Sunday, November 30, 2014


I heard on the news that this year's "Black Friday" brought in less money and fewer people than last year...could it be that all the calls to boycott shopping on Thanksgiving (that day's profits were also lower) and "Black Friday" were heeded by enough people to make a difference?...let's hope...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I can't recommend this PBS TV series (which I think you can watch online here) highly enough. Gates explores the ancestry of a variety of highly accomplished people—from Derek Jeter to Ken Burns to Nas—in ways that almost inevitably brings tears to my eyes.

When a so-called "black" guest discovers roots that reach back beyond the Civil War and slavery, and sometimes that their European ancestors were not slave holders who raped a slave ancestor but in fact a European-American who married a free African-American, and other incredible revelations, to see that guest's stunned expression and then the relief and release as it sinks in is inimitable.

There are revelations that go in the other direction as well, with ancestors who were on the wrong side of an issue or event. But the main thing that almost all the guests end up sharing is at least some quotient of ancestry. Something that gives the lie to the categorizing of humans that's been going on throughout history and has played such a significant role in the history of the USA.

I think it might contribute to not just a better understanding but better relationships if every student in this country had to watch an episode of FINDING YOUR ROOTS and then have a classroom discussion about it afterward. I'd rather see that then all this core-course, teach-to-the-test robotic learning dysfunction that has seized our schools.

If you haven't caught an episode and you watch one and it doesn't move you, watch another and I guarantee it will.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Not finding any "probable cause" at all to at least bring the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Wilson to trial: predictable but still unconscionable (were they allowed to take into consideration the fact that Wilson was dismissed from another police department because of the too blatant even for the South racism on that force including Wilson) (and did you see the photos of a supposedly injured Wilson whose face looked fine to me but had been reported as having his eye socket broken or whatever, I looked worse after teenage fist fights...).

The behavior of those setting cars and buildings on fire with lighter fluid or looting stores etc.: despicable and contrary to everything Michael Brown's family had asked for and so many local residents had prepared for.

The behavior of the authorities, especially all the supposed city, county, state police (and national guard troops that seemed nonexistent): dumb, ill planned or at least badly executed and adding fuel to the fire literally initially...

The solution is in the restructuring and training of the police and the requirement that all police everywhere wear POV cameras when on duty, period.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Allan was a smiley guy so this photo doesn't capture his constant sense of whimsey, but it does reflect his constant dedication to printing, not just books but broadsides as well, which he's doing in this photograph in the midst of a party at Coffee House Press, the publishing venture he founded and ran for decades.

Allan moved to Iowa City in 1970, the year after I left it, but when I returned for a visit I met him and we became instant friends, as folks often did with Allan. He was a witty, curious, ex-New Yorker who went on to become a pillar in the small press community in its burgeoning years and on into the present. He first published poetry, including mine, in his early small press magazine TOOTHPASTE out of which he created Toothpaste Press.

But when he moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul, he started a new small press publishing venture, COFFEE HOUSE, that challenged the major New York publishers in quality of the authors and consistent breakthroughs in style. Many of the books he edited and published garnered rave reviews in The New York Times and other major media.

When he published my 1997 poetry collection, CANT BE WRONG, I was interviewed for it on NPR's "Book Worm" show with Michael Silverblatt. The prestige of Allan's good taste is what drew that kind of attention to his authors and their books.

Here's the way his hometown newspaper (Minneapolis not New York) reported his passing. I think he'd be very pleased. My condolences to his wife, Cinda, and his daughters and extended family and friends. His energy and input into the world of writing and publishing will be sorely missed.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Stefan was a friend who I saw pretty frequently in my L.A. life (or as I like to say, my "Hollywood years") but hadn't seen in the years since I moved back to Jersey. A really good guy, smart and interesting, and a wonderful actor (or "character actor" as they always classify non-stars).

