Thursday, May 31, 2012


I forgot to post an announcement of the last reading of the season for the Saint Mark's Poetry project before the summer break. Wish you'd been there. It was last night and it was terrific. I've written about Terence Winch's and Elinor Nauen's poetry and other writing here before so no need to rave on, but it was a pretty perfect evening with many old and new friends present, lots of discerning poetry lovers who got how great it was.

One of the highlights was Johnny Stanton, Elinor's husband, devoted enough to show of a new tattoo on his back that was simply the title of her masterpiece (mistresspiece?) SO LATE INTO THE NIGHT, which she read from, as well as from her latest book MY MARRIAGE A TO Z: A Big City Romance.  Terence read from his latest book which some have already stated they think is his best (for my taste every book of his is his best) FALLING OUT OF BED IN A ROOM WITH NO FLOOR, as well as new poems that seem to be even better best. [Full disclosure: they're both friends and my name came up in the reading, hope it didn't take anything away from their great writing.]

All I can say is, if you don't know the work of these two poets you should, you won't be sorry.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Caught this last night on HBO, reluctantly. Martha Gellhorn is one of my all time favorite writers, and like any favorite creator whose work I relate to or become deeply involved with, I feel a proprietary sense of protection, like don't mess with this artist, and just the way the title puts her name second makes clear it's about the thing she hated most: being associated with Hemingway instead of standing on her own.

Some critics, including me think she was one of the greatest, perhaps even THE greatest, war correspondents of all time. She had an incredibly adventurous and independent and creative and successful life in many ways in the years before she met Hemingway and for many decades afterward.

But, she and Hemingway did fall for each other and did marry (she reluctantly though) and were "together" for several years. Together is in quotes because Gellhorn went off to various theaters of war to write about them even while they were married, sometimes with Hemingway.  So I felt sorry for Gellhorn for having a film made about her that centers around her relationship with Hemingway.

I admire some of Hemingway's writing. IN OUR TIME is one of the most unique and uniquely original collection of stories ever written, and he wrote them when he was very young. They, along with his blockbuster first literary success, the novel THE SUN ALSO RISES, made Hemingway the Dylan (Bob) of his times in many ways. I.e. a hero to a younger generation who felt he expressed the truth of their experience and their world.

Then he went on to become almost a caricature of himself, which the movie definitely shows. But there have been tons of books about him, and movies made from his books that seem to be about him (A FAREWELL TO ARMS, THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, even FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, which the movie posits he wrote to and in many ways for Gellhorn). While Martha Gellhorn has only recently had a biography of her come out, and her letters (both pretty fascinating for my taste) and led a life infinitely more brave and varied and independent and obviously longer (she lived well into old age, still writing and chasing wars etc.).

I would have loved to have seen a film that centered on her and her life in which Hemingway was just one of the men in it. It almost seems sexist to make a movie about her that's basically about him (the film ends with her being interviewed as a "great war correspondent" and then being asked about Hemingway and her ending the interview, which seems like a cheap way for the filmmakers to excuse themselves for doing exactly what she accused many of doing, reducing her existence and accomplishments to sidekick of "the great man" jive).

Then there's the movie itself. It uses a lot of old newsreel and movie footage and uses computer editing techniques to place the actors in the scenes of real people and events and it looks exactly as cheesy as that sounds. It also turns the lives of the famous people in the flick, including the two leads (Hem played by Clive Owen as over the top as I've ever seen him, and Gellhorn by Nicole Kidman) into sound bites and tweets, as though they always talked the way they wrote (Woody Allen tweaked that so well in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS where Hemingway was a parody of himself but in a way that also obviously admired him and made him seem more human etc.).

There are some great cameos, but you almost miss them if you blink, like Parker Posey as Mary, or Peter Coyote doing an impressive job as the editor Maxwell Perkins (I didn't even recognize him until he spoke) or Robert Duvall as a boorish Soviet Russian general. Maybe the best performance, and a bigger role came from Tony Shalhoub as a Russian journalist.  David Strathairn plays, or is directed to play, John Dos Passos as basically a big wuss. And so on.

All that talent and expertise doesn't add up to a great flick or even a great biography or docudrama. Just a kind of TV version of the lowest common denominator lives of famous people etc.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Okay, in answer to an inquiry and because, as most anyone reading this knows, my compulsive list making that's been with me since I was born seemed to have been removed with whatever else they took out after the brain surgery and I miss having lists on this blog—I did put a dance mix together for the party last weekend so that makes a list and here it is in the order I played (and danced to) them [and a Youtube repro of the last song I danced to (by then I was the only one still dancing!)—I think the singer is Marian Hutton]:

BAD GIRLS Donna Summer
BRICK HOUSE The Commodores
GREEN ONIONS Booker T. & The M.G.s
THE FEELING Michael & Miles Lally (from LOST ANGELS)
I WILL SURVIVE Gloria Gaynor
LOVE ME DO The Beatles
BROWN SUGAR The Rolling Stones
DOMINO Van Morrison
FAMINE Sinead O'Connor
WHAT I AM Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians
I GET AROUND The Beach Boys
WATCHU WANT The Beastie Boys
PUMPIN' IT UP George Clinton
CHAIN OF FOOLS Aretha Franklin
FIELDS OF ATHENRY Dropkick Murphys
DON'T BE CRUEL Elvis Presley
STOP! IN THE NAME OF LOVE Diana Ross & The Supremes
BE HAPPY Glen Miller & His Orchestra

Monday, May 28, 2012


I heard an interview on my local (well, Manhattan) NPR radio station with an Iraq War vet named Paul K. Chapell talking about how this is the century, the 21st, when we can end war. I was expecting the usual pieties and unrealities, but this guy is the real deal. He took questions and criticisms and even ridicule with an equanimity and consideration that was a living example of what he is striving for.

His premise, to oversimplify, is that two hundred years ago slavery was accepted in much of this country and so was the idea that females were property.  Now anyone who tried to defend those beliefs would be dismissed by most of us as ridiculous.  Well, the idea that we can solve issues by killing each other is as ludicrous, he contends, though he uses other words and is more convincing than I'm being.

I couldn't find the interview (it was the Phillip Lopate show I think, or maybe Brian Lehrer) [My son Miles found it and put it in a comment but here it is too.]. But there's several sites (here's one) on his book proposing the idea that we can end war in this century. And I notice a few talks and interviews on Youtube, but too long to post here. So just go check him out for yourself and you'll see.  His arguments are reasonable, logical and totally convincing. They certainly convinced me.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


So my daughter Catlin, my oldest child, asked me a month ago or so what I was planning for my birthday. I said let's have a little dinner. She said, it's your 70th pops, you gotta have a party. So she threw me a wonderful one last night. So my three children and two grand children, some old friends and new, young and old (from little kids to older than me), from near and far.

I was flattered that folks could make it on a holiday weekend, a lot couldn't, and was gratified that I know so many wonderful people who care about me and who I care about. Some good food and then my oldest son, Miles, read a poem one of my oldest and dearest friends, Terence Winch, had written and sent because he couldn't make the party, followed by my daughter singing in her angelic voice "The Fields of Athenry"—our Lally clan anthem since my father's father was an immigrant from a little crossroads right outside Athenry, his name too was Michael, as is the man being sung about—followed by a poem by the first friend I made when I moved back to Jersey in '99, another Mick (this one originally from Brooklyn, Bill Lannigan) who those who know me thought really showed how well he got me.

Then the band Miles plays bass in, BELL ENGINE, played a great set that got people up and dancing, starting with me. This was sometime after 8PM and I kept dancing through their set into the dance mix I had selected from my iTunes library, with whoever would join me for the next almost four hours. I got that high I get when I dance for a long time, maybe like a runner's high after a certain distance. I can't think of a better way to have celebrated making it this far.

I wish you all could have been dancing with me, and I hope I remember to do it more often because it certainly is an affirmation of life, boogieing all the disappointments and future challenges and hurts and vulnerabilities into submission or remission or transcendence.  Do you wanna dance?

Friday, May 25, 2012


Facebook kind of gives your birthday away now so I was a little overwhelmed by the response over there. Otherwise a beautiful day in The Berkshires and looking forward to a weekend with family and friends. The only thing sweeter would be getting to see even more family and friends. So let's try to see each other before time gets the better of us, or at least let those we don't get to see know how much they mean to us.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I caught these two Westerns over the past days, and what a trip.

I'd never heard of THE LAST SUNSET, but when I was changing channels and the credits were just starting and I caught Dalton Trumbo's name written big for screenwriter and Robert Aldrich for director, and saw it came out in 1961, I figured I had to check it out. Turns out Trumbo adapted it from a novel by Howard Rigsley, but it still had some of Trumbo's trademark flourishes (or actually his trademark anti-flourishes).

This was only a few years after he had been forced to write with "fronts" (using someone else's name and person to pretend to have written it) because he was blacklisted. But Kirk Douglas was I believe the first person to hire him as himself again to write, if I remember correctly, SPARTACUS (a movie in which the message is the antidote to McCarthyism). And LAST SUNSET stars Douglas in one of his most peculiar roles. He plays an Irish Western gunman (named O'Malley!) with a gift for poetry and of course charm, but underneath it a brutal and vicious rage.

Dorothy Malone plays his long lost love interest, Carol Lynley her daughter, Jospeh Cotton her aging drunkard husband, and Rock Hudson Kirk's nemesis, the upright sheriff tracking his man etc. I love Westerns because they're so constricted by the parameters of the genre—like Commedia Dell'Arte or Kabuki theater—that it's always a kick to see how truly creative minds can bend the conventions to eke out an original story despite the seemingly limited choices.

THE LAST SUNSET has to be just about one of the weirdest variations on the Western ever. There are so many unexpected (and almost unjustifiable in terms of plot and character) twists, including the penultimate one that sets the climax in motion, a twist so original at the time that it may have cost the movie any true popularity, but it may also have inspired a more famous one that came a decade later with the supposed "new Hollywood" that is still touted as "revolutionary" when, if you're a film buff, you see the origins throughout "old Hollywood" style flicks, like THE LAST SUNSET.

THEY CAME TO CORDURA on the other hand is a movie title I feel like I've known all my life, though it came out when I was seventeen in 1959. Maybe because the stars were so "old Hollywood," like Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth, both still looking Hollywood gorgeous even though they play the trials and tribulations of people walking for miles in barren Mexican high desert about as realistically as any movie probably had at that point.

Directed and co-written by Robert Rossen, it too has a story that is one of the oddest I've ever seen in a Western. Not the plot, which is similar to plenty of them. But the characters and the ways their character moves the story. (And the casting, Van Heflin as a nasty old bastard cavalry sergeant and Tab Hunter as a young officer who loses it, and Dick York the future TV husband of "Jeannie" as an earnest farm boy private etc.) On one level it's maybe the most cynical Hollywood Western up until then, but on another it's a classic story of true heroism, even if the heroism is based on some strange ideas about heroism.

You might have to really care about old movies and/or Westerns to really dig these movies as much as I did. Well, not the movies so much as the actors and writing and directing that makes them so unusual. Despite the obvious contrivances, and the aging stars and their, well, aging (and aging mannerisms), there's a solidness to the movie making, especially in the supposed Mexican Western landscapes both are set in, that captivated me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My old friend Hubert Selby Jr. used to say "You can't have left without right, or up without down. So if you want pleasure you better be ready for some pain to go with it" and the same for success (expect some failure) and anything we think is "good" ('cause "bad" will come with it) etc.

You could object (and I have) and say, what was "good" about Hitler and his cronies. True, they were responsible for some of the worst violence, death and destruction the world has ever known.  But it was so bad, there hasn't been anything like it since (yes, there has on a smaller scale here and there, but nothing close to the dark days of the early 1940s). Most of the world recoiled, especially Europe where many of the worst wars of the previous centuries had occurred.

I might not be articulating it that well, but the point I'm trying to make is don't despair. Things look glum right now because of the slow economic recovery, the failure of the right to come up with any solution to any problem other than ones that further enrich and empower the wealthy and hurt the rest of us, and the left to coalesce around a clear and united agenda for stopping the growing economic inequity in this country as well as come up with strategies to transcend the resistance on the right to anything but their will, etc.

Not to even mention the global warming crisis which many scientists now believe has gone too far to stop, or the population growth that has contributed so much to it, etc. etc. etc. But some of these things were terribly wrong in the 1950s as well, when there was also the haunting threat of atomic annihilation. In that "age of anxiety" (and despair in many cases) some of the best art and jazz and poetry etc. was created and the struggle for racial Civil Rights, as well as the birth pangs of other rights struggles were emerging, etc.

I'm not saying the greed and shortsightedness of a powerful few might not lead the human race to its own destruction. But I am saying that when it seemed that way before, for whatever world was known or self-reflective enough to see itself as "the world" at the time, the pendulum swung, the tide turned—whatever cliched metaphor you want—and through luck or timing or even sometimes the triumph of reason and logic and good will, the forces of evil were weakened and their damage stopped or reversed.

We could be in another Great Depression right now, but we aren't. Or have been destroyed by nuclear war. But we weren't. Or still fighting over whether slavery should be legal or segregation be legal or laws condemning homosexual sexual activity and imprisoning those who took part in it, etc. etc. etc.

As I like to say, my Irish immigrant grandfather grew up in a thatch roof "cottage" with a dirt floor in a country where being a native, especially one who practiced the Catholic religion, meant he had almost no rights at all. My father, born in the USA dropped out of seventh grade to go to work full time to help my Irish immigrant cop grandfather support the family. My two oldest brothers were in the military in the last year of WWII, and the next was in the military during the Korean so-called "police action" (war) as I was during the so-called Cold War (and the very beginning of Viet Nam heating up).

But my grandfather made that journey as a teenager across an ocean and managed to survive the great inequities and anti-Catholic anti-immigration movements of the late 19th century. My old man managed to start his own business, a few of them, mostly around hardware and house repair, and raise his six kids (a seventh died as an infant) in part thanks to the policies introduced by FDR. My two oldest brothers and I got to go to college on The G.I. Bill, thanks to Democrats, and the other one got to own a house bigger than the one we grew up in and raise a wonderful family etc.

They're all dead now, and some of them suffered more than others. But their lives and they themselves contained all the contradictions that life does. The success and failure, the pleasure and pain, the ups and downs, lefts and rights, good and bad. As does mine. As does the world. May I work to make whatever I can better, but accept that no matter how good it gets, there will be bad that comes with it, and vice versa, sometimes double.

Monday, May 21, 2012


"...the true name of eternity is Today."  —Philo (I think as translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Sunday, May 20, 2012


You may not be able to see this in a theater where you are, but by some good fortune it's been playing in the little theater in my little Jersey town the past few days, so last night I went to see it with some friends and was delightfully surprised.

I'd expected either a hatchet job or a hagiographic paen, but what I got was as simple and direct a story about the man who founded A.A. as you would want, if you were interested. My father met Bill Wilson back in the early years of A.A. and he and his program had a deep impact on him and therefore me and the rest of my siblings, let alone my mother and others.

My father has long since passed, he was actually older than "Bill W." (but I was the youngest of seven so I'm still a kid of course). And my father, like Bill Wilson, was a flawed man.  Me too. That is one of the pleasures of this documentary, to see the story of a man who created a movement and a program that has saved so many lives yet doesn't skimp on the flaws, even after sobriety, made me thirst to see other documentaries about other seminal figures done this honestly and clearly.

It has the usual documentary techniques, but seemed to simplify them in a way that never lost my interest. There are actors dramatizing parts of the stories, but they never speak, or at least are never heard in their own voices. When the actor playing Bill speaks it's Bill's voice we hear from recordings.

I found myself moved and entertained, both getting wet eyed and laughing out loud at times. But mostly I found myself grateful, that this man existed and persevered in trying to find a solution to "the alcohol problem" for those who are afflicted with alcoholism, and that the filmmakers presented him as both exceptional and ordinary, a drunk and the genius who took what he learned from other attempts to release alcoholics from their craving and obsession and addiction and added his own experience and insights to start a movement that has literally swept the globe bringing solace to a lot of broken souls and their families and friends.

Check it out if you can.  Here's the trailer, which doesn't do it justice but nonetheless will give you an idea:

Saturday, May 19, 2012


So Romney is now claiming in speeches that Obama "doubled" the debt. The facts are that Reagan tripled the debt during his time in office, Bush Junior doubled it and left that debt and The Great Recession to Obama with two unpaid for tax cuts and two unpaid for wars and then under Obama battling the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression it grew by half.

Any schoolkid knows that adding a one to a two is not doubling, but somehow Romney and the rightwing Republicans don't know that. And the "mainstream" media (I don't count Bill Maher and Jon Stewart and Colbert and a few shows in MSNBC as "mainstream") will not call them on it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Aw, what a shame. Only 63 according to most accounts (here's the first obit I saw). I was in the process of putting together some dance music for my birthday next weekend and trying to choose between her "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff" (I chose the former) when I heard the news. She was the soundtrack of a good part of the '70s for me, and a lot of people.

Here's some lines from a poem I later wrote about those times called "Disco Poetry" (and in the original I called her "Donna Summers"):

"...the most powerful/and successful black woman of her times, Donna/Summer, who in her prime made us love to love/her bad girl moves and glamorize our need to/dance and summarize our post-war angst with/songs that satisfied our frenetic desire to/outlast the collective shame and confusion..."

And we did, with a lot of help from her.

[This video doesn't have the best resolution or sound but her power can't be diminished even by that.)


Read about it here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I don't know if you noticed (or I already mentioned) the new blog I added to the blogs and sites I recommend on the lower right, but it's worth checking out. It's called "Trying To Be Cool" and has only six posts so far, so it's easy to get into. Scroll to the bottom and start there with the first post setting out the premise and read up to the top.

[Full disclosure, it's from a woman who was one of my first new neighbors and friends when I moved back to Jersey in '99, a journalist, originally from South Africa, who lived in Brooklyn where she met her biker photographer handyman husband (who converted an old Mercedes from gas guzzling to biofuel he makes from leftovers from local restaurants!) where they had their now teenage son before moving to Jersey. But even if I didn't know her, this is the kind of uniquely personal perspective that I always dig.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Just a quick post about what's among the pile of books on my night table that I'm reading and digging (or have finished reading recently).
John Godfrey is "a poet's poet" which only means he's one of the greatest poets of my generation but hasn't gotten the recognition he deserves. His book DABBLE is high on my alltime favorite books of poetry list. SINGLES AND FIVES, his latest, is a slimmer volume (what they call "a chapbook" meaning, in this case, it was made by just folding the pages and creating a binding with knotted thread) but displays his unique use of language. Here's a sample:


Hang to the thing
that hangs off
the thing called love
All that breathe
are not progeny
They have their bucket
to keep storefront
padlocks in and
one young belle with
premature crease of throat
Takes a timeout to feel
as fine as she looks
She wants to see what
the cameraman sees
She prefers it's a man
with a plaything
called self
and the scratched
surface is
her real one"

Elinor Nauen also wrote one of my alltime favorite poetry books: SO LATE INTO THE NIGHT, a book length autobiographical poem in ottava rima (!). It just came out last year and now is followed by MY MARRIAGE A TO Z, a kind of coda, poetic but written as prose, it contains little vignettes and observations about her marriage to the writer and pioneer performance artist Johnny Stanton, and is so delightfully satisfying I read it in one sitting on my way back from Manhattan on the train a few weeks ago after she presented me with a copy hot off the presses. Some are longer than others but every one connects somehow to her marriage to Johnny, even if indirectly. Here's a sample:

"Boyfriends. I never had so many boyfriends until I got married. They love me for being happy elsewhere."

And might I add, all three books I write about here are also great objects to own. Each distinctly beautiful in its own way. But MY MARRIAGE A TO Z is the most delightful to hold and breeze through and keep around to admire and dip into repeatedly, thanks also to the illustrations by Sophy Naess.

And then there's an old favorite newly translated by John Ashbery. Rimaud's ILLUMINATIONS, a series of prose poems I first read as a young man and fell more for the poet's legend than the words.  But Ashbery has brought Rimbaud's particular poetic genius back to life for me with this translation. It's more accessible and yet more quirky and original than others I've read over the years, kind of like Ashbery's poetry itself. I'm not going to quote an entire piece here, but just as a sample of the purity of the translations, here's the first paragraph of ANGUISH:

"Is it possible that She will have me pardoned for my continually squelched ambitions,—that an affluent end is compensation enough for ages of poverty,—that a day's success can lull us to sleep, forgetting the shame of our fatal ineptitude,"

It's almost a prediction of Rimbaud's fate in some ways, which was always one of the most powerful aspects of his writing, that such a young man (most of his work completed before he was twenty-one, some of the best when he was still in his teens) could use the juxtaposition of unexpected words and images to evoke a future not just his but poetry's, and often all of ours.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Donald "Duck" Dunn was the master bassist of the soul sound. Here's a Brit take on his legacy [that Guardian obit kept feezing up my computer so the link is now to The Washington Post obit]. My oldest son Miles is a bass player and was rightfully knocked out while still in his teens by Dunn's prodigious talent which was manifestly apparent when Dunn was still in his teens. The best tribute is to go and listen to his playing with Booker T. and The MGs or backing up Otis Redding and other STAX record acts back in the day.  Here's a sample from Youtube (not the best sound but some great close ups of Dunn and the funky baseline he created and played so masterfully):

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Went to see this movie last night with a good friend and came away smilingly satisfied.  The reason we went was the amazing cast. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith would have been enough to get me out to see it. But add in Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel (the young man who gave SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE it's heart and soul) and there's no excuse for everyone not running out to see it.

The acting was so good it was like watching a lesson in how to create a great screen performance. Credit of course to John Madden, the director (who first won many of us over with SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and HER MAJESTY MRS. BROWN) and to Deborah Maggach who wrote the novel the movie is based on and Ol Parker for adapting it to the screen. But basically, it's the actors' film.

The story has some twists that in a few cases you could say were contrived or too pat [including the ultimate "wisdom" and/or inherent "goodness" of all the Indian characters etc.], but that is also the sweet reward in experiencing it. There are plenty of surprises, even if some of them are convenient to creating the kind of satisfaction a well worked out and resolved story can offer. But the main delight, I can't say too often, is watching these actors, most in the later stages of their careers, make every scene worth watching repeatedly just to see them bring them to life.

Even the lesser roles are wonderfully realized. THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is a comedy in the classic sense, but there are moments of such tender disappointment and acceptance of the reality of the inevitable decline of the main cast members and the characters they play that if it weren't ultimately a classic comedy (as well as a post-modern one that evoked to my mind the spirit and strategies of a  movie like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) it could have been too depressing to watch.

But the vision of the story, no matter how realistically or unrealistically optimistic it might be, is that some form of redemption, and therefore rebirth, is always possible, even if only emotionally and even if only very late in the game. Though there's so much more in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL than just that. Scenes and images from it keep coming back to me and I can't stop smiling. Not a bad recommendation.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


It may not have been the first time, but it was the first time I noticed that all three contestants in the finals of the JEOPARDY teen tournament this past week were female.  We already know there are more females graduating from college and getting advance degrees in many areas, including medicine and law, etc.

We also know that the more freedom women have to advance in a society the more democratic it is and the more economically successful it it. There are obviously still glass ceilings, and they need to be broken through, but ultimately we are on the best track for women.

Unfortunately, males aren't doing as well in many areas here, and when males don't do well they often act out or quit or both. So there's a lot more dropping out of the education system going on with boys and young men and a lot more giving up on any kind of "career" etc. leaving women often as the breadwinners and/or sole parent.

And the kinds of jobs the drop outs in my day were able to get, well paying union jobs in factories or construction or even government jobs are either disappearing or gone entirely so that a high school drop out or someone with only a high school diploma is left with few choices in the way of work often ending up in fast food chains etc.

While the hope of much of the "developing world"—especially in the Mideast (I just wrote "Midwest" again and had to correct it, not a typo but my post-op brain ordering one word and my fingers—or another part of my brain I wasn't aware of at the time—insisting what I meant was another similar one)—depending on women getting more social and economic freedom and individual rights, and with the attacks from the right on women's rights in this country, there can be no let up in the womens rights movement anywhere...

...but, we're going to have to address the growing crisis, recognized or not, in boys and young men in this country losing faith and hope in their own futures outside of reality TV and fast food etc.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I can't believe I never saw this movie before. if only because it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and I thought I'd seen everything of his that was ever replayed on television, transferred to video or CD, or digitized. Guess not.

I knew the title, and thought I'd seen it, but there it was on TCM and I watched it from the opening credits with the realization I had either never seen it, or completely forgotten everything about it, which has sometimes happened since the legendary brain surgery ("legendary" is meant to be ironic, something I'm never that good at).

Joel McCrea plays his usual stand up regular guy hero with Laraine Day as "the love interest" with a twist. And a slew of great golden era Hollywood studio veteran character actors give fantastic support, including a young George Sanders and always sinister Herbert Marshall (and Robert Benchley who almost steals the movie in his few comic scenes that seem like they were written by him).

The story of a seasoned crime reporter sent overseas for the first time as a neophyte foreign correspondent to find out what's going on with this impending war stuff (it was made in 1940, only the second movie Hitchcock made in Hollywood, and while London was beginning to suffer the Nazi bombing assault) it's typically hokey Hollywood oversimplification and sanitized politics (the main bad guy representing the Nazi threat and tactics is shown to have a good heart after all), it's still a petty bold statement considering it's finale is set on an American ship maintaining neutrality even in the face of the murder of innocent civilians.

To watch it seventy-two years after it was made, knowing what was to come not only for England, but the USA and almost the entire world, the death and destruction and final victory over a world made in the image of Hitler and his ilk is pretty moving, despite the sometimes hammy acting and lack of true "realism."  It's still Hitchcock, so even in scenes that seem implausibly staged, he managed to create enough cinematic tensions that I found myself getting anxious or holding my breath.

Sanders and others do their best to create a sense of real danger and evil in their reaction shots, but ultimately on what was the brink of the most violent episode in human history (in terms of death and destruction and brutality) FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT now looks almost childishly naive, and yet it wasn't, it was actually a prescient warning for any "Americans" who still thought they could remain aloof from the growing conflict in Europe, which was at the time most of them.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Had dinner last night with a great old friend and a great old acquaintance and two other guys I've met before and it was a pleasure to become reacquainted with. They are all smart accomplished guys, so the conversation was not just fun but often enlightening.

I have no idea what they thought of my contributions, but for myself, I found I had things to say and then articulated them at times (especially as the evening wore on) either in such general and broad terms that they almost made no sense to me, or I just couldn't finish the thought I was trying to express.

No one may have noticed, and not having seen most of them in a while they might not remember me as being much different anyway. Many friends tell me, when I bring up the operation as an explanation for limitations in my thinking and articulation of my thoughts, they see no difference or attribute it to my aging and make the point they have similar problems without having had brain surgery.

But as a cognitive therapist who tested my memory a few months after the operation told me, (the good friend who drove me to the test—at the time I still couldn't drive—sat behind me during it and said I did better than she did and she didn't have any operation), it's not a matter of how I appear to others (which in this case was better than normal, the highest score she said she'd encountered in all her years at this treatment center, the same one where Woody Guthrie and Dudley Moore had been treated in their day), it's a matter of how my responses compare to what I was capable of before the operation.

And, as with all of us, these things vary from day to day and moment to moment. Some days when I write a post for this blog I have to spend a lot of time rewriting and rewriting to eliminate not just the many typos, which I didn't used to make before the operation, but also the out and out misstatements, which I don't remember ever making before the operation (like writing "Northwest" for "Northeast" a few days ago, or "Good" for "Google"—or even more bizarre ones like "party" for "politics" or "war" for "one" or ever crazier like "want to" for "country" etc.).

I rarely find any of this disconcerting or even that disappointing. I mostly find it intriguing, the ways in which the mind works and the impact that has on everything, including and especially in a year like this  one, politics.  They've already shown that the brains of people who self-identify as "conservatives" or as ""liberals" or "progressives" often work entirely differently, responding to the same cues oppositely (afraid of, or moved by, situations and people in diametrically opposed ways etc.).

For instance last night I would try to make a point that was clear in my head in a very sophisticated and informed and articulate way and it would come out in the most simplistically generalized terms that it almost made no sense at all (at least as I was hearing it and later remembering it). Normally this would be terrifically frustrating, but again, I find it more interesting than frustrating. It's not like I haven't articulated my thoughts pretty clearly in my writing, whether before or after the operation, in books and online in this blog etc.

And as others point out continually, aging causes many of us to have these kinds of challenges, whether we are aware of them or not. But for me these changes all occurred like night and day before and after the operation, and since it's a few days from the two and a half year mark after the operation and I was so aware of this last night (not to say I didn't clearly and intelligently express some thoughts and observations during the few hours we were together over dinner) I just thought I'd pass on these thoughts and observations about the ways the brain works and doesn't work for at least one survivor of brain surgery.

(And I also noticed that the later it got the more sensitive I was to stimuli so that by the time we were down in the street saying our goodbyes I was completely distracted by the foot and car traffic and noises etc. in ways before the operation and all my life I found exhilarating but at times now I find overwhelming and sometimes even confusing. Though there are days and evenings when none of this manifests and it does seem "normal" or as it all once was. How fascinating.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


A poll I trust (as opposed to our favorite rightwinger blog stalker's life inside the rightwing media bubble, not that they don't sometimes get it correct, as they say a broken clock is correct twice a day) (and not that a poll at this point matters that much anyway).

Monday, May 7, 2012


Yesterday was such a beautiful day in the Berkshires, the sky the shade of blue that gave birth to the expression "blue sky"—a color I missed in my almost twenty years in L.A. where it only appeared on the rare smog and/or haze free days (at least the way I remember my time there now), but seems more common elsewhere, like back East yesterday in ways that evoked everything wonderful about the beginning of summer.

Of course we've had many days like this in winter this year but they felt almost ominous. Yesterday felt more natural and evocative of childhood when the seasons (at least in the Northeast) reflected those in children's books and old "technicolor" movies (often by Disney, though the one that came to mind yesterday was OKLAHOMA!).

In fact, yesterday was such a beautiful day (at least nature-wise) I forgot to post. Life certainly has its challenges, but if now and then we get a day like yesterday, with the classic puffy white clouds and sky-blue sky and perfect temperature (not too warm not too cool), (and in the case of where I was lushly green and sensually curved hill and mountain tops), well it kind of makes it all seem worthwhile, at least for a day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


So, when oil prices were rising, the rightwingers (like the one who stalks this blog) blamed it on Obama and kept pointing it out, but once they started falling not a beep about that.

When all the jobs were lost and the unemployment rate started skyrocketing under Bush/Cheney, nothing. The day Obama took office they were already blaming the bad economy on him. But once the unemployment rate started dropping and two and a half million jobs were created, they continued to blame the fact that it was still higher than under Clinton (!, yes, that's what Mitt pointed out recently) and never mention that Obama has been adding jobs to the economy for years but because of the Republican rightwing's insistence that the problem is deficits, and thanks to mostly Republican governors et. al. with every ten jobs the economy creates in the private sector, the public sector (government jobs, from teachers and firemen to cops and park rangers etc.) loses several.

If the Bush/Cheney tactics had been continued, we'd be in the deepest Depression in history. And Romney would return us to those approaches. As he did in Massachusetts where I write this from now:

Friday, May 4, 2012


Way too young. Only 47. I love The Beastie Boys and have from the first time they appeared on the scene forcing punk and then rap and emerging hip hop to not take itself so seriously.  MCA was a big part of making that happen, and then his transformation from "angry young man" to spiritual seeker, writing rhymes that crystallized Buddhist teachings, etc.

It's heartbreaking when anyone passes you care about, even if you never knew them personally. But there's always consolation in the memories that will live on, either in the hearts and minds of family and friends, or in the case of some folks, also in the hearts and minds of fans, of which I am one. You have to be grateful for the work produced and still feeling relevant and even current, like so much of The Beastie Boys creations still do. At least to my ear and heart and sense of fun and creativity.

Thanks you for lightening up a pretty heavy recording scene Adam, and bringing a smile to so many faces, like mine, and continuing to even now.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012


For those who missed it, my oldest son Miles put a link in a comment to an interview with the author of a book on Geronimo Pratt, the Black Panther activist from L.A. at the time who was convicted of a murder he didn't commit and jailed for almost three decades before having the verdict overturned,. the victim of an obvious frame.  The link to that interview is here.

The connection to my son Miles' song "Soul Breaker" (the only song he's written both lyrics and music to entirely on his own, the in Bell Engine's first CD it is an arrangement by the band and sung by the vocalists and guitar players and writers of all the other songs on the CD, John and Lisa) is that it was inspired by his reading this book and being deeply moved not just by Pratt's plight but how he remained positive and of service throughout his prison stay, even after many years being held in solitary, and continued to be of service to his community after he was finally freed.

"Soul Breaker" can be listened to (and the lyrics read) here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Too often the least heralded icon in the jazz Pantheon, Lennie Tristano was, in this one-time jazz pianist's humble opinion, second only to Thelonious Monk in his unique blend of jazz piano tradition(s) and one-of-a-kind originality.

Thanks to my friend Doc Burke for sending a link to this timeless performance of the '40s standard "Tangerine" by Tristano, who was blind and in this clip was his usual inexpressive physical self (compared to other blind piano geniuses like Ray Charles or George Shearing et. al.) except for his hands, more expressive than almost any pianist I can think of, like they're independent creatures not playing piano but dancing over the keys.