Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


"Neither America nor the Western tradition which America has brought to maturity will be rightly understood until one understands that free enterprise is ultimately a political theory, that it bases itself on an ethical premise of conflict, and that its virtue system appropriately confers esteem and privilege not upon the humane (although humanity is not precluded) but upon the willful and relentless—the powerful."  —Carl Oglesby (from Containment and Change, a 1967 book that had a major impact on my ongoing radicalization at the time)

Monday, November 28, 2016


Yesterday was my oldest son Miles's birthday. Here he is in a double shot of us in our Manhattan pad back in the 1970s when it was just him and me living together, and then him a few years ago on a winter day in The Berkshires where he lives now.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


When THE LAST WALTZ came out I had been somehow underrating Joni Mitchell for years and not appreciating her presence and charisma. For whatever reason I couldn't even see why people found her attractive. So her performance wasn't even near my favorite from that documentary/concert film.

Then about a decade after it my daughter away at college in Vermont when I visited made me sit down facing her record player and speakers and she put on Joni's LP BLUE and made me listen to the whole thing and I got it, her unique musical genius. But I still found her unattractive.

Then another two decades later I had a brain operation which changed some of my thinking and taste, including finding myself falling in love with women on film whom I'd previously had no attraction whosoever to, like Meryl Streep, Annette Benning, Mitzi Gaynor....and it turns out: Joni Mitchell.

So I now find this clip from THE LAST WALTZ not only my favorite, but every time I see it I fall in love with Joni Mitchell all over again. Life. What a trip.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


I wish it was only ironic that rightwing fundamentalist Christians implied or outright stated that Obama was the antiChrist, despite him obviously exemplifying what Christians supposedly hold as their standards.

Yet no one has suggested that Trump, who has hardly any, if any, of those Christian characteristics but instead embodies much of what the anti-Christ would supposedly have, no one is calling Trump the antiChrist, though he certainly might be...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016



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

(C) 2013 Michael Lally [from SWING THEORY]

Monday, November 21, 2016


When I was born FDR was in his third term as president, and he would go on to be elected for a fourth time, the reason the presidency has ever since been limited to two terms. He was so enormously popular partly because he mastered the main medium of his time, the radio. His famous "fireside chats" were used to explain his New Deal policies to anyone near a radio, which was a vast majority then, and to stand up to his critics, especially among his fellow wealthy.

JFK was the first president to make regular press conferences a common sight on television, the medium of the time, which his charm and mastery of history and the details of governing commanded brilliantly, but unfortunately he never finished out his first term.

Reagan was the first president to use the "photo op" and "sound bite" for television consumption, his advisers staging his "press conferences" for maximum propaganda impact, which too often worked. Distracting from his actual policies by framing any discussion in terms of his often affable persona in a TV friendly setting.

Bush junior took that a step further by his administration making sure all spokespeople, cabinet members, press secretary, et. al. used the exact same framing of any topic, even using the exact same phrasing, which John Stewart often pointed out on his Daily Show.

Part of Trump's political success in his primary campaign and subsequent presidential campaign was his understanding, conscious or accidental (though the former seems obvious to me), that the medium of the present moment in our country and history is social media and its reducing of "news" and "information" to soundbite size on twitter.

Like Reagan and Bush Jr. he uses his tweets to distract the media and voters from any significantly dangerous (to his power) news by misdirecting them to focus on, say, his vice president's being partially booed (with some cheers) by an audience at a Broadway musical, most of whom are likely aware of his history of anti-gay policies (as governor and in Congress), pronouncements and personal history.

The Republicans have been better at framing the story, and at creating the story, ever since Reagan, with Democrats still assuming facts and data and policy positions can compete with that. Time for new strategies, including conquering whatever future medium is on the horizon.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


me as artist "Walter Hoyt" in NYPD BLUE (back in I think the '90s), a photo I and others have tried to add to the page supposedly dedicated to my movie and TV acting resume on the imbd site (as a SAG actor I had to use my full name: Michael David Lally) but no can do, meanwhile a few of the credits on that page are incorrect, but only some seem able to be corrected while the rest are so far impossible to make right...I have looked myself up on the web maybe five or so times in this century but each time I saw things attributed to me that are another Michael Lally's, or things attributed to other Michael Lallys that are mine, and even though I too use wikipedia I find it often inaccurate about things I have knowledge of...and as far as "all human knowledge" being available at one's fingertips, decades of articles and interviews and reviews and stories about or by me pre-internet are nonexistent on the web, and I'm insignificant compared to many who have almost no presence on the Internet yet are historically crucial contributors to our culture and I can just imagine the even not deliberate misinformation, let alone deliberate, that is out there on the web that contributed to this election's results...end of mini-rant... 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


When I was a teenager doing my best, I thought, to become the kind of jazz piano player I idolized at the time, I would travel anywhere to hear the greats, and one up and coming jazz artist I admired and heard live was Mose Allison. Some musicians I played with, or just knew, didn't think Mose was that great a musician, even if they dug his songwriting.

But I loved the swinging simplicity of his playing, blues based and mildly funky. When a few years later he came out with one of my all-time favorite albums and it became a top seller for a jazz LP, I was not only happy for Mose, but for those of us who dug him. Here is one of the most played songs from that album, in memory of Mose, and aimed at he whose name we cannot speak.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016



"I listened as they called my President a Muslim. 
I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys. 
I listened as they said he wasn't born here. 
I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could. 
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler.
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice.
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialogue.
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn.
I watched as they did just that.
I listened.
I watched.
I paid attention.
Now, I'm being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward.
To denounce protesters.
To "Get over it."
To accept this...
I will not.
I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.
I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get.
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.
I will do this so that they never forget.
And they will hear me.
They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them.
They will know that I know who they are.
They will know that I know what they are.
Do not call for my tolerance. I've tolerated all I can.
Now it's their turn to tolerate ridicule.
Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day
forward is now Trump's fault just as much as they thought it was Obama's.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.
And I will also pray.
My prayers will be for something different than theirs.
Prayers are always answered.
They will find no shelter here."

Monday, November 14, 2016


"Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist. But every racist voted for Trump."  —Michael Lally

Sunday, November 13, 2016


MOONLIGHT is the best work of film art I've seen this year. It' original in too many ways to count, including story, direction (including and especially casting), cinematography, etc. It's the story of one man's experience, played by three different actors at three stages of his life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

All three actors embody the character so well you forget you're watching three different people. Newcomer Alex R. Hibbert gets the sulky boy so perfectly it's startling. Aston Sanders as the the teenager extends what Hibbert did and complicates and heightens it to such great effect that his part of the movie could be a breakthrough film on its own. And Trevante Rhodes is so stunningly charismatic, he makes the third act of the film his so completely you want the movie to delay ending as long as possible.

Director and co-writer Barry Jenkins proves himself the consummate artist with his choices, including the economy of the script, not afraid to linger on almost dialogue free, or completely dialogue free moments and still satisfy emotionally, intellectually and artistically. I know it's a movie I can now watch again, anytime, and I'm sure I will.

If you haven't seen it, try to get to it while it's still in theaters because you need the full screen to get the depth of Jenkins artistry and the full effect of his casting as the faces and physicality of the actors wrenches you into a world that cannot be denied.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


"What do you call a populist who loses the popular vote?"  —Matthew Rothenberg

Friday, November 11, 2016


On this Veterans Day, here's this veteran's analysis of why OVER SIXTY PERCENT of veterans voted for a man who said our military Prisoners Of War weren't heroes because they got captured, a man who took, instead of rejecting, a combat veteran's purple heart saying that he always wanted one of those as if he didn't know you had to have served in the military to earn one, a man who said he had military experience because he once attended a wealthy kids military high school academy, a man who has demonstrated through words and actions that he has little if any respect for the military tradition of equality (no matter how imperfectly realized) among groups in their ranks whether gender or "race" based, a man who claimed to have donated more money than he actually did, or in some cases didn't at all, to support vets, et-endlessly-cetera...

I believe the ending of the military draft that allowed our armed services to become more mercenaries than citizen soldiers is one contributing factor, but even more so was the influence of the Reagan and Bush years on filling the officer ranks, including noncommissioned officers (i.e. sergeants etc.), with like minded rightwing leaning Christian fundamentalists, as well as the influence of Fox News and rightwing radio, so that younger members of my clan who served were routinely exposed to rightwing ideology and influences, plus the failure of Democrats like Obama and Hilary to hammer home in simple repetitive phrases and ads their track record of doing more for those serving and veterans than any Republican administration or Congress since Eisenhower.

I could go on but that's enough from this veteran.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


In early 1965 I was still playing music professionally as part of what I did to earn a living outside the military I was still in, when I saw a documentary called LADIES AND GENTLEMEN LEONARD COHEN. Cohen impressed me so much with his charming way with an audience at poetry readings I thought I saw a way for me to make a life for myself as a poet.

A few months later I finished my four years in the service and got into the Universiy of Iowa Writers Workshop for poetry on the G.I. Bill and made a decision to give up the music outside playing for pleasure and focused on my poetry which had already been published but began being published more widely.

A year later someone told me about Cohen's first record, the poet had become a singer songwriter, and it seemed overnight became famous as that and there I was watching his dust. I met him years later in the 1980s in my Hollywood days and found him just as charming in person as he had been on film so many years before.

I loved his writing and his music and grieve with all of his fans and friends and family. May he rest in poetry.


Last night at "The Day After" Poetry In Motion event at The Gotham Comedy Club in Manhattan, from left to right: my old partner and co-founder of Poetry In Motion, poet, director, producer and energizer Eve Brandstein; poet, playwright and organizer of L.A.'s Library Girl, Susan Hayden; my lucky old self; and poet and budding playwright Rachel E. Diken. All dear friends who lifted my spirits sky high last night and always.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


The day after I was born,
German U boat 106 sank
a US tanker in the Gulf of
Mexico. Twenty-two were
killed. Hitler and his allies
had been winning World
War Two and it looked like
they were about to take
over the world. Including
the USA. Three years later
Germany surrendered and
the war in Europe was over,
followed pretty soon after
by the end of the war in the
Pacific. In my brief three
year old life the world had
witnessed the greatest
death and destruction in
the history of humanity. It
was tragic and deeply sad
but even so, great acts of
courage and kindness,
sacrifice and love were
committed, great art and
music and movies and
more were made. Nothing
anywhere near as massively
brutal and deadly has occurred
since. Despite continuing wars
and oppression, the world has
not in my now seventy-four
years ever been as peaceful
or as free as it is now. That’s
not to slight the severity of
anyone’s experience of
cruelty or repression, but
only to say as my old friend
Selby used to, that you
can’t have up without down,
success without failure,
pleasure without pain, dark
days without ones filled
with light. Let us be that
light for those who need it.

(C) Michael Lally    


to paraphrase the famous American radical Joe Hill, don't mourn (or panic or turn cynical or give up) organize...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


The longest line I ever remember standing in to vote in an election, so at least in my Jersey neighborhood there's a lot of enthusiasm...

Monday, November 7, 2016


To paraphrase my great friend Terence Winch: Time for the FBI to release its emails. Anyone care to bet on whether we'd find any sexism, racism, lies, treason or criminal activity in them?

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Seven years ago this month I had my brain operated on (this is me pre-op) and for months afterward struggled to regain some crucial mental faculties, like the ability to read or watch TV or movies or listen to music. I was overwhelmed by the complications of anything nuanced or multi-faceted. Like it took a while to be able to watch anything on TV and then when I could it had to be old movies in black and white with confined settings and extremely simplistic plots.

It took quite a while, for instance, to be able to watch The Daily Show with John Stewart. When I first tried my head felt like it was going to explode from the pain and confusion and anxiety caused by the layers of irony his show regularly contained. Which gave me an insight into the minds of some right-wingers which I can apply today to Trump supporters who are angry at Hilary for supposedly being dishonest despite the fact that she's one of the most honest candidates who ran this year and Trump is hands down the mot dishonest. How to explain that cognitive dissonance?

From my brain op experience the explanation is simple. It hurts too much to try and sort out the multi-layered intellectual aspects of Hilary's policy statements and laundry list of plans and perspectives she articulates and embodies. But Trump makes it easy. Short, staccato, simplistic statements—even when totally contradictory to other short, staccato, simplistic statements within the same speech—express anger that is obvious and clear and simple, so his supporters can think, hey I'm angry too, this guy speaks for me. Hilary's anger, when she expresses any, is way more nuanced and multi-faceted, demanding interpretation and analysis, extended reasoning and retention of multiple facts and references.

When I could finally watch John Stewart again it was a relief, but I was much more aware of how his humor, like Hilary's speeches, require a baseline acceptance of a complicated worldview based on wide a wide knowledge of facts, not just feelings and generalities and simplistic solutions. Build a wall. Ban all Muslims, etc. The Dems used to be experts at keeping their message simple and accessible, but too often in recent decades they seem compelled to complicate simple messages with all the nuance reality includes but politics can't contain without losing a whole contingent of humans whose brains actually hurt when confronted with so much to take in.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Me and my two oldest "kids" a year or two ago, at Geoff Young's gallery in Great Barrington Mass...