His best known roles are listed and linked to in this obit, and keep him alive in the world of movie history and reruns on TV and the net. He had a good long life and many dear friends and accomplished much that he wanted to, so here's to you Stefan, with condolences to your family and many friends and fans among whom I am grateful to be counted.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


First of all the sound on this video doesn't come close to the sound in the room (I can hardly hear my son's bass in this iPhone recording, or the other instruments very well for that matter, and they were crushing it) and I recorded, I thought, an entire song that was the most dynamic of the night, but it ain't on my phone, so this will have to do as a taste of Edith Pop.

Her influences are Edith Piaf and Iggy Pop, but she reminded me more of Lydia Lunch back when I saw Lunch perform her first show, or what I remember as her first show, in New York, only Pop is more dynamic in person, and ultimately more appealing despite the intensity of some of her lyrics and vocalizing and performing, unfortunately not caught on this clip. You had to be there. So next time, not a bad idea to try to be.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


The Brooklyn band my oldest son, Miles, plays bass in is performing tomorrow evening, Friday the 21st at (le) poisson rouge on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, "8PM sharp"... They have been called one of the best new bands on the NYC music scene today. Check out their song "Money" at this link that gives details of their gig tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


My friend Bill took me to see an evening of short Irish language films at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan last night and it was a delight. The best part was a row full of Irish speaking folk of all ages in front of us, so we got to hear current speakers of a language the English fined, beat, jailed, tortured and murdered my ancestors out of.

There's all kinds of oppression, and losing the language of your ancestors seems to me to be one of the worst. Today in Ireland there are very few Irish speakers who grew up in a household where that was the only language, let alone the first language. Thankfully the language was saved before it disappeared entirely, and when at least some of the Irish finally won their freedom from England, in the early 20th Century, Irish became the official language of the government and began to be taught to all school children.

Nonetheless, few people, as I said, speak it as a regular way to communicate with others. Which was why it was so moving to hear these ordinary looking New Yorkers—or people who could be taken for that—sharing a laugh and gossip, or whatever they were sharing, in the language that was lost to my family generations ago (though even my mother and father would use an Irish-language expression here and there, as I suspect many other Irish-American families did too).

I couldn't find any of the short films I saw last night on Youtube, so here's an interview in Dublin searching for Irish speakers among the Irish, so you can at least hear what a distinct language it is:

And here's another, more official, Youtube video that explains the history of the language and its present state (depicted as much more of a presence than I, and the video above, imply):


Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Caught this 1950 Western on cable tonight and though I've seen it before, including when I was eight and it first came out, tonight I was struck by how incredibly understated and subtle yet almost existential everything about this movie is as it unfolds the story of a "gunfighter" in completely unexpected ways, including the ending.

I've seen it a few times over the years and been impressed with Gregory Peck or with the cinematography and the directing and eventually, tonight, with everything about it, particularly the writing, which I hadn't even thought about until this evening. It's a classic and I never realized that before.

I had the great good fortune to have seen Gregory Peck up close once, back in the 1980s. I had finished a day of shooting a TV show I was on (it only lasted a half a season so never made reruns in syndication) that was mostly filmed on the MGM lot (this was before Sony bought the lot) in an old sound stage where some of my favorite movies from my boyhood had been shot and some of my favorite stars from back then had worked.

We had been shooting in downtown L.A. on location in a garment factory (I played the evil owner of the company) and had been driven back to the MGM lot where our cars were (one of the greatest thrills of my life was driving on to that lot for work every day and having the guard at the gate wave me through with a "good morning Mister Lally" or later "Michael" when they got to know be better).

I was with the actor Eddie Velez, who also was in this TV show (it was called BERRENGERS and was mostly set in a family owned department store, go figure) and we both noticed the big kleig lights, or whatever those giant searchlights that sweep the sky at openings are called, so we went to see what was going on.

