Thursday, January 31, 2008

BOB CALLAHAN R. I. P.

Too many deaths lately, though Bob’s wasn’t unexpected. He’d been suffering from various things for several years, or more. But his spirit never seemed to suffer, at least not in emails and telephone conversations with me.

I knew Bob as an independent-minded, proud to be Irish-American, poet. But he may have been best known in the Irish-American community for a book he put together called THE BIG BOOK OF IRISH-AMERICAN CULTURE.

In the wider world, he was probably better known for editing anthologies of comic artists, including THE NEW SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF COMIC BOOK STORIES FROM CRUMB TO CLOWES, and for collaborating with the famous “underground comix” artist Spain on many projects, but most recently and successfully on DARK HOTEL, which ran in The San Francisco Chronicle (or was it the Examiner?) and online.

I knew Spain first, through my first wife Lee. She and Spain were from Buffalo and part of the late 1950s, early ‘60s demimonde there. Both were also close to the local outlaw bikers, The Road Vultures (the Vultures threw Lee and me the only engagement party we had, since we got married on a whim and had only three days between deciding to do it and finishing the necessary tests and paperwork to make it official).

Spain gave us a cartoon of a biker for a wedding gift, as well as an old Zippo lighter he engraved for us. The lighter is long gone, I’m very sorry to say, but the cartoon may be in one of the many boxes that fill the closets in my apartment.

Spain moved to San Francisco and was a part of the heyday of alternative comic books with his TRASHMAN series. Bob was a presence on the San Francisco Bay poetry scene for decades.

I got to know Bob best after I moved to L. A. in the early ‘80s, visiting him a few times in S. F. (and Berkeley and Oakland), and keeping in touch through the mail and phone and later e mail. He nominated me for a few poetry awards that originated from the Bay area, and we read together a couple of times, one of them being at a 1999 exhibit commemorating “Bloody Sunday”—the killing of unarmed civilians by British troops that was one of the most tragic milestones in the resistance to British rule in the North of Ireland and the treatment of Northern Catholics as second-class citizens.

He was an original, not that we all aren’t in our own ways. But Bob went his own way like few people dare to, championing the underdog while resisting conforming to any movement or scene, or catering to any source of power in the academic or literary worlds and where they intersect.

I’ll miss his wistful nostalgia in our phone discussions, the humble honesty and poetry of the articulation of his experience and opinions, and his capacity to tolerate my own opinionated rants, poetic or otherwise.

Most of all I’ll miss his great sense of humor and delight in all displays of comic (and comix) ways of exposing the hypocrisy of the self-righteous and powerful.

He was a good man. May he never be forgotten.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

THE FIRST ANNUAL LALLY’S ALLEY MOVIE AWARDS (NOMINEES)

An opportunity for more lists, otherwise “The Lals”—as friends are already affectionately calling them—are obviously meaningless, except hopefully to turn some friends, old and new, on to movies and/or performances they may have missed.

FOR “BEST” (i.e. my favorite) MOVIE OF 2007, the nominees are:

1. LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
2. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
3. INTO THE WILD
4. LA VIE EN ROSE
5. THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY
6. WAITRESS
7. JUNO
8. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
9. MICHAEL CLAYTON
10. ATONEMENT
(and ONCE, though I’m pretty sure it was made in 2006 it didn’t show here until 2007)

I’m “giving awards” for leading and supporting roles, but I don’t distinguish between them in terms of achievement, because they both have their demands that make them extremely difficult. Starring in a movie is like carrying the entire project on your shoulders, one slip and the whole thing can come tumbling down, an enormous responsibility. But playing a small role in a film is equally challenging—and I’m saying this from personal, and not always successful, experience acting in films from starring roles to one liners—I used to say doing a bit part in a film is like having Van Gogh or Picasso or Jackson Pollack leave a few blank spots in a painting and then ask you to finish it. You have to fit into their vision, their style, their intent, etc. and perfectly, not at all easy, so…

FOR “BEST” (i.e. my favorite) LEAD PERFORMANCE OF 2007 nominees:

MALE:

1. RYAN GOSLING—LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
2. GEORGE CLOONEY—MICHAEL CLAYTON
3. DANIEL-DAY LEWIS—THERE WILL BE BLOOD
4. VIGGO MORTENSEN—EASTERN PROMISES
5. MATHIEU AMAIRIC—THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
6. JOSH BROLIN—NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
8. JAMES MCAVOY—ATONEMENT
9. JIM STURGESS—ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
10. CASEY AFFLECK—GONE BABY GONE (I still haven’t seen the Jesse James flick for which he was nominated for a supporting Oscar)

FEMALE:

1. EVAN RACHEL WOOD—ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
2. KERI RUSSELL—WAITRESS
3. EMILY PAGE—JUNO
4. MARION COTILLARD—LA VIE EN ROSE
5. JULIE DELPY—2 DAYS IN PARIS
6. KIERA KNIGHTLY—ATONEMENT
7. LAUREN AMBROSE—STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING
8. JULIE CHRISTIE—AWAY FROM HER
9. TILDA SWINTON—MICHAEL CLAYTON (I can’t figure why her Oscar nomination is for supporting female role when she’s totally the lead female in this flick the way it ended up)
10. EMILY MORTIMER—LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

“BEST” (i.e. favorite) SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE nominees:

MALE

1. HAL HOLBROOK—INTO THE WILD
2. ELIJAH KELLEY—HAIRSPRAY
3. JOE ANDERSON—ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
4. BEN FOSTER—3:10 TO YUMA
5. JOHN TRAVOLTA—HAIRSPRAY (or should this be in the “female” category?)
6. PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN—(for every movie he was in last year)
7. TOMMY LEE JONES—(ditto, and I know he should be in the leading man list for VALLEY OF ELLAH but he plays every role like it’s a “supporting” one)
8. JAKE GYLLENHAAL—ZODIAC (I’m not always taken with his acting, but in this he was outstanding I thought in a role probably considered the lead)
9. JAVIER BARDEM—NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (although I don’t think what he does in this flick is as impressive as everyone else does—he should have won for previous roles—but he did a great job, despite the hype so…)
10. BILL HODNETT—ONCE (he played the dad)

FEMALE

1. ELIZABETH SHUE—GRACIE
2. AMY RYAN—GONE BABY, GONE
3. VANESSA REDGRAVE—ATONEMENT
4. KELLI GARNER—LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (could be leading but no room)
5. AMY ADAMS—CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
6. KATE BLANCHETT—(for every movie she was in last year, and ditto what I said for Tommy Lee Jones above re: her leading role in ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE)
7. KRISTEN STEWART—INTO THE WILD (the desert teen)
8. SAOIRSE RONAN—ATONEMENT (for the accent alone, from an Irish girl)
9. KELLY MACDONALD—NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
10. LILI TAYLOR—STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING

BEST ENSEMBLE nominees:

THE CASTS OF:

1. LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
2. WAITRESS
3. JUNO
4. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
5. INTO THE WILD
6. THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY
7. LA VIE EN ROSE
8. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
9. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
10. ONCE


BEST (i.e. my favorite) DIRECTOR nominees:

For this I considered everything from casting to pacing (sometimes that’s more the editor’s choice but not without the consent of the director) to music to performances and cinematography (again, often the cinematographer’s choice, but not without the director’s consent, etc., which makes editing and cinematography more difficult to judge, except for the technical quality of the cutting and the shots (if I was picking editor it would be for ZODIAC, an impressive mix, and better to my mind than the directing; cinematography would go to THERE WILL BE BLOOD)—thus, I’m leaving those categories and assuming they are mostly shared by the directors listed here.

1. JULIAN SCHNABEL—THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
2. SEAN PENN—INTO THE WILD
3. ADRIENNE SHELLY—WAITRESS
4. JULIE DELPY—2 DAYS IN PARIS
5. KEN LOACH—THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY
6. JOHN CARNEY—ONCE
7. JULIE TAYMOR—ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
8. CRAIG GILLESPIE—LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
9. OLIVIER DAHAN—LA VIE EN ROSE
10. JOE WRIGHT—ATONEMENT

BEST (i.e. my favorite) SCREENPLAY nominees:

ADAPTED:

1. RONALD HARWOOD—THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
2. SARAH POLLEY—AWAY FROM HER (despite the ambiguous ending)
3. CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON—ATONEMENT (despite the “alternative’ ending)
4. SEAN PENN—INTO THE WILD
5. FRED PARNES—STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING
6. JAMES VANDERBILT—ZODIAC
7. HALSTED WELLES, MICHAEL BRANDT, DEREK HAAS—3:10 TO YUMA
8. RONALD HARWOOD—THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
9. PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON—THERE WILL BE BLOOD (though I didn’t like the ending, and it’s more like a total rewrite than an “adaptaton,” still, some of the dialogue and scenes are incredible)
10. JOEL COEN, ETHAN COEN—NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (ditto for this, only closer to the book)

ORIGINAL:

1. DIABLO CODY—JUNO
2. NANCY OLIVER—LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
3. TONY GILROY—MICHAEL CLAYTON
4. STEVEN KNIGHT—EASTERN PROMISES
5. ADRIENNE SHELLEY—WAITRESS
6. JOHN CARNEY—ONCE
7. PAUL LAVERTY—THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY
8. JULIE DELPY—TWO DAYS IN PARIS
9. MIKE BINDER—REIGN OVER ME
10. TAMARA JENKINS—THE SAVAGES (despite the sort of cutesy ending)

BIGGEST SURPRISES OF 2007 nominees:

