Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THE AFTERMATH

I was pretty tired and distracted when I posted last night and hope I didn't sound like I was in any way equating my teenage son and his friend having their skateboards taken by a local cop with the devastation and hardship being faced by many of our neighbors and friends and fellow Jersey and New York and the rest of the Eastern seaboard citizens.

It just seemed emblematic to me of how we've gotten our priorities so screwed up. I heard our mayor on NPR this morning, a Manhattan based show that preempted the usual BBC fare that's on at 9AM to bring news of the aftermath of the storm. And it isn't good. Our town was spared the flooding so only suffered wind damage. But even though it's a small town there's over 9,100 of my neighbors still without power and according to the mayor the town hasn't even seen one gas and electric repair crew yet.

That's probably because they're being used to help out in worse hit areas. There are neighborhoods in next door Newark and nearby Hoboken where residents are still in need of evacuation, and fires starting up in communities all around New Jersey due to gas leaks and in some instances power coming back on where electric wires are exposed etc.

One of the reasons I was put off by the cop citing my youngest and his friend for skateboarding in the center of the little village area of our town is that most of his friends, including the ones he was with, have no power, the schools have been closed and still are, so they've been cooped up mostly at my apartment for days. They can't skate where they usually do due to downed wires and fallen trees still not repaired or removed, and our little village business area that I live in has been shut down for days as well.

But last night several of the restaurants and bars opened especially for people without power to get a fresh warm meal, and my son and his friends were able to get something besides pizza. This little main street style area is only four blocks long and the part they skated was less than two blocks and for this, a young new looking local cop with stores with windows gone and merchandise exposed and wires lying in streets and alarm sirens going off for whatever reasons etc. takes time to actually write up tickets on these kids as well ad confiscate their boards.

It's like our politicians, especially the rightwing Republican ones, ignoring global warming and climate change and actual infrastructure needs for our future rather than our past (Romney wanting to cut funding for wind and solar energy innovations and instead spend our tax dollars on the same old greedy oil corporations tax cuts and subsidies etc. as well as the completely outdated and worst polluting coal corporations etc.) to focus on whether a raped woman should be forced to carry any fetus that might result from that!

There have been some statements made by Democratic politicians since Sandy hit inferring a connection to global warming and even talking about the need to change the ways we think about infrastructure in New York and Jersey and the rest of the Northeast and the country, but where are the bold statements about how this is an opportunity to rebuild for the future, to use the models of European and other advanced nations' (and even some so-called underdeveloped countries) in dealing with rising sea levels and stronger weather events etc. to create a city of the future on Manhattan island and rethink the Jersey shore entirely, etc. etc.

But it will take vision and money to make safer and cleaner and fairer cities and communities and there is no doubt which political party is more apt to stay mired in some imaginary past and continue to give breaks to those that contributed most to the predicament we've found ourselves in (i.e. big oil and coal etc.). As lame as the Democrats can be, at least they are forward looking when it comes to scientific research and fact based realities.

Now my new worry is that the worst hit areas that will take the longest to recover from the devastation of Sandy are the poorer communities in my state so least likely to be able to have working polls or be able to get to the polls to vote in the rapidly approaching election. Let's see if anyone has a big vision for correcting that (let alone the scandal that many electronic voting machines are too easily able to be hacked or owned by rightwing Republican families or corporations!).

[PS: Just got back from trying to get the skateboards from the police station where I was told the property officer wasn't there because he was out dealing with the emergency. It took me a half hour to make the five minute drive because every traffic light but one was out and the route I had to take, detouring around streets closed due to fallen trees and wires, was down the main business street (not our little village area) that runs from communities way to the west all the way to downtown Newark which has traffic lights every few blocks, every one of them was out, and the many businesses that line the street were closed or boarded up etc. which is why our little village area was swamped with more traffic than it has ever had because it's the only area with power for miles around.

Yet not one cop in sight. I'm sure they are dealing with more important things than traffic so why did one of them take the time last night to confiscate a couple of teenagers' skateboards?! I left a message to that effect on the property officer's voicemail pointing out that I have stayed off the roads as recommended but just had to spend a half hour making a five minute trip and thus contributing to the traffic in order to.... I know, I know, and I am truly and hugely grateful that this is the main thing I had to deal with this morning compared to so many others. But like I said above, getting their priorities straight would surely make life easier for all of us, while understanding that no one's perfect, not even young healthy seemingly smart enough cops with more important things to do...]

THE NIGHT AFTER

So turns out there was more than one store window broken by flying debris in our little village section of my town. And the cops finally cordoned off the part of my street with the live wire hanging low across it. They also took my son and one of his friend's skateboards away for skating in the center of the little village section, and without helmets. 'Cause lawd knows there ain't enough for the police to be doing.

I love what we now call "first responders" because they are constantly displaying their courage to protect strangers, usually, including me. And I come from a clan full of cops. And it's not the police's fault that the town passed a law forbidding skateboarding anywhere in the village part of our town. But as I told the cop, there are drunken jocks and ex-jocks coming out of the bars from midnight until they close, so loud they wake me up sometimes with my windows shut. No cops seem to bother them. Or the upright citizens who forget to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks, or drive over the speed limit on my street all the time, or jaywalk constantly, or etc. etc. etc. Why is it the kids who skateboard who always get the most flack.

I know, I know, they're noisy and sometimes seem reckless or at least unaware of those around them. I wish they weren't those things too. But I'd rather have them hanging around our little village and using their boards to get from one end to the other, than have them off in the dark somewhere getting into private trouble the cops don't notice but cause more damage in the end.

I'm just venting before I turn in, with my son and two teenage skate buddies (one a female) still up and discussing skaters techniques etc. before they finally crash and their low level noise is distracting me and delighting me at the same time. Youth. A great antidote to the tragic news of more bodies discovered from the storm and more dire predictions on how long it will take to put my home state back together again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

THE DAY AFTER

Some wind, some rain, but basically calm. A lot of neighbors and family and friends have no power and some have house damage from fallen branches and trees, but all safe and uninjured thankfully.

Unfortunately there have been casualties, as I'm sure you've heard on the news. Some the result of not taking the recommended precautions. So many people returned to undamaged homes after Irene they decided to sit this one out despite evacuation notices and ended up stranded and having to be rescued, or in a few cases dead. Our hearts go out to those who lost friends or family and those who lost their homes. Most of them are down the Jersey shore and on Long Island.

My teenager and his friend are out assessing the damage around our neighborhood. That line I mentioned in the last post is still strung across our street, high enough for low cars to pass under so they are, despite the yellow tape, but SUVs can't make it. And the giant branch, big as many trees is still in the street as well and another in the back of this building.

Interestingly, my teenager came home with a phone photo of the only store in town that was obviously damaged and it was one of the liquor stores, their front window was all smashed. Hmmmmm. Wonder if some bozos might have had a bad idea in the dark last night, or if some flying debris just happened to single out the store with the bottles in the window.

And thankfully at least Mayor Bloomberg raised the possibility of climate change contributing to this historic storm, unique in the weather history of this area (including a record breaking almost 33 foot high wave in New York harbor!). It's clear that the structural engineering of a hundred or fifty or even twenty years ago is now irrelevant in the face of the extreme weather systems being produced by the changes in the global climate brought on by global warming.

Suddenly have a houseful. My teen's mother here to take a shower and use her computer since her power and heat and hot water are off, and friends of his whose homes have no power. Everyone using our power to charge their phones. Life goes on, thank God.

Monday, October 29, 2012

THE WORST IS OVER

Police came by and closed my street, put up that yellow tape etc. due to a downed wire. A lot of my friends nearby (and the restaurants right across the alley from me) have no power, but gratefully we still do. Maybe it's a kind of cosmic justice since we've lost power in my building many times in recent years, one time for a week, while everyone else seemed to have power. So tonight I guess it was our turn to have the power stay on.

Gusts were recorded in Newark which is right next door, as high as 75 miles per hour. I suspect some of the gusts we felt here were even higher. But the rain was pretty minimal and we're a few blocks from the river and the wind seems to be calming down a little (supposed to be windy for the next two days but not as bad as the peak) which means it still sounds pretty wild at times but nothing like a few hours ago.


There's been a lot of transformer fires as well, lighting up the dark like lightening coming from the ground. One of my teenage son's friend's home has no power so he came over several hours ago to spend the night here. They seem to be on a conference call with other friends who have no power. A great adventure for them, which I remember feeling about natural disasters when I was a kid.  


Now I'm just happy my youngest and I are safe and the friends and family I've been in touch with are safe as well. Hope wherever you are you're safe too.

SO FAR SO GOOD

Landfall within the hour they say, but well South of here. We still haven't had much rain, just a lot of wind, knocking a few things around (and ripping a screen off a screened in porch attached to my apartment). Someone left the front door to the building unlatched and one gust not only blew it open but that in turn blew my apartment door open, a door most people think is still locked when I shout "Come on in" because it's so heavy. I fixed the building front door and locked mine so no more gusty interruptions.

We're safe and sound and the power's still on. No school for my teenager tomorrow either. So things ain't too bad for us. It's the people close to the shoreline or rivers or especially inlets that are getting the worst of it.

PS TO LAST POST [+THE COMMITMENTS]

This morning things still not too bad here, though down the Jersey shore it's already gotten bad in many places, as well as parts of New York. Power is out in sections of Jersey (mostly down the shore) and Brooklyn and other areas, but so far okay here.

It's still interestingly quiet and not quiet. Now and then there's a wind gust that whistles around this old house our apartment is in. The rest of the time there's kind of a low hum as though we lived near a busy highway. But we don't, and there's almost no traffic except now and then a siren.

There's already branches down in the street here, but the Indian restaurant across the alley from my son's bedroom has left their sign out by the front of our building and it hasn't blown away yet. But a parking lot sign I notice is tilting and it wasn't when I went to bed.

The NPR station had people calling in and already folks who didn't evacuate in some spots are in trouble, with in one case—Shark River Island on the Jersey Shore but inland on The Shark River inlet—already has water so high there's no chance of getting out now.

As I type this more sirens, and those deep horn beeps that indicate a fire truck nearby. I'm letting my teenage son sleep in, as schools are all closed and we stayed up late watching a DVD of THE COMMITMENTS, one of my favorite movies and I'm happy it's one of his too. Hadn't watched it in years and was once again overwhelmed by the level of acting talent Alan Parker got out of what was essentially an almost all amateur cast, and all singing and playing the songs live (with the gravelly voiced lead singer who seemed at least in his mid-twenties only sixteen at the time!).

As always, throughout my life ever since my first memories, it's creative accomplishments like good movies and good poetry and good music and art and the rest that not only continue to give me much pleasure and relief from some of the more serious realities, but, as I've said many times, continue to save my life in ways that nothing else can. SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS and THE COMMITMENTS (we watched the added on features after the film and it was a gas to see most of the members of the cast a decade and more older reflecting on their experience and showing where they were then, around 2004).

Hope everyone's safe and sound and curled up with your own favorite movie or poem or novel or music etc. or soon will be.

SANDY'S & SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS

Between watching the news about Sandy's eventual landfall in Jersey, checking the eeriness of our town closed up for the night, no rain yet, gusts of wind all day but also moments of an almost unnatural calm, I managed to get in the entire SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS on TCM.

Is there anyone in movie history as adorable as Veronica Lake in that flicker? My first childhood crush on a movie star and when my fifteen-year-old joined me to see what I was watching he had the same reaction wanting to know who she was. Nice to know we share some basics.