This was one of the most surreal set ups anyone could have imagined. There was a red carpet leading down one of the lot's alleyways between sound stages, from the MGM commissary to the MGM screening room, which had been rechristened the Cary Grant Theater by the studio as they were trying to lure Grant out of retirement to make a movie with them.

About every ten feet down this I'd guess fifty yard red carpet were old violinists in tuxedos leaning against the wall smoking cigarettes or just looking bored, and on the other side of the carpet there was a velvet rope, like they have at night club doors, only enough to cover the length of this carpet and keeping us behind it.

One of the writers for the show, I think it was Diana Gould, and a producer were the only other people there, so we asked them what was going on, and they told us about the theater being renamed and that there was a dinner with MGM stars at the commissary which was about to end and the stars would be walking down the red carpet to the renamed theater to see a screening of MGM's latest film. And sure enough the commissary doors opened and stars in formal wear, tuxes and gowns, started filing out and walking down the red carpet chatting a smoking as the violinists threw away their cigarettes and began serenading them.

There were some photographers suddenly down where the carpet ended at the theater and I assumed some reporters, but otherwise the only people to witness this fifty yard stroll by these stars were Eddie and me and Diana and the other lady producer. So we stood there as Fred Astaire and Sammy Davis Jr, and Dean Martin, and of course Cary Grant, and other famous movie stars from Hollywood's golden years walked by and nodded or smiled or ignored us (I'm sorry I can't remember any of the women stars right now).

And then suddenly there was Gregory Peck, standing out because he was the tallest and turning to look right into my eyes from just feet away and give that famous half smile as his eyes stared into mine and he gave me a nod, to my mind acknowledging that we had something in common, because as a boy and young man I had thought we did, even if it was just our tall, lean, black Irish looks (a bit arrogant of me maybe, but at the time it seemed true to me).

I felt if I never had another experience in Hollywood I'd be happy because I'd had that one. Cary Grant didn't make the movie, and by the time I left Hollywood a lot of the folks I saw that night were either at the end of their lives or already gone. And I got to meet some of them at parties and dinners and other events in ways that were more intimate or personal or informative, but none as thrilling as that strange scene with fifty or so Hollywood icons strolling in their formal wear by serenading violinists as a crowd of only four people looked on.

I got a little sidetracked, but the point is simply that Gregory Peck has always been a bit of a mystery as a movie star, in many ways, not only because sometimes he seemed so stiff and almost self-conscious he didn't seem like a movie star at all. But he was, and a unique one, and tonight I saw again why as he helped elevate THE GUNFIGHTER in my mind to the level of the top classic Hollywood Westerns only maybe even more so.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Last night a friend gave me a ride home from a great poetry reading (see two posts back) and dinner with old and dear friends (as well as a few new) afterwards, and as we drove down West Broadway in Soho—my old neighborhood (in the 1970s)—there was the new "Freedom Tower" aglow in the near distance (that contradiction is the only way to describe its visual impact) and I couldn't help observing that it made me feel like I was in Dallas, or on a highway heading to an underpass or beltway around some smaller Southern or Midwestern city with a couple of skyscrapers (no offense to Dallas or any other city, but they ain't New York).

It may look a little more original in daylight with its curved facade of nothing but glass windows, but at night, when those curves don't really declare themselves and all there is is that needle tower and antenna on top of a squat lit up block, it made me miss the Twin Towers and their simplistically unoriginal but nonetheless iconic double and slimmer straight-edged shapes.

I don't mean to be unpatriotic or insensitive to what the new building represents, but to be the highest building in the Western hemisphere (though the extended length of the antenna makes the whole building look more like a structure at the end of an airport runway) and be as ugly in its nighttime appearance (and after taking over a decade to even complete) is, well, not a mark of New York's importance but rather it seems to me a sign of its (hopefully temporary) decline (no matter how many more wealthy people populate it now, or because of)... sure doesn't, to my mind, look like it's the highlight (let alone high point) of the cityscape of a world-class city, let alone one that often purports to be the world's most important city. And it doesn't say much culturally either. That's my take at any rate.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


My old friend, the poet Ray DiPalma, has a new book of poems out from Seismicity Editions. It's called OBEDIENT LAUGHTER and contains poetry that reveals not only the poet's focus on the possibilities of language in all its manifestations but also, here and there, Ray's edgy humor in expressing that. I've always found a sense of humor in his work, but the depth of his erudition and breadth of his referential mining can be challenging in a world of fleeting and at times cursory interest in the layers of possibilities in language...

Well, I'm getting a little heady myself in trying to characterize this beautifully produced book, the kind I like to own just to hold and look at, let alone read and engage with the original use of language. So, I'll just give some examples from OBEDIENT LAUGHTER:

from the long poem "After Midnight"

"No, I said, it wasn't an unreasonable hour,
you and I could begin again for the last time"

"A man goes into a room, there are no windows, no doors,
how does he get out—the same way he got in"

from the long poem series "Equivoques"

first served"

and a pink potato"

But do the curtain's match the rug?"

The ongoing refinement of airbags"

Take him outside and shoot him immediately"

Than another space station"

19th c. rustic paintings and recent poetry anthologies."

It's very expensive, very expensive, very."

There's plenty more in this collection of longish serial poems. The poet's multi-approaches to the shape and length of a line, a phrase, a stanza, etc. along with the exploration of cliches juxtaposed with puns juxtaposed with pompous scholarly (or not) pronouncements deliberately distorted or misinterpreted to evoke new meanings and/or uses etc.

The last long serialish poem in the book, "Would, The Notional Field"—"Don't mind if I would." "Plain as would." etc.—might be my favorite. But these two lines from a poem (or section, depending on how you read it, let alone it was intended) in the title sequence sums up the lyricism inherent even in the most jarring of word play:

"of things with no adequate name
in the impatient singing silence"

If you want to see Ray and two other uniquely distinct poets read together, not a common thing to experience (three such different and original poets), be at Studio 26, 179 E. 3rd Street, NYC, at 6PM this Saturday, November 15th. Maybe I'll see you there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I'm not crazy about this photo, I was basically still a kid and having my first official photo in my dress uniform (which I didn't like, much prefer the photo booth shot below of me at the end of basic training with my friend Murph, sans that ugly hat ) at the beginning of my four years in the military (slightly more, actually, to make up for "bad time").

I often say I'm from "a family of cops," because when I was a boy the last older brother at home was a cop, and when he moved out it was to marry the oldest daughter of a cop, and my oldest sister moved out when she married a cop, and one of my cousins next door became a cop, and our Irish immigrant grandfather down the street was a retired cop....etc.

I would never say I came from "a military family"...but...just thinking about Veterans Day this morning, I thought, well me and my three brothers, that lived beyond childhood, not only all served in the military but in every branch, my two oldest during WWII—the oldest in the Army Air Corps (before there was an Air Force) and the second oldest in the Navy (he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery when he passed a few decades ago)—the third in the Army and me in the Air Force, all "enlisted men"—which means we weren't officers just regular troops.

And a lot of other males in my extended clan served in the military, including some who served a lot longer than four years and some who made a lifetime of it (one Godson/nephew served as an MP and married a female veteran and later he became a policeman and is now a detective). So, I guess it's all a matter of perspective. The difference between the clan members who were in the service more recently and when I and my older brothers were in, was the draft. Maybe some of us joined, but some were drafted, and all were impacted by the reality that ours was a citizens' army, with every stratum of society represented.

Not true once we went all voluntary, and even less true now that a lot of the work that used to be done by troops is done by private contractors. I' d like to see a system like Israel has, or even better, like the Kurds (or at least one faction of the Kurds) where all citizens serve in the military, including women (although for Israel the fundamentalist hardliners get to opt out and then use their political influence to push for more belligerent policies) and for at least one Kurdish group, there is a communal philosophy where all are equal etc.

I'm not crazy when people make a big deal out of some family being a "military family" or act as if every person in the military is somehow more heroic or making a bigger sacrifice than anyone else (I'd say those volunteering to work with Ebola patients in Africa are making a bigger sacrifice than many in the military ever do). Though obviously those who served in combat should be taken care of for that sacrifice. I didn't see any combat, so I think of my service time more as an impediment to the life I actually wanted to be living at the time than any great sacrifice. But I am grateful it did pay for much of my higher education on The G.I.Bill.

Let's push for a citizens' army again, with everyone having to take their turn to not only "defend their country" but to see how the military works and to have a say in when and how it should be used. Happy Veterans Day.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Doesn't get any sweeter than this, watching my grandson play drums in a band with his friends that gigs more often than most other bands in The Berkshires and literally watching them grow up on the bandstand (most of them were inches shorter just last summer!)...

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Here's some random photos, some I've posted before I think, here and there, of me with various female friends or "co-stars" etc.  interesting to see the passing of time in these shots...
me & my first wife Lee in early 1966 just after I got out of the service

me & "Patriia Hammond" in Dracula's Last Rites 1979
me & an Irish friend, Ailene c. 1980
me & Beverly D'Angelo 1982
me & Linda Kerridge c. 1984
Mimi Lieber & me c. 1985
me & Helena Kallianiotes c. 1987
me & Eve Brandstein c. 1987
me & Katy Sagal c. 1990
me & Jamie Rose c. 2012

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Before my brain op when I was a compulsive list maker, one of the kinds of lists I'd make was of trinities, lists of three top favorite this or that or groups of threes with a common theme etc.

Haven't done one now in years, but watching a little of THE BIG SLEEP tonight my brain started making an obvious list of the three great Bogie/Bacall movies and then I thought of doing a few more of other favorite actors so here's what I came up with:












(I ran out of inspiration)

Friday, November 7, 2014


Went to see this last night with my oldest son, Miles, on his suggestion and was glad I did. Even though I'd read good things about INTERSTELLAR (and a few bad things), the few ads I'd seen hadn't attracted me so I wouldn't have gone to see it on my own but rather waited til it came out on cable. (The poster above gives an idea of the ad campaign, which relied too heavily on Matthew McConaughey who despite his recent acting triumphs had become too ubiquitous for my taste. Especially after those so easily mockable Lincoln commercials.)

So I was expecting the same kind of disappointment I felt with GRAVITY, which I had avoided on the big screen as well and so missed out on half the fun according to its fans. Well, the same might apply here. I don't know if INTERSTELLAR will work as well on a small screen, but in the movie theater it held my attention for almost every second of every scene and that's saying a lot for a longer than usual movie.

The acting is terrific, including MccConaughy, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastiain (and Ellen Burstyn in a cameo role that's as good as any other thing she's ever done, except maybe REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, her greatest performance), and the special effects impressive (if a tad overblown at times) but it's the writing, despite the occasional flaws, that makes this story work and finally fulfills the potential displayed by director/writer Christopher Nolan in his previously most successful film before INTERSTELLAR (for my taste) MEMENTO.

I grabbed my armrests a few times and shed a couple of tears (his last few movies were too cynical for me to even engage emotionally with), at least once if not more, and felt totally engaged, like I said, for almost every second of this flick (despite its contrivances, which only resonated with classic Hollywood for me). It moves up to the top of the great movies about fathers list, up there with FIELD OF DREAMS, only that was a father and son story ultimately, while this is a father and daughter movie. I highly recommend you catch it on a big screen with a great sound system and let it take you for a compellingly entertaining ride.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Once again, according to exit polls and ballot initiatives the "liberal" perspective is more popular than the "conservative" on most issues in most of the country, even red states. So on the issues, most of them anyway, those who usually vote Democratic won, as in every state that had raising the minimum wage on the ballot. And the Washington state support of more gun control, rejecting the usually all powerful NRA's campaign influence. Etc.

The problem is, the Dems didn't keep their message simple, clear and focused on the issues, but instead tried to avoid sounding too "liberal" etc. while the Repubs lied, as they have learned they can do and get away with not just because they have Faux News on their side but because they also state it repeatedly, simply, clearly, and stay focused on the lie, as in they are for working people etc.

And they do know how to keep it simple and easy to understand (even that Iowa Palin clone who was smart enough to present herself statewide not as the rabid rightwing nut she seemed to be previously but as someone more in line with voters' beliefs etc. who can garble an explanation as easily as Palin but who also can summarize their being "regular" with slogans like: "I'm gonna make 'em squeal"—meaning politicians in Washington and to those in on the coding, especially Obama, and resonates in a hog farming state coming from a woman who makes clear she delights in castrating her pigs)...

I fault the Dems who shied away from Obama's accomplishments but also fault Obama for his terrible handling of the media, his surrounding himself with loyal but obviously flawed advisors, and his general insularity and inability to hide his disdain for not just the press but the whole business of governing, making me miss Bill Clinton's obvious delight in politics. And I worry that the Prez will be too quick to compromise with the Repubs in the Senate now to pass some things that will make it look like the Repubs get things done when given control etc.

Fasten your seat belts, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


The Dems and in particular the administration did a terrible job of keeping the message simple and focused on Democratic accomplishments that have helped those who aren't super wealthy and Republican attempts to help the rich get richer and the rest of us working more for less.

Now the Repubs will spend the next two years making things even easier for the wealthy and harder for the rest of us and then will blame it on Obama in hopes they can secure the presidency in '16. And if the Dems don't get their messaging together they will.

Obama and the Dems should have been on TV with a simple chart showing how many things have improved under his watch and how many things went downhill under the Repubs, over and over and over again. But that ain't the way the party of diversity and humanistic individualism works, unfortunately on days like yesterday.

Now we'll see if the Repubs are smart enough not to give their rightwing base and factions too much in order not to turn off the rest of the country. Or, if they get into factional fights over who's gonna control what. Hopefully they'll self-destruct a little before getting on message for '16.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Before THE MONUMENTS MEN came out last year, I was interested in seeing it just because it had such an amazing cast. But then the word after it came out was that it disappointed. So I figured I'd wait to see it on cable. Which is what I did a few nights ago.

And, I didn't find it disappointing at all. Like any film based on fact, there are a few implausible or unlikely moments enhanced (probably) by a screenwriter's (or director's or producer's) imagination, or need to embellish a basically less dramatic story than most movie plots.

But for my taste, that didn't matter much. My expectations were low, so I expected to watch a bit of it and then turn it off and go to bed. But, it drew me in, as any good movie needs to do to keep your attention, and mostly that was because of what attracted me to the idea of this flick in the first place...

...the fact that this really happened—that the Nazis were determined to steal much of the great art of Europe, or held in Europe at the time, and destroy the rest and that a handful of men managed to save most of it—and the marvelous cast. The movie's worth watching for Bill Murray's contribution alone.

He has become one of the most watchable movie stars in history, and his few scenes in this flick are some of his most understatedly moving and endearing ever.  George Clooney is always watchable and usually engaging and this role is no exception. Bob Baliban does the best work he's ever done, in my opinion. And John Goodman manages to do his thing while not seeming to be in his own movie but rather a part of this top-of-their-game ensemble.

Everyone else is terrific as well, the one exception perhaps being Kate Blanchett as what I think the movie makers intended to be a nerdy yet coquettish French woman, but comes across as an actress in the wrong movie. Don't get me wrong, she has her moments of great acting, as always, but she is totally unconvincing, to me, as the French character she's trying to portray.

But as aide from the being miscast and a few anomalies for the time and circumstance, THE MONUMENTS MEN was totally worth watching for me, for the history lesson and for the rest of the acting.