1. CASEY AFFLECK IN GONE BABY GONE
2. BEN AFFLECK AS A DIRECTOR, ALMOST TOTALLY PULLS IT OFF
3. JULY DELPY AS A WRITER, DIRECTOR, COMPOSER, PRODUCER, STAR
4. JOSH BROLIN IN NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
5. AMY RYAN IN GONE BABY, GONE
6. BONO IN ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, THE ACCENT AND THE ACTING
7. BEN FOSTER IN 3:10 TO YUMA
8. ELLEN PAGE IN JUNO
9. ALMOST EVERY PERFORMANCE BY A CHILD ACTOR IN 2007 FILMS—FROM 3:10 TO YUMA TO SWEENEY TODD—WAS EXTRAORDINARY
10. SO MANY GREAT SOUNDTRACKS (and too many not nominated for Oscars) FROM JUNO AND ZODIAC TO INTO THE WILD AND LET THERE BE BLOOD

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2007 nominees:

1. THE DIRECTING, WRITING, AND RUSSELL CROWE IN AMERICAN GANGSTER (and the fact that this horribly uneven movie was nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Cast” SAG Award and LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, JUNO, WAITRESS, THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY, ET-SEE-ABOVE-CETERA weren’t)
2. THE ENDING AND CONTRIVED (to me) ATTITUDE OF NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
3. THE ENDING AND SOME OF THE “SUPPORTING ACTORS” OF THERE WILL BE BLOOD
4. JACK BLACK IN MARGOT AT THE WEDDING
5. MARGOT AT THE WEDDING
6. RYAN GOSLING NOT BEING NOMINATED FOR A BEST ACTOR OSCAR
7. LARS AND THE REAL GIRL NOT BEING NOMINATED FOR A BEST PICTURE OSCAR
8. SEAN PENN NOT BEING NOMINATED FOR A BEST DIRECTOR OSCAR
9. THE FACT THAT THE MOVIE INSPIRED BY DYLAN, I’M NOT THERE, ONLY PLAYED IN ONE THEATER IN MANHATTAN AND NOWHERE ELSE IN THE METROPOLITAN AREA, AND THE SAME FOR TOO MANY OTHER INDEPENDENT AND “FOREIGN” FILMS
10. THE UNEXPECTED AND WAY TOO YOUNG TRAGIC DEATHS OF BRAD RENFRO AND HEATH LEDGER

Monday, January 28, 2008

TIME FOR A HEALING

I’m as guilty as anyone of stirring up emotions over politics, as played anywhere—the poetry world, the publishing world, the Hollywood world, the world world.

And this presidential election has certainly got me going. But.

I also do my best to pull myself back from the abyss of divisiveness to address the problem of perceptions vs. realities. Perceptions generally influenced, if not entirely formed, by “the media”—meaning whatever TV you watch and/or radio you listen to and/or books, magazines and newspapers you might read.

At my age I’ve experienced a lot of history, some of it up close, and any account I’ve ever read about in memoirs and histories, or seen portrayed fictionally, in movies or novels, etc. has missed the mark of my memories, often by miles.

As we know from experiments and studies done all over the world throughout the last several decades, so-called “eye witnesses” are completely unreliable.

One example often given is the law school professor lecturing, his students hopefully focused on him as he speaks, but if not, they certainly are when suddenly a person rushes into the room at the front of the class, grabs the professor’s briefcase off his desk and runs out.

When asked to write a description of the event and “the perp,” no two descriptions match. Even traits generally portrayed as givens—“race,” gender, hair color, relative size, etc.—are all over the map.

Many students even mischaracterize the event, seeing the “perp” as having grabbed a paper bag, that never existed on the desk, etc.

And what’s worse, when given photos of possible “suspects” these same “eye witnesses” can be coaxed or misled into absolutely swearing to identify the wrong person.

I experienced this long before I read about these kinds of experiments. I used to do a lot of poetry readings around the country, in the 1970s and ‘80s especially. One place I read a few times was at a Community College in Kansas City, Missourri, in a class taught by my friend and fellow poet, Robert Slater.

One year, during my disco phase, I appeared before the class to read my poems wearing pleated blue baggy pants, multi-colored shoes (predominantly lavender as I remember it), a very thing, transparent (see-through) plastic belt that someone had given me and I was particularly fond of at the time, and some kind of flowery shirt I no longer remember.

After my reading, Slater had the class write an essay on my presentation and appearance. Not only did many of the students completely alter my poems and what they were about or the language used in them, but also my appearance.

Several students had me wearing cowboy boots and jeans and blue denim shirt, some had me in a sport coat, a few even described various leather belts with big buckles. At first it shocked me and then it pissed me off and then I finally accepted the reality of it.

Now obviously some facts can’t be denied. But again, every observer of those facts can interpret them their own way, even label them erroneously. Like people who attribute the prosperity and peace during Bill Clinton’s years as president to his Republican predecessors, or blame Clinton for the failings of the Bush-Cheney administration.

It’s a fact that Reagan, for instance, promised to downsize the government and instead it grew under his time as president, and most of what he promised during his campaign for the presidency he failed to produce during his presidency, though he did follow through on his promised tax cuts (“for the wealthy” as some of his detractors would point out, since that is who got the bulk of the cuts).

But it is also obvious he was a much liked and admired president and character, and was in office when the Soviet system in the U. S. S. R. began to change dramatically for the better, at least from the perspective of most in the West (though true “democracy” never took hold, just a state version of “capitalism” so far, which enriched a few, elevated many, and left a minority to suffer in ways that didn’t occur under the soviets, despite their other obvious shortcomings).

I generally opposed most of what Reagan stood for, and was more than aware of many lies he perpetuated and often was never called on by the media, partly because they were as charmed by his winning personality as I sometimes was, despite my opposition to him.

E.g., I admired the way he handled the attempt on his life, and his sometime wit, and the sometimes easy physical grace he had on camera and I assumed in life.

Most of what Bill Clinton promised during his campaign for the presidency actually occurred under his administration, but that doesn’t seem to matter if you are either convinced that Democrats can do no good, or if you are a Democrat who has a visceral reaction to Clinton (and perhaps Hilary as well) for his defects.

To use the nickname “Slick Willie” for instance, is to demonstrate having been influenced by that part of the media (and throughout his years as president the media was mainly negative toward him) that applied that term and saw him through that prism.

Is he “slick?” Politically he was often successful at beating the Republicans at their own game, but when it came to the Monica affair he seemed pretty un-slick, reminiscent if anyone of Nixon (“Would you buy a used car from this man?” was the famous anti-Nixon barb).

But just looking at the facts in the record of say, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush-Cheney, there’s no question that the one who lied the least, on the public record, is Clinton. I know various rightwing friends and others I don’t know will leave comments citing chapter and verse from some book or commentator or wherever, but it will be untrue.

Maybe some of Reagan’s lies were a result of the onset of the Alzheimer’s he eventually was afflicted with. Or maybe it was a result of his having been a professional actor, whose first successes were as a radio sports announcer pretending to comment on a game he was seeing live (“eye-witnessing”) when what he was doing was making up scenes, based on ticker tape statistics as the game progressed.

The media loved him, and he and his team were extremely adept at manipulating the media into reporting things they way they wanted them reported. Many times during his presidency, Reagan recalled stories of his experiences in warfare that were taken from movies he was either in or saw, since he never experienced warfare but spent WWII making movies.

He also recalled the experiences of combatants that he spoke of as actual events, when they too came from movies. He convinced most of us that he would be tough on terrorists and that the U.S. would never abandon Lebanon to civil war. But after a terrorist blew up the barracks that housed our marines there, and as I remember it over two hundred of them were killed, the worst terrorist attack against “Americans” until 9/11, Reagan immediately withdrew the remaining “American” troops and gave up Lebanon to the terrorists and civil war.

I’m not saying it was the right or wrong move, I’m just saying he often told outright lies and/or did not follow through on promises he made, like they were solemn oaths he would never break, but often did, and usually wasn’t called on it by the media.

Clinton did the same in some instances, but was always attacked vigorously by the media. And Bush-Cheney have lied more often on the public record than certainly any other administration in my lifetime.

And Clinton fulfilled more of his promises, even went beyond them. He not only balanced the budget (something Reagan promised and then ended up with the largest deficit in our history, until Bush-Cheney came along and topped him in that area) but he left his Republican successors with the biggest surplus in history.

Again, the right wing comments I expect for this post will try to interpret Clinton’s successes as a result of other factors than the fact that Clinton was able to make it happen on his watch because he’s smart, understood the details, and appointed competent people to do the job.

The media take on his campaigning for his wife is that he’s playing “the hatchet man” (I haven’t heard anyone use that term, but it fits the way he’s being criticized and some of his behavior, “the hatchet man” in basketball when I was a kid was the tough guy who fouled the other teams’ star(s), often so hard they injured them).

And that he’s somehow sliming (another term I haven’t heard yet in the campaign but is certainly applicable for a lot of what’s happened from every candidate’s camp in both parties but has been exposed by the media and covered most the media as regards the Clinton campaign, partly because of their fame and position, and partly because of their real hatchet man Mark Penn) not only his wife’s opponents but “the office of the presidency” (as if Bush-Cheney have elevated that office, or Reagan didn’t debase it when he laid a wreath in Germany at Bitburg (sp.?) cemetery where former Nazis—and not just any Nazis but SS men, the worst offenders in all the atrocities of WWII—are buried).

Obama generated so much “hope” after his speech at the Democratic convention that nominated Kerry, and in the weeks leading up to the recent Iowa caucuses, that it seemed, even to me, that perhaps he really is a candidate who can heal many of the wounds caused by decades of clashing partisan perspectives on reality.

But at times he hasn’t shown the ability to maintain grace under fire, as Reagan often did, and Clinton too before the Monica scandal. That doesn’t mean Obama might not be the most healing candidate in the race, which certainly would be true for a lot of racial wounds if he were elected president.

But it may be a good thing that the Clintons exposed some of his weaknesses before the nomination is settled, so that if he does win he may be better prepared for the Republicans, and if he wins the presidency, better prepared for the media if and when it turns against him, which the right-wingers will certainly be pushing for behind the scenes as well as through the mass media venues they control or highly influence (which is the majority of them no matter how well they continue to employ the “liberal media” fallacy).

There are too many people who make their livings and/or reputations from fanning the fires of partisanship and negativity and sometimes downright evil—as well as from finding or creating enemies to rally their followers, constituents or clients/customers against—for any grand unifying movement to succeed completely.

But, if a true “unifier” could be elected, a lot of healing could possibly occur, and maybe, just maybe, the partisan flame throwers could be marginalized for a while. Like they were after 9/11, when the nation felt unified in its grief and resolution, before Bush-Cheney squandered that opportunity and led us all to the brink of national bankruptcy not only financially, but politically and spiritually as well.

I think Obama might be that candidate, more than any of the others. On the Republican side, it seemed like it could be McCain, though the mudslinging between him and Romney over Florida might leave a bad aftertaste, too bitter to enable the kind of unifying that only a strong national mandate and follow up support from a majority of voters could help enact.

I’m beginning to hope Obama makes it. I hope Ted Kennedy’s endorsement helps and doesn’t harm his chances (the only Democrat the rightwingers love to hate as much as the Clintons is Ted Kennedy). But I can’t see how Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement can’t help. It impressed me, just the way she put it—that all her life people have been telling her how inspired they were by her father, JFK, and now, for the first time in her life, there’s a chance, from her perspective, and even more important to her reasoning, from her three teenagers’ perspective, to have a president who can inspire people like that again.

Let’s hope it’s true.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

CHRISTOPHER ALLPORT R.I.P.

You may have heard about the freak avalanches that took the lives of three skiers over the past few days in California.

Freak because the ski resorts where they happened usually have to manufacture snow. They’re such minor mountains and so far South, avalanches are almost unheard of there.

But after a rare and sudden three feet of snow last week, conditions were not normal, and even seasoned off trail skiers like my friend, the actor Chris Allport, were taken by surprise.

His body was recovered yesterday, but his loss will be felt for years to come.

Chris has been described in news reports of his death, as a “character actor.” It’s not clear what the media means by that label, and I always find it suspect. If it means actors who play a lot of different characters, well, that’s what actors do, so that includes every actor.

If it means actors who drastically change their appearance from role to role, as Di Niro and Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron and George Clooney and, again, most actors have done at least once in their careers, well, we’re back to talking about actors in general.

I think what they often mean is “not a star”—someone who plays supporting roles more than leads, most often because they don’t fit the stereotype of “leading men” and “ladies.”

Though Chris worked a lot and most often in supporting roles, he was as handsome and charming as any “star,” and he had the kind of charismatic, warm smile that could melt your heart, like only a few stars possess.

He was also a terrific singer and guitar player and writer. He often brought along his guitar to parties and other gatherings and not only entertained those present, but got them to shed their inhibitions or cool poses and sing along to old rock’n’roll and folk and whatever was called for.

He was married to an old friend of mine, a beautiful and fine poet and writer. A marriage that always seemed so romantic and loving it was much admired, and probably envied, by those who knew them.

Their modest home, in Santa Monica, is one of those old-California-style bungalows that always made an Easterner like me feel like I was in a movie just being in it. But the most obvious characteristic of the place is how welcoming it always was, to friends and strangers alike.

They have a beautiful boy, just a tad older than my youngest, born in Santa Monica, where Chris's family were some of the first people he knew. My little guy’s mother reminded me that we have a video somewhere in which their little boy, hardly big enough to know how to walk let alone talk, when asked who his favorite singer is shouts “Bob Dylan!” They are those kind of folks.

The hearts of everyone who knew Chris, and Susan and their son and Chris's older son, are broken by this tragedy.

Any sudden unexpected death is painful, and all deaths suck for someone left behind. If anything good can be made from this tragic passing, it’s the years that Chris had with his beautiful family, and the memories they will always have. And the fact that he went out doing one of the things he loved almost as much as his family.

For the rest of us, his handsome face and beautiful smile will live on in the movies and TV shows he was a part of, even the ones where the roles required him to not smile or look so handsome. Small consolation for his family, but something for his friends to hold on to.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

QUOTE FOR THE WEEK

"People are all human
When you think about it
But when you don't
They're not"

—Deborah Hendell from THE WORLD FROM MY WINDOW (written when she was 11)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

FUTURE LALLY’S ALLEY AWARD WINNERS?

Here’s ten books I started reading in 2007, or more recently, and haven’t finished, so weren’t on my list of nominees for my first annual book “awards.”

Five great books published before 2007, that I began reading in 2007 and am almost finished, but already highly recommend:

1. ALPHABETS (LITTORAL BOOKS 1999) poems by PAUL VANGELISTI (as always with L. A. poet Vangelisti, the poetry is unique, not only in form but in content)
2. ELECTRIC CHURCH (BEYOND BAROQUE BOOKS 2003) poems by K. CURTIS LYLE (and the same can be said for this highly original poet as well)
3. GREEN SUEDE SHOES (THUNDER’S MOUTH PRESS 2005) AN IRISH-AMERICAN ODYSSEY by LARRY KIRWAN (the leader of the Irish punk band Black 47 tells his story, using the lyrics he wrote for their tunes as the jumping off point for his memories of growing up in Ireland and his adult life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, well worth reading if you dig their music and even if you don’t)
4. DOMAIN OF PERFECT AFFECTION (UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH PRESS 2006) poems by ROBIN BECKER (one of the better poets on the academic scene—“Women’s Studies” etc.—these days)
5. AMERICAN BLOOMSBURY (SIMON AND SCHUSTER 2006) LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, RALPH WALDO EMERSON, MARGARET FULLER, NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, AND HENRY DAVID THOREAU: THEIR LIVES, THEIR LOVES, THEIR WORK by SUSAN CHEEVER (exactly what it says, and done well)

Four great books published in 2007—and the first great book of 2008—which I’m still reading and digging:

1. ABOUT NOW (NATIONAL POETRY FOUNDATION, U. OF MAINE 2007) COLLECTED POEMS by JOANNE KYGER (one of my all time favorite poets, who was there in the 1950s as part of the West Coast branch of the so-called Beat scene, but is and was always unique, with her own original approach to “the problem of the poem” as they used to say, reading her is for me like a daily meditation, calming, centering, enlightening, and often surprisingly entertaining)
2. “41” POEMS (LULU PRESS 2007) by JOSE R. FUNES (another unique poet whose work is like no one else’s in too many ways to number)
3. IN THE PINES (PENGUIN POETS 2007) poems by ALICE NOTLEY (she’s getting a lot of attention lately, deservedly, and this book shows why, talk about “unique”—a word I seem to be overusing in this list, but nowhere more applicable)
4. THE LATE SHOW (TURTLE POINT PRESS 2007) POEMS by DAVID TRINIDAD (nonetheless, it applies here too, “unique” and “uniquer”—every poem is worth the price of admission)
5. THE RIOT ACT (BOOTSTRAP PRESS 2008) poems by GEOFFREY YOUNG (as you already know if you read this blog, Young is one of my favorite poets, every book of his worth checking out, including this latest)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

ATONEMENT

I read the Ian McEwan book awhile ago, and more recently read some critics who claimed that the movie didn’t live up to the book, was a nice attempt, but in the end a failure.

I couldn’t disagree more, and am happy to see it nominated for “Best Picture” Oscar.

The book I found ultimately forgettable, despite how well written it was, and how original and disturbing the story was.

It came across as a very well done romance novel, and before I saw the movie it would have been difficult for me to remember the intricacies of each character’s story and their relationships, besides the three main ones. But even those had faded in the year or two since I’d read it.

The movie will stay with me for a long time. It is so well directed (and shot and edited, which often are the director’s vision and sense of the story), and so well acted, thanks to that direction and the casting, which is the first test of a director.

Is the movie just a well done “romance” genre flick? Not to me. It resonates with the problems caused by the lies and deceptions of our own troubled time and the death and destruction of our own wars, as well as the shattered lives they cause.

But in the end, it’s just one of those incredibly well done Brit flicks that captures the past like it seems no other nation’s films can do as well. Maybe because the glory that was England and its empire are in the past, and what it means to be British now is so different than what it meant for centuries.

And I say this as the descendant of persecuted and oppressed Irish ancestors, as recent as my grandparents, under those same Brits. But for all their history of brutal oppression of others, they still make great period costume films.

And who looks better in period costumes than Keira Knightly? Nobody.

She did a terrific job, as did everyone else in the film, including James McAvoy as the male lead and Saoirse Ronan as the catalyst of the film’s plot.

But in the end, even though it is almost a cameo, a very small part, Vanessa Redgrave does her always impeccable and superior acting job, and as usual, made me want to rise from my seat and give her a standing ovation.

Friends have compared ATONEMENT to THE ENGLISH PATIENT, a film I also was impressed with at the time, with terrific acting in it as well. But the difference is—warmth. There was passion in THE ENGLISH PATIENT, but not enough warmth. The Brits in it, for my taste, were cold even in the throes of romance.

