Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Watched Obama's State of the Union speech last night and noticed the Republicans didn't clap or stand up when Obama spoke about giving American workers a raise, getting women equal pay, protecting the environment, and even more transparently, Boehner scowled and with the rest of the Repubs did not applaud Obama's talking about the USA becoming energy independent with no need for foreign oil...

There were a lot of rehashed aspirations for the future of the country, most of which depend on some kind of support, or at least no obstruction, from the Repubs, unfortunately. Yet the simple but precise proposals for Obama to enact some things through executive orders, like raising the minimum wage for government contractors, is promising.

The Repubs attempts to counter the speech and the Dems portrayal of the Republicans' "war on women" with Republican women giving the rebuttal will probably work with the Foxheads, but any discerning woman will see that the Repubs in The House just passed another anti-abortion bill, which won't get anywhere in The Senate, but still shows their true colors (or actually their true pandering to the base and some of their bigger donors...)

Life goes on, as always, but it would go on a lot more easily for many if the Repubs got voted out of control of the House this year. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Here's my new favorite photo of Pete Seeger, singing for an interracial group (during WWII when the military was still segregated), and in the middle of them one of my other boyhood and adult icons: Eleanor Roosevelt! Beautiful.


I first heard Pete Seeger singing "Goodnight Irene" with the Weavers when I was a boy of ten, just before he was blacklisted. I first heard him live about a decade later when my first wife, a folksinger and guitarist and poet, among other things, took me to hear him.

I was a jazz musician and had some attitudes about the folkies that got dispelled that evening. When Pete got the audience to sing along, I resisted at first, too cool I thought, but by the end of the evening I was singing louder than those around me, and possibly more enthusiastically.

Pete Seeger was a force of nature, whose example I wish I could live up to as an activist, creator, father, husband and friend. I didn't know him personally, but from what he showed in his public life and what those who knew him have said about him over the years, he was the real deal.

Here's a clip I found, a trailer for the documentary about him, that sums him up better than others on Youtube:

Monday, January 27, 2014


"Desire is the offering, the body is only a metaphor."  —Cecilia Vicuna (from Precario/Precarious)


I don't usually watch the Grammies much anymore. But caught the last three hours (!) and dug some of the live performances. Watching Ringo sing his song "Photographs"—which I used to dance around my DC apartment to back in my DC days—touched me (and impressed me, the cat's in his 70s after all) and McCartney win a grammie for a new song(!) as well as perform another new one with Ringo on drums behind him (would rather have seen it be a smaller band without the extra drummer, but guess they needed it for the sound they wanted)...

But one of the things that bugged me on that one was the camera work. The sound is usually the worst aspect of these live shows on TV, but for these Grammies it was the camera work. Which just sucked half the time. Like during another highlight when Pink did that incredible high wire air ballet while singing etc.! Amazing performance, but at times lost in some mandatory distant shot that seemed to be playing Where's Pink?

Daft Punk's "Lucky" performance with Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams, and Metallica's with Lang Lang, and Trent Reznor's and Dave Grohl et. al. finale were some other highlights. But the best was Mackalmore's "Same Love" performance with help from an array of talent, spotlighting all kinds of wedding vows (same gender, mixed races, etc.) only once again the camera work sucked.

Also touching was the performance by Willy Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, joined by Waylon Jennings and that contemporary western singer from The Voice. They were makin' me feel old, I have to admit, watching them try to play and sing what used to come so easily to them but now seemed a bit of a challenge (interestingly, the youngest of the three old guys was Kris but he was having the most trouble reaching some of the notes)...

Oh yea, and Carol King doing a piano and voice duet with Sara Bareilles. Talk about talent.

All in all a pretty good show though.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I put off seeing this movie because I was afraid it'd break my heart. I was right. It did. The story is sad enough, but the performance by the incomparable Judi Dench as the title character is what did it.

You probably already know its about an Irish mother's search for the son that was taken from her by nuns fifty years before. The behavior of some of the nuns is portrayed as callous, at best, pure evil, at worst.

The story, or different takes on it—poor Irish girls getting pregnant at a young age and having their babies taken to be put up for adoption while the girls themselves are forced to work for the nuns, etc.—has been told in a few films for theaters and TV since the facts began to become known over a decade ago.

But the focus in PHILOMENA is on one single girl, now an old woman, and the efforts of a British journalist to uncover the story of her lost son. The screenplay creates a conflict by having their personalities, class, age, education, etc. clash, usually to comic effect.

But Steve Coogan is a pretty good match for Dench and so it works, or at least did for me. Although it might have been a little too contrived if the flick just depended on them, despite Stephen Frears usual great directing, but fortunately the actress who plays Philomena as a young girl, Sophie Kennedy Clark, is so good in the flashbacks that she grounds the story in a reality that cannot be denied.

Well worth seeing.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Back when I was a young man playing piano in clubs, the older (much older than I thought at the time) Mose Allison came out with this album which for a while became my favorite.  You have to listen to this cut to the end to get the full satisfaction...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


When Jacqueline Bisset gave what initially seemed to me to be a drunken or wasted speech at The Golden Globes (she said afterward that she was stone sober but just overwhelmed) after winning a Best Actress for her performance in the TV mini-series Dancing On The Edge, I decided I'd like to see what she won for.

The six episodes of Dancing On The Edge were available on demand, so I watched three episodes one day, two the next and the last the following day. And truthfully, Bisset was really impressive in it. There were some other good performances, mainly Chiwetel Ejiorfor's, playing the main character, a British jazz band leader in London in the early 1930s.

Modeled on Duke Ellington to a great extent, Ejiofor's character is classy, smooth, brilliant (musically, and at times socially and in some other ways, though often his actions seem not to smart) and ends up embroiled in a murder mystery plot, though the purpose of the show seems to be to emphasize the racism in England at the time.

The writing is often predictable and/or redundant, and the directing, including the casting, and acting are uneven. But Bisset is a revelation as a mourning, reclusive aristocrat with a taste for jazz music.  Only the music seemed totally miscast.  The theme and soundtrack music is modern, which is okay, other TV series with similar time periods, e.g. Boardwalk Empire, use contemporary music in their openings (though few do it for background soundtrack).

But the music that the entire premise of the show depends on bears little resemblance to the jazz of the period.  And the storyline depends on our accepting that England was unaware of "black music" i.e. jazz, until 1932 and Ejiofor's character comes along. Then the main jazz singer that supposedly captivates all kinds of people from all different classes, is played by a competent singer (if it's her voice) but nowhere near as exciting and original as the actual recorded black jazz singers of that period (like say early Ella).

And she's supposed to be beautiful in a way that captivates all kinds of men, and though the actress playing her is attractive she is nowhere near as stunning as she's made out to be. And so on. Then there's the other male lead, the white one to balance Ejiofor's character, a music reporter played by Matthew Goode, the British actor I always mistake for another one until he moves and talks and then I realize it's Goode, whose charm and attractiveness are not, for me, those of the leading men he generally plays.

The story did suck me in because I wanted to see how they resolved it.  But they used the cheapest of cheap shots to do that, so ultimately the whole experience was mostly unsatisfying, save for some of the acting (everyone was good in that regard, even if they were miscast), especially Ejiofor's and Bisset's.

But man, you want to see how to make a six-episode TV series, check out True Detective. Talk about high quality.  The casting alone is worth watching it for.  Everyone (so far, I've only seen the first two episodes, which are all that have aired yet) is good. But damn, Matthew McConaughy is having a hell of a "moment" as they say. He plays a troubled character, with some of the best film noir dialogue since Raymond Chandler, only more so, with perfect modulation and control.

I mean seriously, watching him in this is like a lesson in screen acting. As good or better than anything you could say that about, like early DiNiro or Pacino, or Brando even, or Jennifer Jason Liegh at her peak.  And he's playing mostly off Woody Harrelson, who's no slouch either.  Harrelson has some incredible moments as well, the subtle ones are the best, but it's mainly McConaughy's show and he makes it work in as a unique way as you're likely to ever see on TV.

The camera work, the music, the atmosphere, the editing and casting and direction are all so good, for me this show, so far (fingers crossed it doesn't disappoint in future episodes) is the new benchmark for TV drama (with the caveat that it does play the sensationalism, sex and violence card, as did Dancing In The Dark and does Boardwalk Empire and Homeland and so many others).  Can't wait to see it continue to play out.    

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


It started snowing before 8AM and didn't stop until well after 8PM.  But once again the everyday world outside my windows was transformed into something pure and still.

When I went out to drive a friend of my teenager's home and then him to his mother's, there was an SUV in the parking lot across the street from the old house my apartment's in, and a couple of men trying to help it back out of the lot because trying to make the turn at the end of the lot had left the SUV stuck.

But now, even with their shoveling the snow from behind the tires, the SUV kept sliding sideways making little or no progress. My youngest son and his friend, another sixteen-year-old, but a girl, grabbed the two shovels my son and I had used to shovel off the porch and sidewalk of the several inches of light powdery snow and helped the men with the SUV while I swept and scraped the six or seven inches of snow off my little Prius. [in the morning I realized the snow was even higher than I estimated]

A street snowplow from the city and a cop car were the only traffic we saw during the almost hour it took to help the SUV finally get out of the lot and then slide around on the street.  With the help of a man who was snowblowing the sidewalk. My son's friend got him to help out in the parking lot, and without my asking he blew the snow away from around my car.

When the SUV finally got out, with all the men pushing it after shoveling and snowplowing, I pulled the Prius out nice and slow and had no problem getting traction and pulling up to the entrance of the lot and stopping for my son and his friend to get in.  He said one of the men said it was like a commercial for Prius.  I gave a ten to one of the men and asked him to pass it to the guy with the snowblower and then drove, very slowly, my son's friend home and then my son to his mother's.

There were no cars at all on most streets with maybe one now and then on some streets. The night was dark, the snow had stopped and the silence and whiteness, contrasting with the blackness of whatever the snow was piled on—leafless branches or evergreens, houses and cars—made the world seem simpler and easily defined.  Snow drifts of a few feet or snow banks created by plows, gave the landscape the count ours of something sensual and graceful.  And all of as white as the memory of whiteness like William Carlos Williams wrote of.

On the way back I descended a twisting steeply declining hill at twelve and then seven miles and hour to avoid sliding. Then when I got to my street pulled into the still unplowed, by the town, parking lot and back into the space I'd started out from.

The guy with the snowblower was now on my side of the street, blowing the snow off my sidewalk by the street, which my son and I hadn't gotten to, and widening the path to our porch that my son had done earlier. He turned his snowblower down for a moment to chat with me, and when I asked if he got the ten I gave one of the men to give him, he said, in his Latin American accent, "I don't take any money, no money." With a big smile on his face.

I know the woman he lives with who runs the Mexican restaurant next door to my apartment and lives upstairs from it with her brood of kids. She had told me how she was now with a really nice man, unlike the father of her kids.  So I told him, "Selena told me you were a good man, now I see that's true. "His smile grew bigger.

Then the temperature, which was probably in the single digits by now, moved me to say goodnight and head into the warmth of my apartment.  Happy for another winter wonderland adventure. The world still pure white, and as still as it gets without a major blackout.

Monday, January 20, 2014


When Martin Luther King was shot I felt the
sudden shift in the atmosphere, like trying to
breathe underwater. It was three years after
Malcom X’s assassination and my new radical
friends and reading had opened my eyes to the
realities of class in the USA. King spent years
fighting racism and despite attempts on his life
and tons of threats seemed invulnerable, but as
soon as he organized a poor people’s campaign,
talking about the haves and have-nots, BAM!
Malcolm verbally attacked white folks with
impunity, but the minute he decided it was not
about race but about the poor and the wealthy,
BAM! I wondered if the Marxists had it right.

© 2014 Michael Lally 

Sunday, January 19, 2014


"…a creator can only do one thing, he can only continue, that is all he can do."    —Gertrude Stein (from Picasso)

Saturday, January 18, 2014


A few quick thoughts on the SAG Awards show:

It's definitely the most streamlined show…

I loved the tribute to Rita Mareno, and though some might have been put off by the theatricality of her mostly singing her acceptance speech, I was moved to tears of joy celebrating the survival of her talent, spirit and energy at 82!

As with The Golden Globes, I think the best actor award should have gone to Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

But as at the Golden Globes Matthew McCaughney won and once again gave, for my taste, the best acceptance speech of the night…whether prepared or spontaneous, or a mix of both more likely, I thought it brilliantly articulated the major reward of becoming fully a character in a film…

So happy to see Lupita Nyong'o win for her role in 12 YEARS A SLAVE and the right choice I believe…

Jennifer Lawrence's candor and youthful self-consciousness still seems charming to me…

AMERICAN HUSTLE won for best ensemble, which it deserved in many ways, though I was sorry to see THE BUTLER not win anything again, and sorry that AMERICAN HUSTLE winning both the Golden Globe and now the SAG award probably means it will win best picture Oscar and I think 12 YEARS A SLAVE deserves that…but we'll see...

But it was still fun to watch for me…saw some old friends (just on the TV I mean, but old friends from my Hollywood days) and folks I worked with and/or partied with etc. but felt no nostalgia for those days, just happy to be alive and digging all the great work that was done on film in 2013…one of the best years I can remember…

Friday, January 17, 2014


Had the good fortune of having a recent poem (fem several months ago) posted on The Best American Poetry blog today.  Click here see it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


So what Christie's people did (for him) in shutting down the GW bridge last Fall just verifies what he's been doing all along.  Why else would one of his first acts as governor (which I wrote about here) have been shutting down a new tunnel between Jersey and New York that construction had already begun on and was mostly funded by the Federal government and The Port Authority (same folks who shut down the bridge) but to get back at the unions who were building it and would have added many jobs but which didn't support him for governor?

And now among other things, to get back at the Teachers Union, which he's been doing since he first became governor over four years ago, by creating more and more obstacles to their doing their jobs and more and more work for no more pay etc., he proposes a longer school day and a longer school year but no comparable pay raise.  A typical rightwing corporate America trick. More work hours, heavier work load for the same pay or less.

As it is the teachers are forced to teach to the test and those tests are all over way before school ends already, which means the rest of those school days are spent making do work with the kids' minds already on vacation.  I'm too tired to go on, but you get the idea…

[PS: next morning's reflection on the above makes me realize I did a poor job of characterizing Christie's relationship with unions, because in several cases he did his best to make deals with unions for their support and it worked (The Bayonne Bridge project etc.) creating or keeping some jobs. Though his treatment of the Teachers union and his pulling of the plug on the tunnel project, which would not have scratched his back from the New York side, as opposed to projects like the Bayonne Bridge etc. still holds true…]

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


My sister-in-law Catherine passed today. I'd known her almost all of my life. My second oldest brother Jimmy, who we all called "Buddy," served in the Navy in WWII (on Okinawa) and when he got out after the war used the G.I. Bill to attend Catholic University in Washington DC, where he met her.

She grew up in DC, still a totally segregated city then. But her Italian-American parents had been alive when, in many areas of the South, Italians were considered "non-white" so they, and Catherine, were sensitive to the racism she grew up in the midst of. During the war, the shortage of men (particularly in DC) led to several all-girl bands. Catherine was the star of the best known DC one.

She was not only talented (as the photo shows, on accordion) but beautiful, and a force of nature. Unlike most Italian families where the boys ruled, Catherine was the star among her siblings, a brother and two sisters. Meanwhile my brother Buddy, who had entered the Navy and the war from high school, was also an amazingly talented musician.

His gig in the Navy was playing his sax and clarinet at flag raising ceremonies and for the officers and so on, even right behind the lines where people were killing and dying. He saw some brutal death and destruction at only seventeen to return to the states and DC where he fell in love with Catherine Audia. They married when I was seven, in 1949 (if I remember correctly—I was a ring bearer at the wedding).

I loved when they came to Jersey to visit, because they were both very funny, wise-cracking hip musicians. But after traveling Europe with a post-war troupe, they decided to settle down and start having kids while Buddy became a high school bandmaster (good enough that his Maryland high school band played the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and the New Year's Day Orange Bowl Parade in Florida) and played gigs at night (often behind stars like Sammy Davis Jr. et. al.) in between going to night school, eventually getting his Masters and then Doctorate in Education (it took him many many years) and becoming a high school principal.

I had a full on crush on Catherine when I was a little boy. I found her Italian-American beauty exotic and was impressed that her marriage to my brother was considered a "mixed marriage" and almost something forbidden in my Irish neighborhood (which had a spattering of Germans, the original inhabitants, African-Americans, there before anyone else, Jewish families and Eastern European immigrants, but as I grew up more and more Italians moved into).

After my brother passed, twenty years ago, I thought of Catherine as "The Godmother" with a brood of grown children and grandchildren and even some great grandchildren that she oversaw. She played the role well and was much appreciated by all her progeny, who will miss her presence in their lives as they've known it until now, but will continue to feel it in new ways they will be lucky to discover.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Just a few quick takes…

Though I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, they weren't as sharp this year as last year, but they had some great zingers in the opening…

Overall the show wasn't that great, because most of the acceptance speeches weren't that exciting or original or spontaneous etc...

Jacqueline Bisset's was, but it was also terribly embarrassing to see this love lady so wasted she couldn't think or talk straight…usually the booze loosens up the winners in ways that makes them seem funny and hip but mostly not this year...

But the best acceptance speech for me was Matthew McConaghy's, or at least the one that seemed most spontaneous and yet well thought out at times…

But he should't have beat out the guy from 12 YEARS A SLAVE for best actor…

Chiwetel Ejiofor should have won for his performance in 12 YEARS A SLAVE….

And Lupita Nyongo should have won for best actress (or best supporting actress as some would have it)…

Nyongo should have been acclaimed in the pre show and interviewed for her amazing performance and for her being the most beautiful woman on the red carpet…

The hippest and coolest person of the night was still Johnny Depp…how's that guy still do it?…

Sunday, January 12, 2014


My sisters, Joan and Irene, about the year I was born, 1942.
Me and my brothers, Robert, Campion (originally Tommy), and Buddy (aka Jimmy) c. 1950.
My daughter, Caitlin, and me in our home in DC c.1974.
My son, Miles and daughter, Caitlin, and me in the loft we rented on Duane Street in NYC in 1978.
Caitlin, Miles and me in the mid-1990s (I believe on our way to Ireland).
My youngest, Flynn, with my granddaughter, Elizabeth Lee, c. 2003.
My granddaughter, Elizabeth Lee, and me c. 2007. 
My son, Miles, grandson, Donovan, me and youngest son, Flynn, in Princeton, 2008. [This shot was taken by the great photographer and friend Robert Zuckerman on the location set of one of THE TRANSFORMERS movies]
A more resent studio shot of my granddaughter Elizabeth Lee, probably 2010.
This selfie of me and my youngest, Flynn, goofing doesn't exactly show how he towers over me, but since he's holding the phone from above and is bending a little you can gage that he's got me by inches now.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


"There are men who live in themselves so they think their minds will create a different place of ecstasy. That it will love them."     —LeRoi Jones (from TALES)

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I knew him first as LeRoi Jones. Back in the 1950s he was part of the downtown scene, included among those called Beats, though a lot of his early work was more influenced by the teachers and students at Black Mountain, an experimental college in the South.

He was known to have had an affair with the poet Frank O'Hara back then, which made LeRoi seem equally or more connected to The New York School poets (the label originally intended to be ironic but subsequently becoming iconic). As a teenager in the Village with my black girlfriend and trying to make my mark as some kind of precocious jazz musician and poet, any passing contact I had with downtown poets was perfunctory and usually not pleasant.

Diane Di Prima and Joel Oppenheimer were friendly and I identified with Diane's work and background more than anyone else except LeRoi Jones. He was involved with Diane, had at least one child with her if I remember correctly. And he married the poet who became known as Hettie Jones.

I was impressed with and influenced by the boldness of his plays, DUTCHMAN and THE TOILET, and fell in love with his prose in his short story collection (though they defied that category as it existed at the time with their originality), TALES, and his "novel" (equally unique) THE SYSTEM OF DANTE'S HELL. And dug the scholarship and previously ignored or unknown historical perspective of his nonfiction BLUES PEOPLE (though the other two prose books could be called "nonfiction" as well, as TALES tells in part of his experiences as a black kid growing up in Newark, where my grandparents had lived and I went to high school, as does THE SYSTEM OF DANTE'S HELL, which also recounts in part his experiences in The Air Force, similar in some ways to mine).

When he changed his name to Amiri Baraka and began berating, unfortunately, Jews and "faggots" it was hard not to see the play of his affair with O'Hara and marriage to Hettie as the basis for his vindictiveness. I argued with him once about it in a public forum where he dismissed me at the time because of the whiteness, pinkness actually, of my skin tone.

But his early influence on me and on "American literature" and play writing and music (through his essays and reviews and books on that subject, including BLUES PEOPLE) as well as on American politics (it was a line from a poem of his after he was beat up by Newark police during the uprising the papers called a "riot" that became the rallying cry for a lot of young activists in the late 1960s, including The Jefferson Airplane: UP AGAINST THE WALL MOTHERFUCKERS!) cannot be denied.

I wasn't as impressed with his later writing, though it could sometimes still be powerful, as in the long poem he wrote after 9/11 when he was poet laureate of New Jersey in which he seemed to be expressing anti-Semitic sentiments again, though he might argue against that. Or in the monologue/rap he does as the Greek chorus, in a way, in the underrated Warren Beatty film, BULWORTH.

I still reread his early work, when he wrote under his given name, LeRoi Jones, and am still impressed with how original and evocative it is for me. He was full of contradictions, as most of us, and aggravated me even up until recently, with his attacks on Corrie Booker and others trying to make change but not fast enough or radically enough for Amiri. But his passion and often his clarity will be missed as much as the genius of his writing and its influence, at least on this early fan and follower.      

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I expected this flick to be a weak one, and as often happens when my expectations for a movie are low, I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be better than I thought. In fact, it was a pretty exciting hour and a half.

As always, Tom Hanks' performance was impeccable. And the Somali-American newcomer, Barkhad Abdi, lived up to all the critical acclaim and Golden Globes nomination for Best Supporting Actor. They both did an incredible job. But so did everyone in it. The smaller roles were so well played I felt like the actors must have been hired as amateurs who in real life were ship first mates and Navy medics etc.

But most of the credit has to go to Paul Greengrass, who proved he's a master at documentary-like realism in movies based on "fact" as he did with UNITED 93 and BLOODY SUNDAY, and fast-paced action that has you on the seat of your chair, like two of the Bourne trilogy movies. The tension in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS begins pretty early into the movie and from there basically doesn't stop until the end credits.

I was still vibrating from the adrenalin rush long after the film ended. Not always what I want to experience, but it worked in this movie.

[There have been objections to the veracity of this flick, with some saying it strays pretty from the truth in some ways, at least the truth of the characters' personalities. But as a film it worked for me.]

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Thanks for my old friend Vida Vierra for putting this video from a friend of hers, Megan McGlover, on Facebook so I could re-share it here (and on Facebook).  Worth watching for a much needed smile or two (calling SNL)…

Monday, January 6, 2014


Over 50 degrees this morning and already down to 19 tonight and going down to 5 degrees. And there are still so many on the right who think the temperature drop proves "global warming" is "a hoax" because it is sometimes very cold, but fail to mention or even seem to notice that in the same twelve hour period (let alone twenty-four or more) the temperature can be the highest ever for a January winter day and the lowest for that same day!

If it talks like an idiot (or liar), and writes like an idiot (or liar), and identifies with other idiots (or liars), it's probably an idiot (or liar).

[I don't like calling anyone an "idiot" but I was tired and cold and couldn't think of a less offensive term to use for those who continue to try and frame "global warming" and the resultant climate change as "a hoax" etc.]

Sunday, January 5, 2014


An old friend, artist John Shaw, made a little film of twenty-one poets reading or reciting, a poem of theirs into his camera and recently put it up on Vimeo (it's called TWENTY ONE POETS, without the hyphen). He filmed me for it I think in 2012 or maybe even 2011.

Anyway it shows I was still recovering from my brain operation and not as quick as I was before it, and my memory wasn't as easily accessible, so if I look a little unprepared (I could have had just one photo for each decade/stanza and on stiffer paper, and at least run my fingers through my hair, which is the only combing of it I've ever done since the 'sixties, and used cue cards so my brain wouldn't glitch like it does at one point, and worn a nicer shirt, etc. etc.) blame it on that. (And on the other hand, it captures a real moment and the truth of that moment, with one of the points of the poem being about aging anyway, so ultimately it couldn't have been more real.)

Although some of these poets are old friends and favorites and others I was unaware of until this film, I think John did a great job of selecting, filming and editing them, making all the poetry seem relevant to the moment, and often not just engaging but entertaining. See what you think.

Twenty One Poets from john shaw on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


I went to a memorial service this afternoon for a beautiful young woman, barely into her twenties, who passed suddenly. It was a packed church, several hundred there, and as the preacher said, a "celebration of a life" more than a sad occasion, though it was a very sad occasion.

The young woman's father was a drummer, and he and a tight little jazz combo played some music, the main song, along with several singers, being Bob Marley's "One Love" (I think that's the name of it, but you know the song—"One life, one love, let's get together and feel alright") which was an indication of the tone of the event and of the grieving father's response to it.

But after it was all over and I was wiping my tears away and people were leaving, a lone organist sat down at the altar and played, one note at a time, with one finger, a melody that was very familiar but I couldn't believe it was what I thought it was: the theme song to the movie Alfie. But it was. I asked the preacher, Who made that choice? And he said the deceased's father. Which made me go home and look it up to remember the lyrics to see why he chose it.

The movie version was Celia Black's, but the best versions were Dionne Warwick's and Nancy Wilson's. I chose a live version by Warwick from Youtube (that's Michael Caine's photo behind her, he played the role of "Alfie—I don't know who the Asian woman is at the end or why she's in there), but am printing the lyrics (by Hal David to Burt Bacharach's melody, with the latter declaring it his favorite of all his songs and the lyrics in his opinion the best of any song, which is a stretch, but damn they are good, better than I remembered so that's why I'm sharing them here) below it so you can see how beautiful a choice it was for a beautiful young woman who brought love to a lot of friends and family.

"What's it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie? Are we meant to take more than we give? Or are we meant to be kind? And if only fools are kind, Alfie, then I guess it's wise to be cruel. And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie, what will you lend on an old golden rule? As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie, I know there's something much more. Something even non-believers can believe in. I believe in love, Alfie. Without true love we just exist, Alfie. Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie. When you walk let your heart lead the way and you'll find love any day, Alfie."

Friday, January 3, 2014


Got up and shoveled the walks of this old house my apartment's in and loved it. For me, there's nothing like leaning on a snow shovel on a bright sunny winter morning after a big snowstorm. And fortunately, as all the weather experts predicted, it's powdery snow so it's relatively easy to shovel, even the six or eight inches we seemed to have gotten.

The "profound quiet" (as my friend Mindy called it) of these kinds of mornings always makes me think this is what it must have been like in the 19th Century. No cars out yet, almost no people, etc. The way the sun was hitting the snow made it sparkle and because not too many people or cars were out yet the snow was pure white, even where it had been plowed!

Just a gorgeous winter day, for which I am grateful.

(Can you believe, though, that the right-wingers, including the stalker who fortunately I can now keep off this blog, actually used this storm and the recent cold temperatures as some sort of proof that the whole "global warming" issue is a hoax! without ever referencing the fact that a little over a month ago, November went down as the warmest IN OUR RECORDED HISTORY!, and seemingly unaware that scientists use the averages not the sole instance to determine warming which is ongoing worldwide, oh well….)

Thursday, January 2, 2014


So, watched DALLAS BUYERS CLUB tonight and though impressed with some of the performances: mainly Matthew McConaughy's and Jared Leto's (who steals the show for a few of his early scenes) I was a little disappointed. Interesting story not so well told or directed.

Jennifer Garner often looked stressed and confused, her talent wasted, in my opinion, except for a moment here and there. Leto was incredible in his transformation into a—not sure of the proper technical term for a man who dresses and makes himself up as a woman, and very successfully, but obviously hasn't had the hormone treatments etc. to make his body more female.

And McConaughy's performance dominates the movie, since it's his character's more or less true story. But his physical transformation at times was distracting in the way DiNiro's was for me in RAGING BULL, reminding me too often that this was an actor who had gone to drastic lengths to in DiNiro's case add many pounds and in McConaghy's to lose them.

But he did a great job in the face of some terrible script writing and directing and editing, for my taste. There were scenes that seemed to be all exposition, or tedious technical information not dramatized just stated, and many missed opportunities. The whole transformation from intolerant immature bigot to a more compassionate and tolerant man was sporadic, often confused and not very well dramatized, with the exception of a few exceptional scenes.

Sometimes I couldn't figure out what the moviemakers intended the audience to be thinking about the characters. Though they often made it too obvious what they wanted the audience to be feeling about them or specific scenes. And some of the cuts made me feel that there must have been a lot of scenes that never made it into the film that may have explained the scene jumps better.

It had its moments that made me dig it (the scene where Leto's character and McCounaghy's embrace brought tears to my eyes, and other scenes between them made me laugh, as did McCounaghy's brief sex scene with a fellow AIDs sufferer) and be glad I saw it. But I feel a much better and more impactful film could have been made from the same material that would have better served the actors' efforts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


My friends who've seen AMERICAN HUSTLE either love it or hate it. After watching it tonight I can see why they both feel that way. I pretty much loved it. Christian Bale deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance, his best yet, and in any other year I'd say he should win it. But against the lead male performances in THE BUTLER and especially TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE I believe he shouldn't win it because the latter film, if there were any justice, should win almost every award. But I doubt it will. In fact a lot of of the smart money is on AMERICAN HUSTLE

But though it is a fast paced exhilarating ride of an entertaining film, mostly because of the performances, especially Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, it's just that, an entertaining escape. Despite some deep ideas about the challenges to living an honest life somewhere embedded in some of the story line and dialogue, ultimately it skims the surface for the laughs and the sexy surprises and the ride.

I actually knew one of the figures involved in the ABSCAM scandal, he was a friend of my father's because my father was an Essex County Democratic Party functionary in the years preceding the entrapment of the Congressman and Senator the sting the movie's more or less based on sent to jail. And I have to admit, having Jeremy Renner play an Italian Jersey mayor as the fictional figure representing the real victims of the sting bugged me.  His over the top hair etc.  But his performance grew on me and I began to appreciate it eventually.

No such problem with Adams and Cooper and Lawrence, and especially Bale. His fictional character was so believable and engaging, despite his glaring faults, I could have watched another movie with that character in it right after I finished this one! David O. Russell gets some credit as director for the pace and some original set ups and most of the casting and etc.  But the reason to watch the flick are the lead performances.  However, if AMERICAN HUSTLE beats out TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE for the Best Picture Oscar, or Best Lead Actor or Best Lead Actress, it'll be jive in my opinion.


May 2014 be happy, healthy, loving, peaceful, creative and productive for all.  And may all our moments be as joyful and lively and rhythmic and satisfying as this movie moment from the past (if you watch it to the end you'll see the only dance partner Astaire ever had who was his equal in the basics of tapping, others were great or better partners in many ways, but Eleanor Powell could tap out that rhythm, sister).