Wednesday, February 29, 2012


[Click to enlarge & thanks to George Mattingly for Facebooking this where I saw it in one of my rare visits to see what someone sent me and then getting hooked on scrolling etc.]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I have to admit, I was never crazy about Christopher Plummer's acting, I thought, until recently in films like THE LAST STATION and BEGINNERS. I was really happy to see him win the Best Supporting Actor for the latter because I felt he totally deserved it, and his acceptance speech was pretty entertaining and completely impressive, especially when you consider that he is the oldest actor to ever have won that award, or an Oscar period, at eighty-two.

But earlier tonight to get away from the repetitive talking heads on the primaries, I watched THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, a movie that was near the top of the list of my alltime favorites for years and I wanted to see if I still felt the same way about it. especially since I first saw it and was impressed by it during years when I general went to the flickers stoned.

Despite it's political incorrectness in many ways, after all it's set in the time of imperial England, what I mostly loved about it was watching Sean Connery and Michael Caine work out together on screen. It definitely ranks near the top of alltime great duo movies, where two stars make the film work. They're so much fun to watch, and they seem to be having a lot of fun themselves.

But the real revelation (besides the fact that the great and underused beauty of the movie was Michael Caine's wife Shakira, what a charmed life he has had, or made for himself) was Christopher Plummer as Kipling. I either forgot about that supporting role, or didn't realize it was him at the time. But everything that bugged me about his acting back then being too theatrical was absent in this role. He was as subtle and contained and underplayed as the character demanded and was almost unrecognizable in it as well.

How wonderful that the kind of great but unheralded (especially by me) acting he did then has now flowered into these even greater performances in his old age. And what a wonderful example to us all. (And full disclosure, his daughter Amanda and I were good friends back a ways, a delightful and unique individual and great actor herself.)

Monday, February 27, 2012


I'm sure you've heard and/or seen Rick Santorum's comments about how President Obama wants everyone to go to college (long pause) "What a snob!" He says this with total disgust and dismissal. Then says Obama wants to make all these students like him, and says it with even more disgust.

As others have pointed out, including Jon Stewart in his opening bit tonight. that doesn't even make sense. The very definition of "snob" is one who is elitist, a snob about college would be someone who doesn't want to let others in, doesn't want them to have the opportunity to even go to college.

Even if Obama had said anything like that, it would again be the opposite of snobby, wanting everyone to have the same opportunities he did. But he didn't say that, he said he wanted everyone to have the opportunity to go beyond high school for some kind of further education, even if only for a year at a technical school, exactly what Santorum later, trying to clarify, said he wanted, and he also said he wanted his own kids to get a higher education.

This was the Nixon strategy. He was so resentful at having lost to JFK in 1960, a Harvard graduate, he tapped into the resentments of anti-Irish, anti-Catholic, anti-anything Kennedy and "his kind" could be made to represent, including Ivy League educated Democrats. A strategy the Republicans used ever since, including against Kerry and now Obama. (And managed to convince at least their followers that Harvard educated New England royalty Bush Junior was a Texas "cowboy" or at least "rancher" on a "ranch" that had no cattle, bought just before his run for president and which he pretty much avoids since leaving the presidency.)

The disdain seems obviously to be a cover for envy and insecurity. Envy of people like JFK's and Obama's intellectual fluency, cool charisma, and mastery of our common language. But the Republican propagandists have run over the Democrats over the past several decades, except for Bill Clinton, who with his down home good ol' boy roots couldn't be pigeonholed that way no matter how hard they tried. And they mostly did it with resentment toward those who sound like they actually understand what should be our common language. Where the definition of a snob isn't Obama wanting to include everyone in, that's the opposite of snob, but Santorum and his ilk who want to have a college education for their kids, but the rest of our kids can fend for themselves, and anyone who suggests our kids should have the same education as Santorum's is a snob.

It's more than a bubble these republicans and rightwingers live in, it's an entire other world where the language we are supposed to have in common and they claim to love so much they want it to be the "official"language—English—but then they can't even use it correctly. Except their listeners applaud anyway, because they get the message, which is simply hatred for everything Obama is and stands for.

Man, would I love to write the literacy test that rightwingers would have to pass in order to vote. Wouldn't that be a trip. But unlike their snobby past (and present where they are doing everything to keep minorities and the poor from being able to vote) we of the other persuasion (anything other than rightwing Republicanism) don't believe in voters having to pass tests to have their say in a democracy.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


So. They just ended and as usual there were some great moments and some not so. I like Billy Crystal and thought he did his usual good job. He made me laugh a lot and that's what he's supposed to do. But probably someone younger and more current would have made a lot of young folks laugh more.

