Saturday, March 31, 2012


As someone who worked for the U.S. Post Office one year delivering excess Christmas holiday mail (and had an ex-cop brother who became our local postmaster, going from officer Lally to "hizzonner") I'm happy to see someone make the case for the U. S. Postal Service. Read it here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Like a lot of poets of my generation I first encountered Adrienne Rich's poetry back when she was part of what a lot of us more-or-less anti-establishment young poets thought of a "academic" and "establishment"—because she was one of the few women, often the only one, included in publications associated with what was taught in "the academy" as contemporary poetry in the 1950s and '60s.

But all that meant was she was that good that the powers that be thought she could compete with the much honored Robert Lowells et. al. But by the time I actually became friends with her in the early 1970s she was moving away from her comfortable established position as academically honored poet, as well as from the equally comfortably established status as "wife" and "heterosexual" female, and experimenting along with the rest of us who were trying to defy age old standards and laws and beliefs about the superiority of patriarchal standards and rules and hierarchies.

She documented the changes that created in her life and perceptions in her poems and they became even more powerful. Some academics objected that she was giving up a more rigorous academically approved technique for a more direct and simplistic approach to what some of them saw as "proselytizing" but the rest of us knew she was taking a stand for not just women, or lesbians, or feminists, but for the future.

It wasn't long before the academy was catching up with Adrienne rather than the other way round. She went on to become a unique force not just in poetry but in the public discussion (or argument, now pretty much implacably resistant sides with no dialogue) about equality of opportunity and the rest for women and for gay and lesbian etc. folks.

I loved being in her presence the few times I was with her in person. She had a very seductively impish grin and way of being humble yet fiercely tough in defending her perspective that was a delight to be around for me. And I found a lot of her poetry and other writing brilliantly clear and reasoned, as well as uniquely expressed in her own voice.

I wish I had stayed in touch more (and for those who have dropped by this post to read about Rich and may not like how this post is a lot about my relationship with her and take on her, that's the point of the blog, to bring to the table my individual experience as a participant in the literary world, as well as the movie, TV, music and political worlds) but the wonderful thing about those who create art, you get to continue to have a dialogue with their work, which I plan to do.

Here's a link to the NY Times obit, a little strident but pretty accurate [The Times has become a little too proprietary online so if you can't get that one, this one from Reuters is maybe better anyway], and here's one to a seminal poem from around the time she was beginning to make the transition in her life that was so much more than what is known as "coming out"—in her case more like "bringing the rest of us along" on the adventure of her ever growing intellect and life.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Harris Schiff is a poet whose work I dug before we became friends back in the 1970s. He's considered part of the second generation "New York School" poets, in which Ted Berrigan, another old and sadly now departed, friend, was often seen as a major force. That's Ted with the beard and glasses on the cover of Harris's book up there (photo by Monica Claire Antonie—of which there are many more in this book—design by artist Clark V. Fox, but for some reason my scan of it doesn't capture the vibrant color etc.).

This book is a reflection of not just who Harris is as a poet, but as a force himself in what used to be called the world of what used to be called "alternative" poetry, a term like "indie" movies and music, i.e. we know what it means even if in the end it's a pretty arbitrary category. But basically for purposes of trying to give a sense of the poetry, it means Harris Schiff's poetry doesn't really read or come over like anyone else's. That's a pretty trick in an age where there are more poets writing now then in all of previous history taken together!

ONE MORE BEAT is also uniquely Schiffian, if I can coin a term, in its use of an intro by Harris that reads often like a prose poem setting the scene that Schiff came up in, in late '60s and '70s downtown Manhattan and The St. Mark's Poetry Project world, that was shimmeringly vibrant then in ways Harris evokes in his intro and the poems. 

The photos by Monica Claire Antonie capture many of the poets in that scene back then (and some still) and add to the sense that ONE MORE BEAT isn't just a selection of tough and honest and lyrically "political" poems but a necessary historical artifact, evidence of a civilization more gutsy and lively and fun than what mainly passes for that now, but ONE MORE BEAT reads more like music then document.

Anyway, here's three examples of some of his shorter poems from ONE MORE BEAT:


Bleat of the pavement beaters
carbon eaters
smoke dust

is in the outer bank

chase manhattan right outta town

the pot of gold

Angola sez
Kinshasa highway


If you are going to
            jump out the window



            lemme go through your pockets first


among aristocrats
the large banking houses
perfected the concept
of the oblique hit-man

they called it
noblesse disoblige

it's one of the few lessons
we can learn today from
the spurious collection of data
we so blithely call

History also teaches us that
language changes constantly
women remain gracefully
men continue to be
it does not explain when that started
or why

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Evan is a friend (total disclosure: my sister-in-law's boyfriend of many years, actually fiance now) and wonderful photographer whose work is on display in DISCRETE INDISCRETIONS (go back through its archives and you'll find some totally unique shots) on the list of some favorite blogs and sites to the right somewhere.  Now he has a demo reel of his film work. I love it. You may too.

