Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bill Maher interview in TIME.

Here's an interview with Bill Maher from TIME (thanks to Jeffrey Wells for originally posting the link on his HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE blog):,8599,1594262,00.html?iid=feed-arts_ad

Unfortunately, the GO AWAY culture Maher mentions at the end of the interview never will go away.  In the year 2007, sensitivity and the desire for "decorum" are used as tools to shut up and shut down people with contrary opinions.

In short, people in the arts/media bring their daily work habits to bear on their avocations (i.e. poetry/literature communities).  This means that the culture of neutral language and bloodless termination can now be found 24/7.

P.S.  Rent the flawed but watchable DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING documentary to see an interesting example of the above when a Lipton Tea exec tries to neutral-language the company's way out of a sponsorship with the Chicks after Natalie Maines' "ashamed the President is from Texas" comment in London circa 2003.

Keith Olbermann-burnishing the myth.

Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's born-again truth teller, is profiled in the current ROLLING STONE.  Here's the link:

My wife and I watch the show.  But I have a long memory and I can remember two things: 1. Keith stomped away from the NBC cable empire years ago grumbling about being forced to keep covering Monica Lewinsky.  Now, COUNTDOWN routinely includes celeb/tabloid coverage and, on some nights, the Anna Nicole story will make Number One--whether it's relevant or not.  2.  Phil Donahue was 86ed by NBC by the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 (CNBC was, I believe, the network he was on) for fear that he would say something antiwar and/or have antiwar guests, thereby "undermining" the war effort to topple Saddam and find the WMD we were then led to believe existed in Iraq.

Let's face it: Keith Olbermann is entertaining and sometimes incisive.  But he's not  Phil Donahue or the Smothers Brothers at CBS circa 1968-69 or Bill Maher post 9/11 on POLITICALLY INCORRECT--people who dared to be unpopular and speak truth when it was unfashionable.

Olbermann's a newsertainer who's being allowed by NBCUniversal to criticize the Bush Administration and the war because it's now safe to do so.

Keep that in mind when you read the ROLLING STONE article.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Let's keep it decorous-ACADEMY AWARDS 2007

There was a recent chat with Laura Ziskin (a major producer, who produced this year's Oscars) and Ellen DeGeneres.  Ellen was opting for spontaneous Oscar moments and Laura emphasized the importance of a controlled environment.

Guess who had the last word.

The 2007 Academy Awards was a viewing experience that, to me, must represent what eating a bowl of cornstarch is like.  Yes, with Ellen as host, there was to be no rude moments like Chris Rock joking about Jude Law's lack of U.S. stardom and audiences preferring junk to art.  And no spontaneous outbursts a la Michael Moore allowed as well.  And no naked streaking as occurred over thirty years ago.

Instead, Ellen did the "golly gee I'm here with all these Big Stars" schtick--which was rarely funny. One exception was the "Spielberg taking digital photo of Eastwood" routine.  And the rare moments of respite from tedium came from people like Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear--and the directorial troika of Spielberg, Coppola and George Lucas.  Maybe it's time to return to having multiple hosts--the COMIC RELIEF trio of Billy, Robin and Whoopi, though, on the recent HBO telethon, they showed advanced age and complacency replacing former irreverence, would be preferable to Ellen's leave-no-tables-overturned approach of fake niceness.

The best documentary feature went to the worthy, well-meaning but mostly boring and static AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.  The best song went to Melissa Etheridge's PSA announcement jingle which played over the tedious film's end credits.

I liked THE DEPARTED, and by 2006 standards, it is a very good film of its era, but giving it Best Picture at the expense of Eastwood's superior LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA was a mistake.  At the same time, I was happy to see Scorsese get his Lifetime Achievement award in the guise of Best Director.

As of this writing, I haven't seen THE LIVES OF OTHERS (the foreign-language feature winner) yet, but I hope it received the award for merit rather than worthiness.

And I wish that Peter O'Toole and Forest Whitaker could have tied (in the same way that Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tied in 1969).  Both performances were equally worthy of honors.  It was poignant to see the look of surprise/disappointment on O'Toole's face.  Unless someone comes up with a middle-of-the-road valedictory project (sort of like the Rob Reiner film about dying of cancer that a bald Jack Nicholson is now making with co-star Morgan Freeman), it looks like O'Toole's final chance to win Best Actor has occurred. 

