Sunday, March 30, 2014


I guess the idea of naming a month for something brings more attention to it. And I can guess why they picked April for poetry. But I read and write poetry pretty much every day, and have all my adult life, and a lot of my pre-adult life as well.

Here are three poetry books I recently read that were worth checking out for me:

SAVE TWILIGHT by Julio Cortazar (translated by Stepehn Kessler). Cortazar is an Argentinian author best know for his fiction, especially his novel HOPSCOTCH. Published by City Lights, I expected SAVE TWILIGHT to be more raw than at times Kessler's uneven translation is. But some of these Selected Poems are a revelation. As in this brilliantly translated line from "Clearance Sale"—

"I close my eyes and I'm laid out in your memory, barely alive,
with my mouth wide open and the river of oblivion rising."

AN UNCHANGING BLUE is another Selected Poems (1962-75). This time from the German poet Rolf Dieter Brinkmann and translated by the American poet Mark Terrill, who has lived in Germany for many years (and whose own BREAD & FISH is one of my all-time favorite books of poetry).

Brinkmann was a poet of my generation, influenced by "American" poetry, especially by William Carlos Williams, Frank O'Hara and my old friend the late great Ted Berrigan. Born in Germany toward the end of WWII and growing up in postwar ruins etc. may partly explain the grim sense of humor, or humorous sense of grimness, his poems express. But nonetheless they resonate with life in spite of themselves.

Here's a short one, and as usual with his poems the title is the first line:

"A Single Sentence

or even
several. One after the other.
An entire flower bed.

And again sentences.
Others. Other
flowers, for once and for all.

Flowers, which
extend roots—
the question would remain
what for."

ALPHA DONUT by Matvei Yankelevich was a pleasure to read, for me. It reminded me of an early book of mine, ROCKY DIES YELLOW, which included a variety of approaches to poems that at times seemed fragmentary or structurally incompatible (as it turns out in ALPHA DONUT this is the result of many of the short pieces being fragments from disparate, or at least separate, longer works).

But this "Selected Shorter Works Of Matvei Yankelevich" is totally original. With only a few exceptions, every page rewarded me with a surprising use of imagery or language and all in a accessible even conversational way that too much of contemporary poetry mishandles.

Here are two brief examples:

"Are you

wearing my jacket

somewhere? I know

I'm not wearing your hat."

"Why would I live so long? Who wants to watch their friends grow up into the people who publish a book a year, or have their 'work' represented by a gallery and talk about whether it's selling, and to whom. No, I don't want to see my friends grow up like that."

A lot of it is clever in ways that gives clever a good name again. Like this mini mash up of modernism most poets, or at least this one, will smile at:

"only the red (wheel


has such small) hands"

Saturday, March 29, 2014


My good friend and neighbor Don McLaughlin's got a new show of his art hanging in the Howard Scott Gallery in Chelsea. if you're in or around that area before the show ends on April 12th, I highly recommend it.

Don has never followed fads or trends or whatever-the-art-world-is-genuflecting-to-at-the-moment jive, but is just a hardworking old style painter and water colorist whose work spans the spectrum from almost figurative to uniquely abstract without demanding categorization or analysis.

Though there is an evocative depth to the imagery when you encounter it in person, the big thrill for me is just being hit with a painterly experience that's personal and individual in a way I find totally refreshing. It renews my love of art, as opposed to art world event-ism.

So, like I said, if you have cause to be in Manhattan before April 12th, take the elevator to the 7th floor at 529 West 20th Street and treat yourself to a pleasant experience.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Other people's dreams are one of the least interesting things to most people. Jack Kerouac wrote an entire book describing his and it is the only book of his I never dip into nor would ever dip into again.

So I'm not going to bore anyone with my dreams. But I have a question that's been in the back of my mind all my life. Or ever since I left home in my late teens in 1960. Because since then, ninety-nine percent of my dreams that I remember when I wake up are set in or around my childhood home.

Sometimes Manhattan is across the street from it, or China out back (I remember that happening a lot in the late 1960s when Mao and China loomed large in leftist arguments), sometimes the house is empty or one or more of my late siblings and late parents are there, either as they were when I was young or as they were in their later years.

Often the interior of the house varies, rooms are larger, ceilings higher, but just as often it's exactly as it was when I was a boy. But with rare exceptions I am almost assuming occur, because I can't remember even one at the moment, (wait, I remember one that took place inside the Catholic church I went to Mass at every Sunday morning until I left home, Our Lady of Sorrows—which it occurs to me explains the kind of woman I was often attracted to), my dreams involve my childhood home.

So my question is: anyone out there share this experience in their dream life?

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Me at a reading I did at Books & Co. c. 1980. That's poet Greg Masters right behind my right shoulder and two other poets whose names I know well but this late at night with my post-op brain I can't get those names to come out of my fingers onto the keyboard! [As I was falling asleep the name of the bearded poet all the way to my right came to me: Gary Lenhart—and then the name, I think, of the bespectacled one all the way to my left: Steve Levine] [I've been reminded that this is likely a reading I did with Ray DiPalma and Ted Greenwald, but these are the only two photos I was given by whoever took them]
Me and poet/dance critic Edwin Denby I think at the same reading as above only after I took my coat off (with I believe poet Nick Piombino over my right shoulder).
Me and actress Karen Allen at a reading at The Bookstore in Lenox, Mass. c. 1997 (Karen introduced a solo reading for my then new book CANT BE WRONG).
Poet/writer Aram Saroyan, poet/songwriter Terence Winch and me at a reading at Book Soup in Hollywood sometimes in the 1990s [1994, see Terry's comment below].
Fiction writer Dale Herd and me at a reading I gave at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA, c. 2004.
Me and poet Ray DiPalma at a reading we did at St. Marks, NYC, I think in 2011.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


"Life is neither good nor bad; it is original."  —Italo Svevo (from Confessions of Zeno, translated by Beryl de Zoete)

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I never worked with James Rebhorn that I can remember. [Turns out we were both in BASIC INSTINCT and both worked on a short-lived TV soap TEXAS, but not in the same scenes.] I used to see him around my town in Jersey and we'd nod to each other. And once we chatted a bit when we both attended a meet and greet with that vegetarian, Steiner-school educated, ex-Ohio mayor who became a Congressman and ran for president whose name I can't think of right now [Dennis Kucinich].

Rebhorn was a great actor. As the father on Showtime's HOMELAND in recent years, and the auto mechanics expert in the classic flick MY COUSIN VINNIE, as well as in numerous other movies and TV shows, he always hit the exact right note. As someone who has acted in smaller roles on TV and in movies I know how challenging that can sometimes be.

I always say starring in a show, which I have done, the challenge is you're responsible for the story working over all. You basically carry the show on your shoulders. But having a small part in a movie or TV show is like having an artist almost complete a painting and then asking you to fill in a few spots.

You have to conform to someone else's vision and style and working habits and personality and pace etc. etc. etc. Insert yourself into someone else's story and make it work, without "stealing the show" from the star. Rebhorn always nailed it.

I would like to have told him that the few times we passed each other in the street. But I'm sure there were plenty who did. My condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Nothing can compare, of course, to THE WIZARD OF OZ film of 1939 with Judy Garland and that magnificent cast, but, despite all the bad press OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL received, this 2013 prequel to the story filmed in '39 is actually a lot of fun.

James Franco, as the young con artist "Oz" who gets mistaken for the wizard the people of Oz are hoping for, is kind of the poor man's George Clooney. Handsome and charming, but always with a self-aware twinkle in his eye and a willingness to take a prat fall when called for. Not to mention great acting chops.

His smile and self-deprecating venality is enough to carry this flick, but he's aided by a great cast, including an animated little girl made of china, a flying monkey bellboy sidekick, and three actresses playing the two bad witches and the one good one (Glinda): Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams.

Now that I've seen it on the small screen, I wish I'd gone to see it on the big one. It's a colorful, pleasant, sweet entertainment with some special effects that the big screen would have heightened. But even on a laptop, it's enough fun to provide an entertaining little escape for two hours. And yes criticisms can be made (the Munchkins weren't half as fun as the original ones, etc.) but that's been done already. It diverted my attention from more serious matters for the duration of it's story. That's often enough after a challenging week in the real world.

Friday, March 21, 2014


The snowbanks that were up to my chest are now below my knees. The rest of the snow has slowly melted. You can feel Spring in the air but it's still getting down below freezing at night some days, and after a couple of days of warmer weather tomorrow it's forecast to go down below freezing again.

This is unusual for the opening days of Spring. Just another sign of climate change. But on the unique weekly HBO documentary news show VICE a glacier scientist working in Greenland used the phrase "climate catastrophe" rather than climate change. It seems more accurate.

The rightwing Republicans are always talking about how Obama and the Democrats are leaving their grandchildren with money debt. Most of their accusations based on either misinformation or outright lying. But Obama and the Democrats should be talking about the climate debt we're leaving our grandchildren and the generations to follow.

The fact that the world population, or at least a majority of "Americans," aren't protesting and demonstrating and rebelling against the corporate powers that own the Koch Brothers Party, I mean Republican party, and those Democrats too timid or corporately owned themselves to demand real changes in energy policies, is perhaps the result of the corporate ploy to keep the populace distracted by electronic devices (like the one I'm on right now) where we can just hit the "like" button and get back to seeing what our friends ate or their kids or pets did today. Electronic devices that need energy to function, energy that comes from coal based power plants etc.

It's like the old comic books and the comic book movies that have become the world's blockbusters these days where a villain or gang of villains threatens to destroy the world unless they get their ransom, only in this case the Koch brothers and their ilk aren't threatening, they ARE destroying the world and not even asking for a ransom because we're willingly paying them to do it.

Like I always say, I shouldn't write these rants late at night.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Me with poets Darrel Gray, Wayne Clifford and Steve Shrader, outside Iowa City, c. 1968. Shot by Jane Nodland for publicity for a poetry reading we would do in Ohio.
Me and novelist J. P. Donleavy. Can you tell I wasn't impressed? Not a nice man. NYC c. 1978
Poet/novelist/etc. Robert Penn Warren, who I did dig, really nice man, and me. NYC c. 1978
Me (third from left) with bosses and cohorts at my only office job (didn't even make it two years) (in publishing) with one of my all-time favorite writers, William Saroyan, second from right. A little too full of himself (as I also have often been), but his writing still reminds me of why he was an inspiration to me as a young writer and man (decades before this shot) who identified so much with his approach and perspective at the time. I still can read and enjoy him anytime (and by the way he was Keroauc's favorite writer when he was a young man as well).
The late great poet/writer/little mag and small press publisher Jim Haining (author of one of my all-time favorite books, A Quincy History, and would be even if I weren't written about in it) and me around 1990 in Portland, Oregon where Jim was living at the time and I was doing readings for I think they call it Artquake.
Writer and raconteur Malachy McCourt, me and writer/scholar Dan Cassidy at a reading Malachy and I did in a San Francisco bar c. 1997.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Finally caught this flick. People had been telling me to see it and wanting to know what I thought of it since I was hanging around The Village at the dawn of the '60s during the time this flick is set, although I was hanging with the jazz scene and was pretty narrow minded about the folk scene (I saw it as white college kids pretending to be poor white Southerners from some earlier time so to me at 18 and 19 and 20 it seemed phony—I didn't even dig earlier variations of "jazz" I was such a purist at the time).

At any rate, the few times I dropped by the Gaslight to catch a poet I don't remember it being like it is in the flick, and some other stuff (like some of the language and attitudes) seemed out of place for that time and scene to me. But I know there are people who totally dig this film, and I have to say I'm not one of them.

The Coen brothers have always been hit or miss with me, and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is a big miss. Of all the movies that could be made about that time and place they had to do this one, one of the most depressing and cynical flicks I've seen (though maybe not as preposterously cynical as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN).

I needed an escape tonight and made the mistake of watching this. There are plenty of dark themed movies that I can watch and be taken out of some of the more challenging realities of the day, but not this one. I kept thinking, Are you kidding me? The John Goodman character was such a parody of that kind of music man, and the driver too, of the poets I knew in those days. Just one distortion after another. I'm sure with some aspects of truth, but there didn't seem to be any redemption at all for anyone, just ill deserved possible success for sellouts.

Anyway, it's late, this could turn into a rant, which would just add to the depressing mood this movie inspired. So, if you haven't seen it and want to, good luck.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Time for my annual tribute to Terence Winch for St. Paddy's Day. Terence is the great Irish-American poet/writer/songwriter/musician. A national treasure for all, but particularly those of us who are Irish-American (and yes he is an old and best friend, but I'd be saying this even if I'd never met him).

With the Irish traditional band, Celtic Thunder (the original, not the PBS special "Oirish" version that copped that name later), Terence wrote and performed (usually on the Irish accordion, or "box") many tunes that have become classics for Irish-Americans. None more so than "When New York Was Irish" which is being played somewhere in the USA and many places in New York City as I write this I am sure.

There have been close to thirty or more recordings by various people of "When New York Was Irish," but this recent solo one (check it out here) is perhaps the best, other than Celtic Thunder's.

Not only is Terence a great songwriter and musician, but a terrific poet and writer whose books have won awards and whose poems have been read by Garrison Keeler on NPR, many times, as well as recognized elsewhere for their wit and originality. His latest book—THIS WAY OUT—keeps that tradition going with a slew of new classic Winch poems.

Here's just one example:

           for Brendan Mulvihill

We have three bottles on the kitchen table.
One is filled with the music of a hundred old hornpipes
in the key of D that no one plays anymore. We drink
and play. Pretty soon they're no longer hornpipes,
but tricky little reels from long-dead masters
remembered by no one but us. We play them
and they are like nothing anyone has ever heard
before now. Oh, the ins and outs and ups and downs
of them, like an old song the jolly ploughman
sings to the fair maiden at midnight under her
window, enticing her out for a forbidden fling
that will change her life forever. But pretty soon
all that's left is an old waltz that we drag along
the living room floor by one foot till it falls apart
before we even figure out the second half of it.
We never even get to the other two bottles.

As is typical for a Winch poem, though none of his poems are ever "typical" in the broader sense of that word, this poem combines both humor and melancholy, adroit craftsmanship (look at the way he breaks each line) and conversational accessibility. Some Winch poems play with imagery so uniquely that the juxtapositions are like a new drug to confuse your mind and senses, others are as straightforward and linear as the one above. But all express a deep love of life combined with an equally deep understanding of how fleeting and fragile it is. As in this poem with the punning title:


I will bonk my tuning fork
to sing of my native land, New York.
I will compose an immortal song
about my grandmother's town,
sweet Ballyvaughn. I will
accost people in the hallway
to offer praise of County Galway.
I will delight you, furthermore,
with my hymns to Baltimore.

But please don't call me up right
now. I'm tired, it's late at night.
I am sitting here drawing blanks,
empty of all meaningful thought.
Please pour me another. Thanks.
But put away your money.
I can't be bought.

Birds fly. Dogs bark.
Mothers take their children
for an outing in the park.
Old fathers contemplate
their failure to be great
enough to shed some light
on the impending dark.

Or this:


She keeps asking if I'm ready for the emptiness.
I hold up two old checks with VOID stamped
on them. Oh yes, I know all about the Void,
I say. It has been yawning in my face all my life.
Even when I am wired into pleasure (sex or music)
the emptiness, I know, is waiting to snatch me up.
It's almost impossible for me to fall asleep at night
these days because I know I might not come back.
Time is a mighty ocean that wants to pull me in,
a cave where they make everybody turn off their lights,
a black hole of total darkness that swallows us all.
My son is reading the Sunday funnies. He is the light
in the cave. Not emptiness, she says: empty nest.
Oh, I see. That I am absolutely not ready for.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Okay, I finally saw this sequel to the first one because anything with Jennifer Lawrence is worth watching in my opinion. This wasn't as good as the first one, to me. The story was a little labored and the usual gaps in logic in movie plots these days abound, but...

...there are an awful lot of terrific actors in this, mainly Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And, they are a lot of fun to watch work out in this pulp sic fi genre.

But the ending is totally unsatisfactory for my taste, which of course was intentional, to leave us anxious to see the next one to find out what happens. If it had been anyone but Lawrence or an actor equally as good (Scarlett Johansson say) it would have been too hokey and predictable, but...

...Lawrence made it work, despite the let down. I'll be back for the third, and only regret that Hoffman won't (unless they generate his scenes with CGI which some say they're on the cusp of being able to do).

Saturday, March 15, 2014


"Those who never back down love themselves more than they love the truth." —Joseph Joubert (from The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert translated by Paul Auster)

Friday, March 14, 2014


Hal Douglas was the master of movie trailer voiceovers. A voice everyone has heard, even if they didn't know who it was. Not only was he the most sought after and best, he proved he could make fun of that better than anyone else could when he did the trailer for a movie that the trailer had nothing to do with except that they wished the movie could have been as funny:

And I know a little about movie trailer voiceovers as it was partly how I made my living for a few of my Hollywood years (among several other ways). Below is a taste of my work, and as you will see I wasn't the master. Hal Douglas was. He will be missed.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I just found out the poet Bill Knott passed yesterday.

