Monday, February 28, 2011


It's well worth listening to, so hit the "listen" link. More proof of the lunacy and destructiveness of the right, in this case Glen Beck:


Gotta admit, I found James Franco and Anne Hathaway fun, funny, and adorable. I couldn't see them as hosts, but ended up totally enjoying their presence.

The pacing seemed really off right from the start though, not of the hosts bits but of the rest of the show.

And too predictable, except for the original screenplay award, where the winner (David Siedler for THE KING'S SPEECH) said he was the oldest winner in Oscar history and then said he hoped that record would be broken soon and frequently. Hear hear.

And Charles Ferguson, the director of the best documentary, INSIDE JOB, who began his acceptance speech by saying something about how it's been three years since the economic collapse and no one has yet been indicted let alone convicted for the fraud that was perpetrated by the Wall Street firms that caused it.

[His actual quote: "Forgive me. I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong."]

Otherwise it was mostly a no-surprises event (although Melissa Leo "dropping the f-bomb" as Christian Bale put it and giving a confusing acceptance speech was kind of out of the ordinary).

We'll all be hard put to remember the winners by this time next year, but it's still fun to watch, at least for me, and always has been since I was a kid (which reminds me that the historic references were handled terribly, completely unexciting and unemotionally engaging).

Saturday, February 26, 2011


As a lot of you know, since my brain surgery, a little over fifteen months ago, a lot of things changed in the way my mind works (including my still making many more typos than I used to before the surgery, though thank God not as many as I was making for the few months right after it) (i.e. I've rewritten this first sentence many times to correct a slew of typos over and over again).

One of the main ways it changed, as I've pointed out many times, is that the compulsion to make lists in my mind when it had any down time—like before falling asleep, or to help myself fall asleep or back asleep, or when walking around or pretty much doing anything that didn't engage my mind fully—that I had as long as I can remember, completely disappeared.

I included a lot of those lists on this blog, usually a couple a week. Ones with very intricate requirements, like favorite movies with titles that start with the first letters of the alphabet and contain only one syllable etc. But since the operation I can hardly get myself to make any list, let alone many of them throughout any given day.

So my usual obsession with the Oscars, again since childhood, and my own movie awards each year since I started this blog, just isn't there. I don't think I even offered my choice for my own awards last year.

But I thought I'd try this year to at least lists my picks for the Lally's Alley Movie Awards, if not the nominees etc.

My choice for best picture wasn't even nominated for an Oscar: BARNEY'S VERSION.

A close second was THE FIGHTER.

My choice for best male actor is Paul Giamatti for BARNEY'S VERSION.

Again, he wasn't even nominated. There are other great performances, some not nominated also, like Mark Wahlberg, whose performance was the heart of THE FIGHTER, and a very generous performance it was, letting the other actors do most of the talking and emoting, while he played the fighter Micky Ward as the relatively quiet center of the storm that he was.

It seems like Colin Firth is the top contender for the Oscar, and his was a fine performance in THE KING'S SPEECH. But he really deserved it for A SINGLE MAN last year, and if he wins it will be partially for that performance as well that a lot of Academy members probably didn't even see until it was too late and felt guilty they hadn't rewarded it for the amazing performance it was.

My choice for best actress is a tie between Anette Benning for THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, another amazingly nuanced performance that pretty much played every note in an actor's instrument, and Rosamond Pike in BARNEY'S VERSION, also a beautifully nuanced performance that didn't have one false note in it.

A close second was Jennifer Lawrence, the teenage actress who starred in WINTER'S BONE. An impeccable performance that deserves the Oscar nomination it got, and if the competition wasn't so tough, may even have taken the Oscar home (and still might if Natalie Portman and Bening split the vote for top choice).

I'd be surprised if Christian Bale doesn't win as Oscar for best male supporting actor for THE FIGHTER. There's some who think Geoffrey Rush might win for THE KING'S SPEECH. But as good as a lot of actors were in supporting roles, no one can touch Bale's performance. It's seminal. Historic. Bale does what people got so excited about Diniro for in Raging BULL, only Deniro, for my taste, was way too obvious (especially the weight fluctuations, which were seen as so uniquely brave at the time). Bale so embodies Dicky Eckland's ways of talking and walking and throwing punches and speaking and just being, that if you watch footage of Eckland and compare it to Bale's performance, it feels like Eckland's spirit has actually entered Bale and taken possession of him. It's one of the greates film performances in movie history, period.

The choice for best female supporting actor is a tough one, but again, Melissa Leo creates such a believably genuine mother of Micky Ward and Dicky Eckland in THE FIGHTER, it's transformative. Some folks think Leo screwed her chances for the Oscar because of a not very tasteful series of ads she did promoting herself for the award. It'll be interesting to see if that's the case, because no matter what she may be like outside her roles (and full disclosure, I read my poetry at an event with her a couple of years ago and had lunch with her and others afterwards), she's one of our best actors working in movies and TV right now, period.

