Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THE ONLY BROWN KID IN THE TRAILER PARK

Saw this Sunday night with my teenager cause he knows my friend Dion Flynn, the man who wrote and performs this one man show about his life. And what a life. You might know Dion from his appearances on Jimmy Fallon playing President Obama (and various other characters), but my son knows him from when we first moved back to Jersey over a decade ago when Dion sometimes took part in a monthly variety show in a coffee house here. Mostly he sang, and very well. But he also was a very funny guy, and turned out he did comedy improv.

We saw him do this show at The People's Improv where he's done other shows and performances. But THE ONLY BROWN KID IN THE TRAILER PARK is a much bigger deal than anything I've seen him do before. Because it's so personal and unique. I mean, he was the only brown kid in the trailer park he grew up in in Maryland. His mother and the man he called father were both white, which created some interesting challenges and trauma and drama.

But there's a whole lot more to his story than what the title of this show makes clear, and it's all entertaining as well as engaging, raw at times, polished at others, brutally honest and subtly, and not so subtly, insightful and humorous, but ultimately triumphant. Like most great stories it's a tale of redemption (if not exactly revenge, though there's a bit of that too) and would be worth your while to go and see if it turns up anywhere near where you live.

Monday, October 27, 2014

ANOTHER NIGHT ON THE TOWN

The Cafe La Mama event I was part of tonight—reading a few old poems and a few new ones in a mix of other's readings that I unfortunately had to slip out of early to make it back to Jersey—was an opportunity to see some old friends and meet some new ones.

Since I didn't get a chance to catch everyone I won't comment except to say I did become an instant fan of Emily Skillings's poetry and look forward to hearing and reading more. Sorry to those I missed, but as I explained to the audience, back in the 1970s I did a reading with William Burroughs and a few others and Burroughs read before me and then exited, hurting my feelings which in those days I wouldn't even have been able to articulate except as anger and rejection of the old coot for missing my great work. But now I realize—as I have become an old coot myself—he was just an old dude who needed to either be elsewhere, even if it was just back in bed, or just didn't have the stamina, etc.

Anyway, it certainly is a pleasure to get to experience talented people whose work is new to me, and man there is just so many creatively gifted folks in the world, any world. Keep it coming.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

IF YOU'RE AROUND NYC TOMORROW EVENING

Poet and friend Jeffrey Cyphers Wright is hosting a celebration of the latest issue of his LIVE MAG!—what he's calling a Monster Word Mash—tomorrow evening from 8 to 10PM at La Mama (74A East 4th Street) with musicians and poets performing, including me reading some of my poems (though I'm not in this issue of the mag). If you can make it, I'll see you there.

JACK BRUCE R.I.P.

Jack Bruce is best known as the bass player and vocalist for CREAM, one of the greatest bands in any genre ever, in terms of musicianship and virtuosity (Ginger Baker on drums and Eric Clapton on guitar) despite the fact they were only together for a couple of years.

Here's an obit with the vitals. But what that obit misses is how many other great music projects Bruce was involved with. I'll mention only one, which was one of my favorite records (there was actually more than one disc) from one of my favorite jazz innovators, Carla Bley, called ESCALATOR OVER THE HILL.

That lengthy recording (done if I remember correctly over a few years time) was at the time (early '70s) one of the most original, difficult, crazy, impactful and radical records ever. It, like him, was one of a kind, which is kind of a cliche, especially since in truth each of us is ultimately one-of-a-kind, but where many of us share a lot of similarities with others, Bruce, like Ginger Baker for that matter, was sui generis if anyone was.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

VERY MINI RANT

Anyone who doesn't vote in every election and uses as an excuse that they don't believe either party can make a difference, or even that there isn't any difference between the parties, should be made to visit the graves of the millions who died as a direct result of the elections of Richard Nixon in 1968 and '72 and of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Or made to walk every mile of road and the bridges that connect them that are in disrepair because a Republican Congress has thwarted much of a Democratic president's agenda in the last several years or supplement the incomes of working people who cannot earn enough to feed themselves without food stamps and even then often end up homeless with their entire families, et-endlessly-cetera...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

'EBOLOA MILITIA" RECORDED IN 1999 BY HOMER EROTIC

As always (or at least most often), the creative artists were there first, in this case the much missed New York band Homer Erotic:

Friday, October 17, 2014

MISY UPHAM R.I.P.

So sad to hear of the wonderfully talented Misty Upham's passing. You can read about the circumstances and her family's reaction to the local police not taking the search for her seriously here.

But whatever the circumstances, Misty was a gifted actress as she proved in every role she played. I was especially rooting for her to win an Oscar for her leading role in FROZEN RIVER, which if you have never seen you have missed another classic.

She was only in her early thirties, with so much more to offer, if Hollywood could finally become able to cast Native Americans as something other than symbols of indigenous stoicism.

Condolences to her family and friends.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TIM HAUSER R.I.P.

Can't believe Tim Hauser has passed, especially since I just saw him a few weeks ago (and posted about it here) only days after he had buried his mother. It seems too too soon. He was my age and grew up in Belmar, the town where I spent summers as a kid at my grandmother's down the Jersey shore.

He graduated from Saint Rose High School there, where I went to summer school in 1957, and he was at the rock'n'roll concert the year before that ended in rioting, which I too was at (see this obit for details). So I felt a connection with him that was more in my mind than real life.

Nonetheless the connection was real, as it was, I'm certain, for all those who fell in love with his voice and the group he created THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER. He will be sorely missed and my heart goes out to his family, friends and fans, but especially to his MANHATTAN TRANSFER song mates.

ELIZABETH PENA R.I.P.

Elizabeth Pena had one of the greatest voices in Hollywood film history. And she was a consummate artist in every role she played.

The one that should have made her a Hollywood icon and won her an Oscar was her starring turn with Chris Cooper in LONE STAR. If you've never seen that film, you've missed on of the classics.

She passed just days ago at the way too early age of 55. She is and will eternally be missed.

Monday, October 13, 2014

ADA KATZ'S EIGHT BEGIN

I went to a book signing at The Loretta Howard gallery on West 26th Street in Manhattan Saturday evening, partly to see old friends but mostly to buy the book: EIGHT BEGIN: ARTISTS' MEMORIES OF STARTING OUT, a small collection of interviews Ada Katz did with eight artists associated with the 10th Street gallery scene back in the 1950s.

I've always admired Ada, as well as liked her, and truth be told had a crush on her, not just because she's lovely but because she's so smart and insightful. I learned early on that she had a Masters in biology from NYU and had worked as a biologist, and later I performed in some of the theater stagings she produced of poetry, like John Ashbery's, for her Eye And Ear Theater presentations.

Now EIGHT BEGIN confirms she's an artist in her own right because this, what amounts to a group memoir, is a unique and important book to my mind. I wish there were more like it. Ada did the interviews in the early 1970s, wanting to find out where these eight artists came from, how they grew up to become artists and what it was like to end up in Manhattan in the 1950s and discover the other artists who took part in the artist-run galleries that became known as the 10th Street Galleries, or simply 10th Street.

She asked the kind of questions that lead to revelations rarely shared because most interviewers ask standardized questions that lead to standardized answers. But Ada got at the essence of who each of these artists truly are, and were, and then she removed herself from the equation, leaving only their replies as one long monologue that is so compelling, at least to me, I felt when I was done that I'd been there and known them since childhood.

I met Ada for the first time around the time these interviews were done, and my first and lasting impression was of a great presence who observed, understood, contributed just enough to make you want more but remained a mystery in many ways herself. Even though I'm certain she would dismiss my making this response to EIGHT BEGIN so much about her, I couldn't and can't help responding to this book as if she had written it, which in a sense she did.

She was smart and thoughtful enough to have conducted these interviews back then, and with enough foresight to realize this was something that should be done for posterity, and here we now are the beneficiaries of that intelligence and thoughtfulness and foresight. I love the way each artist comes to life in these pages and how the process of their creativity is articulated and their individuality expressed. And by removing herself from the process, at least in the form of her questions, it leaves the impression that these artists just decided to tell their own stories as if talking to a friend at a party interested in their personal histories.

Among them are artists I know personally, like Ada's husband Alex, and others I know only incidentally, and a few I don't know at all, or my post-op brain doesn't remember. Among the latter the ones whose work impressed me in ways I hadn't foreseen, and whose memories resonated deeply and unexpectedly, since they don't seem on the surface to be extremely exceptional, the memories I mean, were Lois Dodd and Sally Hazelet Drummond. But being women artists at that time they, of course, were exceptional whether they thought so or not. The humility of the latter and the matter-of-fact honesty and plain-spokeness of the former, and the creative integrity of both, feels enlightening, as if I were having epiphanies reading the stories of their early years.

The six male artists' memories and explanations of how they came to their art were equally engaging and rewarding—Ronald Bladen, Al Held, Alex Katz, William King, Phillip Pearlstein and George Sugarman—but for the most part I knew their work, and in some cases their personalities, so I didn't expect to be surprised to encounter them on the page, yet in their cases as well there were delightfully unexpected discoveries bringing them to life in ways even being in their presence rarely has. Some deeper essence of their personalities and creative lives is expressed in these pages thanks to Ada's probing questions and ability to get them to open up disarmingly.

The book is slim, the artists' memoirs brief, and yet the entire enterprise was as fulfilling and satisfying as any great creative work can be. This goes on the shelf as a permanent member of my favorite books section.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

ANOTHER LIST!

I woke up this morning making a list in my head as I used to wake up pretty much every morning of my life before the brain operation almost five years ago, so, perhaps this means my brain is returning to its former habits and perceptions and connections...the list was an approximate chronological selection of books that I've read more than once, many of them several times and a few even more times...

Lao Tzu's (or Tse's) TAO TE CHING
Confucius's ANALECTS
the Bible's GENESIS and PSALMS
Dante's LA VITA NUOVO
Shakespeare's SONNETS
Laurence Sterne's TRISTAM SHANDY
William Blake's SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND OF EXPERIENCE
Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS and SPECIMEN DAYS
Rimbaud's ILLUMINATIONS, A SEASON IN HELL and THE DRUNKEN BOAT
Fyodor Dostoevsky's POOR FOLK, NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, THE GAMBLER, THE IDIOT, THE POSSESSED and THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Kate Chopin's THE AWAKENING
Gertrude Stein's TENDER BUTTONS and THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF EVERYONE
Sherwood Anderson's WINESBURG OHIO
Theodore Dreiser's SISTER CARRIE
Rainer Maria Rilke's THE NOTEBOOKS OF MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGS and THE DUINO ELEGIES
James Joyce's THE DUBLINERS, PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, ULYSSES and FINNEGANS WAKE
T.S. Eliot's THE WASTELAND AND OTHER POEMS
William Carlos Williams's KORA IN HELL, THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, SPRING AND ALL, THE DESCENT OF WINTER, PICTURES FROM BRUEGHEL, PATERSON and SELECTED POEMS
Ernest Hemingway's IN OUR TIME, THE SUN ALSO RISES and A MOVEABLE FEAST
F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GASTBY and TENDER IS THE NIGHT
Ezra Pound's CANTOS
Louis Zukofsky's A
Jean Rhys AFTER LEAVING MR. MACKENZIE
Jean Toomer's CANE
William Saroyan's THE DARING YOUNG MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE, MY NAME IS ARAM, THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE, THE ADVENTURES OF WESLEY JACKSON, THE ASSYRIAN AND OTHER STORIES, ROCK WAGRAM, THE BICYCLE RIDER IN BEVERLY HILLS, TRACY'S TIGER and HERE COMES THERE GOES YOU KNOW WHO
Christopher Isherwood's DOWN THERE ON A VISIT and PRATER VIOLET
Robert Nathan's PORTRAIT OF JENNIE
Francis Ponge's SOAP
Samuel Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT and STORIES AND TEXTS FOR NOTHING
Henry Miller's SEXUS
Jack Kerouac's ON THE ROAD, MEXICO CITY BLUES, VISIONS OF GERARD, DESOLATION ANGELS, BIG SUR and THE VANITY OF DULUOZ
William Goldman's TEMPLE OF GOLD
Gary Snyder's RIP RAP and MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS WITHOUT END
Diane di Prima's DINNERS AND NIGHTMARES
LeRoi Jones's TALES
Bob Kaufman's SOLITUDES CROWDED WITH LONELINESS and GOLDEN SARDINE
Frank O'Hara's LUNCH POEMS, MEDITATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY and SELECTED POEMS
John Ashbery's THE TENNIS COURT OATH and THREE POEMS
James Schuyler's FREELY ESPOUSING, THE CRYSTAL LITHIUM, HYMN TO LIFE and THE MORNING OF THE POEM
Hubert Selby Jr's LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN and THE WILLOW TREE
Larry Eigner's SELECTED POEMS
Ted Berrigan's THE SONNETS, IN THE EARLY MORNING RAIN, NOTHING FOR YOU and SELECTED POEMS
Joe Brainard's I REMEMBER
Ray DiPalma's MAX, MAX A SEQUEL, ACCIDENTAL INTERLUDES, SOLI and more I can't remember at the moment
Robert Slater's (damn, can't think of the title to his Some Of Us Press book right now) [A RUMOR OF INHABITANTS]
Lee Lally's THESE DAYS
Terence Winch's BONING UP, LUNCHEONETTE JEALOUSY, CONTENDERS, THE GREAT INDOORS, BOY DRINKERS, FALLING OUT OF BED IN A ROOM WITH NO FLOOR, LIT FROM BELOW and more I can't think of...
Ed Cox's BLOCKS
Jim Haining's A QUINCY HISTORY
Tim Dlugos's HIGH THERE, A FAST LIFE, JE SUIS EIN AMERICANO, ENTRE NOUS, STRONG PLACE and POWERLESS
Mark Terrill's BREAD & FISH
Jamie Rose's SHUT UP & DANCE

(I know there are others but this is what I came up with today...and again, these aren't my top favorite books necessarily, they're just books I'ver read more than once either because I liked them so much or for other reasons...I also just realized there are a lot of collected poems of favorite poets I've read from cover to cover, which was the second time I read many or all of those poems, but the above is plenty for now...) [PS: Just realized also that since I was involved in editing and publishing books over the years either with Some Of Us Press or O Press or others, I read all those books more than once as well...this could go on forever...]

Saturday, October 11, 2014

AN IMMODEST PROPOSAL

I propose we have a yearly national holiday to celebrate the enormous contribution that slaves made to building this country and its economy, and that on that day every movie theater be required to show TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE throughout the day and that every citizen be required to produce proof that they watched the film from start to finish.

Every year, at least until either racism is truly eradicated or reparations have been made to all descendants of slaves and all history texts and courses be corrected to show the true facts of slavery in all its facets and the impact it had on the creation of "America" and its economy, and any reference defending the "honor" of those who fought to preserve slavery or to their cause as "noble" be erased from history forever.


Friday, October 10, 2014

PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW ON "FRIGGIN' FABULOUS RADIO"

If you haven't heard Part One, click on the link, but if you have, click on this link for Part Two, more or less about my Hollywood years, with some sweet excerpts from the CD LOST ANGELS and the great grooves on it created by my oldest son, Miles...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

PETER CASE AND "PELICAN BAY"

My old friend Peter Case capturing the magic, proving the protest song is still going strong and demonstrating that even while the world goes about it's "busy-ness" an artist can still illuminate the human spirit brilliantly...

[PS: In case Peter's "new" to you, he was formerly in THE NERVES and THE PLIMSOULS and has been a mainly solo act for the decades since, one of the great singer/songwriters of our times...]

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

FREEDOM

My teenager turned seventeen yesterday and passed his driving test, so now has his license and has spent the past two days driving...a lot. Remember that feeling?  Freedom.
[That's him last night after his birthday dinner, in the middle, with his girl and two oldest friends on his left, and his mom, older brother and me on the right, too much camera reflection in the eyes and I was looking' much better in the other photos not taken, but you get the idea]

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

HOMELAND CONNECTIONS

I think I've posted these two photos before but since I just caught up on the first two episodes of the new season of HOMELAND, I thought I'd post them as my indirect connection to the show:
That's Claire Danes watching me as I read a poem at The Bowery Poetry Club before she began starring in HOMELAND (don't know the identity of the man)...
That's Michal O'Keefe who will start as a regular on HOMELAND next episode, c. 1990, sitting in the white shirt with me standing behind him in a black one (and Yvonne De La Vega on his lap, Katy Sagal in front of her, Tommy Swerdlow in the beard leaning in behind Katy, Ann Beatts standing behind him leaning in front of Hubert Selby Jr. on my right, on my left Jack Grapes, Eve Brandstein, Lotus Weinstock, Joel Lipman, Michael Harris and Miriam Mezzierres leaning in front of Joel and Robert Downey Jr. sitting in front of Lotus with Michael DeBarres down in front of him and Caroline Ducroq)...

Monday, October 6, 2014

WHAT IT'S ABOUT

If you watch this to the end and aren't moved, well, you better get out of the way...(so grateful I got to be a part of it...)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

MARC PICKERING AS NUCKY THOMPSON AS A YOUNG MAN

Brilliant. If you watch BOARDWALK EMPIRE and saw tonight's episode where Steve Buscemi's character "Nucky Thompson" flashes back to when he was a young assistant sheriff, the actor who plays him at that age is a young English actor who proved himself in THE BORGIAS and other shows and movies and tonight made me think for a minute it had to either be Steve Buscemi's son or the actual Steve Buscemi with some kind of CGI that erased the years from his face. But no, it was just feckin' brilliant acting.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

GRAVITY

Finally saw GRAVITY. I understand what the fuss was about, though only by imagining it on a big screen, and why Sandra Bullock was nominated. The tension was often impressive, the visuals too at times, and the acting extremely competent, especially considering the actors were working with green screens etc.

But, it certainly wasn't worthy of the "best" of anything other than special effects award, despite it's being very good. And I found the ending unsatisfying, wishing it had gone on to a more complete resolution, I mean that we had been allowed to see that. As it was, it seemed stagey as can be to me.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

ANOTHER LIST!

Once again I reiterate that ever since the brain operation (five years ago next month), my constant compulsive list-making has been gone, and for most of that time to list more than two of anything has been almost impossible for me to do without help, except rarely. I have been able to make a few lists (which pre-op was way more than any other category in the archive section of this blog) by using my book shelves or the help of the Internet now and then.

But for the following list of favorite memoir/autobiographies I was able to come up with six titles (the first six on the list) over a period of a few days and nights thinking about it, so maybe something is reconnecting in my brain to the list-making compulsion, or at least capacity. The rest I came up with by browsing my book shelves. If there are any I missed by people I know forgive me and my brain, and observational powers when it comes to my pretty large library (constantly trying to trim it but still filling four ceiling high bookshelves, with seven shelves, and three other "smaller" bookcases...so I'd guess a few thousand books...).

So here's the list broken into two sections (which amazingly and totally unintentionally came out to ten authors each): those that are unique (in my opinion) either in structure or approach and those that are more conventional...

THAT SPECIAL PLACE by Terence Winch
I REMEMBER by Joe Brainard
HERE COMES THERE GOES YOU KNOW WHO by William Saroyan
SKY by Blaise Cendrars
CLEARVIEW/LIE by Ted Greenwald
RECOLLECTIONS OF MY LIFE AS A WOMAN by Diane di Prima
HIS LIFE by Glen Baxter
FINISHING THE HAT by Stephen Sondheim
IN HIS OWN WORDS by Louis Armstrong
THE INVENTION OF SOLITUDE by Paul Auster

BORSTAL BOY and CONFESSIONS OF AN IRISH REBEL by Brendan Behan
THE VILLAGE OF LONGING, DANCEHALL DAYS and OUT OF OUR MINDS by George O'Brien
DAWN and NEWSPAPER DAYS by Theodore Dreiser
TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup
SMILE PLEASE by Jean Rhys
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS by William Carlos Williams
CHRISTOPHER AND HIS KIND by Christopher Isherwoood
LIVING ROOT by Michael Heller
THE MEMORY OF ALL THAT by Betsy Blair
THE STAR FACTORY by Ciaran Carson

(That last one may belong more in the first group since though a relatively conventional memoir it is also the history of a place—Belfast—making it a little more unique in its approach...)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SOME FAVORITE QUOTES

All from EVERYBODY'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Gertrude Stein, her follow-up to THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B. TOKLAS, and even more accessible, too much so for some of her purist fans, but an interesting take on her unexpected literary success with her clever autobiography couched as though from the perspective of her "lifetime companion" Alice Toklas (which EVERYBODY'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY makes clear Alice preferred to the middle initial version of her name).

"Everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something."

"It is natural that if anybody asks you to go anywhere, once you have the habit of going anywhere, that you go anywhere once. If you go again you go again but if you have a lot of interest in seeing anything you will go anywhere once. Anyway I will."

"I have been writing a lot about money lately, it is a fascinating subject, it is really the difference between men and animals, most of the things men feel animals feel and vice versa, but animals do not know about money, money is purely a human conception and that is very important to know very very important."

"Too few is as many as too many."

"Identity always worries me and memory and eternity."

"The periods of the world's history that have always been most dismal ones are the ones where fathers were looming and filling up everything."

"Anytime is the time to make a poem."

"Choice is always more pleasing than anything necessary."

"I was then and ever since filled with the fact that there are so many millions always living and each one is his own self inside him."