I was happy to see that they got some of the awards that most people aren't that interested in out of the way right away. And that they eliminated the best song numbers that always seemed to stop the show unless they were done perfectly. Tonight the highlight of the show was Esmeralda Spalding, the great young jazz bassist I posted about here years ago [but had trouble finding the link to since I got her first name wrong on that post!]{woops, my son Miles points out I had her name correct the first time, it IS Esperanza, my post-brain-op-or-just-plain-getting-older sometime confusion}, singing WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD as the soundtrack to the montage of those who passed since the last Oscars. She was so incredibly stunningly good as soon as the song ended I wanted to download it and have it forever.

Another highlight was also musical but disappointing in at least one way. My neighbor, who I've also posted about here I think last year, the great guitarist Stephen Wrembel, who did much of the music for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS played some amazing guitar licks at one point in the show but instead of showing him playing they had some girls handing out popcorn, and then later in the show focused on the guitar player in the band who wasn't playing much at all. Go figure.

I didn't find the movies as compelling as some other years, and everyone who won deserved to be recognized I'd say. But I think Clooney should have won best actor. He's always terrific and his performance in THE DESCENDANTS was one of his best, maybe his best. THE ARTIST was great entertainment and everyone in it was terrific, but still.

Once again I fell for Meryl. For those who haven't been reading this blog for long, before my brain surgery in November of 2009 (is that right?) I didn't find Meryl Streep attractive at all, and I also compulsively made lists all the time, including my own film awards each year. But post brain op I found that when I see Streep on TV or in a movie I feel all googley goofy attracted to her, as I did tonight. And I have no interest, let alone compulsion, to make any list at all anymore. Weird huh?

I felt sorry for Spielberg that he didn't win anything for WARHORSE, a very satisfying old fashioned Hollywood flick that would have won tons of awards in the golden age of Hollywood that everyone, or a lot of folks, in Hollywood pretend to pay homage to and miss. But I also felt bad that the music for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS wasn't nominated, and that the academy could only come up with two songs to nominate for best song category, and that Janet McTeer didn't win something for her performance in ALBERT NOBBS, one of the best of the year.

But then that could be said about a lot of those who didn't win anything tonight. Anyway, 'nuff about that, but did anyone else think Angelina Jolie needs to gain some weight?

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I couldn't find an edited version of this so you'll have to sit through the Irish president's introduction. But if you've never heard Irish spoken, it's worth it. Also just for the sheer unpretentiousness of my people. If it's one thing I was brought up to make fun of, it's pretentiousness.

Full disclosure, Fionnula's a friend I knew in L.A.  But I admired her acting before we met, and only regret I turned down her invitation for me to play the young James Joyce in her show, and the film of it, about Joyce's women. I was afraid I didn't have the acting chops to do a perfect Dublin accent. I feel now that I should have given it a try anyway.

But here's to Fionnula, a beautiful woman, a beautiful actor, and a beautiful soul. May she win many more. (And thanks to my friend Julie for sending me the link.]


I forgot to add to the last post that the media may blame the rise in prices on fears about Iran or what's happening the Syria (but as I noted that would hardly disrupt the flow of oil elsewhere and our growing oil independence thanks to Obama's policies) and only a very few have noted the importance of oil speculators and investors, BUT the right will (see the usually deleted one's comment on the last post) avoid the issue and blame it on Obama's policies which is of course prima facie NOT since Obama's policies have been around for three years and it wasn't until the unemployment levels began to drop and other economic indicators began to improve in ways the right could no longer pretend wasn't happening that suddenly (in fact just weeks ago) oil prices shot up as if, as if, hmmmm, as if someone was meddling in the oil speculation and investment business.

Gosh who has enough money to do that? The mail deliverer? The autoworker? Nurses? Poets? Teachers? Oh, gee, no, that couldn't be. How about gizillionaires who already control much of the oil business like the Koch brothers and their fellow corporate oil plutocrats and those who profit from their moves, like the Bush family has for generations, et-endlessly-cetera.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Some in the news media are pointing out that the surge in oil prices is not because of supply and demand since under Obama our dependency on foreign oil has gone down and domestic oil production has gone up, we are actually much more oil independent under Obama than we were under Bush/Cheney.

The supply is fine and the talk that it's the fear of war with Iran that's raising the price can be easily debunked. But some are noting that the real reason is oil speculators and investors. Who benefits from that? Mostly the oil corporations and their CEOs and biggest investors especially.

