit (I had been making music and art and poetry etc. since I was able to).)

1964—A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (when I saw this with my then new wife I was bugged by the "British Invasion" which was taking jobs away from musicians even in Spokane, where I was stationed at the time, so I went into it not sure about The Beatles, but I came out of it wanting to be one)

1965—DARLING (more sophisticated European filmmaking to my 23-year-old sensibility, and Julie Christy....)

1966—THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (seemingly a documentary about the struggle for independence from France, it was actually a fiction feature that had a worldwide impact on young people who took up liberation struggles everywhere, including Iowa City where I was going to college on the G.I. Bill)

1967—BONNIE & CLYDE (the lighthearted music and comic scene with the first time seen Gene Wilder and the model pretty Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway made the seriousness even more potent, though even then I found the amateur psychology of "Clyde's" impotence a little much, but the impact of that final scene still resonates and at the time it seemed to be almost a validation of the revolutionary spirit that seemed to be growing among the young everywhere...)

1968—IF... (a confusing film that caused a confused response in many, including me, but nonetheless had an enormous impact at the time)

1969—BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (there were so many impactful flicks in '68 but almost all bugged me for one political reason or another, like I reviewed THE WILD BUNCH for a revolutionary street paper RISING UP ANGRY and pointed out that the more despicable the character the deeper the "redneck" accent, or the decadence in MIDNIGHT COWBOY, etc. so I think my love for BUTCH AND SUNDANCE came from a need for some relief from the ways "the revolution" was being attacked from without and from within, as well as a need for the heroic casting and imagery of the final futile rebellion of this incredibly attractive pair)

1970—THE BOYS IN THE BAND (as calculated and contrived as some of this was, it was also incredibly raw in its realistic depiction of some of what until then had been a very secret and seemingly unknowable life style, so it felt, at least to me and my then wife, like an enormous revelation and directly led to our both becoming more active against not just sexism and homophobia, which we already were, but against society's perspective on gender and sexual preference et.al.)

1971—THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (as I ended my twenties the nostalgia inherent in this flick got to me, as did Jeff Bridges in his first major movie role, whose character I identified with as much as I could with any of these supposed Texans, although the movie soundtrack I most loved from this year was WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY because I put my little girl and boy to bed every night to it and totally grew to appreciate how excellent it was and is)

1972—CABARET (as much as Liza Minnelli grew to be a caricature of herself (and her mother, Judy Garland) and that was evident in her role in this flick, at the time it seemed like an incredibly brave and unique performance and the story from Christopher Isherwood's BERLIN STORIES and the play made from them, I AM A CAMERA, and the anti-Nazi theme justifying the semi-decadent indulgence of much of the story, somehow seemed just on time for the changes my wife and I and others were going through from the impact of our involvement in the women's and gay rights movements which demanded some serious personal changes, much more than the Civil Rights and anti-war movements had)...

(to be continued...)

Monday, August 25, 2014


Another poem on The Best American Poetry blog: here. I wrote it back in the 1980s and you can hear me read it back in the '90s (to music from my oldest son Miles and friends) on my CD LOST ANGELS, but it was only published in print this year in the revived great little mag december.

[PS: Please feel free to comment on the BAP blog as well as here...]

Sunday, August 24, 2014


So, I've been busy lately leaving long comments on various Facebook friends' threads and realize I've got to be more succinct, or better yet not linger on Facebook so much. But before I do, I thought I'd post a copy of this response to a thread on my old friend, the poet (and philosopher to my mind) E. Ethelbert Miller's Facebook page and blog (see the list on the right to link to his E-notes):

Hey E, beautifully put, but as an older gent I want to remind you of how much better the world is than the world I was born into. The world has never been as violent or destructive as it was during WWII ever since. There have been wars, but nothing as bad as then. Institutional racism defended by our government and its policies has never been as bad as it was during slavery, or after that since the Jim Crow institutions of Reconstruction and post-reconstrautction times etc. Or after that, during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and '60s. I was stationed in the South when legal segregation meant people designated as "Negro" (which could mean as little as "a drop" of "black" blood as they used to say in some states, so stupid that even this pink skinned descendant of Irish ancestors could convince some that I was "part black" etc. while relatives of "black" friends were passing for "white" etc.) couldn't go to the drive-in movie in their own car, let alone eat at drugstore counters etc... My parents and older siblings suffered through the Great Depression and despite economic ups and downs the world has never been as economically rocked as during that period, and despite hunger and poverty today, starvation and death due to those things is not as prevalent as it once was, so...yes, some things are worse, damage to the environment (though back in the 1950s air and river pollution were much worse in the USA and elsewhere) continuing racism in some hearts and locations, economic inequality for sure (though not as bad as when my father was a boy at the turn of the last century) etc. etc. Much work to be done, as always, but much accomplished by those who sacrificed in the past so we would have it better...

