Monday, October 31, 2011


As Bill Maher points out so often these days, we have to call it "climate change" because otherwise the rightwingers confuse the issue because it still gets cold some places, averages being a difficult mathematical and "scientific" concept for them.

Nonetheless, the climate change brought about by global warming that was predicted by weather scientists has become a reality and is impacting all of us in one way or another very realistically. It's no longer a theory, obviously. The early winter we're having in the Northeast is a perfect example.

Yes, seasonal anomalies have occurred throughout history, including in my lifetime and yours, but not the extent they are occurring now and in recent years. As we all know, or can learn, by checking the stats, the warmest years on record have all occurred in the past decade, and rainfall records and extreme temperature variations etc. have occurred in the last few years as well.

So even though there are a few pre-winter Nor-Easters on the records over the past few hundred years, when you combine the one we just went through this weekend with other extreme record-breaking weather events of the past few years, welcome to the future brought to you by global warming.

I was up in the Berkshires at my oldest son's family's place where over a foot of heavy wet snow fell. We were actually snowed in, but luckily retained power. When the snow stopped Sunday morning and the cars were dug out and what looked like a foot and a half of snow was shoveled and brushed off them, my youngest son and I drove back to Jersey in a rare snowscape that was more like a movie dream sequence than a Christmas card.

The seasons in this part of the world were so finely tuned by nature [and evolution (oh no!)], that by the time the first really heavy snow of winter came, all the leafs were off the trees and the amount of snow that could accumulate on a tree branch was minimal, almost more of an outline than a burden.

But this weekend the snow was so thick and wet (the "snowflakes" looked more like small snowballs) as it accumulated on branches still full of leaves, it became too heavy for the branches to bear the weight and they either bent low to the ground (it was a trip to watch my daughter-in-law just tap a long branch of a ten foot tall bush bent down to the ground with the snow shovel and watch the snow fall off as the branch sprang back like a catapult and stood straight up in the air again as though brought back to life from near death) or broke entirely and were strewn across roads or smashed onto roofs of cars and houses often pulling electrical and telephone wires down with them.

The trip back was stunning and challenging. The countryside was so profoundly beautiful all covered in not just pristine whiteness but a whiteness that looked poured and melted in a unique way and amount. I pointed out to my son how rare a sight it was because nature normally doesn't cause this kind of snowfall until after the leaves are gone and the trees can withstand it.

It was stop and start as we sometimes inched our way around fallen branches and trees and in one case under one that had fallen in such a way as to create a tunnel only one relatively small car at a time could go through (buses and trucks and bigger vehicles were forced to turn back).

Even when we got further South into lower New York state and were on a big highway not a two-lane country road, there were still moments when branches or trees would fall or bend and block a lane so that at one point a car several vehicles ahead of us hit their brakes so hard it created what looked like the smoke from a big fire and the smell of burning rubber stayed with us for miles.

At one point on a back country road a snow-laden branch fell up ahead of us onto the road and, as often happens in adrenaline charged moments, seemed to occur in slow motion as I watched it hit the road and managed to find an extremely narrow path around it just in time. And then made it home to find our street blocked by fallen branches (the trees around here and up North are often so large that a "branch" is the size of a small, or not so small, tree) that took wires down with them.

Most of the trip there were no stoplights working or store lights on and the usual roadside joint we stop at for lunch (the famous "Red Rooster"—at least famous in that area of the central Hudson Valley) as well as all the others were closed because of no power.

We passed two gas stations in the several hour trip that had lines extending out from them reminiscent of the 1970s gas shortage, only more so. One line seemed to extend for more than a mile with folks out of their cars hanging out talking, the cars pulled onto the shoulder of the road and backed up as far as we could see. They were the only gas stations with their own generators I guess.

My youngest doesn't have school today. Even though the snow is mostly melted here, at least in the streets, so it would normally not be considered a "snow day" it still is, because there are so many trees and branches that have downed wires that it's unsafe for the kids to walk down many blocks in our town for fear of accidentally touching a live one.

If this were the only odd weather event of the past decade, or of my son's life, etc. it would not be unusual. But in his now fourteen years there have been many, and more and more as the years pass. This is a result of the climate change being caused by global warming and almost every scientist, and close to a total consensus of weather scientists, acknowledge this.

Yet the rightwingers, including the main one who comments on this blog, continue to idiotically taunt us "liberals" with the reality of unusually cold winter weather for early Fall, but have been and will be nowhere in the comments threads when the inevitable (these days anyway) hot spell hits between now and next summer and breaks all records in that direction, despite the fact that I will, as I always do, point that out to them when it occurs. Their silence will be, as always, deafening, because anything that doesn't support their ideological beliefs is ignored or denied despite reality.

[PS: Just got back from driving my son to a friend's and saw trees that had crashed onto houses, down power lines, including just half a block from his old school, and only one lane of traffic on many streets because of the piles of branches etc. and to further make my point above, this kind of scene has become relatively common in the past few years and since I moved here a dozen years ago.]

Sunday, October 30, 2011


You have to watch the "Weathering Fights" clip from a recent Daily Show (here). It illustrates perfectly the glaringly anti-intellectual, anti-reason, anti-logic, anti-facts, anti-reality core of rightwing ideology as a Republican strategist confirms everything this blog has ever posted about rightwing ideology.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I'm back in The Berkshires again after several weeks and before the big snowstorm they're supposed to get here, there's already snow on roofs and in yards from several days ago.

When I was a kid and we had a warm spell in November they called it "Indian Summer"—so should below freezing weather and serious snowstorms in October be called "Indian Winter?"

Whatever it might be, it's worth it to get to see my oldest son, Miles, play bass in a Black Sabbath tribute band last night at the local pub/restaurant. With a giant screen on the small stage behind them projecting Godzilla fighting Mothra, and the band in costumes, the guitarist [Rob Sanzone] as "Buckethead" (Miles explained that's an actual guitarists' guitarist who plays ripping ax in various bands and wears a mask-with-a-bucket-on-his-head disguise, as the guitarist did last night).

Miles wore a long black wig and grew a Fu Manchu moustache to look like the original Black Sabbath bass player. The singer [Scott Bartzch]was dressed as a mummy for a taste of pre-Halloween. Some folks came dressed appropriately as well in costumes that Miles had to explain to me echoed various Black Sabbath songs.

I never dug heavy metal or death metal or any of the categories of metal except for some of the guitar hooks and riffs. I know there's some great musicianship in some heavy metal bands and even some great songwriting, complex and original in some cases. But I just can't get past the general assault aspects of the music that often drowns out any and all subtleties.

I came home with my ears ringing more than they do anyway, and feeling like the air pressure was off in there too. But, and it's a big but, I have to say the set I caught was totally exhilarating. Couldn't have asked for a better way to get the ya-ya's out. Rob, the guitarist, is always amazing, the drummer [Ben Schworm] was awesome, the singer nailed it and Miles held it all together (from my perspective of course) with a solid bass beat and sound.

