Saturday, December 29, 2012


I wasn't initially a big fan of Led Zeppelin, they seemed a little overblown to me back when they were first on the scene. But that was just my own prejudices in music and eventually I grew to appreciate and even dig their unique musical gifts and contributions to the unfolding history of seminal rock'n'roll bands.

But if you'd asked me to put aside twenty two minutes of my time to watch a tribute to them from the Kennedy Center and introduced by Jack Black, a sometimes overblown production himself, I'd have passed. Especially since most live music performances on TV are miked (that how you spell that? miced doesn't seem right) terribly and shot even worse.

But an old friend on Facebook whose taste I appreciate, George Mattingly, posted this video and the intro by Richard Friedman said you needed to ignore the clunkers in Black's introduction and stick it out to the end and you'd be rewarded.

I did and I was, to the point of actual tears of gratitude that these guys exist and created the music they did. And that it was captured pretty damn well for TV. As Friedman said in his intro to the video, turn the volume way up. And enjoy (but you gotta watch to the end).

Friday, December 28, 2012


Like most of us, I thought Aretha Franklin had the hit song "Rescue Me" and when I think of it hear Aretha's voice. But it was Fontella Bass, a much less successful singer in terms of fame and fortune but nonetheless talented.

In fact Fontella also co-wrote the tune and back in 1965 had the hit of it in the arrangement we all hear in our heads when we think of it. Her passing has brought the facts back in play (Aretha did a version based on Fontella's in 1993 for a commercial, so younger folks might have Aretha's version in their heads from that ad).

This brings into focus something I've written about a lot over the decades, and here in recent years, that those old cliches about "cream always rises to the top" and "talent always will out" etc. don't always hold true, and in many instances are just plain false.

Think of all the people whose talent and innovations and creations have impacted your life or mine and, if we're really honest and remembering correctly, there will be performances by actors or musicians or readings by poets or insights from lectures or talks, or just conversations from people, we can't even remember the names of. Meanwhile there are people who seem ubiquitous, whose names roll off almost everyone's lips like they are seminal figures and yet who either were pale imitations of the now forgotten originals or just lucky in their timing and connections (think of the tons of movies that Steve Guttenberg starred in back in the '80s, making him a much more famous and rich movie actor than say Bruno Kirby who I knew back then and was a consummate comic and dramatic screen actor most people don't remember or never heard of).

Bass is one of those many of us forgot or never even knew and yet just thinking of that musical phrase "Rescue Me" brings her to mind, we just didn't realize that.

[Thanks to my old friend Gene Harris for hipping me to Bass's passing. And here's one obit for her that fills in more about her life and career.]

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Just got back from seeing the band my oldest son, Miles, plays bass in, BELL ENGINE, at The Gypsy Joynt in Great Barrington Mass.  The snow as blowing across the road sideways and the roads impossible to discern where their edges were, the few cars out creeping through the countryside like overgrown tortoises.

Anyway, it's beautiful. My youngest and his nephew, my grandson, making plans for an early morning snowboarding at the local ski mountain Butternut. Life goes on as this difficult year for too many nears its end. But the landscape though dangerous in gorgeous in the street light, and the talent of my oldest son and his band show out in one of the best sets I've ever heard them play, and got me out onto the small dance floor for some serious boogieing which sort of embarrasses the teenagers (my youngest and his nephew and friend).

Hope your winter is as beautiful.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Never worked with either of these guys and don't think I ever met them (though I have the vague memory of meeting Durning once). But they seemed like fixtures in my life because of all the work they did on the big and small screen.

Klugman first impressed me in his role in the original TWELVE ANGRY MEN, and that performance still holds up and always will. Durning I first noticed in DOG DAY AFTERNOON and THE STING, and later TOOTSIE I(he courts Dustin Hoffman's drag character). And those performances continue to hold up. He did other great work in less well known films, as did Klugman, who later became best know for his TV work.

They had good long lives and careers, and were the type of guys who always expressed their gratitude just to be working and have careers as character actors. They were as close as Hollywood got to the old studio system character actors who audiences knew and loved from years of seeing them in different films supporting the story and the stars. They will be missed.