Monday, March 26, 2012


So, it's below freezing tonight in my part of the world, a night of deep winter, only it's Spring. And the past few weeks have seen many days and nights of Midsummer, only it was Winter. In fact in the past few weeks over 7,000, that's right, seven thousand records were broken around our country for the highest temperatures on that date ever. And now all the Spring blossoms, and even crops that came out too early, will freeze tonight.

Yet, there are still those who deny climate change. Or say this is the "normal" way weather varies. They deny global warming is real, even though the hottest years on record for the USA all occurred in the last decade.

And then there are those who accept the facts, that yes, islands are disappearing from rising water, the tundra is thawing, polar bears can no longer get to their prey over ice because it's melted away, Spring comes earlier and lasts shorter as Summers begin sometimes, like the past few weeks, while it's still Winter, and last well into shortened Falls.

Scientists predict all kinds of problems as a result of global warming. Only ten years ago they were warning that weather would become more extreme, and sure enough it has, including last year that saw more extreme weather events than ever before in our history.

This is an unprecedented crisis for the entire world. And yet when I went to the place where I work out the other day, above a bank(!), on the doorway from the parking lot someone had taped a leaflet with the large boldfaced headline: "WAKE UP AMERICA BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!"

But it wasn't about global warming and climate change, the first sentence made it clear why we needed to wake up: "President Obama and his team of radical socialists, Vice President Biden, House Speaker Pelosi and others are attacking our way of life."

That lie was followed by many more, including that the unemployment rate is going up, that the stimulus bill was a failure, and that "Obama is trying very hard to wreck our free market system at a very rapid pace in order to destroy our economy so as to initiate a policy of socialism" which they then define as "spreading the wealth of the upper and middle classes to the poor, thus taking away your liberty and freedom."

There's more lies and then at the bottom a handwritten addendum saying "Obama is collapsing and destroying America right before your eyes (Do your own research)." But what they mean by research is obviously rightwing web sites and propaganda since real research would have resulted in this flyer never having been written. [I ripped it down and threw it out but on my way out another had been taped up, which I also tore down and bought home so I could quote from it.]

This is what those who know better, and those who should know better, among rightwing Republicans and media figures and other rightwing propagandists, are reaping. And as it always has in the past, it will not only harm those they target, which is anyone whose interests don't align with the rightwing corporate and super wealthy masters, but will eventually come back to bite them in the ass as well. I hope that happens before it's too late.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Went to the movies last night with my youngest son, my oldest son and his wife and my grandson. A pretty packed theater representing a wide array of ages and so-called "races" and styles etc. All, or most, laughing loudly at another raunchy over-the-top comedy.

Sometimes these kinds of flicks work for me and sometimes not. This one mostly did. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum outdo a lot of recent attempts at a cop buddies comedy. Hill is almost always excellent, and in this, with a shared story and producer credit, he seemed to pour all of his comic skill and finesse to create another of his schlubby characters who redeem themselves.

That could have been boring if his partner had been Seth Rogan or one of the other usual suspects, but choosing Channing Tatum to play his nemesis turned buddy was a brilliant bit of casting. Tatum doesn't necessarily have the depth of talent of George Clooney or James Franco or Matt Damon, brilliant movie stars who seem able to play almost any genre role, but Tatum makes up for that in range.

Some of the films I've seen Tatum prove his movie-star-plus-acting-chops bona fides in are STOP-LOSS, a heart wrenching Iraq War consequences drama, THE EAGLE, a toga action flick set in Britain when the Romans thought they "ruled" it, and the first thing my younger son and I caught him in when he, my youngest, was into dancing, was STEP UP where Tatum played a dancer from the streets and made it work so well it's a flick I can stop and watch anytime it's on.

His roles may not be as deep as actors like Clooney and Franco and Damon pull of, though STOP-LOSS came close, but I haven't seen either of them in a musical or dance flick nor pull of a comic slap stick role like Tatum does in 21 JUMP STREET. And the rest of the actors are all terrific. The smallest roles worth catching, from Ice Cube (as the police captain) to Chris Parnell (as the anti-GLEE CLUB drama teacher) or Rob Riggle (as the coach) to newcomer Dax Flame (as the main science geek).

But Ellie Kemper (from THE OFFICE) almost steals the movie as the conflicted science teacher in a performance that seems almost improved on the spot, but the timing is so perfect and her character and lines so incredibly (and believably for me) funny, I'll have to see it again because I laughed so loud I missed half of them.

Ever since I was a kid, one of the great thrills of life has always been the movies, especially going to a theater with a big screen and hopefully a big enough crowd to feel it's a shared communal experience. That's what happened last night. Folks may have gone home and complained about some aspect of 21 JUMP STREET or took issue with the way some stereotype was parodied (though that's hard to justify with a parody[though I add that it was pointed out that the only "perp" the "white" stars actually handcuff is, at least until the close to the end of the flick, "black"]) or whatever (the over-the-top violence is usually my breaking point) BUT, even so, I heard most of them laughing at times as loud as me, and me and my crew went home and threw favorite lines at each other or recapped the action in favorite physical bits, to relive the laughs all over again, which in my book means we just watched a very funny movie.    

Saturday, March 24, 2012


"The trick is in what one emphasizes...We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same."  —Don Juan (from JOURNEY TO IXTLAN)

Thursday, March 22, 2012


So there's a big to do over the "harsh" punishment meted out to the New Orleans Saints football coaches and GM because they had been paying bounties to players who took out stars of the opposing teams. Took them out meaning they injured them so seriously they couldn't play at least the rest of the game if not for several games or the entire season.

As one sports writer pointed out it seems like a fine line between paying football players to "hit" and tackle and block and sack etc. players on the opposing team. i.e. "get physical" etc., and paying them to "take out" a player on the opposing team. Though it's not such a fine line to many of us.

But my main point is it's nothing new. When I played football at a Catholic boys school in Newark in the late 1950s, every game we threw money in a hat which would go to the player who took out (i.e. injured so badly he had to stop playing at least for that game) one of the stars of the opposing teams. And I'm sure it was nothing new then either.

Because Jack Kerouac writes about playing my team a decade earlier when he was the hotshot star of the Columbia University freshman squad and played Saint Benedict's, my school, day prep school for immigrant kids to make it into college etc., mostly Irish and Italians back then, the kind of school that emphasized academic and athletic discipline and ignored the arts (now it's mostly African-American and has a jazz program and other arts I wish had been around when I was there on an academic scholarship).

Anyway, what I was saying was Kerouac writes about being injured so badly in that game that he walked around on crutches for quite a while, basically out for the season which led to his giving up on his athletic scholarship to Columbia and dropping out and becoming the writer we know, so I always felt there was a connection between us when I read about it, no matter how tenuous. I played for the team that ten years earlier broke Kerouac's leg on a bounty system much like what commenters are acting like is some new horror invented by The Saints. Not.

[I used to have a photo of me on the varsity team from back then but all I can find is this one when I was in ninth grade, a freshman, on the junior varsity team known as "the rinky dinks"—that's me with the tilted head on the viewer's right in the third row. And by the way I hated the bounty system and a lot else about playing team sports so quit and didn't play my senior year or ever again.]

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I forgot one of my main points in the last post about the early Depression musical GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 and that final production number unlike any before or since, in terms of subject matter and approach. And that is how absent this kind of treatment of our own times and struggles are in popular works of art.

In fact this number puts to shame in my mind most of the romantic comedies of the past few years for not dealing with some of the central and most important challenges of the present. For a better illustration of what I mean here's that final number, be sure to at least watch it into the first four minutes to get the full impact of how great Joan Blondell was at making the sometimes cliched emotions in the lyrics real for her audience, but also how politically astute and brave the number is in its details. Especially that little dramatic bit about 3:25 in:


So I was sure I had seen this movie. It's iconic opening number with the chorus girls, led by Ginger Rogers, singing "We're in the money" in costumes that consist of almost nothing but a large coin placed strategically, I certainly was familiar with.

But watching it last night on TCM (Turner Classic Movies in case you didn't know) I didn't remember almost any of it besides a couple of production numbers. That could be a result of the brain operation (or just plain getting older) but my guess is I never watched GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 before. 

It was introduced by the regular host, Robert Osborne, and guest co-host the great cartoonist (and playwright and screenwriter) Jules Feiffer, who both pointed out that not only is it a musical comedy that addresses The Great Depression, in its early years at the time, but it is probably the only musical comedy that ends with a big production number about unemployment, specifically unemployed veterans of WWI and their suffering.

As Feiffer said, it's more pageant than musical number since there's no real dancing and not really much singing. Feiffer amended that comment by adding that the finale was more of an editorial. There's no closing scene of the happy couple at the heart of the traditional boy meets girl plot, but instead this "editorial" big number ending on "the forgotten men" of the Depression.

My guess is that may have not just been a script choice, but a directorial and/or producer/studio editing choice because it ends on Joan Blondell surrounded by these destitute men rather than on the young Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. Because Powell and Keeler seem to represent the corniest, cheesiest, most blatantly contrived and artificial aspects of musical comedies, whereas Joan Blondell comes across as the true heart of the flick in the subplot of taking advantage of mistaken identity to play a pompous 1% fat cat for a fool.

Blondell is so good and so real that once again I was blown away by her performance and screen presence as I have been in other films of hers TCM has resurrected and played over the past year or two. But it occurred to me last night that she is also another of those markers of the changes in the way my brain works since the surgery over two years ago now.

As I've written before, one of the things that changed was my taste in women on screen. Not in real life, and not away from the movie or TV or computer screen. Blondell was one of those old fashioned movie stars who were touted as beautiful and sexpots etc. that I could never see. I appreciated her as a comic actress and that was about it. But much like my subsequent change of taste concerning Meryl Streep's and Annette Benning's and Mitzi Gaynor's physical attractiveness and sex appeal, the brain operation totally altered my feelings about that, from not finding them either that attractive and definitely not sexy to while I'm watching them on screen being completely attracted to them!

One of the most important lessons I got from the brain op was how little who we think we are is in our control sometimes. Like this. I now find Joan Blondell to be up there with any of the movie stars I have fallen for over the years while watching them perform, from Jane Greer to Zoe Saldana. And thankfully, otherwise this film would be just an excuse to watch the crazy Busby Berkeley production numbers that make you wonder what the studio heads were thinking he was doing, and also appreciate the raw man-and-woman-power that went into creating such surreal performance pieces that these days could be done on a computer, but wouldn't be half the fun.

I'll leave you with a video of one from GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (the first few minutes are the cheesy stuff with Powell and Keeler, but for the chorus production Busby stuff skip to 2:40 minutes in):

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


You may have already seen this video. It's been on some of my friends' blogs and elsewhere. It also garnered a lot of criticism from the right, boosting it's validity to some.

And the director, Davis Guggenheim was been attacked by the right as well (full disclosure, Davis directed the episode of DEADWOOD I was on and was one of the nicest, most decent and humble directors I ever worked with in my several decades of acting in movies and TV).

And I'm sure there are quibbles we all could make about Obama's choices of what problems to address when, or about his compromising on some issues etc. But as campaign films go, this one's pretty moving if you watch it all the way to the end, which I urge you to do, if only to piss off our rightwing blog stalker(s).

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Thought I'd just post a few family photos.  Here's my Irish immigrant grandfather in uniform as the first cop in our Jersey town:

And my Irish immigrant grandma, his wife Rose McBride, she's the one on our right her left:
My cousin (my father's cousin but all the variations of cousin I always just reduce to cousin) in front of my grandfather's home, taken around '92 after the last person had moved out and the thatch roof was beginning to rot without a fire in the hearth:
Me and my parents and siblings when I was little enough to be held in my mother's arms, God rest her soul, and after the brother between me and the youngest of my two big sisters had passed as an infant:
A bunch of my siblings and cousins and neighborhood kids when I was probably even younger (the cartoony looking little kid with the huge forehead at the top right):
Me and my sisters, with our cousin Rosemary between them and our two grandmas in the back and some aunts and uncles, though the baldheaded guy leaning to his left in the back is the boarder in our house I grew up with who ended up dating the widowed aunt in front of him:
Terence Winch, whose parents were immigrants to the Bronx and he became the great Irish-American poet and musician and songwriter (he wrote the anthem of the Irish-Americans in this area: WHEN NEW YORK WAS IRISH) and me c. late '70s:
My older son Miles and my daughter and oldest child Caitlin:
And Miles's son, Cait's daughter, and my youngest son (the oldest of the three) a couple of years ago after my granddaughter's recital:

Friday, March 16, 2012


As I've mentioned, since the brain operation I've not only lost the compulsion to make lists all the time and to post some of them on this blog, even when I have a desire to I can't do it, except like the one on my profile where I just change a few things now and then in lists already there.

So I thought I'd put a link to a list I did before the operation of my favorite movies about the Irish, or in a few cases Irish-Americans. I could probably do a better job if I did some research, but I thought I'd just link to it as it was to show where I was at a few years back.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Okay, most scientists, and all scientists who actually work on climate change issues in the field, i.e. the polar caps etc., are adamant about the reality of global warming. And once again we are having not just records broken exponentially but the record for records being broken when it comes to warming (i.e. over five thousand this year alone just in the U.S. and we're only halfway through March!).

But there are still actually people who don't believe it's happening. Yes there are arguments even among some scientists over how much it is being impacted by man made causes, but even there the vast majority believe the science proves it is related to carbon in the atmosphere and humans are one of the biggest contributing factors in that so etc.

The amazing and bizarre fact is that some of the deniers are running for president!

Now that the economic news just keeps getting better and better, the latest being that the stock exchange numbers are now higher than they were before the Bush/Cheney caused Great Recession, it seems amazing and bizarre as well that there are still deniers trying to paint the economy as not improving or being made worse under Obama when the exact opposite is the case.

And some of them are running for president too!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012


"The thing to do when you're to turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you."  —Don Juan (from Journey To Ixtlan)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


When members of our military burned Korans in Afghanistan not long ago leading to massive demonstrations and deadly reprisals, I couldn't help feeling a little suspicious. I was in the service for over four years just as Viet Nam was heating up. I know every service had a code of conduct and sat through classes and took tests and had drilled into each member who the enemy was and what the military expected of us, etc.

It seems inconceivable to me that in a hot spot like Afghanistan where life and death decisions are being made every second and discipline is crucial to survival that the troops who burned the Koran, no matter what the justification (supposedly the Muslim prisoners were using them to send coded messages or whatever) that these troops weren't aware what any kind of desecration of The Koran might cause in a Muslim country like Afghanistan.

Same goes with the three Marines who were filmed by one of their own while they urinated on the bodies of dead Muslims. They had to be aware that the desecration of dead bodies in Islam is another taboo they were deliberately flaunting. that seemed to be the point.

And now the mass murder of civilians by a supposedly rogue Army sergeant, with news leaks saying he had suffered a traumatic brain injury on one of his three or four tours of duty in Iraq before they sent him to Afghanistan. There are also leaks he had just gotten some sort of negative letter from his wife. I had a supposed breakdown after a similar letter when I was in the service during peacetime, so I can understand what that kind of missive can produce when your daily existence is so limited and dominated by conforming to one way of thinking and reacting etc.


I also know that for many years now our volunteer military has been dominated by rightwing political perspectives that include fundamentalist Christian beliefs (or maybe vice versa). Top generals have made it clear they see the religion of Islam as the enemy and clearly the military at every level propagates the idea that there is no country that the USA isn't more righteous than, more morally superior to, and that as in Nam, the enemy has been dehumanized and denigrated (as the right also does here at home against anyone who challenges their lies and fundamentalist beliefs etc.).

So obviously the troops involved in these incidents saw the Muslims they dehumanized and denigrated whether alive or dead, as well as their holy book, as something they felt justified in burning or killing or pissing on. Because their training didn't teach them otherwise or was overruled by attitudes and beliefs promulgated by their superiors for so-called "religious" or political reasons.

And when I think about who these kinds of acts might benefit politically here at home, especially the burning of The Koran, it's clear it mostly jeopardizes Obama's so far successful Afghanistan policy (successful as far as limiting the Taliban's activities and influence to far less than it had been when he established his policy and making it possible for an orderly withdrawal of troops etc.).

It could be coincidence and I'm certainly not saying that the insane massacre of civilians by that sergeant was somehow planned to put Obama in a bind, but the mindset it and the burning of The Koran etc. may have been based on is one that also opposes anything Obama stands for and tries to do, even if it includes acting out what the right says they're for.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Watched this made for cable movie about how Sarah Palin was picked to run with McCain as his vice-presidential candidate tonight.

It's gotten a lot of criticism from the right because they feel it deliberately tries to make Palin look "dumb." And it does in some scenes. It also tries to make her look a little out of it at times and selfish at times. All of which I think you could already deduce from watching her in interviews when she was running for v.p.

What it misses for my money, and by a long shot, is Palin's star charisma. Ed Harris plays McCain and as usually happens in movies about real people Harris's movie star charisma shines much brighter than McCain's politician charisma. And Woody Harrelson as McCain's man in charge, to a degree, of Palin also displays his movie star charisma that outshines the real life person he's portraying. And in both instances Harris and Harrelson also give great performances.

But Julianne Moore as Palin approximates some of her looks and style and speaking voice, but also misses a lot of those things, and totally fails to recreate what made and makes Palin such a successful crowd pleaser and media star no matter what you think of her politics or character, that incredible movie star charisma. Moore comes across dowdier, nowhere near as sexy or physically attractive, and less foxy in both senses of that word. She seems almost doltish.

I hate it when people in the center or on the left denigrate the smarts of people like Palin and Bush Junior. They both may not be very intellectual, or even well informed, that seems obvious, but they are both very bright or they wouldn't have gotten as far as they did even with the help of daddy's contacts and money and power etc. in the case of Bush and physical attractiveness and a feel for what the kind of people who adore her want her to express in the case of Palin.

She is far from someone I want anywhere near any position in government, let alone the v.p. position or God forbid the White House. But there is no denying her capacity to move her followers and to capture the fascination of the entire nation—for positive and negative reasons, but nonetheless to accomplish that.

She blew it with her quitting the governorship of Alaska and her reality show phony bits and her attempts to influence the electorate after she helped blow McCain's chances (though GAME CHANGE does not depict how McCain blew it by really dropping the ball when the economic collapse occurred and in other ways).

All in all it was a pretty obvious flick that seemed to be written by people who were preaching to the choir and assumed their audience would have the same post-traumatic distress as Palin's McCain handlers obviously did. But the movie didn't really show why, except that she was extremely lame when it came to knowing some basic facts about our government and anything much outside of Alaska.

But if Palin had really looked and acted and been like the movie shows her, she never would have captured so many hearts and souls on the right nor made the rest of us take notice, even in anger. The way Julianne Moore played her, or was directed to play her, and the way her character was written in GAME CHANGE was as a pretty ineffectual spoiled brat overwhelmed with fear and ignorance, when Palin came across most of the time, even when fumbling answers and not having a clue about basic worldly facts, as determined, confidant (except maybe for a few moments in the Katie Couric interview) and certainly charismatic and aware that she was. She understood her power and wielded it and I suspect the McCain folks were surprised and outmaneuvered by her and that added to their resentment toward her and their own guilt for foisting her on the rest of us.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


So the latest good news on the economic front is that there are now more manufacturing jobs than there's been since the 1990s in the USA. (And would be even more but for tens and tens of thousands going unfilled for the lack of skilled labor and/or educated workers.)