My daughter-in-law invited several of my grandson's friends along and they crowded the area in front of the small stage bobbing their heads ala metal bands and fans while two aging obvious Black Sabbath fans with little or no hair to throw around still bopped to the music and sang along to all the lyrics with gestures and high fives and all.

There's so much talent in the world these days, maybe always has been, that almost anywhere I go I get to experience it in full bloom. Like last night. Back to Jersey tomorrow on what hopefully will be melted snow or plowed roads.

And as I write this my youngest, my grandson and one of those boys (six boys including my son and his nephew slept over last night, that was a trip) are playing guitar, bass and drums down in "the music room" of the little old mill-town house Miles and his wife rent and it couldn't be more cool. Ain't life grand when we let it be?

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Unfortunately, the other night in Oakland was like a replay of a nighttime version of what happened in Berkeley during the "People's Park" protests in the Spring of 1969, when Reagan was governor and ordered  the troops out to disperse people who had created a wonderful neighborhood park out of a piece of land the University of California owned but had been used for quite a while as an unauthorized parking lot.

Flowering plants and homemade see saws and sandboxes were too much for the rightwing conservatives to allow the hippie students to plant or build or make. Then and even more so now, corporate greed must be justified, even deified and certainly protected by force and corporate criminals given passes or excused or if incarcerated put into country club prisons. But citizens with no corporate power are to be treated as criminals and less than human.

To paraphrase what someone else said: History may not be repeating itself here, but it's certainly rhyming.

PS: I'm sure you've already heard and read about the Iraq War veteran shot above by an Oakland Police tear gas canister, but here's a less catastrophic yet still horrific photo of another victim:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I still don't have any compulsion, or hardly even any desire, to write lists, since the brain surgery (where before I compulsively made them all day and night long). But I have become compulsive about listening to every song in my iTunes library alphabetically by title. Which led me to notice that those beginning with the word "Don't" make a very compelling list, even a poem if you leave out the "artists" and just read the titles.

Don't (Elvis)
Don't Answer The Door (B.B. King)
Don't Be Cruel (Elvis)
Don't Be That Way (Bing Crosby)
Don't Be That Way (The Kansas City Five live)
Don't Blame Me (Miles Davis)
Don't Blame Me (The Nat King Cole Trio)
Don't Bother Me (The Beatles)
Don't Bring Me Down (The Animals)
Don't Do Me Like That (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)
Don't Fence Me In (Bing & The Andrews Sisters)
Don't Fence Me In (David Byrne)
Don't Fence Me In (Frank Sinatra)
Don't Forget Tonight, Tomorrow (Sinatra)
Don't Go (Nat King Cole & George Shearing)
Don't Go To Nightclubs Anymore (Van Morrison)
Don't Know Why (Norah Jones)
Don't Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young)
Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight (James Taylor)
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood (The Animals)
Don't Like Goodbyes (Sinatra)
Don't Look Back (Luscious Jackson)
Don't Lose Your Cool (Scott Buck Trio)
Don't Make Me Over (Dionne Warwick)
Don't Pass Me By (The Beatles)
Don't Play That Song (Ben E. King)
Don't Put Your Finger In Yourself (The Tinklers)
Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (Glen Miller & His Orchestra)
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (Michael Jackson)
Don't Think Twice It's All Right (Dylan from "Freewheelin'")
Don't Think Twice It's All Right (Dylan live from the soundtrack to "No Direction Home")
Don't Turn Out Like Your Mother (The Proclaimers)
Don't Worry 'Bout That Mule (Louis Jordan)
Don't Worry About Tomorrow (Van Morrison)
Don't Worry Baby (The Beach Boys)
Don't You Believe It Dear (The Artie Shaw Orchestra w/ Mel Torme)
Don't You Know I Love You (The Clovers)
Don't You Miss Your Baby? (Count Basie)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011


I've been meaning to write about this because I haven't really seen it written about or even as part of the discussions from the same old talking heads on TV (though the past several days I wasn't paying as close attention to TV news as I usually do so I may have missed it).

That Israeli governments, at least since Rabin was assassinated back in the '90s, but before that as well on many levels, have always refused to negotiate with whoever represented the Palestinian-statehood-cause supposedly because they were too militant or unwilling to get their own house in order especially in terms of security, for Israel.

What this pattern of resistance to recognizing legitimate Palestinian demands as anything more than hubris did was feed into the recruiting strategy and growth of more radical entities, thus Hammas replaces the PLO as the more radical alternative after the Israeli government refuses to negotiate with PLO leaders who haven't gotten their security down so that their members aren't physically attacking Israelis.

I know the argument that it was the PLO leader Arafat who refused to bend in the negotiations that took place under Clinton's watch that blew what was the closest that conflict has come to a real resolution. But it was Israeli resistance to dealing with Arafat until then that backed him into a corner of competing with even more militant factions of Palestinian resistance (as well as Israel's refusal to give up their claim to all of Jerusalem or to stop all settlements).

At any rate, no matter how disappointing the failure of that almost resolution to the problem, it's only gotten worse since. Now the rightwing influence in the Israeli government is stronger than ever, people who not only don't want to concede on Jerusalem and settlements on Palestinian land, but who believe all of Israel should be only for Jews, have an outsized say in the Israeli coalition government.

So the prisoner exchange was the way that rightwing Israeli government chose to humiliate and weaken the Palestinian Authority, despite the fact that for the past few years it has succeeded in doing what every Israeli government has always demanded of the Palestinians, that is: create a secure West Bank. One, it turns out that is actually also the most efficient and secure and stable and successful Palestinian area in modern history, exactly what the Israeli government has been asking for for decades.

Abbas and his government in the West Bank met all the demands the Israeli government had, nonetheless the Israeli government continued and continues to not just add ever more settlements to the West Bank but also in East Jerusalem, the part of the city the Palestinians claim and has been occupied by Arabs for generations but now are losing ancient homes and buildings to bulldozers and new developments or takeovers of their homes and buildings by rightwing Jewish groups.

So out of frustration at the Israeli government's refusal to stop these incursions or negotiate a resolution to them, Abbas went to the U.N. to ask for Palestinian statehood, figuring if he got it, or even pressure to get it, the Israeli government might finally be willing to negotiate equally and not as conqueror and conquered.

It was a pretty smart move I think, except he didn't realize the depths the right will always go to, in any country or situation, to maintain its own power over events. Netanyahu's government instead of responding to the U.N. statehood plea instead negotiated with the more militant and radical—and proclaimed enemy of Israel—Hammas to secure the return of one Israeli soldier for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners, some of whom had committed atrocities against Jewish Israelis!

Hammas knew this would humiliate Abbas and his strong and successful West Bank government, and so did Nethanyahu. He was willing to humiliate Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, the only one ready to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel and the only Palestinian group that even accepts Israel's right to exist and deal with a sworn enemy of Israel, just to weaken Abbas and avoid any concessions to the Palestinians' legitimate demands.

