Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Don't know if you've caught this new HBO series, but it's well worth watching. The acting and direction are pretty impressive. Some scenes are so well acted they brought tears to my eyes. Really nice work from a bunch of relatively unknown young actors.

Some of the writing I could quibble with. I think I've seen some saluting of NCOs, which at least in my time in the service was not the practice or policy and in fact would have been considered out of line. Other little things bothered me for a few seconds, like some expressions and actions and styles that seem more contemporary to me than from those times and those people, but overall I was captivated by how much money and talent obviously went into making this as epic as something on film can get to real war.

I had a brother on Okinawa toward the war's end. He wasn't a Marine or an infantry man, he was in the Navy. But he still saw some pretty horrendous stuff which I've only recently come to appreciate had marked him for the rest of his life, God rest his soul. He told me stories that I always wanted to incorporate into the war movie I wanted to write and maybe even direct someday. But I never got around to that one, and in the intervening years I've seen some of the things he told me actually depicted on screen (like in Clint Eastwood's two relatively recent movies about Iwo Jima).

At any rate, I'm taken with this series and intend to watch all the episodes. One of the greater delights in it is following the characters that are based on true stories of men who actually fought in the Pacific, some of whom are still alive. That seems incredible to me, and I only wish there had been more of this done while more of them were alive. It's a fitting tribute to those still around. And to those who aren't.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Actually it's been more like Fall or late winter here, with several inches of rain and temperatures in the forties and gusty winds blowing things around.

But—the forsythias are in bloom. those beautifully blossom abundant bushes that sprout those tiny yellow splashes of color all over when Spring arrives. I love how yellow the world becomes, at least in my neighborhood, after weeks, and this year months, of the darks and whites of winter (which I dig too, but am happy when every new season arrives after almost twenty years in L.A. missing the kind of seasons I'm used to).

And the cherry blossoms here and there and Chinese maples with their reddish glow as they blossom. The trees are beginning to bud and soon you can see it will truly begin to be a riot of colors for the ten or so weeks before summer sets in and it all goes mostly green, and a lusher green I'm sure this year after so much snow and rain has saturated the ground.

So, grateful today, despite the sour tone in our two-state style non dialogue among the two parties. It does feel like it might be time to go back to separation and let them fend for themselves, since it's mostly the red states that suck up most of our tax dollars. If this area could have more of the money we send to DC we'd probably be solvent. And if the areas of the country that seem to be most conservative were to have to do without all the federal largess and oversight, they'd be even more like an old style so-called third world country, which a lot of the blue states are looking like now too after the eight years of almost total rightwing Republican rule that widened the gap between rich and working people by several measures more than what they came in with, while draining the federal kitty to do it.

But hey, it's supposed to get up to the seventies around here over Easter weekend, which, though a little bizarre in terms of what we should be getting this time of year, I'll take for now (and let's not even get into the record breaking weather we've been having almost everywhere this past year but the rightwingers only commented on the snow and cold in winter to try and deligitimize the whole global warming phenom but as I've pointed out before, they won't be saying anything about our weather this weekend when it's twenty degrees and more above normal. God bless the poor lemmings [I'm still having some trouble writing since the brain surgery though most everything else seems to be working as well as before, though differently, but I just wrote "mellings" for "lemmings" a kind of unintended transformation I often do these days]).

Monday, March 29, 2010


From a viral e mail I received:

"To all Tea Party members, I urge you to take the following pledge before it's too late. Please pass it on to fellow members:

I do solemnly swear to uphold the principles of a socialism-free society and heretofore pledge my word that I shall strictly adhere to the following:

I will complain about the destruction of 1st Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 1st Amendment Rights

I will complain about the destruction of my 2nd Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights by legally but brazenly brandishing unconcealed firearms in public.

I will foreswear the time-honored principles of fairness, decency, and respect by screaming unintelligible platitudes regarding tyranny, Nazi-ism, and socialism at public town halls. Also, I pledge to eliminate all government intervention in my life.

I will abstain from the use of and participation in any socialist goods and services including but not limited to the following:
•Social Security
•State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP)
•Police, Fire, and Emergency Services
•US Postal Service
•Roads and Highways
•Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)
•The US Railway System
•Public Subways and Metro Systems
•Public Bus and Lightrail Systems
•Rest Areas on Highways
•All Government-Funded Local/State Projects
•Public Water and Sewer Services (goodbye socialist toilet, shower, dishwasher, kitchen sink, outdoor hose!)
•Public and State Universities and Colleges
•Public Primary and Secondary Schools
•Sesame Street
•Publicly Funded Anti-Drug Use Education for Children
•Public Museums
•Public Parks and Beaches
•State and National Parks
•Public Zoos
•Unemployment Insurance
•Municipal Garbage and Recycling Services
•Treatment at Any Hospital or Clinic That Ever Received Funding From Local, State or Federal Government (pretty much all of them)
•Medical Services and Medications That Were Created or Derived From Any Government Grant or Research Funding (again, pretty much all of them)
•Socialist Byproducts of Government Investment Such as Duct Tape and Velcro (Nazi-NASA Inventions)
•Use of the Internets, email, and networked computers, as the DoD's ARPANET was the basis for subsequent computer networking
•Foodstuffs, Meats, Produce and Crops That Were Grown With, Fed With, Raised With or That Contain Inputs From Crops Grown With Government Subsidies
•Clothing Made from Crops (e.g. cotton) That Were Grown With or That Contain Inputs From Government Subsidies
If a veteran of the government-run socialist US military, I will forego my VA benefits and insist on paying for my own medical care
I will not tour socialist government buildings like the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
I pledge to never take myself, my family, or my children on a tour of the following types of socialist locations, including but not limited to:
•Smithsonian Museums such as the Air and Space Museum or Museum of American History
•The socialist Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Monuments
•The government-operated Statue of Liberty
•The Grand Canyon
•The socialist World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorials
•The government-run socialist-propaganda location known as Arlington National Cemetery
•All other public-funded socialist sites, whether it be in my state or in Washington, DC

I will urge my Member of Congress and Senators to forego their government salary and government-provided healthcare.

I will oppose and condemn the government-funded and therefore socialist military of the United States of America.

I will boycott the products of socialist defense contractors such as GE, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Humana, FedEx, General Motors, Honeywell, and hundreds of others that are paid by our socialist government to produce goods for our socialist army.

I will protest socialist security departments such as the Pentagon, FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Department of Justice and their socialist employees.

Upon reaching eligible retirement age, I will tear up my socialist Social Security checks.

Upon reaching age 65, I will forego Medicare and pay for my own private health insurance until I die.

_____________ _________________________
Signed Printed Name/Town and State"

[Here's another take on the same perspective.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010


The poet Tom Clark has a poetry blog that is always perceptive and enlightening. But this latest post is, as I said in a comment I just left on it, like a little book instantly published on the net for all to access, and totally worth reading. It makes me remember why I always say—because it's true—that "poetry saved my life." Now if it could only save the planet, or so many extraordinarily beautiful parts of it that are being partially, or even completely, destroyed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


[I reread this post and realize that all the caveats I've thrown in might make someone think I didn't like this book. But I do. I love the topic, I love the author's great taste and insights, and I totally enjoyed reading it and recommend it to anyone who loves "the American songbook" or just good writing.]

The subtitle to poet David Lehman's book, A FINE ROMANCE, says it all: "Jewish Songwriters, American Songs." Lehman makes the case for not only the obvious, that a lot of the great American songbook was created by Jewish lyricists and composers during the first half of the 20th Century (and beyond, as he points out in some perceptive comments about "Jewish songwriter" Bob Dylan), but also that popular American music from Irving Berlin to Bob Dylan incorporates a lot of not just Jewish musical traditions, but Jewish-American DNA that makes the popular American music created by non-Jewish composers and lyricists "Jewish" in many essential ways as well.