And then there was the contortionist dance troupe, which I guess Laura Ziskin chose for showing the West L.A./Brentwood/Beverly Hills arts donors how much "good taste" she has.

I'm reminded of Jack Lemmon's remark at the beginning of the 1985 Academy ceremony.  Lemmon told the audience about shortening the ceremony: "Brevity is the soul of wit.  And tonight, we're going to have a very soulful evening."

Substitute the words "safety" and "safe" for "brevity" and "soulful" and you have the 2007 fiasco in a nutshell.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Jury Duty in 2007.

This past week, I spent three days in Van Nuys waiting to be chosen for a criminal trial jury.  Yesterday, the prosecutor thanked and excused me.

And, more than in my previous times of being called for jury service, I noticed a marked increase in "Hell no, I won't serve!" behavior from my fellow jury candidates.

Two of my favorite would-be jurors who were excused: 1. The television producer who griped about how this would impact his business and that--if chosen--he wouldn't be able to stop thinking about his work. and 2. The twentysomething woman who, sitting two seats away from me in the audience, played a videogame on her Verizon Chocolate cell phone.  The baliff finally came and ordered her to turn the phone off or lose it.  The woman later used her Chocolate in the elevator to complain to a friend about how nothing's going on and, by inference, how bored she was.  It was SUCH an injustice to be told to pay attention.....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Will there be a third act for Barry Levinson's film career?

I finally watched Barry Levinson's MAN OF THE YEAR (you know the concept: Robin Williams as a TV political comic who runs for President on a third-party ticket and wins) and found it a puree of elements from GOOD MORNING VIETNAM, WAG THE DOG, DISCLOSURE, TOYS--plus the TV-is-evil bull that marred the third act of AVALON.

Some disclosure needs to be repeated here: I was Joe Pesci's stand-in on Levinson's JIMMY HOLLYWOOD--a needlessly unpleasant experience for people working on it, myself included.

Regardless I think that Levinson (as both auteur and studio hired gun) has directed and/or written films that are overdue for an American Cinematheque retrospective: AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (written with former wife Valerie Curtin), DINER, TIN MEN, THE NATURAL, RAIN MAN, AVALON, BUGSY, GOOD MORNING VIETNAM, WAG THE DOG, BANDITS (deserving of more love than it has received) and LIBERTY HEIGHTS.

But it might be time to say that Barry needs to confine his writing/directing efforts only to further entries in his Baltimore autobiographical series.

MAN OF THE YEAR squanders its outsider-becomes-President premise by devolving into a Laura Linney-being-chased-by-evil-Silicon Valley-technocrats storyline fumbling its provocative computer-voting-can-be-fixed hook.

And, as with JIMMY HOLLYWOOD (which foresaw the manufactured amateur entertainment of "reality" television seven years before Mark Burnett's SURVIVOR--actor/vigilante Jimmy Alto is just a few degrees away from DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER), Levinson again shows his discomfort with having outsiders as protagonists.  Robin Williams gets off a few good one-liners and interesting observations about both major parties being corrupted by big money and big lobbyists--and that (gasp!) third parties might be a viable alternative to the current flawed system.  But the film scurries away from this position by the end, settling for the "outsiders are only good for nudging the two-and it should only be two-parties towards common sense" dodge.

Levinson will be directing another Hollywood comedy--Robert DeNiro playing a takeoff of producer Art Linson (THE UNTOUCHABLES) in WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? within the next month. 

Barry Levinson--at his best--is a talented filmmaker.  It would be nice to see the last decade or so of his career be as productive and prolific in the artistic sense as peers Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood.

It would be a shame to see him crank out more slack, self-indulgent fare in the vein of MAN OF THE YEAR.


Monday, February 19, 2007

NEW YORKER article about poetry.

Here's a link to an interesting article by Dana Goodyear about POETRY magazine, the late Ruth Lilly's $200 million gift (which begat The Poetry Foundation) and the differences of opinion over what the Foundation's presence will do for poetry:

My favorite moments in the article come from the "keep things as they are" wing of poetry.  The ever-elitist Carol Muske Dukes, one of Los Angeles' most prominent, had this to say re a recent "reach out to a wider audience" essay by John Barr, president of the Foundation: "This is the consumerization of poetry.  It's being co-opted.  The foundation is talking about trying to reach as many people as possible without really changing their consciousness.  It just wants them to buy."

