Wednesday, May 30, 2018

FIRST REFORMED

Paul Schrader's films, the ones he's written as well as the ones he has also directed, are usually pretty dark, even despairing. So, even though I admire him as an artist (and have met him through his wife, the great, underrated actor Mary Beth Hurt) I often dread viewing his work. The reason I continue to is because his film BLUE COLLAR was at the time the most realistic take on working class life I was seeing then, and his film MISHIMA was, and may still be, the best biopic ever made.

Usually the first thing people mention is his screenplay for TAXI DRIVER. These and all his credits promise that his films will at least be provocative, original (often one-of-a-kind), and great for serious actors. But dark. Ethan Hawke (who I met when working on WHITE FANG) wasn't known for preferring that kind of material until recent years. Now he's choosing roles like the husband in MAUDIE and the central role of the minister in FIRST REFORMED.

It's a tour-de-force performance, way out of his usual range. But then almost everyone in the movie stretches what we would expect of them. Like Amanda Seyfried (another underrated actor, who the friend I saw it with felt was miscast as a struggling working-class woman because of her beauty and screen charisma) and Cedric Kyles. So, if you like to watch intense acting, FIRST REFORMED may satisfy you. But if you want an escape from the darkness of your life or these times, this might be a little too intensely overwrought, despite the mostly high level of artistry.

Monday, May 28, 2018

MEMORIAL DAY MINI-RANT

Memorial Day commemorates those who died while serving in the military. Although many in my extended clan served in the armed forces, including me and my three older brothers who served in wartime, only one relative and only a few friends have died in the service during wartime. I honor them on this day.

But since, as has been pointed out recently, more people have died in civilian gun violence in the USA so far this year than in the ongoing wars our military are fighting, I feel that there should also be a memorial day set aside for all the victims of gun violence at home here in the states, including members of the police, and the victims of police violence.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A NEW LIST!

As I've said probably too often, I was born with a compulsion to make lists in my head, in my poetry, in my conversation, etc. but the minute I came to after my brain operation in November of 2009, and ever since, I can't put a list of more than two items together in my head without giving up or having to consult my computer or bookshelves.

In conversation with a friend recently about how I can fall in love with a writer's words on the page so intensely I feel a deep need to read every word that writer has ever written, and still reread them, I started listing authors I felt that way about. Here's a much expanded version of what I came up with (with help from my bookshelves and limiting it to pre-my generation (unless already deceased)):

Dante
Goethe
Laurence Sterne
Walt Whitman
Emily Dickinson
Theodore Dreiser
Rainer Maria Rilke
James Joyce
William Carlos Williams
Blaise Cendrars
Edith Wharton
Zora Neale Hurston
Jean Toomer
Jean Rhys
William Saroyan
Martha Gelhorn
Muriel Rukeyser
Samuel Beckett
Henry Miller
James Baldwin
Jack Kerouac
Gary Snyder
Frank O'Hara
James Schuyler
John Ashbery
Diane di Prima
Michael McClure
Hubert Selby Jr.
Henry Roth
Joanne Kyger
Bobbie Louise Hawkins
Lee Lally
Ted Berrigan
Joe Brainard
Etheridge Knight
Lorenzo Thomas
Roberto Bolano
Tim Dlugos

Thursday, May 24, 2018

ONCE

I've posted this before, but it's a favorite old photo as it shows me and my entire, living, immediate family on our back porch toward the end of World War Two, yet obviously mostly happy. My father, Jimmy, looking like a film noir character; my brother Tommy in his Army Air Corps uniform (he would later become Father Campion, Franciscan friar, missionary in Japan for almost his entire adult life); my brother Robert (his middle name, first name William); my mother, Irene, holding me; and my brother "Buddy" (real name James, who would shortly join the Navy and be on Okinawa when the final battles were fought); my sisters Joan (in dark coat); and Irene (in light coat). All gone except for Irene and me. But all still very much alive in my heart (despite some times of dissension among us, all healed now).

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

HBO'S FAHRENHEIT 451

Some fine actors doing their best to overcome terrible direction, writing, editing, and art producing (and producing period) and failing. The only thing positive I got out of sitting through this was the satisfaction that I'd read all the books I heard quoted from or mentioned or appearing on camera, and some of the quotes from some of those books. Otherwise not only a mess, but a mess that occasionally seemed to be trying to blame a dystopian anti-intellectual future on the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements! Ack.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BARBARA BARG R.I.P.

Barbara Barg was so multi-talented you have to go to her web site (here) to understand just a taste of what that meant. She was so loved by so many, go to my Facebook timeline (open to the public supposedly) to read her dear friend Maggie Dubris's perfect expression of that love. I knew her first as a poet (and musician). So here is an early poem that appeared in Eileen Myles' magazine dodgems in the 1970s:

THE SEVEN STAGES OF ENLIGHTENMENT

Dopey
Sleepy
Grumpy
Sneezy
Happy
Doc &
Bashful

Monday, May 21, 2018

RBG

This is an inspiring documentary because it's about the inspiring Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and because it was made almost entirely by women—from directors to cinematographer, producers to editors, etc.—and because it's an important history lesson about how important Supreme Court Justices can be in their lasting impact on almost every aspect of society and gives the lie to the rightwing (and Russian et. al.) instigated misdirection that there's no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.... just watch this and see the difference between Justices nominated by Republican presidents and those nominated by Democrats. Watch this film even if you think you already know enough about "notorious RBG"—you're in for some surprises...

Saturday, May 19, 2018

NOONDAY MINI-RANT (MY RESPONSE TO A FRIEND'S POST THAT HOMESCHOOLING MIGHT BE THE ANSWER TO THE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS)

hardcore conservatives like sec. of ed. betsy devos et. al. WANT people to abandon public education for home schooling and religious based private schools etc.and they want to take tax money from public education and give it to homeschoolers and private schools to do it....because public education is what helped create the logic and reasoning and evidence-based liberal reforms that led to curbs on corporate and one percenters' greed etc.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

25 YEARS AGO

[if you blow it up you can see me and mello-re houston on the program 25 years ago and many other friends, some long gone...poetry continues to save my life...thanks to mello for posting this today...]

Monday, May 14, 2018

ANOTHER FAVORITE OLD QUOTE

"...human affairs still continue to be the consequence of mistakes, misunderstandings, and myths."

—William Saroyan (from Days Of Life And Death And Escape To The Moon)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

HAPPINESS TO ALL

I want to wish a happy day to all those who
never had or knew their mothers…or whose
mothers were unkind, or even cruel to them…
may your day be filled with love and affection


...and to those who mothered the young and 
old alike who needed it and had no one else
to turn to, may your day be as happy as the
hearts of those who benefited from your love...

Saturday, May 12, 2018

TULLY

I was at a discussion between Stephen Colbert and Ethan Hawke where a student in the audience asked Hawke something about RAGING BULL, and Hawke said it was a great movie and a great performance by DiNiro but he didn't like watching actors hurt themselves.

I was relieved to hear that, because I'd always objected to the acclaim DiNiro got for gaining so much weight (and in such a short period of time that his gut looked unnatural to me). When watching the movie I found myself distracted by the weight gain, thinking about the actor rather than the character.

I bring that up because in TULLY—a movie about the mother of two children pregnant and then giving birth to and caring for a third—Charlize Theron, playing the mother, has a body I kept wondering about, was it really that weight and shape or was it CGI or prosthetics or make up or?...

Theron does her usual amazingly competent acting, but I still couldn't help being distracted by her body, which she kept exposing as part of the plot about a woman overwhelmed by motherhood and its responsibilities and consequences.

Some of her scenes resonated with a kind of realism about being a mother that I haven't seen in any movie before, so kudos to the movie makers for breaking ground in some ways. And the story, by Diablo Cody, and the direction, by Jason Reitman, bring out the best in the cast (Mackenzie Davis is a revelation), so it's almost worth watching just for the acting, and maybe for the clever ending, unless you find it a little too clever.

But I don't applaud Theron for gaining the fifty pounds she is said to have put on for the role, because it seems to me like a very unhealthy acting technique. And because it kept me thinking about whether the weight was "real" and therefore too often focused on her acting rather than the story she was trying to tell.

Friday, May 11, 2018

BILL SCHORNSTEIN R.I.P.

The street I grew up on was a block and a half long, and the half block dead ended at the railroad tracks (the houses on the half block are all gone, replaced most recently by a giant CVS). There were a lot of kids on the street when I was growing up, most of them my siblings or cousins (the street was locally known as "Lally's alley").

Four cousins lived next door to me, in birth order a boy a girl a boy and a girl. The two girls were both deaf and the boys not. Both girls, MaryLynn and RuthAnn, became dynamos I have always been very proud of. The youngest, Ruth Ann, as I understand it, was responsible for forcing a change in the treatment of deaf children in New Jersey schools, guaranteeing a sign language interpreter in their classrooms.

I was older and gone when Ruth Ann married a fellow deaf person, Bill Schornstein, and set up house for a while in her widow mother's home next to my parents' home. When I'd visit, I'd hang out with Ruth Ann and Bill, and eventually their children when they were little, Tina and Bill/Liam. I haven't seen them that much in the years after they moved away and I moved all over (though Facebook has made keeping up with them easier).

I remember Bill senior as a kind and humorous man, and a loving and decent father and husband. I am happy to hear that he passed peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones, to whom I offer my condolences.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

ANOTHER MAGICAL NIGHT (FOR ME)

So, the reading last night was an amazingly gratifying event for me. Hearing Douglas Crase read some of my favorite works of his (and without looking down at the books he was reading from for great lengths of time, having memorized lines so complicatedly brilliant and subtly intense I can't imagine anyone being able to say them without double checking the page)...

And then hearing Elinor Nauen (if you don't know her writing you should, she is one of my all-time favorites, as well as a favorite longtime friend) introduce me with such insightful and poetic terminology, ending with these words:

"Here is a man, a poet, doing what a poet ought to be doing: looking at the world with all his attention. Lally carries the bits and pieces of everything he has paid attention to—which is more than almost any poet I can think of—and turns that attentiveness into poetry. Here’s a chance to hear what he’s found out."

...and then to read to a room full of love and appreciation, I couldn't be more grateful, a delight despite my ongoing back pain that I was able to ignore for most of the evening...and it is better today and I know from experience will continue to improve...thanks to all the old and new friends who come out for the event. Here's some photos taken by my longtime friend Eve Brandstein:
old friend the poet and actor Michael O'Keefe and me
me and poet/writer Ben Brandstein 
singer/songwriter Dina Regine
me and Eve and the book (my tee shirt is a reproduction of the point in the Lincoln or Holland Tunnel that indicates when you've crossed over from Jersey to New York, or vice versa) 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

BACK PAIN, BON JOVI, AND POETRY READINGS (TOMORROW)

threw my back out, but I watched the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame show and though it's always a mixed bag lots of highlights, especially for me the Jersey accents when Bon Jovi accepted, and despite any pain I'm gonna make it tomorrow (Wednesday) night to The Saint Mark's Poetry Project (NYC) to read from my new book and hear Douglas Crase read his poetry, hope to see you there...

Monday, May 7, 2018

BARRY

Bill Hader isn't someone I'm a big fan of, because I can never remember what I've seen him in before. But I fell into watching the first episode of his new HBO series, BARRY, and now I will always remember what I saw him in, and I've become a giant fan.

BARRY is a dark comedy, maybe what they now call a dramady? though the drama is so over-the-top, jump-the-shark, too-much, it seems closer to violent farce or hard-edged satire, but whatever it is, if you can take the sometimes extreme violence the other stuff, if you're anything like me, will have you hooked.

The cast is full of memorable actors playing almost caricatures (e.g. Henry Winkler as an aging actor/acting teacher can be both poignant and ridiculous at once) and writing with unexpected plot twists that at the same time pay homage to every TV series trope, almost, and yet comically expose realities I've experienced (not as a hit man, which is Barry's day job, but as an aspiring actor in acting class at night, which is the hook of the shows narrative).

As one of the creators, producers, writers, and directors of BARRY, this is Hader's production, and he proves himself more than capable of pulling it off. Kudos to him.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

WHOOPS

Turns out that interview I did with Columbia University's 89.9FM radio station two weeks ago that was supposed to be live but had to be recorded for airing later, aired tonight at 9 but I didn't learn of that until after it was over. They were supposed to give a head's up, but, and, oh well, that's that, maybe next time...

Saturday, May 5, 2018

BOBBIE LOUISE HAWKINS R.I.P.

If you don' know who Bobbie Louise Hawkins is, find out. In my world she is an iconic figure, one of my favorite writers since the first story I read of hers. And the last. Someone I read regularly. Here's the book to get if you want to see why she's so great: Selected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins.
And here's a short piece from it that displays her skills, her insight into people, and her incredible control of narration and character, it's called: "It's A Phony"

It's a phony surface but who's to know the difference. Not enough time. All that flash.
     Hey, it's as good as real. Like living a life.
     "Who said that?" drawing back and centring. Let's show a little muscle here.
     "You saying this ain't my life?"
     Naw, I never said that.
     "I know what's real. I feel it."
     Yeah, we all do.

Friday, May 4, 2018

FYI

they sold out of my new book, ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY, at the publication party two Wednesdays ago, so I couldn't sign a copy for everyone who wanted one, but they'll have more at the reading at the Saint Mark's Poetry Project this coming Wednesday, May 9th, at 8PM, (10th Street and Second Avenue NYC) so come by if you want to get a copy, or just to hear me and Douglas Crase read from our books, or get a signed copy of one of his books from him (and support the documentary Rachel E. Diken will be filming the reading for at:
www.gofundme.com/lallydocumentary)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

BACK IN THE DAY

early headshot and author's photo taken around 1979-80 when I was 38 and began acting professionally
[taken by Edie Baskin]

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

PS TO YESTERDAY'S POST

I got a little self-righteous and over sensitive in my comments defending my post yesterday, and just wanted to admit that and clarify what I was trying to articulate. I listened to Michelle Wolf''s White House Correspondents Dinner comedy set in real time and admired her bravery and her scoring of sometimes funny but always lucid points against those contributing to the dismantling of our democratic institutions (free press, independent judiciary, congress checking the executive branch, etc.).

But as she was saying, and I was slightly mishearing, her comments on Sarah Huckabee Sanders I predicted in my mind that this, whether misheard or not, would overshadow—and therefore distract from—all the great political points she was making, because it would be seen as an attack on Sanders' looks. And when I heard and saw the clarification that cleared up what she had obviously intended to be a very clever and even poetic zinger, it was already happening.

To some it seemed like I was joining the hypocrites who were attacking Wolf, but I was just trying to comment on what I've seen as a tactical misstep by those, like me, who want to see end to the policies and political rule of the right in this country. I obviously didn't do that in a way that everyone could comprehend.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

DISTRACTING FROM THE REAL ISSUES

I understand most of my friends appreciation for and defending of Michelle Wolf's comments about Trump's Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House Correspondents gig by pointing out how much Sanders and the administration she was representing on the dais that night deserve to be called out for her/their lies etc...

...yet listening that night in real time I was happy Wolf called out the media for creating and profiting on Trump's candidacy and presidency, but when she said about Sanders that "she burns facts" my old post-op brain heard "fat" and then when she very poetically said Sanders uses "the ash" to create "smokey eyes" again my old post-op brain thought she was just doing what so many memes I see on the Internet have been doing since Sanders moved into her job, i.e. making fun of her looks...

Wolf made so many good political points that when I heard the Sanders remark my lifetime of political experience immediately registered that all those great points she made would now be ignored, or diminished to footnotes, while the media—and thus most folks—focused on what sounded like personal insults about a woman's appearance...

...I know I know what Wolf did was much more than that, and some would say not that at all, but Wolf is too smart to not know she was riffing on "burning fat" and cleverly replacing "fat" with "facts" to not realize that that would be the focus of the media covering the event and reacting to it in the days afterward...

...if I were someone working to create even more division on the anti-Trump side, and bolster the pro-Trump side even more, I would create a distraction from the real issues (i.e. the actions this administration is taking to create mistrust and confusion about our democratic institutions and to undo the checks and balances on executive power and any progress made in the last hundred years by the non-wealthy), I would have had Wolf make those comments....

...because now once again social and other media are focusing on the distraction of a comic writer's comments and not on the issues she otherwise raised, like the media's complicity in creating and sustaining the autocrat unraveling our democracy...