Thursday, October 31, 2013


In the room this was much clearer and louder and the subtleties of the singing and guitar playing and song writing were more evident, but you'll get the idea (for the full band version check out Bell Engine on iTunes etc.). This is a song my oldest son, Miles, wrote and he explains the inspiration for it in his introduction.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The noise in the background was coming from another closed off room, and the camera work is just my good friend John shooting from his iPhone. The beginnings were cut off. In this first one I had read the title, "How the Light Gets In" (from the Leonard Cohen line and the theme of the evening) before the video starts (not sure why I sound like I have false teeth or something, but you'll at least get a taste of the poem, written that afternoon for the reading and revised during the sound check and edited in my head as I read, which also goes for the poems that follow).

This next one is an excerpt from my long poem "Of" which I often read and had been introducing it by talking about my oldest son, Miles, who was on this same bill, or a song he wrote was (performed by the singers in the band Bell Engine, Miles plays bass in, but for this venue it was just the singers, John and Lisa in their beautiful harmony with John taking the lead to new heights, backed by the band's electric guitarist Dan, hopefully I'll have video of that to share too) and I was saying how touched I was by his song and how lucky that he survived growing up with me as the poem I was about to read would show.

And this was read partly in recognition of the passing of Lou Reed, a poem I wrote in the '80s I think, which this video catches the last word of the title before I muff the first line, the title being "Walk On the Wild Side"...'nuff said.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Too tired to say more than another exhilarating display of talent, from comics getting serious to poets gettin' funny to songwriters startling with their vision. Sweet (and maybe more tomorrow when I'm rested).

Monday, October 28, 2013


Just a reminder I'll be reading my poetry, and my oldest son performing with some bandmates a song he wrote. It's an expensive evening, but if anything like the last one, more than worth it with a line up of incredible talent including fellow poet Simon Pettet, the comic Rain Pryor and the great music makers Julie Christensen and Sylvana Joyce and many more.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


You've heard the news I'm sure [the news of his passing was on all the major network and cable newscasts]. He will be missed by many [and our thoughts and condolences go out to his wife and family and friends]. My feelings were always mixed, but his album TRANSFORMER had an impact on me (we were the same age and experiencing some changes at the same time etc.) and there are songs of his I will always dig [though it's obviously his best known song in terms of popularity and there are others more emblematic of his music's impact perhaps, I had "take a walk on the wild side" and the rest of the lyrics to it going through my head all day and night]. Here's the best place to go for links about him and his passing (and a good blog to follow anyway).


[Me in my first Santa Monica home in 1982 in my favorite shirt with Diane Lawrence making the hand gesture and Mary Woronov crouching down next to her]
[My three oldest brothers (RIP) back when I was still a boy]
[My two oldest kids, Caitlin and Miles with me in an airport on our way to Ireland in the mid-1990s]

Friday, October 25, 2013


This new MSNBC show, at ten on Friday nights so it competes with Bill Maher's HBO show (but obviously can be watched in repeats or on demand or etc.) is like a better Charlie Rose show for me (and yes, full disclosure Alec is a friend, but I'd still prefer his questioning to Rose's even if he weren't).

So far I've been enlightened and entertained by his discussions with guests like Bill De Blasio and Debra Winger. Both those shows were revealing in ways I've never seen on other interview shows. As was the one tonight with Chris Matthews, who I thought I'd had enough of but saw in his exchanges with Alec what made Matthews a media force in the first place, the insight and analysis based on his political experience seemed much more accessibly intelligent instead of egocentrically belligerent or dismissive as he sometimes can seem on his own show.

I learned some things and had a few laughs and actually got some clarity on a few issues I was a little fuzzy on. So I look forward to more of the same. The show is kind of like this blog in the sense that it swings from the entertainment business to the arts to politics, and all based on personal experience and interests. Go Alec.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I haven't seen anyone say this in the media, but maybe I missed it, and that is that the government hired private companies and corporations to do the Internet access for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, so shouldn't the difficult rollout be an indictment against corporations and not the government?

All the privatization that has gone on in the federal government since Reagan began convincing weak minded people that the government was their problem—and not exploitative corporations trying to avoid regulation and taxes and paying wages that a person could live on and own a home and send their kids to college—the privatization of government programs has increased.

Actually the partial privatization of the Post Office (something called for in The Constitution by the way but you never see right-wingers who supposedly love the Founding Fathers and The Constitution ever agitating to return the Post Office to its original mandate and set up) started the whole thing and proved that the government had done the whole mail thing a lot better when allowed to.

I've benefited from government programs over the years, from the G.I. Bill to Social Security, and despite the occasional glitch (actually I can't remember any at the moment, but I'm saying that to cover anything I'm forgetting) my interacting with government employees and policies has gone pretty smoothly (I know that hasn't been true for everyone) especially compared to my interactions with corporations (telephone, cable, bank, etc.) which have almost inevitably been fraught with glitches and much worse (and I know that HAS been true for everyone).

Just a thought.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Alice McDermott is one of the greatest prose stylists of our era. Have I said that before? Probably. I wonder if she were writing about a more exotic ethnic group than Irish-American New Yorkers, who have been signature characters in novels for over half a century and if her stories were less subtle and more sensational if she wouldn't have won all the top awards by now (she did win The National Book Award for CHARMING BILLY in the late 1990s, but no Pulitzer yet or etc.).

SOMEONE, her latest novel, tells the story of a Brooklyn Irish-American woman growing up in The Depression and follows her into her old age. The settings of the chapters which jump around on the timeline of the narrator's life and the mannerisms she records, her own and her families and neighbors, are so precisely described any reader could find themselves identifying whether they're familiar to the reader or not.

I first noticed McDermott's writing for her early '90's book AT WEDDINGS AND WAKES, but it was the more recent CHILD OF MY HEART that solidified her literary stature for me. And now here's her latest, SOMEONE. The title evokes for me the great uses of that seemingly vague term that had made it so memorably not vague, as in the song and movie title "Someone to Watch Over Me."

I just picked a paragraph randomly, just opened the book and pointed, and here in these few sentences you can experience all the subtle craft of this great writer:

"We walked down the stairs. I felt a panic at each turning—what if his mother came through the door now, or now, what would she read on our faces? But he took his time. On the street—the air was lovely, a slight breeze had kicked up and it felt like bathwater against my skin—he put his arm around my waist as we walked. We passed the church. Had it only been this morning that he looked down at me with the sunlight across his face and asked, "What's wrong with your eye?"

It's like a mini-play, with suspense, foreshadowing, passion and surprise (perhaps comic). Only all those qualities are so subtle and rendered with such humility (but so realistically), that it almost seems like a joke, only by this point in the book we care about the narrator so it's no joke to us.

Anyway, it's late, I just wanted to alert anyone looking for a good fictional read, that this to my mind far outshines some other books about the Irish in Brooklyn for my taste (or should that be "for my sight" so as to not mix metaphors). Years ago I read at an Irish festival outside DC with Alice McDermott and was struck then by her own humility and a kind of restraint that I not only admired but wish I had.

I wished nothing but the best for her and her work then, and even more so now. After Alice Munro won the Nobel recently for her fiction, I thought hey, why not Alice McDermott next?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Just came from the Stephane Wrembel show and all I can say is, if he is ever playing anywhere you can get to: GO!

[PPS: It was in an old old venue that had been sold and wasn't used for a long time and I was afraid would be torn down but thankfully hasn't been. The acoustics were perfect, the young musicians backing him excellent, and Stephane brilliant as always, as both composer and musician. Like I said, one of the greatest living music makers in the world.]


Friday, October 18, 2013


So they figured out the shutdown cost the U.S. Economy 24 billion. Yeah, 24 BILLION.

The Republicans caused it. So, just one simple question:

"fiscal conservatives?"

Thursday, October 17, 2013


There are a lot of videos on YouTube that show the ongoing peaceful demonstrations in Canada of indigenous people protesting against fracking that will destroy ancient water sources. Today one got violent when a contingent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police confronted and then attacked the protesters where they had set up camp to block the initial stages of investigation for the fracking.

That's a feather she's holding, others were holding sage, against which the Canadian police used pepper spray and rubber bullets and some said live ammunition.

Along with the police were a few snipers in camouflage. A very threatening presence to a peaceful demonstration.

The protesters were angry, justifiably, (some burned government cars after they were brutally attacked, women and men) bur brave in the face of such force and are really standing up for the rest of us who are allowing this process of corporate oil's takeover of precious resources to satisfy their need for new profits from shale and tar sands oil deposits and to thwart the growth of clean energy processes. They aren't the only ones standing up to fracking around the globe.  Here's people from a farm community in Romania protesting an outside oil company (American) trying to frack their land.
I can't verify the Romanian protest. But I have Indian activist friends who have posted eye witness accounts of the Canadian one.  Maybe the best explanation for what's happening is this:
[A little oversimplified but generally accurate.]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


So the way to win elections generally is to have the best strategy. Ideals and candidates and positions help, but strategy ultimately wins in most cases, often unfortunately.

Chris Christie is supposedly a "fiscal conservative" a la the Republican propaganda mantra. Though he has proven over and over again that he will take actions that are fiscally irresponsible if it helps a corporate donor or harms the Democrats etc. and the media mainly ignores this.

But the "special" election today in my home state of New Jersey to fill the late Democratic Senator Lautenberg's seat, is an instance of Christie's (or his advisors') superior strategy. It's costing the taxpayers, that includes me, millions to have this election today, as opposed to just including it in the general election coming up in a few weeks.

But Christie didn't want Cory Booker's popularity to get in the way of his reelection, so he's spending millions of our dollars on an election that would normally have been a landslide victory for Booker, if held on the usual election day on a Tuesday in November, and maybe influenced more voter turnout against Christie.

By holding it separately on a Wednesday in October, it makes sure that voters who either expect a Booker victory so don't feel compelled to vote or just won't remember it's today—since Booker has been much weaker at strategy (and was dealing with the death of his father) and hasn't done enough to get out the vote (I haven't received one phone call or mailing encouraging me to vote for Booker)—won't vote, while the rightwing base will be there lock step (they had the Palin machine here to help).

Booker's strategy has been so off, his opponent, a Tea Party Republican so far to the right of what the vast majority of Jersey voters believe in, he not only is against abortion and gay marriage rights and taxing the wealthy, he wants to eliminate The Department of Education and the IRS and immigration and etc. has succeeded in diminishing Booker's lead in the polls of likely voters from over forty per cent to under ten!

Like pesky mosquitoes or cockroaches or flies or rats or whatever pest you can think of, these rightwing Republicans are relentless in their persistent nibbling attempts to destroy our government(s) as any form of help for working and poor people so that corporations and the wealthy can exceed even the historically humongous profits they have been accumulating.

And though the vast majority of our fellow citizens when asked specifically about policies agree mostly with Democratic policies, the Republican strategists use every tactic they can to limit voting, misinform voters, confuse voters, or discourage voting, including spending our taxpayer money to do so (as their government shutdown and refusing to raise the debt ceiling has cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer money) and intimidate, buy or in other ways influence the media to ignore that part of the story.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


"Stop worrying if your vision
Is new.
Let others make that decision—
They usually do.
You keep moving on."

—Stephen Sondheim (from Sunday In The Park With George)

Monday, October 14, 2013


The rightwing Republicans will end up getting concessions from the president and Democrats for some kind of temporary deal on the so-called debt ceiling and opening the government again (like a tax on medical machines which will mean less funding for elements of Obamacare which will mean a diminishment of the benefits or higher premiums for working people etc. which will lead to disappointment in Obamacare and help those same Republicans hack away further at it in the weeks or months until they make the next deadline for renegotiating the so-called debt ceiling and closure of the government etc.)...

...and all in the name of supposedly "cutting the debt" which means to Republicans cutting spending which means to Republicans cutting "entitlements" which means and has always meant to rightwing Republicans cutting until eliminated all Democratic policies that have saved this country in my lifetime over and over again like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, Unemployment Benefits, Veterans Benefits (they'll save that til last but it'll go, since it was the Dems who created the benefits and funded them when Repubs refused to et. al.) along with bank and food and corporate regulations etc.

And all the time the government shutdown and the sequester and every other tactic the Repubs have pulled to cut back the parts of government that help most of us—just to avoid making corporations and the wealthy pay a little more, or corporations face regulations that might limit their enormous humongous historically gigantic profits to just bigger than the rest of our incomes combined, but continue the tax funded (from most of us) benefits for those same corporations and industries and the wealthy etc.—costs taxpayers hundreds of millions a day!

And the media pretty much ignores this fact, that every day the government is shut down, and every day the rest of the world thinks our government will default on its financial obligations, costs hundreds of millions to the economy, to small businesses, to workers, to all of us. Why can' the Dems frame this thing as it should be: the Republicans crying about government spending while costing the economy hundreds of millions with this shutdown that raises the debt (that under Obama, as opposed to under Reagan, and Bush Junior, has been coming down).

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Drove up from Jersey with my youngest (who almost has his permit so can help with the drive next time) through the Autumn color fest to see his fifteen-year-old nephew, my grandson, play drums on the street in the all instrumental jazz and funk and reggae band Highland, along with the five other fifteen-year-olds in the band on guitar, bass, electric piano, trumpet and sax.

They were so good, they had over two hundred bucks thrown in their guitar case after playing for less than two hours! People would hear the music and stop to dig it before they realized how young the band was, and then when they got it, their smiles would broaden and in many cases their hips would start swaying.

I suck at filming with my iPhone and all that, so have no footage to share, and though I saw many folks filming I've only seen a couple of short bits on Facebook and can't figure out how to share them here, so this photo taken of the guitarist Ethan, my grandson Donovan on drums and the hand of the bassist, Zepher, will have to suffice for now. (The photographer is my grandson' friend Cooper.)

Wish you had been there.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I took part in a reading last night at Poets House in Manhattan, a tribute to the late poet and friend Harvey Shapiro. Twenty-five people read poems they had selected from Harvey's books (some even reading from a posthumous book that'll come out next year). I can't think of a better way to remember and pay tribute to a poet.

Unless you've had a documentary made on you, and even then, depending on the filmmaker's biases or perspective, there's nothing like someone's poems to create the sensation that they are there, in the poems, speaking directly to you. That's how it felt last night.

Lots of Harvey's friends and family, lots of old friends of mine I hadn't seen in a while, some for decades, many decades. It was good. It was moving. It was inspiring. It was a tribute to a fine poet (I recommend you get hold of his new and collected poems: THE SIGHTS ALONG THE HARBOR, a wonderful collection that deserves to be on any poetry lover's bookshelf) and a good man.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Rift was one of the feistiest folks I've known, and I've known a few. I met him early in my Hollywood years where he was producing independent film and TV projects. One of the most important things about him in my personal history, not mentioned in this otherwise relatively informative obit, involves how we met. My old friend Hubert Selby Jr. was working for Rift when I visited him at the L.A. office Rift had at that time (1983) which he was whizzing around in in his wheelchair making wisecracks at my expense and we'd just met.

I remember working for him at one point myself, writing a film I believe that never got made, or maybe, as was more often the case, I was script doctoring and it did get made (ah, memory). Every time I ran into him over the years that followed he would enthusiastically and/or sarcastically describe his latest project, no matter how "big" or "small" in Hollywood terms, with the same clarity and commitment. He was one of a kind in the Hollywood I knew and made it a richer and more fun place to work. He will be missed.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Shorty story great, Alice Munro, as won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, and it couldn't happen to a better writer. Some commentators have noted that though the prize is often given to a writer because of their politics or the part of the world where politics is causing problems, giving it to this quiet self-effacing Canadian whose stories are about relationships and seemingly avoid any kind of politics is an anomaly.

But I wonder. Maybe the Nobel judges wanted to honor what seems right now like one of the only places on earth that isn't falling over itself to self-destruct. Canada is looking awfully civilized and successfully cooperative compared certainly to its neighbors to the South, and for that matter the East and West.

But whatever reasons may be behind the choice of Munro, I'm happy she was chosen, and though I don't agree with her being compared to Chekhov, except in that they are both brilliant craftspeople at the art of the short story, I do agree that like Chekhov she deserves to be read for generations to come, as long as humans still read.

I also hope it's a sign that the Nobel for Literature will start rewarding the many great women writers of our times. I'd love to see Alice McDermott be next.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Caught this at The Players tonight on MacDougal in The Village with my good friend John Restivo, who I thought would enjoy it since he's Italian, and he did. As did the row of women behind us who were singing along to Dean Martin's That's Amore coming over the house speakers before the show and swapping stories about their Italian families.

But you don't have to be Italian to laugh the loudest, as I think this Irish-American did, at this original mashup of stand up comedy and serious play. The four stand up comics who star in it, and co-wrote the "plomedy" (along with another writer whose name I can't find on the Internet and I left the program on the counter at the pizza joint in Penn Station getting a slice while waiting for my train) as it's being called, are Tina Giorgi, Eric Tartaglione, Chris Monty and Joe Moffa. And my old friend Eve Brandstein directed it.

Hey, if you're Italian, or not, don't miss this if you can get to The Village on a night when it's playing, or if it travels to a city near you in the future. It's just what my friend John and I needed, a night of laughter with a few pulls on the old heartstrings thrown in. 


Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Brilliant. Had to repost: 

Oct 2008: "You'll never get elected and pass healthcare."

Nov 2008: "We'll never let you pass healthcare."
Jan 2009: "We're gonna shout you down every time you try to pass healthcare."
July 2009: "We'll fight to death every attempt you make to pass healthcare."
Dec 2009: "We will destroy you if you even consider passing healthcare."
March 2010: "We can't believe you just passed healthcare."
April 2010: "We are going to overturn healthcare."
Sept 2010: "We are going to repeal healthcare."
Jan 2011: "We are going to destroy healthcare."
Feb 2012: "We're gonna elect a candidate who'll revoke healthcare NOW."
June 2012: "We'll go to the Supreme Court, and they will overturn healthcare."
Aug 2012: "American people'll never re-elect you-they don't want healthcare."
Oct 2012: "We can't wait to win the election and explode healthcare."
Nov 2012: "We can't believe you got re-elected & we can't repeal healthcare."
Feb 2013: "We're still going to vote to obliterate healthcare."
June 2013: "We can't believe the Supreme Court just upheld healthcare."
July 2013: "We're going to vote like 35 more times to erase healthcare."
Sept 2013: "We are going to leverage a government shutdown into defunding, destroying, obliterating, overturning, repealing, dismantling, erasing and ripping apart healthcare."

Monday, October 7, 2013


My favorite TV channel, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) has done it again. Over the past several weeks on Monday nights it's been running episodes from Mark Cousins's documentary THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY. It's one man's (or mainly his) interpretation of what is most important in that history, and I don't agree with all his conclusions, or even connections, but it's still been a treat to watch.

I taught film criticism and film history in a college for a few years back in the early '70s, and wrote movie reviews and then spent a few decades of my life working in the film industry, so I know a little about it. What's most original about this history of film is its inclusiveness. Unlike earlier "American" attempts at film history, Cousins recognizes the influence of international filmmaking on Hollywood and not just vice versa.

A lot of classic international films that were overlooked in earlier histories of the movies are included here, as well as a lot of the usual Hollywood suspects. But Cousins's take on even those expected films is usually skewed in a unique way, emphasizing and focusing on scenes and interpretations that go beyond the familiar to the sometimes almost deliberately contrary.

Not as consistently compelling as a more tightly edited version might have been, still the interludes of contemporary (the film was made, or at least first shown, in 2011) clips of real landscapes and scenes with Cousins's voiceover in his Irish accent (that will probably sound a little unfamiliar to those used to typical movie brogues or NPR reporters more schooled Irish accents) would make up a very interesting experimental documentary on its own.

His film making sometimes reflects what's he's discussing or emphasizes it, but equally often seems almost perversely arbitrary, ultimately making the entire fifteen episode (originally) documentary a unique film experience worth having. And on top of that, after each episode is aired TCM shows one of the seminal "foreign" films mentioned in that nights' episode, so that if you had the time and watched every episode every Monday night and then the film shown afterwards, you'd have a few semesters worth of advanced film history under your belt.

You should at least catch one Monday night's showing, just to see what a unique trip it can be.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that's where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."       —Henry David Thoreau (from Walden)

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Though this HBO flick isn't the greatest, it's still worth watching. Most of all, because rather than hire an actor to play Ali in the story of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned his conviction for avoiding the draft and affirmed his conscientious objector status based on his Black Muslim religious beliefs, the filmmakers use clips of the real Ali at the time, from interviews and fights.

Man was he special, and not just entertaining to watch but enlightening and inspiring. The historic clips of him were worth the whole flick. But there are also a bunch of wonderful older, mostly male, actors that make it worth watching as well, from Christopher Plummer and Frank Langella to Ed Begley Jr. (full disclosure, an old friend), Danny Glover and Peter Gerety.

If you get the chance, check it out, and bask in the glow of Muhammad Ali's charisma at its peak.

Friday, October 4, 2013


I still read books. I read articles on the Internet, and messages and blogs and poems and reviews and columns etc. And I can see how the convenience of some kind of e book reader makes sense and maybe saves trees etc. But, I still read books.

On my night table next to my bed, or end table or whatever it's called, in its two deep shelves are books, and on top there are three piles of books—poetry books, fiction books and nonfiction books—over sixty in all, and I like to read in several before I go to sleep.

Sometimes I get caught up in one or two books and for a few days and/or nights I read only those until I finish them. But most of the time, I'm reading several books at a time, and at one time or another I've read a few pages out of each of those over sixty books.

I will finish them all eventually, some sooner than others. I don't think there would be any way for me to do that with an e book reader. Especially since these books are mostly ones I've been sent by the writers or their publishers, with a few I picked up in my local bookstore on a whim or because I wanted to read them (like Alice McDermott's latest novel, SOMEONE, one of my favorite authors and a really nice woman I got to read with once many years ago).

So, I'm not gonna get an e reader yet. Cause I still like reading books.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


My friend poet/writer and Irish musician, Terence Winch, sent me a copy of an email he wrote to a columnist at The Washington Post, encouraging me and everyone to send our own emails to hopefully wake up those in the media who continue to avoid placing blame where it clearly lies:

"Dear Mr. McCartney:

I always read your column, and almost always agree with your take. As a retired federal employee, I appreciated your point today about the important work done by many dedicated civil servants. What I have trouble with---and this is a problem, I believe, at the Post and throughout much of the establishment media---is the vague blaming of "our leaders" and generic partisanship for the shutdown & other problems with Congress. It is the Republicans in the House---in particular, a small subset of extreme right-wing Republicans---who are responsible for all this dysfunction. They are seeking to block a law that was passed handily by both houses of Congress, was signed by the President, upheld by the Supreme Court, and re-affirmed by "the American people" (who Boehner keeps trying to tell us oppose the law) in the last election. It is not at all helpful to allow Republican readers and voters to believe that this situation is a two-sided one.  You and your colleagues owe it to your readers to identify those really responsible for all these problems. If they pay no price & get no blame, they'll just keep doing it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013