The Koch brothers and other rightwing corporate overlords in the oil and energy business are not only making even more unfathomable money but are disrupting the economic recovery which was becoming so obvious it looked like Obama would be hard to beat in November.

But not if oil prices go up and stay up. Unless there is a widespread Middle East war that goes way beyond Iran and disrupts oil production in Nigeria and Libya and Venezuela and etc. etc. etc. which ain't gonna happen, the only reason for the prices skyrocketing is profiteering and manipulation by giant investors who want to see the economy disrupted at least until Obama gets beat (by the rise in oil prices).

It's as simple as that. Follow the money.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


"...and was it not as it all just is in dark days? There are bright spots."  —Gertrude Stein

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


People are always throwing out statistics about how the USA has only five percent of the world's population but uses more resources than...or has the most prisoners per capita in the world...etc.

The latest startling statistic I got from Bill Mohr on his show last week, that we're five percent of the world's population but we use fifty-six percent of prescribed painkillers. That's an interesting one.

Either we feel more pain, handle it less well, or hmmmmm just maybe drug companies convince us through advertising and putting doctors on their payroll or perk circuit that we NEED painkillers more and more painkillers.

Not to diminish the need to reduce true pain for those who truly need it. But still....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Here's one of Sanjiban Sellew's short films that might show why I dig them so much (they're like outsider art films for me).

Monday, February 20, 2012


I'm always writing on this blog about artists who make work that doesn't necessarily get big audiences but nonetheless deserves our attention. or mine at least, because their creations are so original or effective or engaging etc.  Sanjiban Sellew is one of them.

He's been making short films for many years and I discovered them through my older kids. My son is friends with Sanjiban's twin brother John, and my daughter used to sell little DVDs of his films in a shop she had for awhile in Massachusetts, where she sold only items made by people who lived within a certain radius of her store, I think it was twenty miles.

I fell in love with his films not only because they were unique and funny and personal and entertaining but so incredibly local and totally disregarding of anyone else's standards or impact, dependent only on the filmmakers intentions and accidents. You can find some on YouTube here.

I've also written a lot on the blog about my brain surgery and my recovery from that. Then I found out recently that Sanjiban has terminal brain cancer. But in his usual fashion, he's turned this tragic reality into an opportunity, to learn how to focus on the present moment and to express what it feels like to be him in these circumstances. His brother John has done some short films of Sanjiban facing this ultimate challenge, including one surprisingly funny one at Sanjiban's own grave site.

But the one below is the most moving and enlightening for me. The camera he is talking to and the man holding it is his twin John. But it feels to me like he's talking directly to all of us about what it means to be alive in the face of fatal adversity.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Up in The Berkshires for the three day weekend trying to catch up on the discs I get sent during movie awards seasons before the Oscars. So did a mini-marathon with these three flicks that have been getting a lot of attention.

IRON LADY turned out to be pretty much what most of the critics said it was, an amazing performance, possibly Meryl Streep's greatest, as the older Margaret Thatcher. But the writing is pretty bad.

Concentrating on Thatcher when she was old and becoming it seems senile and flashing back on her earlier life gave the whole thing a fragmented dreary predictable hodgepodge of highlights and lowlights, the low ones predominating and making the whole thing drag.

But Streep definitely deserves an award for technical achievement at least. It's an impressive bit of shape shifting worthy of the all the accolades it's been getting.

As for YOUNG ADULT, Charlize Theron's bid for another partially against type performance award, it is a total drag. I have only walked out of two films in my life, as I remember. I feel compelled to give the filmmakers a chance and see their work through to the end. But watching this on my laptop made it easier to concede that YOUNG ADULT was making me nothing but painfully uncomfortable from the start.

Maybe it had a point at the end that would redeem the anti-human slant of the story and her character, but it's like our society's periodic fascination with serial killers, or people who become obsessed with Hitler and Nazi paraphernalia, it's just too creepy for my romantic Irish soul. (Not that Theron's character was on that level of psychotic, but it had that kind of vibe.)

So I watched it past the halfway point and not finding anything redeeming in it almost at all (and I was hanging in because I know some of the actors and wanted to see them work) I realized I was feeling so uncomfortable I dreaded watching one more scene. So I didn't.

WAR HORSE is the best of these three films for sure. A classic Hollywood style for-the-love-of-an-animal film, Spielberg uses all his experience and talent to create an epic with touches of LASSIE COME HOME to GONE WITH THE WIND (matching the final scene of the latter even in the tint of the sky behind the human silhouettes).

