Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Most of the nearby rivers have reached their post Irene peaks and are subsiding. We're still boiling water before using it, or using bottled water, but all in all things are returning to close to "normal" so I thought I'd change the subject.

Before Irene hit, and during it, while my youngest was still in Florida with his mom, I spent a few nights at home alone watching Turner Classic Movies. All this month, August, they'd been doing special programming of one star's movies for each twenty-four hours.

I hadn't caught many of them at all, but it just happened that these three nights I was free and tired and needed a sweet classic Hollywood escape, the stars they were doing were Joan Blondell, Linda Darnell, and Carole Lombard.

Lombard was already a favorite and always had been. But as always I learned some new things from this latest TCM programming. For some reason I hadn't realized she'd been a regular in silent films long before her "talkie" days. I knew the classics she'd excelled in like MY MAN GODFREY and ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (or whatever that exact title is). Knew them well from having seen (and dug) them many times.

But the night I watched some of her flicks, including both of them, they also had a very early pre-code "talkie" I'd never seen before with a very young Pat O'Brien (and Ward Bond) called VIRTUE. When I mentioned this flick afterwards to a younger friend and said how it was before "the code" they didn't know what I was talking about. I had to explain that it wasn't until around 1934 that the movies began to have censors who enforced a"code" that restricted what could be portrayed on film and how, e.g. all crime must pay, etc.

One of the things "the code" enforced was that the word prostitute could never be used or portrayed. Which made VIRTUE all the more interesting, because Lombard plays a hooker in it who is given the alternative, by a judge, to either do jail time or leave town with a ticket back home, which in this case was Danbury, Connecticut! But Lombard's character gets off the train before it leaves the city for the northern suburbs and meets Pat O'Brien's character, who thinks he's a "wise guy" and knows all about "dames" but is completely taken in by her and marries her before he finds out what her previous profession had been.

It's a terrific, if obvious, love story, and Lombard is wonderful in it. O'Brien is good enough, though I can see why he never really had much of a run as a leading man. It made me think of what an immortal classic this flick would have been if say Cagney had that role. As it turned out, Cagney was in most of the films of Joan Blondell's on the night they featured her films.

Blondell was always a favorite comic actress of mine, but I knew her mostly from later roles and never thought of her as that physically appealing, at least not to me, except in a comic way. But the early films they showed of hers the night I watched included three with Cagney I'd never seen before, including pre-code ones and the first movie he was in—I always thought that was PUBLIC ENEMY but it turns out it wasn't, it was SINNERS' HOLIDAY, in which he plays a smalltime crook but a mostly weak and unheroic one.

There's a few of his classic gestures and expressions and stylistic flourishes, but they're inconsistent and don't always seem to fit the story arc or character. Though they're still more realistic than a lot of the other acting, except for Blondell who is a revelation as a tough survivor. In HE WAS HER MAN Cagney plays another smalltime crook, but this time the heroic, in fact self-sacrificing kind he does so often later (ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES anyone?).

But again Blondell is a revelation. I totally fell for her character in this one (is that another vestige of the brain operation that changed my taste in movie leading ladies?). It's a really well done classic Hollywood tearjerker, what would have been considered in some ways a "women's movie" if it weren't for Cagney and the mobster subplot.

The other Blondell flick was totally "a women's movie" but not at all what that label usually meant back when. THREE ON A MATCH has a Hollywood plot that traces the lives of three very different females who even as children were marked by their class backgrounds (something early Hollywood handled much more honestly and frontally than our own times, sadly). It's a great story and Blondell is terrific as the lowest class tough one who even does some time but comes through as the heroine in many ways, naturally (a very young Bette Davis plays one of the three women and is so overshadowed by Blondell it was predicted Davis wouldn't last in films!).

But Linda Darnell was the real discovery for my heart and mind. I knew her from movies like TWO FLAGS WEST, which they ran, where she played the exotic beauty. But I'd never seen FALLEN ANGEL before, a film noir with Dana Andrews, where Darnell steals the picture from both Andrews and Alice Faye (in fact as the host explained, when the studio heads saw the "dailies" the bigger Darnell's part became and the smaller Faye's, who got top billing but ended up with fewer scenes and basically quit Hollywood as a result!).

Darnell is so devilishly "bad" in FALLEN ANGEL I can't recommend it enough. It's a new benchmark for me, just below the greatest movie "bad girl" role on my top list, Jane Greer in OUT OF THE PAST.

Anyway a long post for several long diversions from the night(s) before and during Irene I was lucky enough to have because my power never went off as it did pretty much all around me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


People still being evacuated in parts of Jersey (as well as Vermont) due to flooding from Irene. Makes me feel fortunate that all I have to worry about is boiling water before I use it.

[This is a shot of one spot in Paterson BEFORE the flooding got really bad as it did today from the Passaic River peaking]


Got a recorded message earlier this morning saying the water situation is being fixed and should be back to normal in a few...weeks!

It also said not to let water from any tap touch fruits or vegetables or get in the mouth etc. etc. and to put bleach into any water we use to wash dishes etc.

Don't see this on the news, and it's happening in many surrounding towns over a wide area. Bottled water is being handed out on a "first come first serve" basis as the store shelves are empty etc. etc.

Infrastructure anyone?

Monday, August 29, 2011


It didn't seem like much in many ways. I drove up to the southern Berkshires to drop my son's friend off in a little rural town his mother had driven down to meet me at. And then back here to Jersey. This afternoon. Two hours each way more or less.

Got to see a lot of Northern Jersey from the Garden State Parkway, and then across the Tappen Zee Bridge and up the Eastern side of the Hudson, first on a freeway and then on a two lane country road. Lots of big tree branches down, and big trees too. And power off in the rural areas, traffic lights not working, stores dark, etc.

Only a few spots with water, though lots of news reports of other roads flooded out, some partially destroyed by flooding, bridges too. But I made it up and back on a beautiful post-hurricane bright blue day. Everything appeared almost "normal."

But on the way back a big slowdown where those detoured from the section of The Sawmill River Parkway that was flooded out joined the road I was on. And once back, it was back to brushing my teeth with water from a plastic bottle and boiling water to use for other tasks because the water treatment plant that flooded isn't back to normal yet. And that's true for many surrounding towns.

And when my youngest and I took a ride through nearby Milburn's downtown section, we passed through where the river goes under some stores and those stores had garbage and debris piled higher than me out front on the sidewalk, garbage and debris that had once been the contents of their stores but had been destroyed by the flooding.

We also passed a giant apartment or condo complex, an old red brick one that spans a few city blocks, with all its streets closed off with police barriers because of downed wires and trees. And half of the streets we drove through were totally black, traffic lights off, streetlights off, house lights off, etc.

All things we've experienced here before (especially with hurricane Floyd in '99), except for the water problems. That seemed more like what happened in Haiti after the quake, when the fear of cholera was raised. As I watched the brackish water (a euphemism that doesn't accurately describe the foul look of it) fill the toilet I'd just flushed several times trying to somehow force cleaner water to return, I thought of what used to be called "third world" water problems, and wondered if the chickens were on their way home to roost.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Just took a ride over to my youngest's mother's to check on the power. It's out, as I realized on the way over it is in a lot of this town (her water's out too as is everyone's in what looks like at least half the town). I feel very fortunate that my place missed all that (so far).

There's still yellow police tape cordoning off entire blocks where trees have either knocked down wires or are still leaning on them. Kind of an eerie feeling with few cars out and almost no people, and sirens still sounding now and then.

Some people think the state and local governments were too cautious given the lack of major wind damage to most buildings. But given all the flooding and wires down and trees down etc. I think the caution is the reason there have only been twenty-some deaths so far recorded.

One of the saddest was a man trying to rescue a boy playing in a flooded street where a wire was down. The boy's in critical condition but the man died from electrocution. And a young woman not too far from here was trapped in her car at two in the morning on a flooded roadway and called 911 but they arrived too late to save her.

There might be a lot more deaths to report had the various state and local workers not done such a great job (coming from a clan with lots of cops in our ranks over the decades, I know how great they are in these kinds of challenging situations).

My guess is there'd be even less damage if our infrastructure was in better shape, but that would take investing in things other than corporations and malls and etc. and hiring even more government workers, whether temporarily or long term. But that's another story.


Took a drive around town a little to check on the old house where my youngest's mother has an apartment. Probably shouldn't have, since the system isn't entirely out of the area yet, but I'm back home and safe now.

Lots of large branches down pretty much everywhere, but fewer trees than in some of the worst thunderstorms we've had in recent years. Lots of police tape cordoning off streets I had to detour around because of the downed branches and trees.

The ones on my street were being removed when I returned (I can here the electric saws as I type this). A few folks out, but only a couple of cars (but a lot of police and emergency vehicles out). Most of the people I saw were down by the river which is over its banks and a raging turbulent bright brown. I can see where it had come up onto the street at one point where it curves and flooded during Floyd ten years ago or so. But I'm hearing on the local news that there's town near here that are flooding worse than they have in thirty years or more, so I guess it depends on where you are.

For now, we can all be grateful the damage and loss of life is minimal, and that a lot of that is the direct result of government regulations and preparations and manpower (and research and investment, especially in the case of the weather predicting equipment and systems etc.).


Just took a walk around my immediate neighborhood as the rain has diminished to what the Irish call "a soft day" (isn't that much more poetic than "drizzle"?). And it looks like we lucked out in the old house my apartment's in, because there's downed trees and large branches starting right next door that has caused the power to go out there and the street to be cordoned off by the police.

My guess is all the sirens I'm hearing is the cops going to various streets to string police tape across them where trees and large branches are down blocking passage and/or knocking power lines etc. down. I'm gonna go check out the river soon too. I just heard hat the nearby town of Milburn which was under a few feet of water after Floyd is flooded again. That's where the water treatment plant has been "inundated" (as the taped emergency recording put it that told me and my townmates to boil water before cooking, drinking or brushing our teeth).

[PS: It's interesting that the governor of our state, Christie, who as you know is a rightwing Republican who wants the federal government to cut regulations and programs etc. and has cut them in our state, is now asking for and using federal and state government resources, including people, to prepare for the hurricane and now to clean up etc. The usual rightwing jive, ala Texa Governor Perry whose great "jobs building" claim is based on an increase in government funded jobs!]


Irene was just downgraded to a tropical storm as what was the eye of what was a hurricane passes over this area. The winds weren't as bad as expected here, thankfully.The main issue is flooding.

I got one of those recorded emergency calls saying to boil water before brushing teeth or drinking it or cooking with it because the nearest water treatment place is flooded. I'll wait a little while before going out to check our local river, but I'm sure my neighbors there have flooded basements (Floyd flooded one distant relative on the street next to the river in her basement right up to the ceiling of it).

Except for the occasional wind gust, whenever I woke up last night and checked out the scene outside, it was mainly just like any other rainstorm. With also the exception of a lot more sirens. I'm still hearing them every ten or fifteen minutes, so am assuming there have been some trees downed and some serious flooding, which should continue though the rain is supposed to taper off soon according to the latest radar.

I put the garbage cans in the basement here but never got around to putting someone's plastic lawn furniture that's in our backyard (I suspect left here by a former tenant) in the basement. I notice the chairs have been thrown around by the wind but not not too far and not the table. The basement is partially flooded, but that's happened before with big thunderstorms or long rainy days.

I did catch the local TV news and the Hudson has overflowed its banks and the jogging path along it, at least downtown, is under a foot or so of water, which has gone all the way across the West Side Highway and on into the first floor of some buildings, including apartment buildings. That's supposedly a first for that area.

And they also reported that parts of the Holland Tunnel flooded, but the Lincoln is supposedly okay.

So all in all, not as bad as expected or as it could have been, for which I'm sure everyone is grateful, and grateful for the precautions taken that would have saved hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives had the hurricane stayed a category three and landed where it has.

My guess is by this afternoon most places will be back to normal. I'll go check the river when the rain and wind stop and post later if the power continues to stay on.


At least where I am. It's been raining for many hours but no real flooding around here yet and though the wind is gusty, nothing more than we've seen in thunderstorms all summer.

The worst part isn't scheduled to hit here until around 8AM. So if the power's still on then, I'll post what that's like. There's power outages everywhere the storm has been, as well as some deaths, so it's still serious business. But for now, from here, so far so good.

[PS: I figured I'd get in a bunch of old movies before any loss of power so watched a bunch of old Linda Darnell movies on TCM. Beautiful distraction.]

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Eerily quiet around here this morning. And dark.

The rain hasn't started yet. They don't expect the center of the storm to make it up this way until tomorrow morning, but the outer edge of it should reach us by this evening.

Meanwhile at almost 10AM it looks here like a winter morning around 6AM, dark and brooding and a little bit ominous.

The hurricane has weakened, so that's a good thing, but it hasn't shrunk, and so far the path is still supposed to come pretty close to Manhattan, which is more or less just across the Hudson from this area of Jersey.

I was here for Floyd in '99 I think it was, when the river that runs through our town that's more like a creek raged over its masonry walls and turned into a mini-Mississippi. I stood on the steps of our part of the two family house we rented in and watched giant trees and one garage and other less large debris get swept away in places where the day before I could have stood on dry land and now held water that would be above my head if I were still standing there.

But even so, our town doesn't flood much other than right where I was during Floyd, but nearby towns were inundated with water, some stores had as much as three and a half feet of it. And other not so nearby towns were under even deeper water in their downtown sections.

This time it could be worse because the ground is already so saturated. They expect by this time tomorrow to have a lot of power outages. And they expect them to last for days. So after a few more errands (I couldn't locate anyone who had extra D batteries since two days ago, for when the ones in my flashlight run out) and putting the garbage cans and backyard lawn furniture in the basement (where I already got as much as I could in our storage area off the floor) and do some laundry and get some more food that won't perish if the refrigerator loses power, I plan on settling in with some good books for the evening and hopefully be still able to post in the morning.

[PS: My thirteen-year-old is in Florida with his mother and aunt and a friend of his, ironically, since usually when they go down there this time of year I worry about the hurricanes hitting them! They were supposed to be driving up I95 today, but of course that isn't happening. So for now they're safe in Florida!]

Friday, August 26, 2011


For years friends have been recommending this movie. But I only, or mostly, watch movies that have been sent to me. I don't subscribe to Netflix or anything like that. I like to stumble on things unexpectedly when surfing through the channels whenever I take the time to watch anything other than the news.

So tonight (actually last night now) when switching channels to catch the latest news on Irene and Libya, I stumbled on MONSOON WEDDING as it was just starting. I love Mira Nair's directing and knew some considered this her best work. Now I can see why.

If you haven't seen it, the acting is superb, and the writing and directing and editing are just as good. It's a delightfully engaging transformation of an old boy/girl plot with more contemporary and in one instance disturbing subplots, all of which are calibrated perfectly. It is a new favorite, and a great escape from the more serious news.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


The rightwingers have been gloating over the lowering poll ratings of our president, relentlessly. But have you noticed they don't talk as much about the fact that the Congress is polling much lower than the president?

But here's the real kicker. On this blog and elsewhere, the rightwingers (especially the one I am now mostly deleting because of all the misinformation, misdirection and lying contained in his comments) almost all identify with The Tea Party.

And according to the latest Gallup poll on voters feelings about all kinds of groups (did you see this on Rachel Maddow?) including Muslims, atheists, gays, liberals, various ethnic and racially categorized groups, etc. the one they trust the least and would be least likely to vote to elect a member of is THE TEA PARTY!

So why exactly again is the Republican party, and the media, running scared from the Tea Party? There are other conservative groups, and liberal ones, that poll better, that have more members and that raise more money from members rather than from billionaire corporate backers ala The Tea Party. Oh, maybe that has something to do with it, the Tea Party's corporate backers, including Murdoch's Fox empire and the Koch brothers fighting with all their billions to prevent any regulation, and eliminate what little exists now, on their polluting coal and gas etc. industries.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


With all the other news, I haven't had a chance to comment on Jerry Leiber's passing. It's been a heavy week of losses for the music world. Nickolas Ashford from the great husband and wife songwriting singing duo Ashford and Simpson (their most famous hit being "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"). As well as Ross Barbour of Four Freshman fame.

Both of the latter two had a big impact on the world of popular music, though Ashford had less of an impact on me than Barbour (so I don't have much to say about Ashford except my favorite song he co-wrote with his wife was "Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing Baby" [or whatever the title is actually called], but here's a good obituary for him).

As for Barbour, after rock'n'roll became just "rock," groups like The Four Freshman were often denigrated by younger musicians who didn't get that there wouldn't have been The Beach Boys or even The Beatles as we know them if it weren't for The Four Freshman. And being a jazz musician as a young man, I didn't know any other musicians back then who didn't dig the Freshman because of their amazing musicianship, especially their harmonies (which they basically invented, or at least their innovative use of chords which led to a kind of harmonic "discord" that was totally "jazzy" at the time (they were often at the top of any lists for vocal groups in the jazz magazine Downbeat) which not only made them sound like there were more of them than just four, but also put them close to the realm of a Thelonious Monk or Stan Kenton et. al. to the ears of many back then who found all that kind of harmony "discordant." (Thanks to Bob Berner for sending me a link to this great NY Times obit).

And here's an early version of their original style (they were all great musicians too, and might have been The Beach Boys or The Beatles had they played those electrified rock'n'roll instruments that came later):

[Ross is the one not playing an instrument, his brother Don is on guitar.]

So Barbour and his quartet's influence cannot be minimized. But the one whose  music impacted my world more than Ashford or Barbour was Jerry Leiber. I feel I'm acknowledging awfully late in the game the influence his lyrics had on me. When I was younger, and throughout my life, I've written and spoken of the influence the lyrics of Johnny Mercer, Chuck Berry and Jon Hendicks had on me as a poet early on. But I never mentioned Jerry Leiber, and I should have.

Some of his couplets from the lyrics to "Yakkety Yak" or "On Broadway" or "Poison Ivy" or "Charlie Brown" etc. are engraved on my brain, like probably most people who were young when those songs first made it to the radio. Not to mention "There Goes My Baby," "Searchin'," "Kansas City," "Young Blood," "Jailhouse Rock," "Spanish Harlem," Loving You," "Don't," "Treat Me Nice," Stand By Me," and the title song from my favorite Elvis movie "King Creole."

I actually had some slight interaction with Lieber a few years after his last great hit, and Peggy Lee's, "Is That All There Is?" He was living with (maybe married to, I don't remember now) an art historian and critic whose loft was in the building next to mine back when Soho was just becoming "Soho" (1975).

Our street, Sullivan between Houston and Prince, was still strictly an adjunct of "Little Italy," with not one but two "social clubs" anchoring each end of the block, Saint Anthony's church and the festival named for it each summer (which always exited my kids, having Italian sausage carts right in front of our stoop and game booths etc. until halfway through the week when the smells and noise had become too much for them and they wished it was over already), an Italian bakery, butcher shop, fish store, deli, candy store, etc.

But one of the most exciting additions to the neighborhood was Jerry Leiber because of the classic (I think '56) Cadillac convertible he drove (I remember it as green, but who knows now) which, as I heard it, had been a gift from Elvis back when a tune Leiber and his partner Mike Stoller (Leiber & Stoller were so linked in the 1950s that you never said one without the other) wrote for "Big Mama" Thornton a few years before became Elvis's biggest—and life changing, actually world changing—hit: "Hound Dog" (though as the obit linked to below points out, Elvis changed the lyrics in ways Leiber hated, though he didn't object to the royalties).

The woman Leiber lived with had a daughter who babysat for my now older son Miles, and maybe for him and his sister Caitlin after she joined us (though I don't think there was any more babysitting by then). She was a great kid, and the few times I encountered Leiber, he seemed like a genuine and unpretentious person himself.

I give my belated praise to a man whose lyrics probably influenced more writers who grew up in the 1950s than any literary icon in the academic canon: Jerry Leiber.

[Here's a great obit from TIME.]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I didn't feel it here in my Jersey apartment, but my daughter Caitlin felt it up in her house in Western Massachusetts! She and I both know what earthquakes feel like from our years in Santa Monica, and for her the tremors went on for quite a while and shook the sink she was leaning against at the time and had the light fixture hanging from her kitchen ceiling swinging from side to side.

The science involved in this quake I find fascinating. The fact that because the geological formations of the East Coast are older than the West Coast, and much harder, that causes the shock waves to radiate out much further, which is why this 5.9 (the size of the Haiti quake) was felt all the way to Detroit and Boston (and my daughter says she heard Toronto).