Monday, December 24, 2012


When my youngest and I went to some good friends for Christmas Eve dinner, we went in from a barren winter landscape and came out a few hours later to a White Christmas Eve. One of those little miracles of the season, at least for me.

Then I found this on the net which seems to me to summarize pretty much everything I've learned about spirituality in the past many decades:

Sunday, December 23, 2012


They say if you want to be disappointed, just have expectations. I went to an "unbirthday party" last night for two people, one of whose birthdays I was told is in July (the other's was yesterday) that was also a Festivus party (a day early from what I hear). So it was kind of an un-party, though it was like most parties, lots of food and dessert and music and talk.

Since the brain operation (I know some of you are tired of hearing about that but it continues to impact my thinking patterns and my ways of responding to stimuli) crowds, even small ones, create a kind of anxiety sometimes. My automatic response seems to be to chatter and/or become almost childishly eager or earnest etc.

I think I may have ended up offending a few people who attempted to have  conversations with me, though others seemed to go fine. But my main point is that the "un-"ness of the evening got me thinking about how sometimes the unexpected is much more satisfying in the short and often even the long run.

I was at Whole Foods yesterday when a sister-in-law's youngest sibling came up and hugged me from behind and I had no idea who it was but loved the unexpected warmth and affection. I was pleased to see her, as I always am. We've known each other since we were kids in our respective older siblings wedding party (I caught the garter and got to slide it up her leg recorded in the wedding album).

The night before I couldn't find anything to watch on the TV (I still prefer stumbling on the unexpected treasure than going to "on demand" of (I can't think of the name of the service you pay for to get videos in the mail or streaming online, it begins with an "N") and stopped to catch a bit of about a third of the way into the massive flop JOHN CARTER and ended up watching it to the end and being unexpectedly satisfied. [Thought of it after I first posted this: Netflix.]

It was campy, especially the costumes, and the special effects weren't anything I hadn't seen before, and the story wasn't either, basic sic-fi/fantasy simplistic plot etc.  But surprisingly, to me, it wasn't as bad as I'd heard or that much more predictable and campy than some similar movies that were big hits. And for an hour or so of escapism I found it passably entertaining. [Just as I found another major flop, ISHTAR, more than just entertaining, actually pretty damn good, when it first came out and no one else seemed to.]

I didn't hear the speech the head of the NRA gave (like the killers who use guns to massacre people I prefer not to name those who deliberately cause suffering and pain and death, why should they be honored by any kind of publicity, it's the victims and the heroes who defend them and sometimes die doing that whose names the media should make famous) but from news accounts I unexpectedly agree with at least one point he made that I've been making for most of my life (see my poem "The Healing" or me reading it on YouTube), that the glorification of violence in movies and more recently in recordings and video games and reality shows has a negative impact on a lot of vulnerable minds, like the young or the mentally challenged or those of us like me susceptible to violent impulses.

Then tonight I watched an interview on Piers Morgan, who I normally don't watch but he had on Barbra Streisand whose talent knocked me out the first time I heard her sing and whose first album was seminal in my life for many reasons, not least of which was that what she did with her voice no one had ever done before making her one of the few major innovators whose influence changed an art form. [Though there are those, I know, who would say changed it for the worse, but that's not this musician's opinion.]

It was unexpected to see her giving an interview, a rare event in her life, and even more unexpected to see her looking so good, especially for her age (near mine) and claiming she's against plastic surgery or any changes to her physiognomy mostly because she doesn't trust that whoever's doing it won't mess up. All this with a perfectly smooth (at least through the TV) forehead and cheeks that didn't move, so I'm guessing Botox.

But, still the interview was an unexpected delight because she seemed to be pretty honest about the way she sees herself and deals with her stardom. All in all an unexpectedly satisfying few days, which it seems every day turns out to be now that I try not to have any expectations in the first place.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


"Be loving and the rest will take care of itself."  —Michael Lally (channeling Hubert Selby Jr.)