It's so well done it's difficult to resist, so I didn't. It was the perfect antidote to YOUNG ADULT. Both were distorted perspectives of reality, but WAR HORSE actually had more reality to it for my taste and perspective than YOUNG ADULT which pretends to be the more realistic in that too often cynical indie way (why are the more positive human emotions and actions often dismissed by critics as too sentimental or romantic when portrayed in the arts but the more viciously mean and selfish etc. is seen as somehow more realistic? That's always bothered me.)

So, it was almost worth watching THE IRON LADY for Streep's performance (and others as well, like the younger Thatcher played by Alexandra Roach). YOUNG ADULT wasn't worth the trouble, the exact opposite actually. But WAR HORSE is an entertaining old Hollywood family film that has enough touching successful moments to make all the technical skill involved worth experiencing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


So, it seems pretty obvious to me that with all the good economic news—that is the stats that show that the economy is doing much much better than it was when Obama took over the heading-for-another-Great-Depression economy Bush/Cheney created—Republicans and especially the right need other issues to beat Obama.

Chris Christie vetoing the New Jersey legislature's bill making gay marriage legal and wanting it on the ballot in November is a replay of the social issues strategy that got us Bush/Cheney in the first and second place. The idea is those on the right less than enthusiastic about whatever Republican candidate runs will come out anyway because they want to stop gays from having legally stable married lives as the right's way of "defending" marriage (it isn't merely ironic, it's iconic rightwing doublethink).

But the issue all over the media that no one seems to be connecting to the right's election strategy is oil prices. As I pointed out here before, Obama has managed to reduce the USA's dependence on foreign oil much lower than what existed under Bush/Cheney and on top of that demand for oil in the USA is way down. So why the rise in prices?

The media claims, because the rightwing think tanks claim, that it's the rising demand from China and India and other so-called emerging markets. But I think it's pretty obvious that the oil corporations have always been handmaidens of the right's political leaders (or vice versa I guess). It was oil money that got Bush and Cheney elected and kept them in power to a large extent and that led to a lot of the catastrophes they engendered, like the Iraq War.

There is little doubt in my mind that if the economy is improving so much that even the constant repetition of the right's big lie that Obama has ruined the economy when it has been and is the exact opposite doesn't work, and social issues prove not as helpful to the right as they did a decade ago, then  they will use their connections to big oil to eliminate much of the economic benefits of the recovery, by causing most folks to have to spend the extra money that comes with an improving economy on gas and end up feeling like things aren't as good as they actually are.

They've done it before.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Here. Gotta watch the whole bit.


So General Motors just had the most profitable year in their history, and recently became once again the biggest automobile company in the world, topping Toyota which had been number one under the last, and dare we say Republican, administration, during which GM was failing so badly it looked like it would become extinct, a prospect most Republicans, not just Romney, were willing to let happen, even seemed gleeful about it if it would ruin the autoworkers unions.

I wonder if the Republicans and rightwingers will give Obama any credit for these two things? Should we hold out breath?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


This documentary came out last year on the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court case that ended laws against interracial marriages. I knew the story well, knew about the documentary but only watched it fully last night and was moved to tears.

The Lovings (and how appropriate was their name, if you used it in a novel everyone would think it was too obvious) were a "white" man and a "colored" woman, as the law labeled them in 1958 when they married legally in the District of Columbia but then returned to their native state of Virginia where they had grown up near each other and where their families and friends lived.

He was a typical looking Southern young white man with a well kept crewcut who if you saw him in a newspaper photo you'd figure he was a "redneck" and probably racist or at least a staunch segregationist like many in the South then. But he fell in love with his wife and wanted to be with her forever so they married in The District of Columbia where it was legal and returned to their home in Virginia.

But in the middle of the night the sheriff invaded their home and threw them in jail for cohabitating illegally. They went to trial and the judge said God created the races to be separate and used all the standard arguments from back then that would have fit well into some 14th century argument not the 20th Century.

They were found guilty and could not legally spend the night together in their own home and state so they moved temporarily with their growing family (they had three children eventually) to DC but came back to visit family and sometimes spent the night at a realtives with everyone looking out for the sheriff.

Loving was a seemingly stern man who talked little, but made it clear he simply wanted to be able to live in his own home near his family and hers and have a normal life with his wife, the woman he made it clear he loved. She took the advise of a relative and wrote Bobby Kennedy when he was the US Attorney General for help. He advised her to go to the ACLU and she wrote to them, a beautifully and intelligently composed letter that is read in the film by one of the ACLU lawyers who at the time took on their case.

There's lots of good footage from the 'sixties when the case went through a few trials before finally being heard by The US Supreme Court which unanimously overturned all laws against interracial marriage (I wonder if it would be unanimous today if those laws still existed, as they do for gay marriage, under the current rightwing dominated court). But it took almost ten years from their marriage, 1967, for that to happen.

I was engaged to a "colored" woman (as she too was called in those days, or Negro) in 1962. There were only thirteen states where we could marry legally then, including New Jersey where we both were from, though she had moved to Manhattan, where it was legal too. But because we weren't yet twenty-one we needed our parents permission and our fathers were both against it for different reasons.

What many people don't realize is this wasn't just a Southern thing (though it wasn't until 2000 that I think it was Alabama, but it might be Mississippi, finally actually took their law against interracial marriage off the books). In fact, if you look at the last holdouts later in the 1960s it pretty much matches what are now known as "the red states."

It seems incredible to me, especially after watching the night before the SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME documentary, that first of all it's a miracle that we have the president we do, but more importantly it's ridiculous to compare so-called "races" and their social and business skills and success using the end of The Civil War as a founding period of African-American freedom when SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME proves a form of slavery for mostly black men was instituted after The Civil War and lasted in the South right up until the 1940s and laws against marrying someone from another race, based on the idea that whites had to protect themselves from their blood becoming impure or polluted, lasted up until 1967!

Obviously even though most forms of legal segregation are gone there is still plenty of racism around along with the effects of a lack of freedom of choice for many if not most African Americans up until very recently. To deprive Mrs. Loving, who come across in the documentary as the sweetest most soft spoken and gentle person you'd ever want to meet, to deprive her of the right to marry the man she loved and who loved her because of supposed skin color? Outrageous. It made no sense to me even as a little boy in the 1940s and continued to make no sense.

And yet here we are in 2012 with presidential candidates vying for how strongly they are against two gay persons who love each other having the legal right to marry. Watch this documentary and you will hear the arguments back then sound exactly like they do now, including the judge making the point that if we allow "coloreds" and "whites" to marry then what about polygamy or a sister and brother marrying and all that speciousness.

Man, the right pretends to love freedom but they've proven throughout history that they're basically scared to death of real freedom. The freedom to be yourself and do what you want if it isn't harming anyone, whether it offends some people or not. And the right to be treated equally under the law.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


"To be loved is to be accepted. To love is to accept."  —William Saroyan (from ROCK WAGRAM)

Monday, February 13, 2012


SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, the PBS documentary just aired, and if you didn't get a chance to see it, find a way. Based on a book by Douglas A. Blackmon, it explores, and exposes, the history of the ways Southern white power structures were able to maintain a system of slavery after The Civil War and right up until World War Two and FDR's enforcement of the anti-slavery amendment and anti-peonage laws.

With re-enactments and dramatizations of letters and court documents and personal witness from relatives of victims of this post-Civil War form of slavery, and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the documentary conforms to a lot of the conventions of this form, but because of the power of the story and the revelatory aspect of the content, which I would guess many people had no idea of (including some of the relatives of the victims of it), this is a very powerful experience. I wouldn't miss it.

I want to thank several friends who alerted me to its airing tonight and to the book it is based on, both among my neighbors in my Jersey town and among old friends farther away. You all were right, it was not to be missed and I'm grateful I didn't.

Here's a link to the author's web page.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Whitney Houston was a Jersey girl who I first saw and heard sing when she was wearing her hair in a natural so short it couldn't have been more than a quarter inch long [I couldn't find a photo of how she looked then and since we all have I'm sure a clear image in our own minds of her at her best I'll leave it at that].

She was skinny but beautiful with the most amazing voice and beautiful face I thought I may have ever seen at that point. She didn't dance very well but she sang like no one else, something that can rarely be said about any "artist" or of anybody doing pretty much anything actually.

I had been hired to write a movie for an up and coming white male movie star and I came up with a story for his character, a Country Western singer/songwriter drifter where he gets hooked up with a black Gospel revival and he falls in love with the preacher's daughter who happens to have the most amazing voice.

I wrote it for Whitney Houston. But the studio that hired me to write it didn't know who Whitney Houston was as she hadn't become a singing sensation yet and besides they didn't think audiences were ready for a biracial romance, something they'd been telling me for years actually.