Also that every ten miles from the center the power of the quake is diminished by half, though a New York reporter said that by the time it hit this area where I am—i.e. the "New York metropolitan area"—it was a 2.2, which doesn't work by my math. But it still caused many people to feel the earth shaking beneath their feet and even for some damage to occur. The good news is that the epicenter was in farmland and rural communities, so there weren't any tall buildings or great concentrations of people, so so far no deaths or critical injuries reported.

But it is a wake up call. The East Coast has nowhere near the kinds of earthquake codes and requirements for buildings and infrastructure that the West Coast does. What an opportunity for a federal jobs program, to retrofit high rise buildings and bridges and tunnels and railway tracks etc. to withstand large earthquakes. But given the rightwing Republican objection to anything that doesn't fill the pockets of corporate CEOs and the wealthiest among us, you know that's not gonna happen anytime soon.

[PS: Downgraded to a 5.8]


I'm sure everyone by now has seen and heard the desultory, petty, resentfully snide response of the Republicans to the Libyan situation, i.e. the impending end of Qudaffi's rule. As with the killing of Osama Bin Laden, they choke on even the thought of having to congratulate our president.

But the fact remains, they and their then leaders Bush and Cheney made all kinds of belligerent boasts and predictions about catching Osama and liberating Iraq and "Mission Accomplished" et-endessly-cetera, but they didn't do the job. Their wars are still going on eight and ten years later, costing our country much of its wealth in human life and treasure, without even capturing or killing the man who led the attack on us!

Obama did it with courage and decisiveness that didn't boast, didn't chest beat, but just got the job done. There is plenty of footage of Republican leaders predicting failure or a stalemate or worse in Libya, and mocking Obama's "lead from behind" strategy. But now that it seems to have worked, they can't acknowledge they were wrong and he was right, but instead pretend he had nothing to do with it and either give credit to everyone BUT Obama, or continue to criticize him by saying it would have happened much sooner if he'd done it differently, as if a six month war in which we didn't lose one troop is a disgrace, but a ten or eight year one in which thousands of our troops died and thousands more were permanently disabled and hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives as well is a great triumph!

Their cowardly hypocrisy almost turns my stomach. And I find it personally not just unpatriotic to the extreme, but close to traitorous. They would rather do everything in their power to discredit and disgrace and dishonor our democratically elected leader, than to credit or grace or honor him for pulling off a great victory for the cause of freedom (as well as for one less terrorist sponsoring tyrant, not to mention most likely creating an atmosphere in which oil prices will come down as well).

The right used to tell anyone who was left of the Klu Klux Klan or their dressed up in suits counterparts The John Birch Society et. al. to "go back to Russia" as if basic beliefs of our Founding Fathers came from Russia! But there isn't a country on earth today that we could send the right to where they wouldn't be further to the right than even the few tyrants left. We have to shout "Go back to The Middle Ages—no, even further, Go Back to The Dark Ages where you obviously belong."

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I just learned that poet and friend Scott Wannberg has passed (thanks to Kevin McCollister who emailed me the news along with this link to a great tribute to him—and be sure and read S.A. Griffin's comment/tribute that follows it), way unexpectedly and way too soon.

There are a lot of unique poets and unique characters among the poets I've known in my life, but Scott was more unique than just about any of us.

First of all he was big, not "larger than life" as the cliche goes, but just as large as life truly is. In his presence you felt the fullness of life, of being alive and a human. He was a big man literally, tall and hefty, with a big capacity for friendship and conversation and helpfulness.

As the link will inform you, if you don't already know, he was a fixture in an L.A. area bookstore (Dutton's in Brentwood) for decades. You couldn't miss him when you walked in, if he was there, not only because he was usually taller than anyone else, but also because his presence could be felt like a natural force.

Maybe it was his intense love of books, or at least the ones he loved, which were many, or maybe it was because as someone says in the obituary linked to above, "he didn't have an inside voice," or maybe it was because while most of those working at Dutton's reminded you of booklovers more in the classic librarian mode, Scott came across like a booklover more in the, well, Scott Wannberg mode.

His enthusiasms were contagious, his openness disarming and his thoughtful but insistent truthfulness pretty much inarguable. Though I argued anyway.

I loved the way he always included me in whenever I encountered him, as I tried to do in turn, and how I never once, from the first time I met him, felt anything but deep affection and gratitude for the man, and his work. I've mentioned him before on this blog, for which he expressed his own gratitude and though he was up in Oregon in recent years, I kept in touch as others did through the many poems he would post on facebook and I'd get through email, and he was generous and gentle, as always, in his concern for me after the brain surgery.

He will be sorely missed, and already is. I'll leave you with a poem from a little book he gave me when I was leaving L.A. in 1999 and it had just come out, called EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SLEDGE HAMMER:

get stuff

you get stuff to make you invulnerable
around ten at night
when the sky looks crooked
under the moody light
the kids arranged for you
so you could see yourself
running     scared
as the sweat of the nation
becomes a new ocean
that only a navigator
such as yourself
could handle
you get stuff to ward off
suffering and
it comes in a tube that
is blessed by all the larger than not
religious organizations
perhaps you bumped up against   one
on the rapid transit
when the sun beat down
on the roof
keeping its own peculiar   time
get stuff is what the advertising agency
working out of a stalled camaro
in front of my building
whenever i run out
to become one with non nature
we are nothing but stuff
pretending to be more enriched than need be
perhaps you rode the perfect wave
in your head
the sea that morning
agreed with you
the war held up by traffic
time for once
to enjoy the music
that   may or may not be there
but   it never stops you
from hearing it anyhow

[PS: the photo up top is what he looked like when I first met him back in the early 1980s.]


So the same rightwing Republicans (pretty much interchangeable terms these days) who fought so hard to KEEP the Bush.Cheney tax cuts for the wealthiest (and thereby guaranteed much of the growth in the deficit and debt) are now fighting to END the "payroll tax"—which is applied to workers only, not investors, profiteers, corporate welfare recipients, CEOs, salaried corporate earners, etc.—cuts that Obama and the Dems passed that expire soon.

So, just to be clear, when the temporary tax cuts for the wealthy were scheduled to end, the Republicans fought to have them extended, but when the temporary tax cuts for workers is scheduled to expire, the Republicans are fighting to let them expire, and thereby raise taxes on workers.

Obama and the Dems should be talking about nothing but this, as well as the media, the way they should have about the tax cuts for the wealthy, but as usual this clear and devastating (to working people) difference between the Democrats and the Republicans will go mostly unrecorded, unremarked, and therefore unknown to most voters.

[PS: And there's never any mention of the fact that the Bush/Cheney tax cuts for the richest among us were justified on the grounds that they would help the economy and regular folks but the exact opposite happened!—the economy tanked and the share-of-wealth gap has become still greater!]

Friday, August 19, 2011


Interesting fact. I was reading an article about how perhaps the fact that the gap between rich and everyone else has grown wider and wider in the UK has something to do with the riots there. The article mentioned that the there's only one rich country in the world where the gap is wider: you guessed it, the good old USA.