This drivel from an "esteemed" poet who once, on a panel at the LOS ANGELES TIMES Book Fair , talked dismissively about the poetry that came from a writing class she taught in a women's prison.  Sounds like a bad teacher to me.

And there's also this wonderful spit of rhetorical venom from Christian Witman, editor of POETRY magazine since 2003, on Sylvia Plath:  "Her overall influence has been terrible, promoting a kind of narcissistic despair that persists in many poems, novels and movies today."

Can poetry accomodate both a glass of Chablis and a bottle of Coke Zero?  NO, says the upper tier of the verse world.

And there you have it--this is why poetry is kept in an airless container on a high shelf--out of  fear "the stupid masses" may start writing "bad" verse, which will  cause the extinction of "good" poets.

Tony Snow: Another Unreasonable Man.

Here's a rather insidious quote from the ex Fox News pundit referring to Saturday's Republican smackdown of the mild "nonbinding" resolution to protest the continuing quagmire-to-hang-onto-Iraqi-oil (from an article in AOL news):

Snow said the president understands the importance of debate about the war on Capitol Hill and understands lawmakers' anxiety about the war.

"What I would say to members of Congress is: Calm down and take a look at what's going on, and ask yourself a simple question: If you support the troops, would you deny them the reinforcements they think are necessary to complete the mission?'"

One hopes Snow's a candidate for Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" troika tonight.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

AN UNREASONABLE MAN: the new Ralph Nader documentary.

Curious if anyone's seen this lately in theaters or on pay-per-view?

It covers Nader's career from his auto safety reforms to the Presidential campaigns--particularly 2000.  And, since it's balanced and lays out a case for the 2000 run not being THE cause of Gore's loss (something the Democratic Party has used as a propaganda tool ever since), some people are likely to be infuriated all over again.

Worth seeing nonetheless as a study in whether or not one can afford to be idealistic and unchanging in a consensus, compromising society--and if that idealism may do more harm than good (as well as bringing up the question of whether Nader's overall legacy will be overshadowed by his Presidential runs).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

First Coffee Junction reading goes reasonably well.

I'm quite pleased that the once-a-month reading that I host at Tarzana's Coffee Junction had a decent opening night (February 15th).  Both featured poets (Michael C. Ford and Mark States) did good work, the open readers were uniformly good and there were actually a couple of civilians (nonpoets) in the audience.

Hoping to go onward and upward with the reading and grow the audience a bit more--plus give some neophyte poets the chance for feature exposure.

Stosh Machek (who hosts the Brand Bookstore reading in Glendale) and Theresa Antonia (who hosted readings in Brentwood and Pasadena last year) will be the features on Thursday, March 15th at 7:00 p.m.

Consult the Coffee Junction website at for more information.



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Most horrifying advertisement of the day.

A company I won't name here offered free iPods to anyone who could take a survey and tell them "what happened" to Anna Nicole Smith.
A new low in casual callousness.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Yesterday marked the beginning of the twentieth year of my living in Southern California.

I came to Los Angeles in 1987, stayed with a friend from high school and liked the city enough to want to move from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Most of my first ten years in L.A. were spent either doing film work, working for the Glendale Public Library (during my first year) and working for the LOS ANGELES TIMES poll (for a time after I left Hollywood in 1997).

In 1998, my life changed for the better.  I became involved in the Los Angeles poetry community (a more welcoming arena then; less so now where newcomers are concerned) and met the woman who became my wife.

The past almost-two-decades have been rather mixed.  Some good moments working on films from what the late director Fred Zinnemann (who started out as an extra) called "the worm's-eye view."  Some not-so-good moments (working on Barry Levinson's JIMMY HOLLYWOOD took about two years off my lifespan).  Made some lasting friends (mostly through films and poetry) and also suffered fair-weather friends as well.  Some very happy times, and some bouts with loneliness, depression and anger.  And I miss my father, grandfather, father-in-law and mother-in-law; all of them passed away during the past three years.  These days, whenever I see paramedics driving through the portion of the San Fernando Valley where I live, I start to wonder if I'll get to do all I aspire to in my remaining lifetime.

But I have a lot to look forward to.  I'm working on a "legitimate" book called HOLLYWOOD POETRY (compiled from two self-published chapbooks), starting a once-monthly reading in Tarzana on the 15th--reading in Austin, TX (at the Austin International Poetry Festival) and San Diego in April.  And, in May, my wife Valarie and I are going together to Hawaii to see a mutual friend; it's my first trip and her second.