My choice for best director is David O. Foster for THE FIGHTER, mostly because everyone is so perfect in it, from the stars to the bit players who were often amateurs, Lowell locals used either as themselves (as in the trainer O'Keefe) or people like themselves. To make a movie in which everything rings true and every player seems genuinely who they're playing is not easy, but THE FIGHTER pulls it off, and that's because of the director.

My second choice, even though I disliked so much about the movie, would be Aronovsky for BLACK SWAN because despite what I saw as cheap emotional tricks to create the kind of heightened melodramatic tension and had half the actors chewing the scenery, it is still incredibly powerful filmmaking, and that's Aronovky's doing.

My choice for best original screenplay is Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg for THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. Because even though I didn't like some of the story's devices, it felt to me like the most original in many ways and uncomfortably unpredictable at times.

The Oscar will probably go to Aaron Sorkin for THE SOCIAL NETWORK and that's a pretty valid choice too, because with his usual panache he made what should have been the most boring story with the most boring legal details into an incredibly dramatic work of art with the kind of tension usually only found in thrillers.

For best adapted screenplay, again my choice is BARNEY'S VERSION and Michael Konyves for his adaptation of the Mordecai Richler novel the movie's based on. It's a huge challenge to reduce a person's entire adult life down to two hours but they did it, and did it brilliantly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


So, gas prices are skyrocketing supposedly because of the "unrest in the Middle East."

Even though oil corporation profits are greater than ever in the history of the world!...

...and there is still a surplus of oil in the USA!


I wonder if oil corporations would be so low as to take advantage of circumstances to do some "profiteering" as they used to call it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Got my copy of Chris Mason's HUM WHO HICCUP (Narrow House, Baltimore MD) in the mail yesterday and felt the same delight I've been feeling all my adult life when I get a book in the mail that I dig, or think I will, or by a writer/poet/etc. whose work gives me great satisfaction.

I've written about Chris on this blog before, his poetry and his music with The Tinklers and Old Songs (the latter put "archaic Greek poetry" to music).

I had already read this book, because I was asked (along with old friends the poets Terence Winch and Charles Bernstein) to write a blurb before it was published. So I'll just quote myself from the back of the book:

"There is no other book of poetry like Chris Mason's HUM WHO HICCUP, it's wonderful (and all that implies, including full of wonder). Mason has always been an original, but in HUM WHO HICCUP he outdoes himself. Whether it's his 'Hiccup' version of what most would see as Haiku (two disparate images joined unexpectedly in seventeen syllables—only Mason's Hiccups are eleven syllables), or in his what used to be called 'concrete' or visual poetry, only Mason riffs off scientific formulas and discoveries all the while choosing poetry over physics, lyricism over logic, and Escher-like poetic architecture over classic lyric structures (or a combination of both). HUM WHO HICCUP is a tour de force of unique poetics, but as entertaining as it is sui generis, just like the poet himself as he comes across in this collection and in all his writing and music."

[PS: I forgot I wanted to include a sample poem, so here's the first one in the book from a series called "HOMERIC HUMS"

Radiant round
unbounded light
too bright for sight
bursting through the clouds:
Hail, Morning Sun,
old exploder
of my coldness
into warmth, you
fill my bowl with
neutrinos, thanks
for everything.]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Thanks to everyone who sent links to Youtube videos of George Shearing playing various songs, his own compositions and standards etc. after my post on his passing.

I chose the one below out of all of them, partly because it was suggested by friend and poet Tom Raworth who, like Shearing, is English and who did something as totally original with his art, poetry, as Shearing did with music.

I especially dig that this video (which from the suits I'd guess was made in the early 1950s) shows how humble Shearing was, that even with his great gifts, he didn't grandstand, (maybe his blindness gave him a natural humility). And also because if you aren't smiling by the end of it, you must have gotten distracted.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Another Christmas-cardy day here in Jersey. It's beautiful again with a few inches of snow on the trees and everywhere else except the streets, and above freezing so pretty sweet.

We had gotten down to "the sunny side of the street" phenom where one side had all melted and looked like Spring and the other side was still covered in snow, several inches deep and even a few feet deep still here and there, all Wintery.

Today could be our last taste, or not, of this kind of beauty for this season, and I'm sure there are plenty of folks who are sick of it. But not me. This is why I moved back from L.A. after seventeen years there, and I appreciate every minute of every season.

By the way, I assume you're all noticed how smartly the right has reframed the total destruction, economic and otherwise wrought by their policies for the eight years of Bush/Cheney into how Democrats spend too much and the deficit is the greatest threat to the country since World War Two etc.

AND how the obvious solution of raising taxes on the wealthiest back to what they were under Clinton is off the table. The message is clear for those of us educated and intelligent enough to hear it, but unfortunately not stated very clearly by the Dems and certainly not by the mass media, that is: the wealthiest few (who have become richer and richer since Reagan started this process of kissing the butts of the rich and corporations) must never be asked to sacrifice anything, but the poor and the working class must face the music and accept cuts to programs that keep working families from becoming homeless or unable to feed their infants and children.

