Monday, September 30, 2013


I've been getting in a lot of comment thread arguments lately on friends' Facebook pages over a pet peeve of mine which is liberals and progressives, or just otherwise usually clearheaded people when it comes to most things, equating Democrats and Republicans, lumping all politicians together and concluding there's no difference between them so either what's the point or let's throw all the bums out.

The simplest way to refute those claims is to say if they were true then that would mean Elizabeth Warren equals Ted Cruz or Obama/Biden equals Bush/Cheney. And as absurd as that seems, there are plenty who will say yes that's exactly what they mean. Not the rightwing Republicans who have been creating all the havoc in our politics and society though. They know the difference.

It has been a Republican strategy for many decades, to frame politics as a no-point-in-participating game because even if that just diminishes the voting among a small percentage (and obviously fewer and fewer people vote in more and more elections, so it is a large percentage) that's all they need to discourage because their base, in this decade Tea Partiers, but they had other names in other periods, the so-called Silent Majority and hardhats etc., will come out and vote no matter what.

If there are to be any gains made in the struggle to protect the checks and balances of our system and prevent a takeover by a tiny minority that thinks it represents the true Founding principles but, consciously or not, only represents the will of corporate greed heads, it can only be through seeing and articulating as clearly as possible. And equating the Democrats or Obama, no matter how flawed and susceptible they are as well to money interests, with Republicans and Bush or Romney or Reagan or Nixon or the Ted Cruzes et. al. is not clearheaded at all, it's lazy ass thinking that contributes to the problem not the solution.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013


"...if you're a humanitarian, which most artists are, instead of getting in a fight or breaking something up, you take it out on yourself. In fact, I would say that most creative people who are self-destructive are trying to protect other people from their outrage. If you live long enough, though, you learn you have to be a humanitarian with yourself as well as with everybody else."

—Max Roach (in a Village Voice interview, Dec. 1979)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Caught this flick the other night channel surfing and realized I'd either never seen it before or the brain operation wiped out all memory of having seen it. Which is surprising as I'm a huge Minnie Driver fan (and am sad she hasn't appeared in many movies in recent years). I never met her, though she did walk in front of my car stopped at a stoplight in Beverly Hills one day back around when this film was made (mid '90s).

I wanted to roll down my window and shout what a fan I was of her work, but can't remember if I did or not. She had a wry little smile on her face and looked totally out of place in that glamour obsessed community, as though she'd been plucked from the English countryside or Vermont or somewhere rural and peaceful and unpretentious, at least in terms of glamming it up.

CIRCLE OF FRIENDS isn't a great movie. It's heavyhanded and at times ridiculously so (Alan Cumming's simpering perv portrayal is so over the top it's almost hilarious, and at times seemingly meant to be as the film can't make up its mind if it's a farce or serious drama, Colin Firth is also almost melodramatically villainous in the PERILS OF PAULINE moustache stroking way).

But if you appreciate good acting, watching Minnie Driver (and some of the other actors, including my namesake the late great Irish actor Mick Lally) is reward enough. It's a tour de force performance that shows me, at least, why she is one of the great, classic movie actors of our era.

This film which focuses on the making of PSYCHO and it's renowned director Alfred Hitchcock is also a heavy handed over the top exercise in mixed messages. It too comes across at times like a farce and at other times as a serious attempt to reveal some Greek tragic elements, but ends up, for me, being a kind of campy mess.

With some exceptions, most importantly the performance of Helen Mirren as Hitchcock's wife Alma. Again, it's worth watching if you appreciate great performances because Mirren seems incapable of giving anything but. Thankfully, because Anthony Hopkins, though also one of the greatest film actors of our era, at times reduces his portrayal of Hitchcock to a caricature. There was very little in his performance that seemed real enough to make me care, let alone have any true insights into who the man was other than another perv, in his case obsessed with blondes etc.

Scarlett Johansson, another great film actor, does her usual great job and her scenes stand out as some of the best, other than Mirren's. But Johansson's scenes always made Hopkins' scenes better, whereas even the great Helen Mirren seemed at a loss at times with Hopkins' two dimensional acting. He did have some great moments too, but totally inconsistently. I hope this role doesn't leave Hopkins with the same hammy residue Al Pacino seemed burdened with for a few years after his equally heavy handed inconsistent but at times hammy performance as that blind military guy who couldn't stop saying Hoo-Ah every time he opened his mouth.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


The poet and old friend and author of one of my alltime favorite books of poetry, REUNIONS, Harry Northup sent me some questions for a survey he's conducting on his Times Times 3 blog (it's written (and drawn) by him and two others). It was like a little snapshot of what was on my night table and in my head at that moment. So, if you're interested, click here. It's very short.

Monday, September 23, 2013


You may have seen this already, but Ghanian poet Kofi Awoonor was among those murdered in the Kenyan shopping mall terrorist attack. His death isn't more important than any of the other victims, but it does resonate globally in the poetry and literary community in a way that seems to make it even more personal for some, especially his readers. May he rest in poetry.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Last night, or technically the night before since I'm writing this after midnight, I attended the publication party at Poets House in Manhattan for Burt Kimmelamn's GRADUALLY THE WORLD: New and Selected Poems, 1982-2013. It was a pleasure to run into old friends and acquaintances, some of whom I hadn't seen in forty years. But mostly it was a pleasure to celebrate the poet Burt Kimmelman.

Over my lifetime I've met a lot of poets and some are cordial, some are distant, some are aloof and some are phony and some are just the kind of good people you like to spend time with. Burt is one of the latter. One of the nicest people in the poetry world, or the world in general for that matter.

He also is a good poet. There's a humility and decency that comes through in his work because it is true to who he is. He's a craftsman who works in the vein of lyric poets whose lyricism depends on subtlety and plainspokenness. Like some of the art and artists he writes about, as well as the poets and writers he references and uses quotes from for epigraphs, Burt prizes concision and open eyed objectivity.

There's many ways to approach a poem as the poet, and when they work they're all valid, though you wouldn't know that sometimes from the way so many poets swear allegiance to one, or only a few, ways and dismiss all others. A professor and scholar of poetry from all periods, but with a special emphasis on the Middle Ages, Kimmelman's expertise and knowledge are never front and center, but rather implied in ways that leaves the reader only aware of the subject at hand.

I might add that one of the pleasures of the event was not just Burt reading from the book but hearing the poet, writer and artist Basil King, another good man, who created the art for the cover and throughout the book, share how he did that and reveal this was his fiftieth cover since his first over a half century ago. I remember my first encounter with Basil's cover art for the then LeRoi Jones's PREFACE TO A TWENTY-VOLUME SUICIDE NOTE, a book I cherished.

But if I were to think of an artist whose work reflects some of the aesthetic approaches that Kimmelman's work takes, it would also include Edward Hopper. As in this example of the many short subtly lyric poems he writes (especially if you ignore the title):

On a Terrace, Waiting to Enter El Palacio Nazaries, Alhambra

A man reads
of the old
palace out
loud from his
French brochure.

His wife stares
across the
valley to
the mountains
in their snow.

That last line and the crucial and poignant use of the preposition "in" makes the poem work (though the set up is in the "His wife stares").

There's tons more examples like that, as well as longer poems that have a different approach to the poem. But I'll leave you with one more short one:

Tuft of Lavender
              Leeds England 11.7.06

The tuft of Lavender
and little bees in the
sun, as if they were all—

how odd that somewhere there
might be another one,
the flowering of the

day, this sun, some other
place where we might sit for
a while, or never move.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Last night I went to a concert/performance/celebration/fund-raiser at the performing arts center next to the railroad station in the town where I grew up. I brought my soon to be sixteen-year-old son because the event was starring, and about, a sixteen-year-old from the next door town of Orange, where I was born many decades before there was anything around the train station as new and shiny as the performing arts center.

Avery Thompson is a songwriter-rapper-comic impersonator who only a year or so ago discovered he had leukemia. His father Joshua happens to also be a songwriter, as well as a professional guitarist and record producer. He and other musicians with all kinds of musical credentials (keyboardist Bobby Douglas played with George Clinton among many greats and has been nominated for a Grammy, saxophonist Alex Foster played with Miles among other greats and is part of the Saturday Night Live band, etc.) and they started out grooving so solidly it was already a party.

The place was sold out (a lot of family and friends obviously, but also students and fans) waving their hands in the air and grooving in their seats as I was. The host for the event was comedian Shawn Corneilus who kept the crowd revved up especially with his handling of the rowdier members of the audience. The event started with the voice of Morgan Freeman introducing it and went on with a long list of celebrities, all voiced by Avery Thompson, or A.T. to family and friends.

A lanky teenage boy with a normally reedy higher toned voice, he is capable of reaching pretty much any vocal level and impressed the crowd with the amazing array of voices he did, some hitting the mark more closely than others but all impressive given his age and normal voice. The best piece, in a show full of peaks, for me was when Thompson performed a rap mashup switching from the voices of rappers my son recognized with the first syllable of each one (I caught a perfect Eminem, Jayzee and Snoop, but the others were out of my musical familiarity) and was going crazy (making me so happy I brought him along).

Especially moving about the rap mashup was not just this sixteen-year-old's talent musically and as a vocal imitator, but his longer and lankier dad behind him in the band, spread across the wide width of the stage, mouthing the rhymes his son was rapping and here and there and emphasizing them with hand waves and finger pointing.

The younger Thompson also at one point sang a Sting song in Sting's voice, and did Sean Connery, a terrific President Obama, Bill Cliton, Arnold Shwazenneger, and too many others to even remember. At times he was backed by dancers who were terrific and the crowd loved, or joined by other singers and rappers some even younger than him.

For the ladies in the crowd the highlight seemed to occur when the R&B singer Joe came out to do a few duets with Thompson. I had told my son not to film the rap mashup because it'd been announced before the show that no photos or filming was allowed, but it seemed like every woman of a certain age pulled out their phones and not only filmed these duets but waved their arms and at times couldn't help but jump up to do it.

But what really brought the crowd to a frenzy was when during a song performed with some friends suddenly one of them took off their hat and shades to reveal it was Jamie Foxx. He added to the tribute aspect of the show by telling how young Thompson had visited the set of BATMAN and so wowed everyone there that they couldn't stop talking about him and his talent. Then said he'd deliberately not answered the young man's tweets about the show so he could surprise him, and the rest of us.

There were too many great moments to recount, suffice it to say it was one of those special moments that you only get in live shows when the unexpected can, and often does, occur. A great, groovin' event showcasing what's best about so many of our fellow humans, young and old (I don't have a full list of the rest of the band but believe me, they were all amazing).

Here's the trailer Avery Thompson made for the show just to give you a taste of his impersonator's skill, and this is not even the best of what was on display last night (but damn, just look at this young guy's photo and even though the hat makes him look older, imagine the voice on this trailer coming out of this kid).

Thursday, September 19, 2013


She's dancing to a different tune, but someone videoed her and added the ABBA song and now it's viral, and justifiably so. Made me and a lot of other people very happy. You go girl. (Plus she got invited to perform in a show at her local theater.)

[Talk about "less is more"!]

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


This should be the only message Democrats including the president should be using to challenge the Republicans rightwingers who are trying to cut Food Stamps and Medicare and eliminate Obamacare etc. while at the same time insisting corporate and wealthy individual taxes are too high and need to be cut as well.

[Full disclosure: RJ's an old friend, but what he explains in this post would be essential whoever wrote it.]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I was born in Orange, New Jersey, and grew up next door. I had cousins who lived there and later a brother-in-law's family, in the section called "The Valley"—which was what locals called the area that stretched from Orange through West Orange to South Orange, where I was raised (there was an East Orange as well).

It was basically the working-class and poor neighborhoods of those towns, and back then it was predominantly Irish, Italian and Polish with a sprinkling of Jewish and black (all words that only approximate what the people were but was basically what we called each other then, only "black" would have been "colored" or "Negro") and now is more Mexican, Caribbean, African, Asian, South and Central American, etc.

There were several factories that loomed over the neighborhoods, mostly in Orange. When I first returned to Jersey in the last year of the last century, on the train ride or driving my car through those old Orange "Valley" neighborhoods, most of the now empty, trashed factories remained—"brown sites" that the federal and state and local governments hadn't cleaned up yet or rehabilitated in any way.

As throughout history, there were always more progressive and forward looking people in "The Valley" as elsewhere, but essentially the perspective that translated into political activism only coalesced in the late 1950s and 1960s. Doctor Mindy Thompson Fullilove's parents were at the heart of local (and national) Civil Rights activism as she was growing up in Orange, and she shares some of that experience in this marvelously accessible book that approaches the urban experience as a mental health problem that can be solved with the right process, if not permanently and totally, at least intelligently, exuberantly and honestly.

Fullilove (full disclosure, I have recently become friends with the author after her enthusiastic response to my writing about our home grounds) weaves parts of her own history, including being the child of a mixed race marriage at a time when that was very unusual, with the story of her colleague and mentor, the French urbanist Michel Cantal-Dupart's theories and practice in healing cities, and with the stories of the people they each separately and at times together engage and impact in the healing of their neighborhoods and the reconnection of them to their wider urban areas.

What could have been a dry, academic analyses (after all, Fullilove is a scientist and her methods are scientific in the best sense of that term) of the plight of many urban environments and the hypothesis for a corrective solution, is instead a charmingly sweet and enlightening antidote (and anecdotal) to the story of what broke many cities apart: "urban renewal"—a devastating if well intentioned supposed "remedy" for urban poverty in the 1950s and '60s that Fullilove addressed in an earlier book: ROOT SHOCK (she's good at titles) and what can be done to bring those "sorted out" (in Fullilove's and other urbanists' term) cities together again.

Fullilove's narrative is as energetic and multi-focused as many urban neighborhoods are, as she hops from discussing the problems and telling the stories of not only Orange but Pittsburgh, Manhattan and various French locations, as well as others, while laying out a step by step corrective to the ways in which so many of the poorest urban areas have been separated from the rest of their urban environment, not just by the old "urban renewal" attempts at remedies that did more harm than good, but by the urban planning that gave us freeways and other massive building projects, often well intentioned but nonetheless displacing entire cultures and their interconnections.

Fullilove's academic credentials may be impressive (a multi-degreed psychiatrist, urbanist and environmentalist who teaches at Columbia University and came to specializing on the mental health of cities after early studies of AIDs and its relationship to place) but what's most striking about her writing is how clear and crisp and charming and sweetly optimistic it is, despite the troubles it documents.

Because in URBAN ALCHEMY, particularly, she not only suggests solutions but describes the results of attempting to carry them out, not always successfully but with enough success to inspire our engaged participation in resolving the problems of our own broken apart physical environments, as well as generate enough light to see a way out of our sorted-out urban enclaves and into a wider and more integrated (in every way) whole.

URBAN ALCHEMY is not just informative and thought provoking, it is a call to action for all of us wherever we live to become involved in healing our environments not just in terms of their, and our, physical health but maybe more importantly (especially as a starting point) their and our mental health.

Monday, September 16, 2013


"—and then I felt down in my soul the clear and unmistakable conviction to disobey all, and pursue my own way."  —Walt Whitman (from Specimen Days)

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Was over in the park at Essex and Hester on the Lower Eastside this afternoon to support my sister-in-law Luloo's EMPANINAS food stand. Sold out quickly and deservedly, they're delicious (she'll be there again for the Grub Street festival in two weeks if you're anywhere near there, totally uniquely artisan empanadas, a bargain at twice the price).

The rest of the stands were mostly flea market tables. But there was one that caught my eye. Besides a few used books and some cards with original art work there was a pile of books and magazines devoted to Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. It was one of those beautifully out-of-nowhere kind of moments when you go wha?

Now you know I watch a lot of old movies on TCM, and I know a lot of others do too, but still, if you'd asked me I'd assume very few people alive today know about Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and even if they did my guess would be they wouldn't be that interested in them.

But the woman at the booth, Sharon Rich, disproved that guess. When I asked her about the books and the magazine devoted to Nelson and MacDonald she explained she had grown up in Southern California and met MacDonald's older sister when she was in the old actors home in the Valley (after playing granny on the TV show THE ADDAMS FAMILY, something I didn't know til today) and when Sharon told her she was going to college to study film history, the old actress suggested she write a book about her sister Jeanette someday, and Sharon Rich did.

I love learning things I don't know, especially from the experts themselves, and here before me was probably the world's greatest expert on Jeanette MacDonald (including her relationship with Nelson Eddy). I had a crush on MacDonald when I was a boy watching her old movies on the old black and white TV, especially remembering how she glowed (lens filters probably) so gorgeously in SAN FRANCISCO.

I mentioned to Sharon how MacDonald probably had never been as beautiful as she was in that film with Clark Gable, and she informed me that that was because she'd never been thinner, a result of her being so upset with Gable because he was so difficult to work with, and that that was because Gable thought MacDonald had done something to hurt his friend Nelson Eddy.

She explained what that was too. We must have talked for close to a half hour or more and in that time I learned more about MacDonald and Eddy (and Gable) than I'd known before, even though I've been a print junkie all my life voraciously devouring books and magazines and newspapers as well as movies and books and articles and histories about the movies.

Rich not only has written numerous books about MacDonald and Eddy, as well as puts out a very polished magazine about them, she also runs a web site devoted to them at: where you can go to find some stuff out about them as well as how to order the books and magazines.

How wonderful is the world, or at least as I seem lucky enough to encounter it, that I can grab a train from Jersey at 2, be in the park at Hester and Essex in lower Manhattan at 3, eat three of the best empanadas I ever had by 4 and meet an interesting and interested fellow human who happens to be an expert on an obscure couple of movie stars who became famous worldwide before I was born and yet I feel connected to because of my crush on one of them and my own experiences in Hollywood a half century later, be heading back to Jersey by 5 and home by 6 for the evening news and a get together with friends here.

As always, I feel enormously grateful to be alive and right where I am, wherever that may be at any moment.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Not that I'm superstitious, but I didn't want to post yesterday, and now too tired to write what I meant to so here's three photos from two movie sets and one TV show location from my past:
[James Remar, me & Bill Mosley on the set in Alaska for WHITE FANG]
[me & Ed O'Neil on the New York location for the short lived TV series THE BIG APPLE]
[me & Michael Harris on the New York location for the film THE TECHNICAL WRITER]

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Back before I cried at almost any film moment that moved me for whatever reason—great acting, emotional peak of the plot, nostalgia, memories of my youth or people long gone—I never cried at movies.

Then FIELD OF DREAMS came out and I took a beautiful woman I was dating for the first time and as we sat in the dark theater I was mentally tearing the movie apart because it completely skipped the history of segregation in baseball and where was Satchel Page and other greats of "The Negro League" in the film, which I would have been thinking even if my date were not of African ancestry, and the novelist character was so contrived, part J. D. Salinger part wishful thinking (but played brilliantly by James Earl Jones, as always), as was most of the story...

...and yet something must have been resonating (now I can see it was a convergence of things including Burt Lancaster in one of his last, perhaps his last, movie role, a man who I imitated as a boy and young man because his film performances impacted me so much) most importantly my unresolved conflicts with my own father, but at that moment in that theater I was unaware of anything but my critique until the climactic moment when Kevin Costner's character plays catch with the ghost of his father's youth...

...and suddenly I hear someone sobbing hysterically before I even realized it was me. I was completely embarrassed and did my best to compose myself by the time the lights came up, but I was emotionally drained for days afterward.

Well I just caught the last half of the film and once again I was mentally criticizing the lack of historic black baseball players or any reference to them or the decades of segregation in the sport and some of the corny plot points but had to admit the acting was all pretty damn good and then before I knew it....bah hah hah I'm sobbing. Only for a minute or two but for that moment uncontrollably once again.

I wonder if it hits other men that way or just me or those of us whose fathers are long gone and we wished we had had the chance to play catch with them just once before they were.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Here's an excerpt from my long poem MARCH 18, 2003, written for a reading that happened to occur the evening before we invaded Iraq but pretty well predicted much of what happened. It was a series of questions that take at least twenty minutes to read (you can hear the audio of that reading on my CD LOST ANGELS). This excerpt isn't about that though, but about my take then on what this day brings up for many of us:

"Or is that just me because I've seen
a lot of people pass, or die, as you might say,
from one thing or another, including my mother
in a way that seemed unfair and certainly
unnecessary and arbitrary and cruel?
But what death isn't?
Those I remember that were no surprise,
though devastating anyway in their
Is that why now it's life I'm obsessed with?
Or is that because when I watched
the second plane crash into the second tower on TV
a thin blue tube hung from my urethra,
attached to a clear plastic bag, the remnant of a
cancer operation the week before,
unaware an old friend was on that flight,
at that moment incinerated,
a woman who was kind to me when
she didn't need to be?
How many people have died
before you got the chance to tell them what you meant to?"


So Obama's accused of being "indecisive" when he decides he doesn't have enough support for an attack on Assad's chemical weapons capabilities and then calls Boner's bluff and takes it to Congress. This is the man who risked his presidency and any chance for a second term on a risky attempt to get Bin Laden the same night he was making jokes at that press dinner. If that had failed he'd have been villified by the same people now calling him indecisive.

(By the way I have plenty of complaints about Obama, just don't like jive attacks on him, or anyone for that matter.)

Then Putin (and whoever runs Assad) calls Kerry's bluff and gets Assad to agree to give up his chemical weapons (maybe, we'll see, etc.) Then the same ones calling Obama indecisive attack Kerry for making a gaff that what? might lead to less death and destruction. Bad Kerry.

Then Obama makes a speech tonight (well, technically last night) explaining his thinking on all this and answering a lot of his critics and others' questioning, adroitly I thought laying out why chemical weapons differs from other weapons that have killed more people in Syria. He mentions WWI and the gas used in the trenches that led to the banning of chemical weapons and even more emphatically after Hitler's use of gas in the ovens.

And how the international community, meaning most countries, signed the agreement that chemical weapons were a no no, but if Assad gets away with it, others may figure they can too and the whole worldwide (almost) ban will disintegrate over time and bam someone's using chemical weapons on our military and then on us. Only he explained it much better.

So the first thing I notice on most of the channels after his speech are people questioning why chemical weapons are such a big deal we have to threaten military reprisal when over a hundred thousand people have died in Syria from conventional weapons. Well, hello, I'm sure Obama, or at least most liberals would love to see conventional weapons banned too (like assault rifles and multi-bullet magazines etc.) but as bad as they are chemical weapons (and it goes without saying nuclear weapons) are worse.

The world is actually a lot less warlike than it was when I was a boy, despite the news of terrible armed conflicts here and there, and hopefully it will become even less so. But if we let chemical weapons be used without any attempt to stop it being done again in Syria or spreading to other countries, we're gonna be way sorry, or our kids and grandkids will.

So, Obama called Boner's bluff and now he's calling Putin's (and Assad's handlers) while still putting a limited response (he explained that well too, yet commentators made it seem like that's impossible, though it's been done before in Kosovo etc. and Obama said he wasn't even going to do anything as sustained as that) on the table. It might work. Like the Bin Laden attack. And like that, if it doesn't he'll be attacked and if it does he'll still be attacked. Guy can't win (except elections).

Sunday, September 8, 2013


"To be intelligent yet want to survive is the strongest accomplishment." —Ned Rorem (from An Absolute Gift)

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Israel. Mainly. Assad, Israel could deal with despite his ties to Iran. Cause Assad's Syria at least was stable and not interested in a war with Israel. But when it looked like the rebels were going to win, Iran threw in Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon (who they back) with experience fighting Israel (and seen as winners the last time by many in the Arab world) who were even more ruthless and efficient killers than Assad's troops. The tide shifted and it looked like Assad would win now with Iran more involved through Hezbollah.

The Sunni powers (Saudis thew money to the rebels (to counteract Iran's input) but knew, some think and I am inclined to agree, they needed more ruthless and efficient killers than moderate rebels so jihadists (Al Queda et. al.) with other battleground experience and better armed were thrown in on the rebel side. This stopped the Assad advance. What the US wants is to keep either side from dominating for now until either the moderate rebels can become a unified force that can be backed for taking over if and when Assad falls or can at least keep the jihadists at bay or in the minority.

But the jihadists started turning the tide too much and it looked like they might join forces with the moderates in that Damascus suburb so it looks like Assad was willing to use nerve gas to frighten the moderates out, so his troops could take it over and keep the jihadists from taking control and having that advantage to take over Damascus from. (There are those who say it was the jihadists who had the nerve gas to use against Assad's forces but mishandled it leading to the deaths, or deliberately caused them to make Assad look worse and motivate the US to get involved on their side, but that doesn't seem likely given the way it went down.) If it was Assad and no one does anything, he may feel emboldened to use more nerve gas in entrenched rebel areas and defeat the rebels entirely (and Iran has the experience of Iraqi Sunnis under Saddam using nerve gas against their youthful troops in that war, successfully, and that was when the US was backing Saddam!).

That might leave Hezbollah stronger and willing to try and take over Lebanon, leaving Israel even more exposed and Hezbollah bigger and more threatening to them. It looks like Obama's military and other advisers (cabal to some) want to make it clear to Assad that that won't be tolerated. Some quick strikes, enough to keep Assad busy for a hopefully long time, and afraid to use nerve gas, and the balance to continue until the moderate rebels are better armed and organized so they can control or at least contain the power of the jihadists.

The only way Russia comes into it is their port in Syria they want to maintain and are afraid to lose, plus Syria is a source of income (arms and other stuff) and a buffer for them in the region. But they don't want a military confrontation with the U.S. or Israel for that matter, or Turkey (Turkey is a key player but stuck also cause they don't want a wider war, or their president doesn't, especially after the protests against his policies etc.).

Obama will say at least privately that a strike would also be a warning to Iran which might be emboldened to develop their nuclear bomb if Assad gets away with using nerve gas, but that's a rhetorical argument, because Iran is going ahead anyway in whatever ways it can without starting a war, and I think probably privately Obama doesn't care if Iran gets a nuclear weapon cause it's inevitable, but Israel does and the right in Israel want Iran bombed as well as Syria and anyone else they find threatening.

Most of it is rhetorical, cause no one wants a wider war except maybe the jihadists and Hezbollah and some on the right in Israel and elsewhere. It's kinda like when The Rolling Stones hired the Hell's Angels as crowd controllers at Altamont, only in this case everybody involved is playing with the devil in the hopes they can control him.


From my friend the great cartoonist Rick Parker:

[click to enlarge of course]

Thursday, September 5, 2013


ASHVILLE is the second play in a series by Lucy Thurber that tell the life story of a female from childhood to maturity, all of the plays now being performed in theaters round Manhattan, with ASHVILLE at The Cherry Lane. ASHVILLE covers a time in the protagonist's sixteenth year when her family life is in turmoil and she is faced with decisions no sixteen-year-old should have to be making.

It's directed brilliantly by Karen Allen (an old and dear friend but nonetheless still brilliant) with a perfect set and a terrific cast. Every actor had their moments when the play became that character's and each actor's chance to make the story theirs for a while and each actor created a reality that left me entranced or impressed or so totally engaged I forgot for a moment I was watching a play.

But the actor who carried the main burden of the story and whose character was the center of the story and who had the most emotional notes to hit was Mia Vallet, and it was her first time on a stage outside of school! An indelible and memorable and startlingly accomplished debut.

ASHVILLE is very intense (like the rest of the plays in the series, I've heard). The performances require a wide range, from comedy to tragedy, with a lot of physical action that at times becomes almost too real. But despite the pathos there are many laugh out loud moments. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Totally worth seeing. It made me want to see the entire series.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I just read that the economic inequality gap in the USA is now worse than China and ninety-one other countries. I don't doubt it.

I think The Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) had the right idea of one big worldwide union. A fantasy perhaps, but if we could organize all the workers in the world into one big union and then demand one worldwide minimum living wage and if any corporation doing business in any part of the world didn't pay that wage the whole worldwide union goes out on strike until they do.

Now that would certainly lift everyone's boat, eradicate almost all poverty and eliminate moving businesses around the globe looking for the lowest paid most exploited workers, etc.

Monday, September 2, 2013


This holiday was invented to placate the growing force of labor as a voting block, like Columbus Day was meant to get Italian votes etc. But after the strikes and union building of the Great Depression that led to the power of unions in the post WWII USA—you know, what gave rise to the so-called "middle class" but was just the same old working class only now with union clout so they could counteract the power of the owners and bosses and all their wealth with the threat of strikes and walk outs and thereby gain a far wage (there was no shortage of rich folks in the 1950s and '60s, just not greedhead billions-for-my-grandchildren-isn't-enough rich folks) with which they could afford houses and cars etc.

But beginning under Reagan and his successful destruction of the unions as an explicit policy—and the rightwing propaganda that if you weren't rich it was your fault and the whole bogus "welfare queen in a Cadillac" campaign—the powers of unions became more and more diminished (and with the manufacturing jobs first moving to the South after air conditioning became common and made that region more livable with their reliable rightwing political machines and then "off shore" when even the Southern workers' non-union wages took too big a chuck out of the greedheads' gimungous profits) until today—LABOR DAY—it's mostly a hollow holiday to mark the end of summer.

But the fast food workers who walked out for two days recently demanding a wage that doesn't force them to apply for welfare and food stamps and other money from taxpayers so that their corporate bosses can live in luxury and fly private jets and own homes all over the world, hopefully are a sign that the age of labor complacency is coming to an end. Fingers crossed. (And yes there's less manufacturing jobs but people still work and any work that doesn't pay a fair wage needs to be unionized, including all those young folks working away at computers way more than forty hours a week just to enrich others.)

Sunday, September 1, 2013


The graphs go by too quickly and the type in them is too small, but the talk itself makes it all pretty clear and is the best argument against the right-wingers, if they could only hear the logic in it: