Wednesday, June 30, 2010


First of all, I have a lot of great friends in "Hollywood" and that community was my "home" for almost two decades.

But I had an interesting experience recently. I went to see an old Hollywood friend in a stage show and intended to see her afterwards backstage. I've done this hundreds of times over the years and it's a pretty simple occurrence. But not this time.

I haven't seen her in over a decade, though friends say she asks how I'm doing when they see her and vice versa, and I was too lazy I guess to find an old address book with her number, if it was even still the same, so I just figured I'd show up and got backstage and say hello.

But when a mutual friend of hers and mine—who she introduced me to—called from L.A. to catch up, I told him I was going to see her in this show and he said he'd let her assistant know I'd be coming backstage. The assistant called to say, just tell the stage manager to get him and he'd take me to the dressing room to see my old friend.

The night of the show, during the intermission, I noticed a woman helping some people and asked if she was the house manager, a job I did once for a play on, or very near, Broadway. But she gave some more complicated title and asked if I was with the cable company filming the show.

I said no, I was an old friend of so-and-so and her assistant was supposed to get me and take me to my old friend after the show. But this lady said, just wait in the theater and I'll come get you and take you to him. Okay.

You can see where this is going. After the theater emptied out I waited for five or ten minutes and then noticed a young man dressed like the stage crew heading backstage with an older man in a suit and thought, maybe they're going to see the stage manager like I was originally told to do, so I follow them.

Backstage I see the stage crew guy talking to a stage crew woman (both in black tee shirt, black pants and shoes, headsets and holding a binder or clipboard etc.). So I wait some more. After a while I think, well maybe that woman who said I should wait for her to get me is looking for me, so I go back out to the theater, but it's still empty.

Finally I go back to where the crew guy's talking to the crew woman and interrupt them, excusing myself, saying I'm looking for the assistant. She says, "He's upstairs I'll bring him down for you in a minute." I say, and probably shouldn't have, "It's not him I want, he's supposed to take me to see my old friend so-and-so" and she says "Oh, you're a friend of so-and-so's? Well when I'm done here I'll bring you to her."

Then the crew guy says to her: "I need to talk to you, right now." Since they'd been talking all along, he obviously didn't mean just talk as he led her behind a door and closed it, leaving the man in the suit and me behind. After a while the crew woman came out and said to me, "I'll go get so-and-so's assistant and bring him down. Wait right here." So I do, figuring the crew guy told her to never offer to take a stranger whose not recognizably famous (because I'm sure if I was Al Pacino none of this would be happening) to see a star.

After what seems like a long time but is probably only a matter of minutes, [and the other crew guy leaves with the man in the suit who says "Good luck" to me as he passes, which only now I realize means he too was probably trying to get in to see "the star"] the woman who I thought might be the house manager but whose title is more complicated arrives backstage and starts talking to another crew person when she suddenly notices me and in a loud voice says something like: "What are you doing here?! I told you to wait in the theater. You're not supposed to be back here. You have to leave right now!" etc.

I go back into the theater, muttering disparaging things about all these intermediaries and their sense of self importance, but then resolve to be humble and patient and wait. I'm the only person in the entire theater. Waiting. When a gray-haired man I recognize but can't remember from where—Hollywood? New York TV shoots? Jersey?—also in the same crew outfit, black tee and pants etc. comes in and I say "Hey, how ya doin'"—the standard Jersey greeting I was so happy to hear still being exchanged when I returned after forty years elsewhere—and he says "You have to leave the theater."

I say, "I was told to wait in the theater." He says, "I was told to tell you you have to leave the theater." Now it's over. I'm gone, I think, as I enter the lobby and see the woman I thought might be the house manager and the stage crew guy who had been with the older white man in the suit in a heated discussion that seems to be about me from the few words I can pick up "I don't know who he is, Michael somebody" etc.

So I go over to them and say, "Hey, it's late, I've got kids at home, I'll get in touch with her some other time" and the worried expressions on both their faces melt into looks of great relief as they stumble over each other's words, basically saying, "thank you" and "the show takes a lot out of her" and "it's been a stressful run" or whatever.

I go home and relieve the friend who was watching my youngest son and my grandson, who was staying with us, get them into bed, and when I get into bed take a few deep breaths and ask whatever it is I commune with when I get in touch with the universe—its spirit as I see it—what the lesson of this night might be.

The answer I get is: "Aren't you grateful you live in Jersey and not Hollywood?"


[PS: Speaking to an old Hollywood friend still living out there—well, Malibu—about this she says how much she hates this kind of petty overblown sense of importance, but also that she'd bet the message never got through because of the fears of the intermediaries and their sense that their job is to to protect "the star" from the rest of the world. Probably true.

And then she said, "Aren't you glad you live in Jersey and not Hollywood anymore?"]

[PPS: Just want to make clear again, "Hollywood" was very good to me and I made many friends there and still have many friends there. And this kind of thing probably happens all the time in other businesses and areas. But still, it was a kind of quintessential "Hollywood" moment, where two old friends saying hello takes on the seriousness of a world summit of the leaders of warring nations or something equally absurd in comparison.]

Monday, June 28, 2010


A new CD—LOST ANGELS—featuring poems I wrote in the 1970s, '80s, '90s and whatever we call the last decade, has been released by a new independent label, Monomania Records.

It consists of two live sessions of me reading my poetry to music played by my oldest son, Miles, and some of his band mates at the time and other musician friends. These were recorded at a funky little studio on Lincoln Boulevard, as I remember it, in Venice, California in the mid '90s.

Plus a "bonus track" in its way, of a recording taken from a video made of the first reading of my long poem MARCH 18, 2003, which was written for this reading that happened to fall on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, the "shock and awe" part of it began the next day.

The cover photo was taken by Gus Van Sant around the time of DRUGSTORE COWBOY (1989) and was published in a really terrific book of his Polaroids (large format prints) called 108 PORTRAITS.

All lovingly put together by Miles and Magdalen Powers, the great writer and co-founder of Monomania Records. It's a small outfit and a small edition, the kind of limited made-with-and-for-love art object I often write about on this blog, the kind that inspire me to create, and to appreciate the creative output of others.

So, you can order it from Monomania by hitting the link in the first sentence above (it is also available through the great online distributor for independent labels—CD BABY and is on iTunes).

You can also read about it on poets Jerome Sala's ESPRESSO BONGO blog here and Nick Piombino's fait accompli blog here (you have to scroll down a little) [PS: I added Nick's generous post on LOST ANGELS to my list down on the right, just above Jerome's.].

Hope you enjoy it (but as iTunes points out, beware, it contains "explicit" lyrics!).