The right's message: whatever the rich want is good for all of us so shut up and take the stagnant pay and job losses and benefit cuts and losses so the rich can continue to accrue more and more.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011


Yeah, it's a bad idea. Social Security is one of those government programs that actually works and works well. But the right has done their usual brilliant job of framing arguments and establishing terms so that most people seem to be forgetting that.

Remember when Gore ran for president and won? One of the reasons he didn't win more decisively (which would have made it harder for an elite group of rightwingers to contradict the will of the people, and also would have prevented the financial debacle we're in because there wouldn't have an an Iraq war or a giant tax cut for the wealthiest among us) was because he was always being ridiculed as too stiff.

One of the devices used to point out Gore's less charismatic presence than Clinton's (or Bush junior for rightwingers, though I never got it, Karl Rove actually said the first time he met Bush Junior he felt like he was meeting James Dean!) was to make fun of his campaign speeches including his passion about the need for a "lockbox" for Social Security.

There was a skit on Saturday Night Live making fun of the "lock box" and a lot of comics used that very unpoetic, unromantic, almost geeky term to make fun of Gore at the time. But it was a genuinely great idea, of course. To make it illegal for the Congress to raid Social Security surpluses to fund their projects and make it look like it wasn't costing anything or costing less.

But Social Security is still solvent, even with all the raiding that went on, unfortunately by both parties, though the right tried to do it more because ideologically they are against Social Security because it is an open admission that not everybody, no matter how hard they work, makes enough to put away money for when they can no longer work. The right, and too many of the "independent" voting young, seem to think that retirement should be a meritocracy combined with an aristocracy.

Those wealthy enough to have comfortable retirements because they inherited money or got away with banking deals that either were illegal or should be, etc. and those smart enough and from a well enough off background to get a good higher education and get into the right fields (mostly finances, banks, etc.) to be able to put away something for retirement deserve their lot and those not fortunate or lucky enough to do so don't.

It's like these people forgot one of the basic concepts of all religions that I know of, to take care of the widows and orphans, the poor and the old. But it doesn't matter, because thankfully under FDR and the Democrats, Social Security has saved our country from descending into the depths of despair and poverty we used to see in so-called "developing countries" where there was no government help for those in need, including the old.

And it was, and is, fair, for the most part, in that people pay into it all their work lives, and what they end up with isn't enough to live on, that's for sure, but can mean the difference between eating catfood or real food. It would be fairer if it taxed the richest more (as it is now the cutoff for taxing wealth for Social Security is ridiculously low).

But by turning the word "entitlement" into something that makes it sound more like poor old folks are actually wealthy scions of oil wealth families who get into Yale no matter what their grades or how much trouble they get into or what drunken fools they might be and run for president on a record of failing as a business man, as an adult (last "DUI" at forty?), etc. That's "entitlement."

Here's a terrific articulation of why the right's (and some in the center's) argument against Social Security is based on the usual lies distortions, deliberate misconceptions and propaganda. read it to the end.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I'm still a little under the weather (and spectacularly Spring-like, even Summer-like, weather it is for the middle of winter, but I'm not hearing anything from the climate change deniers this week!) but thought this short post on Krugman's blog today gets it "right" (and did anyone see this other recent post with those statistics that when asked forty-four percent of Social Security retirees could not name one government program they thought they benefited from, and forty percent of Medicare recipients had the same response!).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A little under the weather again, but wanted to note George Shearing's passing. I caught him live several times when I was young and playing some piano myself and was always impressed with the fact that this blind, white, Brit could not only swing, but he had an original technique that was always recognizable. He lived a long time, which I'm happy to also note. May he rest in, well not peace so much as some mellow swinging jazz club in the sky.

I couldn't find any live shows from back when I was going to see him, but here's a recording of his most famous composition:

Monday, February 14, 2011


I caught a couple of acts on the Grammies tonight. It's not an awards show I usually watch but I heard Dylan was gonna be on it and wanted to see what he would do. He sang "Maggie's Farm" backed by a couple of new bands that preceded him with their own hits, both very impressive.

But Dylan was the reason they were there, in more ways than one. And he didn't let them down. His voice as raspy and growly as usual lately, though maybe a little deeper than usual, he gave a real show. Not imitating his younger self (as Mick Jagger did later with an amazingly (for his age) energetic rendition of an otherwise boringly repetitive song, unlike Dylan's which is repetitive but not boringly so, in fact intensely so as each verse resonates with even deeper meaning) but doing an old fashioned showman bit and ending with some minor harmonica riffs.

He was something to behold, especially if you knew where he was coming from. And to know that, the best thing ever written on him in terms of origins and influences and historic references is the new hardcore virtuoso historian's symphony to what seems like every aspect of Dylans musical life: BOB DYLAN IN AMERICA.

The historian is Sean Wilentz, the son and nephew of the Wilentz brothers that ran what was the main bookstore and small press of the East Coast Beat scene in the '50s and '60s when I was coming up. I knew both of them from those days, and was a big fan of the store and of their Corinth Press that published some of my early favorite books of poetry.

Sean has done them proud in more ways than one. But he has also done a great service to anyone who's ever been interested in Dylan's music and would like to have some insight into the various mysteries and contradictions in it. From centuries old references like the traditional folk music of the British isles to Dylan's more immediate childhood influences (including ones I'd perceived and talked a bit about since Dylan came on the scene, like Aaron Copland and Frank Sinatra, two of my favorites since childhood as well, and others I hadn't, like Blind Willie NcTell) Wilentz not only makes the connections clear, he offers up explanations beyond the usual and obvious to source materials more varied than even I had imagined.

He focuses on several periods in Dylan's musical odyssey, and not all the obvious ones, to unlock some of the secrets of what Dylan was actually up to, and I think gets it right almost every time. I didn't always agree with his critical judgement of some of the songs he analyzes, but I always agreed with his conclusions about how those songs came to be or might have come to be.

It's a fascinating and compelling study, if you have any interest at all in Americana let alone Dylan, and watching him tonight on the Grammies I felt exponentially more insightful about every move he made, every gesture, even his outfit, than I ever could have been before reading BOB DYLAN IN AMERICA.

As I always used to tell my kids, and still do actually, the more you know the more difficult it is to be bored, because everything you know anything about becomes interesting, and the more you know about anything the more interesting it becomes. I thought I knew a lot about Dylan and American musical history and U.S. history in general, but this book raised the ante on my knowledge tenfold. A totally enlightening experience.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Ever since the protests began in Egypt, and especially after the police attacked the protesters and they defended themselves and maintained their presence in Liberty Square, I felt the kind of emotional intensity and physical adrenalin rush I used to get back in the '60s and '70s taking part in similar protests here in the good old USA.

When Mubarak looked like he was going to step down and then seemed like he didn't on Thursday, I felt the same kind of frustration I felt during a weeklong protest that began on May 1st 1971 in Washington DC on the Mall and initially attracted hundreds of thousands, (others would say tens of thousands, but when antiwar protests on the Washington Mall in '69 attracted more like a million peaceful demonstrators the official estimate was a few hundred thousands).

Years of peaceful protests hadn't yielded anything except harassment, repression, police brutality and an escalation of the war, so when the police invaded and tore down the tents people had set up that first night on the mall ostensibly for a concert (The Beach Boys had serenaded us that afternoon) it forced us those sleeping over out into the streets where the police arrested them or intimidated them into leaving town etc.

But the next day smaller groups spread out across the city to do what they could to try and shut DC down, stop business as usual until the government recognized the legitimacy of the protesters demand for an end to the Viet Nam War.

Thanks in part to the brutal tactics of the Nixon regime and their agents etc., we had had the same kind of impact on DC and on the nation that week as the protesters in Cairo were having this past week. I was with a group of protesters that had come from the Midwest, where I had run for sheriff on the Peace & Freedom ticket a few years before and had been labeled in the press an "SDS leader" as well as a "revolutionary"—neither labels I used for myself. I wasn't quite that pretentious, thank God.

I also wasn't in any real leadership position other than what people asked me to assume in various situations. The group I was part of consisted of working guys from Chicago and some smaller Midwest cities including Des Moines, Iowa, as well as some students from the university of Iowa and other colleges and universities, and some military veterans including guys who weren't back from Viet Nam that long.

After several days of protesting that included some of the same agent provocateur actions we saw in Cairo, and which we resisted getting sucked into for the most part, my then wife, a working-class girl from outside Buffalo, heard from her parents, and instead of criticizing us and our politics, her father said on the phone, for the first time, "Maybe you kids are right," and I knew the pendulum had swung.

But unfortunately, the mostly self- or media appointed "leaders" didn't have much contact with "regular" people (Tom Hayden and I had an argument once about "the people" after he made a disparaging remark about "them" and why they had to be "led" by "us" and that was the last time I supported him in any leadership position), and just at it became apparent to me that "the people" (i.e. a majority of working people of all ages) were coming around to seeing that the Viet Nam War was a mistake and a folly and a horrendous waste of human life, let alone our country's money and resources, the so-called leaders backed down and left town (not that I saw any of them on the streets with us anyway).

I had the feeling then that had we kept up the pressure and used all our connections to encourage more people to join us in DC then, we might have actually accomplished our goal, that Nixon and his administration might have been forced to concede the unpopularity of the war and his tactics of actually expanding it and changed course sooner.

I thought of that after Mubarak gave his rambling speech which seemed to say he was staying Thursday night and prayed that the Egyptian protesters would stay the course. They did, and they won the simple concession that what they wanted was the right thing not just for them but for their country. We won that too, eventually, but gave up too soon, and by the next year the protests had become more violent and the demands more strident and the government resistance more rigid and extreme, ending only with the collapse of almost all public support including even in our own military, as well as the loss of the war on the battlefield.

I've thought of those experiences back then over the years, especially during times like these when similar protests stir a nation, like Tienanmen Square in China in '89. But I haven't actually felt the way I did back then as completely as I did this week, and especially the last few days.

And then watching the news tonight, seeing the joy in Tunisia at the way their victory has spread to Egypt, and the protests in Algeria and Yemen with similar slogans and Internet organizational tools, and it occurred to me that I'd been missing the obvious.