Maybe that’s just Ralph Fiennes. But Keira Knightly and James McAvoy, under Joe Wright’s direction, are as warm as humans can be, and as hot as two beautiful young people in love and passionately attracted to each other can be.

Considering the crowd scenes, the scene changes, the number of principal characters and the brilliant camera work—angles and movement and painterly use of close ups and cutting—this movie may be the most impressive film achievement of 2007.

At least for me, still feeling its impact as I write this.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NOT AGAIN (The S.C. DEBATE)

Say it ain't so Hilary and Barak.

Obama was the big loser, because now he's down on their level, looking a lot less like the inspirational man of hope who transcends politics as usual and more like a politician who in my eyes didn't defend himself well enough because she got him on facts that seem to suggest failings that would take too complicated an explanation to explain, especially in a few seconds, or even minutes, on TV in a debate.

But he should have been better prepared for her slams, as she obviously was for his. And she came out of it looking refreshed. He's been looking a little haggard.

Edwards came across best, though he's not above that politics as usual stuff either.

And the amunition they supplied for whoever the Republican nominee will be, let alone the resentments they are creating among their supporters toward each other. If this didn't do it, more of the same will, that is, once again pull the Democratic Party in different directions so that the Republicans can pick off the factions one by one.

THE FIRST ANNUAL LALLY’S ALLEY AWARD FOR “BEST” (i.e. my favorite) BOOK(S) OF THE YEAR:

I read constantly but not necessarily bestsellers, and definitely nowhere near a majority of the books that come out in a year, (for instance I haven’t read any of the five finalists in poetry for The National Book Critics Award, even though back in the 1970s and ‘80s I was a member of that group), so I have two separate awards:

“BEST” BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2007

and

“BEST” BOOK PUBLISHED BEFORE 2007 BUT READ BY ME FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2007.

The ten top nominees for

“BEST” (i.e. my favorite) BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2007 (that I read in 2007 and are among the ones I can remember right now, as I’m sure there are others I dug that didn’t make the list and I just can’t remember at this second):

1. THE ART OF LEE MILLER (YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS 2007) by MARK HAWORTH-BOOTH (great collection of her photographs and an accessible and well researched take on them in the context of her life)
2. BOY DRINKERS (HANGING LOOSE PRESS 2007) poems by TERENCE WINCH
3. EVA HESSE DRAWING (THE DRAWING CENTER/YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS 2007) edited by CATHERINE DE ZEGHER (for Hesse’s drawings, not necessarily the jargony essays about them and her)
4. FAIT ACCOMPLI (FACTORY SCHOOL 2007) prose by NICK PIOMBINO
5. HOW THE IRISH INVENTED SLANG (COUNTER PUNCH and AK PRESS 2007) by DANIEL CASSIDY (a repetitive but insightful and conclusive argument for reversing decades of scholarship claiming the Irish language, Gaelic, contributed little or nothing to “American” slang, proving that it may have contributed more than any other language)
6.ON THE ROAD: THE ORIGINAL SCROLL (VIKING 2007) by JACK KEROUAC
7.OVERNIGHT (HANGING LOOSE PRESS 2007) poems by PAUL VIOLI
8.RIPPLE EFFECT (COFFEE HOUSE PRESS 2007) poems by ELAINE EQUI
9.SOMETHING RED (STAY AT HOME PRESS 2007) prose poems by MARK TERRILL
10.THERE ARE WORDS (DOS MADRES PRESS 2007) poems by BURT KIMMELMAN

and the nominees for:

“BEST” (i.e. my favorite) BOOK PUBLISHED BEFORE 2007 THAT I READ FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2007 (and that I can remember right now):

1. DAYS BY THEMSELVES (BLUE EARTH PRESS 2006) poems by BROOKS RODDAN
2. ENCOUNTERING EVA HESSE (PRESTEL VERLAG 2006) edited by GRISELDA POLLACK and VANESSA CORBY
3. LIFE OF A POET: RAINER MARIA RILKE (NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY PRESS 1996) A BIOGRAPHY by RALPH FREEDMAN
4. MAKING THE SKELETON DANCE (GEORGE BRAZILLER 2000) POEMS AND DIALOGUES by PATRIICIA GARFINKEL
5. NEMO (SUN & MOON PRESS 1995) poems by PAUL VANGELISTI
6. POCKETS OF WHEAT (THE FIGURES 2004) poem(s) by GEOFFREY YOUNG
7. PRETTY TALES FOR TIRED PEOPLE (SIMON AND SCHUSTER 1965) stories by MARTHA GELHORN
8. VILLA (LITTORAL BOOKS 1991) poems by PAUL VANGELISTI (poetic epistles, or vice versa, set in ancient Rome)
9. WHERE X MARKS THE SPOT (HANGING LOOSE 2006) poems by BILL ZAVATSKY
10. JOHN HENRY’S PARTNER SPEAKS (PUDDING HOUSE PUBLICATIONS 2006) poems by DAVID SALNER


AND THE WINNERS ARE:

BEST (i.e. my favorite) BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2007 (that I read in 2007 and could remember when I made up the list of top ten nominees):



BOY DRINKERS (HANGING LOOSE PRESS) poems by TERENCE WINCH

(these poems achieve everything that makes Winch’s writing terrific: narrative drive, lilting rhythms, lyrical distillation of nostalgia and living memory with the wisdom of experience and maturity, poignant as well as enlightening humor, accessibility coupled with insight, and humility with grace—a great introduction to Winch’s work and genius)

And

BEST BOOK PUBLISHED BEFORE 2007 THAT I READ FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2007 (and could remember when I made up that list of the ten top nominees):



ENCOUNTERING EVA HESSE (PRESTEL VERLAG 2007) edited by GRISELDA POLLACK and VANESSA CORBY

(first of all this is a beautifully produced book, a work of art in and of itself, that then contains some of the best photographs of Hesse’s work I’ve seen, as well as of Hesse and her studio(s) and gallery shows and people that were important to her work, as well as some interesting and enlightening interviews and serious scholarship, though some of the latter can at times be a little too “post-modern” jargony for my taste, most are surprisingly not, and the book itself is the most beautiful book I “encountered” in 2007)

Monday, January 21, 2008

SUZANNE PLESHETTE

I ran into Suzanne Pleshette at Hollywood clubs and parties now and then throughout my almost twenty years out there in the 1980s and ‘90s. She came across in person like the wise cracking, cigarettes-and-whiskey-voiced, tough babe she sometimes played.

But I first met her around 1984, when I was called in to a TV audition with her for the big boys, not just the producers, writers and director, but the network honchos.

It must have been during my “hot” phase, because there was no preliminary audition with just the casting director, or even with the casting director and the show’s creators, pre-network.

It was a time when some people were actually looking for a TV vehicle for me to star in. But this was for a show Pleshette was to star in, and they had me audition for one of her love interests, as I remember it.

She was only five years older than me, according to her official bio, but in my memory she seemed to have been around a lot longer. Partly because I started acting professionally so late in life (around 40), and partly because I never did much theater work as an actor, since for me acting was my “day job” to support my writing, and I associated her with the kind of over-the-top Broadway personalities that were the opposite of my acting models—Brando, et. al.

Unfortunately for me, professionally, I didn’t watch much TV then, at least not TV shows. That hurt me in several ways, including my attitude of superiority around those who made their money in TV. After all, I thought, I’m a poet, which is as far from writing for money as you can get in our society, though there were periods in my life when I lived off the money I received for my poetry—grants, awards, etc.

But a TV writer/producer friend’s anger over my easy dismissal of TV shows, and “Hollywood” in general, made me look at that superior attitude and admit that TV and movies had been very good to me, paying my rent and putting food on the table for me and my kids many times.

Also, because I didn’t watch them, I was unaware of the great artistry and creative accomplishments of those doing the best work on TV in the 1970s and ‘80s. Now I know that included Suzanne Pleshette and her work with Bob Newhart.

Back then I only knew Newhart from his early record albums in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, when he was, I believe, the first comic whose records outsold the popular music stars of the time. I recognized from those recordings that he was a very funny guy.

But I never watched the shows he had on the tube, like the Bob Newhart Show of the 1970s, so I didn’t know how subtle and refined Pleshette’s comic work could be when I entered a room full of suits and there she was.

The bit they were using for my audition was a comic scene. My best comic work, I knew from the little comedy I had done, was when I played the straight man, the guy who didn’t get the joke, or that the joke was on him.

I don’t remember anymore what the scene consisted of, I only remember that when I stepped into the center of the room with Pleshette, she was already working the suits, cracking wise, with that tobacco and booze tinged voice that reminded me of one of my aunts who always made me feel like I wasn’t in on the joke.

And that’s the way I felt at this audition. Pleshette was cracking the suits up, or at least getting them to smile, and I felt out of place, not only not in on the joke, but possibly the butt of it, only this wasn’t part of the scene, this was the preparation for it, and in my own over-the-top attempt to be part of the humor, I did the usual and made some inappropriate remark, maybe even at Pleshette’s expense, no matter how unintentional.

Despite the uncomfortable atmosphere all that created, everyone acted as if we were all just entertained to death as Suzanne and I settled into the beginning of the scene. But when I looked into her face I suddenly felt so wrong, so out of place, so not up to whatever was going on in that room that I couldn’t play the scene any way other than self-consciously, which, unless that’s what the character is supposed to be feeling, is the kiss of death at an audition,

They gave me a few more tries, because someone obviously wanted me for the role, but I just got worse and worse, thinking, I’m all wrong for this, I can’t do this, and also—egocentrically—this will never work because I look so much younger than this woman.

