Tuesday, June 27, 2017

LETTER TO SHARE


[Rain is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Click to enlarge this, and please share.]

Monday, June 26, 2017

I'M DYING UP HERE

I'm hooked on the new TV series I'M DYING UP HERE, despite its flaws. Set in the early 1970s L.A. comedy scene, it would seem by the poster above that it stars Jim Carrey and Melissa Leo. But after the first four episodes Jim Carrey's involvement seems to be mainly as creator and producer, or one of them.

Melissa Leo plays the tough New York raised owner of a comedy club (based on, I assume, the owner of The Comedy Store on Sunset Strip back in the day) but despite some good if obvious writing and set ups, and her excellent track record as a brilliant screen actress, she seems to me to be working way too hard to emphasize the New York tough survivor boss lady crackin' the comedy whip.

I once met Leo, had lunch with her and some other folks, and if she just played the woman I encountered that day she'd have the right presence and toughness the character requires, as well as the individual, not stereotypical, physical traits and gestures. But the rest of the cast is pretty spectacular for my taste. With cameos by great older actors like Robert Forster, Cathy Moriarity, Obba Babatunde, Alfred Molina, and more. It's been worth watching, for me, just to see them work out.

Among the mostly young, less-known actors that make up the ensemble, Ari Graynor, who plays the main character among them, is the main reason I'm hooked on the show. Playing a budding second-wave feminist in what at the time was predominantly a male scene, she is pure talent playing and evoking just about every emotion on the spectrum, including getting laughs for her stand up.

The show mostly takes place in the comedy club and includes snippets of the young comics' acts, as well as cameos by actors playing more famous comics of the time, like the then blazing Richard Pryor, and the dean of late night, Johnny Carson. It probably helps that many of the actors playing the comics and peripheral characters are also writers themselves. Among them is Al Madrigal, who is credited with writing many episodes of the first season.

The mix of history, and real historic characters among the fictional ones, as well as the dynamite ensemble work and flashes of comic brilliance (though some of the jokes thud, as in real life), has me looking forward to the rest of the episodes on this first season.  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

MY LIFE 2

Most of my poems on this CD are x-rated, but this one sums up the perspective I had at one point earlier in my life (when I was still in my fifties):

Friday, June 23, 2017

BEATRIZ AT DINNER

This movie could have been so good. Great casting, great subject, great opportunity to do some deep consciousness raising (as we used to say) about the state of the country and the world. But...it finally fails, for my taste, because it chickens out, with an ending that was revolutionary when Kate Chopin wrote it for her novel THE AWAKENING at the end of the 19th Century, but is a cop out in 2017.

What could have been an inspiring call to action, or at least an exposing of the hypocrisy of the elite (not like we haven't heard that before) instead ends up not just giving up but totally despondent. Salma Hayek does a terrific job in the leading role (as does everyone else) but what she's given to work with in some scenes is so disjointed and/or weirdly patronizing (for a film supposedly attacking the Trumpian style patriarchy with John Lithgow brilliantly, as always, portraying the Trumpian) I ended up not only leaving the theater frustrated and angry and disappointed, but once again wishing that movies about women be written and directed by women.

This incredibly serious subject that focuses on not just a woman but an immigrant woman, is written by a white male most famous for comedies. I guess I admire his good intentions, but maybe they would have been better expressed by handing the idea over to a woman writer who hopefully would have seen the sexism of the ending, which insults the character Hayek has so diligently done her best to represent.

I don't know, go see it yourself and tell me what you think.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

THE INTRODUCTION OF COLOR

This photo looks like it was taken in 1949-50, when we got a thirteen-inch-screen TV and our living room was always full of folks watching the new-fangled device. The photo too was displaying new-fangled technology, being in color, or what passed for it at the time.

From the viewer's left to right, the back row is my grandma Dempsey, who lived with us, my cousin Rosemary who often stayed at our place, and on the couch my mom, my Aunt Rose (Rosemary's widowed mother), somebody else we can't see, and my brother Robert. Those on the floor are my cousin Micki, who lived down the street, my cousin Mary Lynn, who lived next door, my sister Joan, with me confronting the camera, my ever present black cowboy hat with white stitching hanging down my back. Everyone in this photo gone now, except for Mary Lynn and me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

JOHN REED'S FREE BOAT

John Reed's FREE BOAT is a brilliant and challenging tour de force. Which could be said about every book of his. Like his using lines from various Shakespeare plays to create an entirely new, unique, post-modern yet totally intelligible, Shakespeare play: ALL THE WORLD'S A GRAVE. Or his sequel to ANIMAL HOUSE: SNOWBALL'S CHANCE. Or his seemingly conventional but lushly original Civil War historical romance A STILL SMALL VOICE. Or his satirical take on contemporary "American" "culture" as a seemingly THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS extended acid induced riff THE WHOLE. Et. al.

But first two disclosures. When my oldest son, Miles, was five and moved in with me in New York in the Spring of 1975, (his sister Caitlin joined us for the summer and eventually joined us permanently), his first real friend was John Reed. So John has been a lifelong friend of my son's, and of mine. Second, I've got a thing about books that mix poetry and prose.

When I was a teenager in the 1950s and first read Dante's VITA NUOVA, I fell in love with that mix (whether mostly poetry with just a dollop of prose, or more prose thank poetry) and never fell out. Some of my favorites off the top of my head are William Carlos Williams's SPRING AND ALL, THE DESCENT OF WINTER and PATERSON; Jean Toomer's CANE; James Schuyler's THE CRYSTAL LITHIUM and THE HOME BOOK; James Haining's A QUINCY HISTORY; and a whole bunch of my books: ROCKY DIES YELLOW, CATCH MY BREATH, JUST LET ME DO IT, ATTITUDE, HOLLYWOOD MAGIC, IT'S NOT NOSTALGIA, and IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE (wow, another list from my post-op brain).

The structure of FREE BOAT is closest to my first mix-of-prose-and-poetry love, Dante's VITA NUOVA. In that book, a collection of Dante's early poems written to his lifelong obsession, and first true love, Beatrice, the poems are interspersed with prose explantations of the poems or further explication of the themes in them etc. FREE BOAT appears to extend that poet/commentator model, but from a 21st-Century perspective.

Though Reed's FREE BOAT is the first book of his that seems to finally come out of his real life experience, it's interspersed with fictitious, and at times fictitiously sensationalized, elements. Which means a lot of the explanations, as well as the poems themselves, include post-modern approaches like an unreliable narrator, language games, deliberate misdirection, juxtapositions of images and phrases, and even words, that seem to be intended to create confusion but also fusion, of unlike ideas and interpretations (and other John Reeds' google info?), creating a kind of series of language and "biographical" mini-explosions and excursions. There are lots of photos too, some of, or including, the author at various ages, others of the many other "John Reeds" to be found on Google, or images related to the author's life or the lives of other John Reeds, etc. leading to more revelations and some more obfuscations.

Despite all the "experimental-writing" (a term that used to be used for anything untraditional back in my day) aspects of Reed's FREE BOAT, the poems in it are often in the form of traditional sonnets, though most of them blow that traditional poetic form wide open (and sideways and otherwise) to accommodate the twists and turns of the seeming murder-mystery plot of the memoir-esque facets of the book. I suspect FREE BOAT will not be to everyone's taste (though it is to mine). But its brilliant intellectual virtuosity and creative originality cannot be denied.

YEP


Sunday, June 18, 2017

FATHER'S DAY

me & my youngest c. 2004 in from of the place in Jersey I rented at the time
me & my oldest children c. 1979 in a loft I rented in NYC in what later became "Tribeca"
me & my father and two of my three older brothers, our two sisters, mother and grandma c. 1952 In Belmar NJ where our grandmother had a bungalow 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

ON THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF TED GREENWALD'S DEATH

A great poet and writer and thinker and philosopher and advisor and character and personality and friend...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

KENNETH GRAHAM R.I.P.

Kenny was one of my oldest friends. I've known him since we were kids. We grew up in the same town, and I mention him in some of my poetry, including in The South Orange Sonnets. We spent time in each other's homes. When we were teenagers we made trips to Manhattan, we double dated, crashed parties, and shot hoops. He was always the calm one, I was always restless.

His father drove a taxi that had its office beneath the apartment his large family lived in back then (we're talking the 1940s and '50s). Kenny was the oldest, and since I left town at 18, I didn't get to know his siblings except for his late brother Raymond, just below him in age. Both Kenny and Ray towered above most people and were natural athletes. Ray was offered a basketball scholarship to some college but joined the paratroopers and ended up in Viet Nam. He survived battles but succumbed to other health challenges in later years.

Their mother was a strong voice against racism in our community. Their father, as I remember him, was more reserved, like his oldest son. Kenny was pretty unflappable. I was all high energy and outrage and addicted to new experiences. Kenny never lived far from where he grew up and adapted his athletic abilities to tennis, becoming a private coach on his own time and a school coach for his nine-to-five.

When I moved back to South Orange in 1999, after being away for close to forty years, the first person I ran into was Kenny, and he immediately made a joke about a girl I was dating in 1959. We had a lot of chuckles over the years. I had expected to see him at my 75th birthday party last month, we talked on the phone beforehand and I emailed him about it but he never showed up and I missed him being there.

But that had been my experience when we were teenagers as well. Sometimes he just wouldn't show and no questions would be asked. Only a few months earlier, he had called me and said he was just thinking back on the old days and there weren't many people around who were there except us. We talked for a long time about those who were gone or we'd lost touch with, had some laughs, and some quiet moments. It was a good, loving conversation that I am now very grateful we had.

Kenneth Graham (as he chose to call himself on his Facebook page) was a calming presence everywhere he went and will be remembered for being an exceptionally decent and kind person. My condolences to all his family and friends.

Monday, June 12, 2017

DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

This photo was taken of me in 1972 when I was thirty, at the start of the few years when I began experimenting with my sexual identity. The photographer was an older man who said he was in love with me. He was a public figure and very closeted, a macho WWII combat veteran who despised "sissies" which I imagine is why he somehow provoked me to capture my more macho side at a time when I was making the first attempts in my life to NOT come across as macho.

There were very few examples of publicly self-identified "gay" men, or lesbians, let alone anyone talking about fluidity in terms of sexuality. I hated the term "bi-sexual" (as I was taught to by the man who was the first male I shared my sexuality with as an adult, who said calling yourself "bi-sexual" was a cop out, because it allowed you to enjoy the pleasures of sex with whoever you wanted without the consequences of being identified as a gay man).

So when I was included in "gay" poetry anthologies in the years that followed, I'd always mention in the bio section that I hated labels for sexuality, that my experience was that there were as many kinds of sexual experiences as there were people, but if I had to pick a term I'd use "pansexual."

The one exception in the poetry world was Dick Higgins, who became a friend and who wrote a line that I used to quote constantly back then (and unfortunately I cant reproduce the way it appears in his poem because of the formatting limitations on my my blog and Facebook): "look behind the eyes//i said and i say//worry about the plumbing later".

The reason I bring all this up is because today is the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The kind of gay club I danced in and partied in back in the early 1970s in DC and NYC and San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Miami, Florida, during my travels then as an openly "gay" poet and man, despite the fact that I was always in sexual relationships with women as well at the time.

There's a quote from the artist and poet Joe Brainard (a man I was in love with, and was lovers with over the years though the sex was minimal and pretty unsuccessful) that I can't remember exactly, nor find at the moment, that said something like: Every day is the anniversary of something horrible. And that's true. And overwhelming.

But nonetheless, today's one-year anniversary of the death of those forty-nine people in that club and the trauma still experienced by those who survived the carnage, reminds me, at least, what I discovered in that period of sexual experimentation, that there are as many ways of being oneself as there are selves, including the multitude of selves we each contain.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

WONDER WOMAN

I could say a lot of things about the WONDER WOMAN movie. Like I'm glad I saw it on the big screen. I could certainly say a lot of positive things about it like Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is perfection. But then so is Connie Neilsen as her mother and Robin Wright as the general of the Amazons. I could have gone on watching the first part of the movie, set in the land of the women warriors, with no men, for the entire length of the movie and been quite satisfied.

And I could quibble with some things. Like, wait a minute, where was she hiding that shield? Or, is the plot meant to imply that people working for peace really secretly want war? Or, I'm really happy that it was directed by a woman and stars a woman action hero, but I wish the next one will be written by women as well, unlike this one, because I think it would be even more insightful about strong women. (Also, why cant I find a movie poster that has the usual credits for stars and director, instead of ones that only have images of Wonder Woman but not even the full movie title?!)

But in the end, the one thing I can and want to say for certain about the new WONDER WOMAN movie is this: 'bout feckin' time.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

SWEET DAY

Exhausted but fulfilled after a day at New Jersey's first ever South Orange-Maplewood Book Festival. Tons of authors and poets and panel discussions and book lovers. The panels I attended were stimulating and inspiring, the level of insight into craft and purpose was so high my mind is tired.

I was fortunate enough to take part in a panel with other poets about social and political activism in relation to poetry and hear some great responses to our current challenges. Lively discussions at the others, including one about gentrification and its impact on the health of all those involved in it, the newcomers and the displaced (best line of the day from Mindy Thompson Fullilove (author of ROOT SHOCK): "Facism is bad for your heath!") (the other panelist was Peter Moskowitz, author of HOW TO KILL A CITY).

I'm already looking forward to the second one, a year from now.

Friday, June 9, 2017

LAST MINUTE REMINDER

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., 10 Durand Rd, Maplewood, NJ 07040 as part of the Maplewood South Orange Book Festival, please come out for The Poetry of Hope and Social Action
Tina Kelley, Theresa BurnsMichael Lally Danny Shot, and BJ Ward 
Post-election, poetry has emerged as a way to channel the uncertainty that comes with regime change. Five poets share work that focuses on justice, resistance, and/or ways to bolster spirits and protect the disenfranchised in uncertain times

Thursday, June 8, 2017

AUTHOR PHOTOS

The backs of three of my books: ATTITUDE (taken by Edie Baskin), CATCH MY BREATH (by Susan Tenant), and CANT BE WRONG (by Robert Zuckerman).

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

IF YOU'RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST

If you have HBO or can get access to HBO documentaries, this is one to check out. Maybe you have to be my age to find it as fun and inspiring as I did, but I don't think so. Carl Reiner steers us through interviews with, and the activities of, people ninety and over. A hundred-year-old, still working professionally,  piano-playing song writer; a hundred year old runner still participating in track events; etc. Some are famous and most are accomplished and "of means"—as they used to say for rich folks—so that obviously might help with their attitudes. But not all are, which implies it's not always that.

They talk about what they think gives them not just their longevity, but their vitality. Still exercising in most cases, some more than others, some still dancing or doing yoga or writing or doing comedy or etc. All enjoying life still, active and mostly self sufficient. There's younger folk, Jerry Seinfeld for one, sharing some of their own philosophy of how to have a happy and active life, but mostly it's just really old people making me look forward to hitting my own nineties in fifteen years.

After watching this I turned it off thinking bring it on.

Monday, June 5, 2017

THIS COMING SATURDAY MORNING EVENT (10AM)

The Poetry of Hope and Social Action
Tina Kelley, Theresa Burns, Michael Lally, Danny Shot and B.J. Ward
The Burgdorff Center (Theatre) Maplewood NJ
Post-election, poetry has emerged as a way to channel the uncertainty that comes with regime change. Five poets share work that focuses on justice, resistance, and/or ways to bolster spirits and protect the disenfranchised in uncertain times.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Fields of Athenry is a 20th Century Irish song about the 19th Century genocide incorrectly called "the famine"...it's a wife's lament to her husband in a prison ship because he dared to rob some corn the English overlords had in storage but wouldn't let the starving native Irish have access to...it's my clan's anthem because my Irish grandfather grew up outside Athenry (pronounced Athen-rye) and the husband in the song is named Michael as was he and obviously me...this is my oldest child Caitlin singing her own lyrics (rewritten with the help of my older boy Miles and his mate Hannah) for me at my 75th birthday party (unfortunately the video won't post here on my blog but you can go to Facebook and see and hear it:



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

MAYBE MY FAVORITE QUOTE OF ALL (FOR WALT WHITMAN'S BIRTHDAY)

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..."
—Walt Whitman (from the preface to the 1855 edition of LEAVES OF GRASS)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

NEXT SUNDAY

I'll be reading a few poems as will a gang of terrific Jersey poets, Sunday June 4th, from 1 to 3, at The Artful Bean, 400 South Jefferson Street, Orange NJ, $5 at the door.

Monday, May 29, 2017

MEMORIAL DAY REMINDER

Just a reminder that Memorial Day is meant to honor those in the military who died "defending the country" (though in too many cases it was defending big money and big business), not all veterans.

But to my mind it should honor all those who died in any unnecessary way, as civilians caught in the crossfire or under the indiscriminate bombs, or from lack of health care, or from poverty, or starvation, or any condition or circumstance that could be altered were the resources devoted to it.

And as a reminder of the code I do my best to live up to, though I too often fail (and to honor the heroes who lost their lives trying to stop that white supremacist terrorist in Portland a few days ago), here is what I requested be written on the cake for my 75th birthday celebration:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

TIMMY LALLY GOING FOR IT

This is my grandnephew Timmy who moved to L.A. a few years ago from Maryland to try to make it as a comic. If you watch to the end he gives a pretty smooth set that had me laughing.

Friday, May 26, 2017

DENIS JOHNSON R.I.P.

I only knew Denis Johnson briefly, while he and I were at The University of Iowa Writers Workshop back in the late 1960s. I liked him and he seemed to like me. We talked some and were friendly, but not hang-out friends. He was eight years my junior and I was married with one child and another on the way.

The most vivid memory I have of him then was at a protest against recruiters from DOW Chemical, the makers of napalm, the petroleum based jelly bombs dropped from "American" planes that stuck to clothes and skin and burned innocent and "guilty" alike. Or maybe it was Marine recruiters, I no longer remember (though there are newspaper articles and photos in my archives at NYU that could verify which it was).

A bunch of pro-Viet War jocks attacked the front lines of the protesters blocking entrance to a university building, and I remember Denis's innocent, boyish face as the jocks punched and kicked us, trying to create a break in the line, but we held firm. Eventually the police arrived and arrested the protesters, not the jocks, typical of those times, and these.

This photo (unattributed on the site I found it on) doesn't capture the Denis I knew back then who was  around twenty at the time, slim and like I said, boyish. He was quiet and undemonstrative to my boisterous radical persona, so I assumed he found me a lot to respond to. But I let him know how much I liked his writing already, and was happy when years later he and I had poetry collections published by the same elegant small press run by the late Kim Merker—The Stone Wall Press.

At this stage of my life I'm trying to reduce the things in my life, even my precious library, so last year I sold some of it to a rare book dealer and friend who took that book of Denis's—A Man Among The Seals—that I had held close for all these decades. I missed it as soon as I let it go. I know there are many who will miss Denis, who was taken too soon from family, friends and fans. But he left a great legacy of great books, which is what any writer would want.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

THREE QUARTERS OF A CENTURY

Me in my baptismal "dress" not long after I was born seventy-five years ago today. Sitting on my mother's lap surrounded by my father and brothers and sisters. All gone except for my sister Irene over my right shoulder in the photo. We're still here. All of them still with us.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

BILL EVAN'S PEACE PIECE

When tragedy strikes, I always turn to some form of art to console and sustain me. This recording has been a standby for that since I first heard it, shortly after it came out, when I was a teenager wannabe Bill Evans. I'd put the album on, place the needle on the groove where this tune began (improvised on the spot in the studio as I heard it), turn the speakers up loud to get lost in the eternal now of the creative process and let the emotions come.

Monday, May 22, 2017

CHECK IT OUT

I can't make this, but if I was anywhere near Brooklyn tomorrow night I would be there to see my good friends, poet Rachel E. Diken and writer/comic Boo Trundle join their fellow Atticus Review writer David Olimpio give a reading at Pete's Candy Store, 709 Lorimer Street at 6:30PM.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

YOUTUBE VIDEO WORTH WATCHING

even though I knew all this from reading about everything mentioned in it, it's still worth watching to the end as a great synthesis of what we know about what we know...

Saturday, May 20, 2017

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Trump said in the campaign that if I voted for Clinton, I'd be stuck with a criminal president under constant federal investigation from day one. Turns out he was right. I voted for Clinton and I'm stuck with a criminal president under federal investigation since day one."  —Angela Lockhart Aronoff

Friday, May 19, 2017

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

A lot of laughs in this flick, most of them intentionally. A lot of pop cultural references too, including homages (THE BLOB anyone?). Fun stuff mostly. It's a psy-fi fantasy comic book action movie, so you go in expecting two hours of escapism. And that's what you get. Plus a lot of good and/or familiar actors (Sly Stallone in a cameo that worked for me, among them).

And the CGI effects were a total treat for most of the film, in some cases works of art, like the electric arrow of Michael Rooker's character (wait for all the end credits to get some more human-size humor with the arrow).

The most endearing and captivating of the characters, "Twig," was voiced, unexpectedly for me, by Vin Diesel! Go figure. If you want an escape from the heat, climate-wise or political, you could do worse. Much worse.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

I think I may have posted this before. It's my sister Irene and me in front of "The Little Job-er"—our father's home repair business—in what was the oldest wooden building in South Orange. It had been The South Orange Hotel in the 1800s but now was a rundown, unused, except for my old man's business, cluttered old dump.

Irene's five years older than me (there was a brother, John, between us who passed as an infant). My guess is I'm eleven or twelve and she is sixteen or seventeen in this photo. The wording behind us was advertising for the "little jobs" we did. I worked there, for "room and board" as they said then, answering the phone and doing odd jobs.

The door behind my sister led to a small "store" that held an old style wall phone, some shelves for tools, a thick wood table covered in carpeting where we cut glass (to replace broken windows). On nice days like this one I would bring out a couple of wooden horses, and place a screen or window on them to replace the glass I'd cut inside, or the torn screen, with new screening, stapling it in, and in the case of the glass, hammering in those little sharp triangles I can't remember the name of anymore and covering them up with the putty that framed each panel.

The door to my left led to the rest of the "hotel"—an old, dusty, abandoned "lobby" where we kept ladders and leaders and gutters and anything else that was too long for the little store, and upstairs there was a funky old toilet we used and otherwise just junk covered in decades of dust and dirt.

There was also an old shoe shine stand that an old buddy of my father's from his youth used to make a small living, with a place to sit on top and then the old style metal show stands for the man to put his feet on so my old man's friend (why can't I remember his name?) could apply the polish and start snapping his shining cloth.

I worked there from eleven until I left home at eighteen, every day after school and on Saturdays and some holidays and parts of the summer. For decades after, right up until the advent of cell phones, I would often pick up the phone and put it to my ear and automatically say: "The Little Job-er" to the surprise of whoever was on the other end.

My sister and I are the only ones left of our five other siblings and our parents.

Monday, May 15, 2017

POWERS BOOTHE R.I.P.

Met him on the set of DEADWOOD. And although he's younger than me, it felt like (or he acted like) he was older! A truly unique presence on screen and off. Too young to be gone (68, the obits say). Here's The Rolling Stone obit. Condolences to all his many family members, friends, and fans.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

I'LL ALWAYS LOVE MY MOMMA

Back in the days of disco, the late great poet Ed Cox and I, whose mothers were long gone, used to boogie to this and choke up on the dance floor...still has that impact on me...

Saturday, May 13, 2017

KING ARTHUR: THE LEGEND OF THE SWORD

When I was a boy in the 1940s and '50s, it seemed like a movie about the mythical King Arthur and his sword Excalibur and The Knights of The Round Table was coming out every week. There were probably only a handful, but references to one of the above seemed to be in many movies then.

So I joined a friend who will go see anything with Charlie Hunnam to catch this latest version, mostly to find out what Guy Ritchie would bring to the legend. In the opening scenes I wasn't too impressed, too much special effects that seemed amazing in LORD OF THE RINGS, but have grown stale by now, and too much Eric Bana, whose acting and screen presence often leave me baffled as to how he became a star when so many others with more movie charisma and impact have not.

But Bana is gone pretty soon and the real story begins, and is less about monstrous destructive CGI and more about old style movie characters and leading man (Hunnam) learning the skills necessary to defeat the evildoers (led by the always good Jude Law) with the help of a woman with magical powers played stunningly by Astrid Berges-Frisbey, a discovery. She was, for me, the heart and spirit of the movie and the reason to watch it, along with Hunnam's star turn, as usual a delight.

Lots of good actors, like Djimon Housou (who I met in my Hollywood days and was as gracious and elegant as you would expect every time I was around him), and Aiden Gillen (adding to the GAME OF THRONES aspect of everything about this film), and new to me Kingsley Ben-Adir, and more.

If you like that Guy Ritchie tension-creating pace with scenes transposed for flashbacks and flash forwards, and a driving musical score and those martial arts sped-up and slowed-down dances-of-violence scenes, you'll like KING ARTHUR: THE LEGEND OF THE SWORD.

Friday, May 12, 2017

MID-DAY MINI-RANT

It's bad enough Republican politicians use the term "the American people...." followed by "demand" or "want" or "believe" or "support" or whatever, but even Democratic politicians do it, as if they aren't aware of the divisions in our populace that are so stridently polarized a con artist like his atrociousness can get appointed president...

Enough with the wishful-thinking-or-deliberately-misleading-or-just-plain-ignorant appellation "the American people" as the subject or object of any sentence from now on...I wish...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

POINTING THE FINGER

I notice in a lot of photos, many of them not scanned yet, I'm pointing a finger at the photographer or someone in the photo or just at the general atmosphere, like here in the arms of my mother, with my father and five living siblings (one brother between me and my closest sister passed as an infant) during World War Two...here's some more over the years:
me in the little matching shorts and shirt outfit with my father and two of my brothers and mother top left next to a cousin her mother her brother and sister and father and kneeling next to me my oldest sister, a cousin, my youngest sister and a friend of my sisters' c. 1950
my grandson, oldest and youbesgt son and me c. 2002
dancing at a niece's wedding with another niece and her husband behind me c. 2006
me reading at The Bowery Poetry Club c. 2008
me and friends at my 70th birthday party 2012
me reading c. 2014
my oldest son and me, not a flattering shot (Miles' eyes half open and my cutting my own hair doesn't help) at The Gotham Comedy Club NYC 2016 or '17

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MICHAEL PARKS R.I.P.

I never worked with him, unfortunately, but I think I may have met him. I admired his work from the first time I saw him on screen. I thought of him back then as "the poor man's James Dean."  That was an old expression often used for B movie stars when I was a kid, like Randolph Scott was "the poor man's Gary Cooper" and Lisbeth Scott (no relation) "the poor man's Lauren Bacall."

But Parks lived past his youthful resemblance to Dean and grew into one of the great character actors in movies and on TV. He was also a very interesting man according to friends who knew him. Look him up, his is a truly unique story. He will be missed.