[something I need to remember every day]

[me with my older children Caitlin & Miles in our Washington Market (renamed Tribeca by Real Estate biz) loft (200 a month in the mid and late '70s (I think taken by Rain Worthington)) and me with my youngest Flynn on a visit to the location for a scene in the film LITTLE CHILDREN (invited there by and taken by Robert Zuckerman)]   

Friday, December 21, 2012


On the BBC radio news this morning, I heard a Brit reporter interview an older "American" couple coming out of a gun shop in Connecticut (next to a liquor store, why am I not surprised) near where the tragedy occurred last week.

The woman had just bought a gun, and the reporter wanted to know if she didn't think that adding another gun to the over three million in U.S. wouldn't just add to the problem. She and her husband expressed their belief that the country was in a terrible state and getting worse because the president wanted to take away the guns of citizens to further his agenda of "socialism and communism"...

It almost made me want to cry, or give up. The rightwing propaganda machine hasn't just created a base of misinformed parrots, they foster and encourage outright ignorance so they can control that base with the kind of fear exhibited by this couple. They aren't worried about an inadequate mental health system, or easy access to semi-automatic military style weapons of mass murder, they're worried our president wants to makes the United States communist!

Thankfully he was reelected by a margin that is turning out (as the vote count continues even now) to be much bigger than any recent Republican has garnered, specifically Bush Junior who claimed "a mandate" with a much smaller win. That indicates to me that there is at least a majority of voters who are educated enough in critical thinking to be able to see reality.

But how can we even consider this country one of the "advanced" nations when so many use as a source of their "news" a network (and not just the broadcast one but the social one they're a part of) that studies have shown those who only use that network for their news are the most ill-informed? We can't, it seems to me. Which is why we need teachers who help students learn to understand and use critical thinking based on facts not propaganda.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Thanks to my old friend Tom Wilson [who I'm sure like me not just remembers those microphones but used them back then] and his BIRTH OF THE COOL blog for hipping me to this:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Here's the even darker and harder to see anything phone capture of the reggae tune my grandson played drums on with his eighth grade bandmates, not an easy beat to keep with professional musicians let alone ones who have only been playing together for a few months.


A too dark [makes their eyes look like those little creatures from the first Star Wars movie] and not well sound mixed but nonetheless impressive phone capture of my grandson [my oldest bass playing son's son] playing drums [if I can post it there's a reggae song too he really nails] in a band with fellow eighth graders who only got together a few months ago [let us praise the children]:

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The only consolation is love. And in the face of losing a child violently I don't know how much consolation that can be, if any. But for the rest of us, or at least me...the only consolation is love.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Went to see my grandson play drums in the band he's in first gig. A keyboardist, bass player, guitar player and trumpet player all around fourteen grooved so tightly the adults were on the floor almost instantly moving and gyrating and doing our versions of dancing that the teenagers present found pretty funny.

It was the perfect antidote to the sadness and even despair so many have been feeling in light of the recent horror (Connecticut is just fifteen minutes away from where my grandson's band was playing). Watching and listening to and dancing to these teenagers make music while their little brothers and sisters also danced and ran around and their parents and uncles and aunts and friends and one grandparent boogied to their music (or reggaed when they changed the beat and my grandson kicked it) made all of us I think feel better.

My daughter Caitlin put it best in a comment on a Facebook post:
"And may I say music heals/saves/revives/invigorates/opens our hearts and minds. I know because I just came from seeing a young band called Highland play and it did all of that and more. Me nephew was the drummer but they all rocked and snapped me back into myself and the world that I know holds more good than bad, if only there was a good news station."

To which I agreed. Like I read on another comment somewhere, the media should refuse to name those who commit these kinds of atrocities and focus on those who are helping the families get through it and who tried to protect the children, like the teachers who lost their lives and who gave themselves every day to the welfare of these young people. They should be the focus of news stories.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Drove up to The Berkshires this afternoon with nothing on the radio but repeated news with an occasional new revelation about the terrible atrocity committed by a young man armed with guns.

I drove up a highway that passes an exit to Danbury Connecticut where there's a hospital I had an operation for cancer at just a week before 9/11 and now held the bodies of massacred children who hadn't died at the school in Newtown. This time my youngest son and I passed news trucks heading for Newtown where the shootings occurred.

I had woken up this morning to NPR news and a story about a deranged man in a small town in China who had gone to an elementary school there and overwhelmed the old woman who guarded the gate with his knife and stabbed her and then proceeded to stab what I remember as around twenty little kids, all of whom survived though some were in critical condition in the hospital.

Then only hours later the news comes in about a young man in the USA going into an elementary school with three guns and killing twenty little kids and six teachers. And too many of my fellow citizens and their political leaders are still cowering before the National Rifle Association and their distorted interpretation of the Second Amendment which clearly state that the right to bear arms is in order that citizens might make up a militia when needed to defend the country, which is what we now call The National Guard, or reserve forces.

Ignorant rightwingers whose experience with guns is much like Dick Cheney's and other chickenhawks who never were in the military try to push the idea that if teachers and the rest of us were all armed then the shooter would have been killed before he could shoot so many kids. Have they ever handled a semi-automatic? Or tried to shoot a moving target or even a still one that's live and armed and shooting back with a semi or even a pistol?

When the well trained and often military veteran New York City cops open fire anywhere near innocent bystanders Innocent bystanders almost always end up dead, as well as sometimes a cop. This isn't a video game. Gun licenses should be harder to get than any other kind of license (like driver's or marriage or fishing etc.—and by the way most mass shootings in the USA are done with guns legally purchased and most single murders are committed by family members, so the whole argument that criminals will get guns illegally and kill us is specious) and automatic repeating style guns of any kind should be banned. Period.

As I've written before, just the idea of "the Sullivan Law" that we heard of as kids believing that if you were even caught with a gun you'd go to prison for a long time kept guns almost nonexistent when I was a kid in the New York area. Time to go back to the days the rightwing Republicans pretend to love so much (except for the strong unions and high taxes on the wealthy and strict gun laws) when it comes to gun laws.


So Susan Rice took herself out of the running for Secretary of State after being attacked buy Republicans.  That got me thinking of other top people in the Obama administration attacked by Republicans since 2008 like Shirley Sherrod, Van Jones, Eric Holder and now Susan Rice. I wonder what they all have in common? Hmmmmm.....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The weekly poetry series I started and ran with Eve Brandstein in L.A. from 1988 to I think '96 where ten to twelve people read no more than five minutes (with the aim of keeping it under ten, i.e. this video) of their poetry each week and included all kinds of poets from the ones who taught for a living to the ones who acted in movies or played in bands for a living. This was a poem I'd written years before and people had already written parodies of by the time I read it in this video Eve has posted on YouTube with other videos of others reading in that series under the name of the readings: Poetry In Motion.  As you watch this just remember I was reading to a nightclub (Cafe Largo) filled with mostly people in the movie and TV and music business, so this was directed pretty much right at them, as well as myself. (My initial remarks refer to Hubert "Cubby" Selby who had just read, which he did every week for all the years we did this, unless he was out of town.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I'm kind of on a photo jag at the moment, so here's two more, this time of my oldest son, Miles, playing his bass, the first behind Jordan Weller at The Gypsy Joynt in Great Barrington Mass. (Miles in the light in a white shirt skinny brim hat) and the second I'm not sure where but it's sure a cool shot.

Monday, December 10, 2012


We thought they'd never end...

Found these two photos on the web yesterday and put them on Facebook but meant to put them here. They were taken at Cafe Largo in West Hollywood where my partner Eve Brandstein and I started and ran (from 1988 to I think around '96?) a weekly poetry reading called Poetry In Motion that got a lot of publicity and a lot of flack because we included friends who wrote poetry and did other things as well that they may have been better known for (that's Eve with the black hair and her hand on Downey's shoulder) like movie acting or directing or being a comedienne or musician or dancer or in some cases the more traditional and accepted occupation for poets: teacher.

All kinds of amazing people passed through the weekly readings which usually included about a dozen people who got to read for no more than five minutes. This was taken one night when these people all read. It was a lot of fun but there were poets who refused to participate because it wasn't "pure" enough, meaning just poets who identified mainly as poets or were identified mainly by the rest of us as poets, though no one who did other things they were known for ever declined reading out of some sense of "purity" etc.

I personally took a lot of flack for the actors who participated in particular. An article in Newsweek (if I remember correctly) had a reporter there on a night when Ally Sheedy and some others from what was then called "the brat pack" read some poems (Ally was particularly brilliant as I remember it) and though they had their mind changed and wrote a very positive story about how moved they were (which they later showed me) their editor decided to make it more controversial and headlined it "Wannabe Whitmans" and slanted it toward sarcasm.

Another article in The New Yorker referred to me as a "poetry hustler" if I remember correctly, which I should have made the title of my next collection. Anyway here are the photos:

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I always like that category on Jeopardy because you never know what the answer (that the contestant has to come up with the question for, Mike Douglas's brilliantly original idea) will have anything to do with so there's no preparing, no tiny adjustment to at least some sort of narrowing down of the possibilities. [DAMN, DID IT AGAIN, MERV GRIFFIN NOT MIKE DOUGLAS!]

It's often what's exciting about a lot of poetry as well, the unexpected juxtapositions (William Carlos Williams' famous dictum was "No idea but in things" which Ted Berrigan altered to express his own aesthetic—at least he did to me—as "No ideas but in juxtapositions")...

So I've got a couple of unrelated thoughts going around in my head this late December morning after a late night of writing on one of my many projects I always have going and which demand so much more editing and rewriting because of my post-brain-op related or just age related typing mistakes etc....

Anyway the question popped into my mind without even seeing a photo of her or hearing one of her songs which I might not even recognize these days anyway, does anyone else see Rhianna as the Dolly Parton of hiphop? (I think that may have been prompted by a "news" item headline in Huffington Post or somewhere on the net). [WOOPS! I MEANT NICKI MINAJ.]

And how this week alone, the first in December, has seen a couple of days here with abnormally warm—not just Spring-like but at times Summer-like—temperatures in between days so cold—and abnormally so for this time of year—that it might as well have been late January. And on those warm days walking, or trying to, in the nearby park (I've posted about so much) still encountering sidewalks blocked by yellow police caution tape where wires are still hanging down and trees are still fallen over and yet to be cut up like other spots where they have been but are still in piles waiting to be hauled away, and am once again amazed at how much and how quickly things can return or remain "normal" in one location while still being so abnormal in another, especially after the accumulating abnormal weather events caused by the climate changes wrought by global warming, even just from one street to another or one house to another.

And then, totally, or seemingly so, unrelated I thought of the holiday season when I was a kid and found these photos that best reflected that as music and movies were my escapes and these were the kinds of images I related to back then during this season for whatever personal and other reasons.  The first is of one of my favorite movie actresses when I was a very little boy, Jane Greer, mostly due to the great film noir movie (in my mind one of the top three or so) OUT OF THE PAST, but here seen in a shot when she was probably just a "starlet" in what passed for holiday humor in those days (and makes me think of my older brothers, two of whom joined the service in World War Two, and that thought brought on by yesterday's anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that defined the world I was born into a few months later)...

The second shot is of some of the big influences on my musical taste when I was a little boy (though this photo is obviously, from Frankie's hat, taken later in the 1950s when I was hitting puberty like my youngest is  now, bringing back so many memories from my own teenage years), mainly Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Bing, the first and last of whom I thought I was too hip for by the time this photo was taken because I was by then playing "progressive jazz" and found them too square, but thankfully outgrew that prejudice and now see them as the iconic musical creators they were and remain...)

[and then after editing this post I see that spell check on my totally up to date brand new Word program still doesn;t recognize film noir or Huffington or...woops "doesn;t" as doesn't (I actually typed that with the semi-colon several times before I could finally get it correct!)...anyways...]

[Oh, and if you don't know what a "club coupe" was, it was a sexy (for that time era) style of automobile, which makes me think this starlet shot is after the war but before OUT OF THE PAST (1945 to 1949) because during the war they stopped production of cars in order to use the same factories and equipment and skills to make tanks and jeeps etc.]

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I had the honor of introducing Simon Schuchat at a poetry reading he did last night at The St. Mark's Poetry Project. Jess Mynes read before him (the most deadpan poetry reading I may have ever seen) and after the break I went to the podium to read some prepared remarks about how Simon and I had met when he was fifteen and I was twenty-seven in DC where I was teaching college and so was his mother.

I pointed out how at fifteen Simon was already bigger than most grown men and a better poet than many grown poets. And how he reminded me then of the poet and friend Ted Berrigan whose work I turned Simon on to. (I should have also pointed out that he was smarter than most as well.) And how Simon made his way to New York to meet Ted and other poets from the St. Mark's downtown scene and became an integral and vital part of it.

I forgot to mention that he went on to the University of Chicago (at 16) and the Chicago branch of the downtown New York poets world (in which Ted B. was the maestro) while putting out a magazine (Buffalo Stamps) but I did remember to mention the two small poetry books: SVELTE and BLUE SKIES (the former published by Richard Hell's Genesis grasp Press before he was calling himself Richard Hell, and the latter by Some Of Us Press a collectively run poetry publishing venture I started and ran with some DC poet friends) and all while he was still a teen.

I mentioned a few more books published over the years, including LIGHT AND SHADOW (from Annabel Lee's Vehicle Editions) and AT BASHOAN (from Coffee House Press) but not that they continued to display his "American idiom" poetic chops or that at thirty he seemed to pull a Rimbaud and disappear but actually went to work for the U.S. government overseas. Nor that not long after that the rise of the Internet had him connected to the poetry world even if it was from China or some other distant land.

Unfortunately, I was tired, my eyes were bothering me and I couldn't quite read my own introduction so tried to remember the main points but fumbled a few times and threw out my brain operation and then my cataracts as excuses (getting some heckling for it from Ron Padgett and Bob Holman, friendly heckling, I think). I know I reach for the brain op thing sometimes too readily to explain moments in which I get a little confused or forgetful or anxious but the reality is before the operation I didn't do that in those situations.

Bob Holman has been the master of introductions off the cuff for decades, as have many others, like Terence Winch. And many may be better at written ones than me. But though I almost always lacked the quick wit for repartee or rapid response in small situations, one on one or only a few, in front of live audiences that have numbered in the thousands a few times and in the hundreds many times, I always felt most at home and on top of my game being spontaneous.

That has changed. The good news is I think I was kind to everyone I encountered in person last night, something I've been trying to do all my life and am finally getting closer to. But I wish I had talked more about Simon's poetic gifts including as a translator (he read a few translations last night that were fine examples).

One of the things I like best about Simon's poetry is the variety of ways he approaches the poem, which I can't illustrate here because instead I want to share one of his early poems written when he was still a teenager (and included in an anthology I edited in the mid'70s called NONE OF THE ABOVE) and a more recent follow up to that poem:


Howdy my names Simon
I'm almost twenty years old
I go to the University of Chicago

I take no shit from no one
Whatever that means
I'm trying out something new

When I was fourteen I won a poetry prize
Given by scholastic Magazine
Honorable Mention Junior Division

I been writing ever since
My favorite poet is John Ashbery
Do you think I write as good as him?


hi my name's Simon
getting close to sixty

recently retired from Federal service
I swim 2K most mornings

I began as a teenage prodigy
I'm pleased to think I have no style

my Mandarin is much better than my Russian
but I translate poetry from both

[PS: For another taste of Simon's work try Tom Clark's blog Beyond The Pale here and The East Village Poetry Web here.]

[PPS: And for those who can't see what I referred to in a comment on Beyond The Pale as "Incredibly nuanced subtleties" and "beautifully constructed" just look at the sixth line in each of these poems which work as the fulcrum that changes the poem from some kind of naive or un-self aware bravado to in-on-the-joke-self-aware-and-self-controlled humble and intelligent observation of reality, see his other poetry for more of that.]

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I posted this video once before but worth watching and listening to again. The sound quality isn't as good as some YouTube videos of Brubeck and the original quartet or later versions, but the video is so trippy and his presence in it so solid and yet light at the same time it personifies to me what was so great about this composer and pianist jazz giant. The good news is he wasn't one of the ones cut down young and in fact made it to 91.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I missed my granddaughter in her elementary school's version of the Wizard of Oz last weekend (she was a Munchkin) but didn't miss some dance recitals etc.  She's a born performer. Unfortunately no video of it. Caught my grandson in a stage version of Clue that he was very funny in as Mr. Green but no video of that either. So as a proud grandpa I figured I'd share one of my grandson's videos. He does a lot of electronic music and hip hop—check out DO IT on YouTube, his most watched video that's just music actually, like this one: GOODNIGHT (got to listen til the end to get his sly comic timing):

Sunday, December 2, 2012


So I went to replace my MacBook Pro at the Apple store a week ago today, spent all that money and have had the week from gaobglesiftyehci hell. Well, maybe "hell" is too weak a word to describe corporate America (although in what way these corporations are any longer truly "American" is pretty much moot).

The nice young lady that sold it to me seemed very well informed about the product and what would be accomplished if I paid to have the data moved from my old laptop and cleaned so my youngest son could use it like it was brand new and replace a missing key and a few other things like save my printer info so I wouldn't have to reinstall that etc.

When I went to pick it up the next day another nice young lady who seemed very well informed said she didn't know what the other lady was talking about when I saw that the old computer was exactly how I'd brought it in. She said they didn't "clean" old computers when they transferred data or replace keys or save anything like the printer install etc. etc.

When I asked for advice or even help about downloading Word so I could do the main thing I do on my laptop which is write, she showed me a deal I could get by doing it online, better than what the store was offering even though I told her I'd had brain surgery and wasn't always on top of the technology so it would be much easier if it was like the old days when they would install it for you.

When I got the new computer home and tried to download the updated Word it wouldn't complete the process no matter how many ways I tried it. And when I tried to look at a video on YouTube (the one I eventually posted on my blog in my obit for Earl "Speedo" Carroll) it told me I needed to download a new Adobe Flash player so I clicked on where it said to download it and it too would not complete the process even after I gave it my credit card info and everything else it asked for.

I called Applecare which I had also paid for, but they said I had to call Microsoft about the problems downloading Word and they couldn't help me with the flash player either. I called the store where I bought it and the first young woman had talked me into paying for something called "One on One" because she assured me that would get me the new key and the old computer cleaned and the rest that it turned out they don't do according to the second young woman, they told me I could make an appointment for some other day because their one-on-one people were all booked up (this in a store that when I bought the thing had at least thirty people in red shirts serving customers but obviously they weren't knowledgeable enough to know what they were talking about since I'd already been misled twice).

I asked for a manager and they said they were busy so I went back to the store (not that close by) and asked for a manager there and they told me to wait for one of the older looking red shirted workers and finally another red shirt got me a different red shirted manager and he went to a different site than the computer had told me to download the flash player from and did it with no problems and then installed Microsoft Word from a package I paid for from the store and there was a notice to upgrade immediately which he said was normal because from the manufacturing to the store and then to the customer there was probably an upgrade and I should do it when I had some time.

So I tried that this morning, like maybe two hours ago and have been on the phone ever since. The download I assume took place, it shut down the computer and when it came back on there was one of my book manuscripts open and when I tried to close it the document went gray and the spinning little bars started and it wouldn't let me close it or minimize it or do anything with it. There was also a file in my trash and a stack of downloads in my dock. So I called Applecare and they made it clear they could do nothing about the Word problem, I had to call Microsoft, and the lady from Applecare said she had no idea why there was a file in my trash but if it wasn't there before I upgraded it must be something I should throw out so I did and the download stack on my dock was just there for my convenience as a shortcut even though I told her it wouldn't open so was useless.

Then I called Microsoft and got a robot which after much arguing with it I finally got a live person who asked in a deep accent if I was in the U.S. or Canada and then proceeded to misunderstand everything I said while I kept having trouble understanding what they were saying for twenty minutes until I gave up in frustration.

So, let me understand, there is no one among all the unemployed in the USA who could answer phones for Microsoft because that would cost a corporation with outsize profits and payouts and CEO salaries too much money? And with all the people Apple has working for it and their supposed image as the more user friendly product they can't find anyone who actually knows the product better than an old technodyslexic post brain op (I know a lot of you think I use that excuse too much but you would too if you had it to use and felt the way I do sometimes) old dude who just wants to write some books and blog and email (don;'t get me started on the new email format—on the old one when you hit the icon for the form to write a new email the address book was also there so you could open it and click on a name and it would appear but the new format doesn't do that so you have to open the address book now called "contacts" and get the address etc. or write the name in and it will appear which doesn't help when I'm writing to my poetry workshop group and want to address them all etc. etc. et-endlessly-cetera)...

Where are the teapartiers and rightwing conservatives who want to "take our country back" when it comes to giant corporations that exploit everyone from workers to customers so that profits continue to be greater than anything ever seen in times when there was much less economic inequality in this country and things seemed to work so much more smoothly and store clerks knew their business and when you called a store or company an actual person who also knew the business understood a Jersey accent even if theirs was Midwestern or Southern etc.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I am very fortunate in many ways and one of them is that people give me books and I am a print junkie. I don't read novels much anymore, though I'm always reading a few just not as many as when I was younger. I generally read what people give me either because they think I'll like it because they did, or because it reminds them somehow of me, or because they or a friend of theirs wrote it and they want to share that (and maybe have me write something about it too I guess). But I usually forget who gave me what. I just want anyone who does to know I appreciate it even if I end up not digging the book as much as they thought or hoped I would.

I have a few big stacks of them next to my bed and read in a few of them every day, or actually night usually. I recently finished two. One of them is Kurt Vonnegut's TIMEQUAKE. I knew him and liked him a lot. He always treated me not only with respect but even at times with what seemed like deference. Maybe it was my political activism, though when I knew him best was when I was living in the city in the 1970s and early '80s and I suspect my arrogance in those days made me think it was my writing that made him treat me that way. But for all I know he treated everyone that way.

I was a giant fan of his books when he first started publishing his work before he became a literary figure and was just a paperback writer. CANARY IN A CATHOUSE was a book my first wife and I read together, usually me reading out loud, and fell in love with. So when I finally met him in Iowa City at the University in '66 it was a big thrill. But I have to admit I stopped reading him after a while.

In fact, I may have been one of the few people I knew who didn't totally dig SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE which put him on the literary map and forced his publishers to reissue all the earlier books in hardcover. I wanted less sci fi and more biography or more realistic fiction. I felt the same way reading TIMEQUAKE. I'm glad I read it because I enjoyed the biographical details that I hadn't read before or if I had didn't remember them so they seemed fresh.

I even enjoyed his take on the clan he came from and his up to date philosophizing.  But the sci fi alter ego and discursions (I don't think that's a word but it seems so much what I mean I'm leaving it, unlike the many words I've retyped because they weren't what I meant) I found distracting and even a waste of time and there seems to be less and less of that to spare.

Colm Toibin is an Irish writer whose work I know from The New Yorker and elsewhere. I never met the man but know he's won some literary prizes, or at least as the cover on his novel BROOKLYN has it has been "twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize"—a literary honor that seems to have eclipsed most others in recent years.

I can see why after reading BROOKLYN. His attention to detail and voice seem pretty accomplished and impressive, and his style is accessible but still very finely tuned so that you know, or at least I felt I did, the writer is a very learned man. The story of an Irish immigrant woman in Brooklyn post World War Two was compelling even though the focus was narrow and the drama extremely limited. More a snapshot than a film.

But in the end, I found the story's sudden resolution dissatisfying which made me feel a little bit tricked, like a promise had been broken somehow. And it made me think of so many novels I've read that get so much less attention and praise and all that goes into making a book sell well and yet deserve it so much more. I'm sure there are other books of his I might feel more satisfied by, but in the end, despite how much I enjoyed reading BROOKLYN up until the third act, so to speak, when I finally put it down it was with a yearning for not so much a different outcome but a different way of getting to the one that was used.

Hey, there's still lots more books to come, including the ones I'll be reading a little later from the stacks beside my bed. For which I am grateful as I am for these two no matter what I ultimately felt about them because in the end, I just dig reading what others have to say whether through novels or otherwise.