And to add salt to the wound, Netanyahu, almost simultaneously, announced the rightwing Jewish takeover of an entire Israeli Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem. So, as often happens with the right, Nethanyahu succeeded in defeating his one possible ally as well as the possibility for a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue, and strengthened the enemy that he can more easily justify crushing when the opportunity arises, as he did not that long ago in the invasion of Gaza where Hammas presides.

It's cynical, ultimately self-defeating and from my perspective evil as well. But a lesson probably not lost on the right in this country as well, where Obama and most Democrats dare not criticize Nethanyahu for fear of the "Israel lobby" in DC that wields as much power as the NRA and Wall Street there, unfortunately (and yes I know there is an alternative "Israel lobby" in DC but it's influence is almost nil).

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Thanks to my friend Kenyon Burke for providing the link for this version of one of my favorite Ellington tunes. How the creative act resonates beyond even the creator's dreams.


Here's a summary of what crunching Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan would do to taxes for the wealthy and the rest of us:

"A middle income household making between about $64,000 and $110,000 would get hit with an average tax increase of about $4,300, lowering its after-tax income by more than 6 percent and increasing its average federal tax rate (including income, payroll, estate and its share of the corporate income tax) from 18.8 percent to 23.7 percent. By contrast, a taxpayer in the top 0.1% (who makes more than $2.7 million) would enjoy an average tax cut of nearly$1.4 million, increasing his after-tax income by nearly 27 percent. His average effective tax rate would be cut almost in half to 17.9 percent. In Cain’s world, a typical household making more than $2.7 million would pay a smaller share of its income in federal taxes than one making less than $18,000. This would give Warren Buffet severe heartburn."
—Herman Glickeman


So I took part in this reading last night that my old "Poetry in Motion" partner from L.A. Eve Brandstein organized at the Cornelia Street Cafe. It was a relatively small crowd, but as old time New Yorkers would say: it was "cherce" (as in "choice").

Mostly an array of powerhouse women, on stage and in the audience, with a couple of men thrown in for diversity [like Tim, who sometimes comments here and showed up to catch the evening, much to my delight]. Seven "performers," two men. The other male performer [Nathan P.] was dressed like a sharper more stylish Cornell West and did original, rhymed, romantic, and obviously to the women in the room, seductive—and maybe the few men as well—verse from memory, more like proto-rap toasting than hip hop boasting.

I don't have all the names, but will try to get them, but the women all kicked butt, starting with my old L.A. poetry reading partner Eve who read a tour de force litany of "maybes" that told the story of her mother's and her life in a series of succinct lines and images that for my taste was not only uniquely brilliant but deeply poignant while still drawing plenty of laughs.

Another woman [Tina Dupuy]—an actress and comic—read a great piece of prose about losing a friend and giving blood as a life-affirming tribute to them, but what started out tragic ended up comic. As maybe the most impressive contribution of the night did in reverse. A totally charismatic "big blonde" (in the literary tradition of Kerouac and Dorothy Parker, visually) and startlingly the mother of five [Jennifer Rawlings], startling because she didn't look like she could have had that many, nor did her life sound like she'd have the time to have them, let alone raise them, given her declaration of having spent time in several war zones "the only place where she smokes" as she put it and then preceded to tell a hilarious story of being alone in a "B-hut" on a base in Afghanistan in the middle of the night during a firefight, or at least a mortar attack, and having to urinate when the facility to do that was a distance in the dark with rockets going off and maybe aimed at her!

How she dealt with that problem was pretty hilarious, but with the smoothness of a great story teller she had her audience solidly in the uneasy laughter of a-dangerous-situation-being-also-funny, followed the next day by a hospital visit to wounded soldiers and civilians that was heartbreakingly moving and I wished could have been on the evening news or the endless talk shows to inject a shot of reality into the otherwise mostly political spin and superficial celebrity hype that news has become.

And there was still more. A deceptively serio-comic couple of prose bits from an endearingly honest writer/performer [Alana Ruben Free] explored her quest for a man who won't treat her like a goddess but is willing to work toward an equal relationship based on the ideal projected in the Kabbalah that will supposedly be realized in a few more centuries!

She, like half the women there, well there were five so half isn't exactly correct, more like three of the women who performed have one-woman shows running currently in various venues around the country. In fact one of them, the last performer [Susan Merson] had just gotten off a plane from L.A. and performed a small part from her one-woman show about what it means to lose the love of your life who you've spent the last three decades with to an unexpected early (as almost all death seems to be) passing.

Man, it was a jewel of a night, one of those special moments of shared creativity that makes all the effort and struggle and disappointment and loss and challenges of life and creating any kind of art suddenly seem insignificant in the face of of actually experiencing it when it works. And last night it did. I was happy to be a part of it (even if I was having a tiring and challenging day for all the usual and unusual reasons).

If you hear of any of these folks performing anywhere near you, check them out, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


So, Reagan and Bush Sr. made it clear they intended to put an end to Qaddafi on their watch. Bush Jr. and Cheney made it clear they intended to put an end to Bin Laden on theirs.

Well, we know how that turned out. Obama put an end to Bin Laden and now Qaddafi under his watch.

Hopefully, this will also put an end to the myth that Republicans are more reliable and successful in military and national security matters and foreign affairs.

But maybe not. Because despite the fact that the first war that didn't end in victory for the USA, Korea, ended in a bad truce on a Republican president's watch—Eisnehower—and the first total defeat the USA experienced, Viet Nam, occurred under another Republican president—Nixon.

The reality is, Republicans suck at foreign relations, national security and military capability (just look at the lack of armor for our troops while Republicans were running every branch of our government) (or how under Reagan terrorists first successfully used suicide bombs against a US military force—in Lebanon—resulting in Reagan going back on his pledge to defend Lebanon's freedom and instead pulling US troops out, or how under Bush Jr. and Cheney the worst attack on US soil was carried out on 9/11).

But the rightwing media—and the so-called mainstream media that fears their rightwing corporate masters as well as rightwing attacks on them for being "too liberal"—will allow the right to continue this myth through their propaganda and framing of all military and nationals security and foreign affairs issues in terms of: Republicans strong, Democrats weak. A complete and total and myth that has been dispelled over and over again by reality.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Eve Brandstein, my old friend and partner in the weekly poetry reading series we did through the late 1980s and early '90s in L.A. has put together a group reading this Thursday in Manhattan at The Cornelia Street Cafe. It starts at 6PM and is over by 7:30, so if you're in the city or near it, come check it out (the rest of the info is in the notice below—click to enlarge it—or to the right on my blog page).

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Man does it suddenly feel like the 1960s. This beautiful Fall weekend in the Northeast saw Times Square turn into a daytime version of the annual New Year's Eve crowd. Only not drunk. But celebratory in ways reminiscent of the many many demonstrations I took part in back then.