But I was aware enough to see that she was doing everything in her power to make it work, to put me at ease, unlike the earlier joking, and to help me not embarrass myself. I did anyway.

As far as I know that show never ran, or if it did I never heard of it. I went on to some minor triumphs and then lost that shot and turned to other ways of making a living out there, screenwriting, TV guest appearances, etc.

A few years after that audition, when my two older children, high school teenagers at the time, and I were shopping for Christmas trees, I had another experience that the news of Suzanne Pleshette’s death brought back to me.

My kids were at an age where no matter what kind of tree I got or how we trimmed it, each of them thought it was lame or didn’t work. So I suggested we each pick our own smallish tree and decorate them by ourselves. So we did. My daughter’s was just about perfect, matching colors, perfect balance, etc., while my son’s was totally punked out, and mine was randomly creative and/or totally solipsistic, depending on your point of view, or mine.

But before we brought them home and decorated them, as we were deciding which trees to get, an older man joined us in his own search for a tree and I recognized him as Tom Poston, one of my favorite comic actors from his early days with the Steve Allen Tonight show of the 1950s and early ‘60s that seemed so amazingly hip and funny I watched it religiously (after all, he had Kerouac on and all kinds of great jazz musicians, and himself had written a song that most of my jazz idols played).

I always let people whose work I dig know it. Not because I think it matters to them if some stranger likes their work, especially if they are as well known as a TV or movie star, but because I know how much it always meant to me, especially if it was in a time when things were slow, or I was being turned down for book deals or awards, or roles in movies or TV shows.

So I approached him and told him how much I loved his work. He seemed very shy, but also very pleased, and said, “I’m a big fan of your work as well.” I just assumed he was being polite, that somehow he had guessed I too acted on TV, so I tried to brush his compliment aside, but he mentioned the show he had seen me on.

That response kept me smiling for weeks, as at the time I was rapidly descending into debt because my acting career had dried up and the screenwriting one was going slowly.

I can see to this day, Poston’s sweet smile and shy demeanor as he thanked me for my compliment and returned it with his. But it wasn’t until yesterday, when I heard the news of Suzanne Pleshette’s death, that I learned they had married a several years ago, and that he too had passed a few years later.

That made me sad, but also happy for both of them, especially when the radio and TV news ran comic bits from the Newhart show of Pleshette doing her thing. I was stunned by how great she was, how subtle and honest, how complimentary her style was to Newhart’s, not anything like the Broadway babe she came across as in person and in her public image, or at least the one I had of her.

How great that these two wonderful creators of so many pleasant moments and memories for so many people found each other, no matter how late in life. Sorry they’re both gone now, but glad they were here.

ONE THING THIS ELECTION IS ABOUT

Thanks to Lisa Duggan for sending me this link.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

JUNIOR'S RESUME

A version of this has been bouncing around the internet for the past several years. But thanks to Paull Harryn for reminding me of it.


This person will be out of a job in January 2009, and willing to relocate.

RESUME

GEORGE W. BUSH
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20520

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE:

Law Enforcement:
I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been "lost" and is not available.

Military:
I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam.

College:
I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.


PAST WORK EXPERIENCE:

I ran for U.S. Congress and lost.

I began my career in the oil business in Midland,Texas in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.

I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.

With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry, I was elected governor of Texas.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS GOVERNOR OF TEXAS:

I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America.

I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.

I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.

With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida , and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President of the United States, after losing by over 500,000 votes.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS PRESIDENT:

I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.

I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.

I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.

I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.

I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues.

I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My "poorest millionaire," Condoleezza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.

I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President.

I am the all-time U.S. and world record-holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.

My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. history, Enron.

My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.

I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.

I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.

I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.

I appointed more convicted criminals to my administration than any President in U.S. history.

I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States Government.

I've broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history.

I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.

I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law.

I refused to allow inspector's access to U.S. "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.

I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 US election).

I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.

I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.

I garnered the most sympathy ever for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.

I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.

I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. Citizens and the world community.

I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families in wartime.

I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.

I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.

I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical Bunker Buster," a WMD.

I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.


RECORDS AND REFERENCES:

All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view.

All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.

I have specified that my sealed documents will not be available for 50 years.

Friday, January 18, 2008

STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING

A lot of people told me to see this flick, because Frank Langella’s performance is so amazing, they said. (And I’m sure, unspoken, because they thought I might identify with a film about an elderly writer and a beautiful young woman.)

But everyone is pretty terrific in this flick, with the truly amazing performance, for my taste, being that young redhead who played the daughter on SIX FEET UNDER, Lauren Ambrose. She not only holds her own, she makes the movie work.

Langella does do a beautiful job, with some moments that stand up to the best on film. And Lili Taylor does her always fine job, as does everyone else, especially Adrian Lester. But Ambrose is a revelation.

It’s another movie about aging, but unlike AWAY FROM HER and THE SAVAGES, (and in an indirect way THERE WILL BE BLOOD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) this movie, STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING, didn’t leave me second guessing the writer, or ultimately disappointed, in any way.

Maybe I am a sucker for what we used to call when I was a kid “Hollywood endings”—before Scorcese and Coppola and the rest of the filmmakers of my generation turned those happy-ever-after endings on their head. Not that this has a happy-ever-after ending. But it does tie up a few things, and have that natural circling-in-on-itself that Grace Metalius (the infamous author of the best-selling novel of my youth, PEYTON PLACE) said was the main device for a novel to work (she could have cited Joyce’s FINNEGANS WAKE).

Or maybe I just need a little hope at the end of my movies these days, after years of hope being mugged on a daily basis it seems. Maybe we all do, or a lot of us.

Not that STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING is a feel-good movie, or reverses the realities of aging vs. youth, or pretends that the losses that go with aging are completely made up for by whatever wisdom has been gained, or can be shook loose by late-in-life new experiences.

All that is, in fact, what the movie’s about. And, a lot of it rang true to what I’ve experienced, and watched others experience. But in the end it doesn’t ring false to me because it is presented with a kind of blemishes-and-all reality that corresponds to the dailiness of most of our lives and yet holds a kernel of not only intellectual and artistic rigor, but the grace that does indeed sometimes arrive in the form of disappointments.

Worth seeing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

GIMME A BREAK


Last Saturday I took a break from all the political sparring and had one of those perfect New York days.

I took New Jersey Transit to Penn Station and walked up to the main library on 42nd Street. It was a crisply cool day, more late Fall than Winter.

I remember when I first returned East for good in ’99, I dropped by the 42nd Street library for an exhibit, could it have been of R. B. Kitaj collaborations with poets? It was in a small exhibit room upstairs—books I mostly knew well, under glass.

It made me feel a bit fossilized myself. On my way out after that '99 visit, I couldn’t resist checking the catalogue, for any books of mine they might have, and was delighted to discover they had them all, though several were only in “the rare book” room. Pretty cool. I left with a definite unfossilized spring in my step.

I haven’t checked the catalogue for me since, and don’t intend to. Once is enough for that kind of kick. (And by now they may well have gotten rid of some.) So I headed right for the Jack Kerouac exhibit, which is easy enough to find since it’s right on the first floor as soon as you come in.

I had seen most of it already, but Saturday I had more time and could linger over items I hadn’t been able to before. Like his original mock ups of sports newspaper pages that he had hand written in tiny print, and pasted cut out photos of horses and ballplayers, etc. when he was a boy.

They were like original collages, perfect works of art that I would hang on my wall anytime (and I’m sure some were sold for that purpose to those who could afford them, as the “scroll”—or “roll” as Kerouac referred to it, was).

Some of them were a little too far back in their glass show cases for me to be able to read much of without tearing up from the strain, but still a kick to dig, as was seeing the “scroll” again and the variety of people also there to check out the exhibit, from young student bohos to fairly straight looking older folks, speaking several different languages, including American, a tribute to Kerouac’s belief in the value of his work and its longevity.

I couldn’t help but smile thinking of how he had the last word on his critics. There were things in the exhibit I would have changed, but in the end it not only showed the depth and breadth of his amazing output and dedication to his art and craft, but also what a pack rat he was. There’s something of the relics of saints about the cases harboring his reading glasses and the crutches he used when he broke his leg that time.

I left there feeling happy and headed up Fifth Avenue to the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, where a new exhibition of Jane Freilicher’s paintings was having its opening reception. I had the pleasure of not only seeing old friends I rarely see these days, but also of seeing the latest artwork from a woman who was one of the few successful women painters on the New York scene of the 1950s, the “Jane” of so many of Frank O’Hara’s now famous poems, still going strong after all these years.

There were two or three paintings in the show that I also would happily hang on my walls if I could afford them (like the one above), but at least I got the catalogue, as a gift from the gallery, for which I am very grateful, along with a recent publication of O’Hara’s POEMS FROM THE TIBOR DE NAGY EDITIONS 1952-1966, the three small books the gallery published back then, now in one beautifully done edition.

I left just in time to walk around the corner to the Paris Theater to catch a showing of STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING, a movie that had been highly recommended to me by friends, and they were right. I’ll write more about that in my next post. Just wanted to share the joy so many creative endeavors can bring to me, like these three “showings” which I highly recommend you check out if you live in the New York area, before they’re gone.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

HOW ‘BOUT THEM REPUBLICANS?

It’s very interesting that Ron Paul continues to outdo either Rudy G. or Fred Thompson, or both of them, in the primaries, but the TV pundits don’t seem to notice, or at least the mainstream media doesn’t.

