Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cinematic Underachievers of the 2000s.

When filmmakers don't try as hard as they should or try too hard (or, in some cases, make what they think someone else will like); here's a list in no particular order:
1. DOMINO
2. SPIDER-MAN 3
3. BIG FISH
4. PAYCHECK
5. THE ISLAND
6. THE BAD NEWS BEARS
7. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE/THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE
8. ELIZABETHTOWN
9. THE WEATHER MAN
10. GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK

Random list of some favorite films of 2000s.

Posted this originally to USENET--In no particular order: 1. THE KING OF KONG 2. ZODIAC 3. THERE WILL BE BLOOD 4. WHEN THE LEVEE BROKE 5. SPIDER-MAN 1 and 2 6. LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA 7. IN HER SHOES 8. ATONEMENT 9. PUBLIC ENEMIES 10. UP 11. CORALINE 12. THE HURT LOCKER 13. JARHEAD 14. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN 15. A SERIOUS MAN 16. ADVENTURELAND 17. PLANET TERROR 18. HOT FUZZ 19. BATMAN BEGINS/THE DARK KNIGHT 20. TETRO 21. A MIGHTY HEART 22. ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER/VOLVER/BROKEN EMBRACES 23. THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE 24. CITY OF GOD 25. 3:10 TO YUMA 26. TROUBLE THE WATER 27. JUNO 28. WHIP IT 29. THE ROAD TO PERDITION 30. HARSH TIMES 31. WALL*E 32. TYSON 33. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY/SWEENEY TODD 34. CAPOTE 35. FANTASTIC MR. FOX 36. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE 37. FAST FOOD NATION 38. BROKEN FLOWERS 39. THE BEAT
THAT MY HEART SKIPPED 40. PARANOID PARK
Notable reissues of the decade: THE BIG RED ONE (extended version), DIVA

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Oprah Book Club, Jonathan Franzen and a lesson the L.A. poetry community won't learn.

Here's an op-ed article by Julia Keller which appeared in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES today re the Oprah Winfrey Book Club: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-book-club30-2009dec30,0,6657148.story

A salient passage (with highlighting by me):
So forget Kindle. What transformed literary culture in 2000-09 was "The Corrections" (2001) by Jonathan Franzen -- not only the book, which is a big, gorgeous, strapping 19th century novel smuggled into the 21st, and a Midwestern novel to boot, but also the story behind the story. It was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club. Franzen was less than thrilled about the honor -- previous Winfrey books struck him as dreadfully down-market and plebeian -- which led to a mini-dust-up with Winfrey and a sudden spotlight on a dirty little truth: Literature is the last refuge of the snob. Most of us thought, in our infinite ignorance, that readers are readers, and the more readers, the better. But not Franzen: He wanted only certain kinds of readers.Winfrey's book club began in 1996, but it was the Franzen episode that put it on the map. Yes, her imprimatur made a huge difference in a book's sales from the get-go, but "The Corrections" -- the intricate, beautifully written story of the slow, tottering fall of a Midwestern family -- made her book club controversial, and in the United States, nothing is truly important until it has started a few arguments.The first decade of the 21st century revealed two things to the literary world: the power of a TV talk-show host to shape our collective taste in books, and the rudeness of a self-important author when that taste happened to include his work. (Never mind that Winfrey also favored William Faulkner, Toni Morrison and John Steinbeck; she was still too lowbrow for Franzen.)

Maureen Dowd on Obama post-Detroit terror attempt.

Except for one dumb, unnecessary remark about the attempted terrorist's "feminine underwear", Maureen Dowd of THE NEW YORK TIMES has a worth-reading op-ed today about President Obama and his response to the Christmas near-disaster: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/30/opinion/30dowd.html

This paragraph of hers is particularly penetrating:
"President Obama’s favorite word is “unprecedented,” as Carol Lee of Politico pointed out. Yet he often seems mired in the past as well, letting his hallmark legislation get loaded up with old-school bribes and pork; surrounding himself with Clintonites; continuing the Bushies’ penchant for secrecy and expansive executive privilege; doubling down in Afghanistan while acting as though he’s getting out; and failing to capitalize on snazzy new technology while agencies thumb through printouts and continue their old turf battles."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Here comes The Rooster From Wooster!

Before I say goodbye to the first decade of the 21st century, I want to take one more chance to recognize the fatuousness of a ex-California-now-New-England literary poet/journalist who I've had issues with in the past. In this post, I'll omit his name, but refer to him instead as The Rooster From Wooster.

Here are a couple of pearls of intended self-reflection from The Rooster's blog:

Sometimes, it's hard not to think that the urge for fame or success, for validation, makes tame monsters of us.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
Thursdays are for pimping
I feel like I'm busy all the time, but it doesn't always feel like I've accomplished anything. Still, I turn around and there's something or other I wrote, or was interviewed in, or edited, or whatever. It's as though the process has become so commonplace that I fail to register it. This is not a good thing. Becoming jaded is dangerous, at least for me: it robs the writing process of its magic, makes me stop caring. None of this is good, and it's an impulse I need to watch out for.

Hope you were as impressed with The Rooster's crowing as I was.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Free speech re LA poetry of the 2000s: how it disappeared.

Here's a post from a poetry listserve dating back to August 2006. The context is that someone on the list posted something spectacularly insulting (and far too personal to repeat) to a local poet. Upshot: the poet running the list, instead of using his power to judiciously ban the insulter, instead posted this (name and listserve omitted; I've highlighted one particularly egregious passage):

[Poetry listserve] exists primarily for the promotion of [host's reading].I've left it un-moderated to allow folks to feel free to promote other projects, converse with each other and be mildly annoying, as we all tend to be on e-mail lists, in our attempts to be humorous,intelligent or clever. This has strayed, far too often, from far too many people into the arena of pain causing personal attacks, slander,insults, unpleasantly argumentative 'discussion', and generally an atmosphere of embarrassment for me at being the host of such a thing which has served more to damage community than foster it.Any future posts here which, at my sole discretion, even hint at this kind of unpleasantness again will cause the poster to me immediately removed from this list, no second chances, thanks bye. [Host]

Some disclosure needs to be offered here: I offended the host in question, was dropped from the listserve earlier that year and later was semi-forgiven.

The reason I'm dredging this up again is: If there's anything that's been lost in the 2000s, it's the right for poets to occasionally risk offending each other by speaking in public forums about issues in local poetry. And there are politic ways to do so most of the time. But sometimes, offense to persons or sacred poetry cows must be risked (short of revealing embarrassing personal details about someone or making actionable threats).

But I've found out that people have a greater tolerance for unpleasantness when poets have some power in the community. The poet which sparked the host's desire to be Chief of Civility Police was allowed to stay on the list presumably because the host (at that time) wrote for the poet's then-broadside (though the host resigned not too long afterwards). An unpleasant loudmouth (I'm saying this tongue-in-cheek) like myself, with little clout, could be easily removed. And the stupid, destructive myth that any minority opinions counter to consensus
"damage community" was allowed to continue (and it's safe to conjecture that some locals still believe in it today).

The host still has his listserve; it returned to being unmoderated since most of the posts are now announcements for this or that reading--with no unpleasant ideas or conflict to be neutralized--apparently meaning that speech can be free and unmoderated as long as it is popular.

And as 2010 approaches, whatever discussion of local poetry that remains will hopefully continue to migrate to community sites such as Facebook.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My LA/OC Poets of the Decade list.

Not in any specific order; a list of local poets (and people affiliated with poetry) who, by their presence (and, in some cases, absence), shaped the Southern California scene over the past decade:
1. Suzanne Lummis
2. Steve Ramirez/Ben Trigg
3. Mifanwy Kaiser/Paul Suntup
4. Kerry Slattery
5. Larry Jaffe
6. G. Murray Thomas
7. Richard Beban
8. Larry Colker
9. francEyE
10. Scott Wannberg
11. Rick Lupert
12. Teka Lark Lo/Randall Fleming
13. Don Kingfisher Campbell
14, Rafael FJ Alvarado
15. Pete Justus and all the past and present Rapp Saloon hosts
16. Jack Shafer
17. Ron Dvorkin
18. Marie Lecrivain
19. Peggy Dobreer
20. Kate Gale
21, RD Raindog Armstrong
22. EC Carlye Archibeque
23. Amelie Frank
24. Tom Ianniello
25. Donn Deedon/Heather Long
26. Jerry Garcia
27. Jaimes Palacio
28. Lee Mallory

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another new low for LA TIMES film critic Betsy Sharkey.

This enthusiastic review of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKUEL by second-chair LOS ANGELES TIMES film critic Betsy Sharkey may give you an idea of the pressure facing people who write about movies to be at one with studio product--especially sequels to family fare that make Big Money: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-squeakquel23-2009dec23,0,7439065.story

PEOPLE's Leah Rozen, who stepped down from her reviewer position recently, said something about leaving before all movies looked to her like the recent OLD DOGS.

If something like that occurs, I'm guessing Ms. Sharkey will roll with the changes just fine.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

George McGovern rebuts TIME's Joe Klein on Afghanistan.

Former ROLLING STONE and NEW YORK writer/TIME columnist Joe Klein apparently has been drinking White House Kool-Aid re the long-running war in Afghanistan. Former Presidential candidate/war veteran George McGovern has a different opinion: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-mcgovern/a-response-to-joe-klein_b_398588.html

Monday, December 21, 2009

A brief summary of the decade in Los Angeles poetry.

In 2000, poetry in L.A. had room for just about everyone who wanted to participate.

As 2010 approaches, the remaining "scene" tends to have both official and unofficial quality controls in terms of the "prestige" readings. With the decline of "independent" bookstores and
coffeehouses, there are fewer "informal" readings. And even some of the remaining coffeehouse readings are now run by hosts that want to import gravitas more than nurture a viable writing community.

Re my current feelings: I'm reminded of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH's scenes where people, after being inside Malkovich's mind, find themselves dumped out alongside a New Jersey expressway.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brittany Murphy and the Hollywood Beauty Myth.

After being surprised at Brittany Murphy's too-young death at 32, I was further saddened by a lazy/dumb/unfunny SNL WEEKEND UPDATE bit where Abby Elliott impersonated Murphy (recently fired from a film shooting in Puerto Rico) as a possibly-druggie ditz; apparently, the bit aired in the past week or two. I'm not linking to it here.

