Thursday, January 30, 2020


Photo of me alone taken by poet Burt Kimmelman about 2014? One with me and my youngest, Flynn, taken by photographer Robert Zuckerman around 2004?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


HARRIET is worth seeing for Cynthia Eriva's performance in the title role. She pulls off the transformations of aging and experience so well, she deserves the awards Renee Zellweger has been getting for Best Actress in a movie in 2019. In fact, Eriva's performance holds the movie together singlehandedly, despite some challengingly contrived fictional scenes that the real drama of Harriet Tubman's life and accomplishments didn't need.

Thankfully there's a lot of good acting in this film, besides Eriva's, and some powerfully emotional and dramatically tense scenes that do express the reality of this icon's accomplishments. And I'm grateful it was made even with its flaws. Maybe it will move people to ask what's holding up the transformation of the twenty dollar bill from the present one with the image of Andrew Jackson, the man responsible for The Trail of Tears and other atrocities, to the new one with the image of Harriet Tubman, savior of slaves who outwitted and helped defeat the purveyors of one of humankind's worst evils.


Saturday, January 25, 2020


This is one of the best movies of 2019 and justifiably worthy of its Oscar nomination for best short documentary. Full disclosure, it was directed by an old friend from my New York and LA days (though we haven't seen each other in person since the last century) Carol Dysinger, who deserves all the accolades she and the film are getting. Look it up, watch it, and be moved, impressed, enlightened, delighted, scared, and mindful of the realities for girls in Afghanistan.


In 1954, I watched the McCarthy/Army hearings with my father on the new wonder, our TV with a thirteen inch screen that broadcast in black-and-white. I was mesmerized, as was, it seemed, the nation. The outcome changed the direction our country took in the years that followed. I watched the Nixon impeachment hearings on a color TV in the commune I was a part of and was impressed with the evidence and witness testimony that led to Nixon's resignation and changed the course of the nation for some years.

The Clinton impeachment seemed like a farce in comparison, but still fascinating both politically and theatrically even though it changed little. In the current impeachment "trial" in The Senate over the past three days the Democrats have been making their case at times with the gravity and eloquence of the McCarthy hearings and the Nixon Watergate hearings, as well as at times inspiring oratory. The argument has been made methodically with reason, logic, and detailed and thorough evidence.

But, unfortunately, I have little faith anything will change, partly because TV doesn't command the attention or audience it once did, nor do reasoned arguments based on factual evidence. I had a hard time myself staying tuned into the entire three days of laying out the case. The repetitiveness, though perhaps necessary to make the main points of the argument unarguable, was not "sexy" or "dramatic" in the ways the media has conditioned their audience to expect.

Maybe it wouldn't have been as nuanced or reasonable, but if everyone on the Dem side who spoke had played a card from the Repubs and used the words "traitor" and "unpatriotic" about the president repeatedly, maybe that would have resonated for the undecided or tired-of-politicians-and-the-whole-impeachment-process folks. Unless the president's defenders commit a crime of violence in their presentation starting tomorrow, I don't see the Dems winning the vote on witnesses and evidence. Hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, January 23, 2020


My oldest friend shared this photo online of Gruning's, a restaurant in our hometown of South Orange NJ, famous for its homemade ice cream and candies. This shot is before I began working there in my teens (the 1950s) as a busboy, and later dishwasher, week nights and Sunday (I worked after school and Saturdays at my father's home repair business for "room and board", i.e. for living at home once I was sixteen). I quit after a while because the manager objected to the ways I interacted with the customers, sometimes too friendly, sometimes too confrontational. The beginning of a pattern perhaps.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


THE FAREWELL is a beautifully made little movie, better than some of the Oscar nominees, and for my taste more satisfying. Though a family story with some of the familiar family story tropes, the plot is not typically generic like a lot of flicks, in fact I feel confident in guaranteeing you've never seen anything quite like it before. The directing, acting, cinematography, and editing, all serve the sense of total authenticity and originality that permeates this film.

Awkwafina received a Golden Globes for her performance in it, but the veteran and famous (in China) actress who plays her mother, Shuzhen Zhao, deserves an award too, as well as the entire cast. I'm happy my fellow SAG actors rewarded the PARASITE ensemble with the best cast prize this past Sunday night (in an otherwise pretty white winners circle). I would like to see all involved in THE FAREWELL—especially director/writer Lulu Wang—rewarded too.

Watch it. I believe you'll be glad you did.  

Monday, January 20, 2020



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

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Two night-before views of the sign for my gig today at 11AM. The audience was terrific, and kind to my fumbling, and I was able to make a few of the many points, and read a few of the many poems, I meant to and feel like it held together in the end.

[lighter photo by Tommy Nichols, and greenish one by, no surprise, Mick O'Malley]

Saturday, January 18, 2020


I'm trying to catch up with the movies that have won awards and been nominated for Oscars in various categories. The latest I watched is JUDY. I can see why Renee Zellweger is getting critical acclaim and awards attention. She seems to be in every scene of the film and it's hers to win or lose. She commits to the role and pulls off an approximation of Judy Garland's look and mannerisms toward the end of her life. And Zellwegr does a decent job of singing.

But she misses the charismatic neediness of Garland I think, that red hot gleam of please love me in Judy's eyes (Zellweger instead does a lot of squinting). She comes close in one or two phrases in her singing to Garland's unique combination of rock-solid mature tone with a child's vulnerability. I would have preferred Garland's recorded voice with Zellweger lip synching, but maybe that's just me.

The story has some fictional aspects, one of which actually works: a made-up older male gay couple, used to represent Garland's connection to her many fans among gay men at the time. The scenes with them are the most moving and engaging in the film, again, for me.

I can see Zellweger winning the Oscar for taking on such a challenging role in a movie that the actress basically carries from start to finish, at times captivatingly, if that's a word. I found it worth watching despite its flaws.

Thursday, January 16, 2020


my friend the opera singer Amber Daniel and me
in my apartment with my book:

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


my oldest, Caitlin, in the hat and big smile at a demonstration in Massachusetts 
my second oldest, Miles, playing bass behind Greg Farley, with Michael Lesko on drums at an outdoor gig in Massachusetts in warmer weather

Monday, January 13, 2020


JOKER got the most Oscar nominations of any film of 2019. I find that depressing. I have friends who loved it, but I found it excruciatingly painful to watch. Some scenes were well shot and acted, but some looked like they were copied from a badly contrived and executed Charles Bronson vigilante movie from the era the JOKER's set in.

The underlying message seemed to be that brutal and deadly violence is justified if it's done in the spirit of revenge for harm's done or imagined, and that uprisings against economic inequality and political corruption and moral bankruptcy are fueled by the thrill of violence (THE DARK KNIGHT also had an underlying message of justified violence very much in the using-fascist-methods-to-defeat-fascism vein).

I can see why Joaquin Phoenix's performance is being feted by critics and award givers, but to me it was self-indulgent to the extreme. And I understand, I think, the arguments for how the film shines a light on the need for society to address the problems and consequences of untreated mental illness, but to me the film seems more directed toward blaming mental illness for a lot of society's problems and violence.

We all have our own taste and you may love JOKER, or at least be impressed by it. Not me.

Sunday, January 12, 2020


On next Sunday, January 19th, at 11AM I will be reading some poems and riffing on the history of racial prejudice in my part of Jersey and elsewhere in my lifetime (from the 1940s on). There'll be a Q&A after (followed by a reception with refreshments), at The Ethical Culture Society, 516 Prospect Street (Parker Avenue is the cross street), Maplewood NJ. Free to the public.

Saturday, January 11, 2020


Yvonne de la Vega's daughter was kind enough to post on Facebook these excerpts from her mother's diary from 1989 and '90 that mention me in a way that brings back the early days of our deep friendship and connection.

Thursday, January 9, 2020


I heard about Edd's passing yesterday but wanted to make sure it was confirmed. I first encountered him in the 1950s, like most people alive then did. I was a teenager watching him play a teenager on TV in the show 77 SUNSET STRIP. I can still remember the theme song and the solo hit Edd had about his character Kookie's famous pompadour pampering with Connie Stevens singing: "Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb."

It's the only reason I ever watched the show the few times I did. He played a young guy who parked cars at the titular address, an incidental almost glorified extra role. But he made such an impact in it, at a time when teenagers were becoming influential consumers, that they built the role up and it made him a star.

I later met him when I moved to Santa Monica in 1982 to work in film and on TV. By then he had crashed and burned, going from a penthouse in NYC and a mansion in the hills above Hollywood with a swimming pool and tennis court, to living off the freeway in a crime ridden neighborhood of LA with bars on his windows and an old worn-out car in the driveway.

I visited him there often, as he did me in my then nicer digs in Santa Monica. It wasn't long before he was on the mend financially and was able to move to a safer place and a buy a better car and he never stopped moving forward. He gave me a lot of good advice about my own roller coaster finances with my up-and-down career(s), and teased me constantly.

I'm happy I got to see him after I moved back East twenty years ago, pretty much every time I visited LA. He was a good person and a good friend, may he rest in the power of his positive example on me and so many others. Condolences to all his friends and family and fans.


I met him a few times in my "Hollywood years" (the 1980s and '90s) and even got to hang out with him and a couple of mutual friends for an evening here and there. As you can imagine he was a pretty funny guy, and in my experience a sweet man. I have friends who were close to him and loved him, and my condolences go out to them, and to all his family and friends and fans.


I'm in the process of catching up with the movies I missed from 2019. MARRIAGE STORY has already gotten some nominations as well as critical acclaim. And though Laura Dern won the Golden Globe for Actress in a Supporting Role, Adam Driver has gotten the most attention. And he's good in it, but everyone is good in it. Especially Scarlett Johansson, who transcends the sometimes precious story and the other great performances to turn in an award worthy display of movie acting chops.
A lot of good acting in HUSTLERS too, though the story-telling isn't on the level of MARRIAGE STORY (despite Noah Baumbach's occasional indulgence, or more than occasional). But Constance Wu, despite her obvious commitment to the role, sometimes had me doubting her character's authenticity (not good in a movie based on real people), while Jennifer Lopez's performance had me totally forgetting the star and buying the character.

Neither of these films are award winners for my taste, but of the two MARRIAGE STORY is considered the most worth watching. Though in my experience almost any movie is worth watching for something.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020


Another highlight of The Golden Globes was Awkwafina, who is the highlight in anything she's a part of. But the fact that they had to keep saying she's the first Asian-American actor to win a Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture —Musical or Comedy (we won't even get into what/how movies get into this category) just compounded my deep disappointment that in 2020 we're still dealing with "firsts" in any category (in the GGs "first solo woman" to win for best score, in this season's The Nutcracker ballet "first African-American" in the lead girl role etc.)!


I recorded the Golden Globes to watch later and the highlights for me were:

when Kate Blanchett walked onto the stage with that dress, like an art deco peacock had just landed;

Salma Hayek's word play mispronunciation gag was so funny I had to rewind and watch it again a few times as I laughed myself into tears;

some of Ellen DeGeneres's jokes, especially about calling her husband Mark etc.;

all the beauty on display from Brad Pitt and Jason Momoa to his wife Lisa Bonet and her daughter Zoe Kravitz to Kerry Washington and too many others to name but pleasant to watch.

Sunday, January 5, 2020


I don't think this is Linda Rondstat's performance of this Mariachi song from the documentary, but either way it'll give you a taste of her chops in yet another branch of traditional music:


Like the quote on the poster says, this CNN documentary about Linda Ronstadt made me "fall in love with her all over again." It's not the best documentary film I've seen, but there are moments in it when that voice and the songs she picks to showcase it, hit the heights of artistic expression.

I've been digging her voice since her Stone Pony days, and got to see her perform in The Pirates Of Penzance with Kevin Kline on Broadway before the film was made (and go backstage, I knew Kevin then and he introduced me to her). She could, as this film shows, sing any kind of music from blues and rock and country, to operettas and jazz and Mexican traditional.

The high point for me comes in the footage of her with a Mexican mariachi band. My head just about exploded from the power of her sound and the joy it overwhelmed me with. I watched it on demand and couldn't fast forward past the ads so didn't get the full impact I would had I'd seen it in a theater, but even so, happy I got to see it any way.

Friday, January 3, 2020


"—and then I felt down in my soul the clear and unmistakable conviction to disobey all, and pursue my own way."  —Walt Whitman (from Specimen Days)

Thursday, January 2, 2020


On Sunday, January 19th, at 11AM I will be reading some poems and riffing on the history of racial prejudice in my part of Jersey in my lifetime (from the 1940s on). There'll be a Q&A after (followed by a reception with refreshments), at The Ethical Culture Society, 516 Prospect Street (Parker Avenue is the cross street), Maplewood NJ. Free to the public.