Of course I was happy when THE BODYGUARD came out years later and proved them wrong and me right, but by then Whitney was a huge star so it wasn't much of a gamble on their part. I followed her early career pretty closely and bought her albums and continued to tout her to people and was happy when she became a star and sad when she ran into troubles.

I was as proud of her Jersey roots and family ties, Cissie Houston, Dionne Warwick and all, as I am of my own, and for a while she actually lived not far from one of my extended family. I felt a connection that with time faded but came back today with full force when I heard the news of her passing and when they played not one of her hits, but her singing of the national anthem in that Super Bowl that time, the clip made me feel like my heart was breaking for the seemingly fragile young girl I first fell in awe of for her talent and beauty and who in the end perhaps was still too fragile in the face of life's hardships and challenges.


So, I'm up in The Berkshires and my older son shows me the opening set up scenes for DOWNTON ABBEY and when it hooks me he shows me how I can connect to his Netflix account on my laptop and watch the rest of the first episode of this British show critics and friends have been raving about for quite a while.

This was just after breakfast. I went up to my grandson's room where I'm sleeping and watched the entire first episode, and then being the obsessive person I am hit the link for the next episode and got so sucked in and compelled to see the story continue the next thing I know I've watched the entire first season and it's dark out and dinnertime.

But I have to admit, it was worth it. All the technical aspects of the show, from the cinematography and art direction, to the acting and writing and directing and editing, are superb. It's a delight to watch and savor. As you probably know, even if you haven't caught it yet or become addicted to it as I have, it's an upstairs downstairs lord and lady valet and maid sprawling saga set in a British great house at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The first season takes us up to the The First World War. Like GOSFORD PARK or the original UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS (the creators of which, I think, brought a suit against DOWNTOWN ABBEY) DOWNTOWN ABBEY is classic Brit class and status conscious sophisticated soap opera fare. But it is so well done, it's like a box of chocolates where every single one is perfectly delicious no matter how familiar or unique each one might be.

I'm too tired to look up all the actors who do such a great job or the creator's name right now, but I know Elizabeth McGovern and Maggie Smith who are two of the best things about it, though everyone in the cast shines. And maybe the fact that my Irish immigrant grandparents started in this country as a scullery maid and a footman in an American version of a great house and so I can sympathize with and imagine them in these roles and what I know of their characters and personalities that adds an extra dollop of pleasure to the whole endeavour.

Whatever the reasons, my friends and the critics were right. DOWNTON ABBEY is an addictive delight.

Friday, February 10, 2012


So, the big noise from the right just a few months ago was the deficit, and how Obama was a monster because the deficit was so high (never mentioning that when he took office it was the highest it had ever been before).

So this year, January 2012, the deficit is down 46% (that's FORTY-SIX PERCENT!!!) from last year when they were acting like the world was coming to an end because the deficit was too high.

So, anybody hear any accolades for Obama, and hosannas, any props, any praise and thank yous any effin' acknowledgment at all that what they had been screaming for and claiming meant terror for their children and grandchildren has been reduced so effectively?


"Cause it ain't about any of the stuff they say it's about. All any of their criticism and accusations and fear mongering is about is their hatred of our president and their whiny spoiled baby tantrums over him being democratically elected. They can't stand not controlling everything because the very nature of rightwing ideology is control over anything and everything that frightens them, and pretty much everything and anything frightens them. especially a president with an odd name and dark skin who went to an elite Ivy League school based entirely on his brains which they will never accept as they continue to accuse him of not believing in The Constitution when he's one of a handful of presidents who actually understand it better than most people (which is why he was able to teach it at the level he did) and obviously close to a hundred percent better than anybody the right has been able to come up with to run against him.

The problem is, the Dems and the prez don't use his victories enough to tout his obvious and factual supremacy over the right's last best boys Bush Junior and Dick Darth Vader Cheney.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Wasn't that what Jesus said? Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God what is God's?

And doesn't The Constitution guarantee freedom of religion not churches get to make their own rules in their relationship with the law and the government, a democratic government elected by the people based on The Constitution not on any religion's interpretation of it?

So why is the right suddenly going crazy over some religious organizations that control health institutions and plans that impact all of us having to abide by the law?

Could it be because our president is doing better than their boys did in terms of foreign policy, getting Bin Laden and ending the Iraq War and lowering our dependence on foreign oil and lowering the trade deficit and etc. etc. and the economy's improving and is in fact better, much better in many areas, than it was when he took over from their boys?

The right needs an issue to beat the president up with, so they've gone back to their usual tactics of trying to set the president and Democrats up as anti-religious or in this particular case as anti-Catholic. We'll see if it works, if they can twist reality enough and repeat big lies enough to get enough un- or ill-informed people to think these claims are actually true.

Hope the Dems and the prez are hip enough to their tactics to counterattack. If the right fears Sharia Law because they think it would impose religious standards on others and claim their religion supersedes The Constitution, then how come when it comes to the Christian religion it's okay to do that?

Unh unh unh.


I just found out that L.A. artist Mike Kelley passed. Another great soul as far as I'm concerned. I met him early on when I moved to L.A. in '82 and dug him and his work. I'm sorry to see him go so young (only 57). Condolences to all and may his spirit be at peace. Here's a good obit from the L.A. Times.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."  —Jesus (according to the Gospel of Thomas, one of the Gnostic Gospels)

Monday, February 6, 2012


I just heard that Zalman King passed Friday. My condolences to his wife and daughters and all his family and friends and fans.  Zalman was mostly known for writing (with his wife Pat and others) and producing the film 9 1/2 WEEKS. And for the cable series RED SHOE DIARIES.

So he's generally characterized as a maker of erotic films and shows. Understandably. But as someone who has often been mischaracterized for something that seems obvious while the rest of the picture gets lost, it's important to remember that most of us have a lot more angles and corners and stories (in both senses of the word since I'm obviously caught up in some kind of architectural metaphor) and rooms and the rest than we may be recognized or noticed for.

Zalman King was a friend. He's in a lot of my stories, some of them in print but without my using his name. Like in the piece "Venice CA (1980s)" in IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE. I met him after I moved to L.A. (or actually Santa Monica where he lived). I went in to see him about a movie he had written and wanted to direct which at the time was being called BAKERSFIELD BLUES.

When I sat down and we started to get to know each other he unexpectedly asked me about a poem in ROCKY DIES YELLOW (a book I was surprised and gratified to discover several people in L.A. knew and liked). The poem is called "You Remember Belmar NJ 1956" (and reprinted in IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE).

The poem refers to a few things from my early teens down the Jersey shore including once mistakenly being dragged along in a car with some local thugs who drove to what was considered in those days a "Jewish" beach town (richer than the Jewish families in Belmar who were our friends, or at least mine) to jump out (not me, I refused but that's not in the poem as it wasn't the point of it) and whack with baseball bats a few teenage boys hanging out in front of a hotel. When I expressed surprise he would know the poem, he said he was one of the boys who got whacked.

We were friends from then on, though his being a directors and producer made for some uncomfortable professional encounters. He wanted me and my then wife, a movie actress, and a woman it seemed all Hollywood knew I was having an affair with, to star in this movie of his BAKERSFIELD BLUES. My character was a rough working-class carnie. But when he showed me his script for 9 1/2 WEEKS I told him i preferred playing the lead male role in that, which at that point was a suave wealthy well groomed gentleman. They obviously changed it when they got Micky Rourke to play it.

The film I was supposed to be in came close but ended up not being made. Then about ten years later, it did, with the characters made ten or more years younger than originally intended because the whole "brat pack" young Hollywood actors thing was happening. The title was changed to TWO MOON JUNCTION.

Anyway, this is to say that in all my encounters with Zalman, and his incredibly talented artist wife and bright and lovely daughters, was always a treat. he was a great host, I loved his and Pat's parties, and he was a discreet and thoughtful friend. But the thing that impressed me most and no one will probably write about in the regular media, was his wonderful combination of self confidence and humility.

To me he was a star. My stars are people whose art or craft I've experienced who I remember for the impact their work had on me (like the people I mostly write about on this blog). Zalman had acted in several TV shows back when I was still in the service and we were both in our early twenties. And then when I was a starving poet he acted and even starred in movies (THE PASSOVER PLOT is the most outrageous and shows his unique screen presence whether the movie worked or not, and he certainly looks more authentic as Jesus than any other movie actor ever has).

When I told him how impressed I was by all that, he took it humbly. He was very modest, or maybe realistic, about how important that part of his history was in Hollywood. But when he showed me a script he'd written or told me an idea he had for one (we worked on trying to get one of my ideas, a story set when we were Jersey teens made but it wasn't to be) he would always introduce it by telling me how great it was. And it usually was in one way or another.

Later on he also made documentaries and music videos and helped a lot of people get their gifts out to a wider audience. He always appreciated anyone's talent or unique contribution to the party or movie or conversation.

He was an extraordinary man, literally. His physical presence was always distinctive and not just because of his unique looks and compelling eyes that seemed at once startled at how amazing what he was looking at was, even if it was just you, and at the same time world weary. He was generous with his time, his successes, his experience, his family, his friends, his home, his help.

The man was a great pleasure to experience in person, always. And I will not only miss him, but regret that after I moved back to Jersey I wasn't better at staying in touch. But he joins the pantheon in my heart.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


So when Obama took office, unemployment was beginning to skyrocket, it's now going in the right direction, down.

When Obama took office, the stock market was crashing worse than ever, going straight down, it's been mostly going up ever since, with drops, some big ones, but the general trajectory has been up.

When Obama took office we were losing millions of jobs a year. Now we're gaining over a million a year and rising.

When Obama took office Bin Laden was thumbing his nose at Bush's failed attempts to capture or kill him. Not any more.

When Obama took office we relied on other countries for over sixty per cent of our energy needs. Now we rely on foreign energy sources like oil especially for forty percent and still heading down.

When Obama took office if my child had a preexisting condition health insurance companies could turn him down, now they can't, and back then when my son turned twenty-one my health plan would no longer cover him, now it will, until he's twenty-six.

When Obama took office, the American car industry, once the pride of the country and the envy of the world, had been failing for years and the right, which created a lot of the conditions leading to that failure, were saying let it fail and disappear and all the jobs that went with it.

Now the American car industry is back on track and an American car company is now the number one car maker in the world, GM, over Toyota which was number one. And they paid back the stimulus money Obama used to bring them back, with interest.

When Obama took office, gay members of the military had to hide their sexuality under the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, now they can serve openly, and instead of the right's prediction that the recruiting and morale and capability would diminish, the reverse has been the case.

When Obama took office we were fighting two wars and spending enormous human and financial resources to do it. Now one is ended and the other is being shut down.

I could go on, because there's plenty more. And he accomplished all this in the face of rightwing Republican resistance to all of it. And though I have my criticisms of some of Obama's decisions or what he has allowed to occur under his watch, and agree actually with some Republican nominees for the presidency policy suggestions, like a lot of Ron Paul's on drug laws and on military commitments overseas, or on Buddy Rhomer's ideas about getting corporate and special interest money out of elections and politicians (interesting that the only Republican pushing for that was not included in any debates even though he was a governor and successful business man yet Herman Cain was included in the debates and Donald Trump was considered a serious contender).

But in the end, our president has done a great job with the challenges he faced on taking office, and deserves to have four more years to hopefully correct some of the things he got wrong and finish many of those he got correctly. And any Republican would still take us back to rightwing policies that would return us to the problems Obama has begun to resolve and just make things worse again. This should be obvious to anyone who is intelligent enough to consider the facts employ reason and logic in their thinking about them.

Speaking of which, did you read about the study that showed that those with lower intelligence scores as children grow up to hold more conservative ideas and more prejudices. Other studies have already shown that conservatives also have many more fears than the rest of us. Sometimes that is called for, but not when it's based on prejudice, lies, misinformation, misguided information, misdirection and blind faith in ideology rather than facts.

Friday, February 3, 2012


It's all a matter of taste, but for mine, this is the best movie of the year and George Clooney should win the Oscar for Best Actor and Alexander Payne for Best Director.

And the whole cast should have won the SAG award for best ensemble. THE HELP won that, but for me there were a few weaker performances in that film that didn't match the standout ones. But in THE DESCENDANTS everyone is so good I couldn't believe how real their characters were, the unexpected personality traits (and not just the typical indie quirkiness and pushed "character"-ness). I was surprised at almost every turn.

The movie hit home to me in ways I didn't expect as well, even though I was forewarned. I went through a lot of Kleenex. But that's my personal history intersecting with aspects of the story. In the end, there is plenty for cynical critics to criticize, but I'm not cynical despite all I've been through and seen others go through. I always believe in some kind of personal redemption and have experienced it many times, so dig it when a work of art gets it right, and THE DESCENDANTS does.

And Clooney. He's not just this era's Cary Grant, all charm and handsome charisma, he's got the acting chops of any great movie actor ever and has proven it over and over again. the guy's fearless as an actor, lets his characters look and do in ways most "movie stars" would never allow. It works for me.

Everyone else in the film is excellent too, especially Shailene Woodley who should definitely be nominated for Best Supporting Actress and should win some kind of award for her performance, it's unforgettable.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


From recent trouble with the law over domestic abuse, he doesn't sound like he ended up being as cool as we all thought he was. But nonetheless, he did change the face of television in some basic ways that were over due. So Peace, Love and Soul brother.