Murphy (also known for regular voiceover work on Mike Judge's KING OF THE HILL) had two breakout roles with CLUELESS and GIRL, INTERRUPTED in the mid-to-late 90s. Then, she resurfaced in the first half of the 2000s as a thin, blonde meant-to-be-supersexy waif type--appealing to both Hollywood majordomos and adolescent males of all ages who believed that Kate Winslet was too "fat."

After SIN CITY, Murphy's films got smaller (I remember seeing one direct-to-DVD title, THE RAMEN GIRL, at my local Target store). But she did a lot of work recently, and some of her now-posthumous unreleased films will likely show up next year.

I don't know the exact cause of Murphy's death--but it's safe to say that the Industry get-thin-get-Botoxed-get-Collagened-or-we-won't-hire-you ethos didn't help her at all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

This time, Kenneth Turan gives a more-or-less good review to a James Cameron movie.

Not sure how many people remember the....let's call it titanic...... anger that James Cameron displayed in a letter to the LOS ANGELES TIMES in early 1998 because chief film critic Kenneth Turan gave a harsh review to Cameron's then hugely-popular and now semi-forgotten film about two young lovers on a doomed ocean liner. Feel free to Google Turan's original review and Cameron's response.

Now, here's a tinyURL link to Turan's review of Cameron's AVATAR: http://shar.es/aDAiQ

Feel even more free to judge for yourself whether Turan's opinion (partially a sense of awe over AVATAR's technical achievements) is genuine or not this time around.

For my part, I was surprised that Turan didn't recuse himself and give second-chair Betsy Sharkey the assignment--or even offer it to now-freelance Kevin "I like just about everything" Thomas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My choices for People of the Year.

Purely subjective choices for People of the Year:
1. Joe Lieberman--the man who gives aid and comfort to Republicans,
conservative Democrats and the health insurance lobbyists who love them.
2. Stanley McChrystal--this generation's version of the general
who once croaked "old soldiers never die, they just fade away"
and prompted President Harry Truman to remove him for defiance
regarding the Korean War; President Obama, facing a similar situation
with Afghanistan, meekly rolled over instead.
3. Lloyd Blankfein--head of Goldman Sachs, the bank
which apparently keeps Gordon Gekko's motto "greed works"
to heart.
4. Jeff Zucker--the man who has made NBC what it isn't today.
5. Oprah Winfrey--the talk-show megamogul who's moving from
syndication to ruler of her own cable network (acronym OWN)
6. Tiger Woods--from all the recent chatter, one would think
that he's the first-ever sports celeb to ever have affairs. Now
the media has shifted to wondering how much endorsement
money he stands to lose.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Michael Moriarty--like Jon Voight before him--turns Right.

It's a sort of ritual for certain aging male celebrities to publicly retreat into social and/or poltical conservatism. Steve Allen, in his last years, became a cranky crusader against what he considered "filth" in entertainment. The late Ron Silver (once involved with the left-to-moderate Creative Coalition) became vocal about his rightist beliefs after 9/11. Jon Voight, who won an Oscar for playing an anti-Vietnam War paraplegic (inspired by Ron Kovic) in COMING HOME, now can be found opnionating on Fox News. And don't get me started on former comedian Dennis Miller.

Michael Moriarty has now come to the proverbial fork in the road--and has turned Right. Here are links to an interview and a Moriarty-penned article for Andrew Breitbart's showbiz-liberalism-bashing site BIG HOLLYWOOD.

http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/aliciacolon/2009/11/25/interview-michael-moriarty-on-obama-palin-nbc-beck-and-gutfeld/
http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/mmoriarty/2009/12/09/dead-end-america/

Monday, December 7, 2009

Perplexing events to ponder as it rains outside.

1. John McCain persists in trying to be a frontperson for a Republican Party which has little use for him.
2. Fox gave Carrie Underwood TWO HOURS of airtime for a holiday special.

Feel free to contribute any current events--great or small--you find perplexing in the comments below.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger Woods--when private becomes public.

Awhile back (think it might have been on ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT), Kevin Bacon said something like: "My private life is none of America's business."

But then again, he's merely a well-paid actor and not a supremely-well-paid, taught-by-dad-to-be-golf-machine-more-than-actual-person athlete like Tiger Woods.

It looks like Tiger successfully put a lid on conjecture about what exactly happened re the late-night SUV accident.

But the leak of a voicemail message allegedly by Tiger to one of his alleged mistresses (of the "my wife's looking for evidence I'm seeing other people" variety) seems to have prompted little more than a crisis-management-shaped "apology" on the Tiger Woods website.

It may be time for Tiger to speak actual human sentences instead of save-my-commercial-endorsements-make-it-go-away-euphemisms; i.e. be honest with his fans in order to redirect public attention towards more pertinent matters (i.e. the escalation of the Afghanistan War).

Jay Leno needs ratings. Perhaps it's time for Tiger to endure Jay hauling out his old "What the hell were you thinking?" line once more. [Rumors are that Tiger will do the mea culpa thing for Oprah.]

[UPDATE: 12/9/09--Here's an article about Tiger's alleged marriage counseling: http://www.sphere.com/nation/article/tiger-woods-tries-intensive-therapy-to-save-marriage/19269773]

Monday, November 30, 2009

Re the Afghanistan Surge.

Guessing there will be a great silence from MoveOn.org regarding Obama's Bush-Lite efforts to "finish the job" in Afghanistan. [Actually, the silence was broken by a post asking for "benchmarks" and "firm" exit.]

And wondering what the human and economic costs of our President not wanting to appear "weak" will be.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brief reactions to BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS

From the reactions of the critical community, one would think that Werner Herzog's collaboration with Nicolas Cage was some kind of classic gonzo mashup of genre convention and Method actor playing Improv games with co-stars.
Not really.
BAD LIEUTENANT is a sometimes-meandering two-hour mixture of Steven Bochco-esque police procedural (which makes sense since Bochco almunus William Finkelstein wrote the script and shows up in a role that sort of channels Mark Rydell playing Marty Augustine in THE LONG GOODBYE), a few riffs from/shoutouts to Abel Ferrara's original 1992 character study with Harvey Keitel planting his feet at the bottom of the metaphorical swimming pool and a lot of let's-throw-Cage-in-a-scene- with-another-actor-and-see-what-happens.
There are some bits involving iguanas and alligators--presumably Herzog's main contribution. One can't help but regret that Klaus Kinski is deceased; imagine the kind of thespic bouts of one-actor-upstaging-another he and Cage would have engaged in.
In short, Herzog's previous venture into the mainstream, the Sam Fuller-influenced RESCUE DAWN, is definitely superior. And there's a new DVD release of the original THE BAD LIEUTENANT--waiting to be bought, as well as a reminder of what Ferrara could achieve before his artiness descended to look-what-a-deep-thinker-I-am fare like THE FUNERAL and THE ADDICTION.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oprah Winfrey will end THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW after 25 years in 2011.

Read Nikki Finke's blow-by-blow account of Oprah's decisionmaking, plus a comment Oprah allegedly made regarding Southern California vs. Chicago:
http://www.deadline.com/hollywood

THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW started out as an imitation of the interviews-plus-let-audience-ask-some-questions format which made Phil Donahue a success. And, in the early seasons, Oprah exuded an Everywoman appeal (at one point, the show used the song "I'm Every Woman" for its theme) which made it easy for audiences to identify with her.

As the years went on, Oprah became super-rich and the self-important, lording-it-over-everyone aspects of newfound superwealth permeated the show (with a low point being her on-air scolding of the Paris department store Hermes for apparently not knowing who she was). Also there was her tendency to lapse into a sort of vocalese (JUUUUULIIIIIA ROOOBBEEEERRRTTTSSS!)--with her delivery of the line "I'm having a Martha Moment!" (prior to Martha Stewart's jail time and her Mark Burnett-assisted comeback as a rival daytime host) being particularly memorable in the wrong way.

Having said that, the show had its moments of insight/watchable guests-and-experts over its two-plus decades. And, through the Book Club, viewers were exposed to both writers they weren't familiar with plus great novels they may not have read otherwise.

So let's see what the Discovery-affiliated Oprah Winfrey Network will offer longtime fans/newcomers in 2011.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NEWSWEEK, Sarah Palin and the tendency of magazines to go for the "gotcha" photo.

Here's a link to Evan Thomas' NEWSWEEK article about Sarah Palin; Thomas pines for a legislative environment where "moderate" Republicanism rules over the visceral, primeval don't-think-it's-bad-for-you ethos of Ms. Palin and her acolytes: http://www.newsweek.com/id/222786
And Thomas also engages in more dumb revisionism where Ronald Reagan is now considered a "great" President.

But, Thomas (plus the more intelligent Christopher Hitchens article undone when Hitchens lurches for his trademark bellicose atheism at the close) gets undone by Jon Meacham and NEWSWEEK's choice for a cover photo.

As for the controversial cover (which was from a photo shoot for a fitness magazine), it shouldn't be surprising that magazines still desire the "gotcha" cover--a practice that hasn't really changed since TIME's infamous darkening of O.J. Simpson's photo a decade and a half ago.

And here's NEWSWEEK justifying the choice:
http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thegaggle/archive/2009/11/18/newsweek-explains-thinking-behind-palin-cover.aspx

To me, the really offensive photo is in the print edition of the magazine--and it's more due to the context which the magazine intended.

There's a shot of Ms. Palin giving a campaign-trail speech in October of 2008--but all you see are the back of her legs and her high-heeled shoes and two young male volunteers gazing up at her.

And NEWSWEEK, given the Palin-as-substance-free-beauty nudge-nudge of the cover photo, seems to want readers to think of the two male supporters as staring at a woman onstage in a strip club.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Most overwrought film-critic pull-quote of the year so far.

"It looks right in your eye and tells the truth."--Rex Reed, THE NEW YORK OBSERVER

What movie is that, Rex? THE LOVELY BONES? AN EDUCATION? ANTICHRIST?
UP IN THE AIR? NINE? PRECIOUS?

None of the above.

The quote is being used for Fox Searchlight's awards-nomination ad campaign
for......(500) DAYS OF SUMMER.

Yes, that's right. The overrated, style-trumps-substance (500) DAYS OF SUMMER.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Re the end of Aerosmith as we know them.

Steven Tyler's recent announcement that he's leaving the legendary band Aerosmith--plus Joe Perry's "we're looking for a replacement lead vocalist" tweet on Twitter--will probably cause both fervent and casual fans to say "uh-oh."