During the first few months of my residency in SoCal, I was overwhelmed with depression.  I knew almost no one here, and felt out of place and out of step with the more unsentimental lifestyles of people working in the lower levels of Show Business (it didn't help that I went to a photographer who charged $300 for mediocre headshots and composites--a lot of money for me at the time).

Late one afternoon, I had fleeting thoughts of suicide; a few minutes later, I decided it was far better to live and look forward to better days.

I'm very glad to have made that decision.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Anna Nicole and Molly--and what America values now.

It's rather sad that Anna Nicole Smith died at the still youngish age of 39, leaving behind a daughter who will never know her--plus questions as to which man is the father and who will try in Ms. Smith's name to wrench millions of dollars from the estate of the tycoon Ms. Smith married.

It's also sad that Ms. Smith's life ended up being a mashup of both Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley--people who "made it" in Show Business and wound up being used and abused by those who didn't have these icons' best interests at heart.

It's infuriating that E!, the "entertainment" channel who exploited Ms. Smith's weight gain and personal problems for cheap, easy laughs in THE ANNA NICOLE SHOW for two years wouldn't even stop this past afternoon to break in live and show respect for the dead.  Instead, it was business as usual with another TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY rerun about AMERICAN IDOL. 

But Ms. Smith (post-E!) lost weight, did a successful campaign for TrimSpa, suffered the death of her twentyish son and co-starred in a now-likely direct-to-video film co-produced by DYNASTY's Jeff Colby, actor John James (now seen as Susan Lucci's love interest on ALL MY CHILDREN).  And, as is custom with the cable news channels, the same video loops of Anna posing at premieres and walking down a runway for Lane Bryant will run for at least the next week.

Days earlier, the spirited and very liberal Texas newspaper columnist Molly Ivins died from breast cancer.  I remember reading Ms. Ivins in the DALLAS TIMES HERALD as a college student--and finding her an often funny and sharp alternative to the embrace of Reagan policies going on in 80s media (don't get me started on THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS).

She was a woman who didn't hesistate to speak the truth (as she saw it) to power.  But she wasn't "attractive" or "sexy" in the conventional sense--and, unfortunately, this shallowness seems to matter even in major newspapers and magazines when talking about female pundits from the obnoxious Ann Coulter to the born-again liberal Arianna Huffington to the NEW YORK TIMES' Maureen Dowd (try to find an article about Ms. Dowd that doesn't mention the high-profile men--i.e. Michael Douglas--she's had relationships with).

So Molly Ivins' passing was mentioned, but her death wasn't the multiple-day story that is going to occur with Anna Nicole Smith--and likely will occur with Ms. Coulter, Ms. Huffington and Ms. Dowd.

Let's face it, beauty matters more than truth to many--always has, always will.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

More random topics.

RD "Raindog" Armstrong, San Pedro/Long Beach beat poet and founder of Lummox Press, will be reading at the Cobalt Cafe tonight (February 6th) at 9:00 p.m.  Signups for open mike will be at 8:30ish.  The Cobalt Cafe is located in Canoga Park at 22047 Sherman Way and further information can be found at the PoetrySuperHighway website's Cobalt link:

Some recommended listening and viewing: SERAPHIM FALLS (in limited release, unfortunately--this allegorical Western with Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan deserved more exposure before going to DVD) and Paul Weller's HIT PARADE (containing an overview of his Jam, Style Council and solo careers--available in three formats--a single-CD, a CD box set and a DVD video compilation).

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Who was Merilene Murphy?

A poet named Merilene Murphy died of cancer Friday night in Los Angeles. 

Have you ever heard of Merilene Murphy?  I've been a poet in L.A. since 1998 and I wasn't aware of her existence until hearing of her illness a few weeks back.  She was one of the leaders of Leimert Park's World Stage reading (author Michael Datcher was a more recent host)--a pre-eminent South L.A. venue.

I feel sad about her death, but that's not why I'm writing this entry.

Too many poets--living and deceased--in Los Angeles are unknown to portions of both the poetry community and the wider world of nonpoets.  Some of this is by choice of certain members of our little tribe; they have a fierce belief in limiting the audience for their artistry and craft--and sometimes excercise unfortunate tendencies to be condescending or contemptuous towards what they consider the "stupid masses."

Another reason for being unknown is a certain reluctance to swing for the fences and aggressively promote their readings and venues.  Some of this can be attributed to defeatism; the rest is a willingness to settle for the relatively cheap-to-free world of Internet websites, blogs and mass e-mails (resulting in little more than preaching to the choir).

Wouldn't it be great to see poetry readings advertised in at least the alternative weeklies to where more nonpoets might be aware of the diversity of poets/spoken word artists (don't worry, we're not all soporific) and the venues where they can be seen?  And that means ACTUAL ADVERTISEMENTS and not just a listing in the "Readings" column.

I wonder if we will ever change our ways.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

It's a consensus world!

In 1992, I went to my 15th high school reunion in Electra, TX and told a former classmate about listening to Nirvana.  I said this in a positive way; the former classmate gave me a blank stare.

Now, as I head into my late 40s, it's sad to contemplate how many people in my age group has given up on the music they've grown up with.  And it's also depressing that the recording industry has apparently insisted that older rock/pop artists record nothing but "standards" albums to secure or keep their contracts.

I'm listening to Art Garfunkel sing "Let's Fall in Love" as this entry is being typed.

Please, America, show Art Garfunkel you belatedly care about his solo career.  Buy copies of BREAKAWAY, WATERMARK and any greatest-hits compilations release to date.  Don't let him morph into Rod Stewart and crank out four of these "standards" albums in a row.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The first-ever entry.

Hello to all.  My name is Terry McCarty; I'm a poet from Los Angeles and in another life, I worked on the lower rungs of the show business ladder (extra/stand-in/volunteer production assistant on student films/videos).

Today, I'm going to make some random observations in the manner of Larry King's old USA TODAY column.

1. I was at a Target in Northridge yesterday and I discovered something wonderful about today's youth while browsing the CD racks.  The new CD by the talented it-girl of Britpop, Lily Allen, is outselling the new one by chilly AMERICAN IDOL product Katharine McPhee.

2. If you're curious about poets who fly under the major-publishing radar, I'll recommend a couple of websites to you.  The first is and the second is

3. CNN's Kyra Phillips should go to Fox News.  Let's face it, she's just as rabidly conservative as Sean Hannity at Fox; but more low-key in her presentation.  Anyone watch the other day when Kyra was cheerleading for the USA to declare war on Iran?

4. Joe Carnhan's latest film, SMOKIN' ACES, which has taken some brickbats from clueless critics/reviewers, is worth seeing--just as good in its own way as his previous NARC.  Extra kudos for getting a solid, nonsmirking performance out of Ryan Reynolds.

5. A poet friend I haven't seen in awhile, Helena Lazaro, has a kickbutt blog of her own, plus a link to her Chubby Bunny jewelry site.  You can reach Helena at

6.  I'm disturbed by the greatly lowered "man bites dog" standard for cable news.  Is Kevin Federline's attempt to back up the Brinks truck and haul $50 million from Britney's coffers that much of a major story?  MSNBC, for one, sure thought it was.

7. 25 years of David Letterman--in Spanish, ya basta (enough already).  I loved Dave in my college years (early to mid 80s) and treasure his dynamite cameo appearance in Chris Elliott's CABIN BOY, but it's time for Dave to leave network television behind and do a few weekends a year in Vegas at the Mirage and MGM Grand.  From what tiny amount I've seen of Dave recently, he seems to be staying on the job solely to keep Jon Stewart yoked to THE DAILY SHOW.

8. First rule of Los Angeles poetry--you can't say anything bad about Los Angeles poets.  Second rule of Los Angeles poetry--you can't say anything bad about Los Angeles poets.  Third rule-----you get the idea.  Sort of like working for a multinational corporation.

9.  Two dynamite articles in the current issue of NEW YORK magazine.  One is about the fall of publisher Judith Regan from the house of Murdoch (written by a Regan partisan but revealing nonetheless).  The other is a compilation piece where writers are asked to analyze George W. Bush's current psychological state of mind (particularly re Iraq).

10.  Recommended retro listening: the two-disc Shout Factory Johnny Rivers compilation SECRET AGENT MAN.  Rivers, one of the great white soul/rock vocalists of the 1960's/70's, became a star by way of frequent gigs at the Whisky a Go Go (Steve McQueen was a fan).  The compilation skips his born-again recording from the 80s, NOT A THROUGH STREET, but has some recently-recorded material at the end of Disc 2.

Thanks for reading.  Write me at if you have any comments, suggestions or constructive advice re this blog.