Saturday, November 30, 2013


Almost worth it just for the music and first several seconds, but you have to watch it to the end.

Friday, November 29, 2013


As the new pope made clear, along with historians and those who truly care about the poor and struggling, the disparity between the wealthiest among us and the poorest has to be addressed and corrected. It's right up there with climate change and the oppression of women in too much of the world.

Here's three things I'd like to see more action on (including protest campaigns from activists):

1. Religious organizations should be taxed proportionally (as should everyone else, including corporations).

2. Professional sports teams should be not given tax breaks for new stadiums and arenas that taxpayers are forced to subsidize (or like spoiled brats the teams will take their balls and go elsewhere etc.)

3. Corporations that rely on taxpayers to supplement their workers' meager pay and benefits through food stamps and Medicaid etc. (like Walmarts) should be required by law to pay their workers living wages (like Costco does I understand) or be banned from doing business in this country.

Just another late night rantlet (and mini-list!)

Thursday, November 28, 2013


This one man show was filmed for HBO and I finally caught it tonight and was pleasantly and movingly surprised.  I knew Tyson was bright from the first interview he had on a late night TV show after he became the youngest heavyweight champion in history, because when asked about boxing his answers revealed an amazing knowledge of not just the art but the history, in depth and enlightening.

But still I didn't expect a lot from this one man show venture. But he knocked me out, in the show biz sense. He's funny, poignant, humble, brutally honest, self-aware and totally engaging. He imitates all kinds of people in ways that bring them to life and make it feel like it's a multi-character show. If there's any rationalizing of some of his bigger life mistakes, or self-justification, it's layered in as I said humility and the honesty at the core of humility.

The show is really well shaped and flows so well I wasn't bored or disinterested for a second. Spike Lee's done a good job of directing, but it's Tyson's show all the way and he makes it well worth your while to watch it.

[PS: For those wondering about this post for these holi (holy) day(s) is quite appropriate since the ultimate message in Tyson's show is gratitude, as it is in Thanksgiving and Hanukkah...]

Monday, November 25, 2013


"and in a sense we're all winning
 we're alive"
 —Frank O'Hara (from the poem "Steps")

"but it is good to be several floors up in the dead of night
 wondering whether you are any good or not
 and the only decision you can make is that you did it"

—Frank O'Hara (from the poem "Adieu to Norman,/Bon Jour to Joan and Jean-Paul

Sunday, November 24, 2013


So the storm that just whipped through the Southwest was another "historic" one breaking all records in some areas and some weather folks didn't even know how to name it because of how erratic and unusual some aspects of it were.

And there's still not just wing nuts but their political leaders and mouthpieces arguing against climate change, or that global warming has contributed to it.

Meanwhile even lefties are condemning Obamacare wholesale, forgetting how much of it is already working well, like not letting insurance companies deny you if you have a pre-existing condition, or covering your kids until they're twenty-six or covering previously uninsured and uninsurable children, etc.

It seems sometimes like the Facebook like button, or the Internet in general along with contemporary news bad habits (and contemporary bad news habits) (except for Al Jazeera America, which though a lot less flashier often covers news old style, in depth and with reporters covering a story, not talking heads commenting on one or manufacturing one) has created an environment where only generalities and blanket statements get heard...or seen...

Just another redundant hmmmmmm.... moment.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I just got word from Harry Northup that Wanda Coleman passed. If you don't know who she is, you should read at least one of her books (betcha can't read just one). I knew her well and got to see her often in my L.A. years. She was in many ways the best known and certainly the most enthusiastically appreciated poet in L. A. We read together several times and it was pure joy to share the podium or stage or whatever with Wanda.  Black Sparrow published several of her books that won fans around the country and the world.

She was a no b.s. presence who said what she thought and wrote what she felt and even when righteously angry made you feel like she still loved you and would soon make you laugh or at least make herself laugh, amused by it all. My thoughts go out to her family, and to her friends and fans, who will miss her terribly.