That the '60s protests were fueled by the enormous population bubble that created a generation of young people larger than previous generations and better educated who could see through the hypocrisy of the older generation's political games and refused to play them. They, we, wanted freedom and honesty and an end to war and racial division as an excuse for repression and police brutality.

Now the part of the world with the largest proportion of the population made up of a younger generation is in the Arab nations, and they too are better educated and can see through the hypocrisy of the older generation and its excuses for repression and brutality. It feels like dejavu all over again, and my heart and spirit are with them, and hopes and prayers that they will achieve great things for themselves and their societies before they get co-opted or worn out or beaten down or just too old to have the energy and courage to keep up the good fight.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Things rarely turn out the way we expect, even when they do.

At least that's my experience. But neither life nor whatever happiness we find in it is about results, it's about the process of trying to achieve them, or living with them. If it were otherwise, wealthy people would all be happy and the poor all miserable. The successful would never commit suicide and those who fail at their goals always would. Etc.

Our collective lives work the same way, it seems to me. Great moments in history rarely sustain the feelings of exuberance and fulfillment that come at those moments' peaks, as on this day in Egypt (and outside it) for those who've been yearning for the downfall of Mubarak and his rule for years, for decades.

But for those who can appreciate this moment's overwhelming greatness despite whatever follows, the greatness cannot be denied. Just like when the Berlin Wall fell. The aftermath was more than messy for the newly unified Germany, and the problems that followed the exhilaration of that moment are real and still having an impact, but to deny the greatness of that moment in history because it didn't solve all the problems of a divided country or even a divided world, is to be the kind of petty cynic that occasionally shows up in the comments on this blog, and much more frequently all over the Internet and the media.

It's tiresome, like people who don't get what's so great about The Beatles or a movie like THE FIELD or would deny the high most of this country was on the night Obama won the presidency. They would have us believe that because The Beatles often seemed to employ childlike lightheartedness in attitude and outlook, and in choice of instruments and musical techniques and styles, that they were being either deliberately jejune or naive, (as opposed say to the Stones supposedly more authentically raw techniques and sound, based in the blues but with an even more supposedly sophisticated darkness to their lyrics and attitudes etc.).

But as we know from the facts, Lennon and McCartney had much more to be dark about than Jagger or Richards. But Lennon and McCartney overcame the dark traumas of their past, transcended them to whatever extent any of us can, to create something that uplifted our spirits at the time and can still evoke that same response in many of us to this day (not to mention they were consummate songwriters and musical creators).

And movies like THE FIELD, though technically or politically flawed perhaps, and definitely choosing sentiment over cynicism, can continue to resonate with many viewers even after all these years (or IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE or HANNA AND HER SISTERS or any other film that has a "happy ending" in any way that's still creatively original). And Obama's win and the fact of his presidency can still bring a wave of satisfaction and pride at a just cause personified in his very existence, let alone accomplishments, despite the setbacks and disappointments and compromises and challenges etc.

Today was one of the great moments of history, no matter what follows. The Egyptians who took part in the past few weeks protests, risking their lives and perhaps the lives of their families (since the preferred control mechanism of most tyrants remains threatening and carrying out harm to the families of those who would challenge them), especially those who actually gave their lives in "the ultimate sacrifice" (as so many on the right often say, especially those who have never put their own lives in harm's way), have every right to exult and feel proud and triumphant in this moment.

Because they won. Not everything. Not forever. Not enough to necessarily change even that much in their actual material lives. Ah, but in the lives of their spirits, their souls, it must feel like learning how to fly with only your smile as the means.

On this 2/11, they have reversed, or at least transcended for now, the image of "Arabs" too many of our fellow citizens have had since 9/11. As Obama pointed out in his comments today, they showed that great things could be accomplished, great changes brought about, without the use of violence and terrorism. In fact they are the newest example of so much that Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. achieved through nonviolent means.

And having lived through some dramatic historic changes in my own life and having experienced my own participation in nonviolent and at times violent protest and actions meant to bring about political changes in our racial laws and social practices or to end a war or gain equal rights for women or gays etc., I know that often nonviolence gets beat by violence, that sometimes the army doesn't hold still, as in the recent Iranian protests that failed to accomplish the changes those people were willing to sacrifice their lives for.

But remaining nonviolent, except when directly attacked, and not allowing themselves to be provoked into rioting and rampaging even by the professional provocateurs (i.e. hired thugs or undercover official ones), AND NOT BACKING DOWN, not being intimidated into cowering and giving up in despair and fear and fatalism, but instead convincing by their example even greater numbers to join them, they created and then seized for themselves one of the great moments in history.

I'm so very happy for them, and for all of us, even the cynics who can't appreciate it.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Watching the situation unfold today and tonight on cable and Internet etc. I could feel the frustration in the crowd, and even astonishment, at the Mubarak regime's seeming inability to comprehend how destructive their attempts to manipulate these protesters have become.

I saw all kinds of analyses, a lot of it fairly informed and intelligent (usually that came from Egyptians themselves) but I didn't hear anyone mention one of the obvious factors in the Egyptian army's not taking total control, and in the Obama administration's probable input to them, that if any change comes off as a coup, the U.S. Government is automatically bound by law to cut off aid (which means the almost two billion the Egyptian Army gets from us every year).

