Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year-End List Part Four.

Best films I saw in 2013 in no particular order: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, ALL IS LOST, THE BLING RING, FRUITVALE STATION, ENOUGH SAID, STORIES WE TELL, A BAND CALLED DEATH, THE WORLD'S END, NEBRASKA, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, BLUE JASMINE, BLACKFISH, PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, MUD, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Honorable Mention: PHILOMENA, AMERICAN HUSTLE, 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, THIS IS THE END, SPRING BREAKERS, THE GRANDMASTER (TWC version), THE BOOK THIEF,  THE GREAT GATSBY, ANCHORMAN 2, THE WAY WAY BACK, THE COUNSELOR, HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION, FRANCES HA
Least-liked film of 2013: THE EAST

Friday, December 27, 2013

Year-end list Part Three.

Underachieving films of 2013: WORLD WAR Z, THE LONE RANGER (not as terrible as consensus opinion would have you believe, but a warning unheard by Disney/Bruckheimer that not every story has to be blown out to Colossal status to work as a mass-entertainment movie), ELYSIUM (good, thoughtful first half before chase-and-shoot-and-repeat of the later portion), THE AMAZING BURT WONDERSTONE (the combination of Carell/Buscemi/Carrey/Arkin should have yielded more than a passable timekiller that will be forever repeated on TNT during the mid-2010s), DESPICABLE ME 2, MAN OF STEEL (filled with good casting and some effective scenes, but Zack Snyder's embrace of primitivism and superlong climaxes made for an awkward forced marriage by WB to Christopher Nolan--acting as producer here), PACIFIC RIM (not everything touched by Guillermo Del Toro turns to cinematic gold--although Del Toro's defenders did their best to, Godzilla-style, shriek and stomp over objections to the film when released theatrically).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Film critic Glenn Kenny on THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

Glenn Kenny, former film critic for PREMIERE and MSN.com, offers a comprehensive analysis of the latest Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration in these two blog columns:
somecamerunning.typepad.com/some_came_runn
somecamerunning.typepad.com/some_came_runn

A couple of excerpts from the above links:
I suppose that in certain quarters, the only thing interesting about a movie, or the launching pad for anything interesting about a conversation or consideration about a  movie, is how the moviemakers feel about their characters. Golly, the Coen brothers sure hate their characters don't they? But that David O. Russell [director/co-writer of the current AMERICAN HUSTLE], he LOVES his characters —characters who, like those in Wolf of Wall Street, are criminals—but they're NICE criminals, they're passionate they're in love, they're cuddly, and Jennifer Lawrence is AWESOME. Gosh, when did the critical class become so a) filled with flowery feeling and b), for lack of a better world, thick? Buñuel wouldn't do well with this crowd at all. "Hey—he's...he's...he's making FUN of us!"

There is a structural similarity to Scorsese's 1990 Goodfellas, but there are crucial differences too. While Goodfellas maintained a nearly breakneck pace throughout, Wolf of Wall Street has a start-stop rhythm. There are breakneck fast-forward voice-over led sequences that give way to long scenes, scenes which a lot of critics have called pointless. For instance, once finance tyro Belfort is making ridiculous money heading up his fake-respectable firm of Stratton Oakmont, the viewer learns that Belfort's father (played brilliantly by Rob Reiner) has a prodigiously bad temper, and was hired to oversee Stratton Oakmont's books. What follows is a conference room scene in which Belfort and his senior staffers are sitting around very earnestly discussing the dwarves that they are looking to hire for some in-house revelry. Because they now inhabit a world in which everything is commodified, their talk is half earnest, half "can't believe we're getting away with this shit" shitty awe, trading observations about how you should never look a dwarf in the eye and how the wee folk gossip among themselves. It's only after several minutes of this that Reiner's character bursts in, fit to pop a blood vessel over a corporate American Express bill just shy of half a million dollars. Can one genuinely not see the point of this scene, or would one just rather not? In any event, from where I sat the banter among these young capitalists was Ionesco out of early Python—and by early Python I mean Swiftian Rage Python. It's important to remember that it's at the very beginning of the movie that a character played by Matthew McConaughey explains that the entire edifice of investment banking is built on a "fugazi," or "fairy dust." Think of all the people who got incredibly angry and genuinely outraged when the current head of the Catholic Church said "How can it not be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Year-End List Part Two.

Best half-hour series killed by HBO this year (tie): ENLIGHTENED and FAMILY TREE.
Half-hour series likely going out in glory as of season's end: PARKS AND RECREATION.
MVP of the year: Amy Adams, who manages almost single-handedly to keep portions of AMERICAN HUSTLE resonant.
Movie Star Cameo of year (multiple actors tie): ANCHORMAN 2.
Most likely to be overpraised performance of year: Jennifer Lawrence in AMERICAN HUSTLE.  Yes, she's fun to watch, but it's closer to SNL-sketch level than what Cathy Moriarty circa 1980-81 would have done with the role.
Most entertaining veteran male actor chewing scenery on cable TV this year: Jon Voight in RAY DONOVAN.

More to come...

Monday, December 16, 2013

RIP Tom "Billy Jack" Laughlin.

Filmgoers 50-and-over may still have some memories of the late Tom Laughlin's 70s rise-and-fall as star/auteur/idealist/independent distributor due to the popularity of the first three films in the BILLY JACK series (the first, BORN LOSERS, was released in 1968, but was reissued by American International Pictures after the success of 1971's BILLY JACK).

Billy Jack was a Native American progressive--eager to defend fellow Native Americans and the multicultural Freedom School with words and last-resort karate against villains and corrupt politicians.  The character had a lot of appeal during the latter days of the counterculture (roughly 1971 to 1974), and BILLY JACK plus THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK may still, for some, maintain curiosity value as a snapshot of an era where vigilante liberalism as an answer to Injustice (though Delores Taylor's Freedom School teacher Jean was a relatively peaceful/verbal counterweight to Billy Jack's barefoot-kick problem solving) held almost as much sway in the pop culture marketplace as more conservative vigilantes Dirty Harry Callahan and Paul Kersey.

After THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK, Laughlin's career declined. 1975's THE MASTER GUNFIGHTER, a Western pitting Laughlin's title character against post-SUPERFLY Ron O'Neal, was a box-office disappointment.  So Laughlin attempted to play safe by injecting the Billy Jack character into a remake of MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (which never received a full theatrical release, though it's now available on DVD and streaming video in a 40-minutes-shorter version).  On paper, it was an interesting concept to place Billy Jack into a landscape where corruption and politicians-owned-by-corporate-interests couldn't be defeated by simple violent action (ironically, Laughlin's "people's initiative" solution to national government malfeasance bears a resemblance to the way that propositions--which can be controlled by corporate interests--get introduced into the California system of state government).  But, even in the shortened 115-minute cut, BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON is rather clunky (occasionally livened up by E.G. Marshall as the fraudulent Senator played in 1939 by Claude Rains, plus Sam Wanamaker as a proto-Koch brother) for a work by a director who briefly had his finger on the Youth Market pulse.  The financial failure of BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON effectively ended Laughlin as writer/producer/director/actor, though he attempted another BILLY JACK sequel in the 1980s which was abandoned partway through production.

As a filmmaker, Tom Laughlin's legacy is twofold.  Jane Fonda, quoted in a 1975 profile of Laughlin in ROLLING STONE, described THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK as "crude...simplistic"--then goes on to discuss how she watched people enjoying and learning from it, realizing she was out of touch.  Fonda's more complex and sophisticated message/entertainment films (produced with Bruce Gilbert) such as COMING HOME, THE CHINA SYNDROME and 9 TO 5 seem to be the results of her viewing of THE TRIAL.

And then there's James Cameron.  TITANIC (which I like a little bit more these days than I did on its original 1997 release) and AVATAR both display the Tom Laughlin hallmarks of simple Good Vs. Evil stories, liberal/progressive sentiments (certainly the willingness to examine the vast divide between the venal rich and the comparatively powerless poor) and effective audience manipulation.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 Year-End List Part One

First in a series of posts about notable films/TV/books/music of 2013:
Gravitas-filled Event Movies which would have been B-grade actioners/exploitation fare in the 70s/80x:
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, PRISONERS, OUT OF THE FURNACE
Best music documentary you probably didn't see this year: A BAND CALLED DEATH
Misfired Brian De Palma thriller you probably didn't see this year: PASSION
Notable reissue of the year: Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter's THE SERVANT
Best Richard III in modern times performance: Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood in Season One of HOUSE OF CARDS
Best Overlooked Supporting Male Performance of 2013 (tie): Bob Odenkirk in NEBRASKA and
Paul Giamatti in PARKLAND 
Best Cinematic Mother/Daughter of 2013: Leslie Mann and Emma Watson in THE BLING RING

More to come.



Thursday, December 12, 2013

HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE commenter (in jest) suggests film titled SAVING JACK TORRENCE re THE SHINING.

From the HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE website of Jeffrey Wells, here's commenter "bastard in a basket":

Warner Brothers is currently in production on "Saving Jack Torrence." The film will detail the struggle between Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King regarding the adaptation of The Shining. There will be scenes of Kubrick screaming at King that having the hedge animals come alive in the movie will look stupid. There will be flashbacks to King's own personal battles with alcoholism with Kubrick in modern day screaming at King that explaining too much of Jack's backstory and his drinking problems will ruin the film. Finally, there will be an epilogue about how King can't stop bad mouthing the film 25 years later even though it's considered an all time classic and King gladly took the paycheck when selling the rights. Who will be cast is unknown at this point.

Link to this comment (plus the post about discord re the film SAVING MR. BANKS):
http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/2013/12/serious-anti-banks-grenade/

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Trying to parse a Presidential-selfie Tweet from a beloved poet.

At the risk of criticism from some for bringing this to people's attention, here's a recent tweet from Los Angeles' poet/comic Rick Lupert:
Ahh Obama's selfie at the Mandela funeral. To think of the fun we could've had if we had camera phones during the black plague.

I'm trying hard to understand the outburst of apparent humor/social comment above regarding a photo taken by the President at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.  Would it have been less offensive/source-of-joke to Mr. Lupert if a White House aide had snapped it with a cameraphone/tablet?  Or is the point meant to be that the solemnity-blended-with-celebration occasion has been just as demeaned by a President-taken selfie as those on the Right were trumpeting with regards to President Obama's shaking of Cuban leader Raul Castro's hand?

Or is this merely a time-juxtaposition joke about taking selfies during the black plague which tipped over into unfunniness when yoked to the Presidential selfie?





Monday, December 9, 2013

The relative utopia of the NYC folk music community in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.

A quick note regarding the new Joel and Ethan Coen film, which I saw this past weekend at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood:
The folk music "scene" in New York City circa 1961 (i.e., prior to Bob Dylan's arrival and path to ultimate stardom, which was a tide that lifted boats for the folk genre nationwide) isn't idealized (two memorable moments include a scene involving boxes of unsold record albums and Llewyn Davis' Chicago audition for the seen-it-all-ten-times manager/promoter played by F. Murray Abraham), but the Coens' portrayal is notable for the way the members tend to help others--even those they dislike personally (a marked difference from some sectors of some poetry communities, where certain members feel compelled to put fellow poets down--without, I'm guessing, even bothering to read their work--in order to either score brownie points or remind other poets of the Kings/Kingmakers they once were in halcyon days).

See the film, then feel free to return and comment on this post.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New poem: TINKER BELL IN TWILIGHT

About one of our three cats, who had to be euthanized last night after battling fast-growing cancer for the better part of the last two months.  Tinker Bell was eleven years and six months old; Valarie and I inherited her in 2004 from Valarie's father (now deceased) and stepmother-to-be, who were about to move from Palmdale CA to South Carolina.
 
TINKER BELL IN TWILIGHT
 
you're familiar
with the scent of soft cat food
dispensed via small-to-medium syringes
three times a day
plus the two to three doses
of morphine-derived pain medication
given by tiny syringe
>
you want to maintain daily routines
even though the tongue cancer
makes it almost impossible
to eat regular cat or human food
>
you wish the last five weeks
of weight loss and mouth pain
and trips to the vet and back
and being lifted up
and held over the kitchen sink
to be fed and watered and relieved
temporarily from ache and pain--
all of this misery--
never had to happen
>
but nonetheless,
you know you're loved
and make the most
of every chance
to sit next to
and lay on the bed of
your favorite humans
in the entire world
 
 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Joe Jonas in NEW YORK vs. David Cassidy in ROLLING STONE: Beneath the Planet of Teenpop.

Joe Jonas: My Life As a Jonas Brother:
http://www.vulture.com/2013/11/joe-jonas-talks-jonas-brothers.html

Link to 1972 ROLLING STONE article about David Cassidy during his PARTRIDGE FAMILY/solo career height; article titled "Naked Lunch Box":
http://mikestand.tumblr.com/post/24293359892/thefabulousthomasj-david-cassidy-the-naked

Glad I didn't give up writing poetry.

Received this opinion years ago from someone who used to live in SoCal and now lives elsewhere in the country:
You're right, it's not a level playing field, and you don't get points for just being there. You've actually got to do something well. Writing well would be a start. I DO remember your chapbook. I still have it, in the piles of several hundred that I dutifully carried with me cross-country when I moved. Terry, it was dull. Very dull. Not bad, but there was little of interest going on there. I don't recall if I had read it yet when I saw you in Redondo, but even if I had, I doubt I would have said much. What was I supposed to say? "Sorry, it bored me to tears." But as I recall, it took me awhile to get around to it, because, even now, I get a ton of chapbooks very month. I've not thrown one away, and I try to read them all, but no, I can't review them, and I really had nothing consequential to say about it, for good or bad. As to my "wisdom would be something of value," Whatever. I don't recall volunteering to be your mentor, and while I've taught poetry in high schools and colleges, I don't recall you being in any of my classes. The sad fact is, Terry, I thought you were a nice guy,and always tried to be friendly to you, but no, I didn't care much for your writing. Would you have preferred that I said that? I can't see what good that would have done. It's not like I walked out of the room when you were on the microphone. Maybe you've gotten better, I don't know.

The happy ending to the story above: a poem of mine made it into a literary journal recently--along with a poem by the writer above (plus his talented spouse).

Since I've been outspoken about the writer in the past (more than once--though with occasional positive words), I'm not expecting any response.

Just happy that I kept writing and learning about writing without being wounded enough by his opinionating to give up poetry altogether.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

NEW YORK TIMES op-ed contributor (an author) applauds banning negative book reviews.

Here's a radio host from NYC named Bob Garfield who has a debut genre novel titled BEDFELLOWS, applauding the pop culture site BuzzFeed's decision to eliminate negative reviews of books altogether:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/30/opinion/banning-the-negative-book-review.html?hpw&rref=opinion

Yes, Mr. Garfield is rather flip and shallow with the use of space the NEW YORK TIMES allowed for his op-ed. 

But I don't advocate the entire elimination of negative book reviewing.  Instead, the reviewer (even if told to be "entertaining" by his print/online editors--and consigned to writing in no more than bite-sized form) should minimize-to-avoid-altogether personal feelings about the author and concentrate on how successful the book is on its own terms.  And, also, the reviewer should try to avoid fitting all the books he/she reviews into a Procrustean-bed template of what must pass his/her tests of Lasting Literary Quality.

Even negative reviews may interest potential buyers in a book, regardless of the reviewer's opinion.

And limiting printed reviews to just-raves is another chilling chapter in a huge, ongoing cultural-commando volume titled WE DETERMINE WHAT IS TO SURVIVE: GET OUT OF THE LIFEBOAT!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Bruce Dern Primer.

"There is a human time bomb ticking away in Hollywood. He is called Bruce Dern. One of these days he is going to light up the sky. How, nobody knows. At 39, with a suitcase of rave clippings, Dern is poised to become a star. Trouble is, he has been in that position for a couple of years, ever since he scored a personal hit as the bellicose Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. But the brass ring has never seemed to get any nearer. "--from the August 11, 1975 issue of TIME.

Read more: Show Business: Will Bruce Dern Become a Star? - TIME http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,917691,00.html#ixzz2l1VsZDtl


Bruce Dern, in my childhood and teenage years, was often considered a go-to actor for viciously intelligent villain/psychopath roles, particularly in biker films andWesterns.  He had a memorable role in Burt Kennedy's SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF (1969), as the  mean-but-dumb son of outlaw Walter Brennan--in effect a send-up of parts Dern played on series like GUNSMOKE.

This period of Dern's career was capped by the role of the sadistic rustler known as Longhair, who  killed John Wayne's rancher Wil Andersen in Mark Rydell's THE COWBOYS (1972).

After that, Dern could be seen in more "normal"  performances such as the college basketball coach in Jack Nicholson's DRIVE, HE SAID, the Atlantic City wannabe-tycoon in Bob Rafelson's THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS--and (four decades before Robert Redford in ALL IS LOST) carrying the majority of Douglas Trumbull's sci-fi/ecology elegy SILENT RUNNING by himself.  All three films appeared in theaters in 1972.

By 1975, Dern had two personal-bests with  his Tom Buchanan in Jack Clayton's THE GREAT GATSBY (more nuanced than Joel Edgerton's rich-jock portrayal in Baz Luhrmann's recent remake) and the car-salesman/civic booster in Michael Ritchie's unjustly-overlooked beauty-pageant comedy/drama SMILE.

I recall the TIME magazine article from 1975 carrying a quote like this: "Bruce needs to make love to a woman on the screen."

Afterwards, Dern's career contained mainstream choices which seemed sound on paper: the 1920s  imitation Mel Brooks of Michael Winner's  WON TON TON: THE DOG THAT SAVED HOLLYWOOD, Alfred Hitchcock's thriller/light comedy FAMILY PLOT, the post-10 adultery-with-younger-woman MIDDLE AGE CRAZY (better than its current obscurity suggests), returns to psychopathic villainy BLACK SUNDAY and TATTOO (in the latter, Dern made extensive love to Maud Adams on the screen).  None of these films were the commercial blockbusters imagined by their makers.

From this period, the two films that survive in today's consciousness are Hal Ashby's COMING HOME (Dern was superb as the psychologically scarred Vietnam vet husband of Jane Fonda) and Walter Hill's robber-and-cop cult classic THE DRIVER, with Dern as the latter to Ryan O'Neal's title character.

Post-TATTOO: I can remember Dern in a personal-to-him role as a professional runner in Rob Nilsson's ON THE EDGE (1986), as part of the ensemble in Jason Miller's film version of his play
THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON and (his last great role before Alexander Payne's NEBRASKA) the crime boss in James Foley's AFTER DARK MY SWEET (1990).

Perhaps Bruce Dern wasn't accepted by mainstream America as a Movie Star because he committed to playing Outsiders and Troublemakers without signaling to the public "Hey, I'm just a Star playing a  part.  I'm not really that way."

To me, Dern's always been a star and one of our national acting treasures.  Here's hoping NEBRASKA is the beginning of a series of late-career gems.

Monday, November 4, 2013

SNL and diversity of cast members--comparing current season to 79-80.

From an INDIEWIRE article about Kerry Washington hosting Saturday's episode of SNL (I only watched the first half-hour):
Perhaps more revealing than the complexion of the show's cast was the fact that virtually all the characters Washington was given to play, from a Spellman poli-sci prof to a teacher at Booker T. Washington high, was written as black, which is to say the writers started out saying not, "What can we write for this beautiful, prodigiously talented actresss?" but "What black characters can we write for her?" The lack of voices goes beyond what public characters the show can and can't impersonate; it affects what it can, and can't, imagine.
Link to the complete article: http://blogs.indiewire.com/criticwire/kerry-washington-snl-race

For some historical perspective, let's look at a tv.com comment about Season 5 (the post-Belushi/Aykroyd year) of SNL, when Garrett Morris was the only African-American cast member:
"The Incredible Man," a [parody] of The Wizard of Oz, marks the nadir of the show's mistreatment of Garrett Morris. After being put through several women's parts, Garrett was cast as a flying monkey for this sketch. Six day[s] later, Garrett broke down in front of the entire staff, no longer able to contain his resentment for five years' mistreatment.
Link to article plus comments: http://www.tv.com/shows/saturday-night-live/elliott-gould-gary-numan-116398/

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Two views of a one-time SoCal Poetry Icon.

Someone who I won't mention by name here (don't like the person, but sometimes appreciate his columns/essays) wrote the following about someone else who used to be a Very Big Deal in Southern California poetry during the first four to five years I was involved with The Scene.  Name and certain details redacted:
[Poet] was in rare form, and the crowd ate him up. What I like about [poet] is that you can drop him in front of just about any room, and he's fine ... even that night, when a heavy metal band upstairs was drowning out half of everything. (Not sure was up with that. [venue] doesn't usually book bands upstairs on Mondays. Odd.)

Anyway, it was good to see [poet], and great to see him having a blast on that stage. Like I said, the crowd there adored him, and he was just letting loose and flying, climbing furniture and shouting (although, as I said, that was partly out of necessity.) Not sure I would have reprised the poem [signature poem title omitted] in the 2nd half, but eh. Whatever. The crowd was buying what he was selling, and I have to say, I hadn't realized how much I'd missed him till he turned up. I get that a lot, actually.

My view of [poet] during the time I was on the outer edge of his orbit:
[Poet] once described himself and his craft as like "folk music" in a world where slam could be compared to rock and roll.  And I'll agree with the above writer that [poet] when he was "on" was an enthusiastic venue host expert at working a room.  The poetry of [poet] leaned towards storytelling for the most part (in my opinion, where it best played to his strengths), though it became more consciously "artistic" when he began courting the favors of the Artistic Leaders in the SoCal Community around the years 2001-2002.

This will sound small to some people who know and still unconditionally love [poet], and I don't care if it does.  [Poet] never thought I was good enough to feature at his-and-hosting-partner's venues (when it seemed like to do so was akin to a 70s/80s-era stand-up comic being asked by Johnny Carson to sit in the honored Guest's Chair) in those early years, although other places in LA/OC had no problem giving me featured bookings--which, in retrospect, made up for being slighted (especially since there were more opportunites and venues back then).  Perhaps it hurt me that I wasn't writing enough progressive-tinged poems, instead doing humorous pieces about office workers and--gasp!--poems about Hollywood.

And, to be honest, I witnessed (plus hearing stories of) [poet] being really small and mean and petty to some members of the community who were outcasts (for one reason or another) not liked by the Scene in general.  The seminal moment I became disenchanted with [poet] was a night in late 2000 at a Latin-American restaurant in a Hollywood-adjacent area.  [Poet] was forced by restaurant owner to cut the reading short; [poet] didn't explain this to audience, but promised rainchecks for the remaining open readers the following week.  Unfortunately, an Outcast Poet picked that moment to chastise [poet] for cutting the reading short.  [Poet] handled it in a bad way--screaming at Outcast Poet until an acolyte of [poet] came to hustle Outcast Poet away.

Perhaps the darker, jerkier, sanctimonious side of [poet] is why I've spoken my mind over the past decade (sometimes unwisely, at other times ready to risk misunderstanding/hatred for not being passive and careerist when I see prominent poets abusing their prominence/Brand Names at the expense of others they can afford to trample on).

In any event, I'm glad [poet] is on one coast and I'm on the other.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

5-Star review (unsolicited by me) of HOLLYWOOD POETRY: 2001-2013

Reprinted from Amazon.com--with the author going under pseudonym of "High Expectations":

Hilarious! ... Classic McCarty

I first encountered Terry McCarty's poetry at one of his performances in the late 1990s in Los Angeles. I've been a fan ever since. This collection of McCarty's poetry takes me back to those days, when the open-mic poetry scene in LA was populated by some of the city's brightest writers, McCarty included. Back then, new writers crowded the podiums alongside accomplished writers each week at the many coffee shops and independent bookstores in the Southern California area. Some writers amused. Some writers provoked. Everyone seemed to feel as though they were a part of something essential, and they were. Terry McCarty was one of the writers who made that scene possible. He was always part of the biggest and best shows.

Although the scene is still there, I'm sad to say it's not nearly as big as it used to be. Most of the independent bookstores have long since disappeared, and some of the better coffee shop venues are gone too. But, many of the best writers, like McCarty, remain dedicated to their craft and can still be seen performing in the Southern California area, same as they did back in the day.

"Hollywood Poetry: 2001-2013," reads like the fad never faded. It is some of McCarty's best work yet, a classic portrait of the entertainment industry, and SoCal culture, as only McCarty can portray. To call McCarty's wit "wry" is appropriate, but it also does his work a small injustice as the word "wry" suggests to some a mean-spirited mocking-type humor and I find nothing mean-spirited about McCarty's work. His humor is delightfully dry, painfully honest, judiciously nonjudgemental (mostly), and just plain hilarious. He leads you to conclusions in his special way. He makes me laugh every time. McCarty's voice is so rich in each piece that you can almost hear that lugubrious delivery that is his signature.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the voice of witty poets, as well as to anyone in and around the entertainment industry. Chances are you've seen the same things McCarty has seen, although maybe not quiet the same way, until now.

If you self-publish, prepare for tradition-should-rule negativity.

Noticed this article in my e-mail box from POETS AND WRITERS magazine about self-publishing, done in a glass-half-full manner: http://www.pw.org/content/selfpublishing_perspectives

And here is a commenter with a differing view:
eyeswideopen says...
The only thing true about this article by these 3 interviewees is when they say self-publishing is here to stay. Other than that, there's quite a bit of hypocrisy and misinformation being thrown about.
If self-publishers are bringing in millions, it's news to the millions who have self-published. It's actually the self-publishing industry that has grown up around self-publishers making the millions: Cover artists, fly-by-night editors, author services charging exhorbitant rates, only to have these books languish, known only to friends and family, never to be seen by strangers. Sockpuppet reviews. Dismal Amazon ratings. Haranguing of friends and family on Facebook to buy/review whether they've read the book or not "just drop me a 5".
I'll continue to trust the gatekeepers to continue publishing authors I like, books I like, and I'll depend on word of mouth from trusted friends, none of who have ever recommended a self-published book. 
Now, why not do an interview about the real truth of self-publishing? About how only a very few sell even in the hundreds. Look at the dismal Amazon ratings of self-published books, pick a few and then interview THEM. That's where you'll find your millions.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Observing the art form of mid-budget Hollywood remakes.

This afternoon, I saw Kimberly Peirce's (BOYS DON'T CRY, STOP LOSS) remake of Stephen King's CARRIE--the definitive version was made in 1976 by Brian De Palma, with a star making lead performance by Sissy Spacek,

When the preview trailers were playing, I saw other remakes to come in early 2014.  ABOUT LAST NIGHT (based on a David Mamet play titled SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO and a 1986 Rob Lowe/Demi Moore yuppie romance smoothed out from the apparently darker and more cynical play) has been moved from Chicago to L.A. and seems to be mostly a vehicle for super hot comic Kevin Hart in the role once played by Jim Belushi.

And then there was the trailer for ENDLESS LOVE, a remake of Franco Zeffirelli's 1981 teen sex drama with Brooke Shields (a film which is half-forgotten now and not as successful as Shields' previous teen sex drama THE BLUE LAGOON).  In the new version, Brooke Shields' role is taken by Gabriella Wilde--who plays Amy Irving's old role of well-meaning teenager Sue Snell in the remake of CARRIE.

Following the current logic of mainstream films made by Hollywood studios, I'm expecting GabriellaWilde to appear soon in a remake of THE BLUE LAGOON.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why Senator Ted Cruz will stay on the nation's radar a bit longer.

Yes, Ted Cruz makes Joseph McCarthy look like William F. Buckley, Jr.  But he hits a gigantic nerve with feel-don't-think conservatives across the USA.

Witness these comments on Cruz' Facebook page (commenters' names redacted):
Good that they have a Senator who understands the Constitution and the gravity of the current state of affairs.
Please don't crumble! You are all we have!!
Ted Cruz for president!
WE DONT LIKE OBAMA, REMOVE HIM FROM OUR WHITEHOUSE! !!!
Illegal Immigration, and Obamacare, this is not the country of my youth. STAND YOUR GROUND or we are ruined

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sheryl Crow's awful makenice with country radio: FEELS LIKE HOME.

Once upon a time in the early 1980s, the cult R-&-B artist Swamp Dogg (aka Jerry Williams) released an album with the title I'M NOT SELLING OUT, I'M BUYING IN.

Over three decades later, here's Sheryl Crow, cut loose from A&M/Universal (despite a generally good run of albums with that label) and desperate for a career revival.  So, why not humiliate herself by trying to compete with Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, the one-foot-out-the-country-door Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert--voila, the Warner Brothers release FEELS LIKE HOME.

Here are some examples for your listening displeasure:
EASY (YouTube video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST7btkkoaNU

GIVE IT TO ME (YouTube audio) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIlf_CqDVPw

And the song which made me turn off FEELS LIKE HOME, the craptastic
WE OUGHTA BE DRINKIN' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh5MS_7RDcQ

YEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!  Country Music in the Shade of Beige!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

New poem: MILEY AND SOME OF THE REST OF US.

If it wasn't you
riding wrecking ball
licking sledgehammer
twisting on ground
people would search hard
for someone else
to throw stones at
to keep practicing
notions of rocksolid
moral superiority
>
Mario Lopez smiles
as he implies to Channel 4 News
that nothing Sinead O'Connor says
about Miley Cyrus
is valid
because two decades ago
she tore up the picture
of a former Pope
who will be a Saint
next year
>
some things you do
when you're young
or younger
will never be forgiven
>
it's not like Miley
is Madonna or Lady Gaga
or Courtney Love
with some ideas
brought to the table
and marinated in
Pop Culture Sauce
>
it's just selling
and superselling
and Product
and publicists
and MTV
and record execs
saying how do we make Miley
bigger than Britney
and Christina
that's what matters
>
in ROLLING STONE,
the Miley article
contains a tidbit
on how Billy Ray Cyrus
fathered two children
with two different women
Billy Ray chose to marry Miley's mother
>
wondering if
Billy Ray's other child
has a well-adjusted life
or gets depressed over how he/she
lost the Superstar Lottery

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Poet Julia Stein gets Murrayed.

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."--Elmore Leonard

But in the world of poetry, some people (particularly reviewers who wish to culturally shape their communities) prefer writing that sounds like writing.

Here are two excerpts from G. Murray Thomas' review of Julia Stein's book WHAT WERE THEY LIKE?

But too often the poems acquire their power through flat statements, rather than poetic language. This is especially true in the final lines with which she closes many of her poems. Too often they end with a line which punches the gut without engaging the imagination. “A cruise missile left her/ paralyzed on half of her body.” (“I Wanted to Believe”); “I ask Congress to stop the destruction of this city.” (“Do I look like a Sumerian goddess”); “she wants to send money to stop the war” (“My Mama Remembers”).

What Were They Like? delivers a powerful anti-war message. Stein succeeds in her goal of showing the lives of average people swept up in the horror of war. But I’m sad to say it rarely rises to the level of great poetry in the process. Regular readers of my reviews know I like my poetry open-ended. I like to discover meaning in the poems I read, not be slapped in the face with it. Poetry is such a perfect format for expressing ambiguity that, to be honest, I feel cheated when a poet does less with it.

The full review can be read at http://www.poetix.net

Monday, September 30, 2013

Visit the alternate universe blaming Harry Reid--rather than GOP obstructionism--for government shutdown.

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23HarryReidsShutdown&src=tren

Some examples from the above link:
Now that Harry Reid shut it down government, the Stay Puft man is going to walk through New York.--Dana Loesch, conservative pundit

Democrats want to kill the TeaParty. They know gov't run media will lay blame upon them & the statist GOP will pile on--Victor Nikki

Why is it ok for Pres Obama to stand on principal but not ok for GOP?--Representative Jeff Duncan

because he's fine w/ forcing Americans to purchase what he has exempted himself and his minions from!--Jennifer McFarlane

HarryReidsShutdown because they could care less about what Americans truly want!!!!!--Andrew

Harry Reid would rather shutdown the government than have an honest debate about how Obamacare is ruining our economy.--Amanda Carpenter

Will Michelle Obama tell me to drink water when thirsty pro bono?--Rufus Kings

STOP SAYING most are blaming Republicans for ! NOT TRUE! Reid is ARROGANT NAZI SCUMBAG! --Debra Pianalto

The choice is clear: Shut down the thing that is shutting down America by --Representative Jeff Duncan

This is another step by the Kenyan to turn America into a 3rd World Country. What a shame. --Dan Freeman

And finally, as rebuttal to the above:
Don't like a law? Defund and disobey it. Blame someone else for your recalcitrance. All better now. Stay strong, Harry.--Gail James

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book consignment deals from a San Francisco independent bookstore's point-of-view.

Allow me to preface this anecdote by stating I actually bought a book from the San Francisco CA independent bookstore (name will go unmentioned, but it's located in the SOMA--south of Market--area) which will be discussed below.  In other words, no hard feelings on my part (particularly since I was able to place copies of HOLLYWOOD POETRY: 2001-2013 and the print version of POEMS BELOW THE LINE in other stores in San Francisco/Berkeley, plus donating copies for resale at the SF Public Library's main branch near City Hall).

A poet enters an independent bookstore.

He asks if the store does consignment deals.

The male employee on the ground floor asks about the genre.

Poetry, the poet says.

Male ground floor employee directs poet to go downstairs.

Downstairs, there is a poetry section as well as arts/entertainment/film books for sale.

Poet goes to downstairs employee behind counter in a work area.

Could you take this book on consignment, asks the poet.

Downstairs employee does a fast flip through poet's book.

Then downstairs employee says something like this:
Why don't you check out City Lights?  They might take this.

[Background: City Lights, located in North Beach, is an overall well-regarded long-running progressive bookstore, still blessed with the presence emeritus of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  In past years, the store would take self-published chapbooks or non-elite small press volumes by area poets.  This week, though, I notice that the nook under the staircase to the upstairs poetry section is filled with saddle-stitched zines.]

I answer something like this:
It seems like City Lights has gradually stopped selling [these kinds of] poetry books over the years.

The downstairs employee, with no visible heightening of emotion, says something like this:
We don't take consignment books anymore because of those times when authors don't come to pick them up [when the store can't sell them and time is up under terms of the deal.]
And also, people may not know who the author is. [looks at poet]  No offense.

So, I politely thanked him for answering my questions, found a book to purchase and went upstairs to pay the male employee on the ground floor.

End of Anecdote (which may or may not have resonance for poets reading this blog post).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The snarkiest film review you'll read this year.

Turning the floor over to Scott Marks of the SAN DIEGO READER, with his five-star review of Morgan Spurlock and Simon Cowell's ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US:

At around the 30-minute mark, Martin Scorsese and his young daughter appear backstage after a concert at Madison Square Garden for an audience with the boy band sensation. Marty speaks of how He and Francesca exchange music and then proceeds to offer the group His personal dispensation. With a forced chortle, He’s off. It’s 16 of the most divine seconds ever committed to film. Five stars! A must-see! The greatest concert movie since Shine a Light! Compared to this, The Last Waltz is a masterpiece! Starring Martin Scorsese, Francesca Scorsese, Chris Rock, and The New Monkees. Directed with measured anonymity by Morgan Spurlock. 2013.




Friday, September 13, 2013

ROCK AND RAP CONFIDENTIAL on Ted Nugent, conservative role model.

RRC Extra No. 36 / May 2013:
Ted Nugent’s Double Standards
 
 
Please feel free to forward or post this RRC Extra widely. We only ask that you include the information that anyone can subscribe free of charge to Rock & Rap Confidential by sending their email address to rockrap@aol.com. If you ever wish to unsubscribe, just send an email with “unsubscribe” in the subject line to rockrap@aol.com.
 
 
DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO… Ted Nugent spent the hours before his speech at the National Rifle Association’s recent national convention as just another vendor, hawking his books to the public. Then, as the confab’s final speaker, he gave his stock speech about his love of guns and his eagerness to kill people (“if you dare attempt to argue with me about my right to self-defense, I will just have to destroy you”). But the truth of the matter is that Ted’s never killed anyone and when he had a chance to, he bailed. Ted Nugent is just another chicken hawk.
 
He was born in 1948, so he was eligible to enlist in 1966 or early 1967. Why didn't he? Not because his family didn't want him to--his father was professional military, a staff sergeant. In 1977, Nugent described to High Times his efforts to evade conscription. Later he claimed to have a 1Y deferment because he was enrolled at Oakland Community College. It would be interesting to know how many times he entered a classroom, considering that by 1967 his band, The Amboy Dukes, had a record contract, which tends to make the band members pretty busy.  Nugent also claims he lied to a gullible High Times reporter. Why would he do that? Was it macho to be a draft dodger back then?
 
Nugent likes to brag about jamming with fellow veteran Jimi Hendrix…oh, that's right, Jimi enlisted as a paratrooper, while Ted fled. As for his “support for the troops,” which he trumpeted again at the NRA’s Houston convention, in 1977 he said that “If I would have gone over there, I’d have killed all the hippies in the foxholes.” Now he’s an avid supporter of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least Nugent’s consistent—in all these cases Americans are being killed while Ted lives a protected life out of harm’s way.
 
Nugent also brags about his deep Christian faith, which by his own account hasn’t prevented him from screwing hundreds of teenage girls, often well after he'd reached the outer fringes of middle age. More recently, Nugent couldn’t marry his third wife, Pele Massa, because she was underage so Ted arranged (at what price one wonders) for Pele's parents to sign legal guardianship over to him until she legally ripened. Three of his children were born out of wedlock. Wonder what Christian splinter group he's found to endorse all that?
 
 Nugent's first hit was with the Amboy Dukes on "Journey to the Center of the Mind," which he claims not to know was about drugs, making him a unique teenager who wasn’t able to decode psychedelic drug references in 1968. Did he also not know it when he played the song at a Dukes reunion in Detroit in 2009?
 
In 2007, Nugent went on the Hannity and Colmes TV show to complain that at the Coachella festival Zach de la Rocha said that the Bush administration should be "hung and tried and shot." On April 17, 2012, Nugent said that if Obama was re-elected he would “either be dead or in jail by this time next year." This proved to be a lie. Or maybe he's filed for an extension.
 
Anyway, Ted couldn't die because he remains on Federal probation until next April. Seems the great sportsman killed more bears than he was entitled to in Alaska. (Nugent has a previous conviction for deer baiting in California.) His other monumental achievement as a nature lover is his support for Massey Energy's mountain removal program: "On behalf of the Nugent family, I say, start up the bulldozers and get me some more coal, Massey." Might as well, since he couldn't go hunting around there--the mountain removal devastates all wildlife.
 
Come to think of it, maybe  if Nugent took a closer look at the actual record of Barack Obama, he’d see a kindred spirit. After all, both Ted and Barack are big fans of fossil fuels. Nugent hates immigrants (“We should put razor wire around our borders and give the finger to any piece of shit who wants to come here”) and Obama has deported more immigrants than any President in U.S. history. Ted Nugent likes to kill defenseless creatures (animals), while Barack Obama is the world’s leading proponent of drone warfare. Maybe Ted should go over to the Pentagon with the President and spend an afternoon using a computer mouse to target and destroy a wedding party in Afghanistan. All would be forgiven. Except by us.
 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Something new from Victor Infante.

Found this on a website called NAILED, edited by Carrie Seitzenger (who, if I recall correctly, is an alumnus of Orange County poeterati); marveling at Mr. Infante's eagerness to shoot at the easy (and past sell-by date) target of Kate Gosselin:
The Revelation of Kate Gosselin, as Revealed to John Connor from the “Terminator” Movies
(After the painting “Shoot the Stork” by Irving Phillips)
You speak of futures
and I’ll speak of storks –
ugly birds, descending
with a lumbering grace,
soaring thermal currents,
angel wings spread wide,
casting the sun into shadow.
Men with cameras came and built
a house composed of camera lenses.
They tattooed Nielsen ratings
onto my children’s necks.
My marriage became
cracked wallpaper,
discarded in the exodus
of birds and cameras
pushed by the wind
to some other miracle,
leaving me dancing
to hold their focus.
You’re speaking future tense
while I’m dissolving
into strangers’ living rooms –
you, oracle, for whom the future is pencil lead;
you, with Apocalypse dripping from your tongue:
When you vanish into the future,
please, leave the gun behind.

Link to this poem, and others: http://www.nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-by-victor-infante/

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A type of bullying that may be practiced by some members of poetry communities.

I found this on www.stopcyberbullying.org and it's something that can be easily applied to situations among adults:
“The Vengeful Angel”
In this type of cyberbullying, the cyberbully doesn’t see themselves as a bully at all. They see themselves as righting wrongs, or protecting themselves or others from the “bad guy” they are now victimizing. This includes situations when the victim of cyberbullying or offline bullying retaliates and becomes a cyberbully themselves They may be angry at something the victim did and feel they are taking warranted revenge or teaching the other a lesson. The “Vengeful Angel” cyberbully often gets involved trying to protect a friend who is being bullied or cyberbullied. They generally work alone, but may share their activities and motives with their close friends and others they perceive as being victimized by the person they are cyberbullying.
Vengeful Angels need to know that no one should try and take justice into their own hands. They need to understand that few things are clear enough to understand, and that fighting bullying with more bullying only makes things worse. They need to see themselves as bullies, not the do-gooder they think they are. It also helps to address the reasons they lashed out in the first place. If they sense injustices, maybe there really are injustices. Instead of just blaming the Vengeful Angel, solutions here also require that the situation be reviewed to see what can be done to address the underlying problem. S there a place to report bullying or cyberbullying? Can that be done anonymously? Is there a peer counseling group that handles these matters? What about parents and school administrators. Do they ignore bullying when it occurs, or do they take it seriously? The more methods we can give these kinds of cyberbullies to use official channels to right wrongs, the less often they will try to take justice into their own hands.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

NEW YORK magazine commenter on runup to war with Syria's Assad.

"Ribonucleic" had this to say in a comment on a Jonathan Chait column on the NEW YORK magazine website:
Given the US history of lies about WMD, given the bum rushing of the UN inspectors, given that Assad had no reason to use chemical weapons in a war he is winning, given that the rebels had everything to gain by having Obama's "red line" crossed, you'd think that people would be demanding the highest standard of proof (i.e. Assad boasting about it on national television) before going along with yet another bombing of yet another Muslim country with yet another connection to desired energy resources. But no. the war drums pound, someone in the ruling party says the magic word "Hitler", the media parrots the official line, and the wheel of blood beginss another turn...

Here's a link to the column by Chait (who seems to support intervention on humanitarian grounds, but dislikes Tuesday's presentation by Obama Administration officials):
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/09/obamas-terrible-national-security-argument.html

Monday, September 2, 2013

In 1980, a Great Man of Music told me "You think you deserve a medal?"

It was this Great Man of Music: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Reed

If aging memory is correct, Mr. Reed came to Midwestern State University (in Wichita Falls TX) in the spring of 1980 to guest-conduct the MSU Symphonic Band.

I was one of the non-music majors in the band (part of the percussion section).

During a Sunday afternoon rehearsal at Akin Auditorium, the band was playing a number to be included in an upcoming concert.

I made a mistake; Mr. Reed pointed it out in front of the regular conductor and the entire band.

Later, we returned to the same passage of the number.  I played better.

Nonetheless, Mr. Reed looked at me and said: "You think you deserve a medal?"

Obviously, I didn't. As he saw it, there was no need for praise regarding the ability to correct musical mistakes.

At 20 years of age, I handled myself better in that situation than I would have two-plus decades later.  I just kept my mouth shut and didn't display any publicly unacceptable emotion.

As one can see from the Wikipedia entry, Mr. Reed wrote reams of symphonic music and accomplished a lot during his teaching/writing/guest conducting career.

And obviously, this will (for many people) outweigh any bleats of complaint over his humiliate-in-public-in-the-pursuit-of-excellence style.

It was something I experienced in high school already.  And it also occurred in some work experiences years afterward.  Finally, it happened to me during the decade-and-a-half I have spent writing and reading poetry.

I wish I had handled certain of these later experiences (particularly in the last decade) in the way I took in Alfred Reed's symbolic back-of-the-hand: namely, grit my teeth, do things as well as humanly possible and carry on regardless.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Poem about cover of Pink Floyd's ATOM HEART MOTHER.

ANSWER POEM TO SIMON JACKSON'S "COWS" FROM EKPHRASTIA GONE WILD

[Also inspired by cover of Pink Floyd's ATOM HEART MOTHER:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atom_Heart_Mother]
(Cow on phone with agent)
What is this with these
allegedly "progressive" record labels?
You told me EMI would pay me two bales of hay,
but only ONE arrived!
>
Okay, I'll pose for the photo
but they're only getting a side view
with my head turned to camera.
One shot only, then I'm through.
>
Hey, while you're at it,
ask Pink Floyd
why they haven't made a good album
since they fired Syd Barrett?
(Cow drops phone to ground in disgust,
sighs loudly and prepares for low-wage immortality)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney's contradictory statements on Bradley Manning sentence.

Here's Alex Gibney's (who recently directed a documentary on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks titled WE STEAL SECRETS) interview with veteran Hollywood columnist Anne Thompson (contradictory statements highlighted by me):

Anne Thompson: Is this heavy sentence a miscarriage of justice?
Alex Gibney: "Yes, he's been scapegoated. In a way that's the equivalent of the British army hanging someone from the yardarm. The Obama administration wanted to set an example, and have done it in a brutal way with forms of torture beginning with his confinement. They charged him with aiding the enemy, which thankfully he was found not guilty of, but also of many counts in the Espionage Act. This is the great crime of the Obama administration, trying to turn leaks into treason when they're really not the same thing."

Is the Obama administration, in its fight against terrorism, continuing the practices of the Bush era?
"In this way they're behaving worse. It's the Obama administration going overboard, using the Espionage Act to prosecute leakers. In this way they've gone beyond what the Bush administration has done. You have to look at the overall spectrum of what the Obama administration was willing to do in the larger sense of justice. The Obama administration refused to prosecute anyone for torture. Jose Rodriguez of the CIA intentionally destroyed videotaped enhanced interrogations which were evidence of crimes. Nothing happened; he wasn't even prosecuted. While Manning gets 35 years for leaking material, not to a foreign government, and he didn't get any money. He may have been naive, but he leaked it to the world and the press because he thought it was important information that people should know. Much of the information he leaked was important."

I'm glad that I saw that drone video. 
"The video is shocking and frankly should never have been classified. The Army claims it wasn't, but they play games all the time with classification. Documents show that both the Bush and Obama administrations grossly underrated war crimes in a context of mendacity. Revealing their criminality was important for public debate in a democracy. I want to hold them to account, but I don't want a world where every private leaks everything on his computer. He pled guilty on a number of charges. They're charging him as a spy. He did not damage U.S. national security. He did cause embarrassment. But to send someone away for the rest of his life for causing embarrassment seems a perversion of justice."

Here's a link to the Thompson On Hollywood column with the interview:
http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/wikileaks-director-alex-gibney-reacts-to-bradley-mannings-35-year-sentence-a-perversion-of-justice

Bradley Manning's defense attorney on Manning's prison sentence.

From the GUARDIAN coverage of Bradley Manning's 35-year prison sentence for whistle blowing:

Here's a summary of the news conference with David Coombs, defense attorney for Bradley Manning:
• The Manning legal team is formally applying to President Barack Obama for a pardon "or at the very least [to] commute his sentence to time served". Requesting a pardon, Manning will tell president Obama he acted "out of a love to my country, and a sense of duty to others".
• Manning, who will be imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, comes up for parole in seven years, Coombs said. If parole is not granted he would receive a new parole hearing each year. Coombs vowed to master the legal intricacies of parole requests and to carry the Manning case forward. 
• Coombs held out hope that Manning would be released "in the near term": "I'm hoping that he goes on with life and becomes productive. If so this doesn't have to define him."
• Coombs described shock and sadness at the length of the sentence, which he depicted as unfair. After the sentence was read he and his legal team cried, Coombs said. Manning did not cry. "He looks to me, and he says, 'It's OK. IT's alright. I know you did your best. I'm going to be OK. I'm going to get through this."
• Coombs said the trial was unfair because it was closed. "A lot of stuff that happened would not have happened, because the American public would see it and say, 'that's not fair,'" Coombs said. 
• The long sentence would discourage future potential whistleblowers, Coombs said: "This does send a message, and it's a chilling one."
• The Edward Snowden case emerged at an inconvenient time for the Manning defense, Coombs said, in the sense that government frustration over whistleblowers was redoubled. "But it also had some benefits for us," Coombs said, "because it brought attention back to [Manning's] case."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing.

Courtesy of NPR News eulogy of Elmore Leonard:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said."
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Monday, August 19, 2013

It was only 40 years ago: 1973 in movies.

Thanks to the gentleman with the Twitter name EddieMarsAttacks for starting a thread on the micro blogging site about favorite films released four decades ago:
Here's my list of 1973 films (some of which I didn't see at the time): PAPER MOON, THE STING, AMERICAN GRAFITTI, PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, SISTERS, MEAN STREETS, SLITHER, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, THE LONG GOODBYE, SCARECROW, THE OUTFIT, F FOR FAKE, THE EXORCIST, BADLANDS, COFFY, THE WAY WE WERE, MAGNUM FORCE, CHARLEY VARRICK

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

GUARDIAN article about President Obama and "open debate" re NSA spying.

A couple of excerpts from the article by Jennifer Hoelzer:

"The NSA (along with the FBI, DEA and CIA) continually declares the law is on its side and portrays its opponents as ridiculous dreamers who believe safety doesn't come with a price."--Hoelzer quoting Tim Cushing writing about the NSA on techdirt.com.

This from Ms. Hoelzer (highlighted by me):
I think it's hard for the American people to trust their president when he says he respects democratic principles, when his actions over the course of nearly five years demonstrate very little respect for democratic principles.

I think the American people would be more likely to trust the president when he says these programs include safeguards that protect their privacy, if he – or anyone else in his administration – seemed to care about privacy rights or demonstrated an understanding of how the information being collected could be abused. Seriously, how are we supposed to trust safeguards devised by people who don't believe there is anything to safeguard against?

I think it's understandably hard for the American people to trust the president when he says his administration has the legal authority to conduct these surveillance programs, when one of the few things that remains classified about these programs is the legal argument that the administration says gives the NSA the authority to conduct these programs. This is the document that explains why the administration believes the word "relevant" gives them the authority to collect everything. It's also the document I'd most like to see, since it's the document my former boss [U.S. Senator Ron Wyden] has been requesting be declassified for more than half a decade.

Read the article in its entirety: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/13/obama-open-debate-nsa-spying

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Exit Statement re my recent stint as poetry host.

From March to this past Friday, I was the Second Friday host in the poetry hosting rotation of The Rapp Saloon reading in Santa Monica CA.  Earlier last week, I resigned my volunteer position.

This is the statement I posted Saturday on Facebook:
One comment on stepping down from hosting at The Rapp Saloon: it gets very disheartening to book poet/multiple poet bills and have few (or in one case, zero) people in attendance. And, yes, I'm aware that other venues cope with this too. In the Rapp's case, I'm also aware of years past when attendance on a weekly basis was good-to-excellent. I did my best in booking and promoting, and that's all I can say.

In addition, I was booked by another Rapp Saloon host (Joe Camhi) as a feature.  No one came to see me.  I'll make no further comment on this--except to say it happens to other poets too.

How much of this under-or-non-attendance is due to aging of certain poets, reluctance to drive long distances when gasoline is over $4.00 a gallon, or the reduction of the SoCal scene to Literary  Pantheon Aspiration with gradual weeding out of Folk Art (something that certain prominent people in the scene dearly wanted) is a question that only you, the reader of this post, can answer.

That is, if you truly care about answering it.

 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The recorded music industry mourns a situation it largely created.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/album-sales-nosedive-as-cruel-summer-rolls-on-20130806

Not mentioned in the article: chain stores such as Best Buy cutting their CD stock and giving the remainder of their physical product as unappetizing a placement as possible in each store.

After all, prime floor space is needed for the Samsung phone/tablet display.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

THE NATION on Bradley Manning.

Excerpt from Chase Madar's article in THE NATION "The Trials of Bradley Manning:
There is a proper response to the hypocritical and dysfunctional inconsistency of our secrecy laws, and that would be the swift declassification of some 99 percent of our state secrets (government documents are classified at the rate of about 1.83 million per week), with real security for the tiny remainder of legitimate secrets (nuclear launch codes, for example). And for the record, neither Julian Assange nor Bradley Manning has ever called for “total transparency,” a straw-man position often attributed to them by the self-important guardians of extreme government secrecy.

Instead of more open government, we are getting more secrecy, more prosecutions of whistleblowers and the altogether creepy “insider threat” program, which requires officials to report on the infosec failings of colleagues or face prosecution. (This institutionalization of mutual suspicion is not limited to national security organs but extends to agencies like the Education Department and the Social Security Administration.) Progressives who naïvely believe the solution is more congressional oversight should note that many in Congress have been pushing for even more leak probes and harsher prosecutions than the president.

Obama has launched eight prosecutions based on the Espionage Act of 1917—more than all previous presidents combined, who together have managed only three such trials. Maybe he feels he has nothing to lose, since this clampdown placates the national security apparatus and wimp-proofs his right flank, while those who care about civil liberties were probably not going to vote Republican anyway. As a result, the former constitutional law professor who ran as the whistleblowers’ best friend in 2008 is now their scourge.

It would take great powers of imagination to blame any part of our recent military debacles on leaks and whistleblowers. If someone had leaked the full National Intelligence Estimate on Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, would more people have decided—like then-Senator Bob Graham, who voted against the invasion after reading the unredacted report—to oppose the war before it began? If the Afghan War logs had somehow come out during Obama’s months of deliberation before escalating that conflict, would he have made the same decision—one that has yielded only thousands more civilian and military casualties?

But it is Bradley Manning we have put on trial, not the impresarios of war, not the CIA torturers or their lawyers. The Iraq War, which began with a lurid overture of secrecy and lies, is now getting its dissonant coda: a private court-martialed for telling the truth, a trial unfolding behind a thick wall of official secrecy, in which the court’s media center was, on the day of the prosecution’s closing statement, patrolled by armed soldiers peering over the shoulders of typing reporters. “Pfc. Manning was not a humanist. He was a hacker,” said prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein. “He was not a whistleblower. He was a traitor.” The past decade has witnessed the carnage unleashed by militarized cluelessness. In the story of Bradley Manning, who has been the ethical citizen and who the rampaging criminals?

The full article can be read at http://www.thenation.com/article/175512/trials-bradley-manning?page=0,0#axzz2akyLbxf1