Here are two poems from a series she did called AMERICAN SONNETS and best express, for me, what made Wanda's words so compelling:


rejection can kill you

it can force you to park outside neon-lit
liquor stores and finger the steel of
your contemplation. it can even make you
rob yourself

(when does the veteran of one war fail to
appreciate the vet of another?)

the ragged scarecrow lusts in the midst of
a fallow field

and the lover who prances in circles envies me
my moves/has designs on my gizzard/kicks shit

this is the city we've come to
all the lights are red all the poets are dead
and there are no norths


rusted busted and dusted

the spurious chain of plebeian events

which allows who to claim the largest number of homicides
the largest number of deaths by cancer the largest
number of institutionalized men the largest number of
crimes of possession the largest number of functionally
insane the largest number of consumers of dark rum

preoccupied with perfecting plans of escape

see you later alligator
after while crocodile
after supper muthafucka

[and here's a taste of her reading style when I knew her best:]



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

(C) 2013 Michael Lally

Thursday, November 21, 2013


This latest collection of poems by Holly Prado is for my taste her strongest yet. Oh, Salt/Oh Desiring Hand is a terrific book, beautiful to look at and hold and read. Despite it's wide page format to fit Prado's sometimes very long lines, and good size print, it feels like an almost delicate work of art.

But "strong" is the word for Prado's humble honesty in confronting her age, her losses, her gratitude for the small delights of everyday life. Some of the best poems are in the first section with the longest lines, which I'm not going to try and reproduce in this post because I'd want to convey the way they look and read on the page not on my computer screen and its limitations.

But I'll type up two shorter poems with shorter lines so you can see the power of her unique poetic strategy and the ways it serves her subjects so well in this highly recommended collection:


our own housecat
who has forgotten

the kitten births but years later
mothers me    settles where I am
makes sure of me

this cat we call Rose who wants to know
us and now and then in sleep she
with others has spoken clearly

why do they have language
only when we can't remember?

once in the canopy above
the forest we knew each other
everybody knew each other


so few experiences now    each one then
huge    today's is glare off the parking lot

nothing like appalachian murder ballads
or wild orchids    but summer glare
does recite the effort of groceries    many car
doors opening the drivers shapely in sleeveless
well-fitting tank tops

how huge?    I'm writing it down so
it's that huge because it's what I have
for Thursday's blank page

we know everything:
how to dress ourselves
how to choose a ripe avocado
how to raise our hands    palms out
to rebuke the useless

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I know others have pointed this out, as have I, over many decades, but still, how come old white men continue to get away with stuff young black men would be thrown in prison for and end up destroying their lives over.

I'm talking about that Republican Senator from Florida who voted to force anyone on welfare to take regular drug tests, and now has been caught buying and using cocaine in DC and only gets a slap on the wrist and sympathy for his addiction problem. (Remember the same for Rush Limbaugh after his decades of demanding drug addicts be prosecuted to the full extent of the law blah blah?)

The double standard for a drug that is used way more (the statistics are there) by whites than blacks (so-called, I hate both terms as they are so stupidly inadequate for the many shades skin comes in etc.) and yet black persons, especially men, get sentenced to prison way more than white ones.

Jim Crow is alive and well in the criminal justice (so-called) system, and especially in the for-profit prison system. Young white people need to protest widely and massively about this, 'cause they'll get much more media attention that young black people doing it, unfortunately ('cause Jim Crow is also alive and well in the mass media)...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I first heard Moms Mabley on a record in 1960 and dug her from that moment on. Recently she seemed to have been forgotten, like a lot of pioneers often are, especially if they were women, let alone "black" (a term I still feel belongs in quotes, just like "white").

But that's been corrected now with a great HBO documentary directed by Whoopi Goldberg who conducts interviews with a great group of folks with terrific insights into Moms's genius and impact.

As much a Civil Rights pioneer as anyone, she was also a women's rights pioneer as well, and it's nice to see that acknowledged in this film that mixes interviews with original footage of Moms doing her act.

And it was an act, but one that depended on a lifetime of overcoming obstacles to bring some hard truths to a nation divided at the time (sound familiar?) but united (more than at any time probably) by TV and its few channels and vast audience. And she did it by making people laugh, no matter what side of the divide they were on.

Her records and live act in "black" nightclubs were known for their rawness, not just of language but of facing reality with a few jabs and an uppercut. She influenced so many it would be a list too long to include on this post, if I were even able to make a list (my challenge these days).

If you don't know her, check out this film, and if you do, well, I know you're gonna check it out. And kudos to Whoopi for making it happen.

Monday, November 18, 2013


"...the second half of life is a long process of getting rid of things..."  —F. Scott Fitzgerald (from "Three Hours Between Planes")

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Last night I went to the opening of an installation called TAR at a community art works place called Ironworks in the city where I was born: Orange, New Jersey. Thanks to Mindy Fullilove and her daughter Molly, who helped create and run Ironworks, a lot of artists from Orange and environs were invited to paint with only black paint or markers on white walls.

At the reception last night others were invited to take part as well, while one of the artists created and cooked (in an outdoor oven) homemade pizza. You can see one person adding to the artwork at the place where two walls joined in one of these unfortunately not so hot photos I took on my iPhone that don't capture the vitality and spirit and good conversation and sense of community I enjoyed at the event (the shot of me in front of Gandalf the Girl was taken by Mindy).

But at least I've finally figured out how to take photos on my iPhone and with the help of my teenager how to get them on to the computer! If you're anywhere in the area (406 Tompkins Street, Orange NJ) stop in some afternoon and check out the artwork. Its pretty impressive up close.


Alec Baldwin (who does happen to be an old friend) says in this Huffington Post blog entry what I would have said in his defense had anyone asked me.


Friday, November 15, 2013


Now the Republicans are playing a smart game, flanking Obama and the Dems with the Healthcare thing by saying if Dems vote for the Bill the Congress just passed they're supporting their president cause it backs up what he promised (though of course it goes much further and basically recalls Obamacare) so then if he vetoes it, he's going against what he promised, but if they vote against it they're going against their president and the voters who had their insurance policies canceled.

The Repubs are smart enough to use either position any Democrat whose running for office will have a hard time defending, while the Dems and Obama have left themselves open by trying to get the insurance corporations on their side etc. only once a corporation sees a weakness it goes in for the kill (Barnes & Noble putting up stores they'd lose money on but were close to independent bookstores doing well, Walmart destroying mom and pop stores, etc. etc.).

Like I said in the previous post, Obama and the Dems should have immediately pointed out how the problems with the Obamacare rollout were corporate caused, the computer problems were the fault of the privatization of the computer rollout to corporations and the insurance cancellations the fault of insurance corporations trying to destroy Obamacare (why would they otherwise not have waited to cancel policies when it's time next year to meet the new standards).

Obama and the Dems have been mugged once again and don't even know what hit them. But they should at least know WHO hit them. Same as it always was.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


It's starting to feel that way. It's not just the Sarah Palins and Glen Becks, the Hannitys and oh basically everyone on Fox News and speaking out for the Tea Party etc., but what bozos do the Dems get to run their media connections...

This whole Obamacare thing has been handled first by denial and then by strained and piecemeal and fragmented complicated stutter start explanations that comes across as either gobbledy gook or jive.

If the Koch brothers money was running the Democrats' show and they had the think tanks talking heads and strategists, Obama's people would have been making it clear all along that there'd be a rough start, a la Social Security, Medicare and the original Obamacare, i.e. Romneycare.

They all had the same kinds of confusion, minimal participation and glitches that eventually got worked out and now a majority participates and supports those programs, just as they will Obamacare unless the right succeeds in reversing it—with enormous help from the media.

I can't even watch NBC News anymore on this shite, the adjectives used sound like my teenager when he gets emotional, like there has never been any greater mess up than this, when just a few weeks ago we were in a government shutdown that cost us all 24 billion dollars!

But Obama and the people he surrounds himself with have blown the message on this one. Someone should have been immediately out front about how a single payer plan wouldn't have all these problems, and how the insurance companies were the ones causing the trouble in the first place, and how this plan, originally created by Republicans depends too much on outside contractors to do the computer set ups.

The best defense is to say hey, if we had a government agency doing this, like the ones that handle Medicare or Social Security, we wouldn't have had these problems. They were caused by privatization! Corporations! Surprise surprise!

Too tedious that a lone old man sitting at his computer can come up with a better media strategy than all those thirty-five-year-old administration minions running around blocking access for people like, well not me, I'm past it, but friends who are still in the political game and on the Dems side.

Another late night rant I'm afraid. Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


"It is my responsibility to teach others how to treat me by the way I treat myself."  —Rokelle Lerner (from Daily Affirmation)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Didn't catch all of this last night and tonight on PBS due to interruptions, but what I saw was the best take on the man and his presidency I've seen yet, even with a few quibbles where I disagreed on some interpretations of some events. Engrossing for those of us who lived through it and were impacted, as they say these days, by the experience. If it's repeated, or is available online, I recommend it highly.


Sunday, November 10, 2013


Me at 19 in February, 1962, at basic training camp in Texas with my friend Murph:


There are still people in positions of power who propagate the fallacy that "global warming" and the climate change it causes is a myth, or if pushed by the overwhelming facts to the contrary, insist it's not man made but just one of the weather cycles nature has had throughout history.

But they never have an explanation for why we have had weather events in recent years that have been either the worst in history or are occurring every ten years when throughout history they occurred every hundred or five hundred years. The devastating impact of the latest "historic" storm, the typhoon that hit The Philippines has been called the most powerful in history (and the death toll may rise to the highest in history).

If it is already too late to stop these changes in severe weather events, the next best action is to start moving beach and shore communities inland to avoid the kinds of death tolls we are seeing unfortunately from this storm. My heart goes out to the victims and those who lost their homes and to my friends who have relatives in The Philippines.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Jack Kerouac won a scholarship to Columbia University, but he ended up giving football up for a couple of reasons: he didn't think the coach used him properly or enough, he met Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and not least of all he had his leg broken in a Freshman game against Saint Benedict's Prep, a Catholic, boys, day school in Newark created to help working-class ethnic kids get an education that might get them into colleges.

I played for St. Benedict's a decade later and one of the traditions there was for team members to throw money in a hat, and the guy who knocked the other team's star out of the game got the money. I remember feeling like that wasn't cool. The team had a few ringers on it, twenty-year old running backs who were given post-grad scholarships after they finished high school elsewhere, and for that reason we were never eligible to win real championships. But The Newark Star Ledger named us "undeclared champions of New Jersey" because the team almost always crushed their opponents.

In my junior year, playing defensive end (I was easily distracted when trying to catch the ball) our team was so good on offense we ran up scores that embarrassed the teams we played. A lot of it was just intimidation. One of our guards had a bridge for his front top teeth which he'd take out and then give his opponent a toothless grimace when they first lined up, etc. Most of our players were Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans and Polish-Americans, all proudly dismissive of fear or pain.

But then in one game we met a team that wasn't intimidated, and had better strategies, and I watched as the senior stars' eyes glazed over and they gave up. I played my heart out, and I'm sure some others did too, but it felt like I was the only one. I was so saddened by the loss, they beat us something like 42 to 6, the reverse of our usual scores, that in the bus on the way back to Newark the unusual silence comforted me.

And then one of our biggest stars, I think it was the quarterback, spotted a car next to the bus with a family in it, and doing what these guys often thought was hilarious and I found childish, he dropped his drawers and mooned the unsuspecting kids peering out the window at us. That got everybody laughing and, for the rest of the ride back, mooning the passing cars.

By the time we got to Newark I had decided not to go out for football my senior year. I worked after school and on weekends for my father after football season, for room and board as they used to say, and had other jobs at night to make actual money for myself, this way I could make more.

But though the football stars I'd once thought were so cool and tough I now saw as juvenile and too quick to give up when their toughness was truly challenged, I kept watching football on TV because I understood the game and appreciated the great plays and players. But at some point, the game changed for me.

I used to love throwing my body into the air to try and wrap my arms around a runner's legs or ankles to bring him down. But suddenly, or maybe it was gradually and just felt like suddenly, the equipment became so supposedly protective, it became routine to try and bring a runner down by running into his head with your head! And at the same time, it seemed, the players mysteriously, or not, grew gigantic, so that the combination (equipment and giganticism)  made it more like a demolition derby or tank battle than the game of skill and finesse I'd dug when I was young.

So I stopped watching. And now it seems like there's a story in the news almost every day exposing the brutality, exploitation, racism, bullying, self-destruction, debilitation and all around stupidity of a sport the ancient Roman gladiators probably would have found excessive.

Yeah, soccer (the real "football") and baseball can be pretty boring in terms of scoring, but along with basketball and every other sport, even rugby, none of them endangers, exploits and brutalizes the players anywhere near as much. But it's big business (I once wrote an essay about how professional football was a corporate game etc.) so my guess is, it ain't leaving. And I have plenty of family and friends who will keep watching it. Not me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


"The trick is in what one emphasizes...We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same."   —Don Juan (from Journey to Ixtlan)

Monday, November 4, 2013


Don't like the logo or the station identification vids, but otherwise, this is turning into the best in-depth news network on TV. A lot of their longer segments remind me of the early 1950s TV news documentaries. They are covering topics no one else is, as well as most of what everyone else is, but with—like I said—more in-depth reporting, not just talking-head-both-sides-are-equal cop outs.

It's not flashy or trendy or vacuous, but rather clearheaded and straightforward. I can see why Public TV's Ray Suarez has left Newshour for Al Jazeera. I look forward to hopefully more in-depth reporting on so many aspects of our country and society too long neglected by the other news shows and networks.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Wanted to wait a few days after I saw this before I posted about it. I agree with all the critics and friends who are calling it a great movie and predicting and calling for Oscar nominations.  It is a powerful and extraordinary and painfully beautiful movie.

I only hope it is widely seen in the South and supplants to at least some extent the hundreds of Hollywood films, with GONE WITH THE WIND at the top, that have portrayed the Southern Confederate states secession and armed rebellion as somehow noble and worthy of admiration.

Maybe the individual bravery of certain soldiers is worthy of respect and honor in some way, but to cling to the institution of legal human bondage to the extent of taking up arms to defend it is not honorable or noble or in any way anything other than evil.

This movie, and the book it is based on, is testimony enough to that fact, though I know there are way too many who will not get that. I would love to see double bills of 12 YEARS A SLAVE with GONE WITH THE WIND in theaters all over this country, but especially in the South.

Unfortunately, it would probably lead to too much disruption and possibly even violence as the champions of each perspective defended theirs against the other, though only one, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, is actually based on real history (but as we know, facts have never gotten in the way of any ideology based on lies, misinformation and myths).

I thought while I was watching it that 12 YEARS A SLAVE could easily be nominated for an Oscar in every category the movie fits. The only small quibbles I have with it are some minor inconsistencies in the writing and acting. But the cinematography, art direction, wardrobe, make-up, soundtrack and editing are all Oscar quality, as is the acting of most of the performers, but especially Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o for best actor and actress (two of the greatest film performances of all time), and Paul Giamatti and Alfre Woodard for best supporting.

And Steve McQueen, the director (not the long deceased movie star that some members of the audience I saw the movie with confused him with) should and will be nominated for best director. As for the writing I had the few small quibbles with, I am now reading the book the film is based on to see if it's in the original or the screen adaptation, but either way, the writing too is mostly nothing less than excellent.

If you haven't see this yet, please do so while it is still in theaters so you can get the full impact of the story and the artistry of the filmmakers.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Otherwise known as Samhain. And what an extraordinary day it is here in Northern New Jersey. The light rain last night created a perfect fog for the Halloween celebrations and this morning the fog had cleared and the light rain persisted giving us what the Irish call "a soft day" as well as bringing out the deeper hues in the Autumn leaves colors, the deep cranberry and bright yellows and golds, and now the rain has stopped the skies cleared and the brightest blue with puffs of white shine down on the most beautiful day of the year, which seems appropriate to this Celt. To top the gratitude I feel with even more, I'll share another great Van Morrison composition and performance with you: