Monday, October 29, 2018


Hasan Minhaj's comedy special HOMECOMING KING is more of a one-man autobiographical show than the usual stand-up comic's TV special. It tells a coherent story with an engaging arc and a satisfying pay off, while all the time slipping in big laughs and even epiphanies (he's more of a teacher than a comic sometimes (check out his new topical weekly show, a great variation on the talk show format)).

Minhaj takes chances and they don't always work but they sure are fresh. HOMECOMING is like a really funny but equally enlightening TED talk without the pretentions and slickness. Well worth watching.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


My good friend Hubert Selby Jr. used to remind me that you can't have up without down, or right without left, or pleasure without pain, or success without failure, or what we think of as "bad" without what we think of as "good." I'm thinking of that because despite the onslaught of "bad" news, "good" things keep happening as well.

And for me, one of them is this movie: TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE. Not because it's an epic original work of art, but because it's a small but significant step toward tolerance and inclusion and acceptance and fairness and more, by taking a genre plot—the high school romantic comedy with all its familiar tropes—and adding one unique element: an Asian-American playing the lead.

The most exceptional thing about that is it isn't in any way a part of the plot (there's only one fleeting reference to racism and not aimed at her). It's just a given, accepted as such with no fanfare or extra attention. Lana Condor as the lead character—a high school girl in love with love but afraid of the real thing—owns this film with her acting and her quiet charisma (talk about a star is born).

But all the acting is great (especially Anna Cathcart as the little sister and John Corbett as the dad, who is always a delight to see on screen, and Noah Centineo as a possible beau). As is the direction, editing, cinematography, and soundtrack. It's a gem of a genre flick, worth watching.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


me (in my then favorite vintage shirt with a circle of stars on one collar) and dear friend, artist Susan Campbell (who did the covers for my books: CANT BE WRONG and SWING THEORY), in Maryland or DC back in the day (1980s or '90s)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


"Don't cut what you can untie." —Joseph Joubert (from his Notebooks, translated by Paul Auster)

Monday, October 22, 2018


As usual, when I need a little break from, well, pretty much everything these days, I watch a movie. This one I missed in the theaters but caught on demand. And I was glad I did. Director and co-writer Atsuko Hirayanogi has created in OH LUCY! a blend of humor and deep disappointment that surprises at every turn. Another female director and screenwriter we should all be aware of.

The film is a unique little work of art, the writing and editing perfectly matched by the outstanding cast led by Shinobu Terajima as the conflicted lead character who flips from often typical Japanese restraint and reticence to unexpected expansive and impulsive originality. You've never seen anything quite like her character before.

The film is set in Japan and Southern California and is in Japanese (with English subtitles) and English. The cast represents both cultures as well, with Josh Hartnett in a pivotal role, abetted by a great cameo by Megan Mullally, for the English speakers, and Shioli Kutsuna, Kaho Minami, and Koji Yakusho in the Japanese contingent.

If you like to see films that don't quite fit into any genre and display creative nerve in the chances they take, this might be for you. It was for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


another way to play, POEMS 1960-2017, by michael lally (published by seven stories press), is one of the best books of 2018. Michael Lally, a fearless poet, with strength of narrative, creates an infinity figure 8 between himself & the reader. A love poet, protest poet, personal poet, chronicler of family history, poet of the "other."
A revolutionary poet, poet of many forms, erudite, fluent, honest: Here's the entire poem of "NOW I'M ONLY THIRTY-TWO": "from 5 to 30 it was / only women, then / for almost one year / it was only men / now it's like the first / 5 years and back / to everyone again." The last stanza of his poem, "DREAMING OF THE POTATO," shows his excellent ear: "With people there has been trouble / With the potato we have been happy."
"MY LIFE," p. 45-56, an epic, exhilarating rhapsody! Amen.
His poetry from whatever city he writes, from whatever place he lives, gives me solace: a kindred soul who stands up for the outsider, the poet, for me who often feels alone.
I like "SPORTS HEROES, COPS AND LACE," with its deepness of heart & dignity, love of the other & love of the father. There's a warmth in this poem & in the following "HOLIDAY HELL"; humor in "THE SOUND OF POLICE CARS."
In "WHERE DO WE BELONG," set in Ireland, he writes about Paddy Lally, his relative & guide to his Irish ancestors: "I fell in love with his / way & his manner & the fact that / he obviously was addicted as I / am to words on the page as they / express worlds in the minds & the / lives of others so far from us --" Words: a common bond. Michael Lally is a brilliant American poet!
10 15 18
Harry E. Northup

Monday, October 15, 2018


"Fill you bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity."

—Lao-tsu (from Tao te Ching
translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Sunday, October 14, 2018


What makes this Netflix limited (what we used to call "TV mini-") series worth watching is the acting, most consistently Emma Stone's. The storyline is so over the top, it's like this is the last season of some show that's been running for twelve years and the writers have so run out of ideas they finally "jump the shark"—only it's just ten episodes that use the settings and characters of classic film genres to explore their two main characters' characters, played by Stone and Jonah Hill.

Hill is terrific too, except for the film noir episode where he misses beats and Bogart-style opportunities in his (or the director's) choice to only play one note. Other than that, watching the two leads interact was delightful to me, especially since the supporting cast includes Sally Field playing a guru, Justin Theroux playing her mad scientist son and almost stealing the show, and Sonoyo Mizuno playing his co-scientist and lover in a star making performance.

Once I surrendered to it, I wanted more.  

Saturday, October 13, 2018


If you've never seen J. Stephen Brantley's 2013 play PIRIRA performed, there's a production of it in my part of Jersey that you shouldn't miss (it runs until October 28th) at Luna Stage in a section of what we used to call "The Valley" where Orange and West Orange collide.

Directed and cast by Ari Laura Keith, this staging is finely tuned and the results are impactful, as intended. The cast pulls off the challenging and at times nuanced choreography of articulating two initially seemingly only slightly related stories. Without being too "clever" the stories suck you into the vortex their juxtaposition creates, until it's too late to not give in.

The four members of the ensemble live up to the demands of their characters' arcs, even those I was initially suspicious of (as written characters and of the actors playing them). But I left totally impressed by Naja Selby-Morton, John P. Keller, Kevis Hillocks, and a wonderful discovery (for me) David Gow whose seamless performance seemed to hold the play together.

I laughed, I cried, as the old cliche goes, but I really did. If you live anywhere near Luna Stage (555 Valley Road, West Orange NJ), I mean anywhere within driving distance, get thee to this theater and this production of PIRIRA.

Friday, October 12, 2018



With Ed at The Skyline Faggots commune, Ted, a
young black man, called me Foxy Miss Michael
as he brought out a box of jewelry and put a tiara
on me, then looked surprised as I picked out some
clip-on earrings and a necklace. Someone gave me
a mirror and my turn to be surprised, by the rush
when I dug myself. Someone else got a big piece of
purple velvet I wrapped around me, gliding around
the room posing, moving in ways I never had before,
discovering a whole other side to myself, not man,
as I’ve known that, not woman, shocking the gay
men with my unexpected grace and poise. A young
redhead said I looked like an English Princess. Earlier
he read a poem ending Faggots of the world ignite!  

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Went into the theater with high expectations because of the raves my friends have been giving this film. The fourth remake of a 1932 film, and the third with the same name. If my memory serves me correctly, this one is more closely based on the 1976 version with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand that I was alone among my friends in liking at the time, mostly because people felt Streisand overwhelmed Kristofferson, deliberately.

This new one stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and neither is gonna get overwhelmed by the other, these are two great talents matching chops. As usual, Cooper's acting is seamless. Gaga's often is a revelation, though there's a few scenes where she's not as believable as the rest. But her singing and musicianship is so powerful on the big screen, I felt like I was at a private concert for my benefit and was grateful.

Cooper's singing was surprisingly good as well. Just to experience their singing is worth the price of the movie. And his directing was also good, with only a few stumbles, including length, he could have cut it by at least twenty minutes, if not more, and made the same impact, or a better one. But his casting was smart, with some surprisingly poignant performances by several unexpected cast members, like Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chapelle.

All in all, worth seeing on the big screen.  

Monday, October 8, 2018


The children being held in prison camps and the adults being held in prisons around the country, because they sought asylum or a better life in this country, are mostly descendants of the indigenous peoples of the "Americas" who should be free to cross any mythical "border" created by "white" Europeans and their descendants on land that wasn't theirs to begin with.

Friday, October 5, 2018


Michael Moore's latest documentary, FAHRENHEIT 11/9, does what Moore's films always do for those of us who share his goals and values: scores points we've been waiting to see scored for our side and exposes truths the media overlooks or distorts about how bad the other side really is.

But in the age of Trump, it feels like not enough. It's worth seeing for a lot of reasons, and it does its best to motivate audiences to take action. But despite its partly accurate, party selective evidence that the Dems are at fault too, it seems as lacking in usable focus and organizing methods as the Dems too often do.

I'd love to see a younger filmmaker, preferably not a white straight male, bring more focus and clarity to solutions for the dilemmas we are in. Just look at the poster above and the film title and you can see how the Repubs and the right in general often do a better job of engaging and focusing their audiences and constituents through their slogans and soundbites and repetitive catchphrases and talking points.

Still, I recommend seeing it for its many strong scenes and even revelations, and to support Moore's ongoing attempts to educate the public even if it's too divided I fear for this film to change any hearts and minds at this point.

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Me and my first born, my daughter Caitlin, not long after her birth in Iowa City in 1968.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Hey, my oldest son plays bass behind Greg Farley, who I'm a big fan of (my son and Greg Farley, as well as the drummer Michael Lesko), so I'm gonna be at this gig at Bowery Electric  tomorrow evening, maybe see you there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


"And it is strange how all forget when they have once made things or themselves to be very different."  —Gertrude Stein (from The Making Of Americans)