Not celebratory over what they're protesting, but from the joyful feeling of being among people who share your outrage over economic and social injustice, and political impotence. And the amazing reality is that after only a few short months that began with a handful of people deciding to occupy a park in The Wall Street district of lower Manhattan, demonstrations small and gigantic have spread around the globe.

The original occupiers were inspired by the Arab Spring demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, and now they in turn have inspired "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations of support and equally passionate outrage throughout Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

Oligarchies and corporate elites must be shaking in their mansions and boardrooms at the sight of this. But you know they're also organizing and spending to influence the media and create anti-OWS organizations, like the poor misinformed and misleading folks, including among my own clan, who are facebooking and blogging about how they're not part of the 99% (that has become the theme of the occupation—"we're the 99% being screwed by the 1% that controls most of the wealth of the world, let alone this country")—but are instead a part of the whatever percent that "pay taxes" as opposed to those they think don't, but of course do.

No one who lives in this country or probably most countries doesn't pay taxes. Maybe the poor don't pay income taxes but they pay payroll taxes and sales taxes and etc. etc. taxes. And many corporations and financial institutions and those at the top who benefit disproportionately from them, don't pay any taxes at all, or very little especially considering the wealth they get to keep based not on performance, obviously, but on what they've been able to get away with because they buy politicians and whole political parties.

It fills my heart with gratitude and hope to see these demonstrations spreading. I know that those who would destroy the movement they're building—or we're building I should say since I'm a part of the 99% who knows it and supports the occupation of Wall Street and have gone there and demonstrated that—are already planting agents to provoke criminal activity to discredit the protesters as was done in the 1960s with the Civil Rights and Anti-War protesters, and that those elites who are for maintaining the status quo of their outsized influence on politics and government and continuing to take more and more than their share of the country's and the world's wealth will buy intellectuals and pundits and politicians and governments and regular working people who are fearful of change etc....

...and the various causes and beliefs of the people protesting will begin to fragment and clash, especially when those differences are highlighted and exploited by the media to further the divide-and-conquer agenda of a lot of the media's corporate masters, but nonetheless, this growing movement and this moment are historical, inspirational, and past due. And may well succeed in creating a people's movement for change that has a big enough impact to actually create change despite the wealthy who have grown bold because they had no opposition to their expanding wealth and control of government and politics at least since Reagan.

As one of the signs I saw said, "We are who we've been waiting for!" Ain't it the truth.

[Here's today's NY Times take on the protests as news.]

Saturday, October 15, 2011


By Bob Arnold, someone whose blog I just discovered (thanks to his comment to my last post). The poem is here.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I'm coming up on the second anniversary of my brain operation. Something some of you have let me know you feel you've heard enough about. Me too, actually. But it's ongoing. Just had a brain MRI this morning, because now, if I see the doc about anything that could be related to a brain issue, (just as with other health issues I've had operations for) they have to start by making sure it doesn't have anything to do with my brain.

And it just so happens that last Sunday's NY Times had a piece in their op-ed section—now called "Sunday Review"—written by a woman who had suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident and ended up much worse than anything I had to deal with. It's a pretty fascinating story and perspective, so I recommend it (here).

Nonetheless, some of her experiences I could identify with, which was the ultimate point of her essay. That brain trauma survivors have some things in common and would benefit from a group just made up of them, as in the Alcoholics Anonymous model that worked so well it's become almost common for other survivors of a particular affliction or trauma to form groups to help each other in ways that are unique for them and their experience, and often better than the help they get from professionals.

I also ran into the woman who'd had brain surgery three months before me and who it turned out was having some complications from it. I saw her husband first, and asked him about her and he tried to explain what he thought was going on but said, "She can tell you better" and let me know she'd be along soon. And when she came we immediately started talking our own language about things that happen that we know are related to the surgery or the original problem. I mentioned one thing with me and she said, "Oh yeah, that's the scar tissue."

When I saw the neurologist today, the one I had begun the process with two years ago with my first brain MRI, she thought some of the symptoms I was feeling could be coming from "the scar tissue" from the operation. I saw the MRI and I would only be guessing if I were to tell you what it looked like to me, but what it looked like to me is that there's still a hole where they took out what was in there. I'm sure that's not technically correct, or even true, but it was compelling to think of it that way.

The miracle is that I'm so "back to normal" in the eyes of most folks that using the operation and its aftermath as an explanation for any of my foibles seems like milking it. And there may be some truth to that. But whatever the deeper reality, I still am totally captivated by the ways the brain works and impacts our reactions to reality, our perspective on...just about everything as far as I can tell.

[PS: And here's another fascinating story about brain trauma and its aftermath, thanks to Chris Mason for it.]

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Justine Torres has been getting a lot of well-deserved (on some levels) critical attention for his novel WE THE ANIMALS. A new friend gave me a copy. I told her I had enough to read, piles of books next to my bed, almost all given to me by old friends, some of them written by them, and not a lot of time to waste on random books folks seem compelled to give me, something I'm grateful for, but overwhelmed by because I have a compulsion to read a book all the way through once I open it.

In this case, once I got into WE THE ANIMALS, I could see why it's getting all the praise. It's so well written it seems at times more like a long lyric prose poem. Darkly lyric. Or lyrically dark. The story of three young boys and their sometimes tragic parents' parenting.

But by the end, for my taste, it became too predictably dark in a way, or even ways, that seem almost cliched to me now. Just think of the predictable dark secret many fictional and memoir families hide and you'll be able to predict this one. Though delivered in a freshly told way with a few original twists. But still, what we used to call "a cheap shot" when I was coming up in the "literary" scene.

Too bad too, because up until the last several chapters, a few of which are extraordinarily well done, the writing is so beautiful you want the story to confirm the beauty of the delivery and end with some of that beauty intact or at least hopeful, some glimmer of redemption or an understanding that leads to some peace if not also satisfaction. But WE THE ANIMALS left me feeling the way I did after seeing that oil movie with Daniel Day-Lewis or the one where the big Spanish actor walked around with that cow stunning machine.

Yeah I know, I could look up the titles of those flicks if it wasn't so late and I weren't so tired of artificial despair and hopelessness in so many arty projects that get critical acclaim and awards. I don't know too many people who haven't experienced at least some of that kind of darkness on some level in their own lives, which is why, as in the great classic rebuttal to these kinds of arty downers—SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS—those suffering souls only want something that'll make them smile, just like the rest of us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This 1933 pre-code movie was not only shown on TCM recently, but over four minutes were added to it which weren't in the movie when it first came out or for most of the decades since. A negative of the full film was found several years ago in I think New Zealand!

The most fascinating thing about BABY FACE are those four some minutes, because what they show as part of the influence a German immigrant cobbler has on the young woman played by a very young Barbara Stanwyck is him introducing her to the ideas of Nietzsche!

The film is bold enough in other ways that once the movie code was introduced would not be seen again until the 1970s and afterward, if even then. For instance, Stanwyck's motherless character has obviously been sexually abused, pimped by her father (and there's even a hint that he may have abused her as well)! And the only person she trusts and the only constant person in her life is an African-American young woman her age and equally as attractive (they both seem in their teens when the movie begins).

But it's also the close ups of a book by Nietzsche and another of some lines from the book that were cut from the original and seem so extreme even now. That and the insitence from the cobbler that Stanwyck's character is smart enough to rise in the world if she uses her sex appeal to make men do what she wants, using these men as stepping stones to more and more wealth and therefore security for herself (remember this was at the beginning of The Great Depression).

It's a tour de force performance by Stanwyck (which isn't that uncommon with her). The only drawback is that some of the actors seem to be still in silent films (with the exception of a boyishly young John Wayne in a tiny part). And George Brent plays the male lead, an actor who was always cast as the big handsome hero even, as here, long after he actually looked like one.

Speaking of silent movie mugging, STREET SCENE is one of the most amazing historical documents I've ever seen from Hollywood and had never seen until TCM showed it last week. It stars Sylvia Sydney, another amazing actress from the early 1930s and beyond (though her appeal as a romantic lead diminished rapidly making her a "character actor" only years after being a sex symbol star, as opposed to Stanwyck whose sex appeal lasted well into her fifties).

This film is shot almost entirely on one set, play-like (it's adapted from the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Elmer Rice play), on the steps in front of a tenement building in Manhattan in which tenants of various ethnic origin live their lives relatively publicly. Half the actors seem to still be acting in silent films and others seem to be acting for the stage. But Sydney and a handful of others work so intimately for film that they anchor the rest of the cast in a pre-code reality that again is harshly realistic.

Some of that reality is skewed in unexpected ways, unexpected that is if you know history only from the movies in the decades that followed. For instance there is a lot of outright anti-semiticism in the story, yet the Jewish family—a "pappa," older sister and brother—are depicted as the smartest people in the building, and in many ways the most moral and heroic ("poppa" is politically radical, even Utopian, a man of ideas, the sister is a self-sacrificing teacher, giving up her own life to help her family, particularly her brother, the young self-tormented scholar his sister intends to see gets to go to law school).

And, something that did not surprise me but may others, the real villains of the flick are all Irish-Americans, who for the most part are prejudiced bullies, male and female. The single Italian immigrant is happy-go-lucky full of life (and admiration for Mussolini!) and married to the single German-immigrant (very interesting, especially considering that the rare cross ethnic marriages at that time were mostly between Irish and German Catholics) who is also jolly and of course competent, etc.

The only African-Americans and Asian-Americans are incidental, part of the scenery. But it's still an amazingly various cast of characters pretty realistically portrayed, and Sylvia Sydney is wonderful to watch.

This is a more recent flick, last year in fact. A star vehicle, as they used to say, for an aging Robert Duvall playing a rural hermit-like character who wants to stage his own funeral (which was in all the trailers and ads so I'm not giving anything away). He is, of course, magnificent in it. As is Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray and others in the cast. It's worth watching for the acting. Though the payoff in the plot did not entirely work for me, I was still moved to tears.

This has elements of recent action movies and recent comedies that I'm sure the filmmakers thought would guarantee big audiences, especially since it stars the seemingly unendingly popular Seth Rogen as the usual "everyman" character only this time one who becomes a superhero, sort of.

What ruined the fun of the action scenes and the comedy for me though, and perhaps added to the failure of the film in terms of the kind of success expected for it, was the violence. Watching a supposed "hero" kick a person who is lying on the ground, already incapacitated, and do it repeatedly in some cases, took away any positive feelings I had for this supposed "hero" or the actor playing him, Seth Rogen. (And I think this behavior was meant to be funny, like the "hero" is only capable of kicking an already down man after his Asian "sidekick" "Cato" as actually subdued the villain!)

Back in the day, Robert Redford, like many classic Hollywood stars, would refuse to play characters whose actions he felt his audience would not accept from him. Smart move. It's what made many of the old stars last so long.

I find Rogen funny at times, pleasant at times, aggravatingly self-satisfied with his own humor at times, but I never felt any strong antipathy for him until I saw this flick, and didn't even recognize it until I thought about it afterwards.

So, I don't recommend THE GREEN HORNET to anyone, even for a little escapist entertainment.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I was walking through our local park on this beautiful Indian summer weekend when I realized I wasn't holding my shoulders back and my head up like in the good posture lessons I've read...

...and so I did it and instantly thought of Ted Berrigan, the way he walked down the street with his head held high, and I missed him more than I have in a long time even though it's been almost thirty years since I last saw him.

And then I thought of his poem, "People Who Died," which inspired Jim Carroll's later song by the same name (I too found Ted's poem inspiring, but Jim's song a little morbid), and I thought maybe I could make a list, while I was walking, of my own "people who died"—but.. anyone who's read this blog for a while knows, I was a compulsive listmaker (often alphabetized) in my head—and outside it in poems and columns and blog posts etc.—for as long as I can remember until brain surgery, almost two years ago now, after which that compulsion completely evaporated and every time I've tried to make a list in my head since, I get two or three items on it and totally lose interest (a word popularized in the 1960s by Ted—"totally").

The same thing happened with this, until I thought, okay, don't make a list, just free associate one name with the next of people you've known who have passed, and viola!—the first list I've made in a long time and one of only a few in the past two years!

Ted Berrigan (poet)
Ed Cox (poet)
Tim Dlugos (poet)
Joe Gloshinski (cop)
Robert Lally (cop then postmaster)
Joan Lally Gloshinski (saint)
Tommy later Campion Lally (Franciscan friar)
John Lally (passed in infancy, so saint too)
James ("Buddy") Lally (musician and h.s. principal)
Kathy Lally Frietas (business woman)
Lee Lally (poet and actually Carol lee Fisher Lally)
Ed Gross (lawyer)
James Schuyler (poet)
Joe LeSeur (writer and one of Frank O'Hara's muses)
Cookie Mueller (actor/writer)
David Blue (singe-songwriter)
John Carradine (actor)
Gloria Grahame (actor—I was in her last movie, a horror movie—"The Nesting"—with John Carradine and her in bit parts and me as one of the "stars"(!) and got to know them sitting around on sets before or after "Action!")
Tom Bosley (actor)
Mary Wicks (actor—I got to know her and Bosley on the sets of "Father Dowling Mysteries" where they schooled me on their early days on Broadway and in Hollywood and made me feel not just welcome but on their level!)
(my parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents et. al.)
Ralph Dickey (poet)
Frank Polite (poet)
Barbara Guest (poet)
Allen Ginsberg (poet)
John McCarthy (actor/comedian/raconteur)
Jim Haining (poet)
Robert Trammel (poet)
Etheridge Knight (poet)
Eldridge Cleaver (activist)
Rosemary Lally Ciavatti (older cousin who lost her father early and thereafter spent a lot of time with my family when I was growing up as almost another sister)
(and other cousins who lived nearby when I was young and are now gone, like Raymond and Richard and Jackie et. al.)
Darrel Gray (poet)
Bob Callahan (writer)
Steve Shrader (poet)
Buddy Arnold (musician)
Michael Gizzi (poet)
Arnold Weinstein (playwright)
Joan Baribeult (producer and what may be called my "common-law wife" at one time)
Joan "Bambi" Robinson Hartgens (writer/social worker and first true love)
Chris Alport (actor/musician)
Elizabeth Murray (painter)
Darragh Park (painter)
George Schneeman (artist)
Cal Johnson (street humorist)
Mel Johnson (spellbinder)
Cliff Heard (entrepreneur)
"Indian" Larry Desmedt (motorcycle artist)
Merilene M. Murphy (poet)
"Sharma" Sandy Oliver (sex activist)
Chris Penn (actor)
Ron "Liam" Rector (poet)
Scott Wannberg (poet)
James Fee (photographer)
Robert Penn Warren (poet/writer)
William Saroyan (writer I only met once but whose books I loved and had been reading since I was young so I felt like I knew him when I interviewed him—and Warren previously)
Hubert Selby Jr. (writer and mentor)
George Starbuck (poet)
(and accidentally the last three are alphabetical and all changed my life in ways they didn't know, except for Selby, who knew, and was my best friend in LA the almost twenty years I lived there)

(and all those I couldn't recall in this hopefully not morbid exercise—at least not morbid to me because my time with each of them, no matter how limited in a few cases, still lives in my consciousness, as though they were here with me in the moments I think of them, which I find reassuring and even comforting)

Saturday, October 8, 2011


" this dreary, difficult war, I think history will record that this may have been one of America's finest hours."  —President Nixon, July 30, 1969 (that's not even halfway through what was until Afghanistan "America's longest war")

Friday, October 7, 2011


Thought I'd change the subject for a minute and acknowledge the publication of a memoir by old friend Ted Greenwald, one of the most original poets of my generation.

CLEARVIEW/LIE (published by United Artists Books) deals mostly with Ted's early life growing up in Queens. It's more directly narrative and linear than his poetry appears to be (that work is usually associated with "Language poetry" meaning his choice and combination of words and phrases is NOT linear or even at times seemingly logical, more about connotation than denotation, but I find all his work autobiographical and narrative, maybe that's just because we're close in age and experience so I get what I read as the subtext and hidden narrative etc.)...

...but still, CLEARVIEW/LIE is nothing like any other memoir you've ever read I'd bet (one of my favorite Greenwald poetry books is an old one titled "YOU BET!"). It's fragmented and elusively almost cryptically so personal you almost have to have been there to get some references and the ways they resonate for those of us who were.

But on the other hand it is also extremely accessible and precise, conversational and clear, so that even if the reference points aren't yours you still get the experience of a complete personality and intelligence making the experiences and influences of his early years and development as a poet totally present (especially since it's almost all in the present tense) and real.

I personally can't see anyone not enjoying this book, and it's a fast read, but then I've gotten feedback on some of my recommendations on this blog concerning poets and their work that makes clear my taste isn't everyone's.

So let me end with a few random "paragraphs" (CLEARVIEW/LIE is written in short bursts of prose with white space in between making it look more like a long poem with extremely long lines than like the usual memoir or book of prose, which adds to the ease and quickness of the read) as an example of what you're in for:


There's a perverse pleasure to be able to say when we do have a TV school assignment, I raise my hand, but we don't have a TV. Oh, well, do the best you can.

Never miss any homework assignment.

As in the DNA early-in-life version, my father's whole working life. Fifty-seven, fifty-seven years, not once, not once, takes a sick day."

See how clear and precise that is, and yet so uniquely personal and individual. I bet you've never read a series of short paragraphs, or bursts of prose, that summed up the origins of a personal perspective more succinctly than that.

Or how 'bout this:

"In public school, it's great to be in the cockpit of the American Dream. Right there the mist-enveloped pop culture crossroads crucible, in there with the devil.

sign on the dotted line"

There's juicier narrative details, tales of gangster uncles or "communist" relatives or working as a teenager in the Catskills or Miami for relatives etc. and the usual family dysfunction and heartache and madness even. But Ted's way of keeping his cool through all this and the telling of it is his laser like focus on words and how they work for him and how originally he can put them together to convey his mind's eye view of what it's like to be him as an old(er) man looking back on what it was like to be him as a young(er) one.

I dug it, you might too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Wipre [I meant "Wiped" but firgured I'd leave it to show how my brain's functioning the morning after] [and "firgured"!] out today from my excursion yesterday into the city and Occupy Wall Street march and demonstration, but I want to clarify what I posted last night and respond to comments on the post or in emails I've received and conversations already.

When we left the scene and my youngest son's mother asked me what I thought the media would say about the size of the demonstration, I said probably what the organizers estimated before it happened, around two thousand folks.

She said there had to be at least ten thousand people who marched and filtered through the square where the march ended up and the occupation is going on. I think that's probably right, but because the some marchers stuck around but others left and more came coming [I obviously meant "kept coming"] once the square and the blocked off street beside it were full it was impossible to tell that it stayed full because more people arrived as others left.

Had it been Times Square I have no doubt it would have filled that much larger space as well, or even a good section of Central Park (I remember an anti-nuke protest I went to with my two older children and their stepmother back in the early 1980s in Central Park with what was estimated as more than a hundred thousand people and it didn't seem like many more than I saw passing through the scene last night).

But all I heard on the news this morning (dropped in for a minute or so between more tributes to Steve Jobs) was what I expected, "a few thousand" "a couple of thousand" etc.

As for my focusing on a small group of protesters with anti-NYPD signs or the single protester with the "OBAMA=BUSH" sign, I didn't mean to be misleading, because the majority of people we marched with and I watched filter into the park as the march continued for several hours held signs that either echoed the Occupy Wall Street manifesto as in "We are the 99%" or said "Tax the Rich" or echoed the chants of "Banks get bailed out! We get sold out!"

The handwritten individual signs said everything from "We're too sexy for the system" or "Minor literary celebrities..." I can't remember the rest, something in support of the protest and against "Wall Street." There were some really funny and original signs I wish I had written down or got someone to photograph, but unfortunately I didn't.

But the main point I want to make that maybe I didn't make clear yesterday is that despite the presence of some protesters with individual agendas that might not serve the process of protesting and hopefully changing the ways corporate wealth influences not just our politics but almost every aspect of our lives, the most important thing about the protesters was their diversity.

I don't just mean racially, though that too, but age, gender, ethnicity, and group identity (at least for the march) as in "Korean-Americans for..." and "Filipino-Americans against..." There were nurses unions, doctors, transportation union members, NY fire department members, my union members (i.e. Writers Guild, American federation of Television and Radio Actors, Screen Actors (some said they saw Mike Meyers among the marchers), gay and lesbian etc. marchers, Verizon workers (the various unions were mostly represented by pre-printed signs), airport workers unions, and so on endlessly.

There was a World War Two veteran in a wheel chair, and there were children with their parents as young as pre-school age. There was a gray-haired woman in cap and gown and that shawl-scarf-like thing they wear around their necks meaning I think they have their doctorate (she looked like she could have easily been a university president for all I know), there were hippy looking young and old and folks in business suits and clothes carrying brief cases (we ran into a friend from our town on his way back as he was getting into the NJ PATH train we were exiting at The World Trade Center stop and we didn't have to say anything as he said, "Oh, you're going to the thing..I work in a building right across the street from it...good luck...wish I could join you..." or words to that effect.

That latter is a reminder of what I meant to make my main point (partly in response to your comments Paul) which is, when what became known as "the 'sixties" started, I'd say with Mario Savio's speech at UC Berkeley about throwing ourselves into the gears of the machine to stop it around 1964, those against what our government was becoming and what now seems like but at the time didn't an almost benign impact on our world by the corporatization of "America" (in a much more limited way than now but already negatively effecting life) it would be a few more years before the focus would be more precisely targeted against Lyndon Johnson's war (Viet Nam) policy and that was a result of the draft holding all young people as hostages.

It is normal at this phase (as it was in Cairo and elsewhere in the Arab Spring) to vent anger at one person or aspect of "the system" but surround that anger with other pleas for a variety of causes and perspectives, some of which counteract each other. But the important thing is that the initial surge of protest be inclusive, display the diversity of not just people's group identities but ideas and beliefs and goals.

This is what gives the movement energy and challenges preconceived notions about goals and agendas for getting there, as well as sharpening the methods for doing so. I believe more focused agendas will emerge. The biggest challenge, from my experience, will be not giving up before before that happens.

I remember watching from my unique perspective (a little street, a lot working-class background and attitude, yet advanced education and radically individual creative involvement and identity, etc.) as it became clear that the anti-Viet-Nam-War activists had finally convinced many, I believe a majority, in the then older generation that the war was a waste of time and effort and money and human lives, and that was just when many of the younger leaders in the movement began to give up, drop out of the struggle, get into esoteric religion or personal gain or etc. and the energy began to dissipate until with the final fiasco of our troops withdrawing from Nam the left seemed to almost collapse in on itself and return to fragmented factional bickering as the right was just beginning to initiate its strategy of building a lasting movement for gaining political and media power using corporate resources that had been shaken by the "power of the people" as manifested in the anti-war movement.

Those of the older generation went back to accepting the status quo, though again from my perspective many of them had become ready to actually support a movement to re-order the growing dominance of corporations on our government and get back to the ideals of Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt regarding the necessity for government to make sure no corporations got so big and powerful that they could dominate government at all.

Phew! You have no idea how many times I had to rewrite each sentence above to finish this post. I think I'm definitely taking it as easy as my youngest and whoever else I encounter today allows me to.

[PS: This link to a good article on why the movement has been slow to start etc. was in the comment from my older son Miles in my past post, worth checking out.]

[PPS: And this link is another (with the one of the best signs from the march), this time from my daughter Caitlin's comment on the last post.]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Just got back and it's late so this'll be short. But... any-day-now fourteen-year-old, his mother and me arrived where the march was happening, about four blocks before it reached the square that protesters have been occupying now for a few weeks.

We were an hour and a half late for the start of the march so figured we'd head for close to where it ended and hopefully there'd still be some marching or at least we'd see the protesters in the square.

But not only was the march still going strong, we stuck around the square for two hours or more and when we left, there were marchers still arriving! That means the march was going on for several hours, which means there had to be many many more thousands than the two thousand the organizers expected.

It was exhilarating to be among people with mostly shared beliefs and aspirations standing up for those beliefs and aspirations in a joyful but powerful way.

There were so many handwritten signs that were witty and/or succinct in ways our politicians unfortunately haven't been on the left and in the center. There were some dumb ones too, the socialist worker party had signs against the NYPD, good thinking guys. The cops are suffering the same fate as the rest of working "America"—losing their jobs, taking pay cuts, paring more for health insurance and medical expenses. You should be trying to win them over not putting them down.

And there was one guy with a handmade sign that said "OBAMA=BUSH" who I couldn't help accosting and challenging, reminding him that that kind of reductionist oversimplification is playing into the right's hand because they want young people to think there isn't any difference so they won't vote or will throw their vote away.

I know I know a lot of you think Obama has been a big letdown and in some areas he has been, but in others he's done pretty well with what he had to work with and stopped or reversed some of the harshest rightwing policies and undertakings that began under Reagan and intensified under Bush Junior.

I pointed out that convincing young people that Gore was just as bad as Bush Junior and not voting or voting for Nadar instead led to all the deaths in the Iraq War and all the debt as well. I had to shout to be heard over the noise of the continuing to gather crowd spilling out into the closed off street (and surrounded by more cops than I've ever seen at any demonstration I've taken part in including ones in DC in the 1960s and '70s at which crowds of hundreds of thousands and in my estimation over a million were gathered) and I guess I was also getting a little angry and the overstimulus of the noise and crowd was baking my brain in ways it hadn't been since the surgery almost two years ago... this time he was trying to convince me that what happened in '68 when the left opted out of the election or voted, as I did, for third party candidates which put Nixon in power until he resigned in disgrace and extended the Viet Nam war for several more years and widened it into Laos and Cambodia and thereby ruined three countries and caused endless death and destruction etc. was irrelevant because according to him what happened in 2000 and 2004 were "different" than now...

...but just as he was maybe about to say this time the protesters would actually see that neither Obama or a Republican won the presidency, (because he sounded that out of it)... son was pulling on me, upset that I was in what he took for an argument that looked like it might turn violent, so I let him pull me away, trying to explain that this is what the left does at protests, we argue over tactics and goals and individual understanding of the realities we're dealing with and trying to reform or reverse etc...

Anyway, this wasn't as short as I thought it would be. Michael Moore was there and my sister-in-law's boyfriend (who was already there when we arrived, she got there later after work) got some footage of him but we couldn't get that close, and lots of drumming and singing and dancing and unique outfits and colorful flags and signs and chants... was the best, most moving, and maybe largest protest I've been at for many years. By the time we left, my brain felt like it had been soaked up by a large sponge now encased in my skull. I couldn't have gotten there or home by myself, but I was so happy that I was able to be there, to experience it, to smile at the few other gray heads in the crowd and give a thumbs up to all the union members there though I never saw the three I belong to (which may mean they still hadn't reached the park by the time we left!).

It was sweet too that my youngest got to experience a piece of history, because there's no doubt in my mind that the energy displayed at this protest is not going to dissipate any time soon. In fact, I suspect it might just change some history.

[PS: Here's a shot my youngest son' mother took of him at the protest with his aunt's boyfriend and the gray-haired gentleman behind them with his hair blown sideways by the wind, hmmm who could that be...]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Well, the Comast technician came and was very proficient. And the Comcast customer service guy "on the mainland" called to ask how it went and promised me he'd bring my suggestion into a meeting tomorrow about keeping customer service in the US and hiring more operators and repair people so there aren't such long waits.

It might be just hot air, but if enough customers do it, you never know. Meanwhile, I intend to take part in the march on Wall Street tomorrow. So far two of the three unions I belong to—the WGA and AFTRA—have sent out calls to join them there. No word from SAG as far as I know. I'll let you know how it goes.

Double meanwhile: here's a link to an online interview the poet Burt Kimmelman did of me and was just "published" online in Jacket. Some "interesting" photos included!

Monday, October 3, 2011


We know all the obvious larger political, economic and even spiritual reasons, I'm sure, but just on a personal note, I returned yesterday from the Berkshires to my apartment in Jersey to discover the modem for my Internet connection through Comcast wasn't working right—so no connection.

I called Comcast and got an island accented woman who told me the earliest Comcast could send someone to check out the problem was this coming Thursday. At least four, maybe five days with no Internet connection. Probably a healthy situation on some levels, but I had an online interview to respond to, communications via email with my soon-to-be-fourteen-year-old's teachers, blog updates to post, etc. etc.

Plus just the day to day business that requires the Internet and besides, what work I do now, mostly writing and editing, is done online. This could be my livelihood, and the best they can do is several days? I pointed out that Comcast's a profitable corporation, so if their equipment fails they should either put some of those profits back into improving their equipment or hire more repair people to service it, and after waiting on the line for quite a while, more customer service operators to take calls.

I said Thursday was unacceptable, and that I sympathized with the woman I was talking to and knew it wasn't her fault, but if Comcast couldn't do better I'd switch to Verizon, the only alternative around here, which I'm sure would be no better, but at least initially when they want your business they seem to be a bit more competent.

She made me hold for a while and then assured me someone would come today, Monday, between 9 and 5 and they'd call me before 9 to let me know the time more precisely. I got up and showered and got my younger son off to school and waited. Nada. So I called Comcast.

Another island accented person, this time a man, told me that I had an appointment for Wednesday the 5th (never mentioning Thursday the 6th which is what I was initially told the day before) but that the appointment for today was never really made, just requested! I asked to speak to a supervisor (by now I'd been on the phone for over twenty-five minutes, mostly waiting with incredibly aggravating sounds I won't even call "music"—they came across more as computer generated noises with a speedy rhythmic pattern that seemed to have been invented by a meth freak to raise his blood pressure even higher etc.)...

...more waiting, more horrible pulse rate rising sounds, and then another island accented "customer service" person, this time a female supervisor. After she confirmed that the earliest they could come was Wednesday, I asked her where she was and she said "in the Caribbean area sir" and explained further that she didn't work for Comcast but for an "offshore subcontractor!"

I requested to talk to someone who actually worked for Comcast in the United States. After still more waiting (it was now close to an hour on the phone) a man who said he was in Delaware, when I asked, said he could get me an appointment tomorrow and asked what time I'd like it, morning, midday or afternoon. I said the earlier the better. So tomorrow morning hopefully someone will come remedy the situation.

Years ago when I first moved to Jersey and I called Comcast with a problem I got someone who was in Jersey. But here's a giant corporation that is very profitable that instead of using those profits to improve service, including by hiring more people and thus contributing to the economy of the U.S., whether to answer phones, provide repair service, or upgrade equipment that could be made in this country, instead "outsources" customer service and keeps even those jobs to a minimum so that service sucks and jobs are lost in the U.S. and that in turn contributes to our own economy worsening and so on depressingly.

And the irony is, they'll probably send someone who is a "subcontractor" and may not even know what he's doing (that's happened many times before) when all that's needed is for someone to drive out, bring a new modem from their truck, hook it up, make sure it works, and leave. A few minutes time for everyone, but instead it's become hours and days of problems being multiplied because some corporate greedhead wants even more millions and has no concept whatsoever what it's like to be continually victimized in big ways and small by Corporate America.

My youngest's mother just came into the coffee shop where I'm writing this and said she's got a bumper sticker on her Facebook page that says something like "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas starts executing them"—exactly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I've been in love with Lisa Hannigan's voice and songs and smile and presence since I first wrote about her on this blog a few years ago. Thanks to my oldest son Miles for hipping me to this very recent appearance on Jay Leno's show:

[PS: What a drag that they removed the video of Hannigan's performance. I can't even find a link to it on Youtube now (may just be my technodyslexia!). You'd think they'd want to promote both Hannigan's new CD and Leno's show. Just another example of corporate America's lameness.]

Saturday, October 1, 2011


End of a long satisfying day that began dry and clear in New Jersey and ends after midnight with the sound of rain outside in Massachusetts. Always dig being here in New England, especially with all my kids and grandkids here too, and especially this time of year.

Some of the leaves are already turning, so there's flashes of bright autumn colors here and there. And the local pub in the small town my son and his family live in (and where the band he's in, Bell Engine, will be playing next weekend, too bad I won't be here) was packed tonight but worth the wait for a table for the good local food they serve and the friends run into.

Makes me wish I lived here on days and nights like this. I spent the afternoon in Connecticut just across the line from Millerton, New York, at a soccer game my grandson played in, digging the vistas as well as the game. Then tonight in the local pub/restaurant (where we ran into friends of my older son and his wife who moved here also from the L.A. environs and know some of the same people in Hollywood I and/or he does, it's always been a small world in my experience).

But then I remember a few days ago when I was sitting in the living room of my apartment and a few feet away my youngest son and three friends were playing with their custom made fingerboards (tiny skateboards you use your first two fingers like legs and feet to do skateboard tricks with on tiny ramps and railings and steps etc.) and I turned around to look at them at the height of their fun and thought how cool it is where we live in New Jersey and how lucky we are as I took in my son with his Irish mug and his friends, an African-American boy his age, an Asian-American boy his age, and a girl whose family combines some Caribbean and maybe Latin American antecedents as well as African.

Having been beat up and harassed and arrested and the rest in the struggle for Civil Rights and to make the world a place where "love is more possible" and as MLK Jr. put it in his famous "I Had a Dream" speech about children of different races sitting down at the same table together, it filled my heart to see how far we've come and how much grace has been bestowed on us all to live in the times we live in, despite the 24/7 bad news cycle the media perpetuates.

Time to take a deep breath and let it out as gratitude for all the progress we have made despite the odds that were against us. Then get back in the struggle again.