I first met him in 1968 after he seemed to come out of nowhere into the first ranks of new American poets with a book of poems that were not only original in their approach but in their packaging. The book was THE NAOMI POEMS: CORPSE AND BEANS supposedly by a young poet who had committed suicide two years before and wrote under the name Saint Geraud (1940-1966).

The photo of a woman with her eyes closed and up to her neck in water on the cover, uncredited (though I later discovered it was a Harry Callahan masterwork) only added to the mystery.

The backstory captivated the literary world, and even more so when it turned out to be made up by a guy with the much more common and mundane name (though equally resonant with double meanings) Bill Knott.

I was at the university of Iowa's Writers Workshop at the time, completing an undergraduate degree while simultaneously working on an MFA in poetry (I arrived not long after four years in the military and tried to get into the Workshop without a BA). The graduate poets were fiercely competitive, working hard to distinguish themselves in an arena with few rewards, and here was this relatively young poet (closer to my age than my fellow students) who pulled this amazing scam on the literary world and got away with it.

That was because the poems were great: mostly enigmatic, succinct and fresh (even though the title "CORPSE AND BEANS" was a sound translation of a French title, if I remember correctly). When Knott came to read at Iowa, he created another deception by coming to the podium in what a poor rural and much older person might wear, (it was a college campus in 1968 after all) leaving his frumpy beat up old winter coat on and carrying a soiled brown lunch bag out of which he'd pull a scrap of paper and read a short poem off it and then drop the paper to the floor. He didn't say anything or engage the audience in any way and when the bag was empty he walked out.

It was a unique performance piece, that I would suspect everyone in the audience took as real, and most likely intimidated them a little, or a lot. Later at a party at the poet Ted Berrigan's house in Iowa City (Ted had arrived that Fall to teach in the Workshop but was forced out after only a year), Bill and I talked. Which wasn't easy as he was not terrifically forthcoming.  But he asked me why I was at the Workshop, after I told him I was married with a child and was older than the typical student and came from a pretty different background, and...well, here's my journal entry on that:

"...I talked stoned into Diane Wakoski's ear for more than a half hour, and she kept nodding her bird head and politely smiling as though my stoned rap about Newark versus New York Poets was really pleasing her, but how I thought all the time she was just watching Bill Knott sit stoned in Ted's barber chair with stereo earphones over his crewcut head, eyes closed....Knott gave me his copy of Nazim Hikmet's poems and asked why I was in Iowa. I said I wanted a degree in poetry to prove to critics that I knew what I was doing in my poems. He said he doubted it would work."

(Diane Wakoski must have been there for a reading at the same time, I assume now, or was visiting, and let me be clear that it may also be an assumption that Knott was stoned...though I probably actually was.)

I ran into him a few times over the years, and we exchanged a few letters or notes many years ago, and more recently he friended me on Facebook and even commented on this blog, or on Facebook when I reproduced it there, I don't remember which. But it delighted me to be back in touch after many years and to know he was still engaged with poetry, even if he also seemed depressed about it at times.

Here are three appropriate poems of his about death, all favorites of mine from my original copy of THE NAOMI POEMS: CORPSE AND BEANS:


If you are still alive when you read this,
close your eyes. I am
under their lids, growing black.


The only response
to a child's grave is
to lie down before it and play dead


Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
They will place my hands like this.
It will look as though I am flying into myself.


Two stunt riders (whose names I unfortunately forget), Peter Coyote, and me in my "Captain Bubb" makeup to make me look older and more gnarly (pretty much the way I look now) on the HBO series DEADWOOD location (I think it was called Melody Ranch where Gene Autrey shot his Westerns, though the DEADWOOD set was created from scratch to match the building of the town itself) c. 2003.
Me and the DEADWOOD creator and old friend David Milch checking how each other is doing on the DEADWOOD set.
James Remar, me and Bill Moseley on the WHITE FANG movie set (not much more than a decade before the photos above from DEADWOOD, and built from scratch as on DEADWOOD) outside Haines, Alaska c. 1990.
Me, Terre Bridgeham, with I think Athena Greco on her lap, my daughter Caitlin and the late, great composer and songwriter Tony Greco (and I assume one of my oldest and dearest friends, Suzanne Greco, behind the camera) c. late 1980s or early '90s(?) in the Greco home on a Thanksgiving Day (in The Pacific Palidades I think).
Poet and screenwriter Joel Lipman, poet/musicmaker/actor Michael Harris, poet/writer Hubert Selby Jr., me and my partner in Poetry In Motion (the L.A. weekly poetry reading series in the late '80s and early '90s), Eve Brandstein at one of the clubs where we did the series.
Actress/writer/tango dancer and best friend Jamie Rose in L.A. c. mid 1990s (she'll probably know the exact year from the hair),

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


This video blog post about why David Milch's DEADWOOD is one of the high marks of TV drama [full disclosure, David was a friend], and to my mind—and obviously others—as close as TV has come to Shakespeare, is worth watching, even if there wasn't a brief shot of my profile (as a Cavalry Captain). I regret I didn't have one of the more featured roles but am grateful I was even a small part of this amazing show.
Click here to get to it (scroll down for the video).
[me as Captain Bubb, but I like the profile shot in the video post I link to above better]

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014


I initially became totally engaged with the first few episodes of TRUE DETECTIVE. Especially with the acting, and especially with Matthew McConaughey's. (Posted about back a few weeks.) Then for me they jumped the shark a bit in the bikers episode. Way too big suspension of disbelief necessary for plot points that I could've driven one of those coal trucks in Wyoming through.

But it kept my interest, despite all the invective that began to appear, including from good friends, about the obvious sexism of the story and focus etc. With which I could agree, but I also felt about that the way I did about the protests against BASIC INSTINCT which ended up making me money. I only had two days work on the flick but because of the protests on location in San Francisco where that film was set, with the protesters blowing piercing whistles so the sound couldn't record the actors clearly, they had to rebuild some of the locations in a Hollywood studio and move everything down there and the two days turned into two weeks for which I was paid handsomely.

But my point was, I understood the protesters point of view that time too. Here was a movie at least in part about a lesbian relationship but the lesbian was a murderer. And the lesbians in the nightclub were coked up and mean etc. But to deny the right for a storyteller to depict lesbians as murderers or coked up mean people is to deny one category of humans all the possibilities of any other human in terms of behavior and morals etc. (and besides, she was "bisexual" at least in the movie's terms).

I feel the same about the objections to TRUE DETECTIVE being so sexist and the women characters having little to do outside of having sex with the men. It's a valid criticism. But it's the point of view of the story and to deny the storyteller that perspective is to say there aren't men who see the world that way, or that men-who-see-the-world-that-way is too often the point of view of certain genres, like pulp fiction "true" detective stories.

Anyway, the series wrapped up pretty nicely, making some solid points about the ways the wealthy and powerful get away with evil so much more easily than those without wealth and power, and about "the light versus the dark" (though like many, I too had a difficult time understanding the last words of McConaughey's character) (there's a great parody of his and the scripts complicated language being difficult to decipher on YouTube) and how it once was all dark but then came at least some light (which was part of the point of those last words)...

In the end it was a pretty successful series, with some stunningly good acting even when the plot was over the top, and some terrific atmospherics (even if I hated the creepy eerie stuff) and relatively complex if at times cliched (thus the biker episode) story lines, and some tense and scary moments (even with the usual why-would-an-experienced cop walk into a dark fortress in the middle of a doorway with only a pistol when if the one he was pursuing had a rifle or shotgun etc. he could be blown away as easily as etc.).

Now, let's see if the next installment in this TRUE DETECTIVE series, with new actors, addresses the sexism issue. Could get interesting.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


I got hooked on watching THE WALKING DEAD back in the first season, just because I wanted to see what my teenager and his friends were so engrossed in. I hated the crude scenes of violence, especially the graphic ways zombies were killed. But I saw that my son and his friends were as much into it for the technical skill used in creating such realistic gore as they were the calculated shock value of it all.

And then I got hooked on the characters and the broad stroked moral dilemma(s) the show pivots on. And after tonight's show I have another reason. A friend I haven't seen since I left L.A. (except on Facebook) is the new bad guy, and in tonight's show he had some lengthy close ups that let me see how he's aging at least, and he looks more handsome and rugged than ever with his gray hair and goatee (or whatever you call his beard). To see the difference, go back a few weeks on this blog where I put up the batch before last of photos from my L.A. days and you'll see him in a polaroid standing over me at my 50th birthday party over two decades ago.