The Egyptian army has to make it look like a stable civilian transfer of power that abides by the Egyptian Constitution to keep the US aid coming. So what some in the Egyptian crowds were hoping for, and what some of the TV and Internet commenters seemed to be hoping for or expecting, for the Egyptian army to take over, is impossible to do blatantly.

It's all a muddle now as they allowed Mubarak to retain his pride in the form of his meglomaniacal paternalistic meandering speechifying, and Sulieman to come off as the slimy crony he seems to be and ended up satisfying no one.

More will be revealed. May it be peaceful.


Following up on Miles' link to that Shirley Jones and the Dap Tones version of "This Land Is Your Land" here's an acoustic version that illustrates the point I and everyone else was making about NOT "oversouling" ala Christine Aquilero's National Anthem rendition. It starts with some green room chatter, but just wait. [Woops, just caught the mistake above calling Sharon "Shirley Jones" and thought I'd leave it as the kind of mistakes I make regularly (and correct before you see them) since the brain operation, but also because in fact Shirley Jones was a lovely singer who was pitch perfect in hitting notes on the great soundtracks for OKLAHOMA and CAROUSEL. Damn, and I just saw the other obvious error above, "Dap Kings" not "Tones"!]

[PS: In case you had trouble with the link Miles posted, here's another Youtube version of that.]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Still under the weather, but my oldest friend sent me a link to the video below and it gave me a laugh and made me feel better, certainly by comparison! [Also thanks to The Dubliners]

Monday, February 7, 2011


A little under the weather, and some weather. But spent the better part of today at the hospital with a dear friend who was brought there in an ambulance. She was there for me all through my brain surgery and beyond, she did so much there's no way I could ever repay her. But I could at least show up in her hour of need. Turned out not to be anything insurmountable and it will pass and she'll recover.

But what struck me throughout the day as I came and went, was the love and affection—and care and concern, devotion and understanding and more—expressed between my friend and her "partner"—another woman.

The hospital personnel didn't seemed phased for a second when they asked the relationship and one of them would refer to the other one as "my partner"—no one skipped a beat. Which shows how far we've come, at least in this Jersey hospital.

But the fact that these two people so involved with each other's lives, sharing a life and the union their love brought them to, cannot legally marry and reap all the benefits I and other "straight" couples can, is so unacceptable, it seems deliberately spiteful and mean.

I can't believe there is anyone out there who still feels that couples and families that are made up of same-sex persons somehow don't deserve or warrant the same legal status as everyone else. It's primitive and backward and hopefully some day will be seen that way by a majority of the world's population.

But for now we'll have to be grateful for most of Europe, and other advanced democracies, being more tolerant and worry about the rise of fundamentalist religions that are so obviously afraid of what in the end is simply love.

But isn't that the classic struggle throughout history, love versus fear? Seems like it to me.

[PS: Speaking of the forms love can take, did anyone see the story about the Christians forming s human wall around the demonstrating Muslims in Liberty Square when it was time for them to pray, so that the Muslims wouldn't be unexpectedly attacked while they were face down on their knees yesterday, and today the Muslims returned the favor by surrounding and protecting the Coptic Christians as they celebrated Mass. So much for Muslim intolerance as part of what's motivating the demonstrators!]

Sunday, February 6, 2011


See here.

[PS: And thanks to my old friend Slater for the link to this relevant article as well.]

[PPS: Another take worth checking out.]


"A tourist who was interviewed last night from Cairo spoke for millions of his fellow Americans when he said he couldn't imagine living in a country like Egypt. It is hard, isn't it?
Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about "sacrifice" and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.
No wonder they're upset! Why, we'd be marching in the streets too.
Here's the reality: Income inequality is actually greater in the United States than it is in Egypt. Politicians here have close financial ties to big corporations, both personally and through their campaigns. Corporate lawbreakers often do go unpunished. Poverty and unemployment statistics for US minorities are surprisingly similar to Egypt's.
And remember the ratings agencies that told us everything was fine with our country's banking system, right up to the moment it collapsed? Just two months ago, Moody's reassured investors that the Egyptian government had a "stable outlook" for the foreseeable future.  Sure, the analogy only goes so far.  But why is it so much easier to see what's wrong on the other side of the world than it is here at home?"
—R.J. Eskow
[See the rest of this article here.]

Saturday, February 5, 2011


My friend, the the poet Ray DiPalma, hipped me to this article, that left me feeling guilty about still digging LAST TANGO IN PARIS (and never digging Antonioni that much, especially THE PASSENGER) and Bertolucci's films in general.

Friday, February 4, 2011


When the right began attacking Obama on his first day in office (actually it was going on before then, but the "daily message" on target coordinated anti-Obama campaign began that first day in earnest) they immediately blamed him for everything that the previous administration (Bush/Cheney, lest we forget) had caused, especially the disastrous economy.

They blamed him for the stock market's continuing decline in his first months in office, for instance, and the unemployment rate going up (and for the bank bailout even though that initially occurred under Bush/Cheney, and for the auto industry bailout).

What's telling about the right's arguments and attacks is it never has anything to do with reality because, as we have seen, the stock market has not only rebounded robustly and is now ahead of where it was pre-Obama, but have we heard anyone on the right now praise Obama for fixing what they were criticizing him for not fixing? I'm still waiting.

The unemployment rate went down this month and has never reached the heights it did under Ronald Reagan, so the right should be happy about that right? I'm still waiting.

The bailouts turned out to be successful, the American auto industry was saved and with it thousands and thousands of jobs were kept here in the USA instead of going overseas and as with the banks most of the bailout money has been paid back. Any congrats for Obama on that rightwingers? Still waiting.


[Oh, and as for his Obama's critics on the left, they are rightfully dismayed over many Bush/Cheney policies Obama has not been successful in reversing, but he promised to end the war in Iraq and for all intents and purposes the war in Iraq is over for U.S. troops. There is still unfortunately violence there, but U.S. casualties are almost nonexistent, especially compared to where they were when Obama took office. And over half the troops that were there when he came in have been withdrawn and if he keeps his promise the rest will be gone by the end of this year. Any kudos from the left for that yet? Still waiting. And a lot of GBLT folks I know were totally pissed off at Obama when he didn't just write an executive order to get rid of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" but he said his strategy was to get the support of the military first and then get it passed through Congress so it would be much more difficult to attack and repeal, which he has accomplished. Most of these same GBLT folks have yet to tell me they're grateful to Obama for getting something done that no one else seemed able to before him, though I'm sure they are, but how about letting the world know that? Still waiting. And so on.]

[PS: And just to make it clear, there are a host of things I believe Obama could have done and be doing better, but nobody's perfect and he sure beats the alternative(s).]

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I just found out Maria Schneider, the French film actress, passed at only 58. Her impact in the first movie I saw her in, LAST TANGO IN PARIS, was unforgettable, holding her own against two iconic film presences, Marlon Brando and fellow French actor, Jean-Pierre Leaud (who first made his mark on a lot of our movie-going lives almost two decades before LAST TANGO in THE 400 BLOWS, and went on to play Truffaut's alter-ego a few more times).

After LAST TANGO Schneider went on to play opposite lots of famous leading men, Jack Nicholson being just one (the rest were mostly European), but she never achieved the kind of iconic status I think she deserved (she was only nineteen went she dominated the screen in LAST TANGO). That may have been because TANGO was initially rated "X"—which in part led to the changing of the ratings system when the notoriety it received had soft and hardcore porn filmmakers rating their films "X" to get people into their theaters—but became NC-17 under the new system, and as a result a lot of people didn't see it or saw it in the censored version Blockbuster rented out for years without telling their customers the film had been cut in ways that destroyed a lot of the emotional and artistic impact (thanks to the fundamentalist head of Blockbuster) etc.

Somehow her going feels like the end of an era. Guess it is.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I've been out and must admit that though freezing rain and ice are more treacherous and problematic than snow for getting around, they sure leave the landscape sparklingly brilliant. The trees look like they're lit up from inside. Pretty beautiful.

But also, since I was out, events in Egypt, or at least Cairo's "Liberation Square" have become more clear. The media, as usual, is being way too conservative in describing the clash as between "pro-Mubarak" forces and "anti-Mubarak" forces, doing that false equation of both sides that the right has trained them to do over the past decade (and before, of course, but it became more constant and predictable under Bush/Cheney).

These aren't equal groups of Egyptian citizens demonstrating for their political positions! These were peaceful demonstrators protesting their corrupt dictatorship attacked by plainclothes agents of that dictatorship while the police (many of them as it turns at are police) and army looked on and allowed it.

It may work, as we've seen before, in China in 1989 in Tienanmen Square and in Iran recently when the "Green Revolution" was crushed, beginning with attacks from the same kinds of government security forces or "thugs" as they have been called, correctly.

It doesn't look good for the protesters, but the taste of freedom they had for the past several days and the sense that their country and fellow citizens could be brave enough to confront their government will remain, even if Mubarak ends up staying for the next ten months, or tries to find a way to run again and fix another election.

However Obama and his administration should make some gesture, cut off funds etc., to the army to show that their standing by and allowing government thugs to throw fire bombs and attack peaceful demonstrators (starting with the men on horses and camel whipping members of the crowd, which got its revenge in some cases, and as my friend Lisa pointed out, it seemed even more horrendous and humiliating to see these men whipping citizens for peacefully protesting then even shooting them in some ways, obviously not ultimately) is intolerable in a democracy, which Egypt pretends to be and hopefully is becoming.


This may be a little more muddle even than usual. I haven't read or watched too much on Egypt since early last evening. I've been dealing with the ice storm residue. I'll take snow over ice and slush any day. But... occurs to me—from the snippet I caught from the hourly news headlines on PBS and elsewhere this morning—that the pro-Mubarak forces now clashing with the anti-Mubarak forces exemplify the classic right/left struggle.