We still haven't gotten word about school closings here tomorrow though nearby towns have notified their students and our governor has recommended all school districts close. Irene last year was pretty erratic, with some areas suffering terrible flooding others not, and some suffering power outages and/or water problems (that was us, we had to boil water for several days and avoid getting any in our moths if we showered).

As an ex-weather observer in the military, I understand why these weather people are getting so overexcited about Sandy. It's a combination of weather factors that have never occurred in nature before. But nobody on any of the channels I've been watching has mentioned global warming or climate change at all. Even though this is the kind of unusual weather pattern scientists have been predicting will begin occurring and obviously have been for the past few years.

We'll see if we still have power tomorrow to check in here, if not, see you after it's over. Meanwhile, if you still have power I highly recommend watching an old classic movie, and one with a happy ending.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ARGO

A lot of friends have been recommending this movie. And now I know why. Don't know how it might work on the small screen, but on a big one with a great sound system like the one me and a friend were at tonight: BAM! Had me tense as a mammyjammer even though I knew how it ended!

Ben Aflleck has now proven himself to be one of our time's great directors, and a pretty kickass actor as well. And this flick is his best as a director yet. It isn't perfect but it's as close as anything I've seen this year. The casting and acting all excellent. A lot of familiar faces (Tate Donovan does a great job, personal disclosure we worked together back in the '80s and I've always dug him and his work but he seems to be getting even better as he ages) and a lot of new ones but so much of the detail of this flick seems so specific and relevant it made me feel it was happening in real time.

It's late and I'm too tired to be as articulate about my reaction as I'd like to be. Suffice it to say I highly recommend catching this flick and I hope Affleck gets nominated for a bunch of awards as the director of it. He deserves it. Stay for the credits too, they make his accomplishment even more impressive.

[PS: I meant to point out that national treasure Alan Arkin may be the best thing in this movie, and there's a lot of good things in it.]

Friday, October 26, 2012

ETHEL

I don't feel like I have much in common with the Kennedys besides being Irish (-American) Catholic and some shared beliefs about how government can help those in need of help. But over the years I have come to admire Robert F. Kennedy more than I did as a kid or a young man.

I saw him once, when I was a freshman at a Catholic college I got kicked out of and he came to give an impromptu talk (on a table in the dining room) when his brother was running for president. I remember references to the Teamsters and their leader Jimmy Hoffa who he obviously despised (I had a brother who was a cop then but had started out as a Teamster driving trucks for Ballantine beer).

And years later when his brother was gone and he himself was running for president I was running for sheriff of Johnson County Iowa (where I had finally returned to college after four years in the service and other adventures) on The Peace and Freedom ticket and supporting Eldridge Cleaver for the top elected office in the land.

But the way RFK responded to the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the way all the third parties and anti-Democratic anti-war activists including me helped get Nixon elected which led to hundreds of thousands more people dying (including people I knew) in Viet Nam and Laos and Cambodia, began my rethinking of Robert F. Kennedy.

Now, after all these years, he's one of my heroes. Just his ability to change his perspective and what he was advocating for, the genuine compassion and understanding he displayed in that speech to a mostly African-American crowd the night King was shot (saying he understood if you were black and were angry because a white man had shot King, but added that his own brother had been shot and killed also by a white man) and other speeches and comments in interviews make it clear he had become humble and spiritually deeper than he had seemed to be before his brother's assassination.

And now HBO has been showing a documentary on RFK's widow, Ethel, directed by their daughter Rory, the youngest of eleven, and its glimpses of RFK brought tears to my eyes toward the end, as well as Ethel's unique combination of confidence and humility. She reminded me of a lot of the women in my clan when I was younger, loyal to their husbands and families, strong and always silent about their own struggles and suffering, as well as their own achievements and contributions, but staunchly and sometimes crazily themselves too.

You may be put off, like I initially was, by the wealthy now grown kids of RFK and Ethel Skaskel referring to "mummy" in that oddly unique Kennedy accent (from some). But before long, if you can open yourself to letting the documentary show you who this woman Ethel Kennedy is and was, left with eleven children to raise after her beloved husband was shot down just when he was becoming what I now believe could have been the deepest president we've had since Lincoln...

Okay, you may be thinking, Lally's getting carried away again, but this is what the documentary evoked, and that was just the snippets that focused on RFK. Ethel herself comes across as a competitive, dynamic, compassionate self-effacing original. In photos and sometimes on film she's always had an almost stunned expression, as though snapped just as she was trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

But after watching this film I see it now as more of an expression of openness to the moment, except when compliments are heading her way. Otherwise she seems simply alert to whatever she's experiencing with the caveat that if it isn't interesting enough, she'll do something to make it so.

Man wouldn't you love to see a documentary on Mary Todd Lincoln or Abigail Adams with original footage of their younger years and interviews and all that film can do? Well ETHEL, the documentary, made me think how lucky we are to be able to preserve historic moments, whether communal or personal, in so many ways these days. I'm really glad I watched it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

PS TO LAST POST

So I did not mean to denigrate anyone's spiritual path or beliefs in my last post, but I did mean to point out the hypocrisy of the Christian right, and the lack of transparency from Romney and his Mormon fellows about their religion and its practices.

There are obviously a lot of good people in all faiths who share common human values and live positive lives in many ways. But Catholics who stand by the church's decision not to ordain women as being based on the origins of Christianity are either ignorant of the true history or willfully lying to protect the power of a male hierarchy, etc.

And Muslims who murder young girls because they want an education or blow up innocent people to further their idea of what their religion stands for are obviously ignorant or blatantly lying about what their religion stands for in order to bring about some latter day leaders' distortion of the founding principles of their religion or outright lying to gain power etc.

And the same can be said for any religion, even Buddhism (plenty of Japanese Buddhist leaders either supported or didn't protest against their leaders massacres and atrocities leading up to and during World War Two etc.). But it is also true that many aspects of religions or their fundamentalist interpretations support lying as a way of protecting their power or projecting it into the world.

This is most true of Scientology which L. Ron Hubbard originally thought of as a way to make the world more like he thought it should be and made it a "religion" mostly for tax purposes, to avoid them, and stated categorically that lying to protect Scientology from its enemies or even just to get ahead as an individual was justified. This has also been true in Mormonism. Because, like many religions in their early phases, early Mormons were under attack (and their leader Joseph Smith assassinated, or martyred in their perspective) they accepted lying as a legitimate tactic for warding off inquiries and legal challenges etc.

The way Romney can turn on a dime and not, as say Robert F. Kennedy did, honestly express his decision to change his position on a policy etc. but instead act as if he never held the previous position even though it is fully documented in filmed speeches etc. comes directly out of the Mormon church's deliberate ignoring of past positions (most religions if not all do this as well) as if they never existed.

They did this with their rejection of polygamy and readjusted their image (and even name) to make it seem they were more Christian than they are (Muslims have many of the New testament stories about Jesus in their Koran, the Mormons don't, so if just having original Bibles stories in your holy book is a criterion for which religion is more Christian, the title would go to Islam!—or another way to look at it is in Islam there is only one God and Jesus is just one of His prophets, but Mohammad supersedes Jesus as prophet because he came later, whereas in Mormonism, Jesus is seen as a God, but one of many, including every Mormon man who righteously follows the tenets of their religion, etc.).

My spiritual practice gives me much solace and support and strength to face the struggles life presents, and I wouldn't deny anyone their own source of spiritual comfort and support. Nor would I deny that there are "good" people as well as "bad" ones in every religion and on every spiritual path. If you have the concept of "good and bad" well then everything and everyone contains both.

But I do feel that the secrecy in the Mormon religion and the history of lies, or maybe more accurately, ignoring or denying the truth (once the Mormon elders decided to change their anti-black policy and beliefs in I believe it was 1978 they spoke and wrote and behaved like there had never been an anti-black policy!) is a legitimate subject to bring up in speaking about Romney possibly being president because his own history of lying and mainly concern with only his fellow Mormons will be unprecedented in a president for our democratic society and system. I don't like that it isn't even being talked about in the media, a media that spent a lot of time in the last election talking about Obama's minister Jeremiah Wright and his affiliation with black liberation theology etc.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

OK, THIS IS REALLY WEIRD

It would be almost funny, like a Saturday Night Live or Jon Stewart Daily Show skit, if it wasn't the practice and beliefs of a man who might be running this country in a few months. Especially the "establishment of Zion" in the U. S.

It reminds me of Scientology, another home grown "religion" with secret beliefs and rituals and determined to take over the country. The thing they seem to have in common tactically as well, is that both Mormonism and Scientology believe its okay to lie in order to gain power.

What is most disturbing to me is that all these rightwing Republicans who claim to be Christians, especially the fundamentalists, don't seem to care that Mormonism replaces their Bible with their own Book of Mormon and basically refutes most of what Christians believe. But clearly, these same rightwinger Republicans would rather have a lying leader of an obvious religious cult that goes against most of what they claim to believe in than an African-American moderate Christian in the White House.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

QUOTES FROM THE DEBATE LAST NIGHT [NUFF SAID]


RUSSELL MEANS R.I.P.

He was the great late Indian activist as well as the late great Hollywood actor. There may have been a modern day Native American rights movement without him, but it would not likely have garnered as much attention from the rest of the world or inspired as many Indian peoples as well as their supporters to become activists for Native American rights.

For several decades now, Russell Means has been the face of Native American activism and the fight for native rights, as well as most movie audiences' idea of what old time Native Americans were really like.

As an activist, his stand at Wounded Knee in the early 1970s was as dramatic and emphatic as any Southern Civil Rights milestone or anti-Viet Nam War demonstration. And as an actor his title role in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS made that movie work (and remain one of my alltime favorites, especially on the big screen).

He was as complex and contradictory as any risk taking radical or artist, but there was no denying his impact. The trademark braids of his days as an activist made his image as indelible as the similar one on the so-called "Indian head nickel" of my childhood. And his more weathered lived-in earring look in LAST OF THE MOHICANS was as iconic as any Native American image from the past, distant or recent.

Russell Means, a true American original with all the power and depth of the traditional.

[PS: I almost always put the word "American" in quotes when I use it, since it seems presumptuous and even pretentious of those of us who live in the USA to assume that title when there are so many other parts of the Americas, and when the true native Americans were here way before us or our ancestors. But Russell Means was a true American, with no quotation marks necessary.]

Monday, October 22, 2012

GEORGE MCGOVERN R.I.P.

In case anyone who reads this blog noticed all the deleted comments under my post a few days ago of one of George McGovern's great quotes, it's because the rightwing stalker of this blog kept trying to use misquoted out-of-context comments McGovern supposedly made to show he was somehow aligned with rightwing Republican ideology. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The tragedy of insulting the memory of George McGovern with this kind of typical rightwing distortion is that this is the same kind of misrepresentation and misinformation and outright lying that helped Nixon defeat McGovern in 1972. The Nixon machine, in fact, was the first to perfect the rightwing propaganda tactic of "the big lie"—repeating over and over things that aren't true but people begin to believe if repeated enough. It had been attempted before, against FDR specifically, but never gained any traction until Nixon and his machine figured out how to use racial and other divisions (all the ones they still use, gender, immigrants, etc.) to convince working people that Republicans had their best interests in mind.

Unfortunately George McGovern was a soft spoken, kind, humble, good hearted liberal who didn't fight the Nixon propaganda machine's attempts to paint him as among other things a coward, because he was a World War Two combat hero and a decent man who didn't realize the level of evil he was up against (much as John Kerry, the Vietnam War hero, whose men praised and honored him for saving their lives in the kind of courageous action almost no Republican politician has ever even attempted let alone done in generations, thought it unnecessary to defend himself against the "Swift-boaters" whose lies contributed to his electoral defeat).

I find this kind of behavior despicable, beneath contempt really, the way the right has reframed all politics in terms of who can get away with the biggest lie (the present campaign tops all previous ones in the number and level of lies propagated by the right, which now is the same as saying The Republican Party). Obviously most of the media is either owned by supporters of rightwing policies (mostly ones that allow the owners to pay less taxes and face fewer regulations etc.) or afraid to make them angry, so portray most lies from the right as equally viable or at least worthy of equal attention with the facts.

McGovern may have been the last of the kind of liberal politicians who believed that reality would trump false allegations, that truth would win out, though Obama sometimes behaves as if he believes it's that simple too. But it is no longer the case for a large portion of the electorate, raised on the Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Romney/Ryan continuum of "big lie" tactics that have so often proven to win the day despite the facts.

As Michael Moore and others constantly point out, a vast majority of "Americans" agree with almost every position and policy that could be labeled "liberal" if stated in nonpolitical terms. But the right has learned that it can turn that on its head and actually convince so-called "middle-class" voters that policies which have ended the USA's position as the society with the most upward mobility, and increased the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us, are actually good for them!

George McGovern, perhaps the last of his kind. Let's hope not.  [Here's the New York Times obituary.]
[In 1972 I considered myself a radical, far to the left of McGovern. But I knew that it would be either him or Nixon who would be elected so supported him and was impatient with his inability to attack Nixon as viciously as Nixon and his machine attacked him. But I always respected and liked the man for his decency and solid liberal values which it turned out I shared more than I understood at the time.]


Sunday, October 21, 2012

LAURA NYRO R.I.P. [STILL]

Laura Nyro passed over a decade ago. I read on Dangerous Minds that it would have been here 65th birthday this past Thursday and it made me terribly sad.

I loved Laura Nyro. There was no one like her when she first started creating her unique music and there's no one like her now. It would be as if Lady Gaga was mashed with Alicia Keyes and a touch of Norah Jones and maybe Fionna Apple.

Even then they'd be missing a lot. There just wasn't anyone like her. She was a mysterious presence from the start. All kinds of rumors floated around her initial overwhelming impact on a time when long playing record albums had the kind of cultural and generational impact it's difficult to even imagine today with so many ways to be introduced to new music out there that seem entirely random and almost meaningless in terms of actually changing anyone's taste or perspective as Nyro's music did.

You can find the post, which was actually I think a repost, from Dangerous Minds that got me missing her more than usual here. [Make sure you watch both video clips, the one from Monterey and the TV one as each balance the other out in terms of mood and approach but nonetheless display the same intensity that made her so special.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CARTOON BREAK

Well, maybe not such a break but fun to see what clever political cartoonists can do:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

PS TO LAST POST

I've said these things elsewhere, but just to refute the usual rightwing spin on news of the debate and presidential race in general:

What Obama could have added last night in response to Romney's attempt to use the tragedy of the attack on our ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, to score political points by claiming they had asked for more security and didn't get it and blaming that on Obama is:

1) The request for more embassy security was for Tripoli, not Benghazi, so even if the request had been granted it would not have helped in that attack.
2) It was the Republicans in Congress who cut the budget for embassy security across the board, so if anyone is to blame for not enough security for our ambassadors it's REPUBLICANS!
3) It was Republicans who came up with privatizing a lot of embassy and other diplomatic security, as well as much of the guarding and even fighting formerly done by our military (when I was in it).

And if Democrats and the president really wanted to play hardball the way rightwing Republicans do, every time someone, Ryan or other Romney surrogates talk about how much Romney helps others with his charity, they should point out that he almost exclusively directs his charity to fellow Mormons and Mormon causes (a requirement of his faith anyway).

Can you imagine what the rightwing propaganda machine would do if Obama's tax deductions for charity were all directed at African-American causes, or would have done if JFK had only given charity to Catholics? They would have been all over that. But interestingly Romney's Mormonism and how it impacts his perspective on things that matter to all of us citizens of this country hasn't even been raised.

And one more thing. Everyone knows about "October surprises" in presidential races. You know if the positions were reversed and an ambassador under a rightwing Republican president had been killed by leftwing militias right before a presidential election, the rightwing propaganda machine would be all over conspiracy theories. But no one has mentioned that Al Queda was the creation of SAUDI ARABIANS (as was the 9/11 attack) and that one of the main arms suppliers to the Syrian rebels who identify with Al Queda is Saudi Arabia, so it seems obvious there could be a connection with the attack in Ben Ghazi by well armed militias claiming affiliation with Al Queda and Saudi Arabia, long a a strong ally of not just the Bush family for generations, but other rightwing Republican operatives.

Just sayin'...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BING BANG BOOM

I hope it's not too little too late, but President Obama definitely came back swinging and scoring points in tonight's debate.  He called Romney on a lot of his lies and flip flops and hidden agenda. That was good. And he stated some realities defining the differences in the two men and the policies they would put into place if elected. And he defended his record where it deserved to be recognized for the accomplishments he produced.

But...

He could have scored even harder if he'd pointed out that Romney claims to know better how to create jobs but left the state he governed 47th in the nation in job creation. Or if he called Romney on constantly saying he's never been in government but always in the private sector when he obviously was a governor, that's government duh, and ran for a senate race for a couple of years that he lost and has been running for president for the past eight years so he's spent a good deal of his adult life either in government or trying to get into it.

And he should have hit home about Romney having stated he would reverse Roe vs. Wade and voucherize Medicare and at one point supported privatizing Social Security and that he never was a "small businessman" in the sense of 97% of small businesses that are what most of us think of and have been a part of when we hear that term, but in fact wants to cut taxes for hedge funds run by individuals who can claim "small business" status etc. But then, probably any of us could have continued scoring points against Romney and the Romney/Ryan ticket and the Republican Party not just in a two hour debate but for days, weeks, months, years...

...which is what a lot of us have been doing.

ROSIE NAILS IT

Monday, October 15, 2012

VANITY FAIR


Not sure how I missed this. Probably thought it might be overdone and it is in parts. Some silly bits at the end. Some operatic overacting here and there.  But still, Reese Witherspoon in VANITY FAIR reminded me of why I loved her acting so much the first time I saw her, in ELECTION. She's actually pretty incredible in VANITY FAIR, as she was in that.

And all the great Brit actors, and Irish actors pretending to be British upper crust snots (in particular Gabriel Byrne). Lush sets and costumes, great Thackery epic-melodrama. Fun to watch, even the embarrassingly simplistic, at times, caricatures. The acting is so good that they make it work. A great piece of escape entertainment. Nice way to forget for a couple of hours our present political melodrama.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

THAT GUY...WHO WAS IN THAT THING

I just watched a documentary about sixteen actors who you would probably recognize but not know their names. I was sorry not to see some women and a more diverse selection, but still found it at times compelling and always engaging because I was a less well recognized version of what this documentary is about. Just two weeks ago I was stopped by a family in my town who I thought I must know from my youngest's school or friends but it turned out they recognized me from a role I had many years ago on NYPD BLUE.

A lot of what these actors talk about in this movie I've experienced, even though in some ways they might be counted more "successful"—we all have gone through similar challenges and rewards and feelings.  The only "non-white" (whatever these racial classifications even mean any more) was in many ways the most open and his testimony to his experiences trying to get work evoked the most emotional response not just in me (I had more in common with his experiences than many of the others in terms of bad periods like taking the bus in L.A. for a year and a half) but in him.

If you are interested in good acting, or what it takes to stick with a creative art and the struggles it entails, or what familiar faces have to say about their lives and craft, or just like documentaries, you should enjoy this.  Right now it's only available on Showtime, but if you don't have that my guess is it will be on the web before too long. I found it well worth watching, and would love to see another on female "character actors"...

Friday, October 12, 2012

GOOD TO REMEMBER NOT ALWAYS SO EASY TO DO

I was thinking last night about how Joe Biden always seems so happy, despite all he and his family have been through. And then I saw this list of simple rules for happiness on Facbook and thought, this is probably pretty much how Biden lives. I know it's how I try to live, though some times more or less successfully than other times. Still good to remember:


Thursday, October 11, 2012

POW

Can't believe the spin the Republicans are trying to put on the vice presidential debate tonight. As Bill Maher tweeted or Facebooked: "911 there's an old man beating up a child on my TV!"

Biden didn't let Ryan get away with his lies or with his sidestepping the questions. And the moderator, Martha Raddatz, did a great job too, except at the end with those questions about what their religion brings to governing or why they're special. That was more View than vice presidential debate.

But the right has their version of the "truth" that is based on ideology rather than facts, and the left has it's perspective that they think any reasonable person examining the facts would agree with, ignoring the reality of contemporary U.S. politics where there's too many facts for people to keep up with (unless they're news junkies like me and I assume most folks reading this blog) so they go by their feelings and that's how Bush/Cheney got elected (even though those feelings were betrayed by almost everything they did) and it could get Romney/Ryan elected.

Not sure how many people who don't already have their minds set watched this debate anyway. But it was still a great pleasure to see someone smart and experienced and honest and down to earth kick the mindless butt of a goofy looking (Ryan sort of looks like one of the muppets when he does that closed mouth grin, doesn't he?) Ayn Rand rightwing ideologue who despite all attempts by the media and Ryan himself to paint himself as similar to Biden in their Irish Catholic working class background is really a spoiled rich kid whose family owned most of the town he grew up in and still lives in and who, as we all know, was voted "biggest brown noser" in high school.

Gotta love that Joe though. Old guy too. Didn't seem like it tonight, except when he obviously tired toward the end.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ATTRIBUTION

I've been watching a quote go around Facebook the last several days that I thought originally came from me. But the more I encounter it and think about it and see it I'm thinking it sounds like something that's been around a long time.

But I remember writing it in the early 1980s. That's one of the challenges of being a writer, or any kind of creator I think, you come up with something you think is original and it turns out someone else has either already come up with it before or is coming up with it at the same time and if they get it out before you they get the credit. Or, if you get it out in a way that has a wider impact, maybe you get the credit and they don't.

It's like the guy from the Jersey Pineys back in the 1920s who invented a crude typewriter that he thought was a new idea. The Pineys back then was not just a backwoods area, but it was so inaccessible that people could live there their entire lives without much knowledge of the outside world, like this guy who brought his crude typewriter to the city to try and make money on his idea only to discover typewriters had been in existence for decades and had been improved way beyond his simplistic concept.

Or a couple of years ago when two movies about Truman Capote writing IN COLD BLOOD came out at the same time. Of course everyone has the experience of thinking of something that you're sure is a good idea and can make money or make you famous or whatever but you don't tell anyone beyond your spouse or friends etc. and then one day you see someone else has actually brought the idea to fruition and you think, damn, I should have followed up on that.

But even sometimes when you follow up the timing is off and, for personal instance, you're writing stuff that would be praised for being "transgressive" a decade or two later but at the time you bring it into the world it's just thought of as "x-rated" or offensive or "too raw" or etc. and years later you watch someone else basically do almost the same exact thing and become famous or successful or whatever...

I'm not complaining about anything here. I'm too old for that. Old enough to realize there's nothing personal about fate when it comes to the ways life unfolds and things overlap or coincide or miss their time or work out or don't.

I supposed the easiest way to see where the quote came from would be to google it. Maybe I'll do just that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

FOUND PHOTOS FROM THE ONLY WESTERNS I WAS EVER IN

That's Jimmy Remar, me (as "Sykes") and Bill Mosley on the set of WHITE FANG
Me as "Captain Bubb" in DEADWOOD (with fake moustache)


Saturday, October 6, 2012

THE DAY BEFORE

My youngest turns fifteen tomorrow, Sunday. But we celebrated today by taking a bunch of his friends and him to Manhattan to his favorite skateboarder style clothing store down below Houston on Lafayette in a neighborhood I remembered as boutique free back in the '70s.

Then on to a skateboard shop/pinball machine parlor on 11th Street off 1st Ave.  followed by the L.E.S. (Lower East Side) Skateboard Park under The Manhattan Bridge where a mass of every variety of skateboarder/BMX bike rider/scooter pusher and rollerblader tried and sometimes accomplished tricks with their preferred mode of navigation that went from minimal to of such a complexity they're hard to believe humans capable of.

His aunt and soon to be uncle bicycled over from their nearby neighborhood (the park is in the part of Chinatown tourists don't go) with take out friend dumplings and kim chi or something similarly named and spicy for my son and his mother and my oldest son and grandson and their friends and me to keep us satisfied until later, when we caught a more proper meal at Wo Hop where Mott Street starts.

Meanwhile my youngest son's mother and him befriended one of his heroes, a charming young pro skateboarder (turning twenty-one on Monday) named Oscar from Southern California who all the boarders in the park were paying attention to, and impressed to have with them, while pretending not to notice him.

He was accompanied by his Southern California friend and videographer, Sergio, 23, and a skater too but injured so badly he was reduced to forgoing tricks for two years, which is when he took up camera work and now shoots a lot of videos my youngest and his nephew have been digging on the Internet.

They joined us for dinner, after which we all went up to the Courthouse for some street skating and then they all went on to Battery Park while me and my youngest's mother got our cars to drive the gaggle of teenage skateboarders—one female the rest male, of all skin shades and types—back to Jersey and a sleepover.

But before that happened, Oscar generously offered to give my youngest a new board back at the hotel where he and Sergio were being put up by the skateboard company that sponsored him and his board.

The day couldn't have been a better birthday for a fifteen year old skateboarder and fan of the art. May all your Saturdays be as full as this one was for him.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

APOLOGIZE AND EMPHASIZE

So, the new and revised employment numbers are out and the unemployment rate is below 8% for the first time in years. The Republicans and their rightwing media and corporate masters have been yelling about how the unemployment rate has been over 8% under Obama (never acknowledging that it got to that point because of a Republican administration etc. or that it has been steady dropping—that's why Romney in the debate focused on the "over 8%" rather than on the declining numbers: 8.5, 8.3, 8.1, and now 7.8%).

So the big question is, will these same Republican media mouthpieces and Republican Party leaders acknowledge that Obama has succeeded in bring the unemployment rate below the 8% they kept complaining about? The obvious answer is: Never.

So what does Obama have to do? If I were him or his advisers I'd apologize for not doing better in the debate [I think he should have done that in his first appearance the next day, honestly assessed the failure of his and his team's strategy in terms of how it came across, not on how much he was telling the truth and Romney was lying, same for us, his supporters] at stating simply and clearly this administration's accomplishments and for not repeatedly and clearly connecting Romney and Ryan to the failed policies that got us into the mess Bush/Cheney caused, because Romney and Ryan advocate the same policies.

Yes, Obama attempted to do that during the debate, but not simply and clearly and repeatedly. Scientific studies have shown that the human brain reacts more positively to simple statements framed in either/or contrast than more subtle and layered, i.e. nuanced statements. Even if the latter are more factual and true.

But the reality is, Obama doesn't have to lie like Romney to make the point over and over that things have been getting better under Obama than they were when he took office, and that things will get worse if Romney is elected. That's reality based on just the facts ma'am (the old DRAGNET line that reportedly was never actually said in that old and very conservative TV show hearkening back to the imaginary past of rightwing nostalgia).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

SON OF FURY & THUNDER BIRDS

Thank God for TCM. I took a sweet respite from all the politics to watch a double feature, two Gene Tierney films they'd never shown before and I'd never seen. Once again I came away convinced that she was the loveliest looking woman to ever appear on screen.

I know, I know, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly [and of course Elizabeth Taylor in her twenties and thirties] vie for most beautiful, or more recently Sharon Stone and Halle Berry [or say Keira Knightley], among others. But for me, the screen star who embodied the cliche "the camera loved her" was Gene Tierney. And these two movies brought that home conclusively.

Only twenty-one when she made them in the same year, 1942, they also surprise with the amazing range of her talent. In the black and white SON OF FURY with Tyrone Power she plays a girl from the South Pacific islands, a native who performs one of the most captivating hula dances ever filmed [and actually conveys the free spirited innocence of an islander, at least in Hollywood movies]. In THUNDER BIRDS with Foster Preston she plays a Southwest U.S. rancher's daughter, with her eyes even more stunning in technicolor.



The films are both lightweight Hollywood stories, but done with the usual classic Hollywood flair. SON OF FURY is an historical novel style adventure with Power playing a disenfranchised supposed bastard son of a nobleman, with a surprisingly physical and buff George Sanders as the villain and Francis Farmer, another screen beauty, as the beautiful blond noblewoman (with John Carradine and Elsa Lancaster and a very young Roddy McDowell turning in their usual magnetic character actor performances).

If you can accept the conceits and contrivances of the plot and old Hollywood studio filmmaking it's actually a pretty fun flick. But the main payoff is just watching Tierney on screen. The perfect antidote to recent worldly realities.


THUNDER BIRDS is a little less story driven and more of a chance for director William Wellman to show his usual aviator filming chops in the service of furthering the just begun war effort. Tierney again just stuns you with her screen presence. Foster does what he always did in movies and on TV, just played his more or less semi-macho self that somehow the ladies found charming and I always found kind of lame. But it's worth it to get to see Tierney, and in technicolor, rarely used in those days.

Thank God for works of art, not so much these films as Gene Tierney. And TCM's Robert Osborne for his always informative and so personal introductions and codas to so many classic flicks (like pointing out that this was the last film Francis Farmer made before all her well documented troubles began). A nice relief from the political jabbering, including my own.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WRONG STRATEGY

Watched the debate with my youngest's mother and some friends. She's a big Yankees fan and when it was over she said, "That was like watching the Yankees lose The World Series." Yes it was.

I watched Axelrod later trying to spin it using the same arguments the president did, all of which were based on real facts. But repeating facts when up against big lies has obviously been proven not to impress a large portion of the electorate.

Once it was clear that Romney had been coached successfully to nail down his lies that refute the facts about his and Ryan's declared plans, coupled with some well rehearsed "zingers" as his managers predicted, Obama needed to drop the defensive fact checking and just call the man out with a few zingers of his own.

He had one or two but his body language most of the time was that of a high school debater waiting for the moderator to enforce the rules rather than the statesman he has proven himself to be and put the upstart in his place.

Deeply disappointing. I suspect Romney's favorables will rise, the race will become even tighter with some polls showing Romney ahead after this, but hopefully fact checking reports will be referred to by the major media outlets as well as the web and Romney's lies and misdirections and reversals of recent statements will be exposed.

But what I'd really like to see is Obama replace his team with people more in touch with their emotions and those of most people, rather than just their intellect. If that had been a seminar in a graduate class on the economy, Obama would have won because he was telling the truth and the other guy was lying. But it unfortunately doesn't work that way with most regular folks out there watching. For them it's a popularity contest in which the guy who reassures them he has the best plan wins, and Mitt did that, even if it was phony, he sold it as though he meant it.

And please, will someone tell the president that you don't nod your head as if in agreement when the other guy is lying! I think what Obama was doing was trying to indicate that yeah, yeah this is the same old b.s., but it came across as if he was in agreement even if he followed it up when he got to talk with him expressing his disagreement. Reagan was the master of dismissing what the other guy was saying while he was saying it by shaking his head no, or looking exasperated, etc.

And the president was way too conciliatory at times as well. Never mentioned the Ryan plan and all its horrible elements that refute half of what Romney was saying he now believes, didn't call the Republican Party and its leaders out for their obstructionism and putting defeating him above the welfare of the country, etc. etc.

Many missed opportunities to kick some butt. He just didn't seem like he wanted the job as much as Mitt did, even if for my taste Mitt came across as the twit he is. I think a lot of uninformed voters who are still undecided, if there are any, and if they watched the debate, would come away thinking Romney has their best interests at heart and the president was just saying he did, even though reality proves that it's the other way around.

Oh feckin' well. We live to fight another day.

[PS: And no mention of Romney's 47% remark! How could Obama and his team not jump all over that!?!]

Monday, October 1, 2012

THE INTEGRATION OF OL' MISS



Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the day and night of riots on the Ol' Miss campus because of the federal government, under JFK, enforcing the federal law that said segregation was illegal. That night I was in Greenville, South Carolina, stationed at nearby Donaldson Air Force Base. Though James Meredith was the focal point of national and international news stories about his "successful" attempt to integrate The University of Mississippi, and that deep South state seemed like the last bastion of segregation, in Greenville, and the rest of South Carolina, Strom Thurmond and his fellow segregationists held the reigns of power so tightly, any attempt at integration didn't even get mentioned in the local or state or national or international news.

I was doing my own personal integration and getting lots of trouble for it, so much so the sheriff eventually told the base commander to get this low ranked (the result of a court martial) enlisted man out of South Carolina and they did. But the reality was, African-Americans could not go to the movie theaters (which had been segregated with black folks having to watch from the balcony) or restaurants or the public park (they closed it down to make sure no one was tempted to try and integrate it) or the drive-in movie in their own cars!

There was a "colored" resort outside Greenville called The Ghana, a main attraction on The Chitlin Circuit, where they had a tiny bar off to the side of the main room in the night club (the resort also had a motel, golf course, picnic grove and pool) for the "white" managers of the black acts that played there, like Little Willy John and Bettye Lavette etc. I had black friend get me in as a very young supposed white manager and eventually I was playing piano back up for some acts claiming, as I always did then, that I had black African ancestry 'cause I figured we all must (and was eventually proven correct).

But as the battle at Ol' Miss raged on and was eventually won, after a high price was paid (several deaths, many beatings and death threats for those opposed to segregation) and it looked like "the Old South" was changing, things in South Carolina remained segregationist for a while, and in some areas of the state (and others) still do. But more importantly, the segregationists, including the most racist among them, switched their allegiance to The Republican Party and continued to fight for their "way of life" (i.e. divisive, unequal, unfair, violently racist and undemocratic) until the present day.

This is the same state that presidential candidates court by sidestepping that history and its present day manifestations. I have never returned to South Carolina after my own nasty experience that only youth and luck and whatever else saved me and others from the danger my actions put us all in. I watch a lot of old movies on TV, and too many Hollywood classics, especially Westerns, continued the myth of the "noble cause" of "the Old South" where the rebels were always honorable and respectful and brave and the Yankees were either exploitative carpetbaggers or dishonorable, disrespectful, cowardly evildoers, with the occasional righteously decent Yankee heroes, but they always had to acknowledge some Confederate rebel's bravery or nobility to ensure the movies would be shown and make money in the South.

When I arrived in Hollywood in 1982, only thirty years ago, I was pitching a screenplay about my adventures in the segregated South as someone who in 1962 was engaged to a black woman—which meant we could only legally marry in I think it was thirteen states at the time. The head of Universal told me they couldn't make the movie because it wouldn't be shown in parts of the South, like Mississippi and South Carolina. I told him he was wrong and was proved right within a few years, but that was the mentality that shaped this culture that wants to pretend that confederate flags are innocent of any negative associations but rather represent some noble lost cause etc. or that disenfranchising African-Americans has somehow ended just because our president is partly African-American.

Look at the prisons for proof we still live with a racist legacy that continues to oppress.