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.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

TAKE A CLOSER LOOK

Here is the latest from my grandson...after you watch it you have to go to where it says "SHOW MORE" under the publishing info and read his statement so you can get his intent, which I'm very proud of...

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A QUIET PASSION

There's a lot of good acting in this flick, much of it from Cynthia Nixon as the older Emily Dickinson. If this were Oscar season I'd take any bet that she would get a nomination for Best Actress, though by the Fall the impact may have faded. If you want to watch a compelling and committed performance, even if sometimes erratic, definitely go see A QUIET PASSION.

It's difficult to make a movie about a writer, especially a poet (though it has been done well before). And for my taste director/writer Terence Davies falls into some of the pitfalls in the genre. He tries to hit what seems like every interpretation or theory for what ailed Dickinson, as well as what her daily passions and challenges and relationships were like. And then use specific poems to illustrate each of his insights, or takes, on these, almost like a graphic novel.

In a few instances that works, in most though it detracts from the depth of thought in the poems and the ways they transcend the mere details of a life, the poet's or anyone else's. And between each of these dramatic scenes, there's seemingly endless lingering shots to evoke, I assume, the tedious insularity and uneventfulness of much of Emily's life as a recluse.

A noble attempt to capture the significance and genius of the Eve of American Poetry, but uneven in its artistry for my taste. I commend Davies for getting a movie like this financed and made, but I would love to see what a good, thoughtful woman director, like say Maggie Greenwald for one, would do with a Dickinson biopic.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

ONCE LONG AGO

that's me and my mom down front,
behind me my sister Irene, cousin Rosemary (who lived in the next town, Orange, but often stayed with us) and sister Joan,
behind Irene is our grandmother Dempsey who lived with us,
next to her our Irish immigrant grandmother Lally, who lived down the street,
then Aunt Peggy who lived down the street,
behind her Aunt Mary, who lived next door,
the bald guy in back was the boarder in our house, Jack Dougherty,
in front of him my Aunt Rose, Rosemary's widowed mother,
and behind my mom my Uncle John who appears to be grimacing,
he was Aunt Mary's husband, a very kind and gentle man,
but he died fairly young of cancer
and this photo was taken I would guess not too long before that occurred...
all gone now, except for Irene and me, as in most of these old family photos...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

JACK LALLY R.I.P.

One of my favorite realities when I was a kid was growing up in a clan with tons of cousins who lived nearby including one of my favorites, Jackie, who passed when I was a young man. Now his son Jack, who looked a lot like his father, has passed as well and a touching tribute by one of his generation of cousins expresses how so many of us are feeling:
"My cousin Jack passed away on Sunday on his 59th Birthday. There were 5 kids in their family, 4 in ours and like most Irish Catholic families of that time we were pretty much all the same age. We grew up in the same town, went to the same schools. Although as adults we don't get to see each other very much, I will always treasure the memories from those days. Jack was a handsome, kind, funny guy and I'm heartbroken for his wife Margaret, their three children, my Aunt Pat, my cousins Carol, Sue, Bobby & Pat and our whole Lally clan" —Michelle Lally Doyle

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

VITO ACCONCI R.I.P.

I first knew of Vito Acconci in the 1960s as a poet. Then I met him in the 1970s. This is the way I remember Vito. I only knew him slightly, but I certainly knew his performance pieces and other work in the 1970s when I was living in NYC and around the corner from his gallery. I admired him and envied his performance works' cache at that time, it felt like he could do anything and get acclaim for it among our peers. He was a pioneer on many levels. If you want to see why, google his art work, or check out the NY Times obit for some general history.

Monday, May 1, 2017

LATE NIGHT MINI-RANT

The term 24-hour news, especially when it comes to cable new networks, or any TV network for that matter, isn't valid anymore and hasn't been for many years. When CNN began, it actually covered news stories from all over the country and the world, around the clock. That's what other 24-hour cable news networks were imitating, at first. But now all of them are just 24-hour talk shows.