I didn’t hear anyone mention the fact that Paul got 8% of the vote in Mchigan, ahead of Rudy and Fred, votes I think we can assume would have gone to McCain if Paul wasn’t in the race, and therefore would have meant a win for McCain. No one mentioned that either.

There was talk though, that some Democratic and independent spoilers planned to vote for Romney just to keep the Republicans off balance, creating three different front runners having won primaries, with a possible fourth in Florida if Rudy takes it as predicted by some.

But if the Republicans can’t decide by their convention and it goes to the floor there, that might not help Democrats. Yes, if the Democratic candidate is chosen by February’s primaries, so-called super-duper Tuesday, he or she will have had more time to raise money, but they will not have had a single opponent to aim at, and the Democratic convention will be more boring because the candidate will be known, while the Republican one will be more dramatic and therefore gain more viewers to see the outcome and perhaps more supporters for whoever wins.

It’s a tough one for the Republicans. Romney almost certainly can’t win a general election. Too many flip-flops and too many people suspicious or downright frightened by his Mormonism.

McCain could win a general election, but he’s too independent on some issues for the Republican base, too unpredictable for the Republican bosses, and too old with a history of health issues to not hold the possibility of something going wrong before the general election.

Huckabee is a mixed bag. He has some new ideas, though probably impossible to implement (like the so-called flat tax, the national sales tax replacing all other taxes, which most economists say won’t work and will create a huge underground economy with no regulation at all etc.) and some old ones (like his Christian fundamental beliefs that deny evolution and abhor homosexuality and believe only born-agains get into heaven, etc.), which makes him highly unlikely to be able to win a general election as well.

That leaves Rudy G. and Fred Thompson, neither of whom have done very well so far, but could pull a late start in the South. If either of them did that (Rudy supposedly has the best chance with Florida) they’d have a better shot than most others, except McCain, and would be preferable to the Republican establishment, if not the base.

But they are also the scariest, from the perspective of anyone who believes this country is on the wrong track and has been in fact partially destroyed by the present administration. Rudy has all the petty personal problematic traits of Junior (surrounding himself with yes men and cronies who aren’t necessarily the best for the jobs or for the country etc.) plus an even bigger ego and even less patience for anyone who doesn’t agree with him and give him all credit and loyalty, or really fealty.

He also has as his top political advisors people who believe we have to invade Iran the same way Junior surrounded himself with neocons who believed we had to invade Iraq, long before 9/11, and just used that as a convenient excuse to do it.

And when mayor of New York, he demonstrated little understanding of or sympathy for the rights of citizens who aren’t his friends (as well as poor judgment in placing the anti-terrorist security central command in the World Trade Center after it had already been bombed once despite warnings from all the experts which, like Junior, he ignored and went with his own “gut instinct” etc.) having terrible relations with the black community and other minorities and equally bad relationship with the arts community, etc. which, he seemed to be unaware, is one of the main “industries” in the city.

Thompson is just spoiled and lazy, and is further to the right on many issues than any of the other candidates and even junior in some instances. But he doesn’t really have a chance. As neither does Paul, the most interesting of the Republican candidates, because he is really a Libertarian, and contrarian, and as such isn’t taken seriously, even though he’s the one who most often speaks the truth at Republican debates, but is usually laughed down, not only by the other candidates but by the moderators, and the media in general.

Too bad. I’d love to see a debate between Paul and Kucinich (sp?) the Democratic candidate who gets the same treatment and seems to serve the same purpose, in terms of the “truth” etc. but has not made nearly as good a showing in the primaries as Paul has (partly because of his sharing having seen UFOs in the past).

It would be great if after the next few primaries, Paul’s still in the race but Thompson and Romney (and hopefully even Rudy) have to drop out after no wins, (or no more wins in Romney’s case) and it’s down to McCain, Huckabee and Paul. That would be a really interesting debate too.

Any way you slice it, this has got to be the most interesting, most complicated, most unpredictable presidential primary season in memory for most of us. I just hope it turns out for the best, and not the worst. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

PS

Did you see the Democratic debate in Nevada tonight? See, it can be done, a debate about the nuances of policy difference and honest assessments of each candidate's past actions that were contrary to their recent stated beliefs and ideals, as well as each candidates past politcally corageous actions that personified their ideals and beliefs.

Guess they read my blog.

Or—great minds think alike.

Or—their experience, or the experience of some of their advisors, is similar to mine, and they feared the same results I did, and still do, so worked hard to keep it about issues and goals and factual experience and not about personal, race and gender attacks and set ups.

Let's hope they keep it up. Tonight they all came across as solid adversaries for any Republican in the general election next November. It was easy to see why each candidate's supporters believe in their standard bearer. Every one of them had a moment of passionate expression of their particular goals and commitment to them that convinced me, and each also correctly characterized the man they plan to replace, and his regime, as the failure it has so obviously been in so many arenas.

Like I said, I could vote for any of them. Tonight at least.

SORRY ABOUT THAT

I notice in some of my past and recent posts—especially, but not only, the political ones—I can come across as though I think I know the definitive answer to what reality is in any given situation, or what excellence is.

I don’t.

I just have my opinions (based on a lifetime of experience and observation etc., but so is everyone else’s).

The fun of a blog, for me, is being able to share a small portion of the thoughts that race through my head all day about everything I am experiencing, remembering, observing, hearing, realizing, etc. and how I feel and think about all that.

I’ve always gotten into trouble, from my first words really (which two of my brothers let me know in recent years were curse words!), for what I’ve had to say.

I’ve worked on the cursing over the years, usually to little success, and on trying to be more humble (i.e. realistic) about how my perspective is simply that. When I start ranting about things I find offensive or raving about things I find awe-inspiring, I’m just excited to share the passion of my opinions and beliefs, no matter how fleeting they sometimes may be, or how lasting.

In the arena of politics, I have been an engaged activist for most of my life, less now than ever before, but still active here and there. I think I learned some things, some of which I’ve been trying to share in the past few posts.

Not about who you should vote for, or who is the “best” candidate, but about my belief that it will be better for the country, more healing and help to get us back on track, if a Democrat is elected to the presidency in November.

And my equally strong belief that the two most damaging election results—those of 1968 and 2000—which led to a horrific amount of death and destruction, more senseless than any other in my lifetime (WWI has them all beat, but I wasn’t alive then) could have been easily avoided had people with shared values and goals not become so passionately partisan about their candidates to the point of refusing to vote for any other nominee or voting for a symbolic candidate who had no chance of winning but would take votes away from the candidate who would not have caused so much death and destruction.

I’m talking, obviously, about Hubert Humphrey and Al Gore, both Democratic presidential candidates who failed to win (in Gore’s case he won but not enough to insure his victory) because fellow Democrats and “independents” either didn’t vote or voted for someone who didn’t have a chance of winning but better represented their ideals.

There is no question that had Humphrey won, the war in Vietnam would have ended much sooner, and the wars in Cambodia and Laos would not have occurred, and an inordinate amount of senseless death and destruction would not have occurred as a result. The course of history would have been different in many more ways as well, would have been better, much better.

The same if Gore had definitively won in 2000. No question about it, the world would be better off, let alone our country, and there would be a lot of people still alive, families still intact, etc. etc.

That’s my belief. Based on strong evidence, but a belief nonetheless since no one can know what “might” have happened. But there’s no doubt that a Gore administration would not have invaded Iraq in pursuit of enemies who attacked us who were hiding in Afghanistan. He may well have attacked Afghanistan and gotten Bin Laden and that country may have become, with our full support as we originally promised and then reneged on under Bush, the model of democracy and peace in the Middle East.

Or the 9/11 attacks may never have occurred in the first place, the plot may have been foiled, since Gore was taking the intelligence about Bin Laden a lot more seriously than Bush did. But, no matter, it is still just a belief, mine.

And it is my belief, that if the race for the nomination for the Democratic candidate for president continues the way it has recently (hopefully it can still right itself, I’ll certainly be watching closely the Nevada debate), focusing on accusations of “racism” and “sexism” backed up with stories of vote rigging and “swift-boating” and misrepresenting each other’s records and so on, all things that will certainly be used against the Democratic candidate in November by the Republicans, but if that continues among Democrats and the “Independents” that are leaning toward the Democrats, than a Republican can, and probably will, win.

And it is my belief that under another Republican administration, there will be more death and destruction caused by our government’s actions and lack of action, than under a Democratic one, no matter who the nominee is.

This is all personal. And I’m sorry if sometimes I forget that it is for you too. I felt responsible in the 1960s when protests turned violent and people got killed, because I had written articles in various “underground” and leftist newspapers justifying some violence, and I had given speeches defending violent measures because of the frustration of me and many others with the slow progress of our attempt to end racism and the war in Vietnam.

But by contributing to getting Nixon elected by promoting the candidacy of Eldridge Cleaver for president on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket (which I was on too, on the local level) instead of seeing, as many of my working-class friends and relatives certainly saw, that if Humphrey lost to Nixon, not only would the war go on even longer (another six years in fact, and spread to other countries leaving problems that still are unresolved) but the regular people I came from and others like them would pay the price, not only with their service and possible injury or death, but with job losses and pay decreases and in general a lessening of their rights and economic welfare in favor of the rights and economic welfare of corporations.

It is hard for me to believe that John Edwards believes his father and grandmother who worked so hard in the mill to give him a better life, that people like them, wouldn’t be better off under a Hilary Clinton administration than under a Rudy Guilliani one, or any other Republican.

It is hard for me to believe that Barak Obama believes that under a Hilary Clinton administration African-Americans would be worse off than under a Republican administration.

Just as it’s hard for me to believe that Hilary Clinton believes that a Barak Obama administration would somehow be full of less experience people who believe in “fairy tales” and can’t handle the hard realities of this country’s problems and international relations, or that a John Edwards’ administration wouldn’t be able to get anything done because it would be too confrontational, etc.

I truly believe that they are all wise enough and experienced enough to know that any Democratic administration will be better for the causes they champion than any Republican administration. But I’m not sure their supporters all realize that, and I fear the consequences of the divisiveness their recent tactics are causing.

I learned my lesson back in 1968. I guess I just want everyone else to too. But I may not be so great at teaching it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

LIKE I SAID, LET’S NOT SELF DESTRUCT

This bickering between the Hilary and Obama camps over her comments implying that despite all of Martin Luther King’s hard work, without Lyndon Johnson there would have been no Civil Rights laws passed, only diminishes both camps.

And my friends who support John Edwards and would like to see this be an opportunity for him to pull ahead, are out of luck. He blew it in the New Hampshire debate before the vote there, when Hilary passed the metaphoric peace pipe to him and he refused it, instead trying to paint him and Obama as the invevitable agents of change and her as the evil status quo as if Clinton = Bush.

False. And bad move. Yes, she represents the “liberal” side, to some extent, of the supposed ‘60s battles, but in fact she also represents the bipartisanship everyone’s calling for as she’s proven in the Senate, even though you might not like what she’s achieved through that bi-partisanship, and she represents the future and obvious change not only by the fact that she’s a woman but by the fact that she has continued to name and stand up to "the vast rightwing conspiracy.”

But even if Edwards hadn’t piled on her when she was down after Iowa, the fact that he didn’t either refrain from commenting on the Obama/Clinton-King/Johnson prattle, or point out that obviously Hilary wasn’t a racist and her meaning was obviously that there needs to be a partnership between agents of change in the real world and their partners in government who can make that change last in terms of laws, etc. and that obviously Obama wasn’t calling Hilary a racist (though his camp was implying it).

If Edwards had done either of those things, he would have finally come across statesmanlike, and would have finally seemed presidential and not just feisty and self-promoting and hectoring, no matter how much better his positions and promises might be.

Obama had captured that statesmanlike above-the-fray position, but he lost it with his seemingly offhanded and even bored response to Hilary’s response in the New Hampshire debate to a question about why she isn’t as likable as him—when she said that hurt her feelings, he commented, without looking at her, almost out of the side of his mouth as if he had better things to do than be a gentleman and show some humility and honor by dismissing such high school popularity contest bullshit, and instead said “You’re likable enough Hilary”—at least the way I remember seeing and hearing it that night.

A definite diminishment in my eyes of the high road he had seemed to be taking that was the embodiment of the changes he said he wanted to bring about. Now he’s beginning to seem like just another pol, playing the game he says he wants to change by refusing to play.

I hope he can get back to that place of not stooping to the attempts by Hilary’s minions to drag him down into the mud, and I hope she can get back to the vulnerability and likeability she displayed in that debate when she answered that question, or when she teared up in the Q&A a few days later, whether the tears were ones of frustration and exhaustion and despair at the thought of losing, or genuine concern, from an insider who knows what it takes to actually make change (she’s right on that) and like many of us is genuinely dismayed at what has happened to our country and is genuinely worried that unless the right moves are made to actually reverse the destruction caused by Bush junior and his gang, the country we love may cease to exist as we remember it.

Either way, that made her steely resolve and hard earned thick skin easier to accept, and she needs to do more of it. While her two male opponents among the frontrunners need to back off picking on her and make their argument for why they can best repair the damage the Bushies have done and save our country, and bring it to new heights of democracy and freedom, of equality and transparency, of fairness and respect for privacy, of a belief that following the principles enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is not only every elected politicians duty, but privilege.

Not to get carried away.

As for the Republicans, Romney might benefit from Huckabee and McCain splitting some less traditional Republican votes in Michigan (though he hasn’t got a chance in any general election). We’ll get back to them after Michigan.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

SWEENEY TODD AND CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR

Two more in the proper-name-serious-film category.

I never saw the stage version of SWEENY TODD, though I know the music from it. I usually love Stephen Sondheim’s music, and there’s some great Sondheim music in SWEENEY TODD.

As for all the blood and pessimism, it may have worked well on stage, where the obvious unreality could have enhanced the humor in it, black as it is, but what Tim Burton has done with the film version is try to have it both ways, and for me, it ultimately doesn’t work.

Once he introduces the element of realism—into what begins as an almost animated film, a video game of a movie—by way of creating realistic cruelty and graphic throat-cutting, major arterial blood-squirting, and body part meat-grinding, I thought, why would I want to witness this?

If it came across in some way humorous on stage, it comes across for me on screen as a mixed bag of impressive performances (by everyone in it, stars and unknowns) and musical innovation, with snuff film exploitation.

I was scratching my head trying to figure out what all these obviously amazingly talented people intended an audience to get out of this literally deadening “entertainment.”

I was doing the same thing after I saw CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (beware the words “based on” and “true” in the same Hollywood phrase). What an array of talent. Just watching Tom Hanks and Julie Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman interact is almost worth it. And it's certainly a more fun film to watch, if not more original, than SWEENEY TODD.

But there’s this exploitative edge to it, that seems to be catering to an audience that is easily taken with young women’s breasts, (and the rest of their bodies, but mostly breasts), that oversimplifies the U.S.S.R.’s invasion of Afghanistan as a bloodbath in which the Soviets (always called “Russians” in this flick) massacre innocent women and children, rape and pillage etc. (no mention of the Soviet-sponsored Afghanistan state in which women could often dress as they liked, go to school, even become doctors and lawyers ala the Soviet Union—and I’m not excusing the brutality of the Soviet system’s oppressive side, it’s just a skewed picture of reality), and that oversimplifies the involvement of the C.I.A. and other U.S. government agencies and departments in that fight, etc.

It’s like a Hollywood razz-ma-tazz attempt to enshrine in film the lesson the movie-makers obviously hope this country has finally learned, that if we make a mess, we better be ready to clean it up or it may come back to haunt us.

But it’s a lame attempt, from my perspective, that comes off almost patronizing. As if we couldn’t handle the truth. Or as if this movie is intended for those who can’t, so have to be breast-fed it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thnaks to Marty Brandel who passed this on



George Carlin's Views on Aging

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

"How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

"How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life . . You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30 ; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; "I Was JUST 92."

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"
May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

HOW TO STAY YOUNG
1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay "them."

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love , whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them , at every opportunity.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER :
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

PS: IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

All the post-New Hampshire polling second thoughts and theories that were, and in some cases still are, all over the media, seemed to miss one big fact, that Bill Schneider (I think that’s his name) on CNN (the best political analyst on TV for my money, though he’s kind of the elder nerd schlubby guy that gets questioned and then pushed off screen quickly) pointed out right away:

That is: the pollsters got Obama’s percentage absolutely correct. They predicted he would get 36 to 37% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. And that’s exactly what he got.

Thus the theories about white voters saying they’d vote for him but lying to save politically-correct face and then voting for Hilary, are totally wrong! There’s no racism involved here (a friend told me today that researchers have discovered no racist anti-Obama sites on the internet, while there are plenty of sexist anti-Hilary ones).

Let me make it as clear as possible: All the voters in New Hampshire who said they were going to vote for Obama did. So that’s that. He got the exact percentage the polls said he would. What they got wrong was how many voters were going to vote for Hilary. And why.

I am among those who believe that her tears and changing her campaign appearances from stump speech she almost does by rote to a Q&A format, combined to convince a lot more women that she is warmer and more like them than they suspected, and that she’s being unfairly singled out and criticized because she’s a woman.

Also, as others have pointed out, the college student and faculty, “liberal” campus vote that was touted as a big part of Obama’s surge, didn’t apply in New Hampshire because the primary occurred while the campuses were still in Winter recess and the students and faculty weren’t there!

Also, Hilary picked up some Edwards’ supporters, more traditional Democrats, who now think their man (JE) doesn’t have a shot at the nomination.

I still think Obama is the most inspiring. His speeches have actually only gotten better and more powerful, in terms of imagery and cadence and inspirational impact. And if he were to get the nomination and win the presidency it would clearly be a generational change, and a revolutionary change of mindset and image in and of the U.S.

Plus, without a doubt, it would inspire an entirely new generation to become involved in politics, which can only be good for the country.

If Hilary were to win the nomination and the presidency, it too would signal a change in mindset and image of this nation, and be as historically amazing as an Obama win. But it would not be a passing of the torch to a new generation, and though probably a lot more young women would become involved in politics—obviously a good thing—not as many young men would.

If anyone else wins, it may attract some new people into the political process, or old ones in new ways, and may even signal a change in our image and mindset (i.e. Huickabee, a Baptist minister and nonbeliever in evolution but believer in replacing the entire tax system with a federal sales tax, etc., or Romney, first Mormon, Rudy G. first Italian, etc.) and any of them might spur new political activity from young people in opposition to their policies and what they represent.

But the most exciting and inspirational and revolutionary change, would be if Obama were to win. And that’s what underlies the excitement he generates, as well as the angry outbursts from those who were disappointed in the New Hampshire outcome and may express that anger even more extremely if Obama doesn’t win the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

LET’S NOT SELF-DESTRUCT

I’ve heard some women say that they won’t vote for anyone, or will vote Republican, if Barak Obama wins the Democratic nomination. And I’ve heard some African-Americans say they’ll do the same thing if Hilary Clinton wins the nomination.

And I’ve heard John Edwards supporters say the same thing if either Barak or Hilary gets the nomination.

On Air America this morning, there were even some calls from some supporters of Edwards and/or Obama, trying to make the case that the primary election in New Hampshire was “stolen” through the use of election machine manipulation.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit a belief in the manipulation of electronic voting machine data, and believe only machines that also leave a paper trail that corresponds to each individual voters vote can be trusted.

But!?!

ANY DEMOCRAT WILL DO MORE TO REVERSE THE DOWNWARD SLIDE OF THIS COUNTRY AND EVERYTHING IT STANDS FOR THAT BUSH JUNIOR AND CHENEY AND THEIR GANG CAUSED THAN ANY REPUBLICAN WILL.

There isn’t that much difference between the policy statements of the top three Democratic contenders, and certainly nowhere near as much difference as there is between any one of them and their possible Republican opponents in the general election.

So if anyone truly believes in what Edwards or Obama or Clinton stand for, then they will truly support whichever Democrat wins the nomination.

Here’s an idea for the best way to make use of the three Democratic leading contenders:

If Obama or Hilary wins the nomination, they should ask Jim Webb to be the vice presidential nominee. (He’s the Virginia Senator who gave that great response to junior’s 2005 State of the union address and unfortunately the Democrats have not made good use of, he’s a decorated veteran whose son is on active duty in Iraq.)

Then, if Obama wins the presidency, Hilary should become the majority whip in the Senate and John Edwards named Attorney General. If Hilary wins the nomination and presidency, she should also name Edwards Attorney General and Obama Secretary of State.

If Edwards wins the nomination and presidency, he should name Hilary Attorney General and Obama Secretary of State, and his running mate should be Bill Richardson.

If any of the Republicans win the presidency, all electronic and mechanical election returns should be contested, and the recent “voter I. D.” laws in some states (created and encouraged by the Bush administration to cope with “voter fraud” of which there were almost no cases proven in the past few decades—that’s why some of the Bush appointed Republican Federal prosecutors lost their jobs under Gonzales, because they refused to prosecute “vote fraud” cases wherever Democratic candidates happen to have a majority) should be exposed as the same kind of devices as “the poll tax” and other more old-fashioned systems of preventing poor and less educated African-Americans and whites from voting, and overturned.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Thanks to Bob Berner for passing this on:

AWAY FROM HER and THE SAVAGES

AWAY FROM HER is an almost perfect little film.

Julie Christie is a revelation. As beautiful as ever, or more so, with age (and likely some face work) and Olivia Dukakis does some fine work as well.

But the ending left me in limbo. Maybe my imagination is weak. Maybe I missed something. Maybe everyone else can figure out what the next scene might be after the film ended, but I couldn’t and I wanted to see it.

I could guess the ultimate ending. That’s clear from the information in the film’s dialogue, as well as the reality of Alzheimer’s. Yet in terms of the dynamics of the relationships in the flick, I couldn’t decide how the next few scenes might actually work, what might happen, or rather, what the author (either Alice Munro in the story the film’s based on, or Sarah Polley’s adaptation) and the director and producers who made the film intended the audience to think was going to happen next.

I wanted to know and felt disappointed that I seemed to get no help from the movie-makers. Maybe I’m just reverting in my old age to wanting endings to stories, endings that are endings. I’m not asking for old-fashioned happy Hollywood endings. Though sometimes they can be quite appropriate to a story and very satisfying to an audience.

Two recent films that I loved were INTO THE WILD and THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, and both of them have very un-Hollywood endings. And both were based on true stories, so the outcome was inevitable and the ending couldn’t have been more real, because it was real.

AWAY FROM HER is fiction, so why couldn’t it too have as satisfying an ending as these real life stories? Is it supposed to be more sophisticated to leave things hanging, with various possibilities in the air, so that an audience walks away, or at least I walk away, bewildered?

On the other hand, maybe it’s great artistry, because the problems the movie presents are bewildering and ultimately unsolvable. And I have to admit, the movie stayed with me and had me considering the meaning of the ambiguous ending (again, only ambiguous as to the exact next scene—i.e. does her husband bring “Aubrey” in? Does she return to being more physically active and therefore get moved back downstairs? etc.)

I’d love some other perspectives, if you’ve seen it.

THE SAVAGES also deals with the deterioration caused or coupled with old age and dementia. And it too is full of terrific performances, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman’s.

Laura Linney does her usual great job, but some of her quirks and obvious neurotic behavior seemed at times, for me, more indicated than lived. She does this wide-eyed, non-blinking thing that I know for myself when I have played characters far from my personality, devices like that, physical tics, can really help create and sustain a character’s essence, but they can also create a kind of parody of character.

Linney’s too good to do the latter, but it seems to me she’s verging on doing that in this role. And Philip Bosco is getting buzz as a supporting actor nominee, for work that is certainly powerful, but again, I didn’t always buy it, I could see the actor acting, unfortunately.

A lot of people I know loved this movie, so it’s probably worth checking out. But for me it was ultimately another disappointment. There were moments of brilliance, and watching these great actors interact was often exciting and satisfying. But there were also moments when, like I said, I just wasn’t buying it.

So, for me, nice try but no cigar. I’d rather have gone back and re-watched Peter O’Toole from last year’s version of old man dying—VENUS.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

MARK TERRILL

One of my favorite contemporary poets, who wrote one of my favorite books, a small collection of prose poems called BREAD & FISH, has another little collection of prose poems just published, called SOMETHING RED (Stay At Home Press).

Like BREAD & FISH, it is a revelation, There’s an “I do this I do that” Frank O’Hara thing going on, though it’s more “I see this I think that” and the Bukowski grasp of the poetry in the anecdotal, told straight and crisply precise.

But there’s so much more. I could cite tons of other terrific poets whose work Terrill’s compares favorably to, but in the end, his work is unique. I’ve never read anyone quite like him, or known anyone with his extensive resume of wordly-working-man-poet-philosopher experience.

I love the poems in SOMETHING RED, as well as the observations and epiphanies they generate, as I did those in BREAD & FISH. If you can find a copy on the internet of either, or better yet both of these books, I believe you’ll consider yourself lucky you did.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

IOWA PS

I got a great response to my Iowa post in an e mail today. My response to which seemed a good post script to it. So here's most of what I wrote back:

I am also leaning toward Obama. The problem will be, if he has the political skills to avoid what happened to Carter, who thought by telling the truth to his fellow citizens and firing some CIA and other intelligence organization bad apples, his problems were solved.

But "Americans" (in quote because I don't like the way those of us in the USA monopolize a term that could equally apply to Canadians, Mexicans, and various Central and South Americans) didn't like the truth. And all the fired rogue intelligence agents did was join with some cohorts still in the intelligence agencies to make trouble for Carter, including the Iran hostages, who, as we all know, were not released until Reagan took office so he could get credit, and it was the rightwing CIA agents who had been fired by Carter who made all that possible and went on to wage the secret war in Nicaraqua etc.

Bill Clinton was not only intellectually brilliant, he also was an incredible politician. he made some missteps, especially with the military, but the rightwingers could never get around him or undermine him the way they could Carter. Which is why they were so happy when the Monica thing happened to finally have a pretense to get rid of him (the Whitewater debacle turning out to have no legal standing at all, otherwise the Clintons would still be behind bars, especially after the rightwingers really got control of all branches of govermentl under Bush junior).

Hilary is definitely smart enough and has the political skills, combined with her husband's and their network, to keep the rightwing from undermining her presidency the way they did Carter's and tried to do to Bill's but failed, even after Monica came along. If Hilary were elected president, they would definitely try to undermine her, and pounce on every misstep of hers. But as we know, she makes very few, which is what makes her so much less inspiring than Obama, because she seems to be playing it safe, which comes off as sometimes stilted or pandering or old school.

Obama may truly have the best shot at changing things, because of the inspiration he generates as an African-American who does not use the race card to guilt out white Americans, but rather symbolizes finally growing beyond playing race cards at all, and because he is very smart and has the experience of a grass roots neighborhood oragnizer who knows how to create networks of regular folks, and how to speak for and to them without condescension or smugness.

His problem will be, as I said in an earlier post, getting too caught up in the details as well as the philosophy of reform. It was trying to micromanage the details that got Carter in trouble, and it was longwinded wonky explanations of reform positions that torpedoed Gore's winning by a larger and indisputable margin, and sometimes got in Bill and Hilary Clinton's way in terms of winning converts to certain reforms, like their plan for universal healthcare, etc.

So as it now stands, like I said, any Democrat would be better than any Republican, I believe, and I could easily vote for any of them still in the race (though Richardson, despite his experience and positions I mostly agree with, has seemed way too lackluster to accomplish much on the international stage of most powerful position in the world).

Among the Republicans, McCain remains the least offensive from my perspective, despite disagreement on some important policies. I have no doubt that his own war experience would keep him from saber rattling or from unprovoked attacks on other nations, for instance (despite his support of "the surge").

And after him, Huckabee, though he scares the bejesus out of most of my friends because of his fundamentalist Christian beliefs. But his populist and compassionate statements on several economic issues, including immigration (which is a social and cultural issue as well, but has been de facto handled the way it has been for economic reasons obviously) make him more palatable than the rest of the republican field after McCain.

And even Romney wouldn't be the worst Republican to win, though I doubt he has a chance anymore. But Thompson and Giulliani would be as dangerous and possibly as damaging as what we're trying to get away from in the present administration.

It'll soon be a lot clearer.