So let's see, under Bush/Cheney manufacturing jobs were lost, under Obama/Biden they have been recovered.

Under Bush/Cheney our dependence on foreign oil was around 60% compared to around 40% on domestic oil. Those figures have been reversed under Obama/Biden, we are now less reliant on foreign oil than we are on domestic.

Under Bush/Cheney we went to war in Iraq under false pretenses and by doing so, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, including thousands from the USA, and tons of our money putting us into enormous debt and contributing to the economic collapse. Under Obama/Biden no more US lives lost and no more billions spent on an unwanted and unnecessary war.

Under Bush/Cheney promises to get Osama Bin Laden never kept, under Obama/Biden Bin Laden no more.

Under Bush/Cheney millions of jobs lost under Obama/Biden over a million recovered and more each month.

Under Bush/Cheney the greatest economic crisis since The Great Depression leading to another Great Depression. Under Obama/Biden saved from another Great Depression and economic crisis turned into recovery, slow, but steady.

Under Bush/Cheney stock market precipitous crashed, under Obama/Biden stock market back to where it was and rising, slow but steady.


Are there things Obama/Biden have failed at? Let's see, has any administration, group, political party, human being, etc. ever been perfect? So yeah, the Obama administration hasn't been and isn't perfect. But it has achieved more of the goals it set out to and that voters said they wanted than most administrations and surpassed the last one, Bush/Cheney, by so much any comparison should almost evoke pity for Bush/Cheney.

So how can Obama/Biden not be reelected? By the media continuing to treat rightwing Republican lies as if they are equal to objective truth, like truth is a matter of opinion.

Every Republican candidate should be called out on their lies by every true reporter and editor and commentator and anchor person etc. That won't happen because the media like most things in our country and society are controlled by or over influenced by big money, whether corporate or private. That's what has to be fought in whatever ways, big and small, those who favor the truth can.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Finally got to see HUGO. Not the 3-D version but on the big screen. I can see why it got nominated for Best Picture. Not only did Scorcese direct it, but he has a little cameo as a photographer, and Johnny Depp has a silent cameo as a Django Rienhardt character. And Ben Kingsley is superb as always as the great silent filmmaker Georges Melies and Christopher Lee kicks butt as an old book seller.

Lots of fun performances, especially the lead kids, Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz. I even liked Sasha Baron Cohen who can get on my nerves usually. But the main reason I can see why it got nominated for Best Picture is exactly why some critics said it did, because it's about making movies, actually the history of making early silent movies, especially the first "special effects" ones created by Georges Melies. It's a paen to him and the art of early silents from Martin Scorcese, as the book it's based on THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET is a paen to them from its writer Brian Selznick.

But beyond its grounding in film history and fun and at times very moving performances, it's a beautifully shot and conceived film, for my taste, and well worth seeing, at least on the big screen. And though I still prefer THE DESCENDANTS and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS as the better movies, I'm glad HUGO got some recognition for the effort and accomplishment of a master filmmaker trying his hand at something very different, for him, and I think for us in the end. 

Friday, March 9, 2012


Up in The Berkshires for the weekend and my daughter-in-law Jennifer streamed a documentary from Netflix about how Estonia suffered at the hands of the Russians and then the Nazis and then the Russians again but finally only twenty years ago gained it's freedom without a drop of blood being shed and with the help and power of a nation singing.

Incredible film that the following trailer doesn't do justice to, but it's a slight taste of what's in store for you if you watch it. Well worth it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


"For a species that has been around for less than 1% of 1% of the earth's 4.5 billion-year history, Homo sapiens has certainly put its stamp on the place."

"But it wasn't until the dawn of the Industrial Revolution around 1800 that human growth and its impact on the environment began to explode [...] Since then our ranks have ballooned from 1 billion to 7 billion, a rate of reproduction that biologist E. O. Wilson has characterized as 'more bacterial than primate.'" —Bryan Walsh "Nature Is Over" in TIME March 12, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Friends have been raving about this film since it first appeared last year, but I only just finally caught it last night on cable. Now I can see why.

It's kind of the indie BLIND SIDE, the feel good almost true story of a young athelete from troubled circumstances being rescued by the well meaning family etc.  But even though BLIND SIDE is more real in terms of the facts it's based on, WIN WIN feels more real.

That's partly because of the lower budget look and feel, the indie spirit of the twists that make everyone look both "good" and "bad" or not so good, etc. But it's also because the family isn't as wealthy and the boy's circumstances not as unique (for one thing he's "white" as is the family that takes him in rather than the "black" kid taken in by the "white" family in BLIND SIDE making WIN WIN seem not quite as condescending to typical stereotypes).

But also because the mother and father are played by Amy Ryan (who kicks major acting butt as usual) and Paul Giamatti. The boy, like the actor in BLIND SIDE is a newcomer playing a wrestler and cast because he is a high school wrestler, or was. His name is Alex Shaffer and with the help of the two adult actors mentioned along with Bobby Cannavale (who almost steals the film himself) and Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young (who I'm not always crazy about but who has some fine moments in this flick, along with some more mannered Burt Young moments) and Melanie Lyskey (playing the boy's troubled mother, an actress I and most of us first recognized the genius of when she appeared with Kate Winslet when they were teenagers in HEAVENLY CREATURES) he (newcomer Alex Shaffer if you've forgotten after all these parenthetical interruptions) has a powerful screen impact.

And even though I was bothered that they cast Paul Giamatti to play a character called Mike Flaherty, a Jersey Mick like me and my clan and Giamatti came nowhere near even approximating that for my taste, and the locations were obviously, to me, not actually in Jersey (turns out because our Republican governor Chris Christie decided to cut tax breaks for small TV and film production in Jersey so he could give bigger tax cuts to gazillionaires the producers had to go elsewhere, New York state I believe) and it bothered me that people would watch this and think they were getting the real deal...

...Despite all that, the performances were almost uniformly great, the story was believable and interestingly varied enough to feel real, and the resolution was real enough to feel plausible and not all Hollywoody and yet still leave you feeling good and satisfied, I was very happy to have watched it and probably will again if it pops up some time in the future.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012



H. D. and Erich Maria Remarque were contemporaries, more or less. And both felt the impact of WWI, as did the rest of the world. But the two writers felt it in entirely different ways and at a crucial point in their becoming adults.

H.D. was an American who was famous, at least to my generation of poets, mostly for being the object of an early rivalry between the better known poets Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams back when H.D. was still a teenager named Hilda Dollittle living in Pennsylvania.

With input from both she grew as a young poet and with help from both her unique approach to the poem, as they used to say, was widely recognized as important in her own day. Until the second wave of feminism in the 1970s rediscovered her work and her importance to an earlier generation, she became victim in the 1950s to neglect and/or relegated to trophy girlfriend in the early development of the supposedly much more important male poets Williams and Pound.

Barbara Guest face a similar fate when she was coming up as a poet in the 1950s. The only woman among the first generation of the so-called New York School poets, at least as seen by many critics and poets including some of the men of that generation, Guest suffered the same kind of neglect and marginalization.

Thanks to the so-called Language Poets of the 1970s, as well as that second wave feminism, Guest's work became more iconic, at least for many of those Language Poets and feminists and even others, since. [Full disclosure, I knew Barbara, but admired her work long before we met.] So she seems like the right person to do a biography of "H.D. and her world" as the subtitle has it. And she is.

Guest's approach is thorough and unbiased. She pulls H.D.'s covers where necessary, and restores balance to the extremes of seeing her work as "minor" or else placing her at the center of a scene she never was the center of. It's in some ways a story of a kind of privilege, both as the well educated daughter of an important scholar and as an attractive woman in a world where she came of age just as women were getting the vote, i.e. still mostly "a man's world."

There's a spoiled quality to a lot of H.D.'s decisions and actions, but there is also a vulnerability and even neediness that generates sympathy, at least from me, and more importantly that puts her poetry in context and at the same time reveals its originality and importance. Probably only a poetry geek like me would want to wade through what is at times a complex story, but having come upon a remaindered copy (it came out in 1984 and I always had it in the back of my mind to read) several weeks ago, it took first place for awhile in the stack of books on my night table. And for this poetry lover and student of American poetry in the 20th Century in particular, it was well worth it.

While H.D. was spending time coming of age and eventually moving to London and traveling around the continent after WWI, Remarque was trying to find a way of making a living, becoming a newspaper writer, and ending up in the German army during WWI where he got close enough to the front to have witnessed battlefield devastation and share the perspective of the veterans of that war's pointless slaughter. So when he wrote a novel about it, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, it hit a nerve the entire world, even beyond the Western world, reacted to making it an instant classic except to those who needed to glorify war like the emergent Nazis in the 1930s.

The subtitle of Hilton Tims' biography of Remarque, which my friend the poet Ray DiPalma sent me a copy of because he thought I might dig it and as usual he thought right, is "The Last Romantic" which of course is a ridiculous overstatement, but nonetheless captures Tims' approach, or one of his main themes, which is all the great beauties of the first half of the 20th Century who Remarque had relationships with.

H.D. had many lovers as well, and both seemed destined to never find the one they were looking for, or rather to be satisfied with the ones they thought they were looking for but ultimately ended up disappointing or being disappointed by. Remarque, in particular, seemed plagued not only with the kind of post-success letdown that often follows such an enormous triumph as ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT was with worldwide translations and then the Hollywood film version that was an even bigger success, but also seemed challenged to overcome early romantic failures.

Two unique personalities and creative forces, one with continued worldwide success (ALL QUIET is considered the definitive and greatest anti-war novel and film) the other close to forgotten except among scholars and fans of 20th Century English language poetry, but for my taste, both worth reading about. 

Monday, March 5, 2012


Thanks to my older son Miles for hipping me to this scientific perspective on those like Rush and the deleted one et. al.


This blog has become a little too heavy on the political side and not enough on the art and music and movies and books and all that good creative stuff side. But just because people have asked, my response to the Limbaugh ridiculousness is it's about time he stepped in sh*t and finally came out smelling like it.

I used to call his show back when it first began to be subsidized (that's right, look it up), by the big money rightwingers who got him into stations by giving it to them for free etc. and often in the beginning I would get through to the screener, BUT, as soon as they found out what I intended to say I would either be cut off or put on hold until the show ended and never get on.

After a year or so of that I stopped trying because it was clear he didn't want to argue, he wanted to bully and dictate taste and opinion for those malleable enough to fall for his lies and misinformation in the service of his own greed and that of the corporate and wealthy interests he serves.


So it turns out for the first time in years the USA is exporting more oil than it's importing. We are using less foreign oil than under Bush/Cheney and exporting more. So the big question is, will anyone on the Republican and Tea Party rightwing side acknowledge that Obama has achieved what they've been screaming about and criticizing Obama and the Democrats for, i.e. making us more dependent on foreign oil now that that has been proven to be incorrect?

Or...will they continue to lie about that?

Whatcha think?

Saturday, March 3, 2012


"Santorum said that the Affordable Health Care Act will add trillions to the debt. Romney said so, too. And Gingrich said that President Obama favors legalizing infanticide. None of these things are true. Like victory, lies have many fathers."  —Hendrik Hertzberg The New Yorker Mar. 5, 2012

"On the snowy Tuesday when the petitions [to recall Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin], weighing three thousand pounds, were filed with the Accountability Board, in Madison, Scott Walker was on Park Avenue, in New York, attending a five-thousand-dollar-a-couple fund-raiser for the anti-recall effort. The event was hosted by Maurice Greenberg, the billionaire former chairman of American International Group, the insurance company that was rescued from bankruptcy in 2008 by the largest federal bailout for a single institution in United States history—$182 billion."  —William Finnegan The New Yorker Mar. 5, 2012

[The irony, of course, is that Walker accused the petitioners for his recall of being supported by people outside Wisconsin, and that the Greenberg bailout was under Bush/Cheney.]

Friday, March 2, 2012


No need to write any more about Sanjiban Sellew's unique contribution to the lives of his family friends and fans, I was one of the latter, than I just did not that many days ago here. And added to here. He will be missed.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I never met the man but he certainly was at the heart of what made the Monkees popular and am sad to see him go and only 66.

As those who read this blog know, I try to bring my personal experiences as a musician, poet, writer, actor and political activist, among other things, into my daily posts as much as possible to give a reason to write it and I hope for someone else to find it interesting.

So my condolences go out to Jones' family and friends and fans, of which I was one. But I must admit I didn't really pay much attention to The Monkees when they first came on the scene, nor did I think much about their music. I knew of them originally because a guy from my hometown, from the hill where the wealthy lived, was one of the group that created The Monkees as an American TV version of The Beatles. His name was Burt Schneider and he passed not long ago himself.

Burt eventually became a film producer and I got to know him a bit in my Hollywood days. He was friends with my second wife, if I remember correctly, but I hung around with him in the years when she and I were no longer together at parties and possible movie projects that nothing ever came of.

Initially I found the idea of The Monkees an insult to what I thought the Beatles had and were accomplishing. But then, I resisted The Beatles at first too, until I worked out a few of their early tunes on piano (like "Do You Want to Know a Secret") and realized they were really great song writers. I've been way ahead of the curve on many things, but way behind it on some others, including The Monkees.

I didn't really get how great they actually were until my older son, when he was in a band during his high school years called The Dreadsteins ("Rasta from Jerusalem" they claimed, my son wasn't Jewish like some of his band mates but did have dreadlocks for several years) and did their reggae versions, if I remember correctly, of "Stepping Stone" and "Last Train to Clarksville."

Whatever Monkee tunes my son Miles' band did back then, again, way too many years late, it helped me see how great The Monkees were at helping create and put over songs that were better than I originally noticed.

My only other conact with any of The Monkees, besides seeing them here and there around L.A. when I lived there, was going up against one of them in the early '90s for the role of a wealthy gay philanthropist in an independent movie. I figured I'd never get it because of my competition's Monkee fame, but I did get it, and then the film was hardly released and as far as I know isn't available anywhere.

I think that Monkee was Michael Nesbith, whose mother, I was told, (I think by him actually) was a secretary when she invented white out. Whoever he was, he was a totally unpretentious sweet man. We were kept waiting and brought back, as I remember it, so had time to either ignore each other and prepare or chat and get to know each other, which is what we did and was rare in my experience.

I got the idea from watching Micky Dolenz on CNN that he's a sweet unpretentious guy as well, and that all of The Monkees were. Which is what was so appealing to their audiences I'd guess. But it was Davy Jones who everyone agrees was the main reason the teenage girls swooned and screamed and watched the TV show that made these talented guys stars, first by controlling every move they made and then by letting them do their own music which proved to be more lasting then a lot of folks would have predicted at the time, including me.