As my friend Terence reminded me, there were huge demonstrations in Israel recently over the growing gap there, hundreds of thousands of people in a country with only millions. Notice our media didn't cover those peaceful demonstrations about the rich taking too much and leaving the rest of us less and less.

The right always screamed "class war" if any Democrat raised the issue of the growing economic disparity between the rich and the rest of us. They better pray they don't see a real class war.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This was written by a good friend and fellow poet/writer, Lisa Duggan, on her motherhood blog. Thought provoking.


I don't know about you, but I've been falling in and out of love with her since the first time I saw her in TALL STORY, including the several times I got to meet and talk with her during my years in "Hollywood."

I caught her tonight being interviewed for her latest book by Charlie Rose (a guy I don't watch so much anymore because I find him a pretty weak interviewer actually, and a pretty full-of-himself one too). And I have to admit, fell in love with her all over again.

This time it was her honesty that did it. And there's no question that for a I think they said seventy-three-year-old woman, even one who has had plastic surgery, she's still a knockout.

There also seemed to be less of the brittleness of old, or the guardedness. The few times I had a chance to talk with her I found her one of the handful of really big stars I met over the years who could fully focus on someone not a player in that world and engage in a conversation without making it about her or looking over your shoulder to see who might be more important than you in the room etc.

In fact, I found her bright and curious and as intense and in the moment in her attention to our conversation as anyone I've ever talked to. I liked her, as well as continued to go in and out of having a crush on her.

I also identify with all the changes she's willing to take a chance on, and the ways in which she always seems to find something useful to make out of her experiences, turning them into life lessons or at least life suggestions. I admire her, actually, more than ever, despite the choices she's made and the things she's said that I not only don't agree with sometimes, but strongly object to.

I hope she keeps going, and lives to be an example of how to be in your nineties and still find new ways to meet whatever challenges that time of life throws at her. She talked about Ketherine Hepburn a lot in this interview and I thought in a way she's become our new Katherine Hepburn, the older one who was eccentric and wise and self-assured and always a star.

Monday, August 15, 2011



[PS: In case you don't read the comments threads, here's a link my son Miles put there that is even more "interesting (and disturbing)"!]

Sunday, August 14, 2011


More like clan reunion. About ninety people including the kids. Less than last time I think. Many couldn't make it due to illness, distance, age, etc. But there were folks there in their eighties and babes in arms.

The best part was driving back with my thirteen-year-old and asking him if he had a good time. He not only said he loved it, that it was really fun, but that it was cool to see all these people, some he knew and some he didn't but all family. Especially to look at someone—a kid, or a grown-up—and see a face he recognized even if he didn't know them, because it was his face or close enough to bring his own face, or mine, or others in the family to mind.

As a young man I sometimes had a hard time with my family, and so I stayed away, held some grudges. Thank God for time and experience (and hopefully some "wisdom") that has allowed my heart to open more easily, and stay that way.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


It was November 13, 2009 when I had brain surgery. So twenty-one months. I had to pause and count that out on my fingers (and still wonder if I got it right), which I wouldn't have had to before the surgery.

There's still some interesting changes that seem to be permanent (like the loss of the listmaking compulsion I had all my life previously). But I'm off to a family reunion down the Jersey shore, so more later, perhaps.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I normally wouldn't write about someone's family, but I received an e mail as part of a mass mailing from a rightwing Tea Partyer about one of his children having a health problem and how a medical procedure fixed it. As I read it I was overwhelmed with compassion for the child, her mother and siblings, and her father, sending prayers and positive thoughts to all of them.

But then I read the PS, where the rightwinger said he "shudders" to think what the outcome would have been if his family lived in Massachusetts or Canada or the UK! I felt sucker punched. This person uses his child's health problem to score some imaginary points against not just places that are more compassionate about EVERYONE'S NEED for good and affordable healthcare, but also the rightwing ideological mindset he shares with unfortunately so many others is so deeply entrenched that even in situations that would normally generate compassion it instead reaches conclusions based on ignorance and selfishness (and thinks it's clever for doing it!).

As anyone knows who reads or listens to anything other than rightwing propaganda, the issue isn't the quality of healthcare (though that too is an issue in many places in the U.S., though not Massachusetts!), it's the availability and affordability. My daughter-in-law is a Canadian citizen and has extended family in a remote part of Canada. Not only are her relatives treated for all kinds of emergency and chronic health problems FOR FREE(!), they are medivacked by helicopter when necessary, also for free.

She also happens to live with her family in Massachusetts, where healthcare for her and her immediate family is also readily available and affordable. We've all seen news stories about the free temporary health clinics that travel around this country and people travel hundreds of miles to go to because they haven't been able to afford to see a doctor or dentist for years.

A personal example is one of my dearest friends who lives near me in Jersey. She can't afford the more expensive health insurance but recently suffered chest pains and her doctor called an ambulance to take her to the hospital immediately—where I met her. Afterwards she was billed several thousand dollars(!!!?!) for that ambulance ride, which her insurance won't pay, so she's now in debt for the ride and the hospital expenses her insurance also won't pay.

The rightwingers who think like the one who sent me the email are ignorant because they ignore the fact that the U.S. scores very low in healthcare among other developed countries and even in comparison with some developing countries. That it is health costs  in this country that have contributed so much to our financial problems as they've risen faster and higher than most other countries because we have a "for profit" business in which customers are guaranteed since we all need doctors and procedures now and then, and because they don't seem aware that the places this particular rightwinger cites have better health results than the U.S. (Massachusetts not only is one of the most "liberal" states with healthcare for all, it also has the lowest divorce rate and is having a hard time filling its great number of high tech jobs with US citizens because universal quality education in this country has also been a victim of rightwing policies and propaganda).

[Rightwing ideologue Texas Governor Perry likes to brag about all the jobs that have been "created" in Texas in recent years, but he doesn't point out that most of them are service jobs at the lowest wages, at Walmart, MacDonald's et. al.—just as he also never mentions that he's basically bankrupted his state which had a surplus before he started the kinds of spending cuts the rightwing loves, et-endlessl-cetera.]

And these rightwing ideologues are selfish and self-centered because their perspective is that because they can afford good health insurance (or in many instances rely on federal programs to pay for them, like Medicare and yet still disparage the government!) others who can't afford it can be ignored or abandoned or left to fend for themselves.

It is dismaying to see the level of greed and self-interest that has become the norm in countries where rightwing ideology has had an impact, i.e. in Britain and our own country ever since Thatcher's and Reagan's impact, including the dismantling of unions while serving the interests of the wealthiest creating the greatest gap between the rich and the rest of us since before The Great Depression (and one of the leading causes of it).

Thursday, August 11, 2011


So day before yesterday my youngest went to NYC to stay with his aunt Luloo. Big adventure for him. First time to the city on his own. I wanted to tail him, but he didn't want me to. Then he called to say the New Jersey transit trains weren't running into Penn Station NYC and he was being told he had to go via Hoboken and the PATH trains.

That routine he didn't know as well, so I ran out of my apartment and jumped on the train with him as it arrived. The trip took longer than usual because the train had to stop and wait for a track as all the Amtrak and NJ Trains heading into Manhattan were now being funneled through Hoboken.

You may recall my criticism of our state's governor Christie for canceling a project to build another train tunnel into Manhattan from Jersey to alleviate the ton of people commuting and traveling into and out of the city every day. The project was already funded by the federal government mostly and work on it had begun. But it would only benefit commuters who took trains, which use electricity, and workers who would build the tunnel, who belong to unions. So he canceled it and Jersey lost the jobs and the extra tracks for trains going into and out of Manhattan from the Jersey side.

Instead he decided to spend taxpayers money on widening highways (even though all studies to date show that if you widen a highway it doesn't cut down on traffic because more people will then use it)  and subsidizing a huge new mall not far from Manhattan, that those interested in using the mall from the city will find it more convenient to drive to than take a train since the trains will be even more crowded and since the ancient tracks and transit system have no money to upgrade to better infrastructure and newer technology.

(re the latter: the biggest complaint from commuters about the track delays Tuesday and Wednesday from the derailment that caused them, they're saying on the news today, is that information about the situation was so difficult to get. The online information just gave the usual train schedules (formatted in a way that makes them challenging and time consuming to decipher) with little or no details about the delays, and the phone lines were busy or closed at a certain time, etc. etc.

With all the instant messaging and twitter stuff out there, they couldn't inform their customers of what was going on in any timely or technologically efficient way—they also said they partly don't tell riders what's happening because they don't want to cause any 'alarm" or "panic" etc.!)

So here's the deal. Obama's and the mostly Democratic stimulus package kept another Great Depression from happening, helped the economy rebound on some levels, helped working and poor people and states by contributing funds to them and programs that help them (extended unemployment benefits for one), saved the "American" car industry, etc. And as a result the unemployment rate has been going down—only a little, but at least not going up as a general trend since Obama inherited the Bush/Cheney mess—etc.

All the talk of a "double dip" recession being brought on by the downgrading of our country's financial rating by one of the top ratings agencies (which gave the giant financial institutions that rule our country—hand-in-hand with oil, drug and weapons corporations—triple A ratings for their "mortgage-backed derivatives" etc. which of course was one of the biggest contributing factors in creating the Great Recession) never mentions that the stimulus efforts of Obama and the Dems worked, until they ran out and would have worked better and longer if the package had been bigger (Obama can be faulted for not aiming higher, but his political calculation obviously had to include the resistance of the Republicans to any and all Obama policies and programs, except continuing the tax cuts for the wealthy).

What doesn't work is the latter, tax cuts for the wealthy. They were supposed to work when Bush/Cheney introduced them, but the only people they worked for were...duh...the wealthy! The gap between them and the rest of us has only grown, and exponentially, as tax decreases for them have continued. And "job creation" has only occurred where the government has stepped in and helped (including jobs for federal and state and municipal workers, many of which were lost after that part of the stimulus expired) or in green industries unfairly burdened with unfair competition from oil and gas companies subsidized by the government through tax breaks and actual money etc. and low paying service jobs at Walmart etc.

But because of the spin the right has mastered and the media has accepted, what worked and is still working is mostly ignored, and what doesn't is mostly blamed on Obama or on both sides of the aisle in Congress rather than on the ones who caused the initial financial collapse and have tried to stifle any solutions to it other than more of what caused it (i.e. rightwing Republicanism).  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Everybody's been talking and writing about last Sunday's NY Times "Sunday Review" (the renamed "Week in Review" section) opinion piece by Drew Weston: "What Happened to Obama?"

There wasn't anything totally new in it, things that hadn't been said before, some of them in articles written even before Obama became president. But it put them together in a way that was personal and hit a nerve at this exact moment of confusion and fear in the body politic, as they say.

It's worth reading, and I have to admit it voiced some of my own concerns. But another article in that section that I haven't heard anyone talking or writing about, especially the "mainstream" media, was about an island off South Korea that some say may be the most beautiful place on earth, and it's about to have that beauty greatly disturbed if not entirely destroyed by the construction of a vast naval base.

The article—"The Arms Race Intrudes on Paradise"—is, surprisingly, by Gloria Steinem. Still able to focus on things the rest of us sometimes miss.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


"A recent report from the IMF looked at the causes of the two major U.S. economic crises over the past 100 years—the Great Depression of 1929 and the Great Recession of 2007. There are two remarkable similarities in the eras that preceded these crises: both saw a sharp increase in income inequality and household-debt-to-income ratios. In each case, as the poor and middle classes were squeezed, they tried to cope by borrowing to maintain their standard of living. The rich, in turn, got richer by lending and looked for more places to invest, bidding up securities that eventually exploded in everyone's face.
     In both eras, financial deregulation and loose monetary policy played roles in creating the bubble. But inequality itself—and the political pressure not to reverse it but to hide it—was a crucial factor in the meltdown. The shrinking middle isn't a symptom of the downturn. It's the source of it. How we deal with it may become the most crucial factor in whether we can hope for a lasting recovery."

—Rana Foroohar (The Curious Capitalist) TIME august 15 issue.

Monday, August 8, 2011


When one of my oldest and dearest friends, the great sculptor Gene Harris sent me a link to this Youtube video of the uniquely talented Stanley Jordan, he titled it "Genius at Work"—but I added the "es" above because of the two other musicians, especially the bassist, watch the video all the way through to see how amazing he is as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Just heard that the writer George Kimball passed. I wasn't in touch with him, but never forgot the period when we were.

It was Iowa City in 1968 when I was running for sheriff of Johnson County on The Peace & Freedom ticket. After I spoke at an outdoor rally one late-summer/early-Fall evening, George came up and introduced himself and told me I should hire him to help me publicize the race, that newspapers would lap it up since I was a college student as well as a veteran challenging the local lawman, etc.

But I was all about the group in those days and had turned down the nomination three times, because I felt the whole party should run. Kind of "dumb" as I'm sure George felt. But we became friends, and had a lot of late 1960s kind of adventures together, which aren't appropriate to relate here.

But I will mention that he was famous at the time for a glass eye which he would drop into drinks at bars to freak people out. I never saw him do it, but others spread that story. Also, once we were feeling pretty tasty and had to drive to the local airport to pick up the poet Anselm Hollo. I had this bright idea to make a banner for when he climbed down the stairs to the runway (the way you got off planes back then) like he was The Beatles and we were fans.

I had a roll of printers paper (it literally fell off a truck the year before and me and my wife picked it up and used it to draw and paint on) that we tore a sheet off maybe ten or fifteen feet long and three feet high. We got out some of my then wife Lee's art supplies and settled down on the floor of the little Quonset ("married student housing") hut she and I and our baby daughter lived in at the time.

There wasn't enough room to spread out the entire piece of paper we were using so we decided to do a little at a time, starting from the first letters of the first word of what we planned to write. But we were so out of it, we just stared at the empty paper until my wife said we were gonna be late. That gave us the bright idea to make it a banner that said nothing, was completely blank.

So we rushed to the airport and got there just as the plane landed. We ran out onto the runway and when they pushed the portable stairway up to the plane door and it opened and people began descending the steps we unfurled the "banner" holding it high, and waited.

And continued to wait until everyone was off the plane and the portable stairway went back to where it came from. Anselm had missed the flight. George and I couldn't stop cracking up over the beautiful "happening" we had created, of meeting a plane with a huge but blank "banner" for someone who wasn't there!

George went on to, I believe, help Hunter Thompson when he ran for sheriff the following year, doing for him what he'd wanted to do for me. While I tried to remain politically pure but ended up being resentful when I read articles about how Thompson was the first "hippie" or "radical" or etc. to run for sheriff in "America." I should have listened to George. As his friends and acquaintances knew, he was worth listening to.

There are obits on the net, but the best tribute to him I've read is this one on poet Tom Raworth's blog. [And the photo above is the way I remember George most.]


The day after I wrote that recent list of movie actors who I always dig watching, even in not very good films, and then added a PS to when I thought of more (witch [woops, that was an interesting post-brain-op typo] was mostly women, because, I must confess, the idea for the list originally came from a post brain-op compulsion to make a folder of photos of female movie actors I find beautiful, from Myrna Loy to Scarlett Johannson), I caught a film on TCM (my favorite channel and the perfect relief from the news and documentary channels I otherwise watch) that I had never heard of, called DANCE, GIRL, DANCE.

Made in 1940, and directed by a woman—Dorothy Arzner—it caught my attention when I saw the TCM info on it, which described it as a "feminist fable"—pretty radical for 1940. TCM was running it as part of a celebration of what would be Lucille Ball's 100th birthday, but my interest was in Maureen O'Hara, an actor I should have had on that list because no matter how mediocre the film, she is always a delight to watch, for me.

And her performance in DANCE, GIRL, DANCE is one of her greatest, in which she is at her most stunningly beautiful, to me. It's a nuanced performance that displays all the emotional colors an actor can bring to a role, or at least most of them. But it's when they allow her to be completely still and just use her big beautiful eyes to convey an emotion as simply and as unadorned as possible that she is most magnificent to behold. And she has several scenes in this flick that allow her to do it.

Lucille Ball is also terrific in a role that only has a touch of what she would become as a TV icon. This was still when she was discovering her strengths and was playing mostly tough beauties from the school of hard knocks and take no prisoners approach [e.g. THE BIG STREET from two years later]. O'Hara plays the more innocent, naive foil to Ball. But despite Ball's, well, "ballsy" performance, it's O'Hara's movie and a tour de force for all her beauty and talent.

I highly recommend this movie if you've never seen it, especially if you're interested in the history of women in film, with these three incredibly strong and way ahead of their time women collaborating on it—Maureen O'Hara, Lucille Ball, and Dorothy Arzner [along with two other women, Vicki Baum, who came up with the story, and Tess Slesinger, who co-wrote the screenplay with Frank Davis]. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I just heard the news that a lumbering old Chinook helicopter was "downed" (likely shot down but not confirmed) in Eastern Afghanistan on the way to a "mission" with thirty or thirty-one US troops aboard, including Navy Seals (one report says they're Team 6, the ones that killed Osama Bin Laden) and seven Afghan troops.

There's no definitive explanation yet, and possibly never will be, at least not for the public. But the possibilities are:

1. The Taliban were tipped off by those in ISI (Pakistani intelligence) that have been tipping them off for years.

2. The Taliban were tipped off by someone inside the Afghan government.

3. The Taliban used weapons to do this (surface to air missile, rocket-grenade launcher, etc.) created and/or sold by US weapons corporations or international weapons corporations with US engineers/managers/workers/stockholders/all of the above...

4. The switch from Gates to Penetta as Secretary of Defense left a crossover period where a mistake could be made.

5. The copter was shot down by "friendly fire"—i.e. one of our own units, or an Afghan one (in which case it could have been intentional).

6. The copter malfunctioned and crashed from a maintenance or design problem originating in the US or a US base in Afghanistan and/or someone sabotaged it.

7. Troops involved, where the pilot or commander or etc. are so worn out and used up from the longest war in our history that someone just made a mistake.

8. Or the Taliban just got lucky and shot down a helicopter that turns out to be the worst instance of casualties for US troops in this war (a reminder of how light casualties are compared to our Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea and Viet Nam) and happens to include Navy Seals making it a very lucky strike for them as it then can be trumpeted as revenge for the death of Bin Laden.

9. Something even more sinister and secret (there certainly are plenty of folks on every side of this war who could use an event like this to push their particular perspective and desired outcome).

Any of those reasons suck, and also serve as perfect reasons why war is almost always, with rare exceptions, pointless.

We didn't have to have all the death and destruction of our Civil War if the Southern states could have accepted the change in the times and the public sentiment and beliefs when it came to slavery, but they couldn't (and some on the right obviously still can't!).

We didn't need the death and destruction of almost every other war we've fought, with the exception of World War Two, and even that could have been a lot less destructive had we confronted the obvious evil of Nazism before it threatened the entire world.

This incident today, or last night I guess, in Eastern Afghanistan (or for all we know Western Pakistan) ends the triumphalism of the USA chants when Bin Laden was killed. Yes, we got rid of an evil actor on the world stage, but as the helicopter tragedy shows, it didn't end the killing.

It's like the old idea that an eye for an eye only leads to everyone becoming blind.


I watched the Tea Party supporter who made the film about Sarah Palin (that's flopped) on the Bill Maher show last night and it was as frustrating as the rightwing illogic and unreason I have to delete repetitively on this blog which is just parroting the rightwing media machine.

This guy last night would be confronted with logic and reason and facts by the other guests, one of them an astrophysicist the other a woman who I think they said runs Every time they refuted his incorrect assumptions based on rightwing talking points, he'd respond with the same talking point. (He would sometimes say something factual and of course in those cases there'd be no argument, but I've written about that tactic before, it's a well used and often successful one in propaganda).

One of those talking points was that what they were calling "Obama's stimulus" package "failed." Which is equal to the right saying that any economist, no matter how many Nobels they have among them, is wrong if they say anything that goes counter to the Koch brothers and their other rightwing billionaire masters' interests. Because if you take pretty much any indicator the right wants to use, the facts speak clearly that the only problem with "Obama's stimulus" program, was that it wasn't big enough, and that it ended.

The great drop in the stock market this week was partially caused, as the head of S&P (the ratings company that lowered the US rating from triple A to double A plus—but also gave triple A's before the Bush/Cheney Recession began to the very financial institutions that caused it!) said yesterday, by the intransigence of the Republicans to allow any kind of "revenue" increases (i.e. getting rid of loopholes and exemptions in the tax code that favor millionaires and corporations making historical profits, like oil companies, etc.) as well as the Dems not making bigger cuts to programs that help the poor and middle class.

But here are some obvious facts. Jobs have been added to the economy every month since "Obama's stimulus" plan kicked in but not enough to offset the enormous job losses under Bush/Cheney. The obvious conclusion there is a bigger stimulus would have saved more jobs (it's a no-brainer, since many of those jobs relied on either some government support or consumer spending, but if you cut government spending then jobs that depend on that support disappear and those out of work or forced to take low-paying service industry jobs don't have money to spend so consumer spending drops etc.).

It is clear also if you take the stock market for an indicator. It fell off a cliff under Bush/Cheney and when Obama took over was heading for another Great Depression style debacle when the "stimulus plan" kicked in and suddenly it started climbing back up and has been climbing ever since on average. But as soon as the Congress passed a bill with no stimulus but only spending cuts, it went off the cliff again. Pretty clear ain't it?

Not to rightwingers. Who overwhelmingly believe untruths (studies cited in earlier posts, or linked to, show that left-leaning pundits get their facts right a high majority of the time while rightwing pundits don't) dictated to them by their corporate and billionaire masters (though it's only fair to point out that they take their orders often unwittingly, just responding emotionally to people like Rush and those on Fox News etc. because they speak to their fears and what their followers think are their own interests, because they can't see through their fear and prejudices what is really going on—e.g. the rightwinger on my blog constantly thinking he's discrediting Paul Krugman by calling him names or claiming Krugman doesn't know what he's talking about when the facts show that Krugman has been correct about his analysis and even his predictions more often than almost any other economist and so way more than rightwing economists and pundits it's like comparing Michael Jordan in his prime to your eight-year-old daughter's attempts to play basketball).

There is no refuting the reality that rightwing Republicanism has turned what was once a great country, with problems but attempting to address them, into a failing behemoth—with an economic gap between the rich and the rest of us bigger than any other advanced country and many "developing" (or what they used to call 'third world") countries, a failing healthcare system (until "Obama's" healthcare plan began implementing some changes that have actually improved the system), decaying infrastructure (as some said on the Baill Maher show last night, when they go to other countries, some even in "the developing world" they are "embarrassed" for the US because these other countries are not only doing better with infrastructure but have up-to-date technology improving their infrastructure while the US lags behind or completely stops, etc.), the loss of jobs and revenue to outsourcing and offshore scams, et-endlessly-cetera.

When the rightwing terrorist did his destruction in Norway recently, one of the interesting things for me was hearing Norwegians in news reports referring to their country as "the greatest country in the world" or "the richest" etc. (which it is if you base comparisons on  health, longevity, per capita income, many economic indicators, etc—and where another country beats them in one or another category, that other country also has universal health care and paid six week vacations and government subsidized programs that have eliminated poverty etc. etc. etc. in other words, is equally 'socialistic").

The right's economic policies and politics have proven over and over again that they don't work, and yet with the help of rightwing "think tanks" putting out talking points and position papers that misrepresent, misinform and lie about reality in order to serve the greed of their benefactors (ala the Koch brothers) and the rightwing media repeating those talking points and their rightwing followers parroting those points all over the Internet and through talking heads on news programs frightened by their own corporate masters into presenting a false equality between "all points of view" as if facts don't matter etc. the right continues to hold a disproportionate influence over the public discourse and political policy (ala the horrible "deal" struck by Obama and the Dems over the "debt ceiling" and deficit just to avoid an even worse outcome, which default would have caused).

It's like the Dems and most reasonable people are now living and working under the restraint of not "first, do no harm" but "first, limit the harm done by the right as much as possible lest they destroy the country completely"—which they are obviously on the way to doing, if people give up and let them.

Friday, August 5, 2011


As longtime readers of this blog know, I had brain surgery in November of 2009 and one of the results was that a lifetime listmaking compulsion disappeared.

Ever since my earliest memories I've compulsively made lists, in my poetry and prose, in conversations, in my mind when it wasn't otherwise occupied (and even sometimes when it was), including when I was falling asleep at night or trying to (which was when I made my most focused lists to help me tire my mind out, like listing only two word titles of favorite movies for every letter in the alphabet etc.).

Before the operation the largest number of posts for any label was "lists"—but afterward that changed. Not only did the compulsion disappear, even the inclination, but also any capacity to make a list. I'd think of a broad category, like favorite movies or songs etc. and come up with one or two names and then entirely lose interest!

But last night, I actually thought of a list and ended up coming up with many names, so I thought I'd post it for whatever comparative interest it might have for anyone reading this. What came to mind was the idea of movie actors whose work I dig so much I can watch anything, even movies I don't like, if these actors are in them (excluding actors I know personally from work or life, there's too many and I'm afraid my post-op brain would leave some out unintentionally):

Buster Keaton
Jimmy Cagney
Jean Harlow
Humphrey Bogart
Myrna Loy
Spencer Tracy
Gary Cooper
Ingrid Bergman
Cary Grant
Katherine Hepburn
Jimmy Stewart
Carole Lombard
Fred Astaire
Greer Garson
Jane Greer
Robert Mitchum
Theresa Wright
Veronica Lake
Martha Vickers
Ida Lupino
Marlon Brando
Marilyn Monroe
Dorothy Dandrige
Audrey Hepburn
Paul Newman
Grace Kelly
Frank Sinatra
Lee Remick
Sidney Poitier
Kim Novack
Vanessa Redgrave
Gerard Depardieu
Hugh Grant
Denzel Washington
Daniel Day-Lewis
Andie MacDowell
Don Cheadle
George Clooney
Scarlett Johansson
Matt Damon
Keri Russell
Marion Cotillard
Jennifer Connelly
and many more I'm sure

[PS: like Gene Tierney, Robin Wright, Catherine Deneuve, Rachel McAdams, Jean Seberg, Ann Sheridan, Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, Evan Rachel Wood, Isabelle Adjani, Julie Delpy, Minnie Driver, Kate Winslet...]

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


"The problem is, one party has no brains and the other has no balls."  —Bill Maher


Took my thirteen-year-old son and my days away from being thirteen-year-old grandson and their friend to see the documentary BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, a much needed diversion from the current babble about the disappointing "debt ceiling" and "deficit reduction" so-called "deal."

I always dug QUEST from the first time I heard the side and then saw the video for "I Lost My Wallet in El Segundo" (or whatever the exact title was). But hearing Q-tip explain the origins of that number in this compelling (at least to me and the three teenage boys I saw it with) film made me appreciate the accomplishment of it even more.

It's a testimony to the creativity of the original four members, as well as a fascinating articulation of a record-making perspective that according to some pretty reliable sources in the film made this team of rappers one of hip hop's seminal and genre changing innovative forces.

But mostly it was just fun to see where they came from and ended up, so far. A story well told (shot and edited) by the actor Michael Rappaport, who actually I usually find abrasive and normally wouldn't find his hand at the helm a recommendation. But my thirteen-year-old digs him and I respect his taste as much as anyone I love and admire, and he was right. Rappaport did a pretty sweet job pulling a story together and making it work.

And what a relief to be in an air conditioned theater away from the news and the net and the rapidly becoming boring repetitive spins on our political mess. If it's playing anywhere near you, it's worth the price of admission for my taste.