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Now that Ferguson has calmed down (and the reality that that town's name will now stand for the events of the past week(s) to anyone who was an adult at the time) I wanted to muse out loud about some aspects of it.

First of all we all know, or should, that science proves what I intuited as a boy, that there's no such thing as "race"—and therefore no "racial purity" etc. It also shows that if we chart our familial connections completely, we all end up related.

So the "race" construct is about something else. And there are those who see it more as the conception of "race" mixed with the conception of "class" that caused the kind of misreading involved in the unfortunately not unfamiliar scenes of cops ridiculously overwrought (and overdressed and armed) in the face of some walking and shouting fellow humans. As though the cops were from some more respectable and legitimate "class" above however the victim's "class" was seen by the cops (actually more like "classless" I suspect in their perspective, as in "less" human).

But one of my oldest and dearest soulmate brothers (we became friends over half a century ago in the then legally segregated South Carolina where we were stationed in the military and pushed the limits of the legal racial restrictions) lives in the Ferguson community and has been telling me about throwback (though obviously not, just continuing) racial incidents between him and the police there for years and years.

And the thing is he's certainly more educated, knowledgable, worldly and—in most ways scientists would use to measure—"evolved" than any of the Ferguson police officers. And yet he has had to contend with scenes like his recently, pre-police group overreaction, substituting for his wife at a community meeting and not knowing which door to go through in a local building and trying the front door to find it locked he's suddenly confronted by a policeman with his gun drawn!

An elderly bespectacled gentleman who happened to be a few shades darker in skin tone than the policeman (no one is truly "black" or "white" in skin tone) trying to get to a meeting and trying the wrong door gets confronted with a drawn pistol. In that encounter, or another similar one when a Ferguson policeman pulled his gun on my friend, my friend said "What are you?" and the cop said "A police officer" and my friend said "Well act like one."

That's the answer, at least for those of us old enough or with enough history of police connections (my clan was and is still full of cops) that seems to be forgotten entirely in so many instances recently. Rather than behaving like people hired to protect the peace, as well as the lives and property of the people in a community, whether residents or passing through, too many local police forces are rather a collection of frightened overgrown (often in my area over steroid-ed) boys, and sometimes girls, who think (as do many criminals these days) that life is a video game.

There's always been "bad" cops, and there's always been prejudice, of one kind or another, and the police have always known who butters their bread, so to speak (as do politicians and most everyone else, which is why the Wall Street criminals are still free and Michael Brown is dead) and I'm not gonna solve the riddle of cultural expectations (Michael Brown behaved as many young men throughout history and all over the world have since Cain and Abel, i.e. physically aggressively in some situations) versus racial generalizations, but...

...it seems to me, the desperation of ill-informed segments of the population who identify as "white"—especially in communities like Ferguson—is only going to get worse without a committed program of complete reeducation in the scientific realities of "race" and human interconnectedness.

Thursday, August 21, 2014



Everything good you've heard about this movie is true. I put it to the test by taking my boys, my oldest and youngest son and my grandson, to see it and they all agreed that it was great. My 16-year-old said it portrayed the boy of the title's life realistically. Great praise from a skeptical teenager.

And he's right. You probably know this film makes history by being the first feature filmed over twelve years in order to show the actual aging of the characters, particularly the boy of the title. One of the boldest and bravest moves by any filmmaker ever. And fortunately for Richard Linklater, it worked.

The secret was in the skill and/or luck of Linklater's casting of the boy, Ellar Coltrane, a non actor, who never had to face the pressures of being a child movie star since no one would see the film until the boy had grown from six to eighteen and the movie was out.

And for casting his own daughter, Lorelei, as the boy's sister, and Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette (who gives the performance of her life for my taste) as his parents. But hey, all the actors are perfect in it, and to see many of them age as well is somehow thrilling in it's new level of realism. The movie's almost worth it just for that.

I can't recommend this film too highly. The subtleties of the story line and the ways in which it plays out and is photographed and edited and acted are exquisite. It should win any and all awards period. Or at least best picture for it's precedent setting time lapse filming. And all the acting awards. And....etc.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Old but more relevant than ever, especially if police forces had to pay this too: