Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Then politicians who rave about "the sanctity of marriage" and are found cheating on their spouses could actually be put in jail for a while, or male politicians who push for criminalizing homosexuality and then are caught with their pants down with members of their own gender, could be thrown in a cell.

Or religious authorities or coaches who tell those in their charge they should live up to standards and practices they don't themselves.

No military authority would be allowed to tout their "Christian" credentials and beliefs unless they turned the other cheek and refused to kill anyone. Nor would they be allowed to rant against "socialism" since they and their fellow and sister military folks benefit from the most socialist of institutions, getting free meals and shelter and healthcare etc.

No member of Congress could benefit from anything he or she is attempting to cut spending for the rest of us on. Nor could they accuse their opponents in other parties of anything they too are doing (best example Newt Gingrich impeaching Clinton because of his affair with an intern at the same time he was in a marriage while Newt was having an affair with an intern at the same time he was in a marriage, etc.).

Man, this is a list that has the potential of actually truly being endless.

Of course, I've been guilty of hypocrisy too, but wouldn't mind being held accountable on the petty levels I've engaged in if those at the top who literally sometimes get away with murder while condemning others for that were held accountable.

I can dream can't I?

[Another example is my not being allowed to tout my once encyclopedic memory anymore, since I could have sworn I wrote a post yesterday but discovered this morning I had only thought about it, so any impatience with anyone over their forgetting something is a bit hypocritical of me, ain't it?)

Monday, November 28, 2011


The other night, up in The Berkshires, I got to watch on a really big wall-mounted flat-screen TV a movie that's being touted for various awards, especially for Best Actress for Glenn Close—ALBERT NOBBS.

Based on a novel set in Dublin at the very start of the 20th Century, it's about gender bending out of economic and personal necessity. It's an intellectually stimulating premise and raises a lot of deep questions about not just historic perceptions and presumptions about gender and gender roles, but also about personal fulfillment in general.

There are certainly some Oscar performances in ALBERT NOBBS, but I'm not so sure one of them is Glen Close's. She does her usual great job, but it's so restrained by her interpretation of the character that it's almost missing at times. And it's definitely her interpretation, because without her the movie would never have been made, plus she co-wrote the screenplay and is one of the producers.

The back story of the movie is that Close has been trying to get it made since the mid-1980s when it was first done as a play. My take is it would have been totally appropriate for her to play the lead in the 1980s, but I'd like to have seen someone younger do it this time, and someone more appropriate for the suspension of belief, though Close certainly does her best, and her best is better than most.

But not as good as one of her co-stars, Janet McTeer, who is on my short list for award season nominations for Best Actress, even though others might see her role as only warranting Best Supporting Actress.

There's a bunch of great acting in this film, but not consistently across the cast. McTeer and the wonderful Mia Wasikowska are at the top of the list. But in smaller roles Brendan Gleeson and Pauline Collins are equally terrific. As, in even smaller roles, are Brenda Fricker and two women I originally discovered in THE COMMITMENTS and are a delight in ALBERT NOBBS—Broangh Gallagher and Maria Doyle Kennedy (just Maria Doyle in THE COMMITMENTS).

But there's also some weak acting, like from the male lead Aaron Johnson, which I blame on the director, Rodrigo Garcia. I watched the film with people connected to movie making and early on one of them pointed out how bad the lighting was in a scene (with no source of the light, making the scene look overlit and way too bright for any emotional impact but also for the time and place) and blamed the director, correctly.

Nonetheless, despite its inconsistent quality, the subject matter is so compelling and some of the performances so brilliant (McTeer's the most), I recommend seeing it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


In the latest post from Robert Zuckerman's KINDSIGHT blog (an ongoing continuation of his great book of personal photographic portraits and stories with the same title).

I wanted to just reproduce the post here, but couldn't figure out how to do it, it kept sending just a rectangle with one of those tiny blue question mark rectangles in the middle of it, so you have to click on this link and then click on the post twice to enlarge it to easy reading and viewing.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Could it have been more beautiful? Bright blues skies, warm enough to go jacketless, or just wear a sweater. It's interesting that when we had that freak early winter storm just before Halloween the rightwingers once again brought up how this was proof there isn't "global warming" but when the weather is exceptionally warm for the season, like today, and yesterday, and tomorrow, etc. not a peep from the right on how warm it is for almost December.

Ah the vagaries of ideological purity. Thankfully the left doesn't suffer from that! It's like the problem with the Democratic Party not being as disciplined and speaking with one voice whatever the party line is for the day because people in the Democratic Party are just too damn democratic.

Anyway, hope you're Thanksgiving holiday was as warm and pleasant and loving and satisfying as mine.

Friday, November 25, 2011


One of the greatest of jazz drummers passed recently—Paul Motian. I didn't get a chance to post 'til now.

He played with many of the greatest jazz musicians and innovators of our times, like Carla Bley, and had his own groups for many years. But I first discovered him when he was part of The Bill Evans trio that included the legendary bass player Scott LaFaro.

LaFaro tragically died while they were still a trio, in his mid-twenties. Evans died closer to fifty, but still too young. Motian lived to eighty, for which those who loved his work are grateful.

There's no telling how even greater LaFaro might have been had he lived as long as Evans, let alone Motian. We got to see Evans develop into one of the greatest jazz piano innovators ever, way beyond his first record with Motian and LaFaro which I believe was around 1954.

But on those early recordings, we see who LaFaro and Evans and Motian were becoming, already illustrating some of their signature moves, uniquely their own, a sound that would soon become the sound of the late 1950s and early '60s for me captured best in their 1961 LP WALTZ FOR DEBBIE.

Here's Evans, LaFaro and Motian playing the Miles Davis' tune "Milestones" live, just to give you a taste of how original a drummer Motian already was. I love it and am grateful Motian lived so long and left behind so many great recordings that demonstrate his unique artistry:

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I try to start my day with some spiritual exercises to help me prepare for whatever may come.

And this morning I was thinking about the way I prayed when I was a Catholic schoolboy, especially beginning and ending each prayer with "In the name of The Father, the Son and The Holy Ghost" (which later became "Holy Spirit"). I always wanted to add Mary (or "Our Lady" as we called "The Mother of God") and Saint Francis.

Then a list suddenly occurred to me (hallelujah!—for those who don't know I was a compulsive listmaker seemingly since birth and lost that compulsion entirely after brain surgery) that went like this:

"In the name of Mary the mother of Jesus, Saint Francis and Saint Claire, Shakespeare and Nelson Mandela, Ghandi and Martin Luther King..."

Later more names came to me, so I thought I'd make a list of all those that did and come to me now as I type this, occasionally looking at my book shelves for inspiration:

"In the name of...
Mary, mother of Jesus,
and Mary Magdelene
Saint Francis
Saint Claire
Saint Brigid
Pope John XXIII
and Dorothy Day
Martin Luther King
and Mother Theresa
Lao Tzu
and Kabir
Lady Murasaki
William Blake
and Walt Whitman
Henry David Thoreau
Emil Dickinson
William Carlos Williams
William Saroyan
Jack Kerouac
and Bob Kauffman
Oscar Wilde
James Joyce
Samuel Beckett
John M. Synge
Queen Maeve
and Cuchalain
George Washington
and Abraham Lincoln
Bobby Kennedy
and JFK
Bobby Sands
and Chief Joseph
Jimi and Janis
Marilyn and Elvis
John Lennon
Johnny Ace
Frankie Lyman
Kurt Cobain
and Phil Ochs
Frank O'Hara
and Frank Sinatra
Lady Day
Lester Young
and Bill Evans
Eric Dolphy
Scott LaFaro
Clifford Brown
and Fats Waller
Jean Rhys
Martha Gelhorn
Lee Miller
and James Fee
James Haining
and Robert Trammel
Eva Hesse
David Smith
and Willem deKooning
Joe Brainard
and George Schneeman
Tim Dlugos
and Ed Cox
James Schuyler
and Ted Berrigan
Benjamin Franklin
and Thomas Edison
Renoir (both father and son)
and Picabia
and among the still living
Nelson Mandela
and The Dali Llama
Bernie Sanders
and Elizabeth Warren
Diane DiPrima
and Pete Seeger
and my children
and grandchildren
and all those I've loved
and still do

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Just to confirm that Fox News is really Faux News check this study out.


As in almost every attempt at a bipartisan solution to almost every problem our country faces, the intransigence of the right squelches almost all possibilities.

That was the case for the "super committee" where—as in the past—Democrats made concessions that went way beyond what their base wants while the rightwing Republicans refused to budge on letting the "Bush tax cuts" for the wealthy expire (even though when they were introduced Republicans said they'd only be temporary, which was how they got some Democrats to go along, one more instance of the right being better at misleading and manipulating anyone whose nature it is to have faith in their fellow human beings, a big mistake when it comes to the right).

As an example of how the right marches to orders from on high, until a day or so ago many rightwing Republicans were for letting the Obama payroll tax cuts that benefit those who aren't wealthy expire, even while resisting any attempt to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

But the Koch brothers have stepped in (their propagandists probably figuring this wasn't a smart move) to say the payroll taxcuts should be extended, and all of a sudden the rightwing Republican political leaders are changing their minds too. Surprise surprise.

This, to me, is a victory for the Occupy Wall Street protestors, whether they know it or not. The pressure their demonstrations have put on the media to at least pay some attention to the economic realities (i.e. inequities) has raised the awareness of the general populace about the economic disparities in our system.

The right still influences the media to skew toward criticism of the protesters and unfounded reports of individuals among them causing problems or committing crimes (almost uniformly proven to be untrue) as well as incorrect assumptions that there's no "focus" to the protests.

But when shots of protesters carrying signs that accuse Wall Street of destroying the economy and thereby jobs and having too much control over the government are shown, even on rightwing biased media, most of the population, according to polls, agrees.

The reality is that those who agree with the perspective and positions and policies of the right constitute a small minority of our citizens. Most of us have more centrist and liberal views and beliefs. Therefore the right cannot win elections if everyone votes.

But they can if they convince enough voters that there's no difference between the parties and that "Congress" and the presidency are dysfunctional (instead of the reality that the rightwing dominated Republican Party only agrees to measures that protect the wealthy and call for more sacrifice from the rest of us, a highly unpopular position if seen for what it is, which is why the rightwing propaganda machine and media mislead and misinform and lie about that reality to keep it hidden).

But after the last election where enough people came out to vote to overturn or resist rightwing policies in various state and municipal elections, the right realized it had "overreached" (their leaders and media immediately parroted that exact term, though it wasn't overreaching, it was doing exactly what they intended to) and so too with this latest concession to popular opinion the right is merely avoiding being the victims of the unpopularity of most of their ideology.

But the right will always return to its default position of doing and saying anything they need to gain and/or maintain power to be wielded in defense of the interests of the most powerful among us—corporations and those who derive the most wealth from them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Went to see THE IDEAS OF MARCH with my friend Bill Lannigan the other night. We had the choice of several movies we both wanted to see but I kept pushing for this one, because George Clooney has yet to disappoint me, as an actor, a director, a movie maker (and a political activist for that matter).

There are only a handful of people whose creativity always works for me, Clooney's one of them. And it was a good call (I think Bill would agree). The cynicism at the heart of the movie I might not agree with entirely, but it's a timely story about political campaigns and the compromises made for success at almost any level of participation.

It's set in a Democratic Governor's campaign to win his party's nomination, so the ideals everyone signs up for are ones I share, but the tactics they end up thinking they have to use to win are ones I've often rejected—in politics and my work and "careers"—which might help explain choices and decisions that kept me from the kind of success I, and others, sometimes envisioned for me. And I suspect that's true for a lot of you reading this.

So even though I believe in the real world there's less use of the kind of cutthroat tactics used by almost everyone in this film, nonetheless, it makes for powerful storytelling. And like I said, anything I've seen Clooney associated with is usually good movie making, including storywise. THE IDES OF MARCH, which he co-wrote, is no exception.

So here's a well told tale, directed economically and wisely by Clooney (who also co-stars as the candidate) and cast brilliantly. The story is worth seeing the movie for, but the acting is too, so it's a double winner.

Ryan Gosling plays the conflicted lead and does his usual expert job of carrying the story on his character's shoulders, though I would have liked an even bigger emotional transition. But he pulls off his more subtle version because he's so good at playing the moment realistically. Then there's Philip Seymour Hoffman at his disheveled best, bringing the reality all the way home, and Paul Giammati matching him move for move.

Even Rachel Wood plays the ingenue role as brilliantly as she always does, a variation done so truthfully I was hooked before the end of her first scene. And Maria Tomei—an unfortunately underutilized actress in my opinion—is as great as she always is, anchoring a subplot with her natural gift for character. Jeffrey Wright, another favorite actor, has a part as well and plays it as it should be played.

THE IDES OF MARCH is about ideas and the behavior they support or are used as an excuse for. You don't get too many of those these days, so again, it's worth seeing for that too. Bottom line, as they say, it's worth seeing.

Monday, November 21, 2011


I'm still without what was my lifelong compulsion for listmaking that disappeared after brain surgery. But, like the last list, here's one that comes from my iTunes library which I am compulsively going through alphabetically to make sure I've listened to each song (almost all of which I've heard many times before, including before anything like an iTunes library).

This one was just my noting the songs in my iTunes library whose titles begin with the word "one:"

ONE DRAW Rita Marley
ONE FOR DADDY-O Cannonball Adderly
ONE FOR MY BABY Bill Charlap
ONE FOR MY BABY Frank Sinatra
ONE FOR MY BABY Johnny Mercer (who wrote the lyrics)
ONE FOR MY BABY Fred Astaire
ONE HAND, ONE HEART Carol Lawrence & Larry Kert (original West Side Story cast LP)
ONE MORE NIGHT Bob Dylan (Nashville Skyline)
ONE OF US MUST KNOW Bob Dylan (Blonde On Blonde)
ONE THING Luscious Jackson
ONE TOO MANY MORNINGS Bob Dylan (The Times They Are A-Changin')

Sunday, November 20, 2011


It's award season again. So far I'm receiving fewer CDs in the mail from movie producers looking for votes for the SAG and WGA awards etc. The few I've received, I've already seen, except for CONTAGION.

I avoided seeing this because I thought it would be too heavy and, frankly, scary. I never dug horror movies, even as a kid (ironic that the first two movies I had star billing in were both horror flicks). Or any kind of deliberately scary movie. Movies where scares are part of the larger story but not the point I can take, but scary for the sake of scaring the audience just always seemed like a wasted effort to me, a cheap shot.

Anyway, I was wrong about CONTAGION. Although the point may be to scare an audience for either some higher purpose—to have better global preventative protocols to stop the spread of new viruses and diseases etc.—or even just to appeal to audiences that dig being scared (that leaves me out), CONTAGION doesn't work on that level.

Yes there are a few moments of gore where I had to turn away, and intellectually the story is scary. But the movie makers fail to create an emotional connection and therefore stake in the story—mostly in the writing and editing, the acting by contrast is pretty uniformly exemplary.

This often happens with movies—and other art forms—that attempt to make big statements. The emotional resonance gets lost in trying to do too much. It's a challenge with a theme like that of CONTAGION because the story is compelled to cover the globe to make its point that because of globalization we are much more susceptible to bigger and faster spreading epidemics caused by new exposures of humans to all kinds of diseases and viruses etc.

But we already knew that. The story should have concentrated on a few human stories that hooked us emotionally and made us care about the individuals. Instead CONTAGION almost does the opposite, with a few exceptions. there's some really interesting subplots that get lost or dropped or overwhelmed by the main story lines (of which there are too many also).

The producers are suggesting Laurence Fishburne for "Best Actor" awards and Matt Damon and Jude Law for "Best Supporting Actor" awards. But if anyone is the lead in this flick it's Matt Damon, who is always a revelation and is once again here. When he first comes onscreen I didn't recognize him for a minute, thinking the director had found an obscure actor who looked like an American everyman, but then I saw it was Damon. His performance makes the movie worth watching to me.

As does Jude Law's, who plays the foil to Fishburne's character. Fishburne's performance is beautifully understated, but at times I wished for less of that and more emotional relating to the other characters and the audience. But law's performance displays so much variety it's difficult to decided how to react, faking the audience out until almost the end.

Interestingly, the movie makers did not suggest anyone for "Best Actress" just a long list for "Best Supporting Actress"—including Marion Cotillard, always great to watch, Jennifer Ehle, Sanaa Lathan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet, who should be the one up for "Best Actress" (or female actor as I prefer to label that category).

Winslet, like Damon, is always a revelation and always terrific, and is so here. I'd have liked to see the filmmakers use her and Damon more, especially together. They dropped that possibility way too fast.

I have to blame Steven Soderbergh for this failure of this movie to hook me emotionally, but it's mainly because he let the screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, get away with trying to do too much without enough time or emotional justification to do it.

Yet, the movie's worth watching as an intellectually engaging premise. My friend Sue, who watched it with me, pointed out that the interconnectedness of all of us caused by globalization is not just a danger regarding disease but that the same set of circumstances that snowballed the contagion in CONTAGION could and may well happen (or may already be) in terms of the globalization of the world economy.

But like everything, this can be "good" or "bad" or most likely both, depending on how it plays out or what seat in the universe you're looking at it from—as say the "bad" results of the way Wall Street's shenanigans led to an nearly worldwide economic collapse, and the Arab Spring awakening led to a widespread, almost worldwide, resurgence of popular movements to demand change in governmental collusion with the interests of the wealthy, etc.

So CONTAGION for my taste is worth watching for some of the acting and for the ideas inherent in the story, but don't expect to end up with any emotional or spiritual or even psychological satisfaction. Just maybe some intellectual gratification.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


It's time for a change of pace. I never mean to post more than twice in a row on a political topic, but this past week was too compelling to ignore (also when I post mostly links, it's because I'm tired or not as sharp and typing my thoughts clearly becomes more of a challenge).

I've been getting a lot of great books in the mail lately. Too many to keep up with here. So tonight I thought I'd mention a book I received unexpectedly recently and didn't know about but found it the perfect antidote to the news these days.

VARIATIONS is a collection of mostly short, or very short, poems that riff off of famous and obscure poets and their poetry (from Basho to William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens to Gary Snyder) yet the poet makes it all his own by whatever the opposite of grandstanding is.

Bill Deemer's poems in VARIATIONS seem to humbly nod to the greatness of other poems and poets and admit openly they're not out to compete with them but to offer a more accessible, more direct (mostly) and simpler take on the same or a similar subject and poetic approach.

And they work so well, it's a book I'll keep on my shelves and return to when I need to read something simple and direct and that'll put a smile on my face and even possibly, in fact most likely, peace in my heart and mind.

Here, for instance, are a couple of his "Epigrams:"

Pray to Saint Quixote
for the courage to be ridiculed.

Pray to Saint Sancho
for the strength to live in doubt.

Or this short poem called "FAME & FORTUNE:"

the cows stop eating
to watch me pass.

more blackberries
than I will ever pick.

Reading these short poems, each on a single page surrounded by white, some of them resonate deeply, like a private mantra discovered by accident that calms down the day and opens the heart to the eternal now. And some seem too casually obvious to need much attention at all.

But when I first read through this book, a few pages at a time each night, I always put it down with a little smile on my face, or at least in my heart. It's sincerity matched by its simplicity but based on eternal truths or at least eternal insights, were just what I seemed to need and didn't know it until I began reading, at first skeptical, critical, even judgmental, until I found myself surrendered and open to their easy charm.

I'll end with this little one from "HOMAGE TO ISSA:"

Issa's Lesson:
speaking in the same voice
to humans, insects, plants.

Friday, November 18, 2011


[And for those who would argue that nothing should be off the table for cutting, Congress has been borrowing from Social Security funds for decades—that was one of the things Al Gore was for changing, calling for a "lockbox" so those funds could not be raided to pay for other Congressional programs—so in that way Social Security has already been cut and continues to be. If any changes should be made it should be that Social Security funds can not be used for anything but Social Security benefits. If you still insist it has to be cut, than those with millions or billions in the bank that came from earnings not taxed for Social Security shouldn't get any Social Security benefits.]


[If you have trouble reading the signs, click to enlarge.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


There was a little exchange of comments on the thread for my last "Deja Vu All Over Again" where it seemed like me and my friend the artist (multi-media, but predominantly a unique painter) seemed to be partly disagreeing. I think it was just differences in emphasis mostly. But this piece by Robert Reich says what I was aiming for and I think Paul was too. Check it out.


Thanks to the great photographer and poet friend Kevin McCollister for sending me this link. (To get the full impact click on the rectangular little box in the center with the question in it.)


For anyone who might be planning on attending my buddy Jamie Rose's tango event in the city to promote her book SHUT UP & DANCE!—it's been canceled.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


In the 1960s, as protests for Civil Rights and/or against the Viet Nam war continued to grow and multiply despite attempts by the police and other law enforcement agencies to stop them, police tactics became more and more repressive and violent.

In fact, that's when the police became militarized, with so-called S.W.A.T. teams all armored up and weaponized on a level rarely seen in this country (though it also happened during strikes and other labor protests in the 1930s and throughout USA history whenever the interests of the "trusts"—i.e. corporations—were threatened by public protest).

We're seeing it again in the police brutality being used against protesters and reporters and observers and even just passersby (as with the innocent bystander who was seriously injured in Oakland last week, etc.) and last night at the original Occupy Wall Street in what was known as "Liberty Plaza" (until it was taken over by a corporation and named for one of the corporation's wealthy big shots).

It's ironic that the rightwing media machine and its mouthpieces (including their political "leaders"—elected or not) that are always going on about "freedom" and "liberty" (though usually unwilling to lay THEIR lives on the line for those concepts, letting the poor and deprived and needy among our youth do that for them) cannot stand to see people actually "demonstrating" those concepts by gathering to protest injustice and demand their rights.

When anyone left of Dick Cheney presumes their Constitutional right to publicly gather and protest, the rightwingers not only attack them for doing that but infiltrate their protests with provocateurs whose job it is to discredit the actions of the protesters while the rightwing media discredit the motives of the protesters.

This coordinated attack on one of our basic freedoms has been happening since the beginning of The Occupy Wall Street movement (but never occurred during Tea Party rallies, despite people carrying guns and being noisy and belligerent and even physical against those who disagreed with their ideas).

The first attempt to discredit the protests was to mark the protesters as disaffected young people who had no idea what they were protesting against or for. That was ridiculous on its face (I took part one day, as I've written, and saw many white haired folks and businessmen in suits and professors and teachers and even off duty cops and firemen etc.).

Then when the movement began obviously gathering supporters across the spectrum, the right—and the media it manipulates so easily—started criticizing the protests for "disturbing the peace" in some way, being too unhygienic or noisy or harboring criminals etc. and thus (from the rightwing perspective) justifying police intervention, no matter how violent.

The Oakland police were the first to move to all out militarization, and if they hadn't inadvertently seriously injured an Iraq Vet and then tried to keep people from helping him, which was caught on camera, they'd have probably gotten away with it (not from the perspective of the protesters and their supporters, including me, but in terms of media attention).

Other local governments—state and county and municipal—have gone the route of allowing the protests to continue until they can cook up the "legal" justification for repressing them, often violently. As in so-called "Zucotti Park" last night.

It is no accident that news helicopters were denied air space over the police action last night at the Wall Street Occupation in Manhattan, and that reporters were kept from getting close enough to take photos or be eyewitnesses to any police brutality, or were roughed up by some cops themselves.

I come from a clan in which there's always been police officers, right from the progenitor of the clan, my Irish peasant immigrant grandfather. So I know firsthand that there truly are "good cops" and "bad cops" and most police do not enjoy getting physical, let alone violent.

There were police last night who didn't rough up reporters, or protesters and there were those who did. But behind their actions are not just politicians but an array of powerful forces consciously or unconsciously doing the bidding of corporate powers and those whose wealth is dependent on those corporate powers.

Why should citizens not be allowed to gather in public and protest and stay as long as they like? Many in the media and among our citizens were impressed with the courage and lasting power of the protesters in "Liberty" Square in Cairo last year, despite police efforts to not just remove them but intimidate them and squash the protest. And they didn't have to contend with the cold!

The excuse is always that it's "disruptive" in whatever ways will most disgust the general public so that police action seems justified. But when someone makes too much noise or is un-hygenic or even commits a crime in your neighborhood, the police don't move in and remove you and your neighbors or destroy your homes.

It's not even ironic that people who supposedly live near Zucotti Park have complained about the noise from drumming. First of all most apartments in those kind of high rises don't even have windows that open, especially on the kind of chilly nights we've been having recently. And the noise from the construction at the nearby World Trade Center memorial and area is radically louder than any drumming (and we know the drumming doesn't go on at night because protesters are sleeping then).

What the authorities dread is the development of "Hoovervilles"—the kind of squatting communities that spontaneously appeared during The Great Depression around the country, like in Central Park and along the rivers in Manhattan (see MY MAN GODFREY among other films from the 'thirties) and expanded before the police, sometimes with the help of military troops, could remove them.

Tahrir Square in Cairo were lauded as heroes among many in the U.S. and the media), in which case (actual crimes) the police can do actual "police" work—not create-a-riot or military action—and find our who committed the crime and arrest them.

The most ridiculous part of all this was that Bloomberg, NYC's mayor, defended last night's action by saying the tents and sleeping bags were making it so "the public" (as if the protesters are somehow "the private"?) couldn't use the park. But I was there on the day when the crowds were the largest, according to all news reports and the police, and yet me and my then thirteen-year-old son and his mother and her younger sister and her boyfriend strolled around the park without any problems. The only problems were the rogue cops who were obviously itching to smack us down for daring to go against their bosses or their own private prejudices or politics.

And now—hey Bloomberg!—the park's been closed all day to the protesters AND THE PUBLIC(!) protected by a phalanx of cops in riot gear. Where are all the defenders of the Constitution now? (Protesting the closing of the park, actually.)

Where this militarization of the police and repression of protesters and demonstrators led in the 1960s and '70s was to calling in the National Guard and the four deaths of student protesters at Kent State (where even if rocks were thrown, although that's still debatable, being shot to death is not the reasoned or democratic response).

And where that led the protesters was the extreme radicalization of some of them who came to believe Mao's dictum that "power comes out of the barrel of a gun." I argued against that, because I don't believe it's ultimately true. But having the police use military tactics to deal with citizen protesters obviously can, and sometimes does, lead to some protesters becoming militarized themselves.

But more often agent provocateurs working for the police or corporations etc. encourage and instigate violence from protesters in response to violence from the police, to thus justify total repression of the protesters and their cause. And the agents' actions create paranoia among the protesters because it is unclear who is really protesting and who is there only to stir up trouble to discredit the protest.

Because of the Internet and the generally speedier transmission of images and words these days, what took the Civil Rights and Anti-War protests many years to evolve through stages of protest—and reactions from the authorities in the form of police actions—is occurring in a matter of only months for this movement. I'm hoping that doesn't mean that violence will escalate equally rapidly.

In fact I'm hoping the protests can remain non-violent like the early Civil Rights protests did, because the moral authority inherent in that approach won over many more supporters than when the protests turned violent in response to police violence.


See why here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Just a quick addition to today's posts. This day, November 13th, two years ago, I had brain surgery. To have lived in any time before the last ten years or so, would mean that I wouldn't be writing this. Not only would I not be able to, I'd probably not even be around to do it. So I am eternally (or as much as I have left of it) grateful.


So the movie I saw with my daughter and older son yesterday was TOWER HEIST. I was pretty sure—given the cast and others involved—it could be an easy movie to agree on, an action comedy heist picture, sure Hollywood escapism.

The best heist flick I've seen since THE TOWN, with parts of it equally improbable, but instead of serious, TOWER HEIST is very funny, though not quite as escapist as it might seem, because the plot involves getting revenge against a Wall Street investor who seems to be getting away with...well, the usual Wall Street crime.

The cast is worth the price of admission, for me, and to have laugh-'til-you're-squeaking moments cascade into missing-half-the-lines-in-a-scene is pretty satisfying too when you're looking to be entertained. The timeliness of the plot, almost an Occupy Wall Street storyline on some levels, is an accident, since the story idea's been around for a while and the project took years to make happen.

The secret to getting it made, I heard, was getting Eddie Murphy to co-star in it with Ben Stiller, the lead. Stiller is still one of the movies best comic actors, and he proves it in TOWER HEIST. And Murphy, as much as he can sometimes aggravate me, is the most successful (tickets sold, money made) movie comedian of all time, yep, for a reason too. When the man's funny, he's hysterical. This is the best thing he's done in a while for my taste too.

Then there's the supporting cast. Like a sports dream team. Matthew Broderick's deadpan rim shots had me bending over from laughing so hard, and when he breaks that pattern (unusual for him) and becomes manic for a minute, it's even funnier. And Casey Affleck is one of my favorite movie actors out there right now. There doesn't seem to be anything he can't do or convince me he can.

His role in TOWER HEIST calls for a little deadpan, a little dim, a little foil for Stiller and he nails it. As does Tea Leoni, an actress I fall in love with almost every time I see her on screen. She has one of the best drunk scenes in films in TOWER HEIST and it only lasts a few minutes.

The entire cast is pretty terrific, including Alan Alda as the Wall Street big shot and Judd Hirsch as "management" but—one of the smartest and best casting choices the filmmakers made in TOWER HEIST was hiring Gabourney Sidibe. I remember when she was nominated for her starring debut role in PUSH some critics and commentators were saying it was sad that she was given all that attention because a young woman who looked like her (very heavy and very dark) would probably never be hired for a role again. Their thinking being how many roles can there be for anything other than traditional good-looking whatevers.

Duh! It made me totally angry because she obviously is an amazing actress. Fortunately, she went on to prove it in everything I've seen her in since, like her role in THE BIG C on cable and now her role as a Jamaican maid in TOWER HEIST.

She gives everyone a run for the money in this flick and pulls it off so adroitly, if they gave Oscars for comic roles, she'd deserve a nomination.

Don't get me wrong, this is pretty much Hollywood fluff, but some of the best comic fluff in a while. Brett Ratner, the director, might be a jerk in some ways (as I've heard from Hollywood friends and he seemed to prove by making what could be interpreted as anti-gay remarks on Howard Stern's show (surprise surprise) (whether they were or not the producers of the Oscars immediately fired him from directing that show this season and with him went Eddie Murphy as the host) but (if you remember the beginning of the sentence still) he (Ratner, the director) proves with TOWER HEIST that there's more to funny movies than Judd Apatow and his many admirers and imitators.

Check it out, just for laughs (and for what I assume will be Heavy D's last appearance in a flick in a cameo as a courthouse guard, may he rest in peace).

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Last night got to see and hear my oldest son, Miles, perform with the band he plays bass in (Bell Engine) at The Red Lion Den, an old and venerable pub in the basement of The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Not only was it a terrific night, with two hot and loose sets by the band, but I had the thrill of hearing the one song Miles has written both the music and words for, "Soul Breaker," played twice. The second time at the end of the last set when there was five minutes left for an encore and several in the Friday night crowd shouted for his song.

If I had been a cartoon and/or wearing a button up shirt the buttons on my chest would have popped. A song only heard a few times by anyone, only recently recorded on Bell Engine's first CD, but not released yet (soon, you can find out when from the website and already being requested by shouts from the audience? Pretty cool.

And all this on another beautiful Berkshires weekend. Though last night it was cold and snowing a bit. Still, today the sun came out and despite the chill lit up the hills and mountains and few remaining trees with turning leaves of Autumn colors, including the bright yellows and flaming reds and almost neon oranges.

The backdrop to another great day to be alive as I spent it with my daughter Caitlin and Miles (a long while since we had the chance to hang out without spouses and younger kids) and a little trip to Pittsfield, the main city in The Berkshires. Part of the main drag has been renovated and we went to an almost brand new multiplex movie theater, The Beacon, that is state of the art, after getting some chai lattes at a brand new coffee and soup and sandwich cafe Market Place, where the service is always terrific, the food good and the vibe Berkshire comfortable.

After the flick we checked out a new and very stylish restaurant, Spice Dragon, also on the main street. It's run by a Vietnamese chef who prepares dishes from various Asian cultures. I had a Malaysian curry dish with super thin noodles and a variety of vegetables just spicy enough to keep me awake and alert to the nuances of the other flavors.

Hope all this renewal pays off for a community in need of some successes (Pittsfield that is, not the other more chic small towns and villages that make up the rest of "The Berkshires" and all that stands for). These businesses seemed to be doing pretty well, so maybe. The movie was packed by a crowd that seemed pretty happy with the film we went to see, but more about that tomorrow.

Friday, November 11, 2011


As a veteran of over four years in the U.S. military when I was in my late teens and early twenties back when there was a draft, I call for a return to the draft, for men and women alike, with no one being exempt who hasn't served.

There is no way universal citizens military service would have allowed for the duplicity surrounding the invasion of Iraq or for that war to go on so long, or any other. As it is now, with a volunteer military, only those who see military service as a way of earning a living when no other opportunity exists, or of getting a higher or technical education when that becomes cost prohibitive for many, or who just like the idea of working with weapons and possibly engaging in violent acts with them (not uncommon especially among young men but only a handful discover that's what they truly want when confronted with the reality).

I didn't do any fighting, because one of the great aspects of the military when I served back in the early 1960s was that every job the military needed done to accomplish their mission—which is supposed to be to protect the citizens of the united States—was done by military personnel.

Nowadays, most jobs, from laundry to logistics is done mostly by private contractors, who usually are paid more than they would were they in the military, costing tax payers more money, and are not under the same restrictions or discipline or even motivation. One of the reasons millions and millions—billions anyone?—of dollars have "disappeared" or been "lost" in the profiteering from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

I don't think it's a coincidence that it was under a Republican administration that the draft was ended and an all-"volunteer" army became a reality. That was 1973, if I remember correctly, at the peak of the Viet Nam War after the Nixon/Kissinger escalation (following their campaign promise, again, of ending it) when more soldiers were against the war than for it.

The variety of citizens' backgrounds, ethnicity, economic status (though the rich, as always could often get out of the military if they were drafted but well connected) especially during WWII made the military one of the most democratic organizations in history. And it was a great education, being exposed to others from backgrounds different and perhaps feared.

I slept in the top of a double bunk in a barracks with sixty or more young men which included one of the first Mexican-Americans I ever met (my two best buddies in basic training were Puerto Rican and African-American, but they were ethnicities I was familiar with), the first Southerners and guys from other regions I had yet to travel to or encounter, and even a couple of dudes from wealthy backgrounds.

Having to work together as a unit despite our differences allowed for an unprecedented opening up to possibilities barely glimpsed before by some of these young men. They called me things like "be-bop" because I played jazz and talked like a jazz musician of the time, or "New York" even though I was originally from Jersey but called Manhattan my home then and talked about how much I missed it incessantly, or "Irish" or "Paddy" for my ethnic background.

And they were given nicknames like "Harlem" and "Iowa" and "Reb" or "Jersey" etc. If our units had included an even wider variety like females and older citizens, the education we were giving each other and receiving in tolerance and acceptance and understanding would have been even broader. But those kind of qualities were not high on the conservative Republican list of things desired in military troops, they were traits admired more by liberals.

If every citizen knew firsthand what those in the military have to contend with and how our government policies impact the military on a personal level, not only would our politicians (most of whom these days have not served in the military) be a lot more open to peaceful solutions to our problems with other nations and entities, but they'd also have firsthand knowledge of all the various groups individual citizens identify with and feel they represent.

I can't tell you how much I learned from being exposed to the raw racism of some of the men I had to work with in the service, whether from the North or the South, though much more from the latter during a time when the South was still mostly segregated, a reality I experienced firsthand when stationed in South Carolina (where I got to see Bob Jones university and what it stands for up close too).

So, even though only a handful of politicians these days have ever called for the draft to be renewed, this individual citizen is calling for it not just to honor the service of the veterans who served and are honored on this day—like my three deceased older brothers, and many cousins and nephews etc.—but to create a military based on the concept the Founding Fathers had, a true citizens army.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Poet/writer and friend Elinor Nauen has always been an original. But her latest book, SO LATE INTO THE NIGHT, is one of those unique creations that makes discovering them one of life's great pleasures.

What makes SO LATE INTO THE NIGHT so distinctive? Well, paradoxically, the first thing that's so unusual about this book-length poem is that it uses the same rhyme scheme that Byron used for his long poem DON JUAN.

Okay, you say, how does imitating the poetic structure of someone else's poem add up to something so seemingly unprecedented? Because of what she does with that form.

First of all a contemporary poem with DON JUAN'S ottava rima (a-b-a-b-a-b-c-c) rhyming pattern is unusual enough in these times, but to make it even more so, the requirements of the form cause Nauen to sometimes break the words in her conversational narrative flow in places no grammarian (or computer generated hyphenating algorithm) would ever permit. And her use of off-rhymes or near-rhymes or sight-rhymes, and more, delights in ways that compliments the irreverent playfulness of Nauen's autobiographical ruminations.

Second of all, and this may seem an awfully dated reality but, there aren't too many book length poems written by women poets, and none I can think of as lustily yet humorously graphic or sexually and sensually celebratory, let alone so biographically candid, as SO LATE INTO THE NIGHT (a lot of which can't be quoted in this family-friendly blog).

Reading this poem-book made me wish I could become friends with Elinor all over again, because she comes across as someone so funny and endearingly honest, even though with obsessions I don't share (like baseball and a certain player's bum). Just selecting some stanzas at random (I swear) I can find examples of her wit and openness (though this selection is more restrained than many others might be):

"Okay, so we've cruised on up to the park,
We've bought our tickets (your usual seat?
The seller asked) and strolled to where the arc
Of blue sky and insanely green field meet,
Scimitared by the curving of the dark-
White, roofless Yankee arches. Summer heat
Flutters as we climb up to our children-
Of-paradise seats in this great cauldron.

Not that while incorporating the -eet
Rhymes (above), I refrained from using the one
That would seem obvious, that is: Derek Jet-
Er. What is a jeter? One who jetes? Done
How, and why, do you suppose? With the feet?
Does it mean something in Romanian?
It would be too cheap a shot to put here
One more aside re Derek's divine rear."

Though she did it anyway, and got away with it. But don't let me give the idea this poem is all "light verse"—though Nauen does make a case for a positive and humorous perspective. She also addresses the challenges of living the life of a freelance writer and editor and poet on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and of her marriage (to fellow writer Johnny Stanton) and of her discovery of a desire to study her ancestral (at least in part) Jewish faith, and her reaction to witnessing 9/11 from the rooftop of her tenement building and of the array of tragicomic characters who come and go there, and more.

But her tone is so open and inviting, her candor so humble (in the true sense of that word: i.e. realistic) and both expansive and inclusive, it made me wish the poem went on even longer. I think you will feel the same way once you let the rhythms of her poetic push for updated Byronesque exuberance take over your mind's ear and eye.

Here's another random sample that defends that perspective:

"Ennui or accidie was once a sin
And now an aspiration. Those who are
Melancholy look down on the cheerful in
Their 'shallowness.' Yet despair is not far
From forfeit. Why do people seem proud to hin-
Der good works and choose futility? Hard
As it may be to believe the world works
Well, it's worse to live where hopelessness lurks."

and this James Schuyler-esque riff:

"I remember standing in our driveway
On the first day of summer vacation
When the gloriously promising days
Stretched ahead. The peonies' libation
Of scent and ants shook pinkly. A blue jay
Rattled in the pine I climbed impatient
For a view. The lilies of the valley
next to the house, slightly off the alley

Would be gone by then—in spring I'd lie down
To drink their scent. I think no one else knew
They were there. Prairie sky above, a mound
Of cumulus clouds in billowing blue.
Plains are pure primary color. You drown
In floods of red, white, green and yellow, new
Every day, blown fresh by the eternal
Wind that swoops from vernal to infernal."

No stanzas I quote from can do justice to the experience of reading this flowing commentary on what it means to be alive, have a history that's still evolving including being a half-Jewish woman from South Dakota ending up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with lusty appetites yet happily married to an Irish-American New Yorker while making a living as a freelance writer and editor and writing in an outdated form a book-length revealing poem that captures the temporal drive of an engaged mind as it mostly delights in just being alive and able to witness and experience and record what that's like in these times.

The only way to experience the fullness of life is to live it fully. The only way to experience the generative power of this unique poetic creation is to read it from beginning to end. I promise you'll find much to engage and delight you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The media and those who succumb to its distortions continues to cast most of our reality in terms the right dictates, directly or indirectly.

The network and cable news I mostly watch—and even the NPR news I listen to on the radio—and the right claims is "liberal" or biased from the left (though for many years now there's only been the right and the center at work in official party politics) sometimes does show a bias toward a more centrist or even "liberal" perspective of a news story.

But ultimately they incorporate the right's perspective and give it more weight than it warrants (if 99 percent of scientists say global warming is real and humans causes are at least part of the reason and one percent denies that, how can they be seen as equal sides of the argument?) or don't include any alternative to the right except for something more or less right, but never left.

Anyway, this is true of the media's response to Occupy Wall Street. At first the response was that the occupiers had no message, were unclear about what they were protesting and/or demanding. Which, of course, was not true. A variety of ways of expressing their anger at what Wall Street represents and mostly is does not mean there was no message, just a varied way of declaring it.

But of course the news media has become so much about commenters and commenting and so little about actual reporting that their formats demand segments focused on one interpretation of an event and the supposed "two sides" to the argument about it.

When that early complaint from the media was simply proven false by the relentless reality of the demonstrations themselves, the media switched to a new false but equally rightwing influenced perception of the Occupy Wall Street movement, that it is not diverse enough, in terms of class and "race."

I know this is false just from my brief participation in the demonstrations and from friends who have taken part and continue to. Look at almost any video on the web of a day at Occupy Wall Street and you'll see not only more diversity than in probably any neighborhood in "America" but than in any demonstration you've ever seen before.

Are there more "white" people generally demonstrating and occupying the Liberty Plaza, maybe, though if you actually go by the ethnic and so-called "racial" breakdown of our country's population from my observations there is a higher percentage of diversity in the park than in the country (except perhaps for Hispanic participation, but then that can't be discerned simply from looking at the people participating).

At any rate, here's some footage from the day I took part, see if you can spot anyone who isn't totally "white" (whatever that means anyway) or looks like there might be any variety in their "class"—though 99% incorporates a lot of variation in financial status and background.

By the way, if you look to your right of the screen at 5:13 minutes in you might see an old white haired gent looking, I must admit, pretty "white" and "un-classy" (yeah, yours truly).

[You can pause it at 5:13 or 5:14 to catch me, and on YouTube it's bigger if that helps.]
[PS: I meant to thank Annabel Lee for sending me the alert and the link to this video.]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


The rightwing (mostly Republican) upholders and supporters and minions and justifiers (etc.) of corporate power continue to rule a lot of our individual and collective lives.

Progressive and liberal (mostly Democratic) politicians and activists and supporters sometimes, not often enough for my taste, challenge corporate control of so much in and of our lives.

In order to disengage, defuse, weaken or just overwhelm any and all opposition to corporate power, an overt and a stealth campaign continues to turn potential activists into cynics who "opt out" which, in this almost totally wired society means passively submit to corporate control whether obvious or not.

The reason I'm bringing this up is my recent following of a few cable TV shows recommended by friends. The first is in its second season: HBO's BOARDWALK EMPIRE. This could have been a very sophisticated show (it's produced by Martin Scorcese, among other film luminaries, and he directed the pilot) based on real life characters in prohibition era Atlantic City.

There are so many possible story lines and important themes in the real history (women's rights, racism and civil rights, veterans issues including post-WWI traumas, political and criminal intrigue etc.) that several seasons could have been done based on reality alone. And it could have been a terrific history lesson and even helped understand the political issues of our time.

But nooooo. They had to take the knee jerk easiest way to "get eyeballs" as they say, i.e. a large audience, by creating fictional characters and story lines that give the impression that everyone in 1920s Atlantic City and beyond were selfish, self-centered, cynical and extremely violent opportunists who would stoop to almost anything, and in some cases beyond that, for their short term benefit.

[The characters above are fictional (on the left) and based on a real person (right) but equally unrealistically (and un-historically) violent (directly or indirectly).]

The violence depicted in BOARDWALK EMPIRE is so gratuitous and egregious it makes THE SOPRANOS look innocent. It breaks my heart that so much good acting and camera work and art direction and other film making skills are wasted on over-the-top portrayals of a kind of evil that certainly exists and may have back then and there, but nowhere near the extent depicted.

Then there's BOSS on I think the STARZ cable network. It too has a big star in the lead role (it's always interesting to watch Steve Buscemi in BOARDWALK EMPIRE) Kelsey Grammer, mostly known as a comic actor, and one I wasn't as crazy about as everyone else seemed to be, cast here as a big city (Chicago) political mayor/boss in the present, a present that again seems to have not one redeeming character.

Everyone in BOSS reveals a self-serving petty and even evil core that casts contemporary "American" life as full of selfish pariahs or victims whose victimhood has turned them into selfish pariahs. It's depressing as hell. Literally. The counterintuitive casting of Kelsey Grammer works on some levels, and his performance, especially dealing with a brain disease causing his thinking to freeze or glitch or misfire in ways I recognize, is often captivatingly effective.

But in the service of what? Overwhelming an audience with the idea, just as in BOARDWALK EMPIRE, that all politics is conducted on the level of Satan and the hellhounds? Give me a break, please.

Then there's a new show I couldn't get past the opening of, HELL ON WHEELS on AMC (I think). Just the premise pissed me off. It's purportedly a serious historic drama with the race to complete the transcontinental railroad as the backdrop. But the main character, the "hero" if you will, is an ex-Confederate soldier whose wife was murdered by those damn Yankee soldiers.

I'm so sick of the myth of Southern "honor" and rectitude in defense of Northern aggression and dishonorable violence this kind of set up makes me want to scream. Was it Dickens or some other 19th century luminary that encountered on a trip to the Southern U.S. the deliberate and public burning of a slave that made him say it would be better if the USA failed and the wilderness and natives took the country over again?

The South's cause was NOT honorable, nor somehow based on gentlemanly rules and carried out with consideration and charm. The "Southern way of life" was based on the brutal and deadly violence meted out to slaves considered on a par with animals, and the war was waged just as brutally and dishonorably.

Yes there were atrocities on both sides, but the forerunner of Auschwitz was not any prisoner-of-war camp in the North where Confederate soldiers were kept, it was the ones in the South where Union soldiers were tortured and starved to death, among other brutalities. There was honor enough as well, and kindness and courtesy and an attempt to be as civilized as the times and circumstances permitted on both sides.

But where are the classic Hollywood movies about the kindness and courtesy of Union troops in the South or the Yankees defending not only their honor and the honor of their women and children but of fellow humans being treated like animals and worse. Unfortunately most of the classic Westerns and Civil War movies of Hollywood's classic era were influenced by the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction Era's attempts by the North not to rub in the South's defeat and to leave them with their myth of an "honorable" cause carried out with gentlemanly courtesy and charm.

Not that the little I saw of HEEL ON WHEELS had much of the latter. It seemed more like what used to be straight-to-video bloodfest films that were so ridiculously over-the-top they were more camp than serious. But these days, that kind of depiction of gratuitous violence and evil seems to be taken very seriously, ala all these shows and the only one worth watching, in my opinion, HOMELAND (though I will probably stay hooked to BOARDWALK EMPIRE and BOSS for the acting).

What makes HOMELAND at least a little better is, first of all, its star Claire Danes. After her almost unbelievably unique and amazing performance as the lead in the story of Temple Grandin (am I getting that last name right?) she has become in my mind our greatest living actress. And in HOMELAND she proves it for my taste.

She not only plays an intelligence agent but one with a secret mental illness in a story line about a returning veteran who was held as a prisoner of war by terrorists for eight years. She suspects during that time he was "turned" and is now a sleeper agent for terrorism. The show provides enough clues to support that, but also enough to support the counter argument that he is just suffering from the trauma of being beaten and tortured and generally abused by his captors.

Unfortunately, this show also has too much gratuitous violence (okay, showing blood in a movie was a revolutionary act back in the 1960s but after decades of buckets of blood it's no longer a radical gesture, just an obvious one and a cheap one at that). And like the others, though in a much more compelling and sophisticated way, could easily be used as a justification for the kind of cynicism that leads to futility and giving up any belief that there's any point to fighting the powers-that-be, which ultimately, are corporations, the same ones backing these shows.

[Full discosure: I met and read poetry with (in my case my own, in hers Alice Notley's) Claire Danes a few years ago, see photo below.]

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Check this out.


It's been a brilliantly beautiful week capped by today's pure blue sky and the clarity of Autumn sunlight making the bright colored leaves illuminate the trees as though they were created just to give delight, which maybe they were.

And then this evening my best pal Jamie Rose gave an equally brilliant reading/talk from and about her book SHUT UP & DANCE! at the local bookstore with friends and family in attendance.

Now, if only the corporation in charge of power in this part of the world could find a way to get the still live wire hanging into the street just one building up from mine, keeping my street still blocked off with police tape and barricades.

Like I said in an earlier post and I'm sure so many are feeling in this area and the surrounding states: How's that corporations-can-do-it-better-than-the-government thingee working out for y'all? Not so hot if you're still waiting for the power to be turned on, or live wires to be removed or repaired.

Given the "weather events" of the past year and the recent scientific conclusion (see SCIENCE magazine)  that the predictions for the damage done by global warming were too optimistic—it's happening much faster and having a bigger impact already than they thought—you'd think the power companies would be better prepared, or would use some of their enormous profits to hire more workers and buy more trucks and equipment etc. and that even Republican politicians would want to get the government involved, raise revenues to hire workers to rapidly respond to these catastrophes and better prepare for them.

But nope, it's business as usual, meaning business makes even more money and those at the top who work in that business do too, while the rest of us sink into the "new normal"—or as I've been calling it for many years now, "the new Dark Ages" (in more ways than one).

Friday, November 4, 2011


If you're anywhere near Maplewood, New Jersey, tomorrow evening at 7:30 I highly recommend you stop by the local bookstore, WORDS, to see my very funny, yet still glamorous, multi-talented regular commenter on this blog and dear old pal, Jamie Rose read from and sign her part self-help part-autobiographical first book (full disclosure: I helped edit it and am quoted in it) SHUT UP & DANCE!

It's the story of how she found lasting romance (not to mention marriage) by overcoming her need to "run the show" all the time (in relationships) because that's how she achieved her independence and success as a film and TV actress in the competitive world of Hollywood.

She grew up acting, starting when she was barely past toddlerhood, becoming a household fixture for many as a young woman on the '80s TV hit FALCON CREST and later playing the first uniformed, solo, female cop on TV in a show built around her character: LADY BLUE.

In more recent years you've seen her as a guest star on everything from E.R. to TWO AND A HALF MEN, and in such cult classic films as BIKER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN!

She's always been a terrific writer and I'm happy that's come together in her first book which not only tells the story of how she found lifelong romance after a lifetime of start-and-stop mini-love-stories that didn't work out because of...well, read the book, which, by the way is worth it if only for the photos, but also contains some great exercises for discovering "the goddess" in yourself (aimed obviously at the ladies) as well as how to have a more fluid, balanced and lasting relationship with your mate of any gender.

Come by if you can: I'll be there for sure, tomorrow, Saturday, November 5th, 7:30PM, WORDS, 179 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood, NJ.

[And if you can't make it, buy the book!—the freelance actor/writer gig ain't easy to make work in any economy, but these days...]

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Went into the city last night to the poetry project at St. Mark's to hear Doug Lang and Ron Silliman read their poetry. What a delight it was.

Doug is a dear friend from DC who I don't get to see that often, so it was just a pleasure to be in his company. He is also one of my favorite poets and writers but publishes sporadically and had never read at St. Mark's before, so it was an event just to hear him.

What a pleasant surprise to then discover he would read all new never before heard (at least by those of us in the room last night) poems, a series of sonnets that were as "chiseled" (old friend, poet Bruce Andrews' term) and yet expansive, as Michelangelo sculptures.

Each sonnet created a narrative drive without being a "story" and offered juxtapositions and dissonances that kept your mind alert and rewarded for it, as well as offering humor and poignancy wrapped in a word machine that seemed at once original and familiar.

I couldn't have asked for a better poetry experience. And thankfully my brain was functioning well enough to be able to follow his unique language structures and enjoy them (though walking to the event after dinner with another old friend and poet, Simon Pettet, and to the nearby bar after the event with a small crowd of old friends, I couldn't take the street sounds and sights, which up until the brain operation I'd always found exhilarating but now find almost painful).

Ron read second and it was a treat to hear him. I can't even remember the last time I heard him read but I suspect it was probably in the 1970s, which was also the last time I'd seen him I think. I first became aware of his work in the late 1960s or early '70s and included some in a poetry anthology I put together in 1974 that came out in '76 called NONE OF THE ABOVE. I dug his work then and have since been impressed with the ways he has expanded on his original poetic strategies.

Unlike Doug, Ron's work is much more readily available, but most of what he read last night was recent work and new to me. He is one of our most prolific poets and writers (his "Silliman's Blog" was one of, if not the, first poetry blog on the Internet and is I believe the most read). And whereas Doug's books, even his early novels, are mostly slim volumes, Ron has a few that rival Pound's CANTOS (like his ALPHABET, which is actually bigger than THE CANTOS).

It was a great match up, a terrific and even unique poetry event. And it was even more satisfying to me because there were so many old friends from the poetry world there, like my oldest friend in that world, Ray DiPalma, and the aforementioned Bruce Andrews and Simon Pettet, and John Godfrey and Vyt Bakaitis, Michael Gottlieb and James Sherry, Elinor Nauen and more.

Quite a delight, for which I'm grateful, as I am for so much these days, including the beautiful Fall weather we are having today, even though there are still small patches of snow around town and neighbors still without electricity or heat (Silliman, who lives in Pennsylvania said he's been without either for five days after the recent almost unprecedented October snowstorm) and still live wires blocking streets (including the one I live on) almost a week since the storm and the local power corporations still undermanned and under-equipped, though profits are up as usual (so how's that "let- corporations-take-care-of-us-they-can-do-it-better-than-the-government" thing working out for ya—and the rest of us—mister and missus rightwinger?).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Me at the piano on the small stage at The Cornelia Street Cafe just before the reading started that I took part in Oct. 20th. I'm not sure who took the photo, maybe the reading organizer my old pal Eve Brandstein. The reason I don't know is because I was so intent on playing quietly, I thought no one was noticing and was completely unaware that someone was standing on the stage taking a photograph! That's the kind of focus it seems only (almost) creative work can bring to me, otherwise I'm the original easily distrac..."Squirrel!"

It was a nice piano, a Yamaha baby grand, great action, a delight to play around on. When I got up from it there was a little burst of applause which also surprised me since I thought I was playing so quietly and folks were busy talking and socializing that no one even noticed. A sweet moment for someone who rarely plays privately, let alone publicly.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I wanted to get that greeting out before the day is done.


On the second "snow day" for my young son and his schoolmates because of the second weather catastrophe for our state, New Jersey, in only a mater of months (the snow isn't what's keeping him home from school, the downed wires are, which includes a live one only one building up from the old house our apartment is in resulting in our street being closed off since the weekend) I want to offer this video that is making the rounds among some of my friends, including my friend and neighbor "Doc" Burke who sent it to me.

I don't agree with everything the speaker in this video says, but I appreciate his reasoned, logical argument for seeing our president and his achievements more "relistically":