Sunday, November 25, 2018

NICOLAS ROEG AND RICKY JAY R.I.P.

I don't remember ever meeting  Nicolas Roeg, but I sure remember the powerful impact seeing three of his movies had on me. PERFORMANCE made in 1970, I saw just as 1972 started and I was discovering the fluidity of my sensuality. I had taken a beautiful South American shoe salesman, who had earlier that day sold me a pair of lavender suede platform shoes and agreed to meet me after work.

We got high before sitting in the dark theater, so watching the lovemaking bedroom scene, where gender becomes fluid and gorgeous in whatever form, I felt like my head was expanding and my body was exploding with joy and anticipation. (Maybe you had to be there.) Then sitting in the same theater (in DC) the following year, watching the lovemaking bedroom scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in DON'T LOOK NOW, I couldn't help laughing with joy at what I still remember as the best lovemaking scene in any movie ever (at least at the time it came closest to my experience).

The third film was INSIGNIFICANCE, one of the most original storylines ever in film history. Let's just say it involves Einstein and Marilyn Monroe, among other iconic figures, and explains E's "theory of relativity" better than any other movie (ha). And the MM character is played with the underrated and unfortunately mostly forgotten Theresa Russell who for many years after was my favorite movie actor of that time.

Roeg was 90 and had a very full and impactful (obviously to me) life, good for him.

Ricky Jay was only 70, so his passing seems too soon to me. My condolences to his family and friends and fans. I met him twice, once on the set of DEADWOOD, in which I had a small role on one episode. He was a nice guy and, of course, an amazing cardsharp and magician. I saw him do some of his card tricks in person and up close and was as impressed as anyone. He created a unique space for himself in the world of entertainment, and that is not easy to do nor often done. He will be missed.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

FYI

Last two stops on the book tour for ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017 will be in California for readings at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Boulevard, Venice Beach, 7:30PM Dec. 1st, and at The Green Arcade bookstore 1680 Market Street in San Francisco, 7:30PM Saturday Dec. 8th.

Friday, November 23, 2018

A POEM I WROTE MANY YEARS AGO

NOVEMBER SONNET

On a perfectly clear Fall day, heading back to
Fort Monmouth, I watched as other cars on
The Garden State Parkway veered onto the
shoulder and stopped, the drivers not getting
out, just sitting there. At the toll booth the man
said The president's been shot. As I drove on,
more cars pulled off the road. I could see their
drivers weeping. Back in the barracks we stayed
in the rec room watching the black and white
TV, tension in the room like static. When they
named Lee Harvey Oswald, I watched the
black guys hold their breath, hoping that meant
redneck, not spade, and every muscle in their
faces relax when he turned out to be white.


(C) 2018 Michael Lally [from Another Way To Play]

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

ONCE

me (in blue shirt) with my then three siblings still alive
(we'd lost three others over the years) around 1990
(can you guess which brother was the cop
and which the priest?)
and now there's only my sister and me left

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

The Coen brothers movies often leave me frustrated. Usually because the cynicism in them is too self-indulgent, as though they confuse cynicism with superiority. THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (on Netflix and in theaters) is no exception. The acting is superb, the cinematography brilliant, the writing  clever, though sometimes a little too. But to what end? Entertaining, yes, engaging often, but when you reach the end of this series of unrelated tales (except for their all being set in the old West, with too many discredited tropes from the Western genre) how do you feel? I felt frustrated, and even swindled, like I just gave up two hours of my life (and at this end of it) to be unsatisfied, and feel frustrated and swindled.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

FYI: DEC. 1ST READING IN L.A.

Just a reminder that I'll be in L.A. for a Dec. 1st reading at 7:30PM at Beyond Baroque hosted by Eve Brandstein. It'll be my only reading in L.A. and the last time I'll be there (traveling that far has become more challenging for me)

 It's the second to last reading on my book tour for ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: POEMS 1960-2017, and for the documentary being made about the tour and my life and my poetry by Rachel E. Diken. Both of us have reached beyond our means to make this film and this last visit to California viable, and I appreciate all the donations friends have made to this project, but if you can donate to help pay for this phase of it, here is the link to Rachel's Go Fund Me page for the film.

Friday, November 16, 2018

WILLIAM GOLDMAN R.I.P.

I never met William Goldman. But I feel like he's been an integral part of my life since I first discovered him in the late 1950s. In 1964 when I married my first wife, Lee, we had only met once, briefly, but had corresponded for years, and our first deep connection was our mutual love of Goldman's first novel, THE TEMPLE OF GOLD.

When it came out in 1957, it was initially banned from many libraries and schools for its "sexual" content though by today's standards there is none really. But it had critics and others associating him with The Beats, who were coming TO prominence then, even though it was as far from Beat as a young rebellious novelist could be back then. Despite it being to me a way too "white suburban" tale, I loved it because it was told from the perspective of a young man and made the self-conscious embarrassments of boyhood and adolescence really funny.

After we married, Lee and I would periodically read our favorite funny passages from it to make each other laugh, and it always worked. But Goldman maybe wanted to make his mark as a serious writer, because his second much slimmer novel, YOUR TURN TO CURTSY, MY TURN TO BOW (1958), was very dark. Lee loved it, and would use lines from it as shorthand for various situations, like, "Nail me to the cross Peter, nail me to the cross." I lost my copy years ago so I'm quoting that from memory and might have the name wrong, but the sentiment was the essence of the novel.

He then wrote a novel about his military experience, SOLDIER IN THE RAIN, which I read just before I entered the military and identified with a lot. But the big success of his early novels was the major bestseller BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER, which I read as his declaration that if you can't beat what we called in those days the "hack novelists" who gave the then mass paperback novel audience what they seemed to want, might as well join them.

He went on to become the most successful screenwriter in Hollywood in the latter half of the 20th century. Where I ended up and partly as a result of writing screenplays too (though his were often made into movies, and very successful ones—like HARPER, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, MARATHON MAN, et.al.—mine weren't). And the year I arrived in Hollywood, 1983, he published a book about Hollywood called ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE, with the opening sentence: "Nobody knows anything." That book was as much a comfort to me during that period of my life as his first novel was to my late adolescence and first marriage.

The best example for me of his skill as a story teller though, whether in novels or screenplays, is the delightfully funny and poignant THE PRINCESS BRIDE.  His like will not pass this way again.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

SO TOUCHING

I read somewhere this week is dedicated to honoring our trans bothers and sisters, and nothing I've seen has moved me more than this video, totally worth watching to the end...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

I've read and heard criticism of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY for it's being a typical biopic with the typical biopic tropes, and for not being authentic enough, like manipulating the facts to make for a more dramatic story arc, not giving enough time to Mercury's last big love, Jim Hutton, and too much time to Mary Austin, the woman he was engaged to and called his best friend (and left his home and most of his worldly goods to, Hutton got a big chunk of money, equal to a million dollars at present rates), etc.

But for my taste, if you see it in a theater on a big screen with big theater sound, it's a thrilling ride, despite some lulls and obvious contrivances. First of all Rami Malek as Freddy Mercury gives one of the great movie performances of the year, and the producers and director were smart enough to actually use the original recordings so it's Mercury's voice we're hearing, making the movie theater experience like attending a Queen concert with front row seats. That alone was worth the price of admission. The casting was amazing across the board, with the actors playing the rest of the band almost mirror images of the real guys.

Every quibble I had was balanced by another moment in the film that landed perfectly. Like when Freddy tells his female fiancée he thinks he's "bi-sexual" and she says "No Freddy, you're gay." I wanted to say Wait up, from what I've read he had sexual relations with several women (which the movie doesn't mention), as well as a lot more men (the opposite of my experience with mostly women but a number of men). Though I hate labels and categories (I used to call myself "pan-sexual" and to those who'd call me "bi-sexual" I'd point out that my experience is there's as many kinds of human sex as there are humans, not just two), lately I've revisited old journals and realize I was more into men than I remembered, which made me want to acknowledge and embrace what some would call my "bi-sexuality" since that category seems to be getting a lot of flack these days.

But then there's a simple scene after Mercury gets the AIDs diagnosis when on the way out of the clinic a sweet looking young man recognizes the Queen lead singer and quietly voices a two-note riff made famous by Mercury, which Mercury quietly echos, and the tears just flowed for me as every emotion connected to friends and lovers I'd had who died of AIDs—including survivor's guilt that I never even contracted it—overwhelmed me.

So, it might be how you respond personally to the emotional bits in the film, but for me, they mostly worked, as did the music.

[PS: I've been informed by Susan Anton in comments below that it's not Freddy Mercury's voice in the film, but I've read some reports that it is mostly, either way it works for me....I also want to make clear I'm not diminishing Mercury's being gay with my remarks about "bi-sexuality," just clarifying my own thoughts and feelings about that label and it's use to dismiss genuine feelings and experiences...]

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

GIOVANNA ARON R.I.P.


Willie Aron is one of the multi-talented music creators in L.A., and musicians there and elsewhere admire and respect his talent. But above and beyond that, he's just a really good guy. My oldest son, Miles, played bass in a band (originally called Spanish Kitchen, and later Mystery Pop) in which Willie played guitars and keyboards. He also played on some of the tracks for my poetry-with-music CD: Lost Angels.

He could not only instantly improvise the perfect riff I or Miles (he produced the CD) were looking for, but in any style of music we asked for! And he was always cooperative and modest. Working and playing with him was always fun for me. And hanging out with him was too, as well as with his lovely wife Giovanna.

My heart goes out to Willie over the loss to cancer of Giovanna, one of the kindest, most generous, most loving humans I've ever known. Our mutual friend Nancy Lee Nadel said it best in her post about this tragedy:

"To know her was to love her ... it was that simple. I met her when waitressing well over 20 years ago and it was love at first conversation and remained so throughout. I honestly never met a kinder more compassionate woman. Please send some love to her husband Willie and their 2 children in this sad moment of her passing. Another angel was most definitely needed in heaven. Rest in Peace Giovanna Aron you beautiful gift from god who never ever ever stopped smiling, you will forever be missed."
'
[I don't know who took either of the photos above,
but hopefully they don't mind my sharing them]

Monday, November 12, 2018

VETERANS DAY PS

You probably already know this but no member of the current president's family, including his father his sons and himself, has ever served in the United States military. None. Ever. Happy designated Veterans Day.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

VETERANS DAY

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, one hundred years ago today, "The Great War" as it was known at the time, ended. Before there was a second "great war" so they ended up being known by their numbers, the end of the first one, World War One, was known as Armistice Day, i.e. the day The Great War ended and there was finally peace among the warring countries.

When I was a boy during and after the second one, World War Two, most adults still called November 11th Armistice Day. The boarder who lived in my home when I was growing up, an old friend of my father's, was a veteran of WWI, a "doughboy" as they were known. His nickname was "Jockey" cause he was a very small man. Another friend of theirs who was in WWI was nicknamed "Frenchy" cause he made it to Paris after the war.

My three brothers who made it to adulthood (another died as an infant) and me, we all served in the military, me the longest (four years), and a lot of the men in my neighborhood did. Here's a poem I wrote about that, from "The South Orange Sonnets" and in my latest book: Another Way To Play:

18

At first the world’s great heroes were FDR
Churchill and Uncle Joe Stalin. The block
hero was FLYING ACE who shot down Krauts

on a seven inch screen. One brother served
with the Navy Band, one with the US Army
Air Corps. Before TV we sat through Sunday
matinees with newsreel footage of Nazi war
crimes. The boarder in our house had been
a dough boy in World War I. We called him

uncle. My third brother worked on tanks in
Germany during the Korean thing. I joined
the Air Force on February eighth 1962. I
went AWOL July fourth 
1962. For a long time
no one we knew ever went away a civilian.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

FYI

Someone asked me why I didn't comment on the midterms, the simple answer is: they aren't over yet. But also, there's been so many responses and perspectives articulated online and off that the nuances of that many responses leaves me mentally exhausted. I'm happy the Dems took the House back. I'm overjoyed that there were so many firsts—first Muslim women elected to Congress, first refugee elected to Congress (also a woman of color), first gay out-before-the-election governor (Colorado), first indigenous (i.e. truly "American") women elected to Congress, first lesbian mother elected, and so many more.

As for another "mass shooting," how much more obvious can it get that the real terrorist threat in this country is and has always been mainly coming from white men. White men with any demonstrated domestic violence in their past, i.e. cop coming to their door for spousal or parental or pet or property abuse, or any affiliation with any organization that promotes violence, should not be able to purchase or own any kind of deadly weapon, period. Any kind of assault weapon should be banned too etc. etc. But the first suggestion would be a small start. Though unlikely to happen soon, possibly eventually.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

SATURDAY CHURCH

SATURDAY CHURCH is a small movie with a big vision. Writer/director Damon Cardasis put together a great cast, led by Luka Cain who is the reason to see this flick. His character, an adolescent seemingly trapped by the contradictions of his desires versus his family's and community's expectations, is so quietly charismatic he elevates what could have been a predictable message film (the message being tolerance and understanding for gay and transgender youth) to an exceptional and truly independent film. It doesn't hurt that the musical and dance numbers are totally unexpected and uncontrived, for my taste. Glad I saw it.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

YEP

to paraphrase others:
our votes count,
if they didnt some top Republicans
wouldn't be trying to suppress them,
if they didnt there wouldn't be
billionaires trying to buy them,
and if they didnt there wouldn't be
russians trying to hack them...
our votes count, so
if you haven't already,
let's all go vote Nov. 6th

Sunday, November 4, 2018

ROY HARGOVE R.I.P.


I didn't know him personally, but what a tragic loss for his family, fans, friends, and music. [here's the NY Times obit]

Friday, November 2, 2018

JUST ANOTHER REMINDER

the street address is 238 Central Ave in Brooklyn, the rest is a mystery to me