Sunday, July 31, 2016


The good news is Matt Damon is back as JASON BOURNE. And he's in amazing shape, muscle wise (though he's not running across any rooftops this time around). That said, this addition to the franchise isn't as well written as those based on the original books, or as much fun as the first three Bourne movies (the fourth is best left unmentioned).

There's the added star power of Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander. Two actors whose work I have mostly adored till now. Jones has some terrific moments, but seems at times confused as to what film he's in. Casting Vikander is another of those instances of foreign actors playing Americans and missing something. Her performance may be masterful in terms of character, but at times it felt to me like she'd decided to use Rachel Maddow in a serious mood, only even more serious, as her model.

So over all: a fun ride, but not the thrill perfection of the original trilogy.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


These are my older siblings on our stoop in the late 1930s toward the end of The Great Depression. There was another one who died as an infant a few years later, then I came along in 1942. They're all gone now except for my sister Irene, the child on the lap of the eldest. No one wanted the world economy to ever again be as bad as it was then, and thanks to FDR and Democratic reforms, it hasn't been, until Bush Jr. and 2008, when even those who supported the policies that brought on The Great Recession thought there was gonna be another Great Depression. But Obama's policies kept that from happening. Whatever else he may have gotten wrong, his presidency saved the world from repeating the 1930s.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Proud of my Senator Cory Booker. Great Speech.
Proud, got a crush on, wish she'd run for president, of my First Lady. Historic amazing speech.
Proud of I wish she was my Senator too, Elizabeth Warren. Obliterated Trump speech.
Proud of a man I've agreed with and supported for decades, Bernie Sanders. Long, but necessary and smart, unifying speech. (Hope his followers heard it and understood it, though one California delegate interviewed who said she'd vote for Jill Stein obviously didn't.)

Monday, July 25, 2016


As I've written before, I have never been disappointed by a Woody Allen movie since PLAY IT AGAIN SAM. Some are much better than others, and several are masterpieces. CAFE SOCIETY isn't among his classic achievements, but like all his flicks it's entertaining and engaging, even if slight.

If you had told me who was playing what character in this fable of 1930s Hollywood and Manhattan, I'd have said they're mostly miscast. Except for Jesse Eisenberg as the Woody-Allenish lead. But Blake Lively as the second choice love interest? Kristen Stewart as the first? Steve Carell as a classic Hollywood mogul? Etc.

But there's a reason why most film actors want to work with Allen, he always brings the best out of them. I was never impressed with Kristen Stewart and didn't get her appeal at all, especially as a romantic lead. But I'm impressed now and I do get it. In fact CAFE SOCIETY is worth watching for the performances alone. If I tried to isolate one or two, like Corey Stoll's or Jeannie Berlin's (or Parker Posey's or Anna Camp's) I couldn't do it, obviously.

And there are even a few jokes that hark back to Allen's early years as a stand up and some of his monologues in the leading roles of his earlier films. Those too are worth the price of admission for any Allen film fans, like me. Oh, and did I mention the gorgeous cinematography, and how much I wish some of those old-time styles were back again, at least sometimes (like the summer shorts Stewart's character wears that I remember finding so alluring when I was a boy).

The theater in Jersey me and my friend saw this in was so packed (after we had to wait because even though we got there an hour and a half before the showing we wanted to catch, it was already sold out, so we had to get tickets for a much later one) with mostly greyheads like me, that there actually was a feeling of opening night electricity. Pretty good for what? his thousandth movie? (Not, but he sure has been prolific and continues to be.)

Saturday, July 23, 2016


So-so movie with a few reasons to watch. On the big screen for Bryan Cranston's mug, and Juliet Aubrey's. They've been trying to make a movie star out of Cranston since his mega TV stardom from BREAKING BAD, and THE INFILTRATOR is just the latest attempt. Because the directing and writing is a mixed bag, it'll probable fail. But seeing Cranston's multi-lined aging face on the big screen I found pretty fascinating, like an old time movie star.

As I also did Brit actor Juliet Aubrey's too beautifully subtle performance probably for the small screen, but a wonder to watch on the big screen (she plays Cranston's character's wife enduring the tension of his undercover drug cartel customs officer work).

There is also some excellent screen acting work from the usually reliable Amy Ryan, Olympia Dukakis, John Leguizamo and others, including an old Hollywood friend back in the early '80s, but who I haven't seen in person or on screen in what seems like forever, Michael Pare (remember him?) whose small supporting role performance is worth the price of admission.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Yes, I watched it. I like to know what my enemies are up to. Even though in the end, I didn't have to watch it to know what it was about. The usual rightwing fear mongering and dog whistles you'd expect.

Outright claims that the country is less safe than ever, when statistics prove the opposite. And what are the threats to our safety? Terrorists and lawless immigrants were named, then the old Nixon dog whistle "law & order" meaning even more African-Americans are going to prison under a Trump presidency, especially the Black Lives Matter protesters.

It was a litany of fears, to which the only solution is strong-man rule by the-bad-Mussolini-imitator Trump (his compulsion to constantly show his profile to the camera, jaw jutting a la Mussolini makes me think he actually studied footage of El Duce's speeches).

His promise to evangelicals to get rid of the Johnson amendment that prevents tax exempt churches from publicly supporting political candidates and parties would make all taxpayers foot the bill for even more rightwing propaganda and proselytizing.

His followers, like Faux News watchers, are incapable of seeing hypocrisy when it's sitting on their own heads, as Trump railed against companies shipping jobs to China to an audience wearing "Make American Great Again" hats that were MADE IN CHINA!

The sad news is, his defeat is dependent on a big turnout of voters for Hilary, so anyone who votes for a third party candidate or stays home out of disappointment in both candidates, will see Trump win and, as he made clear, appoint judges to The Supreme Court that will make previous rightwing dominated courts seem like liberal playgrounds.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


It was early 1966, I was 23, just out of four years in the military, living with my wife, Lee, in a fancy apartment in Brooklyn Heights that belonged to the business partner (who called himself "the frog prince" and amassed a cache of expensive and often antique frog art and artifacts) of my patron (Rita ?), an older successful business woman (in her thirties?) who was supporting me (and Lee) while I wrote what my patron believed would be "The Great American Novel"—that's my portable typewriter on the frog prince's desk and I'm wearing the vest from a cheap three-piece suit I bought for one of my sisters' weddings...this situation only lasted a few months and was my first brief attempt to transform myself into someone "classy" (for the "author's photo")...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


From a comment I left on some Facebook threads: underestimating rightwing leaders and spokespeople as stupid or bumbling etc. has been the mistake of leftists (including me) throughout our lifetime...just the word plagiarism itself they can cast as elitist and therefore easily dismissed by many of his supporters and those to come...he could probably convince many of them that Michelle Obama stole from his wife those words and ideas!...more important was his speech on Saturday to evangelicals saying he would repeal the Johnson (LBJ) amendment that says places of worship lose their tax free status if they openly support candidates etc....they ate that up and will pass on to their churches and gain the evangelical support leftists were predicting he'd never get because of his wives and casinos et. al....we underestimate this con artist at our own peril...


I have a rightwing troll on my blog as many of you know. The one whose comments years ago forced me to screen commenters and thus be able to eliminate his comments, though I still get them before I trash them. I usually don't read them because why, but also because they echo all the rightwing propaganda outlets to the point of actually often parroting Fox News commentary or Rush's et. al. verbatim.

But I did notice yesterday a brief comment that suggested I should join the BLM (conservative language masters don't want to even say the name in full—Black Lives Matter—for fear the reality will rub off) and Panthers and go with them to kill cops and he asserts Obama and Hilary won't object!

Talk about the bubble. It's a parallel universe, as I'm sure readers of this well know, that goes beyond intellectual comprehension. It is all feelings based, and the prominent feeling is fear, especially in its manifestations as feeling neglected, overlooked and abandoned. Feelings aren't facts, as we know, but they can win elections.

This particular troll, I grew up with, went to catholic grammar and high schools with. Our reality is that I come from a cop clan, descended from my Irish immigrant cop grandfather, and the house I lived in then was in an ethnic and immigrant neighborhood and could fit into a portion of the lawn of the house he grew up in, in a wealthy, WASPy neighborhood with a few upwardly mobile Irish-American families like his.

I served in the military, he didn't. I had cops in my life on a daily basis, including in my home and immediate family when I was growing up, he made fun of my brother the cop and others in my clan from his privileged family position. And I believe he's typical of the rightwing mindset: petty, delusional, hateful, infantile, and scared to death that their privileged way of life is threatened, or the privileged life they imagine can be theirs is threatened by people more compassionate, experienced, intelligent, honest and hopeful than them.

Monday, July 18, 2016


The way to approach it, I think, is not to ask, “What would it be like to be black?” but to seriously consider what it is like to be white. That’s something white people almost never think about. And what it is like to be white is not to say, “We have to level the playing field,” but to acknowledge that not only do white people own the playing field but they have so designated this plot of land as a playing field to begin with. White people are the playing field. The advantage of being white is so extreme, so overwhelming, so immense, that to use the word “advantage” at all is misleading since it implies a kind of parity that simply does not exist.
It is now common—and I use the word “common” in its every sense—to see interviews with up-and-coming young movie stars whose parents or even grandparents were themselves movie stars. And when the interviewer asks, “Did you find it an advantage to be the child of a major motion-picture star?” the answer is invariably “Well, it gets you in the door, but after that you’ve got to perform, you’re on your own.” This is ludicrous. Getting in the door is pretty much the entire game, especially in movie acting, which is, after all, hardly a profession notable for its rigor. That’s how advantageous it is to be white. It’s as though all white people were the children of movie stars. Everyone gets in the door and then all you have to do is perform at this relatively minimal level.
Additionally, children of movie stars, like white people, have at—or actually in—their fingertips an advantage that is genetic. Because they are literally the progeny of movie stars they look specifically like the movie stars who have preceded them, their parents; they don’t have to convince us that they can be movie stars. We take them instantly at face value. Full face value. They look like their parents, whom we already know to be movie stars. White people look like their parents, whom we already know to be in charge. This is what white people look like—other white people. The owners. The people in charge. That’s the advantage of being white. And that’s the game. So by the time the white person sees the black person standing next to him at what he thinks is the starting line, the black person should be exhausted from his long and arduous trek to the beginning.
—Fran Lebowitz

Saturday, July 16, 2016



If instead of being hanged by the neck
you're thrown inside
for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
if you do ten or fifteen years
apart from the time you have left,
you won't say,
"Better I had swung from the end of a rope
like a flag" --
You'll put your foot down and live.
It may not be a pleasure exactly,
but it's your solemn duty
to live one more day
to spite the enemy.
Part of you may live alone inside,
like a tone at the bottom of a well.
But the other part
must be so caught up
in the flurry of the world
that you shiver there inside
when outside, at forty days' distance, a leaf moves.
To wait for letters inside,
to sing sad songs,
or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling
is sweet but dangerous.
Look at your face from shave to shave,
forget your age,
watch out for lice
and for spring nights,
and always remember
to eat every last piece of bread--
also, don't forget to laugh heartily.
And who knows,
the woman you love may stop loving you.
Don't say it's no big thing:
it's like the snapping of a green branch
to the man inside.
To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it's not that you can't pass
ten or fifteen years inside
and more --
you can,
as long as the jewel
on the left side of your chest doesn't lose it's luster!

May 1949

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)  

Friday, July 15, 2016


Last chance to stop Erdogan, Turkey's version of Putin and Trump. Army coups aren't my thing but neither is the accumulation of power and destruction of democratic freedoms that has been happening under Erdogan. But if you're gonna overturn a government, better arrest and jail the head of the government first. Big mistake.

Democracy, as in plurality of votes, even if some results were suspicious, has been saved it looks like. But looks are deceiving. Turkey, under Erdogan in recent years has jailed more journalists per capita than anywhere, even Russia or China. Either way you slice it, bad news for freedom of expression. Artists and intellectuals have been leaving Turkey already, I bet the brain drain increases.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


This is me in 1968 in front of our half of the quonset hut that served as married student quarters at the U of Iowa when I was there on The G.I. Bill at The Writers Workshop and was running for sheriff of Johnson County, Iowa, on the Peace and Freedom ticket and supporting our candidate Eldridge Cleaver and thus contributing to the defeat of the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphey, and the election of Nixon and his continuation and expansion of the Vietnam War, among other destructive and deadly policies that he continued or enacted (history has revealed that Humphrey did intend to withdraw from Vietnam) that led to the rightward movement of the Republican Party that led to exactly where we are today in a country less violent and more tolerant than it was then but seemingly just as divided as then and where too many seem determined to repeat my mistake of confusing hope for reality and thereby contributing to a bad outcome.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


I needed an antidote to BLACK MASS and the week of relentlessly sad news, so caught MAGGIE'S PLAN tonight (well, technically last night now that it's after midnight) and was glad I did. From the response of the audience and audience comments on the bulletin board of the theater, only a minority of viewers got it. So it might not be for you.

But I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a Woody Allenish riff (but directed and co-written by a woman, Rebecca Miller) on an almost Shakespearean comedy of good intentions gone awry in mostly white coupledom. The acting is terrific, especially from the main trio, Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore, with newcomer (to me) Aussie-actor-playing-an-American-perfectly, Travis Fimmel charmingly stealing the few scenes he's in.

It's smart but silly, or silly but smart, and yeah a bit contrived and tied up with a ribbon, but what a sweet and entertaining way to escape into movie land for a little while.

Monday, July 11, 2016


I missed this flick when it came out last year but heard great things about Johnny Depp's performance as "Whitey" Bulger, the Boston Irish mobster. So last night I tried to watch it. I usually can watch a movie all the way through, even if it doesn't live up to expectations, just because there's so much else for me to give my attention to like the acting or lighting or cinematography or art production or writing or directing etc.

But I had to turn this off about two thirds of the way through because I was just tired, and maybe even a little sick, of watching a sociopath be cruel. Depp's performance was another example of his range, in terms of character types he takes on, but the way he played Bulger it was all one note and a tiresomely hackneyed note for my taste. Talk about the banality of evil.

There were so many familiar faces among the cast it'd take a whole other post to list them all, but suffice it to say I found most of their performances disappointing. The accents were all over the place, almost none sounding like the Boston area. But then Joel Edgerton, who played John Connelly (the FBI agent Bulger was an informant for and using, as Connelly thought he was using Bulger) is an Aussie. And playing Bulger's Boston Irish Pol brother, was Benedict Cumberatch about as miscast as he could be.

But there were a couple of performances that were pretty perfect, one was Jesse Plemons as Bulger henchman Kevin Weeks and Rory Chocrane as Bulger hit man Stephen Flemmi (and W. Earl Brown  as another Bulger hit man, John Mortarano). Those guys put all the stars to shame. But in the end this is not a movie I'd recommend. And anyway, haven't we had enough movies about evil pricks? Time to make more flicks about the people making their world a better place, not destroying it and those around them.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


So after Dallas does the NRA change their slogan "The only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun" to "The only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a robot with a bomb"? Cause there were a lot of good men with guns out there and they couldn't stop the bad man with a gun with their many many guns.

This is not a great precedent. When they can't capture or disarm a bad guy now, is sending in a robot with a bomb to assassinate him gonna be the new American "justice"? What if they have the wrong suspect? And I wonder if they would have done it if the gunman had been white?

Friday, July 8, 2016


One of my brothers was a cop. My Irish immigrant grandfather was a cop. One of my godsons, who is also my nephew, is a cop. One of my cousins who lived next door was a cop, his son still is. One of my brother-in-laws was a cop. The father-in-law of one of my brothers was a cop. Etc. Etc. Etc. I would never want to see them shot at or killed and would want whoever would even attempt such a thing to be tried and put in prison.

All of the cops in my clan were, and those still living are, good persons. They were and are all small town cops, most of them in the town I grew up in. But that town has its projects (the kind of areas where so many cops in other places seem to spend most of their time pursuing minor infractions etc.) and is on the border of what once were two of New Jersey's, and the country's, deadliest municipalities: Newark and Irvington. And they've seen shootings and drug dealing and altercations and etc.

Oh, and they're all what we call "white" though when this clan started out in this country with my grandfather the Irish immigrant, people like him were considered not quite white. And I would guess sometimes these cops in my clan were nervous in certain situations. But the cops in the videos killing black men, especially the last two victims, weren't just nervous, they were panicking, like scared little children.

How the hell did they become cops? And no cop in my clan would allow a bleeding man to just sit in a car without coming to his aid, trying to stem the bleeding, instead of continuing to hold a gun on the man. And why didn't the cops who arrived on the scene not help the bleeding man and subdue the panicky freaked out shooter cop?

The woman who had to watch her boyfriend die was more composed than the cop who shot her boyfriend. She was behaving like a professional, while the cop was acting like a demented paranoid stressed out unbalanced mad man.

I would hope, though I know it won't happen, that every decent and dedicated cop across this country would stand up and demand universal training and screening (for mental health issues and for drug use, including, or maybe especially, steroids) of all police, and the immediate dismissal of any cop caught abusing his power, and the arrest and incarceration of any cop when that abuse of power leads to the infringement of the rights of any citizen, in any way, but especially leading to the loss of that citizen's life.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


me & my three big brothers in the late 1940s back when I could still be caught wearing shorts and my brothers were still around, God rest their souls

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


When I used to get angry with myself for doing something I, or others, considered stupid or self-destructive or unintentionally harmful to others or mostly just a mistake, my old friend Hubert Selby Jr. used to say, "You're just a people, Michael." It was a great comfort to me, and it comforts me tonight when I see all the hurt and damage my fellow people are doing to themselves and each other. I know there's a bit, or sometimes a lot, of the asshole in me, like in everyone I've ever encountered, as well as some good, but it gets pretty difficult these days not to see everything as "black or white" or "right or wrong" or "good or bad"...but Selby also recommended I give those judgmental terms up...a high spiritual bar I haven't successfully reached yet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


(and lest we forget, the most comparable mass murder in the USA was committed by a white, Christian, right-winger named McVeigh...)