There are probably some elements of the anti-Mubarak folks that are interested in gaining power for their own ideological reasons, The Muslim Brotherhood for instance. But the heart of the anti-Mubarak movement is made up of non-ideological people who had just had enough and when they saw what happened in Tunisia were inspired to attempt something similar, a peaceful ending to a corrupt dictatorship.

According to at least one news segment I saw, the person most responsible for the outpouring of citizens outrage at Mubarak is a single mother in her early thirties, an English teacher if I remember correctly, who with a tiny group of friends, only about ten, set up an operation in a small office to coordinate the protests.

The people at the protests, at least throughout most of the past several days, have mostly been ordinary folks, women in traditional Muslim garb and others in Western styles, young and old, even children and entire families. But their sentiments, as expressed in every interview I read and saw (which over the past several days must be close to a hundred at least) were reasonable, condemning Mubarak's rule and wanting nothing more than a less corrupt economy (where only the rich seem to benefit) and more freedom of movement and behavior.

The pro-Mubarak forces that have been attacking the peaceful demonstrators seem to obviously have been helped by the government. Being allowed to ride a horse or camel while carrying whips and other things that can be used as weapons into a peaceful crowd by folks who support a dictator whose regime would never tolerate such a thing before, seems like a set up.

It's obvious to me at least that Mubarak has been trying to set up the kind of chaos and failure of civil society that will lead to people calling on him to save the country. It didn't work in letting prisoners free and holding back security forces which encouraged looting etc., because ordinary people banded together and formed that human chain around the museum of Egyptian antiquities (and it was only after they did that the army came in to secure those buildings) or vigilante groups to protect their own neighborhoods from looters etc.

Mubarak could have stepped down and allowed a peaceful transition to an interim government until a democratically elected one could take over. But he has chosen not to, and under pressure from the USA and others has restrained his security forces (and possibly the army, which is more independent and may be refusing to allow itself to be used by Mubarak to crush the revolt ala Iran) and also probably went along with that to create the kind of chaos that would lead to his being seen as the only possible savior of the situation.

It was clear from his speech yesterday that he is hoping his concessions will take the steam out of the protests or if they don't then he'll restrain security forces and "allow" (I believe encourage and even fund and back) pro-Mubarak forces to attack what had been peaceful demonstrators. The old "us against them" divide-and-conquer tactic, which often intimidates ordinary people into wanting a peaceful resolution even if it is at the expense of the ideals they and changes they support.

On a much smaller scale, but even more significant, when Florida was still counting ballots to determine the outcome of the 2000 election, rightwing Republican strategists transported a bunch of their people, mostly men, to the scene where the votes were being counted and staged a mini-riot/demonstration as if they represented a popular movement to stop counting the votes and give the election to Bush junior. Unfortunately it worked, as it too often does.

The peaceful crowds that rejoiced when Obama was elected and were hoping for the kinds of changes mot polls show most "Americans" want, not unlike most Egyptians, i.e. a fairer economy, less expensive and more accessible healthcare, a more tolerant political atmosphere where entire groups—gays, Muslims, "liberals," racial minorities, immigrants, etc.—are not scapegoated, etc.

Obama and the Democrats failed to fulfill some of the promise of that transitional election, but they were immediately met with active and belligerent protests fueled by rightwing gazillionaires like the Koch brothers and by ideologically rightwing media, like Fox, as if the democratically elected government of our country had been taken over by a foreign power (the "birthers" etc.) or nefarious forces out to destroy our country (almost any rightwing commenter or politician) and succeeded in framing the argument in their terms rather than the duly elected administration's.

The right used force when it didn't get its way in the last presidential election, as demonstrated in by the shouting down and refusal to let elected officials speak at town hall meetings etc., and continue to advocate force to get their way, as demonstrated in all the statements from rightwingers about "second amendment rights" being necessary to stop Obama etc. (ala Bachmann et. al.). Even the far left has not been advocating force when they haven't gotten their way (at least since the early 1970s).

And the "liberal" position, as opposed to those who call themselves "conservatives" these days, has always been to use reason and discussion to resolve problem, political and otherwise. But how can there be reason when those who hold power, ala Mubarak, or refuse to accept that they don't, ala the right in this country post-2008, will say and often do anything to maintain or regain their side's hold on power.

This is what's happening in Egypt at this moment, (or at least as of the moment I began writing this post) and in our own country, where rightwing spokespeople like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have actually been making the argument that Obama is our Mubarak!

More will be revealed.

[PS: Just turned on the news and see that they are reporting, at least on MSNBC from reporters on the scene, that my suspicions were correct, the pro-Mubarak supporters now clashing with the peaceful anti-Mubarak forces have been bussed in by the government and allowed to carry weapons and incite violence (including at the moment fire bombs) to try and clear that main Cairo square ("Liberation Square") the way the Chinese brought in troops from rural China to attack the peaceful demonstrators in Tienanmen Square in '89. Mubarak doesn't seem to have that option since the army seems to be remaining mostly neutral, though allowing the pro-Mubarak forces to carry out physical attacks is a kind of side-taking...]