Life goes on. And the TV dead keep walking.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


"The thing to do when you're to turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you."  —Don Juan (from Journey to Ixtlan)

Friday, March 7, 2014


So if you're anywhere near Maplewood NJ this Sunday at 11AM, I'll be speaking and reading some poems at The Ethical Culture Society on the corner of Parker Avenue and Prospect Street. Here's the link, and if you click on the topic ("roots") it will give you a little info on the topic and me.

The last time I did this was before my brain operation, as I remember it, and was one of the best things I've ever done in public. Unfortunately it wasn't filmed so you'll have to take my word on that. I'm a little curious as to how this post-brain-op mind of mine will do this time.

When I write these posts, and on my various book projects and poetry, I can take my time and rewrite and correct all the accidental typos etc. But spontaneously riffing on a topic with the help of a few poems I'll probably decide on as I'm waiting to be introduced, as much as the challenge of that always excited me and sometimes led to great results (sometimes not), this time, just might mean some stumbling and awkward white outs. Guess we'll see.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Poet, writer, actor and judo champion Lynn Manning and me around 1992?.
Poet/screenwriter Tommy Swerdlow (COOL RUNNINGS) leaning into actress Katy Sagal; poet/comedy writer Anne Beatts (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE) behind them; writer Hubert Selby Jr. behind her; poet/singer/songwriter Yvonne de la Vega leaning into poet/actor Michael O'Keefe; behind them me; poet Jack Grapes and poet/director/producer/etc. Eve Brandstein and the late comic Lotus Windestock; actor Robert Downey Jr. in front of her with actor/poet etc. Michael Harris leaning over him; and actor and rocker Michael Des Barres in front of him with a French actress behind him whose name I can't remember [thanks to Susan Hayden for reminding me it's Myriam Mezieres]; and in front of her a French director whose name I can't remember! (I'm so sorry) at Club Largo after a Poetry In Motion reading c. 1990?
Australian actress Linda Kerridge and me in a Hollywood club, probably Helena's 1989.
Me and actress/singer Beverly D'Angelo in my Santa Monica home c. 1982.
Great musician the late Sandy Bull with his child in his lap; my oldest son Miles behind me (in a sweater that was my oldest brother's from when he was a little kid in the 1930s!); and the late great jazz saxophonist Buddy Arnold, in my Santa Monica home in 1983 or 4.
The late producer and woman warrior Joan Baribeault and me c. '91?
Me and John Carradine in one of his last roles, (not officially L.A. since the movie was made in upstate New York, but my first real "Hollywood" type experience), 1979.
Magician/actor Albie Selznick (in a shirt of mine); acrobat/juggler Nathan Stein (in a jacket and belt of mine); me (can you see the open switchblade in my hand?); actress Penelope Milford; and actor/writer Winston Jones, in a publicity shot for my play HOLLYWOOD MAGIC c. 1983 or 4.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I wrote many days back about when the weather warmed up for a few days that the big melt off had begun. But it didn't really. Today we had a few hours above freezing for the first time in days but nothing much actually melted except for on some roofs (probably also from the heat rising under them as much as some hours of direct sun) and patches here and there.

But walking up my street earlier I noticed the snow between the sidewalk and the street is still mostly above my knees and part of it above my waist and here and there up to my chest...still. It's supposed to be below freezing tomorrow (after getting down to 15 tonight) but then warm up some for the weekend. So we'll see. But so far it's still a very snowy world I live in, or rather icy as what looks like snowbanks are actually frozen solid.

Nonetheless. During those few hours above freezing, it did feel like a touch of Spring was in the air, despite the fact there's still snow and ice pretty much everywhere. Its coming.


One of the coolest cats ever in rock'n'roll and here's two reasons why (the first is out of sync and has some war footage that conflicts with his mood recording and the second is live and not the best sound and his voice is a little off, but you can see some Bono moves two decades before U2):

Monday, March 3, 2014


I missed the opening with Ellen Degeneres, but caught the rest of the Oscars show and have to say her comic bits seemed pretty lame to me (especially the pizza and selfie things) and there wasn't much excitement in the acceptance speeches except for Lupita Nyog'o's which had me teary eyed (she also seemed one of the few truly glamorous stars on the show—along with Jennifer Lawrence who right now can do no wrong in my book [and McCounaghy's wife, Leto's mother and my old friend Alfre Woodard]—despite all the expensive gowns and beauty products and surgery etc.—poor Goldie Hawn and Kim Novak [and John Travolta]) and Matthew McConaughy's speech which had me a tad bewildered as to his being his own hero only ten years from now and chasing that etc...I liked his Golden Globes speech better (Jared Leto's speech was pretty impressive, but despite it's clarity and concern and the moving acknowledgement of his mother, he seemed somehow passionless to me, like almost detached, which may just be his personality or way of coping with fear etc.).

The music acts were fine but nothing spectacular and the FROZEN anthem is and was just too over the top for me (though the song writers seemed sweet and if I heard the announcer correctly were the first songwriters to win a Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar), and the camera work on Pharell's "Happy" looked like it hadn't been rehearsed it was so bad.

I thought GRAVITY won way too many awards, deserving definitely for special effects but otherwise it seemed to me there were films that deserved the editing and cinematography and directing awards more than it. But happy to see some of my favorites win, and especially the writing awards reflecting the good taste of my fellow writers, and most of the acting awards.

I appreciate why McConoughy's performance in DALLAS BUYER'S CLUB won best actor (the old Hollywood tradition of a beautiful actor or actress distorting their beauty to play someone less attractive especially if fighting a fatal illness or mental disease etc.) But he's a Texan playing a Texan from a few years back (though the real character had nothing to do with Rodeos, especially riding bulls) while Chiwetel Ejiofor is an Englishman playing an African-American who lived over two hundred and fifty years ago. Both characters had to face physical challenges, but the range of human emotion was broader and deeper in Ejiofor's case. Anyway, that's my opinion, though both actors obviously did what they did very well.  

Happy that 12 YEARS A SLAVE took the top honors though, and that the audience and the presenters were much more racially mixed than any Oscar show before. Now we need to see more other "minorities" on the show other than African-American, (I think the GRAVITY director was the first Latin American to win for Best Director) including people in the business whose talent is not diminished or prevented from flowering by physical challenges (I knew several paraplegic wheelchair bound actors in Hollywood who were incredibly talented). Onward and upward.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Best Picture: 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Best director: Steve McQueen 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Best Actor: Chiwete Ejiofor 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett BLUE JASMINE
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze HER
Best Screenplay Adaptation: John Ridley 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Best Editing: Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten AMERICAN HUSTLE
Best Soundtrack: HER
Best Song: The Moon Song HER

(not a complete list of the Oscar categories, but the first list I've made in a long time after I lost the capacity for the lists I compulsively made all day long before my brain operation, so happy to be able to do this much)

Saturday, March 1, 2014


A total tour de force. I'm not crazy about Joaquin Phoenix, though many of my female friends are, but he won me over with this incredible performance. I AM crazy about Scarlett Johansson and went to see the flick for her, even though it's only her voice that's the other lead in the film. But what an amazing performance she gives with it, making her character, the voice of a computer operating system, as real and vital and nuanced and emotionally complex as any embodied film character ever. Johansson deserves some kind of special Oscar for this.

And Phoenix, acting in most scenes either totally alone or only with Johansson's voice is also remarkable. As is the always reliable Amy Adams in a co-starring role. For my taste there wasn't one missed beat in this flick, which means the writing and directing (both by Spike Jonze) were perfect. In fact, if I were giving out awards, Jonze would win at least for best screenplay.

The physical scope of the film is confined, but the subject matter opens up so wide it ultimately encompasses deep and confounding questions and challenges about the meaning and purpose of intelligence, life, love and being human. Yeah, got a little heavy there, but the film, with the help of a great soundtrack by Arcade Fire and a lovely main song (that I think is nominated for an Oscar) written by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs—"The Moon Song"—and sung perfectly by Johansson, does not come across as heavy but rather as satisfyingly humorous and poignant.

Listen, it's definitely worth seeing, and in a year without the many great movies of this Oscar season, could have easily won several of the top awards. But unfortunately for this film, it's overshadowed by movies that have more bells and whistles or just seem to address deeper subjects, though none do, ultimately, I feel.