I would have liked to have seen more about the contribution of other ethnicities—my take on rock'n'roll is that it comes out of African rhythms and Irish melodic traditions, but that's another argument—including the Irish and Italians and others. But except for a nod to the obvious influence of African musical traditions and the enormous impact of later generations of African-American music inventiveness on American popular music (though many scholars on that subject would object to Lehman's talking about "bent notes" and the "lament" nature of a lot of "American" music coming from the Jewish tradition saying it's an African influence that created that bluesy sound, but the more Lehman explained his perspective the more sense it made to me as being a pretty good case for at least equal influence melodically) this is mostly a record of the contributions of a lot of the greatest songwriters of what Lehman and a many others (including me to some extent) see as the most successful sustained period for "pop" music as far as original and sophisticated uses of melody and lyrics goes.

The book itself is a mixture of personal anecdote and taste, along with historical information, a lot of which I was familiar with but some of which was news to me, and enlightening and engaging news at that. But it's also a mix of approaches, that contributes to some weakness in the format. For maybe the first third of the book, at least it seemed that long if not longer, Lehman uses the conceit that the famous lyricists and composers are his "Jewish uncles" who he saw in synagogue etc. as a boy, even though many of them were dead by then.

So there's a little too much of imaginary conversations with dead folks for my taste. I love the passion Lehman has for this music, his defense of its importance and significance and excellence, the anecdotes he's researched and tells refreshingly clearly and concisely, as well as his arguments for the Jewish influence. He cites songs and lyrics and puts them together with the history of the times and the Jewish and Jewish-American influences in ways that are original and convincing.

I appreciate too the personal aspects of the book, the parts of his life as a poet and New Yorker and lover of this music that fits in with so much of what these songwriters were about. I just didn't dig the made up parts, the conversations with the dead and the conceit that he knew people he never met or who were dead before he was born. It was a distraction, to me, from the promise of the opening paragraph of a book that eventually fulfills that promise but not without a lot of sidetracking imaginary stuff that delays, or at least delayed my, ultimate satisfaction with this reading experience.

{PS: The good news for me is that I'm back into reading more than one book at a time and enjoying the pleasures reading has always given me and was only, it would seem, removed from me for a few months after the brain surgery but has recently returned full blown to what it was before, if altered some by the new ways my mind works to derive that reading pleasure.}

Friday, March 26, 2010


I know Roman Polanski did a despicable thing decades ago in L.A., and that despicable things were done to him in his lifetime before that (not an excuse, just a fact), and that he still may deserve some kind of punishment beyond the short time he spent in jail back then and the defensive exile he has imposed on himself to avoid any more jail time for these many years.

But damn, the man can make movies. THE GHOST WRITER has its flaws, there are plot points that are bothering me this morning (I saw it last night) and there were accents that seemed to move around the globe (Kim Catrell's British one and Pierce Brosnan's English one, as my friend Lisa D. remarked, his Irish was showing at times—but they each had moments of better-than-their-usual level of demonstrating their acting craft) but still...

why can't we make movies like this in the USA anymore? It not only had the tension and simplicity of focus of two of my favorite political thrillers—THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (the original of course) and THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR—but it also had their adult, even sophisticated political subject matter.

The thriller form kept the tension high and often had me squirming in my seat. That's the entertainment aspect that hopefully gets folks to see a movie like this. But the adult political subject matter just makes most "American" movies seem childish, at best. Where are the "American" movies dealing with the political shenanigans and worse, the death and destruction and impoverishment of the political dialogue in this country?

Yes, there have been some Iraq War movies that have had some serious political content, but the seriousness of the subject matter and the way it was handled kept most of them from being seen by many people. Whereas THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (the latter in particular since it was more directly contemporary with political events at the time) were genre pictures first, built to give audiences a ride, with the political discourse embedded in that like the peaks and valleys of a good roller coaster.

THE GHOST WRITER may not be as much of a classic as those, but it sure comes close. The direction is pretty much perfect— except for the slipping accents and a few early plot devices that felt like they weren't totally resolved—and the use of familiar movie faces—like Tim Hutton as the Brosnan character's (based on Tony Blair) American lawyer—with a lot of great moments for all the actors, even the bit players.

But the flick is almost stolen by Olivia Williams as the Prime Minister's wife (I first noticed her great talent in a much smaller role in last year's AN EDUCATION), with the help of Ewan McGregor whose acting is so brilliant I often forget how great he is (it's so realistic in unexpected ways in this flick I felt like I wanted to tell him sorry for taking his skill for granted so often).

Highly recommended if you haven't caught it yet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


In 1968 I ran for sheriff of Johnson County, Iowa, on the Peace and Freedom ticket. As soon as the campaign began I got death threats. In the mail and over the phone.

The ones in the mail always had a gun site (or as poet and friend Tom Rawroth pointed out to me: gunsight) on them and a cartoon figure that was supposed to be me in the sites. There were messages warning me that the insurance salesman who came to my door and pulled out a fountain pen for me to sign a document might be one of "them" using a poison pen that would mean my demise.

Or that the next time I got in my van (I owned a used telephone van at the time) and turned it on—kapooey. It was scary stuff for my then wife (God rest her soul) and mother of our baby daughter.

After the campaign I took the advice of some of my more experienced leftist friends and tried to avoid being in the newspaper as much as possible while still fighting for what I believed to be a better and more representative government and country.

One of the ironies of that time was that me and several of my leftie friends were pretty sure that the group behind a lot of these threats were members of "Young Americans for Freedom"—part of the irony being that these young so-called "conservatives" were anything but "for freedom"—they wanted war protestors jailed, marijuana smokers jailed, hippies jailed for espousing "free love" and so on endlessly.

They called themselves "conservatives" but like many who call themselves that today they were anything but. They were not into conserving the environment, the wilderness and wildlife this country contained when they were born, let alone for generations beforehand, they weren't into conserving many of the traditions based on the Constitution and the papers and actions of The Founding Fathers. What they were into was a visceral hatred for people not like them.

Some of it was racism, some of it was anti-immigrant, some of it was even anti-Catholic, some of it was anti-intellectual, some of it was anti-youth, AND THEY WERE SUPPOSEDLY "YOUNG AMERICANS FOR FREEDOM"!

No, they were reactionary old-before-their-time haters. I saw them throw rocks at peaceful anti-war protestors. I saw some of them spit on and attack citizens demonstrating for Civil Rights for African-Americans. I saw some of them organize and egg on so-called "hardhats"—reactionary construction workers—who these young organizers and their leaders convinced of nefarious plots and conspiracies to eliminate white people and Christians from any kind of political power or even input and replace them with "blacks" and "socialists" and "communists" and "anti-Americans."

But of course it was the so-called "young Americans for freedom" who were anti-American, just as their John Birch elders were and are and just as the KKK and the Know Nothings and all the rightwing movements throughout the history of this country have been. Because their motivation, for the most part, was and is always hatred for those who legitimately and democratically vote for change that will lessen the power of the group they identify with or have been propagandized into identifying with.

I thought of all this when I saw the news that Sarah Palin put on her Facebook page a map of the USA marked with gun sites for every Congressional seat held by a Democrat in what once was a Republican district. And then heard the not unexpected statistic of the 40% rise in rightwing hate groups since Obama was elected. The haters have always been with us, but they have rarely been given the legitimacy that the media has given them in recent times.

Hopefully the rumor that Rupert Murdoch's news enterprises are rapidly losing money meaning the eminent demise of his rightwing propaganda empire is true. Not that there aren't plenty of wealthy profiteers whose fortunes depend on the de-regulation fervor and protectionist policies for their corporate interests to take his place. But it would be a gas to see Fox News fail.

In fact, it would feel like freedom. Here's a little tribute montage from John Stewart on the Mad Hatters, er Tea Partyers that might give you a laugh.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Ai was the assumed name of a beautiful poet whose work I first encountered around 1970 and who I immediately had a crush on, for both her beauty and her poetry.

She liked to talk about all the various ethnicities she inherited as part of her "racial" makeup. The only other poet with a comparable ethnic mix that made them at least in terms of ancestory the most representative "Americans" we have in our literary history, was Bob Kaufman. But unlike Bob, she came of age at a time when her genes made her more attractive to a wider audience than just the handful of fans Kaufman's work managed to attract back in the 1950s and early '60s.

Ai's poetry garnered praise almost as soon as she arrived on the scene. Her first publications coincided with the growth of the feminist movement (the second wave of feminism as it was sometimes labeled) and the emergences of The Black Arts movement as a publishing phenomenon (the movement was several years old by the time her work had an impact, but new anthologies and publishing ventures were making it more visible and accessible to those outside the movement).

She was famous for fierce yet lyrical poetic monologues that cast her as an outsider's outsider. An appealing image anytime but particularly in a time as eruptive and "countercultural" as the late 1960s and early '70s.

I was dismayed to learn of her death only yesterday through Ron Silliman's blog (she passed last Friday, the 19th) and my condolences go out to her family and friends and legions of fans.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


As anyone knows, who has been actually listening to and reading what the healthcare bill actually proposes, almost everything in it proposes changes the voters of the USA are for.

Interestingly, the major news outlets—which still pretend to offer "objective" takes on the "top" (i.e. whatever the rightwing propaganda machine pushes as the main story of the day) new stories—only began discussing and explaining what the bill contains after it became apparent over the weekend that the bill might pass.

This film I found on Youtube shows how the rightwing tea Party supporters have no idea what's in the bill and are only reacting to rightwing lies (i.e. "socialist medicine"—that would mean the state, i.e. the government, owns all the hospitals and clinics and drug and health insurance companies etc. and all the doctors and nurses etc. work for the government, are paid by them etc. etc. etc. when in fact the bill as written is closer to Republican proposals for healthcare reform than anything liberal or progressive Dems have proposed, as can be seen here—thanks Tom for hipping me to this link).

But the "mass media" continue to promulgate this idea that to be objective both sides have to be given the same weight, which usually means the rightist perspective is emphasized over any moderate or centrist position (there is almost no representation on the news of any "leftist" side of the issues of the day), so that a handful of Tea Party protesters in DC are portrayed as a significant news event, but a much larger group of immigration reform advocates in the same place on the same day is passed over as an afterthought etc.

It's pretty disheartening to see how much the news media has capitulated to the right in this country. It was one of the first things that struck me as my brain began recovering from the surgery over four months ago now. How absurd the political discussion had become in this country. To the point where almost nothing of substance is argued or explained in the mainstream media but only the arguments over who's "winning" an argument based on rightwing lies and exaggerations.

It's actually pretty frightening. The sway these rightwingers have over any public discussion. Like my friends who have been sucked in by the rightwing troll on this site (and unfortunately he has taken to doing the same on the sites of other friends) who has lost any concept of the truth he might have ever had.

I leave his comments on because some of you find it informative to see what lies the rightwingers are pushing each day, but for my own taste, I feel he can get his own blog to bloviate on. I find almost everything the rightwing nuts have had to say about healthcare reform to be complete and total lies.

But they have to lie because the truth would expose them for what they are, sore losers with no concept of what democracy means, but only an intense desire to thwart and destroy whatever the majority has voted for if it doesn't serve the interests of their corporate masters, whether corporate entertainment (Fix News, Rush, et. al.) or corporate game rigging (drug and insurance companies etc.).

If the rightwingers really believe it is wrong to extend health insurance to all children, to extend children's health insurance coverage on their parents' plans to age 26, to prevent health insurance companies from refusing coverage for an "existing condition" or for any other reason, or to cap benefits for healthcare so that anyone with a serious illness runs out of healthcare benefits and has to sell their house and go into debt and declare bankruptcy and lose everything they have as has happened to so many because they were unlucky enough to get a serious illness after paying into a health insurance policy for decades, lifetimes, etc. if the rightwingers really want to support that let them say so—in fact MAKE THEM SAY SO.

So, despite the fact that some of you enjoy the mad ravings of this blog's rightwing troll, I may start deleting his comments when they propagate outright lies (which lately has been every comment—by the way he is now pretending he was always against Bush Junior when if you scroll back to when Junior and his rightwing republican cronies were running the country, you will see he was all for their policies etc.).

It's time for the Dems to answer every lie from the rightwingers with a simple TRUTH OF THE DAY, like this bill accomplishes many of the things the Republicans were pushing for under Clinton and even more of the things the voters said they wanted when Obama and the Democratic Congress was last elected. When the pollsters ask specific questions about the bill, the majority are for its components (like some mentioned above, all of which the Congressional Budget office says will say money, not to mention the rider that eliminates corporations that make money off student loans by charging them more which will also save money, 32 billion according to the budget office etc.) and the main objection is THEY DON'T GO FAR ENOUGH!

Anyone who loves democracy, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and what this country once stood for—"liberty and justice for all" for example—should be outraged at what the rightwingers have been doing and are trying to do and should organize to marginalize them to where they should be and once were, radio talk shows at 1 and 3AM, and in hate mongering publications with a handful of subscribers, etc.

[Oh and PS: I'm sure you're already aware of this, but the "unconstitutional" methods the rightwing nuts are screaming about the Dems employing to pass this bill—like "reconciliation"—have been used more by the Republicans rightwingers than anyone else in Congress over the decades since Reagan first utilized the old Nazi and Stalinist idea of "the big lie" to thwart the will of the people and pass legislation which hurt most of us but benefited corporate interests and the wealthy, in fact the last time "reconciliation" was most successfully used was to ram through Bush Junior's tax cuts for the wealthiest few which destroyed the surplus left by Clinton and put this country into the worst debt it had ever seen before and led to the financial mess we're in now, but no tea Party action then, hmmm....]

[PPS: This Op-ed column in today's NY Times sums it up nicely.]

Monday, March 22, 2010


Unfortunately, the right wingnuts will continue to do everything they can to stop the healthcare reform bill from becoming law.

But if and when it does, as I understand it, Rush Limbaugh has promised he'll leave the country. You would think that would be enough to win a majority of votes from anyone with any intelligence in this discussion.

But then, from the ridiculous levels the "debate" has descended to from the opponents of the bill, it's difficult to locate the intelligence on that side of the argument.

At any rate, I'm ready to wish him bon voyage, the sooner the better.

[I don't watch or listen to Rush, but I caught a clip from today's show with him saying about those in favor of healthcare reform— including the president who was democratically elected to that office as were the Representatives who voted for the bill—"We've gotta defeat the bastards. Wipe them all out!" A sentiment provocative enough to lead to more of the violent outbursts and actions the right has been promoting ever since Obama was elected.]

Sunday, March 21, 2010


For the first time since the brain surgery, I drove up to the Berkshires for the weekend with my youngest son. Couldn't have picked a more beautiful day yesterday for the ride up. I knew the weather was supposed to be lovely, which is partly the reason I chose yesterday to make the trip.

I used to go up and back every weekend a few years ago. And before the surgery I was still going up and back once or twice a month. But not since October had I made the drive. Not surprisingly it was tiring. It used to feel like nothing, the two and a half to three hour ride. But yesterday halfway there it suddenly seemed a lot longer.

But it was a good exercise, especially in my Prius! I checked the facts on that scare and discovered the odds are pretty extreme that anything might happen with the accelerator, and the remedy is pretty obvious (throw it in neutral and hit the brake with both feet) and the results after tests by consumer reports are pretty reassuring.

But I took it easy, mostly stayed in the right lane on the highways. The majority of the trip is on smaller routes, two lane old rural highways, where the ride is as mellow as the scenery.

And then last night in Great Barrington got to hear my older boy Miles play bass with a new group of musicians, original music by the lead singer/guitarist, who is also an artist and who had a show of fifteen years worth of his art in the same venue where the live music was presented.

It felt like such a typical Berkshire occurrence, original art and music, a lively crowd of all ages, and deep appreciation for the creative endeavors of others. Plenty of locals I knew at the show as well as my daughter and her husband and little girl and my daughter-in-law and grandson who's like a sibling to my youngest. Fun night, with good homemade ice cream from SoCo afterwards on a delightful Spring evening.

And this morning some brunch with a beautiful old friend to catch up and give her a belated Christmas gift (one of Roberto Bolano's slimmer volumes).

The ride back this afternoon another beautiful trip. I'm wiped out tonight, but in a well spent way, and grateful and happy that I've recovered enough to make this trip without incident, and to feel tired, yes, but not exhausted or like it was too much. Just enough in fact.

I am indeed a lucky man, especially after I heard during my visit of a drummer my older son has played with several times, and who I know from those gigs, having been rushed to a hospital in Eastern Mass. when something showed up on a brain scan and it turned out to be an abscess from a bad tooth that found it's way into his brain. He's been in the hospital on heavy intravenous antibiotics and they say he will continue to be for months. God bless him.

As Whitman said, we're all lucky, those of us still above ground, but some more than others at times [that latter sentiment is mine, not Walt's].

Saturday, March 20, 2010


The temperatures for this last week of winter, which just ended, were twenty or more degrees above normal for us in Northern Jersey and for most of the Northeast.

So, since the rightwing politicians and Fox News commentators and tea party fulminators used unscientific and illogical reasoning to make a fuss about how Al Gore was wrong and there is no global warming because there were some snowstorms this past winter...

where have they been this past week when we've had SUMMER IN WINTER! By their faulty but nonetheless self-righteous and self-satisfied reasoning, they should all be shouting from the rooftops how Al Gore must be vidicated! Because one week of temperatures in Winter that we should only have in summer proves global warming is a reality!

By their inane logic. But then, inane or any other kind of logic isn't what they're about. Proving themselves always "right" is their process, no matter how convoluted the reasoning or unscientific the basis is for their arguments. Remember how smug they all were only a few weeks ago because it snowed in winter in DC and New York etc.?

God they're insufferable, aren't they?

Friday, March 19, 2010


Getting back in the reading groove again four months after the brain surgery. This was the graphic book I chose when I was still having trouble with straight prose.

Turned out to be a wise selection. I've read Genesis in all the classic versions and many of the newer ones. The best straight prose one is Stephen Mitchell's translation, where he not only does a great job of rendering lot of ancient language into contemporary "American" while staying true to the original text, he also combines several versions of the same stories into one and makes the chronology more logical.

As anyone knows who's read the first book of the Bible, like the rest of the Bible, it often doesn't make any sense or directly contradicts itself. I have no clue how those who pretend to take the Bible literally (like the dentist heading the Texas school textbook board who says he does and that's why he believes the earth is only ten thousand years old and that textbooks should say that!) defend all the inconsistencies and contradictory sections of the Bible, any of it.

But I will say this, reading R. Crumb's illustrated version of GENESIS brought the stories, contradictory or not, to life in a way no other version of this first book of the Bible ever has. It's brilliant in that way. Even the "begats" seemed more accessible and engaging!

Crumb says he took this on just for the challenge and to learn something and he obviously did. The book is almost worth it just for his end notes alone. In which he highlights some of the pre-Biblical roots of some of the Bible stories, but also explains how he settled on costume choices and which version of famous verses to use, etc.

I highly recommend it just as an art book, but also as a great way of reading or rereading the opening stories of the Bible that have so influenced our world and still seem to be. I liked it so much, I'm praying he decides to do another illustrated book of the Bible, like the Gospels. That, I suspect, would be a real page turner.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

MARCH, 18, 2003

I wanted to upload onto Youtube a DVD I just had made from a video of a reading I did on March 18th, 2003, of a poem I wrote (and assembled) especially for that reading and finished only hours before.

It was a poem about the impending invasion of Iraq which began the next night. No one knew exactly when it would start so it was a coincidence that this reading the poet Vincent Katz put together at the Paula Cooper Gallery in Manhattan happened to occur on the eve of the war (which also included an introduction by Ramsey Clark and three other poets reading their work, Ann Lauterbach, Anne Waldman and Robert Creeley).

A lot of what I put into the poem shocked audiences when I read it that night and in subsequent readings over the next months and years. People actually got upset and questioned my predictions etc. This was before any documentaries on the war about the costs including the atrocities and torture etc. had been made or books written etc. But it was all already happening in Afghanistan though few seemed to be aware of it.

At any rate, I couldn't get the DVD to upload to Youtube (there's a new class system in some areas of daily life and work these days with techno savvy folks at the top and the rest of us taking up the bottom or thereabouts) so all I can do to commemorate another anniversary of a war that should never have happened is this link to my web site where the poem I read that night in '03 has been posted for years by my friend who runs the site (although I notice in watching the DVD that I think I missed reading a few lines that night). I've been meaning to suggest an alternative poem to put up there, but I'm glad it's there tonight.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I think this post on The Best American Poetry site from my great friend the poet and songwriter Terence Winch is about as good a tribute to what this day means as you'll find anywhere (including the unfortunate commercialism).

And to cap it off here's a link to a column from Thomas Cahill in today's NY Times that sums up the beautiful scholarship in his book HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION (which mentions, the book that is, the branch of the Lally clan that were considered "aristocrats" in their part of the country before they fled with the rest of "the wild geese"—mostly to France!—after the Brits successfully took over much of their land centuries ago, not my ancestors obviously).

{PS: Thought I'd add this formal photo of my grandfather Mike, an Irish peasant who left Ireland as a teenager to travel to Amerikay and after working as a "footman" for a rich man's coach and other jobs (including raising and lowering the bar blocking traffic for passing trains before they elevated the tracks in our town) he became the first police officer in South Orange, New Jersey. By the time I knew him he was a retired old "drunk" as "the Americans" saw it, but I still loved him dearly and was at his bedside with others in the clan when he took his last breath, just a boy myself still, noticing that we shared a lot, including the same nose!]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It was one of those old fashioned winters we haven't had here since, well, the kind we had around here when I was a kid. With snow on the ground almost from beginning to end. Beautiful.

And now with Spring only days away, the transition is happening in that same old fashioned way, with the last bits of snow being washed away by rain or melted away by warmer temperatures and sunny skies.

But there are still signs of climate weirding (caused by "climate warming" but it's too difficult a concept for some, particularly and most obviously rightwingers to get that when you trace a line created by average temperatures over centuries, there's a steeper and steeper incline towards the end of the 20th that continues to ascend into the present, but because that impacts the weather worldwide in different ways, more moisture more snow in some areas etc. it baffles these people into the "see, it's cold where I am so ipso facto no warming" et-endlessly-cetera).

Like when I took a walk in the local park today under brilliantly blue skies and saw the snow was all gone where it had been only days ago (and had the weather last weekend been cold enough to cause the rainstorm to have been a snowstorm we would have gotten over three and a half feet of snow! as it was winds were clocked at over seventy-five (75!) miles an hours at times and caused some deaths in nearby Jersey towns and many uprooted trees etc. including minor damage here and there like on the front porch of my apartment where two year-round, screwed-in screens were ripped from the porch and from their frames and tossed around the neighborhood)

I also saw signs of spring like the duck pond being thawed out and some ducks floating in it and the sound of familiar birds from my childhood as I walked under the still bare branches of the variety of trees they planted to create this lovely park. Until under one tree I had to look up because I heard screeching that seemed familiar and yet out of place at the same time, and there was one of the many green parrots that make Northern New Jersey their home now and have since the "global warming" trend started rising more rapidly in the last decade.

Now that's nothing like the old fashioned springtime thaw of my boyhood. Nobody from Jersey in my time was accustomed to hearing the sound of screeching parrots in New Jersey! But my youngest is. I mentioned I saw one today and it was like old news. Oh yeah, the parrots. They're always in that tree dad. At twelve years old he's never known the Northeast USA to be parrrotless.

[And as I've pointed out in other posts about this in previous seasons, these are not freed pets as some rightwingers like to picture it, these are parrots native to Mexico that have slowly made their way North as temperatures have risen, just as Spring comes earlier and summer stays longer (on average my rightwing friends, you remember that concept from grammar school?) every year, giving them more and more reason to either move further North each year and/or return earlier.]

Monday, March 15, 2010


One of the things I noticed in my early recovery from the brain surgery was the things I didn't notice.

You can't walk anywhere in my apartment without noticing books, there's bookshelves everywhere you go.

Before the brain surgery, they were not only a great comfort to me, just the sight of them, familiar and resonating with experiences I cherish, even if just the experience of handling that particular object, let alone reading it, or finding within its pages something that revealed a truth to me that I'd always known but never before seen articulated, or articulated in that way.

As I walked through my apartment pre surgery, a book would catch my eye, a title or binding, shape or color, etc. that would evoke a sensation of pleasure, like when you hear a recording you love or recognize an old friend or lover in the street.

But for quite a while after the surgery, I didn't notice any of the books on any of the shelves in any of the bookcases around my place. I was aware they were books and that they were mine and that at one time they had meant something to me, but for a while they didn't any more.

I couldn't read them even if I wanted to. And I was totally okay with that, I accepted it along with the possibility my ability to read might never return. I didn't miss it because somehow in my acceptance of what I was going through, I surrendered my love, my sometimes obsession with books, and lived in a world, no matter how temporarily, where books were just background.

It was like my view of my apartment as I lived throughout it in those days and weeks and more was being filtered through one of those soft lenses they used to use for some Hollywood stars in the old black-and-white classics, filtered through some kind of gauze or vaseline applied to the lens so that the edges of the frame were always blurred in a way that would have made it impossible to read the titles on the spines of any books in any bookcases.

I think about that now, because once again, as I move through my home, I'll notice a book and get that wave of sensation akin to re-experiencing something pleasurable or remarkable or worth remembering forever. It makes me smile and feel delighted to be alive in a world where these objects can provide me with so much satisfaction.

But it also makes me think about those for whom lots of things that give me pleasure don't do the same for them, or vice versa. And again it makes me think we're all wired in different ways, and a lot of the differences that seem to be separating so many in this country and maybe the world these days are just a result of different wiring and either not having or not using the systems created over time to ameliorate the conflict that different wiring has all too often led to.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


"You know what's the loudest noise in the world, man? The loudest noise in the world is silence." —Thelonius Monk (as quoted in THELONIOUS MONK: The Life and Times of an American Original)

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I'm down with what seems like a tenacious cold and the weather outside is wind and flood city, threatening the electricity, so I'll keep this short (not to alarm a anyone; I'm not—alarmed that is).

Amazing that only three months ago I was still have trouble reading and only a month or so ago couldn't read a long prose book like I just finished and posted on, the Monk bio.

I usually read several books at once all of them at different stages of progress so am finishing at least one or more a week, so to have completed reading only one pretty big but nonetheless sole book of only prose in four months is new, though obviously I'm pretty much back to normal re reading.

And even though I still have no compulsion to make lists and my mind seems maybe calmer but also a lot quieter and foreign without that compulsion, I notice in the post yesterday I did mention the Monk bio as now one of a trinity of favorite bios of musical originals, so...

I think I also mentioned I've been cooking a lot. One of the first, and actually only things, I was capable of doing in the first weeks after the surgery was eat. And all I wanted were home cooked comfort food (thank you to the many family members and friends who supplied a lot of it).

Since I became well enough to care for myself, the offers of others cooking for me recently has been my friend Sue when she isn't with the love of her life or busy otherwise. And I appreciate it. But when my older boy was here he reminded me of how easy it is to cook spinach in a pan on the stove top and that got me started so that now I cook something at least once a day or more (where before the surgery all I wanted to do was buy food to go or use the microwave.

As for writing, I'm capable of doing it obviously from these posts, but it still wears me out (I used to write all day when I could in the past) and if I'm the least tired or rundown, as I am today, I have to spend half the time correcting mistakes.

But I am driving again (though I haven't tried a trip to the Berkshires yet, this is the longest I've been away from there—where my older children and their families live and many friend—in over ten years.

All in all I'm about as "normal" as I've ever been, at least on the outsides, but it still feels odd to look out at the world through my post-brain surgery mind, not quite me (an old friend who hadn't spoke to me on the phone since before the operation recently told me halfway into our conversation that he could hear the difference, and he's a word man, Dale Herd, one of my alltime favorite writers as well as friend.

But to strangers and probably most people I assume I seem like nothing ever happened. Unless they care to feel the little bumps where the screws are or could get inside my head, even if only to hear the different sounds scratching my head where the plate is from anywhere else. Interesting. (And not so short after all.)

[PS: I corrected all the typos and such that I noticed as I was writing or that the computer did, but I notice in rereading this post there's other errors I missed. I'm leaving them not only so you can see the way my writing is still a little problematic, but also because after writing this and correcting what seemed like tons of typos, I'm even more tired.
PPS: I can hear the sirens every few minutes so obviously this storm is taking its toll. One of the things I have to admit I;m grateful for is being a renter! There's gonna be some home repair bills and projects tomorrow!]

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Subtitled: The Life and Times of an American Original, this new biography of Monk pretty much lives up to that claim, if not entirely.

The author, Robin D. G. Kelley does a great job mining as much of his extensive research as seems possible to try and deconstruct the myths that were developing it seems as soon as Monk began his career as a professional jazz pianist and composer.

I've been following Monk since I was a teenager when he was finally beginning to get some public recognition, though still years before he made the cover of TIME, a cover I framed when it came out and still have on my wall.

Monk has always been an iconic figure to me, and a challenge. Part of the reason I gave up playing piano professionally was because his genius seemed so far beyond anything I was capable of accomplishing I decided to devote all my time and energy to writing, particularly my poetry, where I felt I was doing something uniquely my own as Monk was with his music.

But even though it took me years of studying—in the beginning almost all of it self-taught in an autodidact way—and false starts and obsessive reading and imitating poetic techniques and strategies and styles until I could finally incorporate them into my own original impulses and talent, it never occurred to me that Monk had done the same until reading this book.

To learn in these pages that Monk actually learned tunes straight, incorporating their original composers' or interpreters' renditions and then reworked them over and over replacing the older standard techniques with his own original harmonics and chord diminishments (I don't mean that in the sense of a diminished 7th but in the sense that he actually would drop two of the triad notes in the middle of a seventh chord to give a sense of space and simplicity but also a kind of disorienting something's-not-right and yet...sound to it that some mistook for discordance or "wrong notes" because he'd end up with two distant notes whose tones were only a step or a half step away from each other, if you see what I mean).

Kelley explains a lot of this stuff in musical terms that are relatively easy for me to get or to try on the piano and then get, though it might be a little arcane for those who don't play music or read it. He also uses a lot of personal accounts by many who played with Monk and knew his techniques and strategies firsthand, as well as Kelley's own descriptions of tapes, made by Monk himself with his wife Nellie's help when he was practicing or composing at home, or by fans when he was working out arrangements for new songs or breaking in new band members while gigging at The Five Spot or other venues, or alternative takes or false starts in recording sessions that were also caught on tape.

It would be great to have a CD with some of that stuff on it to go along with this book. But just picturing Monk going through the process of learning songs of other composers and making them his own not only made me smile, but comforted me, to realize how much harder he worked to create that unique sound that as a kid I somehow thought just came out of him as a result of his inspiring and inspired musical genius. Which, of course, is true, but he started where the rest of us do, which makes his accomplishment even more impressive.

Anyway, it's a great biography. Up there now as part of a trinity of my favorite biographies of American music originals with the two volume bio of Elvis by Peter Guralnick—LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS and CARELESS LOVE—and the first volume (I'm still waiting for the second) of Gary Giddens' bio of Bing Crosby: A POCKETFUL OF DREAMS.

Like those, THELONIOUS MONK: The Life and Times of an American Original is full of details maybe only an obsessive reader and fan of these particular musical "geniuses" can dig (obviously Monk was more of the genius since he wrote a lot of the music he played so uniquely, but Bing's interpretive innovative originality was an enormous influence and had a much more widespread impact on "American" music, as did Elvis's remix and reinterpretation of country and rhythm and blues).

There is much that remains mysterious and enigmatic about Monk that this book doesn't resolve, except to lay to rest the myths of the naive primitivist or childlike saintly presence etc. that often surrounded Monk's persona, and expose some of the more mundane aspects of the life of a genius as well as extend our knowledge a bit of the underlying mental disorders that generated a lot of Monk's more erratic and unreliable behaviors.

But in the end, no matter how often this Monk biography resorts to descriptions and lists of gigs and recording dates, for anyone who loves Monk's music, it's still a revelatory experience to read and a satisfying one as well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I've been meaning to post about Friday night. It was an eventful night for post-brain surgery precedents.

My friend, and fellow brain surgery survivor Lisa O. had hipped me to a night of music at what we used to call "the Community Center" in my hometown when I was a kid. Now it's named after somebody and is more artsy than 1950s attempts to keep kids off the streets.

A bunch of local musicians who call themselves "the collective" and comprise several local bands and various combinations of them were on stage for this event. It was scheduled for 8-11 but me and my youngest showed up around 9:30 to find I had to park a block away, a good sign for turnout.

Inside the hallway was crowded with middle school and elementary school kids, many of whom my son knew. He was happy.

Since I moved back to this area in '99 I've been in this place a few times and am always taken with the changes that have occurred since I was a kid, but also the familiarity of a lot of what makes the old building special in my memory. I've even read my poetry upstairs where we played pool when I was a kid but is now an art gallery and small performance space.

But I hadn't been in the room where the music was going on since I was in high school when it was used for what they used to call "Teen Canteens"—dances for high school kids. I had a lot of memorable experiences in that room so when I entered it with my little guy behind me, I felt overwhelmed that the space, though renovated since then, still evoked memories and at the same time I felt anxious and a little disoriented by the crowd and the loud music and the semi-darkness I was trying to decipher.

I almost turned around and left. But I saw my friend Lisa D. and her husband Frank at a table right in front of me and an empty chair next to theirs and felt, okay maybe I can do this. It took me a while to pay the seven bucks for my son and me and return my wallet to my pocket, feeling overwhelmed by the simplest tasks, but eventually I made it the few steps to my friends and sat down and the anxiety subsided and I was able to look around after a while and see people I knew or at least recognized from the community.

This was the noisiest and biggest crowd I'd been in since the brain surgery. Up on the stage a group of musicians and singers—ten people or so—were rocking the joint. Impressively. My friend Torre was playing guitar, one of them. I started to feel not only more comfortable but very happy to be here.

My youngest hung around for a while listening and then said he wanted to go out in the hallway and hang with friends so he did, while the various musicians on stage kept reconfiguring into different combinations for the Beatles and Stones songs they were playing in what they had set up as a little competition to see which group's songs were most popular.

My friend Lisa O. spotted me and stopped to commiserate and ask how I was handling it all. She offered me ear plugs, but I declined, I never liked anything in my ears. She asked if I could feel the screws in the plate in my skull and I said yes, in fact for awhile I couldn't stop checking them out now and then. She guided my finger to hers and I did the same for mine. Must have looked odd to others seeing this man and woman touching each other's skulls through our hair.

It made me feel very good, kind of secure, knowing she was there. I loosened up and started moving to the beat of the songs like the old table dancing days in Manhattan when there were ordinances against dancing so kids in the '60s invented all kinds of upper body moves for dancing in your seats at tables in coffee houses and such.

I spied a woman who I'd heard sing in a duo and trio situation with other women, I love her voice and her style, and was blown away by a young woman someone told me was fifteen but who looked a lot older, not in a trying-to way but in a solid way, like Janis Joplin always seemed older because she had such a powerful presence and voice, this young woman did too.

I was happy to see and hear my friend Matt who I hadn't seen in a while and was one of the first people I wrote about on this blog, a local Irish-American guy whose a terrific guitar player and singer and does Beatles and other classic rock songs acoustically or electrically better than most groups do their own original songs.

Feeling hungry I went and got a homemade chicken quesadia (sp?) that was delicious and handled the walk to the kitchen and paying for it all relatively smoothly and without anxiety. And after I finished that off, some of the women in the room had gotten up front and were dancing and Lisa O. motioned for me to join them and I did.

So, post-brain surgery this was the first time I'd been in a room with this many people, with loud live music, out this late (they went on well beyond 11PM), table danced or got up on the floor and boogied. I couldn't stop smiling I was enjoying myself so much.

But the post-op diminishment of the filter it's taken me years to build up to keep my mouth from getting into the kinds of trouble I was always getting into in my younger years led me to tell one woman she was "beautiful and unbelievably hot" which wasn't what I meant to say and I'm sure not what she wanted to hear from this older gray haired stranger. But that was a post-op first too. Hopefully I can return the filter to where it was before the operation when I not only would have know better than to say that but would have meant something else anyway, something more like: "Man it's fun dancing and being among so many people having a happy time."

Of course, the next day I paid the price and felt totally wiped out, and after some more things over the weekend I now feel like I need a long rest, but nothing permanent.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I didn't know Bob Biniak except for his appearance in the documentary DOGTOWN AND Z BOYS, which my older son Miles turned me and his little brother on to years ago and we were blown away. The film records the emergence of the kind of free style skateboarding created by surfers in the less grandiose section of Santa Monica back in the seventies that led to the sport becoming what it is today.

It's like watching a new art form come into being. An incredible document. The Z Boys crew, named for the Zephyr skate shop that was right around the corner still when I lived in "Dogtown" in the early 1990s, are shown skating as kids and commenting on their exploits and techniques as adults.

Biniak is one of them, a great screen presence and a great athlete. He was only 51 so it's a terrible shame. Here's the NY Times obit.

Ruth Kligman I did know. She was most famous for being in the car with Jackson Pollock (and for being his young lover) that crashed and killed Pollock and a friend of Kligman's but not her in 1956. I knew her more as an artist and star of the downtown art and poetry scenes in the 1970s and '80s and found her still dynamic and seductive and extremely attractive.

She had a quick wit and a jaundiced eye, but was devoted to art and poetry and those who made both, and I was grateful that someone so smart and sexy and celebrated enjoyed my company and appreciated my creative efforts. Here's her NY Times obit.

Monday, March 8, 2010


The only real highlight this year was Kathryn Bigilow's win for Best Director. First woman to do that, But I was hoping her speech would build on that, mention all the unsung (and often uncredited) women directors of classic Hollywood, as well as those in recent years that broke down the barriers.

I would have loved to have heard Ida Lupino lauded or Randa Haines (who broke ground with CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD as a woman director but was overlooked for the nomination despite almost everything else in that movie being nominated—full disclosure Haines was a friend at the time, but she still deserved a nomination).

The opening number with Neil Patrick Harris was embarrassing. The problem is they try to create the show partly to impress the live Hollywood audience, who can see the screens on stage and the dance numbers and the moving Ikea sculptures or whatever they were in a personally in-the-house connection way.

But they also have to impress the rest of us who are watching on our TVs. Most often they end up doing neither. Like I said, the opening number was an embarrassment and wasted way too much time. Ed Sullivan knew how to pace a show better in the 1950s!

But some stuff worked well. Like the co-hosts. A great team, comfortable and professional and not too intrusive (it wasn't about them, as it was about Billy Crystal say). And they made me laugh out loud a lot (full disclosure Alec Baldwin's an old friend).

I thought having James Taylor sing and play acoustic over the memorial segment was a nice touch, though the confusion in the directing booth about the on-stage screens and the TV screen at home made for some awkward moments. They never had that problem years ago, just automatically switched to the small screen the second any clips or montages began. Now they seem to linger for us to see, in this case, two screens at odd angles and have to try and figure out what's on them.

And as others have pointed out, they not only left Farrah Faucett off the memorial montage, but Bea Arthur, Henry Gibson and Brad Renfro as well. What's up with that?

And too many extraneous clips (like the one on how they did the sound for a DARK KNIGHT explosion, as if making up for leaving THE DARK KNIGHT out last year) and not enough of the stuff that matters (remember those old montages, like the one that incorporated what seemed like hundreds of the most iconic movie moments of all time—more of that please!). [I used to remember the guy's name who edited that, but can't post brain surgery and can't find it on the net either)

Surprisingly there were no memorable speeches this year either. I was hoping for something from Bridges or even Bullock that would nail the moment, but they kind of wavered and settled for sincere, but not that poignant or ultimately interesting (Bridges initial remark about being an "extension" of his parents and their show biz aspirations and achievements was a nice touch, but then he went into "The Dude" mode and I wondered if he had maybe toked up beforehand and thought everything was happening a lot faster than it was).

When Geoffrey Fletcher won for adapted screen play that almost turned into a memorable moment because he's the first African-American to win in that category and was obviously overwhelmed, but then it became more about him than the story, which after all was adapted, not written by him, though he sounded as if it had been. And as far as I could hear he didn't even include Sapphire among those he thanked and she wrote the book he took the story and characters and much of the dialogue from! (I hope I'm wrong about that, so if you heard different let me know.)

The other dance number had some amazing moves in it (triple flips etc.) but it was too much. They should have made the soundtracks the dancers were interpreting into a medley and had the dancers do their most spectacular moves in the shortest time possible, or cut the whole bit.

But despite all the problems and disappointments and glitches and being way too long, in the end I enjoyed it, because of Baldwin and Martin and because of some of the presenters and recipients and mostly because there were some nominees who were totally deserving of the accolades, and I got to see some old friends and co-workers live, even if just on the small screen.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


As you may have heard by now, the Oscar scoring system is different this year for best picture because there's ten nominees instead of five. I still don't get why that means voters don't just vote for the movie they thought was best of the year but instead have to rank them, first choice, second etc.

But whatever the reasoning, I like the idea of ordering my favorites among the nominees and it's another list I otherwise wouldn't make, since my post-brain-surgery lack of interest in lists is still operating, but will because I have never missed making my choices and predicting what the Academy will do since I was a kid.

But first I want to say that none of the nominees for Best Picture really rise to the level of best pictures of previous years for my taste. AVATAR may deserve it for sheer movie technical artistry, HURT LOCKER for direction, UP IN THE AIR for story and performances, PRECIOUS for performances and risk taking, etc.

But my favorite movie of the year, post-brain surgery was probably IT'S COMPLICATED, which for my taste was pretty much flawless, especially the second time I saw it, and flawless is hard to do even if the movie is basically lightweight compared to most Best Picture winners (and even though plenty of people would disagree with me on the flawlessness I'm sure).

Two other movies I would have had on my top ten list for the year post brain surgery are A SINGLE MAN and THE LAST STATION.

And my favorite movie of the year, pre-brain surgery, is AMERICAN VIOLET, with BRIGHT STAR a close second and WHATEVER WORKS right behind it (I went back and looked over pre-surgery posts to refresh my memory for that part of the year).

But of the Oscar nominees I saw (I still have to catch A SINGLE MAN and DISTRICT 9) I'd rank them like this:

4. UP

As for who will win it, even though THE HURT LOCKER is the favorite at this point, if I was betting on it, I'd pick AVATAR.

The Best Actor category is missing some giant performances of the year in my mind, like Ben Wishaw as John Keats in BRIGHT STAR and Will Patton in AMERICAN VIOLET (I'm sorry I missed INVICTUS and the other movie Matt Damon was in based on that real life whistle blower mad man I heard was an incredible performance, etc.)

1. Colin Firth in A SINGLE MAN
2. Jeff Bridges in CRAZY HEART
3. George Clooney in UP IN THE AIR
4. Jeremy Renner in HURT LOCKER

All my top three choices deserve an Oscar for their performances this year for my taste, but the favorite, Jeff Bridges will probably nab it for a lifetime of amazingly nuanced and amazingly underrated performances.

Best Actress category is missing what I thought were the greatest performances of the year. My first choice would have been Nicole Beharie in AMERICAN VIOLET, followed by Abbie Cornish in BRIGHT STAR and Evan Rachel Wood in WHATEVER WORKS.

1. Gabourey Sidibe in PRECIOUS
2. Helen Mirren in LAST STATION
3. Carey Mulligan in AN EDUCATION
4. Meryl Streep in JULIE & JULIA
5. Sandra Bullock in THE BLIND SIDE

The favorite seems to be Bullock but I would bet on Streep again (though I have my fingers crossed for either Sidibe or Mirren, whose performances were beyond a doubt the best of these five).

Many of my favorite Best Supporting Actor performances weren't nominated, like almost everyone in AMERICAN VIOLET, especially Michael O'Keefe, Charles S. Dutton, Tim Blake and Xzibit. I also liked Brian Geraghty in THE HURT LOCKER and found his performance at times more realistic than Jemery Renner's (as I did the cameo appreances in the same flick by Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes and David Morse, as well as Ed Begley in WHATEVER WORKS).

1. Christopher Plummer in THE LAST STATION
2. Christoph Waltz in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
3. Stanley Tucci in THE LOVELY BONES

Everyone says it's Christoph Waltz and I suspect that's gonna turn out to be right.

As for Best Supporting Actress, again there's performances missing I'd have chosen, like Alfre Woodard in AMERICAN VIOLET and Kerry Fox in BRIGHT STAR, but my choice would have been Patricia Clarkson in WHATEVER WORKS.

1. Mo'Nique in PRECIOUS
2. Anna Kendrick in UP IN THE AIR
3. Maggie Gyllenhaal in CRAZY HEART
4. Vera Famiga in UP IN THE AIR

Of course Mo'Nique deserves and most likely will get this one, no matter what you think of the movie this performance is undeniably precedent shattering (and not because the character is African American but because she is so realistically and believably evil without losing her humanity entirely).

I would have liked to have seen Tim Disney nominated for AMERICAN VIOLET because it's such a powerfully realistic movie for my taste and yet restrained in a way few directors would have pulled off (with amazing performances) and Jane Campion for BRIGHT STAR too.

1. Katheryn Bigelow for THE HURT LOCKER
2. James Cameron for AVATAR
3. Jason Reitman for UP IN THE AIR
4. Lee Daniels for PRECIOUS

It's Bigelow's. Though maybe Cameron actually deserves it more for what he managed to pull off.

[I can't believe I forgot the screenplay and adapted screenplay categories, especially since I made my living for a while in Hollywood writing screenplays. Again I would have chosen some others, but as for the ones nominated, my choices would be:

1. Geoffrey Fletcher for PRECIOUS
2. Jason Reitman for UP IN THE AIR
3. Nick Hornby for AN EDUCATION

1. Bob Peterson and Pete Doctor for UP
2. Marl Boal for THE HURT LOCKER
3. Quentin Tarantino for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

The favorite for Adapted is Reitman, but I'm thinking Fletcher just might win it. The favorite for Original is Tarantino, though some favor Boal and I'd bet on him.]

Saturday, March 6, 2010


In case you had trouble linking to the two sites my older son Miles commented on in a previous post: I thought I'd write this fast PS with the links in it here and here so you can read them for yourself and use them if you deign to argue with anyone who still thinks the media is anything but rightwing or so rightwing intimidated it might as well be right wing.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Ever since the earthquake in Chile I've been waiting for someone on the news to make the point that the more powerful Chilean one caused only hundreds (what may still turn out to be thousands, though many of those more a result of the tsunami following the quake than the quake itself) of deaths while the Haitian one caused hundreds of thousands because the Haitian buildings were constructed without any government regulations or without their being enforced while the Chilean buildings were government regulated and therefore safer.

The news has pointed this out but never in terms of regulation vs. de- or no regulation. As I referred to in yesterday's post and TPW elaborated beautifully on, the Dems seem incapable of being succinct and to the point, as in "Here's what lack of regulation caused—over two hundred thousand dead—as opposed to regulation—hundreds dead!"

And now I read a rightwinger's defending the Chilean regulations as something coming from the father of deregulation and privatization Milton Friedman! But of course, it is a LIE. A lie that I am sure rightwingers will promulgate and within months if not days it will become an accepted "fact" on the right and an "opposing view" in the mainstream media, instead of A LIE, which is what it is and Naomi Wolfe articulates in her usual clear and logically reasoned way.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


One of the things I've mentioned that changed with the brain surgery is my tolerance for the outright idiocy on the right wing of the political spectrum these days. Or to be more specific, the lies and misinformation, but even more so the absence of logic and reason, as if opinions based on repeating lies and misinformation loudly or emotionally or with the pretense of individuality makes it true (i.e. someone like Sarah Pailin or Glen Beck repeating tired rightwing propaganda as if it's coming out of their personal experience, like "death panels" being set up by Obama and the Dems to deprive her "special needs" child of his healthcare or even his life (!) etc.)

To hear Obama's successful moves that saved us all from another Great Depression characterized as "Marxist" or "socialist" or "fascism" or other completely inapplicable terms, is to watch desperate politicos and their followers overreach for ways to demonize middle-of-the-road, moderate, pragmatist Obama who has addressed and is addressing issues the Republicans neglected for decades that contributed the most to our current problems.

It's as if there are now two dictionaries of "American English"—one that is based on the meanings of words as they have always been defined in dictionaries since Webster, and another that has redefined common and uncommon words in order to give them sinister or benevolent connotations as fits the political agenda of the rightwingers who have basically stolen the language I have dedicated my life to, as have so many others.

It's an Alice in Wonderland kind of fantasy world where birth certificates and tons of factual data mean their opposite if a rightwing propagandist can strike an emotional chord in the rightwing crowd. Where one person's "retard" means one thing (Dem=sinister) and another's another thing (Repub=benevolent) etc.

I don't have the capacity to recall the kind of quotes and information I used to have easy access to in my mind (for instance I can't remember what Orwell called that kind of doubletalk, was it Newspeak?) but I also have an appreciation for clarity and precision in language I had maybe gotten away from (and may not be achieving now in my writing since my vocabulary and memory seem at times more limited).

If there's one criticism I have of Obama (and I have more than one) it's his and his team's (and most of the Dems for that matter) lack of clarity at times in presenting a simple and concise version of the facts. They either seem to assume the general populace gets the ridiculousness of some of the right's attacks and language distortions and reality manipulations etc. or get too elaborate in explaining and defending their policies, so that, as I've written here before, only 2% of the population in a recent poll are even aware that Obama LOWERED taxes for most of us, unlike the last administration that only lowered them for the wealthiest few, like themselves.

Anyway, I've already wasted too much time on this. It bores me now, because I realize how pointless it is. Not for everyone, but certainly for the rightwingers that continue to spout whatever the rightwing line of the day is (and I know the tea partyers are supposedly something new or giving the rightwingers trouble, but that's not really the case when examined closely and realistically. Whatever an individual tea partyer might believe, the core principles being espoused by those in that "movement" who have expressed themselves in interviews and speeches and signs and angry outbursts at town hall meetings and tea party rallies etc. have honed almost perfectly to the rightwing line and agenda) it is pointless to even engage in arguing. They lack the capacity to acknowledge any reality that doesn't reflect their ideology.

The facts are most, if not all, European countries, and others, that have any kind of universal health plan for their citizens, spend less on healthcare and are healthier by every statistical measure than we in the USA are. And these same industrialized (actually an outmoded term these days for Western democracies) nations have much better education systems and spend more money on education (as a part of their budgets) and get better results, while here in the richest country on earth people are homeless because of the cost of healthcare crises, or dying because of lack of healthcare, etc. etc. etc. and schools are getting worse and costing more etc. etc. etc.

The taxes are higher in these countries, and for that the citizens get a better educated, safer, healthier, body politic. While we seem to get worse and worse. That's what Obama's trying to change, but he's trying to do it incrementally and cautiously and moderately and with well thought out but often too nuanced and elaborate explanations and policies. He's criticized from the left for not taking more bold measures and by the right for taking any.

But it's late and this probably isn't even making sense. Just been meaning to address this sense of pointlessness every time i read or hear one of these rightwingers say almost anything.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


It's late and been a long day, but wanted to report that my reading is back to what it was for the most part. I'm so into this biography of Thelonious Monk I'm almost finished.

And I'm able to do some writing beyond this blog. Well, rewriting actually on the monster memoir thing I've been working on for a couple of years now and will be the longest in history probably if I ever finish it.

It's the process of writing that I'm into and aleays have been. I was totally ready to accept the possibility that I wouldn't be able tow rite again as I once did, or have for most of my life. But now it looks like I'm pretty close to returning to at least the cognitiive and motor sckills to write again.

But I tire more easily still, and forget things more than I used to, so I we'll see if I can actually write as much or for as long if this recovery continues as it has been going.

There are still changes that have affected the way I think and think of myself. It feels like some of those might be permanent. But we'll see. Like the one I've pointed out most often because it is so obvious, my lifelong list making compulsion, which no longer is there and hasn't been since I woke up from the operation.

Other characteristics, large and small, seem permanenetly changed as well. But who knows what the future might bring. Whatever it might be I hope I'm grateful for all of it.

[PS: I corrected a bunch of typos as I was writing this, but in reading it when I was finished I noticed a bunch more, but am leaving them in as examples of what my writing is like now. I know a few typos might mean nothing to many people but to someone like me who has been writing for every day of my life—and I mean "writing" as in articles essays reviews stories poems screenplays plays books etc.—making the kinds of mistakes, typos and redundancies etc. as I do above is rare. (and I obviously corrected a bunch more in this PS]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Ever since the brain surgery, I seem to have less patience for what seems to me to be hypocrisy or outright delusion, and not just from the right.

For instance, can anyone tell me how the make up on the model on the cover of Sunday's NY Times magazine (as well as most of the shots inside and over the past few decades—did this decadent style begin in the Reagan era? Hmmm...) can be seen as anything other than an attempt to make this woman look like an evil robot?

If it's meant to be art, I can dig that, though it's nothing that new. But as "fashion" (and I know some see that as "art" too, as I do, but only when it reaches that level, which for my taste this doesn't) this seems incredibly tedious and obvious and technically trite. Or is it just me?