To me, Aerosmith carrying on without Tyler would be akin to The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger.

I'm assuming that Perry thinks that soldiering on with a ringer lead vocalist is financially viable since bands like Journey and Foreigner (the latter called "faceless" by ROLLING STONE) have drafted sort-of-soundalikes and have continued their careers (though on a second-tier, we-know-we're-an-oldies-act basis).

At this point, Perry and the rest of the band would be better off persuading Tyler to do a career-spanning-with-special-guests farewell show (which can be further monetized by DVD and/or pay-per-view). Then, the remaining members should retire the name and regroup if they so choose.

As long as they decide on a name other than The Joe Perry Project.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

THE JAY LENO SHOW: insert your punchline here.

At this point, I'm wondering if NBCUniversal still thinks the continuing spectacle of THE JAY LENO SHOW (which now seems so hamstrung due to apparent restrictions on booking guests, it's turning to members of the George Butch Jr. family and the lame-duck California Governator) is worth the effort because it keeps Leno from being a competitive late-night force on some other network.

A modest proposal: do away with guests altogether and cut the show to a half-hour--giving network affiliates some slight relief and an earlier start on late news.

This way, Jay can merely do his monologue--plus all the hoary, fan-pleasing old bits (Jaywalking, Headlines, etc.). And maybe someone at NBCUniversal can strongly insist that he dump the sour "smirking about being gay" schtick that seems left over from, say, the latter years of THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW--yes, that may mean getting rid of the demeaning, ridiculously stereotyped "Ross The Intern."

Or, if NBCUniversal really wanted to save money, they can turn the new soundstage over to another tenant and just tape Jay doing his Sunday evening joke tryouts at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach. Five half-hour timeslots filled just like that.

[UPDATE 11/9/09: A better proposal might be to move Conan O'Brien to 10:00 (where his younger-skewing demographic may be more compatible with some of NBC's primetime lineup) and call Conan's show EARLY TONIGHT. This can allow Jay to return to 11:35 and keep doing the same old stuff; it could even be rebranded as TONIGHT SHOW CLASSIC.]

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reacting to the small amount of Amber Tamblyn's BANG DITTO I read.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I saw Amber Tamblyn read poems at a Newer Poets Reading at the Downtown Los Angeles Public Library two or three years ago. She wasn't bad at all (I especially liked a piece about a teenage love affair of hers), but I wasn't moved to purchase any of her writings afterwards.

[At this point, I realize that I live in a glass house where criticism is concerned. So I'll try to avoid unnecessary roughness toward's Ms. Tamblyn's work.]

Last night, I read a little of Ms. Tamblyn's latest book of poetry BANG DITTO at a Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica--and thought of those sanitized expressions that Meredith Willson included in THE MUSIC MAN, i.e. "Great Honk!" and "Ye Gods!"

My tiny sampling of her poetry, a few years on, struck me as somewhat turbocharged in its pretension and aspirations to Greatness.

And perhaps Ms. Tamblyn wants to pursue Art and Beauty and Truth (she's been praised by poet Jack Hirschman and is now in a relationship with Smart Comic David Cross) to make up for any disappointments in her acting career (her critically-praised indie film STEPHANIE DALEY didn't break through even to an arthouse audience and the quirky-cop series she did for Disney/ABC last spring is now history).

I just hope she won't try so hard to Impress in her next book.

Friday, October 30, 2009

More great political commentary from Matt Taibbi

From the October 22nd entry ("Elizabeth Warren For President") on Matt Taibbi's blog http://taibbi.rssoundingboard.com, here's an excerpt (the boldface is provided by me):
I’m personally of the opinion that our main problem lay with the fact that the Democratic Party as currently constituted is more afraid of losing the financial support of Wall Street and the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry than it is of losing progressive voters. In fact, I think I’ve put that wrong, because it implies that the Democratic Party pushes the agenda of industry insiders out of fear. That is a misread of the situation, I think.

I think they prefer those people to their voters. I think they feel more comfortable with them. I heard a story recently from a Democratic Party operative who tells me that certain members of one of the president’s cabinet departments only got wind of how hard it is out there for ordinary people to pay their bills when they invited in a major corporation to give them a presentation about their financial outlook for the holiday season — and through that report found out that this company’s prospective customers were spending less because large numbers of them had been laid off, or had huge medical bills, or had maxed out their credit, and so on.

Letters from customers, survey answers and such, were read to the cabinet group. And they were shocked. This is how they find out about the economic reality of this country — accidentally, from a major campaign contributor! That’s how out of touch these people are.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amber Tamblyn at Ugly Mug in Orange 10/28--time to see poetry community celeb worship in action.

Tomorrow night, if you happen to be in Orange, CA, you have the opportunity to see actress Amber Tamblyn display her skill as a poet/writer (saw her years ago at a Newer Poets Reading in downtown Los Angeles) at the coffeehouse The Ugly Mug near Chapman University. The reading will begin at 8:00 p.m. and it will be a prime opportunity to watch major league fawning from the hosts/other poets/students from Chapman.

No disrespect meant to Ms. Tamblyn and her art, but I wrote a poem about poetry community celeb worship a few years back--she's namechecked in the piece:
POETISTA

I hate bad art.
Unfortunately, I live in Los Angeles
and work in the Motion Picture Industry.
So, I help to produce and market
bad art every workday for fifty weeks a year.

But there’s a secret life I lead.
My partner and I host a poetry reading
at the most comfortable cybercafe in Los Feliz.
Due to my work commitments, the reading is
only for one day a month.

And it’s a very special reading.
To be a truly successful host, one has to book
the best and most literate poets in the city
so there will be an audience of sophisticated,
cutting-edge people-not just the usual coterie of
mediocre coffeehouse poets
wanting to read in the open
and harboring thoughts of featuring
at our elevated venue one day.

We have a special way of discouraging mediocrity.
If a bad poet comes too often, we make him or her
feel as if he or she is taking a spot belonging to
someone far more deserving.
It may take a few weeks, but eventually he or she
gets the message and never returns.

And need I add that our reading draws a large crowd
of successful poets and influential audience members?
One time, we had an audience of almost 50 people.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with the Fire Marshall
ordering people to leave.

I wish you could have been at our most recent reading.
We had a glittering bill of four features-meaning no
open readers!!!! (yay)
There was a comedienne who used to write jokes for Sandra Tsing-Loh,
a Santa Ana poet who bills himself as The Last Liberal in Orange County,
a poet from Westchester who holds $1,000-per-person workshops
and our very special guest: actress AMBER TAMBLYN!!!

Truly a fabulous evening of poetry-all the right people were there.

Who could ask for anything more?

Time for more Larry King-esque Random Notes.

1. After listening to snippets of Sting's new album celebrating winter, I wish Mr. Sumner would take a break from being an artiste and cover the obscure Johnny Cash song "I Will Rock and Roll With You (If I Have To)."

2. Yesterday, I listened to an audiostream of the new Rod Stewart R&B covers album SOULBOOK. Yes, it's as MOR-safe as the STILL THE SAME rock covers album was; Clive Davis wins again.

3. Why am I not surprised that Joe Lieberman objects to the timid states-can-opt-out-of-public-option plan put forth by Harry Reid?

4. Liked the U2 Rose Bowl show webcast overall, but a bit disconcerted by Bono's brief shoutout to homophobic Rick Warren. Warren may have donated to One.org but he's still the new Jerry Falwell.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

SALON's Joan Walsh still feels the need to defend Bill Clinton.

Perhaps the perpetual-wiseacre writer Tom Carson said it best about Bill Clinton when describing Clinton as an "a--hole" likely to go on and on crying over "his thwarted greatness."

Certainly the Bay Area-based webzine Salon.com has felt the need to keep throwing roses towards Clinton on occasion--even to the point of employing Clinton hagiographer Joe Conason.

Here's Joan Walsh recently praising Bill for Salon:
http://www.salon.com/opinion/walsh/politics/2009/10/23/bill_clinton/?source=newsletter

I still don't understand the need to prop up an ex-President who couldn't stand up to Sam Nunn on gays in the military, who shredded the Safety Net for millions of Americans, who helped bring on the go-go greed that eventually sunk our economy (and, no, I'm not forgetting George Butch, Jr.'s role in that process)--and who wasted a year of his second term determined to "win this thing" re the revelations of his private affairs (even the Republican-leaning David Letterman handled le affaire Stephanie Burkitt better than Bill with Monica Lewinsky).

And, remember, Clinton (the alleged First Black President) shamefully played the Race Card last year to ensure that his wife would receive the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Richard Schickel's nuclear hatred of Robert Altman--as man and filmmaker.

It's official now: Richard Schickel, longtime film critic/essayist/enemy of Hollywood Commies/hagiographer of Clint Eastwood, doesn't like Robert Altman. Here's Schickel dumping on a new oral history of Altman, while grudgingly admitting to partially liking McCABE AND MRS. MILLER, NASHVILLE and CALIFORNIA SPLIT:
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-book22-2009oct22,0,2690542.story

[UPDATE 10/30/09] Since Schickel's review was published, there's been a fair amount of disagreement going on, from LA TIMES film gossip columnist Patrick Goldstein to filmmaker/Altman disciple Alan Rudolph. Here's an excerpt from a letter actor Jim Beaver (DEADWOOD) wrote to the TIMES (found this on USENET's group rec.arts.movies.past-films):
However, the fact that no one I know who takes film seriously has much respect left for Schickel's opinions does not lessen the intensity with which we feel bewildered and often angered with how he has become some sort of éminence grise in the public eye, the wise and irrefutable voice of "film history" as represented in TV specials and DVD commentaries. Publications such as the Times and organizations such as the AFI and many other public dispensers of information or perceived wisdom about film history often turn to "experts" such as Schickel who have managed the leap from reviewing movies to a hallowed place where they are the authority of first resort whenever a book on film needs reviewing or a talking head is needed on CNN after a film legend has died. I know hundreds of people who know more, understand more, and are able to discourse more usefully on film than Richard Schickel ever could, yet I daresay he is asked to review more books on film than any other reviewer in America. This latest diatribe is perhaps the most flagrant example of his unsuitability for the unelected post he has been raised to. I hope at some point the brand known as "Richard Schickel" stops being pasted onto every article relating to film and that actual, as opposed to presumed, experts be given a chance. I bear Mr. Schickel no malice and am grateful for his early contributions to my knowledge of film. But enough is enough. His slander of Robert Altman ices a cake that is far too stale.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time for the Tribune monolith to let the LOS ANGELES TIMES go.

More cut-cut-cutting going on today at THE LOS ANGELES TIMES--starting with Tina Daunt, who wrote a periodic column for Calendar about celeb activism: http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2009/10/layoffs_begin_at_lat.php

The same will be happening on the Other Coast to THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Perhaps someone should explain to me why stockholders and corporate executives these days still believe they must demand such a high profit/return as their product deteriorates in quality and the demand for it decreases.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Some quick opinionating on WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.

To put things in historical context, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is probably the first major-studio children's/family film with a tres hipster pedigree since 1980's POPEYE--a collaboration involving director Robert Altman, writer Jules Feiffer and singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson.

And, at its best, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is a much more watchable, harmonious blend of the sensibilities of director Spike Jonze and co-scenarist Dave Eggers (WILD THINGS, like the Eggers/Vendela Vida/Sam Mendes AWAY WE GO, has the same finding-your-place-in-the-world throughline) than the collective efforts of POPEYE's creative braintrust.

One fears, though, that the starts-out-frenetic-ends-up-thoughtful tone of WILD THINGS may be too subtle and offputting for mass audiences from its second weekend in theaters onwards.

(It's easy to imagine that Jonze got a lot of Warner Bros. development notes pleading for him to dub in some fart noises when young Max and all the creatures collapse into a big pile before going to sleep at night.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ted Turner decries "fluff" on CNN.

Just read an account of a gee-I-wish-I-were-running-things-now interview with Ted Turner (I believe it was on Bloomberg News) where, among other things, he displayed discontent with the "fluff" on Cable News Network and expressed a wish for more "news" on the channel.

To be absolutely cynical, I don't foresee CNN (along with sister station HLN) decreasing their focus on who-said-that/who-went-too-far.

After all, when corporations run for-profit news channels, there's a ginormous list of news stories that news directors know not to devote their increasingly-less-vast resources to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dana Gioia and his sort-of-curse on some Los Angeles poetry.

About a decade ago in the LA WEEKLY, Brendan Bernhard wrote an article about whether poetry still mattered. Bernhard got a quote from now-former NEA head and Northern California literary poetry icon Dana Gioia; Gioia moaned about how "you can't have great poetry without great standards" and accused Los Angeles poetry of being deficient on both counts.

Perhaps Gioia was espousing an occaisional Northern California prejudice about how Southern Californians are too superficial and not intellectually rigorous enough.

But the damage was done in Los Angeles. Varied poetry circles complained about Bernhard's article and Gioia's comments--mostly that they ignored the vast majority of L.A. poetry. Within a couple of years after the quality bomb dropped, one then-prominent Los Angeles male poet/powerful venue host pretty much abandoned his "folk music" approach and made an effort to become Academia-friendly before his departure from the city.

In the year 2009, a lot of Los Angeles poetry is Gioia-friendly--conservative in form, aesthetics and subject matter. Like other parts of the USA, it matters A LOT in L.A. literary circles about who you've studied with, whether you received your MFA, what workshops you've participated in, what Prominent Poet gave you a rhapsodic rave to use on the back of your book/in your press kit, whether you've been Published, whether you've been published by someone with Prestige, etc. etc. And some venues and local critic/tastemakers seem to value poetry control over even mild abandon (i.e. "diversity").

This can have some disastrous effects--I can think of at least one local poet who started out writing relatively accessible, thoughtful material before becoming more contorted and pretentious.

To me, Los Angeles' poet literati need to stop their self-imposed, rather constipated campaign to "improve" local poetry through homogenization and become more appreicative of multiple artistic voices/points of view--and not be filled with tasteful people who long to tamp their artistic visions down to achieve what may well be tenuous and temporary acceptance at best.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Sex Pistols sue UK ice cream company--apparently a fine line between parody and theft.

Here's an article from the London GUARDIAN about The Sex Pistols suing a UK ice cream company over the latter's "God Save The Cream" campaign--which also appropriates the Pistols' appropriation of Queen Elizabeth II's image:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/oct/14/sex-pistols-ice-cream

This gives a new context to John Lydon's immortal "Ever have the feeling you've been cheated?" line which closed the first phase of the Pistols' career at San Francisco's Winterland in 1978.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More temporary-exit musings.

Thanks to those in the L.A./Orange County poetry communities who have been supportive of the poetry I've written over the past eleven years and/or willing to defend my right to offer (sometimes contentious) opnions about the scene and some of its people--even when they didn't agree with those opinions.

And I do plan to keep writing poetry. Some of it may turn up on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/terrymcca

Hopefully, see you sometime next year at a LA/OC venue.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Statement ot temporary withdrawal from L.A. poetry "community."

From my Facebook wall:
For the rest of the year, withdrawing from active participation in L.A. poetry community (have been alerted I'm not meeting community standards). Will still be supportive of others when possible. Hope to return sometime next year.

Poetry community standards are high in L.A. these days. Recognizing that I'm not sufficiently hip, or tolerant of certain egotistic behavior, or a recipient of a MFA degree, or a proficient-enough example of "craft-conscious writing", I realize it's time for me to find the exit door for awhile. At least in 1998, when I started going to readings here, there was such a thing as inclusiveness, no matter where your skill level was. Now, it appears to me that the approval of local poets has become highly conditional.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

When poetry reviews become more about gatekeeping than reviewing.

This is a continuation of the previous blog post--which mentioned long-time Long Beach poet/writer/ex-NEXT magazine editor G. Murray Thomas and his attempts as a reviewer to alert poets re what they SHOULD be writing to meet his standards of "depth" and "craft."

It's the eternal conundrum for a critic/reviewer: to evaluate poems in terms of the standards the poet aspires to (entertainment, profundity, mastery of form, etc.) or to take the easier path of reviewing the poetry the critic/reviewer would LIKE to see.

As I evaluate them, Murray's reviews tend to be 25% of the former and 75% of the latter.

To make a brief lapse into Ad Hominism, someone I'll refer to as Infante Terrible has caterwauled on his blog about wanting to determine what poets and poetry should "survive."

And when poets (especially those who haven't made a huge impression outside of their own cliques/scenes) decide to become gatekeepers, they seem to be desperate to make a mark on poetry in any way possible--for a few momentary opinions *with their byline) to "survive" after they leave the Earth. If that turns out to be tilted-nose disdain for self-published chapbooks or throwing spitballs at Billy Collins because he sells too many books, then so be it.

Ultimately, it's the public that makes the final decisions about the poetry that should "survive"--and it's the poet's job to carry on regardless of whatever reviews he/she receives for his/her labors.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You can set your watch by G. Murray Thomas' reviews.

G. Murray Thomas stays consistent in adhering to his Len Goodman-esque yardstick of poetry "standards" (aka Let Only The Right Ones In). This month, long-time San Gabriel Valley poetry institution Don Kingfisher Campbell gets Murrayed (in a similar manner to what happened to me) on the POETIX reviews site:
http://www.poetix.net/reviews.htm

Also, there are more positive reviews of Orange County poetry institution Marcia Cohee and Elaine Mintzer's latest literary poetry offerings.

Friday, October 2, 2009

David Letterman outs himself re workplace affairs.

I just watched David Letterman confess having workplace affairs with female LATE SHOW staffers (and a producer of CBS' 48 HOURS trying to blackmail him for $2 million regarding this subject was arrested yesterday).

Having found this out before tuning into the show, the monologue--which included jokes about Roman Polanski, Mark Sanford and businessmen bringing their wives on business trips (relating somehow to Barack and Michelle Obama working together to bring the Olympics to Chicago)--was a bit creepy.

And so was the Paul Shaffer choice for play-in, play-out-of-commercial music:
The Rolling Stones' "Bitch."

A key lyric of the above song: "Love...is a bitch."

[Guessing that Bill Carter, who wrote THE LATE SHIFT (about Letterman and Leno jockeying to be The One to sit in Johnny Carson's vacant TONIGHT SHOW host's chair), won't have any trouble pitching a LATE SHIFT II to publishers.]
UPDATE as of October 6th:
Dave tried a second pass at an apology/explanation, and he's still upset about the extortion attempt. One fairly deft joke about how he can no longer do Bill Clinton/Mark Sanford material. Some contrition towards wife Regina. And, sort-of reversing a "they're welcome to come forward" comment the first time around, expressing worry for the staffers receiving attention from the media.

Short of any smoking guns related to sexual harassment and/or hush money (although it's being revealed that Letterman's involvement with assistant/occasional on-air foil Stephanie Birkitt continued after his marriage to Regina), I'm guessing this is the last on-the-show statement before Robert Joe Halderman's trial.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nude photo of 10-year-old Brooke Shields at London's Tate Modern museum.

Regardless of one's position on Roman Polanski's arrest and possible extradition to the USA, there needs to be some additional mention of the wink-wink attitudes regarding sexualization of young girls that was pervasive in the mid-to-late 1970s.

Currently on AOL's PopEater blog, there's an article on the display of a nude photo of a 10-year-old Brooke Shields in a gallery exhibit (with a warning about "challenging imagery") in London's Tate Modern museum: http://www.popeater.com

Monday, September 28, 2009

Any nuanced discussion of the Roman Polanski arrest highly unlikely in USA.

It goes without saying that Roman Polanski's 70s statutory rape (it is rape, whether consensual or forced) of a 13-year-old girl (with a mother who wanted her to be a part of Show Business) was a crime.

And Polanski spent 42 days in Chino prison for "psychological evaluation." A plea deal was created ; the 42 days was to be the entirety of his punishment. Then the judge reneged upon the decision--and Polanski chose to flee the US.

Like him or not, Roman Polanski (in exile from both the US and the UK for over three decades) has been punished enough.

There are more recent crimes that the Los Angeles District Attorney's office should marshal its resources towards prosecuting--rather than trying to "win" an old case that (even the victim agrees) should be put behind us now.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

60 MINUTES cheerleads for the war in Afghanistan.

Here's an excerpt from Matea Gold's article about the new season of CBS' 60 MINUTES in Sunday's LOS ANGELES TIMES Calendar section:
[Current executive producer Jeff Fager] said he plans to make Afghanistan a major focus on the program this season, eager to challenge the conventional wisdom that the public has tired of the war [my emphasis, not Ms. Gold's].

And to that end, last night's program led with General Stanley McChrystal doing his best Douglas MacArthur impersonation and croaking SURGE!!! SURGE!!! in an effort to manipulate President Obama into not appearing "weak" and giving McChrystal his extra mass of U.S. troops.

I was surprised that the lovely war-lover Lara Logan wasn't interviewing McChrystal. Instead the stenography task was handled by CBS national security correspondent David Martin.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mackenzie and Susan--aging boomer celebs selling their memories.

I'm guilty of being part of a flock of sheep.

I bought the Mackenzie Phillips book at Target a couple of days ago--not necessarily to read about the book's Big Revelation of alleged (and it should be treated as alleged, rather than 100% actual) incest with her father John Phillips, but to learn her views about more mundane matters such as her film/TV career.

And her fellow-celeb-who-needs-a-revenue-stream Susan Olsen is now giving the world a tell-all book about THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR, of all things.

Perhaps it's the first of a trilogy with forthcoming tell-alls about other failed BRADY BUNCH
spinoffs such as THE BRADY BRIDES (sitcom) and THE BRADYS (drama).

SAG election results are in: The Richard Masur empire stikes back.

Just received an e-mail from the Screen Actors Guild--Ken Howard is the new president and Amy Aquino is the new Secretary-Treasurer.

Which means that the Richard Masur "merger with AFTRA is our only hope" mantra now rules the day with SAG.

Log onto http://www.sag.org/ to find out the rest of the election results.

Then take a look at http://www.deadline.com/hollywood to read the pro-and-con comments about the election. I especially enjoyed the comparisons of Ken Howard with George W. Bush and Masur with Dick Cheney.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Re video GLENN BECK IS THE NEW ANN COULTER.

I was sufficiently irritated by both the Glenn Beck promotional campaign (including stick-tongue-out TIME cover and being the just-announced online interview guest of Katie Couric) to post a YouTube video, which can be found at http://www.youtube.com/terrymcca
Essentially, it makes the point that caricatured Punch-and-Judy GOOD TELEVISION is still so highly valued in both cable and Old Network News that, while "extreme" leftists like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman are shut out, buffoons like Beck and Coulter are endlessly put on-air because they get "ratings" and the lunatic fringe of conservatism must be exploited to that end.

To be honest, Championship Wrestling boorishness can be found on the Left as well as the Right--witness the MSNBC host I'm conveniently forgetting the name of [airs post-Scarborough and is styling himself as the progressive O'Reilly; think it's something like Dylan Hanraty] who, on his show last week, almost made me feel sorry for the female Birther he dumped on so viciously.

Yes, I know the Birthers waste valuable time (in court and when they go on television/radio) in trying to undo the Obama presidency. But how is the MSNBC anchor's behavior any different than O'Reilly, Beck and Coulter at their worst?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Re Kanye West, USA TODAY and the Gannett Newspaper chain.

I didn't watch last Sunday's MTV Awards "scandal" involving Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift's award acceptance, but I saw the clip later--plus the shrieking of CNN's Don Lemon and Kyra Phillips.

Yes, Kanye's interruption was not appropriate. But the media and celeb blowback seemed to be rather overscaled in terms of what he actually said (in effect, Beyonce should have won).

It's not as if Kanye West climbed onstage and went into a tirade berating Ms. Swift regarding her talent or her personality or her CD/download sales. If that had happened, I could understand (and agree with) outraged responses.

In fact, something of this exact nature happened three-decades-plus ago at the Country Music Awards (then telecast on CBS) when Charlie Rich apparently pulled out a lighter and set fire to an awards envelope because John Denver (considered too "pop" by some of country's then-Old Guard) won in a certain category.

Few people today remember Rich's outburst. Let's see if Kanye's behavior is referenced in the media, say, five years from now.
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While I was in San Francisco last week, I saw one of the dumbest-ever editorial cartoons in an issue of USA TODAY.

The cartoon referenced the recent behavior of Joe Wilson, Serena Williams and Kanye West--lamenting the decline in "civility."

The punchline was someone declaring that he was going to lament the lack of "civility" by "trashing them on my blog."

It's rather pitiful when a newspaper equates public disruption by people in the news with writing blog entries criticizing people for disruption/lack of manners/lack of common sense.

But this must be the house philosophy at the Gannett newspaper chain, which gives us USA TODAY.

Back in 1988, Gannett still owned the Santa Fe, NM newspaper THE NEW MEXICAN. This was during the time that Garry Trudeau's DOONESBURY dared to take a week to satirize/criticize then-Arizona Governor Evan Meacham for objecting to a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday.

THE NEW MEXICAN pulled the DOONESBURY strips. The newspaper received a lot of criticism for doing so. Then, THE NEW MEXICAN (or possibly Gannett majordomos) reversed its position and ran the Meacham series--but also added an irritated introduction (sort of "we hate to do this, but here they are").

Seems to me that there's no difference between Gannett Newspapers in 1988 and what remains of the chain in 2009.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wish I could get more excited about Joe Wilson and Ellen being chosen as AMERICAN IDOL judge.

[Before proceeding with this insignificant post, let's take a moment to remember the people who were victims of unspeakable terrorism in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania eight years ago today.]

Received an e-mail from MoveOn. Haven't opened it, but I'm sure it's asking me to make donations by using Wednesday's outburst from Joe Wilson (acolyte of legendary racist Strom Thurmond aka the Man Who Gave Us Spiro Agnew As Vice President, among other sins) as a fund-and-consciousness-raising tool.

Wilson said what he said. He's foolish--and it's time to move on and not make his bricklike obstructionism an endless media topic which distracts from the real concern post-Wednesday's speech: what President Obama's truly willing to stand for in terms of creating the final health care legislation.

On to a much more trivial subject--Ellen DeGeneres as the "Nice Judge" for next year's AMERICAN IDOL. Leaving the "jump the shark" arguments aside, Fox and 19 Entertainment have essentially signaled that continuing IDOL as a broad-based "television show" is more important than hiring a mainstream celeb who actually has some music biz experience.

For that matter, someone like David Hasselhoff (who works for Simon Cowell on AMERICA'S GOT TALENT)--with a former big-star-in-Germany recording career--would have been a more appropriate choice.

And probably with a lower price tag per season than Ellen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A modest proposal for both Apple Corps and Apple's iTunes concerning The Beatles.

I spent part of this afternoon listening to The Beatles' remastered now-2-disc PAST MASTERS and was impressed with the improved sound of various singles in either mono or stereo.

And, while awaiting more of the reissues in my mailbox, I'll offer a suggestion to both Steve Jobs' Apple and the various parties (including ex-Beatles and Beatle widows) who make up the Fab Four's Apple.

During this period of reissuing the original British versions of the albums on CD, demand could be carefully nurtured for the mp3 issues by an iTunes-only reissue of the Red (62-66) and Blue (67-70) compilations--using the newly-issued remasters for all the songs included on each.

And downloads for A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, HELP! and YELLOW SUBMARINE as well (a remastered LET IT BE would be great, but I worry that the revisionist opinion of the film as a keep-it-in-the-vault Mistake still persists at Apple Corps).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Watching Bruce Weber short films and getting depressed.

I just watched a quintet of shorts from filmmaker Bruce Weber [his recurring motifs include Hollywood glamour and an abiding love of dogs] currently airing on the Sundance Channel.

One short was dedicated to River Phoenix. And it's fascinating how Phoenix has been near-completely forgotten in the fifteen-plus years since his death. No definitive biography. No retrospectives. Not even a remote comparison to the attention paid to Heath Ledger since Ledger's passing (Ledger's final film, Terry Gilliam's THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, is likely to have a decent-enough opening weekend due to the curiosity factor).

The final short, LIBERTY CITY IS LIKE PARIS TO ME, is now spectacularly poignant and depressing. The viewer gets to watch African-American citizens of Liberty City, Florida celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama--plus a dance number (set to a soundtrack recording of Sammy Davis, Jr. singing a PORGY AND BESS song) that, in a good way, resembles the song-and-dance interlude in Spike Lee's SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT.

But it's now clear that Obama's not the President and Leader of the Free World that the citizens of Liberty City (and other American towns and cities) hoped for. Instead, he's in the Oval Office to make sure corporate trains run on time and business interests aren't too disturbed by calls for the kind of oversight that decreases profits. And Obama, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod are willing to rope-a-dope liberals (or that antiseptic synonym "progressives") on health care and likely any other key issues until the folks on the Left are worn down from fruitless battle and are willing to accept toothless "compromise" because it's "something to build on."

Sort of like what businesses do when union members go on strike.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tom Hanks, like Richard Masur back in the day, wants Screen Actors Guild to awkwardly merge with AFTRA.

,http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/sag-election-video-support-by-tom-hanks-bill-macy-felicity-huffman-for-prez-candidate-ken-howard/

Richard Masur, when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, was a tireless spokesperson for merging SAG with AFTRA (which handles both actors and radio/TV newspeople)--no matter how unwieldy and awkward the marriage would be.

Tom Hanks, who clearly cares a lot about his Playtone production company, is now espousing a SAG/AFTRA merger. With a merged SAG and AFTRA, it's safe to guess that AMPTP can demand more "reasonable" rates for hiring actors/background for filmed and videotaped "content."

If you're a SAG member, avoid voting for Unite4Strength unless you want to see your union become a pale whisper of what it began as in the 1930s.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Current print issue of FILTER magazine w/CALVIN AND HOBBES tribute.

Now that John Hughes has passed away, cartoonist Bill Watterson (creator of the classic and short-lived child-and-his-imaginary-tiger-friend classic comic strip CALVIN AND HOBBES) is now the leading J.D. Salinger hide-away figure for members of Generations W and X.

The current issue of FILTER magazine (with Mos Def on the cover) has a must-read excerpt from a forthcoming book by Nevin Martell on Watterson and CALVIN AND HOBBES (LOOKING FOR CALVIN AND HOBBES)--featuring interviews with Berkeley Breathed (BLOOM COUNTY, OUTLAND, OPUS), Jonathan Lethem and Patton Oswalt.

Nikki Finke on Disney's $4 billion purchase of Marvel empire.

Apparently if you're Bob Iger and the Walt Disney Company board of directors, it's better to buy out the Marvel Comics empire (including its motion picture division) for $4 billion than to improve your in-house product (including the recent 3-D guinea pig nonclassic G-FORCE).