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Just a quick response to those who have commented on this blog or in email or conversation about my lamenting of the lack of engaging visuals and technical variety on the major news sources on TV (at least FOX, as much as I despise it's obvious rightwing agenda pumps up their "news" shows with a few lame bells and whistles).

My point is that many people still get their news from cable and network news shows and it is these that lack the technical innovation (with exceptions like The Daily Show proving the rule since their viewership is so much less in comparison to CNN or the networks) and excitement and ability to engage that network news was once capable of (to the level technically possible at the time) and great documentaries have, etc.

Remember the footage of Viet Nam as it was happening (for those old enough?). That turned almost an entire generation into news junkies, because there was so much raw footage from the actual war exposed on the network news, as well as of the demonstrations at home etc.

Now we get a talking head, even if on site, or some standard streaming video that is repeated endlessly (the classic generic vehicle-being-blown-up etc.). There are a few exceptions. That field reporter on NBC, Richard Engel, is a daring, old-style journalist, who along with his cameraman gets some amazing stuff.

But where's the in-depth AND technically explosive stuff that is 21st Century cutting edge?

The best reporting I've seen so far on the World Cup and its impact on local South Africans came, again, from John Stewart's The Daily Show, where John Oliver—the English "correspondent"—actually interviewed local food vendors who aren't allowed within a one mile radius of the stadium in order not to compete with international corporations like Coca Cola and MacDonald's!

Imagine what could be done with that if The Daily Show had the resources of CNN or NBC etc.

I know there's stuff online that does some of what I'm asking for, but there are still many folks who don't get their news from the web. And it's a different experience watching a news show you know is being seen by millions of others at exactly the same time, with that sense of a community coming to some conclusions as a result of a media presentation (ala American Idols et. al.), and a variety of conclusions at that (as opposed to partisan response to partisan news sources on the web).

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Finally watched this flick so many people I know dug. Tried to watch it before but couldn't get into it.

This time I was able to. The faux cinema-verite/HD-digital camera shaky disjointed movements and framing bugged me, especially coming from Jonathan Demme who's always so terrific at making me forget I'm watching technicians at work.

Yes it sort of matches the the recovering addict Kim's perspective and its impact on her family etc. But to me that's like distrusting your casting. Anne Hathaway, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Kim, is a fine enough actress to pull it off, though I thought she could have been directed to restrain herself in a few scenes that seemed based more on melodramatic effects than any reality I've seen or experienced. But she continually pulled it off anyway.

And Rosemarie DeWitt as her sister, Rachel, is a total discovery for me, even though I've admired her work before, but in this film she's a revelation. Whereas Bill Irwin as her father, uh, well, he had his moments but overall I thought he was miscast.

The real treasure and the reason I ended up finally digging the flick is Debra Winger kicking behind in her role as the mother of the bride and her difficult sister. Man was she great. Made me think she's like our Vanessa Redgrave, or could be, given the chance of more challenging roles as she ages.

Anyway, if you've never seen it, the jittery camera work and operatic overkill in some scenes might deter you, as it did me the first time, but if you persist, it's a pretty satisfying movie experience.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Writing this sitting on a metal folding chair at a beat up old folding table some kids just had a little pizza party on after skate boarding at the indoor Shields skate park over in the the wilds of central Jersey.

Here with my grandson and his uncle, my youngest, both twelve (or nearly, my grandson turns twelve at the beginning of August, my youngest thirteen this Fall). After over a week of nonstop summertime fun with my sister visiting and her youngest with three of his four kids and my daughter and granddaughter and son-in-law coming down from Massachusetts the day of my nephew's visit with his kids, and the community outdoor pool and down the Jersey shore with friends Sue and Jeannie with Jeannie's three kids, and visits with old friends of the family and high school friends and Father's Day up in the Berkshires babysitting my grandson, youngest and two other boys their age at the skate park and another outdoor pool and etc. etc. etc.

Got a little worn out, especially over the past few days when we had a little heat wave going on with temps getting close to 100, etc. So yesterday's post was a little more less well thought out than usual, maybe some of the comments also—too generalized and maybe a little strident in my frustration with how disappointing the political "dialogue" and news coverage of important realities has become.

I know it's partly because of the economy and the economics of declining media outlets and formats (the network and cable news etc.) so there are fewer reporters and their camera"men" out in the world doing what television seemed so good at after it broke free of the studio confinement of early TV and helped shaped the 'sixties and how it is still viewed.

But except for the cell phone videos of more recent unavoidably historic moments—like the death of that murdered-by-the-state (their thugs), beautiful young Iranian woman—almost all the news shows actually "show" is talking heads repeating the same tired perspectives that we could easily reduce to a twit in almost every case: on the right: Obama, liberals, progressives, government, all bad. On the left: save the world from corporate and government greed and malfeasance.

With some variations. But as Frank Rich put it, and others, government might not be so great a lot of the time, but no government, which seems to be the cry of the right, is unacceptable. (Whenever anyone pulls that "big government can't do anything right" jive with me I tell them my social security checks always arrive on time, as did my G.I. Bill benefits when I was younger, and the interstate highways I used to travel all over this country throughout the 1960s and '70s and '80s, et-I could go on and on-cetera.)

The news shows should be using the technology available to create little works of art. The Daily Show manages to do something like that with an obviously smaller staff and budget etc. But I mean something much more interesting and invigorating and entertaining and enlightening! It's 2010 "for cryin' out loud" as my sister would say.

How many times can we stare at a visual of the leaking oil at the source of the leak on a screen in the background while someone sitting at a desk or behind some kind of stand-up bar table (or whatever that horrible set is on CNN) babbles on about stuff we already know and have heard repeated endlessly.

Have you see any in depth footage and firsthand perspective on any of the boats supposedly "skimming" the oil from the surface the water in the Gulf? Or footage of other oil rigs in the Gulf or for that matter in locations around the world, especially of other recent "spills" (that innocuous term that sounds like corporate-speak, "woops, sorry dear, I spilled some oil") etc.?

There are great documentaries being made with the new HD digital technology, and some are shown on HBO or other cable networks, but I haven't seen much other than "true crime" stuff on the networks (and on much of cable for that matter, trying to find news on any of the supposed news networks on the weekend leaves me watching mini-docs about some specific murder that's mostly a reporter trying to make the mundane "facts" of some crime seem important or "sexy" etc.).

Where's the anti-Murdoch, the new ted Turner, someone with the money and power and insight to take advantage of 21st Century technology to give us a TV news network that really excites and inspires as well as educates a wide audience to the realities not of opinion and celebrity sightings and "here's the same three-top-stories-we'll-be-repeating-endlessy-everywhere-for-the-next-twenty-four hours" jive, but of what's really important going on all over the world that will impact all of us now and in the future.

Okay, I'm still tired and it's time to head home from this skate park, so that's enough (more than, I'm sure) from me for today.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Here's a disturbing fact of my daily news gathering these days. Yesterday on my way down to the Jersey shore with my only living sibling (my sister Irene, the closest to me in age among the six of us who made it beyond childhood—there was a brother between her and me who died as an infant), my youngest child and his nephew, my grandson, both of them soon to be the same age for a few months—twelve—listening to the news on NPR I heard Obama's statement about firing McCrystal and thought it was the most concise, most poignant, most intelligent, reasoned and correct statement I've heard him make yet.

I tried looking it up late last night when we got back from a full and beautiful summer day at the beach, visiting friends, experiencing that great hot day relief of a jump in the ocean, watching the kids have some of the best unencumbered-by-modern-life kind of fun you can have, etc. I tried to find the statement on the web and couldn't.

This morning I tried looking again by reading the NY Times article on the firing but it only quoted a few excepts from Obama's statement and didn't give the full text, even though it was pretty short. And the quotes they used weren't the most important to my mind. So I decided to look up "Obama McCrystal" on Google, and what popped up was all OPINIONS ABOUT THE FIRING but no real reporting of it!

And on the first page of web commentary on the firing the top links were all to rightwing distortions and tirades (e.g. "big government" saying something like Obama CAN'T fire a general (!?!)) etc.

No wonder there are so many idiotic takes on politics and governance these days from so many people I encounter either on line or in person. It's as if we live in a society where people actually believe the world is flat, as if the Enlightenment had never occurred or science was just a means to corporate profits and has nothing to do with helping us interpret reality.

I wish we could start the party of Reason. I'd join. (And if my reading of the Constitution and other founding doctrines is correct, so would most if not all of "the Founding Fathers" and a few of the mothers as well.)

[Thanks to my son Miles for finding the text of our president's statement. Guess it wasn't as succinct as what I heard on NPR. But these were the lines that I saluted:

"Good afternoon. Today I accepted General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, and for our country.
I don't make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement about our strategy. Nor do I make this decision out of any sense of personal insult. Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully. I've got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform.
But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security.

The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.

My multiple responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief led me to this decision. First, I have a responsibility to the extraordinary men and women who are fighting this war, and to the democratic institutions that I've been elected to lead. I've got no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief of our men and women in uniform, and it is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out.

That includes adherence to a strict code of conduct. The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates and to the general officer who commands them.
...our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command. And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy."]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Douglas MacArthur couldn't have been a more widely recognized, honored and respected American military leader after WWII, but Harry Truman didn't hesitate to can him when he didn't seem to understand that the line of command in the USA starts with the president and adds several more layers of civilians before it gets to the military.

This is the way the Founders wanted it, to avoid military coups etc. But ever since the military became voluntary and rightwing Republicans (and need I add fundamentalist Christians) became the major influence in the military, which now lacked the broad citizen participation that the draft had guaranteed, the military has been critical of anything other than rightwing Republican (and need I add fundamentalist Christian) policies.

Thus the undermining of Carter, Clinton and now Obama. Mainly because the military has more power than any civilian agency, more money, more people, bigger staffs and press corps etc. not to mention all the fire power. Or almost all.

The question I would put to anyone supporting General McCrystal in his blatant political prejudices as expressed in that Rolling Stone article he knew was being written and therefore obviously wanted his opinions out there, is if you guys are so much better than your civilian bosses who were elected democratically, how come the war you've been fighting is now the longest war in our history and you're still not winning?!

As for the Reagan appointed Republican judge who just overturned Obama's six-month moratorium on drilling for oil on only a portion of oil rigs in the gulf, "activist judges" anyone?

All this just further proof of what I've been arguing on this blog and elsewhere since Obama got elected: he is up against an array of powerful rightwing forces in and out of the government that have become deeply entrenched at least since Reagan (though it began under Nixon) as the result of a deliberate strategy to control any and all political power in the U.S. Which means the destruction, by any means, of not just Democratic politicians even when elected by a majority of voters, but the destruction of all they stand for, including less power to the military and more to elected officials.

They are obviously out to destroy Obama's presidency (as they were for Carter and Clinton, by any means) and so they can gain control again and not have to answer to anyone other than their own rightwing coterie.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Caught most of this Bill Maher documentary/commentary/comedy-sort-of flick on cable tonight. I had read reviews that said it set up too many straw men to knock down and could have done a more thorough job in terms of research etc. But, in the end, most of his points were pretty well made and hard to argue with.

I would draw the line with "organized religion" and cede the reality that "faith" does bring much solace to many but most religions do breed anti-intellectual unenlightened thinking (interesting that the ones who expressed this best were Catholic priests who sided with science over biblical literalness).

And as often happens when I watch his stand up comedy and sometimes his show, his need to go for the easy sex and/or drug joke is not only sophomoric but dilutes the otherwise relevant and necessary political points he usually scores.

I know plenty of writers, especially poets (myself included) who have written about the kinds of topics Maher takes on, including in this movie, and have done a better job articulating similar points and backing it up with not just personal observation and headlines but with deep research.

But I'm glad Maher's out there doing it because he reaches more people, I'd guess, than almost anyone else trying to make similar points except for John Stewart (and occasionally Colbert).

If you haven't seen it, there are some choice bits that make it worth watching.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I'm up in the Berkshires for the weekend and went to a movie theater in Canan Connecticut tonight to see TOY STORY 3 with all my kids and grandkids.

The theater is a classic old-style one, converted to accommodate dinner. The set up for the downstairs theater where we saw the movie reminded me of night clubs in old Hollywood movies from the '30s and '40s. There are tiered levels with tables and theater style seats facing the screen, which is more like a stage with old style curtains and all.

The food is simple, pizza and hotdogs and quessidilas and wraps etc. Great place to watch a family-style movie with a family.

As with the first two in this series, I enjoyed TOY STORY 3. Enough adult gags to make me laugh out loud and sympathetic plotting to make me tear up.

But I noticed amid all the usual plot points for these kinds of adventures, that the boy—"Andy"—whose toys are what all the TOY STORY(s) are about, seems to be fatherless. It's the mother who gets emotional about her son going off to college. And it's the mother of the little girl, the other main child in the film, who gets the screen time. It's impossible to know if there's any fathers involved at all. (Was that the little girl's father doing yard work or a gardener?—impossible to know as he never says a word or does anything to interact with the other humans in this flick.)

I couldn't help but notice this since it's Father's Day and there I was with my sons and daughter and grandson and granddaughter, wondering where am I in this flick.

The movie was almost too dark at one point for my seven-year-old granddaughter to take, sitting on her mother's lap by then, saying she wanted to leave, but eventually making it through to the sweet resolution that dried her tears and made her smile. That and her uncle, my twelve-year-old son, telling her, "It's a movie, it has to have a happy ending or kids wouldn't want to see it."

The tears I mention above that filled my eyes, came from emotions called up in my remembering when my older son and daughter left home for college after I had been raising them pretty much on my own for most of their lives. It was a great wrenching in my heart to see them go, no matter how proud I was of them.

And now I face pretty much on a daily basis the knowledge that my youngest will not so many years from now be going out on his own and, after facing several life threatening conditions, that even before he does I may be gone. (I don't mean to be morbid or negative, I pray for and project a long life for myself for my little guy's sake, but after a few brushes with death you have to be aware of your mortality.)

As I've said many times since my brain surgery, I lost my compulsion to make lists. But I think I'm going to force myself to try and come up with some movies that address the kinds of powerful emotions fathers feel when they're children grow up and leave, and not "father-of-the-bride" dimwitted male caricatures, but the kinds of things I've been through and am still going through regularly that I'm sure many other fathers understand from their own experience.

[PS: The photo above of my youngest and me was taken by my good friend Jamie Rose on Father's Day 2005—when he was seven.]

Friday, June 18, 2010


Last month, I received a birthday present from a friend of two used hardcover books. They were books I'd never have bought or read if she hadn't given them to me, even though one—FEBRUARY HOUSE by Sherill Tippins—I had some knowledge of from reviews when it first came out about five years ago.

It's the story of a group of people sharing a house in Brooklyn just before the U.S. entered World War Two. But it wasn't just any people, and it wasn't just any house.

Back in the 1960s and early 1970s I had some experience living in what we called at the time "collectives" or "communes." At the time I thought we were pioneers. Of course I knew from history that others had attempted communal living under different arrangements throughout history, but a bunch of young people, and in my case with little children, living together in one house like some new, at least to us, version of the traditional family, I thought was revolutionary for our times.

But in fact, FEBRUARY HOUSE introduced me to a group living situation similar to the types of set ups I lived in and knew of a few decades after that experiment. Though me and my fellow "commune" residents weren't as historic as the folks who lived at 7 Middaugh Street in 1940 and '41.

Every resident of that house had either already made their mark on at least U.S. culture, and in some cases an even greater swath of the English speaking world, or was about to. They included W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, Paul and Jane Bowles and Gypsy Rose Lee! Among others.

I've always admired the accomplishments of pretty much everyone who lived in this house, but I don't necessarily love their work in that way that leads me to want to know everything about the creator of a book or play or painting or piece of music, with the exception of Jane Bowles who at the time was the only one of the residents who hadn't yet shown any signs of being an important cultural force.

That's why I probably would never have read this book had my friend Elaine not passed it on to me as a gift. And in that wonderful way randomness has of so often blessing our days, I discovered a little treasure I otherwise might have missed. I enjoyed reading this book so much, I looked forward to bedtime and the chance to read more each night.

The details of the lives of this particular group of people and their interactions during this period turned out to be just the kind of stuff I love to read. I share little in common with any of them except a compulsion to create, and a deep admiration for others who create works that move or inspire or enlighten, or better yet change, me. But that was enough to make Tipppins' narrative keep me interested.

If you love the work of any of the people she writes about in FEBRUARY HOUSE, or have any interest in them as personalities, I think you'll find this a great read. And even if you don't, you might be surprised.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Democrats, and left leaning folk, at least those that get involved in politics, have a tendency to eat their young, or form a firing squad into a circle, or whatever cliched analogy or metaphor you want to use. And here we go again. The reactions to Obama's speech Tuesday night from Keith Olberman and others on MSNBC immediately afterward actually shocked me. Yeah, "shocked" is the word. I had just watched the entire speech myself, and though I thought it got off to a slow and stiff start—I could see Obama was taking too much time to warm up, he's not at his best alone before a camera, and from my performer's experience he actually looked nervous for a while—once he did warm up he came across to me as pretty candid about the problem(s) and focused on the solution(s).

Could he do better? Absolutely. Should he have done more by now and/or used this opportunity to push harder for measures to reduce our dependence on oil etc. Yep. (For an actually more productive and unique criticism of the speech see here.)

But—and it's a gigantic BUT—he's faced with some incredible obstacles that are real, not just intellectual exercises, and so far he's managed to make mostly good, and some great, decisions and take mostly good, and some great, actions to move us toward the "more perfect union" and the progressive future those of us who voted for him were hoping for.

The threats to his life, let alone his policies, are very real. It's easy for those of us watching the news to jump all over him when he doesn't make things perfect or perfectly reflect our intellectual conclusions about what'll make our world a better place etc. but this guy is daily getting more death threats than any president in my lifetime and probably in our history!

Add that to the opposition he's getting from a right that's more media savvy and media influential than anything coming from his own party, which is mostly the center, or from the left, and the increase in more dangerous elements on the right (hate groups have tripled, etc. etc.) and the many corporate-paid-for politicians in the Senate and House that he's got to convince to support his policies and decisions and he's treading a pretty thin line, and doing it very well.

He replaced the Bush/Cheney appointed oil shill that was heading the agency supposed to be looking out for safety in the oil rigs with an environmentalist! The left should have loved that or at least appreciate it. But she turned out to be ineffectual in the face of eight years of entrenched rightwing corporate lackeys working under her.

So he fired her and replaced her with someone tougher but equally environment friendly. He can't fire an entire agency, and even if he could it would be like FDR trying to "pack" the Supreme Court, an obvious power play that would offset any good it might do. If he had put the government in charge of the oil clean up immediately, he would have been criticized for "big government" takeover that the right could bludgeon him with, and he knew the government didn't have the expertise or equipment anyway!

Yes, I believe he should have done it even so, but it's easy for me to say. What if he had done that and we ended up in the same boat or better off but no one believed it because the "spill" (what an innocuous term for something so damaging and deadly, that's where Obama and his team and the Dems in general can use a lot of help, in framing the issues and situations and solutions in terms that better capture the reality from their perspective instead of always allowing the right to do that) continued.

(Like his critics can't see the depth of economic damage that may have been done if he hadn't taken the steps he took to limit the damage, i.e. the "stimulus" package, which his critics now beat him up for because it raised the debt and was framed by the right hypocritically as a bail out of "wall street" which actually occurred under the initial Bush bail out not the stimulus plan! etc.)

I believe all drilling and shipping of oil should stop, and all oil based products should stop being produced and "clean" energy and environmentally-friendly products should be used exclusively. But there's no such thing as entirely "clean" energy—yet—just "cleaner" and much of that generates other problems so unless I can perform a miracle and alter reality so much my ideals can be realized, I have to deal with what's real, which is what our president is doing as best he can.

Is he making mistakes? Of course. More than his predecessor? You kidding? He has accomplished more in his short time in office than any president in the last several decades. His decisions kept us from another Great Depression, greatly reduced the numbers of "American" casualties in Iraq and have led to our presence there being greatly reduced (I know I know it's not enough, but it's better than what Nixon did in Viet Nam or Eisenhower in Korea), he's giving Afghanistan one more try but I believe is ready to withdraw from there as well once the military have been given their chance to prove their "counterinsurgency" plans will work (or not), he's made healthcare more available and more affordable for more people than any president ever(!), he's reduced tensions in many places around the globe though his critics claim he's increased them in Iran, as though they've forgotten that Bush/Cheny and their followers were ready to INVADE it not that long ago (and now leftists are claiming that's still going to happen because the sanctions will make that more possible etc. but in fact the longer Obama can use dimplomacy (wow, that's a "typo" or post-brain-surgery "mistake" I have to leave—"dimplomacy" indeed) to ward off any military attacks on Iran the more possible a peaceful solution is, etc. etc.

I believe as many pundits have said that Obama may rely too heavily on Ivy League intellectuals for advice and for his own reasoning, and not enough on the examples of his mother and her parents and his in-laws etc. and the people he worked with as a community organizer in Chicago, but tactically, he's actually doing amazingly well considering the strength and influence of his opposition from friend and foe alike.

[PS: Before the comments come, I do believe he should have brought together more government resources and equipment and people to attack the "oil spill" more quickly, instead of relying on BP's assurances that their techniques were the best possible solution, but he did actually mobilize a lot of the federal government's resources once it was clear BP was just dithering with untried solutions etc. but his team should have made sure that was publicized better, all the boats and equipment and etc.]

[PPS: Reading over what I wrote above I would add that yes a better effort could have been made and can still be made to mobilize the world's resources to fight this gushing mile-below-the-sea broken oil pipe and wish he had and would do that more effectively. My post is more about the over-the-top angry commentary from fellow Dems and the left in general on Obama's speech (more so even than to his response to this crisis).]

[PPPS: Not to make this my longest post ever, but I also agree that he should have waited until he had the concession from BP or at least announced it in his speech more specifically (i.e. the actual 20 billion going into the escrow account for claims without being limited to that amount) for more political gain. But he still DID IT! He "kicked ass" as he said he would. Can you see Bush/Cheney making one of their cohort oil corporations pay more than a minimal fine etc.?]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Just thought I'd share a residual payment I got in the mail today for a character I played in the movie WHITE FANG. Ca-ching!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Passed that mark on Sunday, the 13th.

Obviously I'm pretty much fully recovered, though changed.

I still have no compulsion to make lists or the mental capacity to do so off the top of my head as I used to pre-op.

I still have tastes and preferences that have changed in various ways.

I tire more easily, get confused more often, still have to correct a lot of typos and strange mistakes when I write.

But I read pretty much as much as I used to, can watch any kind of movie without feeling xoerwhelmed (left that typo as an example of some of the more strange ones I still make too often), and otherwise do what I used to.

And the titantium plate in my head still ticks now and then, not sure what sets it off, and sounds different in the shower or when I scratch my head etc.

I could not be more grateful and feel incredibly lucky.

[PS: I never tolerated bs much but feel I do so even less post-brain surgery, less patience for it, though I also feel I have a deeper understanding and acceptance of the unfortunate inevitability of it, including from myself.]

Monday, June 14, 2010


Pulling up behind a line of cars stopped at a red light yesterday, I couldn't help but be confronted with the reality that the car in front of me was a Hummer—it's rear end filling the windshield of my little Prius. I felt the usual disgust I've felt since the first time I saw a Hummer when Arnold Schwarzenegger, who lived in my Santa Monica neighborhood at the time, first introduced them to the world as a civilian vehicle.

I looked away to avoid my anger, out the driver's side window and there was a line of cars coming in the other direction from making a turn onto the street I was still stopped at the red light on. And for the first time in my life I felt a sense of disgust, almost nausea, at these cars as well, and then even at my own. It was like the first time I saw someone smoking a cigarette and it no longer looked glamorous or cool or any of the ways it had looked in Bogart and Bacall movies but instead just looked wrong.

Or like when I eat some heart congesting food I know isn't good for me and then wash the plate and watch grease or fat go down the drain so slowly I realize it's probably clogging it up—and doing the same thing to my arteries. I don't mean to sound self-righteous or holier-than-thou or any of that, but since the Gulf oil infusion just looking at people sticking fuel hoses from gas pumps into their cars is upsetting, like I'm witnessing some kind of mechanical rape. And the whole idea of using all the gas we do seems literally obscene, not like a metaphor or analogy, but truly, obviously, obscene.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


You may have already seen this over at my friend Tom's COOL BIRTH blog. But if not, you have to watch this all the way through for a much needed belly laugh.

[For some reason when I embed videos these days they get cut off on the right side. So if you want to see this full screen click here.]

Friday, June 11, 2010


So a lot of politicians and other people on the Gulf Coast, especially Louisiana, don't want oil in the water ruining their fishing businesses and beaches and ecosystem etc. and want BP and the government to stop the oil spewing from the Gulf floor even if they have to spend the nation's resources doing that and cleaning it up...

...BUT they also don't want the government to shut down the other deep water oil wells in the Gulf, even if it's just temporary while the government checks the rigs for safety plans etc. because that will further depress the local economy.

Israel wants the Palestinians to accept them as a legitimate nation and stop harassing them with homemade rockets etc...

...BUT they also want to allow "settlers" to take over Palestinian land and then be protected by the Israeli military and state to the extent of building a wall right though Palestinian farms and separating entire families etc.

And the Palestinians want the Israelis to stop taking their land and/or dividing it with walls and blockades etc. and recognize Palestine as a legitimate nation...

...BUT some of them don't want to stop harassing the Israelis with rockets etc.

Rightwing Republicans who believe as Reagan said that "government isn't the solution it's the problem" want voters to elect them so they can reduce government to a minimum, by e.g. as the Republican woman nominated to run against Harry Ried for his senate seat believes, cutting Social Security and Medicare, eliminating the Education Department and regulatory agencies etc...

...BUT when something goes wrong, they want the government to step in and make it right, despite the fact that rightwing Republican administrations and their dismantling of regulatory agencies etc. has made it almost impossible for the government to do the job, et-endlessly-cetera.

[Here's a link to a short article and longer video that relates to my last point about cutting taxes which leads to cutting government which leads to cutting services which leads to a giant gap between those who can afford "privatized" services and the rest of us.]

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I first wrote about Dale Herd's fiction back in the '70s in a review in The Washington Post. I said he was "the Hemingway of our generation" and qualified that by pointing out what was even better about Herd's prose. (I wrote about him more recently in one of my early posts on this blog.)

I didn't meet him until the 1980s when we were both living in the L.A. area and writing screenplays [because our books didn't make enough money for us to live on, especially with kids]. He was then working on a novel called DREAMLAND COURT, which my second wife had a role in when a video of part of that novel's story was made.

We became friends after that and though we came from opposite ends of the country (him from the Northwest, me from Northern New Jersey) and had many differences in our backgrounds and experiences, we understood the the importance writing played in our lives and the hard work that went into it, at least for guys like us, and the guts it took to do it the way we saw we had to rather than whatever the trend or expectation or commercial desire was at the time.

I wasn't the only admirer of Dale's writing. Poet Allen Ginsberg said in an interview that Dale Herd was his favorite prose writer. And the same Northern California small press that published books by Gary Snyder and Robert Creeley (Donald Allen's The Four Seasons Foundation) and others, published Dale's first collection of short stories: EARLY MORNING WIND.

But DREAMLAND COURT remained unpublished though not unheralded. Anyone who read an excerpt from it anticipated its publication with great expectations. At least that was true for me and everyone I knew. But the format of the novel and its raw reality kept publishers timid, until now.

The rumor is that Coffee House Press is planning on bringing out Herd's earlier three collections of short stories: EARLY MORNING WIND, DIAMONDS and WILD CHERRIES (originally published by Tombouctou, the same small press that was publishing Jim Carroll's THE BASKETBALL DIARIES around the same time). Hopefully they, or someone else, will bring DREAMLAND COURT into print as well.

But in the meantime, the first chapter of DREAMLAND COURT has just come out as a "chapbook" from Blue Press Books in Santa Cruz. It makes me believe that Herd, who may just be our country's ROBERTO BOLANO, will finally get the attention and exposure his incredible prose deserves.

[Got some feedback from e mails and phone conversations questioning my comparison of Herd and Bolano. I only meant that the scope and complexity of DREAMLAND COURT, the whole novel, reminds me of the scope and complexity of Bolano's THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES. Not completely or in every way, but certainly in terms of the variety and amount of characters and their perspectives, etc.]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I've been following this story and this particular idea-about-it stream of articles etc. since the "flotilla" was stopped by the Israeli government and the commandos boarded the ship with a variety of folks on it (not all "activists" as the media continues to insist) including many Turks who refused to accept the boarding peacefully and paid the ultimate price in at least nine instances (though I've seen higher figures).

At any rate, here is a really sharp series of articles that summarize the reaction of the revitalized peace movement within Israel where there seems to be more open debate about that government's rightwing policies than there ever is in our media interestingly.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Here's an engaging video (thanx to Jane Lyn Stahl for hipping me to it) that makes some solid points (the one about USA boys and education I've been making for a while) and is well worth watching just for the visuals:

[Sorry the embedded video got cut off somehow. If you want to see it, here's the link.]

Monday, June 7, 2010


This is a pretty terrific memoir. Once you (or I, I guess I mean) get used to the distinct voice (choice of words and rhythms etc.) which is different than Smith's poems and lyrics for the most part, it starts to flow in a way that is seductively satisfying.

I don't know Smith personally, though I've been in the same room with her a few times over the years and read in the same venues (last time was back in the '90s in San Francisco where she was reading in one room and I in another at a big book event I can no longer remember the name or theme of).

Back in the '70s I edited an anthology of mostly then "unknown" (to the wider world, including the wider publishing world of the time) poets that included Smith, but that was my publisher's doing. I had tried to contact Smith to include some poems I'd selected from an early "chapbook" of hers but didn't get a response, and when the deadline approached the publisher contacted her publisher and they arranged for the poems to be included. I objected, since I didn't have her permission, but they went ahead with it anyway.

I liked Patti and her work from the very first time I saw her and heard her. I first heard her on the 45 record she put out (I think from Gotham Book Mart, I have it somewhere and will try to confirm that) that had "Piss Factory" on one side and her version of "Hey Joe" but about Patty Hearst on the other. I loved that recording and played it constantly the year it came out.

No wait a minute, I think I first actually heard and saw her at a reading at St. Mark's in the early '70s when she kicked butt in a performance that made most poets seem like stiffs in comparison. I loved her whole style and presence at the time, fell in love with her really, the way we do with some performers.

Her combination of female seductiveness and male aggression (mild compared to some, like me, but at that time still considered a male trait by most) and her androgynous look (at least that night, not the style in the photo on the book cover above) seemed part of the same edge I was pushing and had been for a few years during that era, so I identified with a lot of what she was doing, and of course with her being a Jersey girl from the working class etc.

Though she was from South Jersey which meant her accent sounded more like Philly than Newark. I just dug her and always have. Whenever I saw her at a party or reading or whatever, she always seemed genuine and warm and friendly. JUST KIDS comes across just like that, with a kind of unique charm and ability to disarm.

But I have a pretty small caveat [I've gotten a lot of criticism and disagreement on the point I'm about to make since this post first came out, so let me reiterate once more, I LOVE PATTI SMITH AND ALL SHE'S DONE AND STANDS FOR, I just saw something in the way she told this part of her story that I wanted to comment on, as much for my own shortfallings as anyone else's]. JUST KIDS seems to me at times a bit disingenuous, which I believe is not intentional. I'm sure I do the same kind of thing in my own way and am unaware of it. But for instance take the title. I was 22 five years before Patti was and maybe that makes the difference. But at 22 I was married, in the service, had already lived a lot as far as I was concerned (and a lot of other people too) and would never have seen myself and my wife, who was a year younger, as "just kids."

I understand that from the perspective of someone now in her sixties, Smith may be meaning that term from a more contemporary take, but I still don't see myself as a "kid" in my 20s. Maybe it's just me because I bristled at that label even then, even when I was 18. Anyway, a small quibble, but when I add it to the other main theme, which is that she and her early lover, and close lifetime friend, Robert Mapplethorpe were "just kids" when they made the decision to become artists, famous artists, and set out to achieve that through hard work and in Mapllethorpe's case, according to Smith, the right connections.

Smith makes it seem like Mapplethorpe was very calculated about meeting people who could help him achieve his goal of becoming as famous or more so than Andy Warhol, and that she wasn't. And I believe that was probably true on a conscious level. But still, many of the people she talks about meeting and hanging out with and being helped by were part of an elite downtown scene that was not easy to get access to and which was extremely exclusive and dismissive of many who attempted to get into it.

I don't just mean Max's Kansas City and the Warhol crowd, which was in decline by the time Smith and Mapplethorpe became a part of it, or the unique characters that peopled the Chelsea Hotel where they lived for a while and made the transition from unknown college drop outs to budding stars on that scene, but the wealthy and influential patrons of the scene who made it possible for some to flourish in it and others not to.

I believe Smith when she writes that she wasn't concerned with making those connections and cultivating that scene, that it was all, kind of, accidentally a result of Maplethorpe's ambition that included her in as his partner and/or best friend during those years and that it was her hard work and dedication to moving her art forward that led to her success. But I still find it a little disingenuous, especially when you consider the list of her lovers during the period when she emerged on the scene in ways that made us all aware of her: Jim Carroll, Sam Sheperd and Tod Rundgren, all of whom were central figures already in terms of their impact on poetry, performance and music, just as Smith happened to make her mark as a poet, performer and music maker.

Again, don't get me wrong. I love Pattie Smith still, not just her work and her personality (every time I see her interviewed I fall for her all over again) but what she stands for as well. And I am not questioning her integrity at all. I believe she made her own way and deserves all the success she's had.

What I'm talking about is not recognizing that the drive to create and have your creations appreciated by a wider audience is usually part of every artist's agenda and influences the choices they make, not just the ones who broadcast their ambitions in ways that can't be ignored, like Mapplethorpe. For instance Smith comments on not becoming a part of the St. Mark's poetry scene because it was too "incestuous" which is totally true from my experience at the time, and which made me feel like I was never a part of it either. But I still read there and came to appreciate most of the poets who were a part of that scene, incestuous or not, whereas Smith still read there and used it as a stepping stone to a wider audience and more poetry cred and then writes as if she was above or beyond such scenes even though the scene she was becoming an integral part of during those years was even more incestuous and elitist!

At any rate her later moves (to Detroit and her marriage and family there) prove that in fact once she had the wider forum for promulgating her art and music choices she abandoned it, or the "scene" that got her there for more basic dailiness (caring for her family and her ill husband) leaving her few years on the downtown Manhattan scene as almost legendary, until her relatively recent return after her husband's passing and her children's maturation.

Now she's back big time with new music, new energy and sounds, as charismatic as ever, if not more so, with her unique beauty and voice, and I am grateful she is. May others whose work and presences I also love be as fortunate.

[PS: Just a further clarification on the title: the term "just kids" as Smith uses it in the book was applied to her and Mapplethorpe by someone else, referring to them as "just kids"—thus the title is in some ways meant, I think, to be ironic as well as the reflection of someone older now themselves looking back. I just objected to the concept as the "kid" I once was and was voicing my ongoing resistance to that kind of categorization. Hope I didn't confuse matters further (plus see my comment as well).]

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Went up to Pittsfield Mass. to catch a flick yesterday in the Beacon, a brand new theater that from the outside doesn't look like much but inside was pure pleasure—new comfortable seats, great sound system, huge screen, great concession stand, etc.—in a part of this economically struggling little city, or big town, that is trying to revive the neighborhood (a skateboard/trick bike store across the street near a punk record store, yes vinyl, and a not bad brand new Mexican bar/restaurant, etc.).

I was taking my sons and grandson to see PRINCE OF PERSIA. None of them had been sucked in by the ads for this, but I had enough information to suspect they might dig it.

I figured it would be some kind of fast paced amusement park ride of a movie since I heard it's produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. And I knew Alfred Molina and Ben Kingsley had roles in it and figured they'd be doing what they do best in these kinds of movies, playing outrageous characters as though they're completely viable because often they are.

And I like what I've seen of Jake Gyllenhaal for the most part. I thought Heath Ledger outclassed him in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, but I admired what Gyllenhaal was tyring to do in that film. And I thought he was the best thing about BROTHERS, an otherwise failed movie for my taste. So I wanted to see how he would make the transition to pumped up action hero.

He makes it very well. He's a total kick to watch for the most part, as are the other actors, especially Molina. As in the classic Hollywood tradition of movies about any ancient empire, the actors all have British accents, including Gyllenhaal (!) which may bother some, but I took it as almost a goof on that tradition, which I assume came from the reality that back when movies first began talking, Britain still was the dominant empire in the world's consciousness, so it would make sense that rulers of empires sound like the English.

It's not great history but isn't intended to be, so the reactions from those upset that the lead actorS aren't Persian, or Iranian as they'd now be called, doesn't exactly hold up (a lot of the "English" in Hollywood flicks were really Irish or of Irish descent and therefore were actually playing their ancient and modern enemies!—though in the video game that the movie's based on the lead looks more Asian and since Asians are the least likely to have lead roles in movies I can see that objection).

But in the end this is Hollywood history, not ancient or world history. And as such it delivers. From Douglas Fairbanks' silent action epics through Errol Flynn's and Jackie Chan's, PRINCE OF PERSIA has the moves and the movement required to satisfy this genre's requirements for a couple of hours of pure escape.

My oldest son and I got some kicks from the dynamics of the film as well as from some of the humor and even its basic message of trust and the usual "doing the right thing" no matter the risk. (Other less obvious messages included some mixed political positions, like being anti-tax but also anti preemptive-war-starting-for-nonexistent-weapons, etc.). I also couldn't help thinking they made these kinds of flicks in the silent era by actually building sets with all these ancient style monumental structures and entire cities and filling them with armies and hordes that were actual extras rather than computer generated crowds and structures.

The little guys enjoyed the ride, coming away excited and trying out their own parkour moves as soon as we hit the street (actually my youngest son pulled a move inside the theater, managing to climb the inside frame of a closed metal door to the top by spreading his feet and jumping from one two-sneaker held spot to the next, if you can picture what I mean).

Don't you remember leaving an action movie matinee on a Saturday afternoon and imitating the moves of the hero on your way home? Not a bad recommendation for a movie and a little movie nostalgia, though it may require not taking the movie or yourself too seriously. Not a bad idea.

Friday, June 4, 2010



Here's a statistic from an article by Lev Grossman about choice in the latest Time magazine I found interesting:

"In 1994 there were 500,000 different consumer goods for sale in the U.S. Now Amazon alone offers 24 million."


Here's a link to an article in today's NY Times about late life divorces (ala the Gores). But what I find interesting—it was written by Deirdre Bair who also wrote my favorite biography of Samuel Beckett!


One of the kinds of choices that seems may go with more and more people reading e-books rather than the old fashioned kind, is what happened t me recently when an old friend gave me a recycled hardcover of a book I would most likely never have bought for myself and so would probably never have read. But because she gave me the book as a birthday gift I opened it the other night and began reading. And now it's the first one I reach for at night and spend the most time with because it's not only well read and fascinating, it's enlightening, and at least for me very entertaining. [Woops, meant "well written" back there but it came out "well read"—I'm still making a lot of mistakes when I write, especially when I'm tired, but thought I'd leave this one in because it's so interesting.]

How would I have had that experience in a world of only e-books, or even mostly e-books on Kindles and iPads etc.? She would have sent the book to me electronically? Without the cover art (photos of the authors discussed in the book, which appealed to me), and the feel and look of the pages...etc. I don't think I would have gotten into it and therefore would have missed that kick.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I only worked a 9 to 5 job once in my life, and before two years had passed I had already quit.

The reason I quit was they wanted me to fire a subcontractor we used who I'd come to know well, an older, white-haired, Irish-American man with several children still at home. They wanted me to fire him to cut costs and raise profits.

I refused and questioned their reasoning. I pointed out that the company was profitable, that keeping things going the way they were wouldn't lose any money, and everyone was doing well so why cause hardship and heartbreak for this man and his family just to save a few dollars and probably have the job done less well.

They didn't seem to even understand what I was objecting to or what I was proposing. The point was GROWTH. Always GROWTH. MORE PROFITS—more money in the pockets of the stockholders and the bosses. This was in the late 1970s, before Reaganism ramped up that philosophy to an even higher level.

There's no question that government departments and agencies can become bloated—overgrown and sclerotic, unable to function efficiently or in a timely way. And that politics can obscure their mission and slow or stop or even reverse it.

This is what happened to a lot of government during the last administration's oversight. Goals and rules and methods were ignored or deliberately thwarted, as in the case of government energy policy, including oversight of energy industries, like oil, gas, etc.

But it is also radiantly clear that the only challenge to corporate greed is oversight by the government. The problem is when you have a political party whose basic principle is "the less government the better" and "the freer corporations are to chase profits the better." Then any attempt by government to reign in corporate greed is seen as fundamentally wrong, even evil and equal to the crimes of authoritarian governments like Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia and its satellites in the USSR. (Thus Beck and his ilk's comparisons of Obama's policies to Hitler's etc.).

The best answer to the dilemma so far is obviously a balance of freedom for businesses to operate without being so limited by government regulations that they can't function, and government oversight that prevents the lust for greater and greater profits to ignore the safety and well being of not just individuals but entire populations and even the whole earth itself.

What's transpiring in the Gulf of Mexico is the convergence of the last administration's eight years of political appointees and political pressure (including reducing manpower and money for oversight) on government agencies to limit if not entirely eliminate any power they might have to oversee corporate greed, the convergence of that with well, corporate greed.

Despite the fact that big oil corporations have seen profits GREATER THAN ANY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD(!) in the years since the Bush Junior administration under the guidance of Dick Cheney let them write their own energy policy that the government would follow instead of vice verse, BP chose to ignore warnings about supposed "fail-safe" systems—like a remote trigger for disabling the underwater well in case the on-board one failed—in order to save some money, money that in comparison to their profits would be like a millionaire refusing to buy a helmet for his football playing son and risk a concussion or worse to save twenty bucks.

It's not just immoral, it's obviously been proven to be very stupid, over and over again (the Massey coalmine catastrophe etc.).

Some commentators want to blame this current crisis in the gulf on technology getting ahead in one area (digging wells in deeper water than ever before, i.e. in this case five miles beneath the surface of the water) while still far behind in another (ways of coping with a major "accident"). But unlike Rand Paul's assertion that "accidents happen," this "blowout" was not caused by an "act of God" or nature or etc.

It wasn't even the fault of an individual. From everything I've read and heard and seen it was caused by BP ignoring warnings from its own workers and their managers on that rig that BP's cutting corners to save a few bucks had endangered the whole project because the cement that their subcontractor poured was too thin, the remote trigger for the shutdown wasn't bought and the whole process of getting this well operational was rushed in order to start getting those even bigger profits rolling in (ON TOP OF THE MOST GIGANTIC PROFITS THE WORLD HAD EVER SEEN!).

Yes, it's obscene. And the only way to prevent it is to not drop out of our electoral system, through which our governments are created and carry out their mandates, and if they don't are unelected when the system works. But given the humongous amounts of money involved in giant corporate profit-making endeavors, it's too easy for our elected officials and those they then appoint to run agencies and departments that oversee corporate behavior to be bought off (obviously true for both parties).

One solution for both problems, the one that worked so well in the USA from WWII to Vietnam, is to have a progressive income tax rate that discourages the kind of greed that has turned this country into a "third world" disparity of a small percentage of the population owning most of the wealth and the rest of us scrambling for scraps from their tables. A truly progressive tax rate on individuals and corporations (with harsh penalties for any attempt at avoidance like "offshore" headquarters etc.) discourages that by taking a bigger and bigger chunk out of bigger and bigger paychecks and profits and dividends etc. which in turn pays for better government oversight (more manpower, more independence, etc.).

It's not the perfect solution, that would entail radical changes that would be impossible to pull off without a unified popular movement with the intelligence and information and leaders to focus on the real solution (rather than Tea Party style populism co-opted by the very corporations they might be railing against and with no support for stroger government regulations except in the few areas where they see their personal domain's threatened etc.). That's not going to happen anytime soon, nor is real campaign reform ala European style short campaigns and with no advertising etc. (ala Britain's recent elections). So for now this is the best solution.

But it too is a longshot because the rightwing media and politicians have convinced most citizens that somehow higher taxes on the rich and corporations hurts them! As in most of the electorate thinking Obama has raised taxes on them when the opposite is actually true, but the media has ignored that story and instead let the rightwing frame the terms of any taxation debate as us (taxpayers) vs. them (big government).

Too bad. Anyone old enough to remember the ways government was treated in the media, especially the most popular, like movies, in the 1940s and '50s, or earlier under FDR? Remember that scene in GRAPES OF WRATH where the only relief the Joads get in their desperation is when they enter the migrant farm worker camp run by the government and therefore with oversight on the corporate farms hiring them?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I only mer him a few times, but I dug him. For me, as for everyone who met him or read his poetry I assume, he was not only an original personality and poet, but a beacon for honesty and humility. If anyone embodied Kerouac's idea of the "beat" as "beatific"—and "the holy goof" (as Kerouac referred to Neal Cassidy) it was Orlovsky.

He was always honest and humble with me at any rate. Not humble as in humble pie but humble as in realistic about everyone's place in the universe including his. That trait was sometimes mistaken for a kind of immaturity or even a deficiency of intellect or mental wellbeing.

He had his problems, like all of us, but his simplicity to my mind and in my experience though often childlike was also often brilliant. Here's a link to an obit and another from which I borrowed the image above, the way I'd like to remember him, and a poem that is to my mind not just uniquely his voice but inspiring. He was always one of my favorites and too unheralded as far as I'm concerned.