Thursday, January 31, 2019

These are the front and back covers of the second edition of CATCH MY BREATH, which came out in 1995. The first edition came out in 1978 after being finalized in 1974 and the pages printed by the publisher, the late Jim Haining. But the building that housed the press burned down before the pages could be bound, so it all had to be redone. By the time it was all handset again and bound, the entire run had already been pre-sold, so it was never even available to anyone but those who'd already preordered it.

Jim swore he'd do another edition with a bigger run and finally did in '95. That one had an afterword by Jane DeLynn and a back cover photo taken by Susan Tenant outside the first house I lived in (rented) in Santa Monica, after I'd just turned 40 and moved with my kids (and second wife, not their mother)  to "L.A." I used the photo for a headshot in what was then the first years of a TV and film acting "career" which wasn't going that well at the time. Perhaps my partly menacing look had something to do with that.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


"I am endorsing any Democrat that survives the primary. I don't care who they are. Kamala, Bernie, Warren, Beto, Nina, Biden, even the worst of them all, Gillibrand. Hell, nominate Al Franken for all I care. I don't fucking give a shit anymore. All I want to see, is for the left to STFU about the primary once it's fucking done and close ranks to boot out the GOP. SUPREME COURT. ENVIRONMENT. HUMAN RIGHTS are at stake. These. Are. Bigger. Issues. Than. Your. Identity. Stop splitting hairs about whose socialism is better and become the powerful voting block you are. Why are you letting Roger Stone and his Nazi Hoardes rule this country on Putin's Dime? So the Democrats are half as bad as the GOP. Ok. Still not full bad. Not as downright dangerous. Once you have taken out the Nazis, then come for the Neoliberals. Geezus get your priorities straight and stop being so easy to divide and conquer."   —a friend (who put it better than I could)

Friday, January 25, 2019


There should be an award for movies that defy the odds in even just getting made. CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? and SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (two titles my post-op aging rapidly brain sometimes confuses from their seemingly similarly apologetic tone) are two movies that deserve kudos for just making it to any screen.

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME because it's a story about an aggravatingly ill-mannered middle-aged lesbian writer of obscure books who forges literary letters by more famous authors to sell. Imagine being at the meeting trying to finance that film and get it directed (perfectly) by a woman (Marielle Heller)!

And SORRY TO BOTHER YOU because it's a film from a black perspective we haven't seen before (Marxist fabulism? "Black" sci-fi Jonathan Swift class analysis of contemporary corporate criminal practices? etc.) written and directed by a "black" man (Boots Riley) who owns his economic theme(s).

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU is the most original movie of 2018, and for that alone should be among the nominations for Best Picture, but it also stars Lakeith Stanfield (who deserved a past nomination for his role in GET OUT) who easily could and should have been nominated for his amazing performance in SORRY TO BOTHER YOU that nailed the satire, comedy, reality, and so subtly nuanced aspects of a very broad themed flick. (And Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer make this movie worth watching as well).

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? has won a nomination and some awards for Melissa McCarthy's performance and Richard E. Grant's (Best Supporting Actor nod, as they say) but Dolly Wells deserves one too (though she also has been getting some attention and mentions). But SORRY TO BOTHER YOU deserves a lot more attention than it's received,

If you haven't seen either of these films, do.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


The Oscar nominations are always full of disappointments as well as reasons to celebrate. Spike Lee finally getting a Best Director nomination is one of the latter. As I pointed out in my review of BLACKKKLANSMAN Lee made some choices on this film that made it his most commercially viable movie so far, and it worked with the Academy.

BLACK PANTHER getting a well deserved Best Picture nomination is another reason to celebrate, but the lack of a Best Director or any acting nominations for it is a disappointment.  Another disappointment, from my perspective, is Lady Gaga getting a Best Actress nom. Were some of her scenes in A STAR IS BORN Oscar worthy in terms of her acting? Yes. Were some other scenes of hers cringe worthy and nowhere near Oscar quality? Also yes.

And the whole point of the Academy raising the number of Best Picture nominations to a possible ten from the traditional five was to allow for widely popular movies to be added to the usual more arty (whether faux or real) contenders. The film that fits that slot most obviously in 2018 is CRAZY RICH ASIANS which should have been nominated not only for Best Picture but for all the acting categories and definitely for Director. And the Academy had two more slots open before they even got to ten so that one makes no sense.

I could go on, but it's all pretty incidental in light of what's going on in our country and the world right now. I just wanted to add my two cents to the reactions to the nominations, and omissions, for what is the major event in the industry I spent so much time in.

Monday, January 21, 2019


When Martin Luther King was shot I felt the
sudden shift in the atmosphere, like trying to
breathe underwater. It was three years since
Malcom X’s assassination and my new radical
friends and reading had opened my eyes to the
realities of class in the USA. Malcolm verbally
attacked white folks with impunity, but the
minute he decided it was not about race but
about the poor and the wealthy, BAM! King
spent years fighting racism and despite attempts
on his life and tons of threats seemed invulner-
able, but as soon as he organized a poor people’s
campaign talking about the haves and have-nots,
BAM! I wondered if the Marxists had it right.

(C) Michael Lally 2018

Saturday, January 19, 2019


This should be on everybody's best movies of 2018 list. It's at the top of mine. It should be among the nominations of all the movie award shows for best movie of the year and should win a few. GREEN BOOK was a feel good look about race relations in this country from the perspective of a "white" man, and we sure do need feel good movies in these times, but we also need, or at least I do, works of art that express clearly and directly the perspective of "black" people dealing with racism of all kinds, and THE HATE U GIVE does that almost perfectly.

George Tillman Jr.'s direction of Aubrey Wells adaptation of Angie Thomas's novel brings an original vision to an, unfortunately, old story. The cast is superb, especially young Amandla Stenberg who plays the lead character with so many levels of emotion and expression, it's like a lesson in how to carry a movie as its star. And Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby as her parents could carry another movie on their own.

I cry a lot watching movies, but only a few times in my life have I been brought to sobbing. Watching THE HATE U GIVE was one of those times.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Michael Schiavo emailed me my most recently published poem as it appears in his online poetry mag, The Equalizer, so I could share it (more cynical than I usually allow myself to be, this was written last year):

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


I forgot to post about a new (2018) short poem that was published in the online poetry magazine The Equalizer (yes, like the Denzel Washington movie, only Michael Schiavo has been doing the mag since before the movie(s)).

It's the third incarnation of the magazine and it is huge (divided into sections that could each be an anthology), with some of my favorite poets (e.g. Geoff Young)  included, so well worth checking out. I can't get a direct link to my poem, and the magazine site won't let my limited technical skills copy and paste it.

So if you want to see it, go to this link and then to section 3.2 and page 69 to find it. (And fair warning, I was not feeling too positive when I wrote it.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Christian Bale deserves whatever awards he wins this season for his portrayal of Dick Cheney at various periods of his life. And Amy Adams as his wife, Lynne Cheney, deserves her share of any award Bale wins too, because her impeccable performance only adds to the strength of his.

As for Adam McKay's direction, he repeats some of the techniques he used in THE BIG SHORT in VICE, but he also wrote VICE and though it's a pretty terrific history lesson about Dick Cheney's inordinate influence and impact on the wrong directions our country has taken in the last several decades, for me it could have been edited better.

But VICE is totally worth seeing, not only for Bale's and Adams' performances but definitely for them.

Monday, January 14, 2019


Ran into this the other day, the German edition (translator Udo Breger) of my 1975 Blue Wind Press book (second edition 1977) ROCKY DIES YELLOW.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


I saw where people were posting then and now photos and thought I'd share then and now drawings.
The first done by my good friend Don Bachardy in 1982 or '83, right after I moved to Santa Monica. He had me sit at his studio behind his and Christopher Isherwood's house in Santa Monica Canyon. I look sad partly because I was tired after sitting for hours while he sketched. It's a huge portrait I couldn't afford to buy, so this is taken from the photo of it Don gave me after it was completed.
The latest one, big but not quite as huge as Bachardy's, was done very recently by my good friend Tim Lyons, from a group photo taken at one of my recent California readings. Obviously a happier me.

Friday, January 11, 2019


If you're anywhere near Montclair NJ Saturday, January 12th, at 7PM (that's tomorrow when I'm posting this but might be tonight when you're reading it), I'm taking part (as the featured reader and selling and signing my new book) in a Spiral Bridge open mic poetry reading resurrection, part of the Naked Reading series at Outpost In The Burbs at 40 South Fullerton Avenue. Come read a poem of your own or just to say hi.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


On the most superficial level, GREEN BOOK (the story of a "black" pianist recording star being chauffeured through the segregated South of 1962 on a concert tour), is a  "feel-good" romantic comedy (the romance being a bromance between Viggo Mortensen's driver Tony Lip (Vallelonga) and Mahershala Ali's pianist Don Shirley), with lots of comic dialogue, and character and scenic exaggeration. If you view it that way, the movie's almost perfect (thanks to the outstanding cast led by the aforementioned stars and to the comedy director/write Peter Farrelly).

Crack the surface though, and you have some folks objecting to the perspective being Vallelonga's (though really the story is framed by his son Nick's memories and tapes of his father's recollections) rather than Shirley's (who was considered a musical genius by some contemporaries). And that alone distorts the reality of what Shirley endured and overcame as a "black" "gay" classically trained pianist in the South in 1962, which pisses off a lot of activists for racial justice and truth.

But I have lots of African-American and Italian-American friends who love the movie. And others who object to the stereotypes of the Italian-American "goomba" (as they used to say) or the major "black" character's behavior and attitudes being viewed from a "white" perspective. Shirley's family claims the portrait of Shirley the movie presents is false. And I can back that up, as I knew the man.

When my second oldest brother Jimmy (who the family called "Buddy") got home from WWII he decided to go to Catholic U in DC on The GI Bill to study music. He met Don Shirley there and they became friends and sometimes played together (my brother was "a reed man" mostly playing clarinet and sax, though he could play almost any instrument).

So right there the movie as reality fails, because it posits the film character Shirley as being totally naive about the segregated South even though DC after the war WAS the segregated South, and the suburbs surrounding it in Virginia and Maryland even more so. But my brother and Shirley and their friend Al Rossi (and I'm sure other returning WWII vets) were dismissive of segregation.

My brother married an Italian-American woman from DC in 1949, which scandalized our Irish-American clan at the time, so that probably influenced his attitude, I remember on our family's first trip to DC in '48 when I was six to meet his fiancé's family, he drove us past the main hotel for "blacks" with a huge lit-up sign on it's roof saying "THE WHITE LAW HOTEL." He wanted us to see how messed up legal segregation was and how folks found ways to object.

A few years later, my brother told me a story about Don putting on a woman's kerchief (I don't remember about the rest of his outfit, but the image of Don in a kerchief stuck with me) and the two of them getting on a segregated bus (or was it trolley then?) in DC and causing a commotion with their display of (fake) interracial dating.

I started playing piano at four and was pretty good as a kid playing classical and popular tunes and have a memory of playing for Don (which is what I remember he told me to call him) and him making me feel appreciated. Though I didn't reciprocate when in my late teens I saw Don play with his trio and bought his albums. At the time I only listened to "progressive" jazz and found all other music inferior, including Don's pop (to my ear at the time) styling of classical and jazz and pop songs.

The movie emphasizes the extreme differences between the two main characters, so only Tony can be loose and intentionally, outlandishly funny, while its version of Shirley is uptight and dry and aloof. The plot needs that contrast to have an arc for the characters and a reason for the film, otherwise it's just (as Shirley's family posits) the story of a "black" music star hiring a "white" driver for a concert tour (for a year by the way, not the two months the movie makes it for obvious dramatic reasons).

There is a reason Tony remembered this job, not only did he claim it changed his attitudes about race, but also it was a unique experience for him to work as a chauffeur (and bodyguard) for a "black" star. In his world that was an anomaly. Shirley's family insists it wasn't in Don's world, and thus for them the focus on this trip is overblown in relation to Shirley's life story.

Though I had a hundred quibbles with the supposed factual historic details (I was stationed in the military in legally segregated South Carolina when Shirley was on that tour with Tony and I played in "black" clubs, some of which were like the "black" roadhouse depicted in the film, but others were as fancy as any "white" establishments, same for the "black" hotels), I got immediately that the movie was a comic confection inspired by one man's experience (Tony Vallelonga) and it's impact on his son, and enjoyed it with the caveat that its version of Don Shirley was not the man I'd interacted with.

Monday, January 7, 2019


Here's the link to the archives of the LA Pacifica radio station where I was interviewed by Paul Leiber when I was out there but didn't air until yesterday. When you click on the page go to the search box and type in: Why Poetry. Then on that page click on January 6th and enjoy.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


THE FAVOURITE is on a lot of lists of the top ten movies of 2018 and some critics have it as the best of the year. Among my friends though the reactions are mixed, as is mine. No one I know or have read disputes the excellence of the acting by the three female leads or the gratitude most of us feel to have a film where the top three leads are all female.

Olivia Colman's role as the queen is especially brilliant in ways we've rarely seen in films before and never in a starring female role. My guess is she gets nominated for an Oscar. It was worth it for me to see it on the big screen because the cinematography is outstanding as well. Where the mixed responses come in is the writing.

Based on the actual history of three real women, including the rumors of the queen having an affair with at least one of them, the embellishments I could accept, for the sake of the story (e.g. the absence of the queen's husband in the entire flick, or the made up poisoning and being dragged by a horse etc.), but the inconsistencies always get me in scripts.

The most glaring one in THE FAVOURITE to me was Emma Stone's character's brilliance in out thinking and maneuvering the other two throughout the movie except for a giant lapse toward the end where she acts and behaves like someone without a clue. That kind of thing in a film or TV show always makes me squirm with embarrassment for the character, the actor, and the writer who set it in motion.

That's on the writers (first-timer Deborah Davis and TV writer Tony McNamara) and the director Yorgos Lanthimus. Still, there's enough gender role reversals in this film to delight anyone who's been longing for a wider variety of female types and behaviors on the big screen (though some women friends squirmed at female characters acting at times like the worst of male villains).

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


The first review of ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017 (only much more than a review) is the lead article on The Poetry Foundation's website front page today! Burt Kimmelman is a fine poet and scholar; it's an honor to have my poetry reviewed by him. Check it out here

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


On January 12th at 7PM the Spiral Bridge open mic poetry readings series will be resurrected for one night at which I'll be the featured guest reading from, and signing copies of, ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017. It's at Outpost In The Burbs, 40 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair NJ.