Here's Nikki Finke with details (including Paramount stating that they're hanging on to Marvel-produced movies including IRON MAN 2):
http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/shocker-disney-buying-marvel/

Friday, August 28, 2009

Aaron Hillis now rivals Hugh Bonar as one of the tackiest LA WEEKLY film reviewers ever.

There's a student-film-level geriatric romance/sex comedy called PLAY THE GAME opening this weekend (not planning to see it, having suffered the give-just-about-everything-away trailer) with Andy Griffith in his first major role since appearing in Adrienne Shelly's WAITRESS.

Aaron Hillis' negative review (don't know if it originated in the LA WEEKLY or with one of the other Michael Lacey alternapapers) of the film (look it up on http://www.laweekly.com) starts off okay in a young-man-writing-to-his-age-group fashion. But Hillis goes for the worst kind of insensitive-to-cruel snark in his final sentence:
"We're thankfully only treated to a chaste closeup of Griffith's doughy puppet face as he's [receiving a certain sex act]--think AVENUE Q [the adult NYC musical with imitation Muppets]."

Great, Aaron. Just freaking wonderful.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Roger Mudd's 1979 CBS special with Ted Kennedy.

Since Edward Kennedy's passing, the cable news outlets (particularly MSNBC) have been shaping a portrait of Kennedy: the Liberal Lion of the Senate, who had triumphs and tragedies (Chappaquiddick is now considered a Teachable Moment in the Kennedy story) and ultimate redemption. With a healthy portion of "had Ted Kennedy been alive, we'd be thisclose to passage of health care legislation" on the side.

Roger Mudd's 1979 CBS interview with Kennedy seems to be left out of the equation. Apparently Kennedy stumbled on articulating just why voters should eject sitting President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 primaries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5TkhNWPspM

And this moment, even moreso than Chappaquiddick, may explain why Kennedy was denied the Presidency and settled for nearly three more decades of service to our nation as a Senator.

Monday, August 24, 2009

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: Quentin Tarantino now emulating late-period Howard Hawks.

As recent Quentin Tarantino films go, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is an improvement on the too-indulgent DEATH PROOF, but not up to the standards of KILL BILL (note: I'm still waiting for a special-edition DVD; maybe Harvey and Bob Weinstein need to buy the film back from Disney for that increasingly nebulous event to take place).

Essentially, BASTERDS is akin to the later films of Howard Hawks (specifically RIO BRAVO, HATARI, EL DORADO, RIO LOBO) where the premise is just a loose framework for a series of setpieces. Some of the setpieces work quite well, some less well and, every so often, they wander into Tarantino recycling himself (the opening farmhouse scene, at a certain point, will remind some viewers of the Christopher Walken/Dennis Hopper dialogue in TRUE ROMANCE).

Two observations:
1. Controversial critic Armond White was correct when he recently mentioned that Tarantino won't make a film running no longer than, say, 80 minutes.
2. Tarantino, with the five-chapter structure of BASTERDS, obviously wanted to rechannel the interlocking structure of PULP FICTION. But BASTERDS, while managing to fit everything into place by the movie theater finale, tends to back-burner depth of character in favor of a bunch of long (sometimes too long), suspense buildups of the "can we keep the Bad Guys from discovering The Truth" variety.

Feel free to post comments agreeing or disagreeing with the opinions above.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another piece of deathless wisdom from Tim Green of RATTLE.

"But you can't make money writing poetry. And I'm thankful for it. Our poverty keeps us pure."

That's Tim Green of RATTLE from a recent blog post of his called POETRY IS NOT A RACKET.
Mr. Green's wonderful, fragrant aroma of self-regard and poetry protectionism can be found on his blog: http://www.timothy-green.org/ And I never fail to be irritated by poets proclaiming there's artistic purity in the valleys of obscurity.

It's a given that, in an America which chooses to treat poetry as something equivalent to the foods that children are forced to eat because they're "good for you," poetry is generally not going to sell in mass quantities. And, when it does, the knives tend to come out--with Billy Collins now being a new target of literary scorn. (How much of this is jealousy and how much a referendum on Collins' continuing worth as a writer post-success may never be totally quantifiable.)

But it would be nice to see small press poetry volumes try to sell more poets' works in, say, the multiple-thousands--or at least see more poets-published-by-small-press' works available in bookstores of their hometowns (noticing, for example, that Brendan Constantine's LETTERS TO GUNS isn't easy to find in L.A. bookstores--indie or corporate).

[UPDATE 7/13/11: here's a comment from cfisher:
Tim Green also spams you if you submit to his journal. (Although to be fair, I think 99.5% of these obscure and useless journals do that now.) To me, that shows how little these journals respect their writers. But Green is quite upfront about it: he actually says that if you don't want the spam, don't submit!

Well okay then, no problem!

As for Billy Collins, I wrote to him once and never received a reply, and thought it was kind of dickish.] 

Victor Infante wrinkles his nose re Bukowski--and my poem about the latter.

http://ocvictor.livejournal.com/789438.html
[in the link above, Mr. Infante basically agrees with Tim Green of the litmag RATTLE that Bukowski wasn't the world's greatest human being and not all that great of a poet/author. Green--who has a way of making one cringe in this particular piece whether or not one agrees with him--plays the You Are Banned game with a poster in the comments section--at one point, adding the new twist of Start Your Own Blog. All in all, it's another round of the old argument "must an artist be an exemplary human as well?" superseding any detailed debate over what Bukowski actually put on paper. ]

NEVER MET BUKOWSKI

I never met Bukowski.

I didn’t even know who he was
until I saw BARFLY in 1987
when Mickey Rourke played the fictional Bukowski
with a voice blending Marlon Brando with the cartoon character Snagglepuss.

In 1993,
I went to a rare bookstore in Hollywood
and knocked on the door
and a grizzled old man answered
and barked out WE’RE CLOSED TODAY
and it was awhile later that I found out
that the grumpy old man
was someone who knew Bukowski.

Sometime around 1999,
I read one of Bukowski’s poems
onstage at the now-long-dead Poetic License reading
at the Moondog Café on Melrose
and the pretty girl who was a waitress there
paid attention to me for the first time.
I told her that it wasn’t one of my poems,
but one of Bukowski’s
and it was the last time she paid attention to me.

During this same period,
I met Frances Dean Smith aka francEyE
who, with Bukowski, created their daughter Marina.
francEyE started out liking me
until I argued with an Eminent Poet friend of hers.
I can tell you this:
I liked francEyE for who she was
and didn’t annoy her with questions
about what kind of man Bukowski was.

Bukowski, never shy about displaying his honesty,
often railed about bad poetry and bad poets.
And, if I had met Bukowski
and showed him one of my poems,
he likely would have grabbed me,
ripped me in two
and sucked the marrow out of me
like a diner eating crab legs
at a seafood restaurant.

Afterwards, he would have called me a bad poet
and said that anyone telling me otherwise
was blowing smoke up my ass.

Maybe it’s a good thing
that I never met Bukowski.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Disappointments big and small.

The insurance companies, lobbyists, conservative Blue Dog Democrats and take-down obstructionist Republicans are likely cheering President Obama's failure of nerve (as first signaled over the weekend) in dropping the "public option" from health care reform:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-healthcare17-2009aug17,0,2687148.story

At this writing, it's safe to say that Obama has whiffed in the same way that Bill Clinton did when he failed to stand up to bullies like Sam Nunn on gays-in-the-military in 1993. And it may be not that much of a stretch to presume that Dick Morris is currently faxing his resume to the White House in hopes of offering more pander-to-the-Right advice to another sitting President.

Now, on to the "what the hell was The Walt Disney Company/ABC thinking" topic of the day re the decision to add maestro of corruption Tom DeLay to the fall cast of DANCING WITH THE STARS: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2009/08/tom-delay-brings-his-twostep-to-dancing-with-the-stars.html

Guessing that Glenn Beck may be considering an offer for the Spring 2010 season.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mixed feelings about the new documentary film THE COVE.

THE COVE--in case you're part of the 86% of this country who haven't heard of it--is a documentary film which tries to do two things at once. The first story it tells is of a former employee of Ivan Tors' FLIPPER TV series who changes from a dolphin trainer to a set-them-free-close-Sea-World-down-everywhere extreme activist. The gentleman in story one intersects with story two--about a Japanese town where big money is to be made from selling dolphins to Sea World-type parks and/or aquariums. Smaller money is made by brutally murdering dolphins in a secret cove and selling their meat (dangerously high in mercury), sometimes passed off as whale meat.

It's easy to get behind story two (and there's a bit of activism on the film's website to get the Japanese government to stop this mass slaughter), but a bit harder to accept story one unquestioningly.

The genie can't go completely back into the bottle re discontinuing the existence of dolphins and/or porpoises at Sea World or aquariums. But more stringent regulations regarding the care of dolphins--and an end to the "average everyday humans can swim alongside dolphins" tourism-- are necessary.

Here's Fisher Stevens (a co-producer of THE COVE) with a letter about how the film is being cold-shouldered by both the Tokyo Film Festival and Japanese distributors:
http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/hypocrisy-thy-name-is-tokyo-film-festival/

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jann Wenner hits a huge low: a special ROLLING STONE Jonas Brothers issue.

I guess I should have seen it coming, given the tendency of ROLLING STONE to regard the teenpop act Jonas Brothers (now currently on a Disney Channel series that channels, in style, episodes of THE MONKEES) as legitimate-because-they're-making-money rockers.

But, a couple of hours ago at my local Costco in Northridge, CA, I discovered IT in all its malign banality.

Yes. Jann Wenner and Wenner Media just gave the world a ROLLING STONE Jonas Brothers special issue

Wenner didn't do this in the 90s for Hanson--which, if I remember correctly, got more respect from rock critics.

Wenner didn't do this in the 70s for The Osmonds or David and Shaun Cassidy. They only received articles and/or cover stories at best.

But now Jann Wenner, chasing preteen dollars, has devalued the ROLLING STONE brand in supplicant service to a teenpop group [and their Svengali father] which, earlier this year, had a less-than-successful foray into concert moviemaking (even with the power of the Walt Disney Company behind them).

As Sylvester, Jr. used to do in Warner Brothers cartoons, I will now put a paper bag over my head and say: "Oh, the shame of it!"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How news is mundane-ized.

I'm still noticing it's too-visual-to-ignore for the cable networks (and their Major siblings) to swear off footage of town-hall health meeting disruptions (safe to say, most of them are scripted). This is probably because actual pro-and-con debate of change in national health care policy is considered too boring--and boring isn't what corporate-controlled news wants to be.

For some reason, I'm expecting health care coverage to be drowned out soon by overcoverage of Miley Cyrus' (and her Stage Parents) continuing desire to morph into a second-string Britney.
[UPDATE 8/18/09: Didn't happen--and I'm glad to have guessed wrong.]

Much easier for today's news directors to pay detailed attention to.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When attendance for a poetry reading ranges from slim-to-none.

An old poem of mine, based on nonattendance experiences--one I had at a now-very-long-gone reading in San Gabriel and the other happening to someone I knew (who was a veteran of the scene, unlike the character in the poem) who did an "evening with" reading at a now-long-gone venue in Sherman Oaks where only two people (I was one of those people) came and the owner eventually pulled the plug on the night:

AN EMPTY ROOM

8:00 p.m.
Poet has his first featured reading
at a local bookstore.
No one is there but poet
and the bookstore's owner.

8:10 p.m.
Poet reassures himself that other poets
will soon arrive at the reading.
Poet knows that poets often arrive late--
what is known as "poetry time."

8:20 p.m.
No one else shows up.

8:30 p.m.
Poet begins to panic.
He handed out flyers at other readings
and publicized his feature on the Internet.
He thinks: My poetry can't be this bad!

8:40 p.m.
Host arrives at store.
Host apologizes profusely to poet
for the lack of audience.
Host says to poet: You don't deserve this.
Host and poet stare at five rows of empty chairs.

8:45 p.m.
Bookstore owner wants to go home early.
He turns out the lights.
Bookstore owner, poet and host leave the store.
Once outside, the host promises the poet
a ten-minute minifeature on another night
when a popular poet is booked for a regular feature.
Poet swallows pride and agrees.

9:00 p.m.
Poet sits in his parked car.
He's aware that it's not a level playing field.
But he wonders if, someday,
the poetry community will want to hear him
read his work for longer than ten minutes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

John Hughes, comedy auteur, RIP.

From the John Hughes canon, there are a few films which are keepers for me: NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, SHE'S HAVING A BABY (which, in the Hughes canon, is the equivalent of Judd Apatow's FUNNY PEOPLE), SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES and, yes, HOME ALONE.

Hughes, using his Repetitive Formula Machine, also cranked out a lot of underachieving junk--some of which (DUTCH, the inexplicably-beloved WEIRD SCIENCE and FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, THE GREAT OUTDOORS, CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, the live-action remake of 101 DALMATIANS) that I saw and some (DENNIS THE MENACE, BABY'S DAY OUT) I instinctively knew to avoid.

An irony (which Hughes obituaries will probably ignore) is that one-time Hughes ally Chris Columbus recently had a flop with the 80's-teencom homage I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER--a film I also avoided. From the trailer, it was obvious that BETH COOPER offered some shoutouts to earlier Hughes fare such as WEIRD SCIENCE and FERRIS BUELLER (with Alan Ruck cast as a parent).

But there will be a run on DVD copies of SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, WEIRD SCIENCE, PRETTY IN PINK, FERRIS BUELLER, PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, UNCLE BUCK and the first two HOME ALONEs later today as thirty-and-fortysomething adults express a desire to relive their lost middle-to-upper-middle-class suburban youth watching Hughes' movies in shoebox multiplexes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

When corporations run network news, corporations exempt themselves (and each other) from news coverage.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/new-rule-not-everything-i_b_244050.html
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/08/01/ge/index.html
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/08/04/olbermann/index.html

Something interesting I read in the last link above. Glenn Greenwald links to David Sirota's article re the "Keith Olbermann told to stop criticizing Bill O'Reilly so Fox News can quit reporting on General Electric" mess. In the comments section of Sirota's piece, one gets the idea that some people are okay with Olbermann standing down in this matter as long as he has an opportunity to be a "progressive" voice on a cable news channel.

Question is: How progressive can you be if you work for a news organization that has no firewall between its operations and edicts from the corporation that owns it?

Paula Abdul, Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz now on the unemployment line.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/05/ben-lyons-ben-mankiewicz-_n_252150.html
http://www.popeater.com/2009/08/05/ryan-seacrest-paula-abdul-leaving-american-idol/
http://www.popeater.com/2009/08/05/paula-abdul-replacements/

It's safe to say that Lyons will keep his E! job and Mankiewicz may be seen again on TCM, but Abdul will face the kind of Industry sexism which hates tantrums and dysfunctionality from women, but turns a blind eye when it erupts from members of the male gender.

So I'll predict Paula's immediate future on TV will be solely as a salesperson of her jewelry line on QVC.

But here's a more positive assessment of Paula Abdul's past, present and possible future from Richard Rushfield, who used to be on the AMERICAN IDOL beat for the LOS ANGELES TIMES' Calendar section: http://gawker.com/5330632/five-reasons-paula-abdul-quit-american-idol?skyline=true&s=x

[UPDATE 8/6/09: TMZ post says that negotiations could still be going on:http://www.tmz.com/2009/08/06/paula-leaves-a-i-a-hoax/?icid=mainhtmlws-maindl3link3http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tmz.com%2F2009%2F08%2F06%2Fpaula-leaves-a-i-a-hoax%2F And perhaps it's time to bring former President and current crisis envoy Bill Clinton in as an arbitrator.]

Monday, August 3, 2009

Marie Lecrivain explains her good behavior for you.

Time for me to make a public apology to Marie Lecrivain. Awhile back, I had submitted some poems to POETIC DIVERSITY and had wondered (in an earlier entry) why I heard nothing and was negative over what I then characterized as rejection.

In the other portion of her editor's note in the latest quarterly POETIC DIVERSITY, Marie sets the record straight regarding poetry submissions to the webzine:
"First, I owe many of you who submitted work in Winter/Spring 2009 an apology. During this time, the server for poeticdiversity was switched, and in the process, several hundred emails were lost - well, more to the point - EVERY email, I had, up until that point, became a brand new email - and since there are over 5,000 emails with no subject lines (going back to 2005), I was, due to time constraints, unable to sort through them all. I would ask, if you submitted work, and I did not answer you, to please re-submit work, either through the submission form on this site, or to submissions@poeticdiversity.org. "

Having said that, I'm not withdrawing my opinions about Marie (on another poetry matter) in the post written earlier today.

Marie Lecrivain explains her bad behavior for you.

From the current issue of POETIC DIVERSITY; ladies and gentlemen, here's editor Marie Lecrivain:
"Over the past seven years, I've suffered the slings and arrows - and, in some cases, stalking and harassment - of angry poets who have labeled me as an insensitive, uber-bitchy dragon lady of the poetry scene. Nothing could be further from the truth. I spend a great deal of time working with other poets through this publication, with little help, except from my exceptional staff, and with no funding other than what I am able to raise to keep poeticdiversity going. I am not doing this to secure a place in the "Los Angeles Poetic Pantheon." Frankly, there is no such place in my mind! I am not telling you this to bring a tear to your eye. I am saying this, because, with all due respect to my detractors, none of you really know what is going on with myself, or those who represent poeticdiversity at any given time. And, unfortunately, if you would take the time to actually inquire to what is happening, instead of lecturing, or wagging your fingers at me, my staff, and this publication in your blogs, through nasty emails, or at poetry readings, you might learn that we are all on the same side - the side of poetry... and its promulgation as an art form. And, when you are ready to talk, I am here to listen, as well as, dialogue with you."

Since Marie's gone public, I can now say that I e-mailed her in private about some dubious behavior from her during the publication reading for THE LONG WAY HOME at Beyond Baroque.

Marie called out by name a certain Eminent Poet who didn't include one of her poems in his eminent publication. I personally had no problem with that.

What I DID have a problem with was when Ms. M proceeded to mock (as in make pitiful fun of)the people who expressed unhappiness with not being included in POETIC DIVERSITY.

Not long afterwards, she blew virtual air kisses to G. Murray Thomas for including one of her poems in the Santa Barbara-based publication SAGE TRAIL. It didn't hurt that Murray was one of the evening's two hosts.

Needless to say, my e-mail received a response that overlapped with her public address above--with a final sentence which can be paraphrased like this: "I won't talk to you ever again unless you address me with maturity."

In finality, I guess I liked the Marie Lecrivain I used to know (particularly when her poems were less pretentiously engineered-to-impress) better than the one who commands and demands diva-like attention and "understanding" now.

Steven Spielberg needs more of the public's love--so he's remaking HARVEY.

The 1950 comedy/fantasy film HARVEY, from the Mary Chase play, isn't all that familiar to today's audiences (I don't think I've seen anything but clips). But it had James Stewart as a lovable alcohol-challenged man who alone saw a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey--and the film became a hit in its day.

Now Steven Spielberg plans to remake HARVEY for his next film as a director:
http://hollywood-elsewhere.com/2009/08/dusty_rabbit_ea.php
http://www.movieline.com/2009/08/is-there-any-actor-who-could-make-spielbergs-harvey-remake-interesting.php
And it's safe to conjecture that Elwood P. Dowd (the protagonist of HARVEY) will be sober.

Here's a spot-on quote from Jeffrey Wells' HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE column linked above:
"Spielberg almost always puts on the waders and sloshes right into the swamp. He's always looking to touch or melt hearts, even when the film would be better off without this. He'll never know from subtlety."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Here we go again: another Westwood theater closing.

Thanks to Jeffrey Wells' HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE for first linking to this story:
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/08/theaters-fading-to-black-in-westwood.html

In recent years, the body count for movie theaters in Westwood (the area near UCLA):
Mann Westwood Four--converted to a Whole Foods Market
United Artists Westwood--now a chain drugstore
Mann Plaza--torn down
Mann National--torn down
UA Lindbrook turned Cineplex Odeon Festival turned Mann Festival--closed as of this past Thursday.

In spite of the speculation re the fate of the Fox Village and Bruin Theaters (Mann's planning to wash its corporate hands of them), I'm guessing they'll stay around a few years longer for their continuing value as staging grounds for gala World Premieres.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

LACMA to pull plug on its weekend film series, but looks for donors to pay for another one.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-lacma29-2009jul29,0,1659237.story

Regarding the above story, Mr. Horn and Ms. King's assertion that the availability of classic films on DVD helped to bring about the LACMA weekend film series' demise is a bit too neat--and lets the museum off the hook.

When original series curator/programmer Ron Haver died around 1993, LACMA mostly shifted the focus of the film series from film-as-popular-art to film-as-ART. And museum director Michael Govan and now-part-time-employee Ian Birnie should take some responsibility for the decline in audience and loss in revenue. Ideally, a successful museum film program should find equal room for the works of, say, Alain Resnais (now the closing LACMA retrospective), Kathryn Bigelow, William Wyler, Andrei Tarkovsky and Tsui Hark.

Having said that, I should share some responsibility (as an audience member) for not attending LACMA film programs nearly as often as I did from, say 1988 to the mid-90s. The last time I saw a film at LACMA's Bing Theatre was in late 2004 when there was an advance screening of Martin Scorsese's THE AVIATOR.

[UPDATE 7/30/09: Kenneth Turan offers his opinion--a strong one--regarding LACMA's decision: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-critic-lacma30-2009jul30,0,5900670.story]

[UPDATE 7/31/09: Here's a snobbish pro-Birnie take on LACMA and the film program:
http://filmjourney.weblogger.com/2009/07/30/lacma-jettisons-film-program/]

[UPDATE 8/5/09: A petition to send to Michael Govan re LACMA's film program:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-LACMA-film]

Monday, July 27, 2009

NBC's Ben Silverman steps down.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118006519.html?categoryid=14&cs=1
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/the_big_picture/2009/07/the-long-wait-is-over-ben-silverman-finally-out-at-nbc.html

Ben Silverman, as NBC exec and Reveille majordomo, will probably be best known for making the American version of THE OFFICE a reality. Otherwise, Silverman's track record is mixed, with a lot of aim-really-low reality-show junk on his watch.

And, with the 10-11 p.m. hour ceded to the low-cost THE JAY LENO SHOW, it will be interesting to watch the results of NBC's prime time schedule for 09/10.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama backtracks from original press conference statement re treatment of Henry Louis Gates.

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/tapped_archive?month=07&year=2009&base_name=this_is_what_happens_to_a_blac

Here's a link to coverage of Obama's brief press conference statement, which seemed to be geared primarily to the White House press corps--and took too much refuge in formal, rather than plain-spoken language: http://news.aol.com/article/critics-charge-obama-is-anti-police/587294

Unfortunately, some white people still get upset when African Americans speak out on the subject of racial discrminiation/profiling. I'm old enough to remember when then-Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley was criticized in 1992 for expressing anger with the Simi Valley "not guilty" verdicts for the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King the previous year.

[UPDATE 7/27/09: It's now being revealed that the original 911 call from a neighbor made no mention of race: http://news.aol.com/article/henry-louis-gates-jr-911-call/589068.]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eleven lessons I've learned from "the poetry community."

These lessons are a bit like rules of Fight Club (some straight-up, some laced with sarcasm):
1. Don't criticize the poetry community--after all, they're just sensitive-albeit-flawed human beings just like yourself, regardless of how meanspirited their behavior may seem.
2. Don't criticize specific poets in public.
3. Don't criticize specific poets in private--unless you're ultradeferential and are "mature" (i.e. keep comments as neutral as possible).
4. Don't lose your temper at poets and/or venue owners in public. If you do that, you're likely to be banned for years. If you don't care for a certain host or venue, just leave without comment and go home--and stay the hell away from that venue. It's better to make that choice than have it made for you.
5. Don't criticize the poetry community for wanting to exclude poets who don't meet certain quality-control standards. Corollary: Don't criticize poetry venues for deciding to raise standards by de-emphasizing giving first features to developing voices.
6. Don't criticize poetry community critics by poking fun at those who make pronouncements regarding what poetry should "survive"--and don't criticize the poems of poetry critics who have criticized your poetry.
7. Don't criticize poets who think they're community leaders. You're likely to be told that your criticisms aren't valid because you're not a "leader" like they are. Or you're likely to be compared to Joseph McCarthy.
8. Don't criticize poets who stage poetry festivals where the poets invited are limited to close-personal-friends of the host/organizer.
9. Don't get so angry with poets that you waste valuable time criticizing them on their listserves.
10. Don't complain to the poets in the admonition above (or to poet friends of yours or theirs) if you're banned from the poet's listserve and/or reading. Remember, you're on your own. Either mend fences or move on.
11. Remember when you're critical of poets and/or community, you're likely to hear variations of this phrase: IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WITH US, THEN IT MUST BE BECAUSE OF YOUR ATTITUDE!

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Disney's Robert Iger eyes pay-for-content Disney website.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3i04ac5aa7296d367cffd8e86975292260

Probably the most unsettling passage (highlighting by me) in Paul Bond's article:
"The Disney chief also said he is bullish on behavioral tracking, claiming that privacy concerns are overblown and usually shared only by older consumers. He joked that he has learned more about his two adult daughters from their Facebook pages than from raising them. "

Yes, folks, that's what the head of Disney thinks of its potential consumers.

I don't know Steven Soderbergh personally, but I can feel his pain.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/jul/14/steven-soderbergh

Key passage for me from the article:
"I'm looking at the landscape and I'm thinking, 'Hmmm, I don't know. A few more years maybe,'" says Soderbergh. "And then the stuff that I'm interested in is only going to be of interest to me."
It would all sound depressing if Soderbergh didn't pepper his speech with fits of incredulous laughter. Perhaps the last few years – capped by his recent run-in with Sony over his revised script for Moneyball, a baseball movie starring Brad Pitt, that saw him elbowed off the project – have left him punch-drunk.
"In terms of my career, I can see the end of it," he says. "I've had that sensation for a few years now. And so I've got a list of stuff that I want to do – that I hope I can do – and once that's all finished I may just disappear."

I feel the same way. The kind of poetry I write isn't what the literary world wants. And the LA/OC scenes tend to want to play a Rotisserie Baseball version of Great Literature--where they think they're part of something like the Algonquin Roundtable, but it's actually another chapter of Rotarians or Toastmasters.

"Waiter, there's a condom in my soup!"

Kind of sad to read this story, since I like to eat at Claim Jumper's restaurants (but not from the soup and salad bar) from time to time: http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-condom-soup-lawsuit,0,2141221.story?track=rss

The closest thing I can compare it to in terms of gross eating-out experiences was finding a cockroach in a teriyaki chicken bowl at a small restaurant in a strip mall at Sunset and Crescent Heights (where, in a past era of Hollywood, the legendary Garden of Allah apartment building once stood) in the mid-90s.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

L. A. poet Richard Beban and the Ballona Wetlands--with a little I HEART HUCKABEES on the side.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CobaltPoets/message/14244
[Relevant passages of the above message from Mr. Beban:
I am delighted to tell you that I have been hired as the co-Executive Directorof the non-profit Friends of Ballona Wetlands <http://www.ballonafriends.org/>,L.A.'s preeminent wetlands education and preservation group. The Friends havebeen working for thirty-one years to save and restore the last remaining coastal wetlands acreage in L.A. County, and educate the public about the importance of wetlands in our world ecosystem.

Other groups have Ballona in their name (in fact, one of them, definitely trying to sow confusion,is run by the same people who tried unsuccessfully to SHUT DOWN a marvelous wetlands poetry event Kaaren Kitchell and I ran in 2003 because it didn't toe their political party line), but we're the Friends of Ballona Wetlands.

Why tell poets all this? Because the Friends will be offering poetry reading and publication opportunities in the very near future (mostly at the usual non-profit rates, of course), so e-mail me [address deleted] if you have environmentally themed work.]


http://www.ballonafriends.org/
http://www.socal.com/absolutenm/templates/?a=5632
http://www.metro.net/news_info/archives/2003/04_April/mta_051.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballona_Wetlands
http://www.allmovie.com/work/the-last-stand-the-struggle-for-the-ballona-wetlands-216293
http://www.argonautnewspaper.com/articles/2008/08/07/news_-_features/top_stories/2bal.txt
http://www.ballona.org/Content.aspx?page=3&sub=5
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2003/2003-04-21-03.asp
http://www.calcoast.org/news/wetlands091803.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Heart_Huckabees
http://www.alternet.org/environment/16006/greenwashing_coastal_development/

Pay special attention to the final link above.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Critiquing a poem from a poetry critic who critiqued me.

http://poetrysuperhighway.com/potw.html#fp2 "Prejudice" is the title of the poem.
The highlighting below is my own.

"While we can’t all write the next “Wasteland,” it often seems like we should at least try. But that is not always the case. Sometimes we, as poets, are better off not trying, better off reining in our ambitions, and instead trying to be the best poet we can be, within (and fully cognizant of) our limitations. Yet at the same time, too little ambition can prevent us from even living up to what potential we have. "--G. Murray Thomas from the February, 2009 Review column of Poetix.net.

"The problem is McCarty, in these poems, doesn’t have much new to say....But in all his poems, he refuses to go very deep. His poems skim across the surfaces of his subjects....What is interesting is that his poems are almost entirely devoid of irony. Usually, a deadpan style is used to heighten irony, but McCarty really is interested in only the facts. Now irony is an overused device these days, and on the one hand I commend McCarty for managing to avoid it. On the other, this is another way McCarty avoids layering meaning into his poems."--G. Murray Thomas from his review of my chapbook yellow tree red sky in the same column.

So I commend Mr. Thomas for using an overused device called irony to make an easy I'm-so-better-than-you point about people offended by language and content at a poetry open mike. And, as well, kudos for the obvious title PREJUDICE--in case you, the reader, aren't able to figure out what kind of behavior the poem is about.

Former President Jimmy Carter just says no to Southern Baptist Convention's second-class treatment of women.



Although I didn't grow up Southern Baptist, I lived in a part of Texas where the church was quite prominent. And the church's eternal conservatism (no smoking, no drinking, no dancing because of "gyrations of the body") and literal-mindedness did cast a shadow over life in an increasingly strait-laced Wichita Falls, Texas during my college years.


One wishes Carter had made his break in the 1980s--when Southern Baptists such as Dr. W.A. Criswell, the pastor of a huge Dallas church, were quite prominent (a documentary called THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE featured Criswell) even on the national stage.


But maybe in the year 2009, Carter speaking up for oppressed women will inspire more Southern Baptist women to keep the conversation going--even when the Southern Baptist Convention decides to continue doing the same old things in the same old ways.